PLANTE, CHARLES, priest, canon, director of the seminary of Quebec, vicar general, parish priest of Quebec, ecclesiastical superior of the Hôpital Général of Quebec; b. 18 Dec. 1680 at Sainte-Famille, Île d’Orléans, son of Claude Plante and Marie Patenotre; d. 20 March 1744 in Quebec.
Charles Plante had already begun studying Latin when he entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec on 20 Oct 1696. On 24 July 1701 he received the tonsure from Bishop Laval*, who ordained him a priest on 22 Dec. 1703, having conferred the other orders on him in the course of the year 1702.
Sounded out in 1702 by Abbé Jean-François Buisson* de Saint-Cosme (1667–1706) about going to the missions in the Mississippi country, Plante was instead sent to Beaumont in September 1704, to replace Jean Pinguet, who had become old and infirm. Besides Saint-Michel (Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse) he served Berthier-en-Bas (Montmagny), of which he was the founding parish priest. His name appears among the 13 signers of an important report on the tithe, presented to the court by the parish priests of Canada and dated 27 April 1706 [see Étienne Boullard*; Dufournel]. He is again found at Beaumont from 1715 to 1718 after being parish priest of Saint-François-de-Sales, Île Jésus, from November 1711 to October 1715. On 26 Nov. 1712 Plante was appointed a canon; he served as secretary of the chapter of the cathedral of Quebec from 1718 to 1725 and as treasurer from 1733 on. Although he was reputed to have “a gentle disposition,” he was a dutiful and exact person, and he protested to the court against Canon Louis Lepage de Sainte-Claire’s repeated absences from the services and meetings of the chapter on the plea that he “has his land and mills to put into production.” Plante’s function as secretary had obliged him to return to Quebec, and from 1718 to 1739 he served the parish as curate. On 31 Dec. 1727 the chapter designated him vicar general of the diocese; his letters of appointment are dated 3 Jan. 1728. He had first been elected on 26 Dec. 1727 to the assembly of the chapter, which had been hurriedly called together immediately after the death of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*], but so great had been the canons’ agitation that nothing had been recorded and his election was declared null and void. Despite his hopes Abbé Plante does not appear to have been attached to the seminary of Quebec until the spring of 1728, when he was chosen as a director, notwithstanding his title of canon, which could have been an obstacle.
It was only after he had spent many years ministering to the parish of Quebec, that on 25 April 1739 a decision was made to appoint him titular priest of the parish. He was the ninth parish priest of Quebec, and since M. Boullard’s death in 1733 three of his predecessors had followed one another in the office in rapid succession. Only Jean Lyon de Saint-Ferréol had taken possession of the parish, but he had remained there less than a year. In other words, during nearly this whole time Abbé Plante carried out the duties of the parish priest, and he should have been given this benefice by 1733. Now it was feared that his age and infirmities might prevent him from accepting the office. Nevertheless he had been carrying out the “duties of curate” sufficiently long “to deserve to be the incumbent of the benefice,” and it was felt this appointment would “make it known that Canadians are capable of something.” Abbé Plante was indeed the first Canadian to become parish priest of Quebec. Although exhausted and ill, he kept this charge for five years until his death, and the taking of possession, delayed until 18 Oct. 1739, brought him in addition the worries of a dispute with the chapter [see Pierre-Joseph Resche]. As he preferred to keep his charge as parish priest, he resigned his canonry on 15 Oct. 1740. A month earlier he had accepted the office of ecclesiastical superior of the Hôpital Général of Quebec. He was also confessor to the Nuns Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu from 1736 to 1742.
An ascetic despite his infirmities and a talented orator, he was said to “show great zeal for the destruction of vice, which was increasing day by day.” In 1717, at the urging of Bishop Saint-Vallier, he had had a house fitted out near the Hôpital Général to take in the unfortunate victims of prostitution who wanted to be converted. In his will made on 20 Feb. 1744 he made a recommendation: “I have a great desire that my successors in charge of the parish of Quebec keep up the work which I have begun with the cells or houses of correction to detain dissolute women and to prevent offence against God and scandal, and in order that it may be strong and may endure this house must be demolished and rebuilt on the end of the house where are lodged the ladies who are paying guests of the Hôpital Général. The house in its present location is too much in danger of being entered by force by libertines, who have several times broken in to release the women shut up in it; therefore, it can be raised by a storey and cells can be built to the number of six or more on the top storey, with small windows, in such a way that no one can speak to them or get them out.” The rebuilding of the house was compromised because of the constant poverty which soon after beset the Hôpital Général, and the alms the parish priests of Quebec continued to supply were barely sufficient, with other aid, for the upkeep of this charitable work.
After more than 40 years in the priesthood Charles Plante died of a malignant fever at the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec on 20 March 1744. He was buried in the cathedral the next day.
AAQ, 1 W, Église du Canada, I, 49; 12 A, Registres d’insinuations A, 810–18; 12 A, Registres d’insinuations B, 198, 273, 315; 12 A, Registres d’insinuations C, 142; 10 B, Registre des délibérations; 11 B, Correspondance, II. AHGQ, “Vie de Mgr de Saint-Vallier,” 223. ANQ, Greffe d’Abel Michon, 1er août 1730. ASQ, Brouillard, 1732–51; Lettres, M, 56, 57, 62, 95; Lettres, R, 35; mss, 2; Paroisse de Québec, 7–9; Séminaire, IV, 99–104. Provost, Le séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 437–38. P.-V. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” BRH, XX (1914), 211. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la conquête. Mgr de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général, 305, 710. J.-E. Roy, “Saint-Étienne de Beaumont,” BRH, XIX (1913), 222–24.