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BARNABY, THOMAS – Volume XIII (1901-1910)

d. 23 March 1907 at Eel Ground


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Relations with Authorities of the Roman Catholic Church
Original title:  Terrasse d'observation, Église Notre-Dame / Notre Dame Church Lookout | Montreal Mosaic WebMagazine

Source: Link


After the lessons learned from frequent interventions by Roman Catholic authorities in political affairs (at the time of his defeat in a Drummond-Arthabaska by-election in 1877 and in the case of the Manitoba school crisis), Sir Wilfrid LAURIER wanted to install an intermediary between the episcopate and his government. For their part, in 1897, the Catholic bishops, concerned about maintaining their influence in the political arena, sent the Dominican Dominique-Ceslas GONTHIER to Rome. 

“On 29 May 1897 Gonthier left New York for Rome; there, at Bégin’s request, he was to look after the interests of the French Canadian bishops, who were disconcerted by the apparently favourable attitude toward liberals of Rafael Merry del Val, the apostolic delegate then inquiring into the religious situation in Canada. Gonthier’s mandate was a heavy one. He had to block the nomination of Bishop Joseph-Médard Emard* of Valleyfield, perceived as a liberal, to the see of Montreal, which had been left vacant by the death of Édouard-Charles Fabre*; he had to ensure that the position of the Canadian episcopate was endorsed in the encyclical being prepared in Rome on the Manitoba school question [see Thomas Greenway*]; and he had to oppose Canadian government endeavours to have a permanent apostolic delegation established in Ottawa as Rome’s antenna in Canada. Gonthier did his lobbying in a difficult environment. He had no friends in the curia, the Dominicans of the province of France complained to the order’s master general about his presence in Rome, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier resorted to the influence of Herbert Alfred Cardinal Vaughan, the archbishop of Westminster, to defend his stance on the Manitoba school question, and the special commission on ecclesiastical matters, which had been given the Canadian file, seemed biased in favour of decentralizing Rome’s administration. Gonthier returned almost empty-handed in the spring of 1898: Paul Bruchési* had been named archbishop of Montreal on 25 June 1897 but the encyclical Affari vos, promulgated on 8 December, was a disappointment. Although it declared the Laurier-Greenway agreement ‘unsatisfactory,’ it asked the bishops to work in concert with politicians for a better school arrangement. That month the special commission on ecclesiastical matters approved the principle of a permanent apostolic delegation that would not, however, be created until 1899.”


The situation is summed in the following excerpt from the biography of Adélard LANGEVIN, archbishop of Saint-Boniface, Man.:

“Laurier had managed to convince Rome that the [Manitoba schools] issue was one involving relations not only between the Catholic minority and the Protestant majority, but between the dominion and the British empire. Officials at the Holy See were persuaded that diplomatic considerations should override strictly moral ones. The archbishop was therefore not consulted in the intense negotiations carried on between Laurier and Merry del Val. He would also be largely marginalized by the first two resident apostolic delegates, Diomede Falconio and Donato Sbarretti y Tazza, who were led to believe that Laurier’s sunny ways would effectively restore Catholic rights.”


For more information on relations between Laurier and the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, we invite you to read the following biographies.


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