By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 0 Comments
What Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s hometown says about the state of the Church
Quebecers and Argentines share deep Catholic roots, a hot-blooded Latin temperament and a general wariness of the Church’s place in their respective societies. Catholicism is on the wane in both, to the benefit of evangelical Christianity in Argentina and secularism in Quebec. Yet if God influenced Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s ascension over Quebec’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then He is a pragmatic higher being indeed. For, despite their similarities, the outlook for the world’s largest Christian denominations in Quebec and Argentina could not be more different.
The newly elected Pope Francis will likely favour the fate of Catholicism in Latin America, home to nearly 40 per cent of the world’s Catholic population. Ouellet himself knew of the continent’s fertile grounds: in 1970, he left his hometown of La Motte for Colombia shortly after his ordination. One of the reasons why this might be is plain to see in La Motte itself. Had Ouellet become pope, and at a youthful 68 he still might yet, he would have overseen a dwindling hometown flock in Quebec.
La Motte—literally, “the lump”—is a village of roughly 450 souls sitting in the middle of the triangle created by the mining towns of Val D’Or, Amos and Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec’s northwestern Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. It isn’t in the middle of nowhere, in other words, yet on snowy, wind-ripped winter days, it might as well be. The locals, made up of long-time residents and a burgeoning crop of artists who have moved here over the last 20 years, like it that way. To be sure, the few grey-haired residents who crowded into the town’s community centre to see if their native son would win were sad when he didn’t. “We’re a bit disappointed, it would have rejuvenated the parish,” said Marthe Béliveau, 81. Like many parishes in Quebec, La Motte’s certainly needs rejuvenation. Ouellet was ordained at its St. Luc Church in 1968—the same year the Quebec government shut down Séminaire d’Amos, the area’s only seminary, due to a shortage of would-be priests. Ouellet’s alma mater, Montreal’s Grand Séminaire, has suffered a similar fate; there were roughly 300 students when he attended the school in the 1960s. There are 18 today.
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
Will the Pope with the wry sense of humour and common touch actually reinvigorate the Church and the papacy?
From the moment he became Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio started adding to an already impressive list of firsts: the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires was the first New World pope ever, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the first Jesuit pope, the first pope since 913 CE to choose to be known by a name never used by one of his predecessors. When he emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter’s to receive the acclaim of a crowd 100,000 strong, Francis was not wearing the traditional—and monarchical—red papal cape; when he left for the night, he hopped on a minibus rather than in the papal limo; the next morning, he dropped by his hotel to pay his bill, now that he was no longer only visiting the bishopric of Rome. Perhaps most disconcerting of all, he’s been displaying open flashes of humour from the start, beginning with his remark to the cardinal electors—“May God forgive you.” And by doing all that, Francis seems to have accomplished something else new under the sun: freezing in place a rapt world’s judgment, now poised between hope and caution.
Whatever observers, Catholic and otherwise, expected from the new universal pastor of the Roman Catholic Church—and the pre-conclave claim that what the Church needed was a saint with an M.B.A. says more about expectations than possibilities—most remain uncertain about what, and whom, it got.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 9:09 PM - 0 Comments
Ouellet family exhales as media glare turns elsewhere
The town of La Motte’s brief, intense and not always welcome dalliance with the outside world began drawing to a close today, as Catholic Church hierarchy went with a fellow who hails from 9,500 kms away from the birthplace of Marc Ouellet.
Several of the town’s 500-odd people came to the media centre to watch the announcement of the new pope. Silent and arms crossed, they watched Radio-Canada’s French-language coverage from Rome. For whatever reason, it lagged behind the English feed on the screen next to it, and they kept watching Radio-Canada even as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been declared the new pope in English, on a screen mere metres from their eyes.
“In a way, I’m happy,” said Marthe Béliveau, a charming 80-something La Motte resident, after finally hearing the news. “We’re a bit disappointed, yes, because it would have rejuvenated the parish. But at least he still has a place in Rome.” Ouellet’s mother, 91-year-old Graziella, “is getting old” and doesn’t need the stress, Béliveau said.
Marc Ouellet’s brothers Roch and Louis who spoke at a post-papal press conference at the church/community centre where young Marc used to play organ, intimated their relief that the media glare will now turn elsewhere. “We’re touched and happy that this is coming to an end,” Roch said. “We can’t wait to see our brother again in all tranquility, far from the media.”
It’s been a prickly ride for the Ouellet clan. Church and clergy types are wary of the news media at the best of times, and the Marc Ouellet’s potential ascendency to the top of the Catholic Church brought new, fresh questions about the family and La Motte in general—a town brimming with secrets.
“There’s a lot of suffering people here, a lot of anger against the church,” says Margot Lemire, a writer who has lived in the town since 1981. The god people knew here wasn’t a god of love, it was a god of suffering. It was Old Testament, not New Testament.”
In 2008, Marc’s brother Paul pled guilty to sexual assault of a minor, an event that profoundly divided the town. To this day, five years after the plea and decades after the actual incidents involving two young girls, there are “pro-Paul” and “anti-Paul” sects in La Motte. A whisper of the crimes, brought up in a question by Maclean’s, was quickly shot down by Roch Ouellet. “We are going to go to another question,” he said.
The Ouellets crave silence, for their brother, their town, their way of life. Lucky them: they’re about to get it.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
LA MOTTE, Que. – One of Marc Ouellet’s brothers says their mother is extremely…
LA MOTTE, Que. – One of Marc Ouellet’s brothers says their mother is extremely proud of the cardinal even though he did not become pope today.
Louis Ouellet says the entire family is looking forward to seeing Marc Ouellet when he visits his Quebec hometown of La Motte this summer.
Ouellet told a news conference in the town of about 450 residents their 90-year-old mother had mixed reactions when she found out her son wouldn’t be pope, that she smiled and said she was getting to keep her son.
Earlier, La Motte Mayor Rene Martineau said he was proud, disappointed and relieved after finding out their local son would not be the new pope.
Martineau is also looking forward to seeing the cardinal whenever he can visit La Motte.
That scenario would definitely have been a lot more complicated had Ouellet emerged victorious.
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 7:32 AM - 0 Comments
Brian Bethune reports from Rome as the conclave begins
There are only so many ways Canadians get internationally famous.
There’s hockey, of course, and that guy up in space, and a teenage pop star. But the best-known Canadian name around the world right now may belong to a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
In St Peter’s Square the night before the conclave to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI was to begin, there were three sorts of people milling around, and the ordinary faithful were the fewest in number. The police presence was massive, large enough to be the group most at risk from nuns—easily the most aggressive drivers in Vatican City if not in Rome—flying around in tiny cars.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:54 PM - 0 Comments
LA MOTTE, Que. – A Canadian man who could become the next pontiff has…
LA MOTTE, Que. – A Canadian man who could become the next pontiff has frequently told friends he was surprised about his own rapid rise within the Roman Catholic Church.
A “totally euphoric” Cardinal Marc Ouellet, now considered among the contenders for the papacy, phoned longtime friend Claudette Boucher in 2001, shortly after he learned that Pope John Paul II would soon ordain him a bishop.
She says Ouellet asked her and her husband, Yvan, to pray for him because he didn’t think he was worthy enough for the new role.
“He told us that he needed us,” Boucher said in an interview at her home in the northwestern Quebec community of Val d’Or, near Ouellet’s hometown of La Motte.
“For sure, it was a big moment of emotion… He’s a man who’s always surprised.”
Ouellet told them his legs felt numb during the ceremony, she recalled.
An even bigger assignment could be on the horizon, as cardinals gather Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. ET in Rome’s fabled Sistine Chapel to begin choosing the next pontiff. Some reports have Ouellet among the favourites to become leader of the 2,000-year-old church, although other analysts don’t mention him at all.
If he succeeds, the hockey-loving outdoorsman would become the first non-European since the 8th century to inherit St. Peter’s throne.
During his rise through the church ranks, Ouellet was stunned simply to be named archbishop of Quebec City and Primate of Canada in 2002, Boucher said. He had spent decades abroad when his new position brought him back to Quebec.
It proved to be a bumpy transition for man whose home province had undergone a significant transformation during the years he was away.
Starting in the 1960s, Quebec’s once-full churches emptied out, a change that gradually loosened religion’s influence on society and politics in the province.
After his arrival in Quebec as archbishop, Ouellet’s more traditional stance on subjects like abortion and same-sex marriage often clashed with the views held in the significantly secularized Quebec.
Ouellet, who had spent years working as a missionary in Colombia, lacked experience in Quebec and wasn’t around to watch the evolution of the relationship between the church and state.
“Let’s say, he was not in the ideal situation, and when we’re not prepared, it’s riskier and the challenge is greater,” said Gilles Routhier, dean of the theology department at Quebec City’s Universite Laval.
“It didn’t make things easy.”
In one example of how his mindset conflicted with popular opinion, Ouellet told media during a May 2010 pro-life rally in Quebec City that abortion was unjustifiable, even in cases of rape.
His remarks triggered outrage among politicians, commentators and women’s rights activists.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, the province’s official Opposition leader at the time, was among those who publicly condemned Ouellet for his comments.
Speaking to journalists Monday, Marois said she would be proud to see a Quebecer lead the church. She noted, however, she doesn’t agree with many of Ouellet’s beliefs.
“I’m not inventing anything when I tell you that he holds conservative positions,” she said in La Malbaie. “I won’t hesitate to say it if I disagree with certain positions, as I have in the past.”
Ouellet returned to the Vatican later in 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to head the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which vets bishops’ nominations worldwide.
Robert Dennis, a Queen’s University teaching fellow who specializes in the modern Vatican, thinks Ouellet learned from his stint in Quebec.
Dennis said it likely taught him a lot about being a minister of the gospel in a secular society, an experience that could be useful if he ever became pope.
“In one sense the time in Quebec is a very important dry run, as he may have that opportunity on a much bigger stage,” said Dennis, who said Ouellet was simply trying to stay true to his theologically and socially conservative beliefs rather than adapt to the province.
“Maybe he was not fully aware of the way the province was when he returned, but I don’t really buy that.”
Ouellet himself has expressed concern that Quebecers never replaced their devotion to the church, a once-defining cultural attribute, with anything substantive.
“I’m watching Quebec society evolve and I ask myself: Are we not watching some sort of implosion?” Ouellet told interviewer Pierre Maisonneuve in the 2006 book “Le journaliste et le cardinal.”
“It’s not a violent explosion, but an implosion: something is broken inside, and there is an emptiness in our society, a deep malaise.”
Back in northwestern Quebec, his friend Claudette Boucher says Ouellet is far from a pessimist when it comes to the future of the church in Quebec.
“He remains optimistic about all this — that it’s just, as they say, that their spirits have been put to rest, that it will come back,” she said.
But Ouellet, who she says was also surprised when John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2003, does not like to discuss the possibility that he could one day be chosen to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
When asked by Quebec Le Soleil in 2011 whether he could become pope, Ouellet said it would be a “nightmare.”
“I see the work the pope has to do,” he told the newspaper.
“It’s maybe not so enviable. It’s a crushing responsibility… There’s the help of the holy spirit, for sure, but it’s a very big responsibility. Nobody campaigns for that.”
The Bouchers, friends of Ouellet’s for 44 years, have a long-running joke with him that the next time they see him they might have to call him, “His Holiness.”
“He said while laughing, ‘Oh no, no, no,’ ” Boucher said of Ouellet, who usually stays at their home for a night when he’s in the region visiting loved ones.
“‘It’s the world on your shoulders,’ he said.’ “
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10:37 PM - 0 Comments
VATICAN CITY – The Canadian cardinal who could become the next pope says the…
VATICAN CITY – The Canadian cardinal who could become the next pope says the Catholic church has to take on a “new evangelization” to help those who do not believe in God.
“This is a great drama of our times, you know to live without God,” said Marc Cardinal Ouellet in an interview with CBC Television.
“They need the Creator, they need this relationship. It is vital, you know, for family life, for social life, for fraternity, for peace.”
Ouellet says the church has to respond to the needs of people who aren’t religious.
When asked whether he believed the church needed to forge ahead on social issues such as its positions on gay marriage and abortion, the 68-year-old Quebecer was evasive, saying questions on those areas were “secondary.”
Ouellet did share his views on the role of women in the church, however, saying “there is much more to do.”
While he would not support the ordaining of women, Ouellet said many women were already working in key positions in the church.
“This is open to further development, but we have to go you know with the time. And it is not easy to move forward,” he said in what was the second instalment of a two-part interview.
Ouellet leads the powerful Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican, which vets bishop nominations worldwide, and has worked in Latin America and in Rome.
The former Archbishop of Quebec City is often regarded as a conservative figure and has drawn criticism in the past with his opinions on social issues.
He came under fire in Quebec for anti-abortion remarks he made in 2010 when he said abortion was unjustifiable, even in cases of rape. His words drew angry reactions from women’s rights activists and a number of politicians.
He has also spoken out against gay marriage, calling it “a big crisis.”
Ouellet is considered one of the front-runners to replace the retired Pope Benedict, who stepped down last week citing a lack of strength to do the job.
Pre-conclave meetings are currently underway at the Vatican. An official date has yet to be set for the conclave during which a new pope will be elected.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 8:01 PM - 0 Comments
LA MOTTE, Que. – A media centre was being set up Monday in the…
LA MOTTE, Que. – A media centre was being set up Monday in the hometown of Canada’s presumed papal contender, as the tiny community prepares for a journalistic invasion during the upcoming vote to choose the next pontiff.
With Marc Cardinal Ouellet considered among the papal front-runners, people in this northwestern Quebec village of 439 people began transforming the basement of his old church into a media room.
Ouellet was baptized and eventually ordained as a priest in La Motte’s St-Luc Church, in the heart of town. Today, the building serves primarily as a community centre after years of dwindling church attendance.
Village officials expect dozens of journalists — and several satellite TV trucks — will descend on La Motte during the upcoming conclave to choose the next pontiff. The farming community is nearly 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal in the province’s Abitibi region.
The village does not have a restaurant or motel so, with the help of its two full-time office employees, La Motte is taking steps to make its influx of guests feel welcome.
Workers were busy Monday in St-Luc’s basement, where they opened up a wireless Internet connection, established cable TV hookups to allow journalists to follow the conclave live, and set up rows of tables and dozens of chairs.
Members of Ouellet’s family, who still live in the area, are scheduled to hold a post-conclave news conference on the main floor of the building, near the altar.
They are expected to make public remarks, regardless of the vote outcome.
A date for the conclave has not yet been established by the cardinals, but an announcement is expected in the coming days.
Even though voting has yet to begin, La Motte is getting ready now for something it’s never experienced before.
“Here the citizens are used to their peaceful setting, so we have to make sure that the citizens of the (town) are not disturbed that much by… all these (extra) people,” said Edma-Annie Wheelhouse, one of the municipality’s two full-time office workers.
“We’re a very welcoming place and we want to make sure that the way we are — the gentle kindness of the citizens — around the place… is just shown to the international media.”
With the help of the regional Abitibi tourism bureau, La Motte is also asking media to sign up before heading to the town during the conclave.
Wheelhouse expects journalists to spend many hours at the media centre, several days in a row, as they wait for the white smoke to billow at the Vatican.
La Motte does not have a hotel, so any visitors will have to stay in larger cities that are at least a 30-minute drive away.
When it comes to grub, the village has a convenience store but no restaurants. Wheelhouse said the community will hire a caterer to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner.
She said around 20 media organizations — from Canada, the United States and France — have visited the town since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation last month.
“It’s really new for us,” Wheelhouse said of all the attention. “Before this, we were really unknown.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said La Motte was located northeast of Montreal.
By Brian Bethune - Monday, February 18, 2013 at 1:13 PM - 0 Comments
Brian Bethune on the papal contenders
Maclean’s writer Brian Bethune is in Rome for the conclave. Watch Macleans.ca for his reports.
For all his forewarning, Pope Benedict XVI, whose eight-year pontificate has been one long series of surprising moments, managed to stun the world once again. And once the Roman Catholic Church absorbed the news that its supreme pontiff was abdicating—an announcement fitly followed, only hours later, by a bolt of lightning striking the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica—it was clear that Benedict had set the stage for the most wildly unpredictable papal election in centuries.
It’s never been easy to guess in advance how 100 or so men, huddled in the Sistine Chapel under Michelangelo’s famous ceiling, would vote. Now, the uncertain effects of the Church’s changing demographics, the protracted lead time to the electoral conclave, the precedent of the resignation itself and the unsettling presence of an ex-pope responsible for elevating to the College of Cardinals many of the same men who will choose his successor, have sent Vatican watchers scrambling. And as they try to reassess their established ranks of papabiles—literally, “pope-ables,” those reckoned to stand an electoral chance—only one name seems to emerge in every serious list’s top three: Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of Quebec City and now, as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most powerful men in the Church.
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:43 AM - 0 Comments
‘Sorry, but I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh.’
On an episode of The Colbert Report, which aired Feb. 11, Colbert dedicated a large part of the first segment to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
With the help of his trusty Papal Speculatron 7500, Colbert reviewed potential candidates to replace Benedict, including Canadian Cardinal Ouellet.
“Cardinal Marc Ouellet is also a contender, with only one major weakness: he is Canadian,” said Colbert.
The Pope cannot be polite, he argued: “Sorry, but I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh. It won’t work.”
Then there are the optics. Continue…
By Emily Senger - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM - 0 Comments
Among the names being floated to replace Pope Benedict XVI: Marc Ouellet
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops, is one of the top names being floated to replace Pope Benedict XVI after his surprise resignation announcement.
Ouellet, 68, is a Quebecker who was the Archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010. He was named as one of the possibilities to replace Pope John Paul in 2005, but he wasn’t chosen.
More recently, John L. Allen Jr., a reporter at The National Catholic Reporter, put forward Ouellet’s name as one of his top three choices to become the next pope.
His position as Archbishop of Quebec means “he has a track record in leading the church in a difficult and highly secular environment,” wrote Allen. Also, Ouellet spent 10 years as a missionary in Columbia and he is fluent in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian, meaning he has both the international experience and the language skills needed to lead Catholics around the world. Continue…
By Jeff Harris - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Jeff Harris goes behind the scenes
Maclean’s celebrates it’s 100th birthday — and relaunch — with pinache. Canadian celebrities and literatti came out for a night on the town, and to offer their opinion on the magazine’s redesign. Our 15 videos include clips from Kim Catrall, Conrad Black, former premier Brian Tobin, and more.