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Documents in Quebec History


Last revised:
20 August 2001

Documents sur la grève de l’amiante de 1949 / Documents on the 1949 asbestos strike

America and the Resignation of Msgr Joseph Charbonneau

On February 11 the Vatican officially announced the retirement of the Most Rev. Joseph Charbonneau, Archbishop of Montreal. The more sensational Canadian dailies strongly suggested that the Archbishop was really being removed because of anti-capitalistic leanings. This mentality was supposed to have been manifested last year during the asbestos strike in Quebec (Am., 4/23/49) . By the next day it was hot gossip across the nation that the Most Rev. Philippe Desranleau, Bishop of Sherbrooke, and the Most Rev. Maurice Roy, Archbishop of Quebec, would also be removed for similar reasons. Mention has been made of ill health as a reason for the prelate's retirement. Reasons of an administrative nature seem also to have been involved. The New York Times dispatch from Rome, datelined Feb. 13, reads:

Reports that Archbishop Charbonneau of Montreal had resigned because of the Vatican's displeasure over his alleged anti-capitalistic attitude were strongly denied by Vatican officials today. Archbishop Charbonneau, it was stated, supported the miners' strike in the Province of Quebec about a year ago, and the part he played, far from having met with criticism, was highly praised, according to these circles.

The innuendoes and unfounded rumors published about these prelates do no credit to either Canadian or U.S. journalism. Although Rome may have been well-informed about the complicated local situation involved in the asbestos strike in Quebec, the newspaper reports have offered no evidence to prove that the Vatican was out of sympathy with the position then taken by the Archbishop. Secondly, it ought to be as plain as a pikestaff that if the Pope were going to remove "liberal" prelates, he would have removed many other bishops years ago. The rumors about Bishop Desranleau and Archbishop Roy, which have been denied by the prelates themselves, seem to have been made out of whole cloth. One must always remember that the white spaces in a newspaper have to be filled every day. Sometimes what is used to fill them is, as the Bard would say, "such stuff as dreams are made on."

Source: America, Vol. 82, February 25, 1950, p. 598. America is an American Catholic weekly review published by the Jesuit Order.

© 2001 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College