Letter of Laurier to Gustave Drolet
[Note from the editor: The purpose of this letter by Laurier was to inform Drolet of Canadian reactions to the Laurier-Greenway compromise. It also tells of Laurier's feelings about the comments made in Rome to the authorities about him. At the time when Drolet was on his mission no less than four bishops had been, or were present, in Rome to put forward the clerical interpretation of the events that had taken place in Canada (these were Archbishop Langevin of St. Boniface, Mgr. Bégin, Archbishop of Quebec, Mgr. Gravel, Bishop of Nicolet and Mgr. Labrecque, Bishop of Chicoutimi). Someone had spread the view that he was not a principled Christian, was a Liberal of the sort condemned by pope Pius IX, had unspeakable habits and was a Free Mason; this last accusation, given where it was made, was probably the worse.
The affirmation of faith by Laurier is of interest and his belief in Catholicism cannot be denied. However, one should not be naïve about this document. Apparently, Drolet showed the letter to all comers, and it is probable that Laurier expected that. It is thus possible that the sentiments expressed in it may not have been as genuine and sincere as they appear. Certainly, they served Laurier well as one cleric in Rome was reported to have said, upon being shown the letter of Laurier : "Why, your Mr. Laurier is the only Christian in Canada!".]
Ottawa, 15 December, 1896.
[. . .] The settlement which we have obtained from the government of Manitoba satisfies every sensible man in Canada, but the clergy of the province of Quebec will not pardon us for what it calls their check of last summer. They want revenge at all costs, and unless the Holy See intervenes in time, we are threatened with a religious war whose consequences alarm me. But we cannot draw back. Certain members of the clergy are blind: if their way of thinking is to prevail, not only will we have a war of religion, but thousands upon thousands of good Catholics will be brought to hold religion responsible for the faults and excesses of its ministers. That must be avoided at all costs [. . .] .
I have read with regret the remarks which Mgr. N. made about me, in the Vatican itself. I am astonished, even though I have come to expect all manner of attacks. However, I would never have believed there was so much malice in the heart of a certain set. My dear Drolet, you have known me for well on to forty years; you know that I have never paraded my religious convictions, but that they exist; I can appreciate to-day how much influence they have over me, when I say that they have not been shaken by the attacks of those whose mission it is to preach Christian charity.
Whatever comes. « II faut marcher droit son chemin. » That was your old Pontifical Zouave motto; it is mine to-day. We must keep the straight road. I see clearly and distinctly the goal. I do not know whether we can reach it, but I am full of hope and courage.
It is a singular thing, that these violent acts, this ignorance of conditions in our own country, this war to which we are going to be exposed, far from estranging me from the Church, draws me closer to it. I feel how superior religion is to all that often is done in the name of religion.
Source : Oscar Douglas Skelton, Life and Letters of Wilfrid Laurier. Vol. 2, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1921, 576p., p. 36.
© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College