A Portrait of Father Pierre Gravel drawn from a work by Alexandre Dumas

L'Abbe Pierre Gravel (Septentrion)

Father Pierre Gravel by Alexandre Dumas, published by Septentrion

FOREWORD

The following extracts are taken from a Master’s thesis in Quebec studies by Alexandre Dumas, which has now become a book, L’Abbé Pierre Gravel.  The English is mine.

Dumas’s 2012 thesis at the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières is titled:  “L’Abbé Pierre Gravel : Comment Concilier le Syndicalisme avec le Nationalisme d’Extrême Droite (1924-1949)” (Father Pierre Gravel:  How to Reconcile Syndicalism with Far-Right Nationalism (1924-1949)).

Additional paragraphing has been somewhat arbitrarily added by me to enhance readability as a blog post.

Why am I looking at Father Pierre Gravel?

I am looking at him because I’m working on another post about a public talk given by Arcand in February, 1963 at Boischatel, where father Gravel was the local parish priest.  (Gravel was the pastor of Pat Walsh when Walsh defected from the Communists a decade earlier in 1953.)  Father Gravel appears in a photo with Arcand in a report on Arcand’s talk by La Presse.

So, let me get Father Gravel online, and we’ll link him up another day with events at Boischatel and with Adrien Arcand, though I will weave in a few observations in between these extracts.

PORTRAIT :

FATHER PIERRE GRAVEL

L’abbé Pierre Gravel

Vicaire de la paroisse Saint-Alphonse de Thetford Mines de 1924 à 1935, l’abbé Pierre Gravel se fait d’abord connaître en fondant le Syndicat national catholique de l’Amiante.

Vicar of the Saint-Alphonse parish at Thetford Mines from 1924 to 1935, Father Pierre Gravel first became known by founding the National Catholic Asbestos Union.

Détesté autant par les patrons des mines que par le Parti libéral du Québec, ce prêtre turbulent est finalement contraint par le cardinal Villeneuve de quitter ses ouvriers.

Hated as much by the bosses of the mines as by the Liberal Party of Quebec, this turbulent priest is finally forced by Cardinal Villeneuve to leave his workers.

Ensuite vicaire de la paroisse Saint-Roch de Québec de 1935 à 1946, il se taille une réputation à travers tout le Québec avec ses conférences à saveur nationaliste.  Il y exprime ses convictions séparatistes, ses sympathies profondes pour les dictateurs européens et sa haine de la «franc-maçonnerie juive».  On l’a surnommé «le père Coughlin de Québec», le «matamore en soutane» et «le curé fasciste en liberté».

Thereafter, vicar of the Saint-Roch parish of Quebec from 1935 to 1946, he gained a reputation throughout Quebec with his conferences that were nationalist in flavor.  In these talks, he expressed his separatist convictions, his deep sympathies for European dictators and his hatred of “Jewish Freemasonry”.  He was nicknamed the “Father Coughlin of Quebec”, the “matamore in a cassock” and the “Fascist parish priest on the loose”.

Au cours de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, il inquiète autant le cardinal Villeneuve que le gouvernement fédéral par ses sympathies vichystes et ses discours contre la conscription.

During the Second World War, he worried Cardinal Villeneuve as much as the federal government with his Vichy sympathies and his speeches against conscription.

Finalement curé de Boischatel de 1946 à 1974, l’abbé Gravel fait encore parler de lui par son combat sans relâche contre l’infiltration communiste au Québec, son appui inconditionnel à l’Union nationale et sa contestation bruyante de la Révolution tranquille.

Finally the parish priest of Boischatel from 1946 to 1974, Father Gravel continued to be a topic for his tireless fight against communist infiltration in Quebec, his unconditional support for the Union National (party of Maurice Duplessis) and his noisy contestation of the Quiet Revolution.

Pierre Gravel a malgré tout basculé dans l’oubli depuis son décès.  Les historiens québécois ont fait bien peu de place à ce personnage haut en couleurs.

Pierre Gravel has nevertheless been forgotten since his death.  Quebec historians have given little space to this colorful character.

Sans aller jusqu’à le comparer à Lionel Groulx, nous pouvons affirmer que l’abbé Gravel a eu une influence considérable auprès de ses contemporains.  Il a joui d’une popularité notable auprès de groupes de jeunes nationalistes tels que les journalistes de La Nation ou encore les Jeunes Laurentiens.  Nombreux sont les députés, maires et échevins à avoir assisté ou même participé à ses conférences.  Maurice Duplessis, pour ne nommer que celui-ci, figure parmi les intimes de l’abbé Gravel.

Without going so far as to compare him to Lionel Groulx, we can say that Father Gravel had considerable influence with his contemporaries.  He enjoyed notable popularity with groups of young nationalists such as the La Nation journalists and the Jeunes Laurentiens.  Many deputies, mayors and aldermen attended or even participated in his conferences.  Maurice Duplessis, to name just this one, was one of Father Gravel’s close friends.

Ce polémiste n’avait évidemment pas que des amis et des disciples.  Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, Ernest Lapointe, Jean-Charles Harvey et Fred Rose sont au nombre de ceux qui auraient aimé faire taire ce populaire agitateur.

This polemicist obviously had not only friends and disciples.  Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, Ernest Lapointe, Jean-Charles Harvey and Fred Rose are among those who would have liked to silence this popular agitator.

Note:  A matamore is a blusterer, according to the Collins dictionary and its origin is Spanish, according to Wordsense.
Dumas notes that Patrick Walsh attended Father Gravel’s funeral in 1977.  He calls Walsh an Ontarian; when did Walsh leave Quebec?  Had he left by 1963?  If so, perhaps he was not in the audience the night of 24 February (as I had conjectured) when Arcand spoke at Boischatel.

Dumas says nothing more of Walsh and Father Gravel, though at the time of Walsh’s defection from the communists, Gravel received a threat to bomb the church and rectory at Boischatel, noted in the North American press.

More from Dumas:

Pierre Gravel décède le 29 août 1977 à Québec.  À ses funérailles, on retrouve parmi d’autres le cardinal Maurice Roy, le député péquiste Jean-François Bertrand (fils de l’ ancien premier ministre Jean-Jacques Bertrand), l’évêque Lacroix d’Edmonton, le chef du Parti national populaire Fabien Roy et l’animateur ontarien anti-communiste Pat Walsh.”

Pierre Gravel died on August 29, 1977 in Quebec.  At his funeral, we find among others Cardinal Maurice Roy, PQ deputy Jean-François Bertrand (son of former Premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand), Bishop Lacroix of Edmonton, leader of the National People’s Party Fabien Roy and Ontario anti-communist activist, Pat Walsh.

Dumas critiques the assertion of one author that Adrien Arcand and Father Gravel were “companions in arms”:

Alors que [Yves] Lefrançois qualifie Adrien Arcand de « compagnon d’arme » de l’abbé Gravel, il nous semble douteux que les deux hommes aient réellement collaboré.

While (Yves) Lefrançois calls Adrien Arcand Abbé Gravel’s “companion in arms”, it seems doubtful that the two men really collaborated.

Dumas also revises the infamous Jean-Francois Nadeau:

Mentionnons également le lien que Jean-François Nadeau établit entre l’abbé Gravel et le Parti de l’Unité nationale du Canada, parti ouvertement fasciste fondé et dirigé par Adrien Arcand.  Citant une entrevue avec Jacques Lanctôt.  Nadeau affirme que Gravel était «un proche sympathisant du PUNC»

We should also mention the link that Jean-François Nadeau establishes between Father Gravel and the National Unity Party of Canada, an openly fascist party founded and led by Adrien Arcand.  Quoting an interview with Jacques Lanctôt, Nadeau says Gravel was “close to” and “sympathized with the NUPC”.

Bien que Gravel ait pu retrouver certaines de ses idées dans le parti d’Adrien Arcand, nous doutons qu’il ait pu en être aussi près.  Comment un séparatiste recommandant une révolution nationaliste aurait-il pu s’associer avec un parti fédéraliste dont le chef considère l’indépendantisme comme «un non-sens qui bafoue les principes mêmes de respect de l’ autorité»?

Although Gravel may have found some of his ideas in Adrien Arcand’s party, we doubt that he could have been so close.  How could a separatist recommending a nationalist revolution link himself with a federalist party whose leader sees independence as “nonsense that flouts the very principles of respect for authority”?

“[A] nationalist revolution … as ‘nonsense that flouts the very principles of respect for authority’”.

That’s interesting.  Because Arcand himself was accused by Mackenzie King’s federal government of intending to pull off a “nationalist revolution” (a federal one, Canada-wide), meaning a coup d’état, in 1940.

Dumas says Arcand was unlikely to have been too “close” a friend of a revolutionary priest (a priest who believed in Quebec independence by revolution, i.e, through a coup d’état), because revolution flouts the very authority that Arcand worshiped.

Yet, our corrupt federal government would have us believe that Adrien Arcand planned to ignore his most profound beliefs to become a lawless revolutionary.

And, by the way, you can tell I really like Nadeau.  Several years ago, I kicked his pants in YouTube and elsewhere over comments he made disparaging Robert Rumilly as uneducated and failing to footnote works he published.

What a surprise for Mr. Nadeau to find that someone was actually reading Rumilly and could disprove Nadeau’s allegations.  I pointed to Rumilly’s excellent formal education, including his higher education, and the fact that Rumilly gave his sources not in footnotes but within his paragraphs in books of his that I had read.  I could confirm the sources good, because I had verified some of them for my own work; Rumilly provided references that were easily traceable.

So, when Nadeau finished his hack-job on Rumilly (2009), he went to work on Arcand (2010).

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