In recent years, Father Raymond Gravel has been well known in Quebec for his dissident views as a Catholic priest. He differs on abortion, same-sex “marriage,” homosexual priests, married priests, homosexuality, women priests, contraception and many other topics. He is almost a caricature. He is, however, often invited by the Quebec media to comment on church affairs. He is almost an official spokesperson on these questions. He is better known in Quebec than most of the bishops and at least as well known as Cardinals Ouellet and Turcotte. How can he defend such positions without being censored by church authorities in Quebec? He is officially a priest in good standing, since he is still pastor of a parish in the diocese of Joliette, Saint-Joachim-de-la-Plaine and police chaplain in Laval (an important city north of Montreal and located in the Archdiocese of Montreal).

As president of Campagne Quebec-Vie and editor of the conservative journal Egards, I had to debate with him in different media (including French CBC radio and television) on same-sex “marriage,” abortion and The Da Vinci Code, which he defends. How can a priest defend such anti-Christian views as the right to choose an abortion and same-sex “marriage?” Father Gravel gave a long interview last summer to the gay magazine Fugues (June 2, 2005), published in Montreal. It was a true confession of a disturbed priest, which he would never have made in a Catholic publication.

At the beginning of the interview, he explains where his interest in the homosexual cause comes from. He was born in 1952 in the small village of Saint-Damien-de-Brandon. From ages 16 to 24, he was a gay prostitute in Montreal and took drugs. After a terrible sexual relation with a client that led him to the hospital, he became a bartender at gay establishments. At 32, he entered the seminary in a dramatic change to fulfill a childhood dream, but with no real spiritual conversion. Journalist Patrick Brunette does not understand how someone can be gay and want to become a priest, since the church has always condemned homosexuality. Father Gravel answers that “50 per cent of the priests in Quebec are gay.” Further on in the interview, he adds that “according to me, 50 per cent of the priests are chaste and merely 20 per cent live it well.”

He stays in the church because “he still thinks that he can transform it from within.” He thinks that the church will have no credibility in Quebec society as long as it does not accept same-sex “marriage.” “If we can bless animals, motorcycles and houses, we should also bless human beings.” In December 2004, Father Gravel even criticized the position of the Canadian Catholic hierarchy for its defence of traditional marriage in La Presse. In 2004, he received the Fight Homophobia Prize, presented by the Quebec gay lobby group Emergence Foundation.

Father Gravel is not a fan of the new Pope, Benedict XVI. “I was disappointed when I learnt that the new Pope was the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,” he said. His bishop, Gilles Lussier from Joliette, was warned by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about his rebel priest. “My public positions on abortion and gay ‘marriage’ were not well received by Rome. My bishop even received a letter from the Holy See saying that if I continue in my opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic church, I would have to face the consequences.” The author of that letter was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. “Fortunately, I have the support of my bishop, but the day he leaves his position, I might have some trouble.”

With the case of this poor and unfaithful priest in mind, we should reflect on the complicity of his bishop and of the church of Quebec and its inability to defend itself against this open infiltration. Is it a sign of an acceptance of his positions or a weakness in the defence of truth? The church in Quebec has preached tolerance and openness since the Quiet Revolution, but have we thought about the harm made to the simple faithful who do not know what the truth is anymore? If the church of Quebec cannot have a unified and clear position on such fundamental questions as same-sex “marriage” and abortion, we can understand why the church is dying in Quebec and why Quebec society itself is dying. Father Raymond Gravel is a case of conscience for the church of Quebec and the universal church.