Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal cancelled its contract in November with national pro-life conference host Campagne Quebec-Vie less than one day before it was scheduled to start. The official reason was the physical danger to the pilgrims and the conference participants because a coalition of small pro-abortion groups had announced two demonstrations in front of the Oratory at the beginning and at the end of the conference. At the last minute, we were able to find another location and the conference was a great success, but we were left wondering: what was the real reason for the cancellation?

The demonstrations had been announced two months before the conference. Montreal police affirmed that they could deal with the demonstrators easily. This is what they told me, as president of the organizing committee, from the beginning and it remained so even after the decision of the Oratory. A detective of the Quebec Provincial Police said he had never seen a similar cancellation handed down without, in his opinion, a serious reason.

In reality, I believe, the Oratory did not want to be associated with the controversial issue of abortion. The Holy Cross Fathers agreed to lease the hall over one year before the conference. We signed a contract more that nine months before the event. They perhaps believed there would be no opposition, as if it were a conference on Buddhist mediation. They were, nonetheless, happy to accept money from the pro-life movement. We paid the same price we would have at the downtown Delta Hotel, which was the other possibility for a venue we looked at a year before the conference.

When the Holy Cross Fathers saw the controversy everywhere in the media, including a few reports on CBC radio and television, and even eventually on the street in front of the Oratory, they panicked. They were afraid that the image of the Oratory as a place of “prayer, peace and dialogue” might suffer. This is what the communications director of the Oratory told me in our meeting on Nov. 16, when they decided to abandon the pro-life movement and send it to the street less than a day before the conference. The Oratory had never promoted the conference – it had never announced it at the Oratory because it was not a part of their “pastoral activities.” Pro-lifers were simply a group of clients, perhaps risky clients, but clients who were willing to pay. It seems that the struggle against the “culture of death” is not included in the “pastoral interests” of the Holy Cross Fathers. They dropped us to avoid controversy, as if Catholic support of the pro-life movement was controversial.

This betrayal byCatholic clergy to confront the surrounding culture is emblematic of the capitulation of the Catholic church in Quebec in face of the culture of death. The church surrendered a long time ago before the politicians, journalists and radical activists that have led this society since the Quiet Revolution. Some Quebec bishops are even proud that they no longer influence Quebec society. This is what they call a good and quiet secularization. It was a layman, Gilles Grondin, who, after a long diplomatic career and a conversion, first launched the movement in defence of life in the public square in Quebec in 1989. He was not helped very much by the church. Many bishops and priests were indifferent to his courageous crusade for life and he suffered much as a result of this lack of enthusiasm from the top of the church hierarchy. He had to carry the movement on his shoulders, even financially. All those rich religious communities like the Holy Cross Fathers, who are now in the process of renovating the Oratory at a cost of $40 million, prefer to give money to groups for justice and peace and UNICEF (even with its anti-life activities), instead of helping save the children of in their own society.

They have refused to play their prophetic role as defenders of the faith, life and family, and as a consequence, these religious communities will wither and die with Quebec. The treason of the Oratory is a sign of that final chapter in the life of this French nation that was betrayed by its clergy. The priests of the Oratory can continue to celebrate folkloric meetings, receive gurus and chime in on the issues of the day, echoing fashionable political orthodoxy, but the French-Canadian nation that built this monument of faith is killing itself.