Villeneuve, Jean-Marie-Rodrigue

Jean-Marie-Rodrigue Villeneuve, Oblate priest, Roman Catholic archbishop of Québec, cardinal (b at Montréal 2 Nov 1883; d at Alhambra, Calif 17 Jan 1947). After studying philosophy and theology, he began a teaching career and became active in nationalist circles, with Abbé Lionel GROULX. Named first bishop of Gravelbourg (Sask) in 1930, he became the 20th bishop of Québec in 1932, the 10th archbishop, and, in 1933, the fourth Canadian cardinal. While head of the Québec church, Cardinal Villeneuve continued to teach, using his homilies, talks and academic presentations, and spread his ideas through brochures and books. At the same time he also gave new impetus to CATHOLIC ACTION, liturgical renewal and Marist piety; he ran his diocese firmly and was the uncontested leader of Québec and Canadian bishops. Despite his taste for grandeur and a certain stubbornness, he liked to mingle with the crowds that greeted him.

Although his episcopacy faced the serious problems of the Great Depression - strikes, debates about the nature of Catholic Action and relations with public authorities - he skilfully found solutions that were acceptable to his colleagues. He was less successful with his position on the war. Convinced that "Hitler and Nazism are a catastrophic threat to our Christianity and our rights," he yielded to pressure from federal politicians and was increasingly sympathetic to total war, a position that appalled some bishops, the nationalist circles and a good many French Canadian Catholics. To save unanimity and avoid scandal, he agreed to some concessions. Yet the tensions that remained were indicative of the upheaval that was beginning to shake Québec.