Copied from the Montreal Gazette

September 14, 1999

Taking aim at collection plate

The Gazette

ALLEN MCINNIS, GAZETTE / Gilles Bourbonniere, one of the Duplessis orphans, listens as his mother, Pauline, speaks about their experience.

Duplessis orphans try to hit church in pocketbook, urge boycott

The Duplessis orphans are asking Catholics to leave a message rather than a donation in the Sunday collection basket beginning next month.

"Instead of $2, we're giving the church a message," Bruno Roy, president of the Duplessis Orphans Committee, told reporters on the front steps of the Archdiocese of Montreal chancery office yesterday.

The 3,000-member committee is calling on worshippers to start boycotting the collection plate at Sunday masses Oct. 3 in a show of support for the orphans.

Roy said that will send a clear message to church leaders that they should assume their responsibilities and compensate the Duplessis-era victims of abuse as well as formally apologize to them.

"Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte refuses to apologize," the committee head noted.

CEO's Attitude

He also accused the cardinal of often acting as the chief executive officer of a business rather than a religious leader. "So we're going to attack them where their interests are," Roy said alluding to the weekly cash offerings by parishioners.

"And so that it's not to be a negative gesture, we're asking worshippers to give their donation to Centraide instead," he added.

During the boycott, orphans and their supporters will greet parishioners at as many churches as possible to hand out information fliers.

(One of the orphans on hand yesterday, 57-year-old Gilles Bourbonniere, had himself duct-taped about a metre up a lampost outside the chancery to hand out copies of the flier.)

Each flier has a coupon at the bottom to be detached and put on the collection plate in lieu of the usual donation.

Addressed to Turcotte, it reads: "As a Christian member of your church, I respectfully ask you to act so that the Duplessis orphans obtain justice and that the Catholic church takes its responsibilities."

Spokesmen for the archdiocese and the Quebec Assembly of Bishops couldn't be reached for comment.

The bishops and Turcotte said at the end of March that they would announce by May their plan to help the orphans.

The committee is still awaiting their answer.

The orphans, mostly children born out of wedlock or into poverty when Maurice Duplessis was premier of Quebec in the 1940s and '50s, claim they suffered physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually while wards of the province.

Accused of Collusion

They place equal blame on the government and the church, accusing them of collusion and profiting from the orphans' misery.

A committee-commissioned study, co-written by a researcher and professor of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal in April, suggested that Catholic institutions earned $70 million (in 1999 dollars) from federal subsidies by claiming the orphans under their care were mentally deficient.

At the same time, the study concluded that the provincial government saved $37 million by redesignating one orphanage a psychiatric hospital.

Although one of the religious orders involved with the orphans had threatened to sue the authors of the study, UQAM researcher Martin Poirier noted yesterday that no such suit has yet been filed more than four months later.