MONTREAL, Quebec, March 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Only two days after his appointment to head up the Montreal Archdiocese, Archbishop Christian Lepine is already facing attacks from activists in Quebec’s homosexual and feminist movements.
Archbishop Lepine, 60, was questioned on his strong pro-life and pro-family stances at a press conference Wednesday morning. The newly-minted prelate avoided stirring up any heated controversy with his carefully worded answers, which he grounded Pope John Paul II’s teachings on human sexuality, known as the theology of the body, and the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel.
Asked about abortion, Lepine emphasized that “God is the author of life” and “the first right is the right to life.” He said he hopes to attend the National March for Life in Ottawa this May, as he has done in the past.
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The archbishop was also questioned on his decision in 2009 to allow an event at his Repentigny parish to help parents develop the “heterosexual potential” of their children. The future archbishop was forced to cancel the remaining two sessions after the first sparked a media firestorm and threats of protest.
Explaining the incident, Lepine said, “The Church welcomed people living according to the homosexual lifestyle, a lifestyle that they themselves felt caused them harm. … It was to help them find strength in Jesus Christ.”
The remarks have the Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians up in arms.
“This bishop believes in reparative therapy,” Steve Foster, the group’s president, told the Journal de Quebec. “It shows that for the Church, gays and lesbians are sick people who need to be cured.”
Alexa Conradi, president of the Quebec Women’s Federation, also denounced Archbishop Lepine’s appointment as “extremely unfortunate,” saying he is “so out of touch with Quebec values.”
“The religious leaders have given over the reigns to people who are more conservative,” she told the Journal de Quebec.
Such opposition is par for the course for any Catholic clergyman who takes a public stand in support of the Church’s moral teachings in the radically secularized former Catholic province.
When Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then-Archbishop of Quebec City and current prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, reiterated the Church’s condemnation of abortion in cases of rape in 2010, he became the subject of heated criticism by media, politicians, and even some clergy.
The remarks sparked a motion backed unanimously in Quebec’s National Assembly to reaffirm “the right … to free and accessible abortion services.” One notable journalist said he hoped the Cardinal would die “from a long and painful illness.”
At the press conference, Archbishop Lepine also defended the Church’s stance on denying Communion to those who are divorced and remarried.
“You can pray, but I don’t think you’re ready to take communion. If you’re not ready yet, that’s all right,” the bishop said he would tell such individuals, adding that they can still encounter Christ in prayer and through a “spiritual communion.”
The archbishop’s appointment has been hailed by Catholics as a sign of the pope’s effort to reform the Quebec episcopate to better equip it for the new evangelization.
Lepine was working as a parish priest only eight months ago when he was first tapped as an auxiliary bishop for Montreal. He was only a bishop for six months before his appointment to head up Canada’s second largest diocese yesterday.
Leading commentator Fr. Raymond de Souza wrote in the Catholic Register Wednesday that his “dramatic” elevation is a clear sign that Pope Benedict XVI, under the advice of Cardinal Ouellet, has rejected the “safe option” in appointing bishops.
“Ouellet evidently decided that the norm in Quebec needed changing, and so has advised the Holy Father to change it — emphatically,” wrote Fr. de Souza.