MONTREAL, Quebec, March 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Yesterday’s appointment of a religiously orthodox, pro-life bishop to head the Montreal Archdiocese is a perfect example of how Pope Benedict XVI, with the advice of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, is using Quebec as a model for how to “reform an episcopate” and “provide new leadership for the Church,” writes Fr. Raymond de Souza in a new column for Canada’s Catholic Register.

Archbishop Lepine, 60, 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.

According to Fr. de Souza, this “dramatic” elevation “has drawn attention to Canada as the exemplar of how an episcopate can be reconfigured for the challenges of the new evangelization.”

Catholic observers have frequently noted that Catholic leaders in la belle province have been a leading force in the spread of liberalism in the Church in Canada, beginning four or five decades ago as the former Catholic stronghold rapidly secularized in the wake of the Quiet Revolution.

Lepine’s appointment has been welcomed by pro-life leaders, who note that he has been a champion of Bl. Pope John Paul II’s teachings on authentic human sexuality, known as the ‘theology of the body’.

He replaces Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, whose twenty-two years at the helm were marked, in part, by a strained relationship with the pro-life movement – most especially when he made the decision to preside at a state funeral in 2000 at Montreal’s Notre Dame Cathedral for Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who was the architect of the 1969 legalization of abortion and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that led to the meager abortion restrictions being tossed by the Supreme Court in 1988.

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Turcotte was praised in 2008, however, when he made national headlines after choosing to return his Order of Canada in protest of the Governor General’s decision to award the Order to leading Montreal abortionist Henry Morgentaler.

But the praise was quickly dampened when the Cardinal made ambiguous statements in Quebec media on the Church’s sexual teaching and abortion, including his refusal to be labeled “pro-life” and his suggestion that there could be “almost no other choice” than abortion in certain cases.

Fr. de Souza, a prominent priest-commentator who hails from the Kingston Archdiocese and recently launched Convivium, a magazine on religion and public life, says the spate of new episcopal appointments to Quebec since Ouellet took over as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops in 2010 make it clear that he has put the renewal of Quebec’s episcopate at the top of his agenda.

The prelate has shunned the “safe option” in appointing bishops, Fr. de Souza writes, which is “to select archbishops from long-serving bishops, and bishops from long-serving auxiliaries, and auxiliaries from long-serving officials in chancery offices.”

The priest lists numerous examples, such as the appointment of Archbishop Gerald Lacroix in February 2011 as Ouellet’s successor in Quebec City, where Lacroix had served as auxiliary bishop for only two years; and that of Bishop Thomas Dowd in July 2011 as auxiliary bishop for Montreal at the “almost unprecedented age” of 40.

“Ouellet evidently decided that the norm in Quebec needed changing, and so has advised the Holy Father to change it — emphatically,” writes Fr. de Souza.

“Renewal in the Church does not depend exclusively, or even primarily, upon bishops,” Fr. de Souza acknowledges. “The Holy Spirit is not constrained to work only through holy orders. Reform and renewal in the Church more often arises from the religious orders and, increasingly, new movements and lay apostolates.”

“Yet,” he adds, “the pastor is critical for the health and vitality of the flock, thus the appointment of bishops remains essential in advancing the mission of the Church.”