Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2002
Biographer salutes 'Red' Remi De Roo
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
He admits he has never been close to Remi De Roo, but Vancouver Island author Patrick Jamieson has long been an admirer of the Canadian bishop known in some quarters as Red Remi.
He considers De Roo, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Victoria, to be a post-modern cleric and the most progressive bishop in the country.
"He has always been a powerful symbolic figure and I was fascinated by him," Jamieson said in a CCN interview Feb. 15.
De Roo's reputation was severely damaged in March 2000 when it was learned the Diocese of Victoria ran up $17 million in debts through high-risk investments and an Arabian racehorse venture before his retirement less than a year earlier.
"Was Rome asleep at the switch for almost four decades or are we to assume perhaps, just perhaps, there are some other dynamics here?" asks Jamieson in his newly released book, In the Avant Garde: The Prophetic Catholicism of Remi De Roo and Politics Within the Catholic Church.
De Roo has apologized for the financial crisis and said that, as bishop, he was responsible for the decisions that were taken.
He added he mistakenly believed there was no significant risk to the assets of the diocese.
But the financial crisis that befell the bishop and the diocese at the end of his tenure is only one of 20 chapters of Jamieson's 415-page paperback, for the volume chronicles not only the life and times of De Roo, but also Canadian Church politics.
It is not so much a biography of De Roo as it is a study of what Jamieson calls "the 30-year ongoing crisis of the Roman Catholic Church" in Canada that started with the birth control controversy in 1968.
"This is a crisis that is far from resolved," he states.
In the Avant Garde focuses with exacting detail on the major events and accomplishments of De Roo's career including his challenge to the Canadian establishment in the 1980s in Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis," a pastoral message issued by the social affairs commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, chaired by De Roo.
Jamieson portrays the bishop as "a genuinely revolutionary figure at the heart of an ultra-conservative institution and a unique Canadian figure."
Billed as the "first time biography of Canada's most controversial bishop," the book also looks at De Roo's childhood roots in rural Manitoba through exclusive interviews with Catholic journalist and close colleague Grant Maxwell.
The book also profiles the lives of other Canadian political priests including Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau of Montreal, and Fathers Eugene Cullinane and Bob Ogle, both of Saskatchewan.
Jamieson admits he wrote the book with a bias in favour of De Roo.
"Objectivity has to do with how you present it and that's what I've tried to do, present it in an objective manner."
De Roo's only comment to date on the biographical book is that it contains some "interesting" analysis, the author observed.