Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 24, 2007
Catholic Church excommunicates Quebec-based Army of Mary movement
Cardinal Ouellet terms group well-intentioned but not obedient to the Church
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Catholic Church has excommunicated the Quebec-based Army of Mary movement that bases its teachings on the mystical visions of an 86-year-old woman who claims to be a reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
When a Catholic priest in the movement ordained six new priests on June 3 at their spiritual centre in the Quebec Archdiocese, the Church "had to intervene" said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, in a telephone interview.
Calling it a "very grave situation," the Vatican has declared the group heretical and schismatic and warns that anyone associated with it has incurred excommunication.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the declaration July 11, but the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released it Sept. 12.
"We hope this clarification will help the population and the people who are close to the Army of Mary to better see if they want to remain with the Catholic Church," said Ouellet. "They have to leave the organization and not attend their meetings and celebrations."
An Army of Mary priest, Father Jean-Pierre Mastropietro, had ordained some deacons early in the year, prompting Ouellet to issue a declaration against the group last March.
Had the movement been confined to his diocese, "my declaration would have been enough," he said, but the Army of Mary has adherents in English Canada and in several European countries. Also known as the Community of the Lady of All Nations, it claims to have 25,000 members worldwide.
When Mastropietro ordained priests in June, in violation of canon law, he also declared a new doctrine: that the Virgin Mary is a divine co-redemptrix. He then canonized one of the movement's members as a saint.
Ouellet said the Second Vatican Council deliberately avoided the term co-redemptrix in relation to Mary.
"It is clear and very developed in Catholic spirituality the presence and participation of Mary at the foot of the cross, and in the redemptive love of Jesus Christ, but as a creature," he said.
"Receiving the fruitfulness of the Redeemer and letting herself be completely pervaded, a sort of channel, she is not adding her own work of redemption."
"She believes in the work of the Redeemer, in the love of the Redeemer and that's her participation."
Marie-Paule Giguere founded the Army of Mary in 1971 based on her private, mystical revelations. A few years later, the then archbishop of Quebec granted it official Church status as a pious association. That status was revoked in 1987.
Giguere began referring to herself as a mystical incarnation of the Virgin Mary in the late 1970s.
Members believe in a "quinternity" instead of the Trinity, said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast in a telephone interview. In addition to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they include the Virgin Mary and Marie-Paule "who has likewise been divinized."
Prendergast has served as a pontifical commissioner since 2003, trying to bring the more than 30 ordained Catholic priests and other movement members back to the fold. "I have lived with them, visited with them," he said. "They are wonderful people, well-intentioned."
"They live simply, chastely and obediently within their structures, but not obediently within the structures of the Church," he said. Many are young priests who, were it not for their false ideas and obedience to heavenly visions over the magisterium, would be attractive assets to their dioceses.
Prendergast said the group claims to believe everything the Church teaches and some additional doctrines the Church "has not come to" yet. They have told him they answer to heaven, even though these additional doctrines contradict the revealed teachings of the Church.
He described the group as having a "fortress mentality." The movement has been divisive of families, he said, when some members want to remain with the Catholic Church.
Sister Chantal Buyse issued a news release from the Army of Mary, defending Giguere as someone with an authentic mystical life and numerous charisms "all of which have served God's cause."
"It is with a sense of peace that we received this decision on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, a decision that heaven had announced to our foundress a long time ago," said the release.