Clerico-nationalism was a right-wing ideology current in Quebec from the years after World War I unit the end of the 1950s, (from the premiership of Maurice Duplessis until the Quiet Revolution. Clerico-nationalism was a traditionalist, religious form of French Canadian nationalism focused on the Catholic Church. In France, a similar ideology was referred to as National Catholicism.
The term clerico-nationalism was coined by Paul-André Linteau. Henri Bourassa publicized clerico-nationalist views, as did the editors of his newspaper Le Devoir, and the League des droits du français (League of French Rights). Clerico-nationalist thinking was most thoroughly developed and spread by Lionel Groulx and the Ligue d'Action française (French Action League), which he led.
Clerico-nationalism was focused systematically on the past. Clerico-nationalists pushed a conservative line in politics and defended the interests of what they called the French Canadian “race.” Advocates of clerico-nationalism were strictly Catholic and represented mostly by members of the clergy. They defended traditional family values, respect for hierarchy, submission of the wife to the authority of her husband, and natalism. They also defended agriculture and the rural way of life. They were on guard against what they saw as the dangers of the city, and praised popular religious education.
Clerico-nationalists also took stands on language and culture. They were purists about the French language, preferring the French spoken in France as the standard form of the language. In terms of culture and literature, Groulx and his fellows were traditionalist and opposed to modernist French and European. They promoted a rural, conservative, and nationalist literature which opposed exoticism, art in the Parisian style, or Parnassianism, which was characterized by the study of 'art for art's sake'.
Opposition and Decline
Starting in the 1930s, other more radical nationalist ideas (secularist and separatist began to coalece. These reduced the influence of clerico-nationalism. These more radical ideas took hold in the movements inspired by Paul Bouchard and Adrian Arcand, and the group Jeune-Canada (Young Canada).
In the 1940s, opposition to the ideology of Groulx's generation became more vigorous. The young artists of Refus global, gathered around Paul-Émile Borduas, strongly rejected clerico-nationalism, which they believed was reactionary. They were modern, anticlerical, and revolutionary. This opposition had little effect at the time, but the generation of the Quiet Revolution would later rediscover it, opening the door to Marxism and the extreme left.
After the premiership of Duplessis, clerico-nationalism, often associated with his government, progressively gave way to the liberalism represented by Jean Lesage. However, the ideology represented by Groulx and his successors during close to a quarter century was a major influence on Quebec history in the 20th century. Clerico-nationalism brought together a number of intellectuals and figures from different nationalist milieus in defense of French Canadian tradition against rising liberalism, secularism, urbanization, and capitalism in the. The often passionate debates that clerico-nationalism stirred up focused discussion on modernity, the influence of Catholicism on political life, and the idea of progress in Quebec during a turning point in its history.
Paul-André Linteau, René Durocher et Jean-Claude Robert, "Le courant clérico-nationaliste", dans Histoire du Québec contemporain. De la confédération à la crise (1867-1929), Montréal, Boréal, "Compact", 1989, t. 1, p. 700-707.