The Apostles of Infinite Love is an ultra-conservative monastic community, based in the Laurentian mountains near Saint-Jovite, Quebec. Membership with the group, also known as the Order of the Magnificat of the Mother of God, peaked in the 1970s. The fifth estate has done two stories on the order: in 1977, Adrienne Clarkson reported on the controversy surrounding the group, and in 1998, Victor Malarek investigated allegations of physical and sexual abuse from the children of an American family who joined the Apostles, in an episode called ‘In the Hands of Strangers’.
The Apostles’ leader was the son of a lumberjack from Rimouski, Quebec, named Jean-Gaston Tremblay, who came to be known as Father Jean. After joining the Roman Catholic church, Tremblay met a breakaway sect in France headed by a man who called himself Pope Clement XV, though he’d been defrocked and excommunicated by the Vatican. Tremblay was secretly ordained a priest and a bishop by him, before he returned to Canada to set up his own order, based on early Catholic traditions. In the late 1960s, he proclaimed himself Pope Gregory XVII.
During his time as the Apostles’ leader, he was the subject of several police investigations with allegations including sexual and physical abuse of children, illegal confinement and kidnapping.
In the late 1960s, Tremblay was among the ten most wanted men in Quebec, for refusing to help authorities find children they claimed were being mistreated. Police laid charges at the time, and Tremblay was convicted of contempt of court. In 1977, when Clarkson met him for an interview, there was once again a warrant for his arrest issued because he failed to appear in court on a charge of harbouring or abducting the children of the Currier family.
Former member Germain Currier, whose father appears in Clarkson’s 1977 story on the Apostles, filed a $2.5-million civil suit in 2001, alleging he was physically and sexually abused by members of the order including Tremblay. Currier’s father had been awarded legal custody of Germain and his older sister, and when the Apostles’ refused to turn them over to authorities, Tremblay was put in jail for six months.
In 1999, police raided the monastery and child protection authorities removed 20 children, and issued arrest warrants for leader and three other disciples. Two weeks later, the self-styled Pope turned himself in to police. Along with those other disciples, he was charged in 2001 with several counts of sexual abuse dating back to the late 1960s. However, in June of the same year, that case was dropped because of lost documents and contradictory evidence.
The founder of the Apostles died on New Year’s Eve in 2011, at the age of 83. In this interview on CBC’s Radio Noon in Montreal, Mike Kropveld of Info-cult, who monitored the Apostles for decades, speaks about Tremblay shortly after his death.