The details of the “Sentinelle Affair” are complex and are intertwined with the political and social climate of the 1920’s. This is a brief overview of that complex situation. The “Sentinelle Affair” was so named for a newspaper called La Sentinelle which was founded by Elphège Daignault and others in opposition to Mgr. William Hickey’s fund raising project. In 1924, Bishop Hickey of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island launched a project to raise funds at the parochial level, in order to build several English language Catholic high schools. If a parish did not reach a quota for fund raising, a special tax was imposed on the church. Daignault and other Franco-American leaders opposed this project for many reasons, especially because they felt it was unfair for French speaking parishes to be forced to subsidize the building of English speaking schools. Thus ensued a war of words played out in many Franco-American newspapers of the time. In early 1928 Daignault and dozens of supporters of the Sentinellist movement were excommunicated by the Holy See and it became a sin for Catholics to read, sell, or distribute La Sentinelle. A year later Daignault and his followers capitulated and were readmitted to the Catholic Church.
Listed below are the USJB Archival materials relating to the “Sentinelle Affair” also known as “La Controverse du Rhode Island” that were collected and complied by the USJB throughout the time of the controversy.
3 scrapbooks entitled “La Controverse du Rhode Island”
Newspapers founded by Elphège Daignault
La Sentinelle 4/4/1924-4/24/1928
La Verite 5/31/1928-11/22/1928
La Bataille 11/29/1928
La Defense 12/13/1928-2/14/1929
The Book of the Statements of the Truth
(Le Cahier des Communiques de la Verite) 2/28/1929, 3/14/1929, 3/21/1929, 3/28/1929, 4/4/1929
The Intransigent (L’Intransigeant) 4/11/1929,4/25/1929,5/2/1929,5/9/1929
Correspondence concerning protest vote between 66 USJB conseils and the USJB General Office regarding Mgr. Hickey’s letter published in the USJB publication “L’Union” in the spring of 1927. [vertical files]
St. Ann's Historical Committee notes taken from La Tribune.1914-1931 including information on The Sentinelle Affair. [Pamphet Box 7]