Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Canadian Catholic Church and the State
Last night, I listened to the Erasmus Lecture given by Archbishop Chaput. This is sponsored annually by First Things and this was the 26th or 27th lecture.
First Things is a publication begun by Father John Nieuhaus who felt the need to equip Christians to witness to their faith in the public square. He obviously could foresee the threats to religious freedom that were coming from the secular culture and from the ever-growing body of government.
The talk is now online at this link.
Archbishop Chaput is a marvellous thinker and I have never read anything by him that wasn't relevant to today's issues.
Last night, he began the lecture by telling the brief story of the province of Quebec. From a province that was 95% Catholic with extremely high church attendance, Quebec has dropped to one of the most secular places in the modern world. I am not quite sure of the numbers, but I thought he said that only 11% of Quebecers now state that they are Catholic and only a small proportion of those attend Sunday Mass. It has an abortion rate of 48% (pretty close to half of all pregnancies are aborted). The "silent revolution" took people away from institutional faith and the result is a province that is openly hostile to the Church.
It is important to remember that Canada's ruling party, for the most part, has been the Liberal party. And the majority of leaders of the Liberal Party have been Catholics from the province of Quebec. What does this portend for Canada as a whole on the issue of religion and state, religious freedom, upholding of the traditional values that were the underpinnings of this country?
I keep telling my husband (ad nauseum) that our archbishop here is a product of Quebec and, to understand him, you have to keep in mind that he has spent his entire life growing up in a province that is increasingly anti-Catholic, a province that has been making concessions all along to the secular government and is abandoning any Catholic/Christian roots. Our bishop's thinking is bound to be formed by those 60 years, the majority of his life. It should come as no surprise that he doesn't understand those Catholics who think that inviting a "Catholic" abortion-supporting politician to speak at the annual Archbishop's dinner is beyond problematic. It is a disgrace.
I am re-reading the book Catholics Against the Church, a history of the pro-life movement in Toronto in the years 1969-1985. I think it is the doctoral thesis of Michael Cuneo. A second reading brings things out much more clearly: the roots of the antipathy between pro-life Catholics and their bishops, the reluctance of the Catholic Church to be vocal on the pro-life issue (unlike the American church that has many outspoken advocates amongst the clergy). And always there is the thread running through the history of abortion in Canada: that it was Catholics with political power who made abortion legal in this country.
The more I read, the less sure I am of where the answers lie. How do we motivate our pastors and bishops to speak out on injustice? how do we engage them in the "public square" when they firmly believe that they shouldn't be there in the first place? How can we make advances in key areas, such as abortion politics and the drive towards legalizing euthanasia when our clergy have been advised decades ago to keep clear of all that controversial stuff? When people like Cardinal Carter of Toronto set the tone by meeting privately with Prime Minister Trudeau, a meeting in which he gave Trudeau his support for the new Charter of Rights and in which he got in return the continued funding of Catholic schools in Ontario. Although this cannot be proven definitively, it certainly looks as if that is the way it went and there were definitely collusions between Liberal politicians and Church hierarchy at the time.
I have always suspected that our clergy have been closet Liberals, and some (heaven forbid are NDP), but there is some solid evidence there for that suspicion. There is a shroud of compromise and shady deals that has covered the Canadian Catholic Church for a long time. How do we tear that shroud away? Or will it simply take a brand new generation of priests to accomplish that?