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?


Anonymous said...

As someone who has recently returned to the Church, I'm already worried about where she may be headed in the future. How is a Catholic supposed to feel secure in Biblical-sound teachings, which an institution of God has upheld for hundreds of years, when they are speaking of throwing them out in favour of making everybody else in society feel happy? How can these people call themselves clergy, when they want to reform the teachings of Christ? Just to bow down to social pressure?

And then we have the Synod. God help us where that's going to go in 2015.

It's difficult finding ones place among all the problems we have...Human problems...created by people who think they know best. Are we just ignoring the Holy Spirt and the testimony of Christ?

Julie Culshaw said...

I think the best thing you can do is to find a priest who is sound Biblically and whose preaching feeds you. Make that your home parish, and take some courses there that will build you up. If anything seems suspect, I would back out of it. There are a lot of confused Catholics out there, well-meaning but confused.

A friend of mine once told me that a 100 year old nun said to her, 'even if the Pope should turn heretic, you are still a Catholic". \\

For some reason, that gives me peace. There have been periods in the Church of great upheaval, but God never abandoned the Church. Even when we had some very questionable popes, they never made statements from the Chair of Peter that were false.

The Spirit will guide the Church. I personally think we are going to see a much smaller, but more vibrant Catholic church in the space of a very few years. Find the faithful Catholics and hang out with them!

Anonymous said...

How true, the statement coming from the nun. I guess even though He said He would never abandon the Church, He didn't mean we wouldn't face rocky times and questionable leaders, especially when the world is screaming for us to change.

That definitely gives me peace as well. We know what the true doctrines of the Church are in the Catechism.

The people I've thus far come to know through the Church (mostly young adults) all live and breath what I think to be the authentic Catholic lifestyle. It is refreshing to be able to know and spend time and look up to others around me, who are showing me how to be authentic, and share those core values of the Church, especially on family.

However, I've also met some who hold erroneous beliefs, which they reconcile because 'society has made activity X OK' and 'it's acceptable now, even though it wasn't 30 years ago'.