Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 3, 2007
Media backlash betrays its own prejudice
It's hard to know how to take the hostile reaction in the media to Cardinal Marc Ouellet's apology for the sins of past Quebec Catholic leaders. Were the angry responses by feminists, homosexual activists and others to the cardinal's apology reflective of Quebec public opinion? Or, was it simply a case of the media rounding up for comment the usual gang who could be counted on to be hostile to the Church?
One might assume, for the sake of argument, that it was the latter - that the hostility was media generated and not reflective of a Quebec population which is perhaps more indifferent than angry with Catholicism. Certainly the cardinal himself admitted he was stunned by the negative reaction.
To be sure, there was lots for which to apologize. As Ouellet stated, some Catholics supported "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference towards the First Nations and discrimination regarding women and homosexuals." He wasn't just making this up. Quebec Catholics played a key role, for example, in keeping Jewish immigrants out of Canada during the Second World War.
But it needs to be said that the Quebec Church of today is not the Church of the Duplessis era. Nor has it been the same Church for a long time. The reactionary anti-modernism of 50 years ago has given way to a group of bishops, at least, who have been consistent in calling for a more just, egalitarian society and who have, in their own way, tried to model what such a society might look like.
This does not mean that the Church must or will change its moral and dogmatic teaching. The secular media and others apply false litmus tests in judging the Church. It is not true that to show compassion for homosexuals, for example, one must support same-sex marriage and approve the morality of homosexual acts. It is not true that to be fully supportive of women's rights the Church must ordain women to the priesthood and support abortion on demand. It is not true that by supporting the right to religious liberty, the Church has to abandon its claim that eternal salvation can come only through Jesus.
These are false litmus tests imposed by a mentality that denies the existence of religious and moral truth and which denies there are substantive differences between genders.
But if you are stuck in that mentality, nothing the Church says or does will satisfy you. When the cardinal apologizes, it is seen as lip service or as a desperate attempt to get paying customers back in the pews.
The cardinal was right to apologize. But he was also right when, a month earlier, he said current tensions in Quebec over the place of minorities and immigrants are due to the collapse of the Catholic faith in the province.
"The real problem in Quebec is not the presence of religious symbols or the appearance of new religious symbols in public spaces," he told the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation. "The real problem in Quebec is the spiritual void created by the religious and cultural rupture."
A media that is fully secularized will never get this point. It will continue to see the Church as the problem, not the solution - as the very font of bigotry.
In fact, a faith in the God beyond all seeing and all knowing is the only hope for raising humanity above its differences and hostilities. Appearance is just appearance and what really matters is he who is eternal and infinite and also our brother. When we know that, we also know that anything that shatters the communion among men and women is sin. It is only when there is faith that there can be apology and forgiveness and growth towards a fuller communion.
- Glen Argan
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