Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 2, 2008
Faith is cornerstone of renewed society
Although they decided that Quebec's "crisis" over reasonable accommodation of minority rights was overblown, the two commissioners who wrote the 300-page report on the topic still want the province to adopt what they call open secularism.
Curiously, members of the Quebec National Assembly (MNAs) responded immediately by voting unanimously to retain the crucifix prominently displayed in the assembly. Given the collapse of church attendance in the province in recent decades, one must wonder how many of the MNAs view that crucifix as anything more than a quaint reminder of Quebec's Catholic past.
Was their vote a sop to the still-significant number of voters who do have a strong Catholic faith? Or, does it mean that the National Assembly truly wants the faith to be the cornerstone of Quebec society?
It's hard to imagine that the answer to the second question is "yes" given the nearly 50 years of secularization that has taken place, often with government encouragement. The question the Catholic Church in Quebec may want to ask itself is whether it prefers to evangelize in a situation described as open secularism rather than one that trivializes Catholicism as a museum piece from the distant past.
It needs to be admitted that the relationship between the Church and Quebec society was not always a wonderful, liberating one. But it is at least debatable whether today's secular society, with its high rates of divorce, abortion and suicide, is a better option.
Ultimately, a good society needs a strong spiritual foundation and not just fine government programs. It will have to be rooted in faith - real faith.
But don't expect the government to bring that about. Any faith worthy of the name is the result of a personal appropriation of the content of the faith - people's free choice.
There's the rub. A renewed society will be the result of successful evangelization. Success in such a matter is ultimately God's gift. But it will not occur without human effort, effort that includes renewing the Church in ways that touch the hearts of post-modern people.
In his April 18 talk at the United Nations, Pope Benedict spoke of the relationships among religions in terms of dialogue, rather than reasonable accommodation. Dialogue assumes truth and a common search for that truth. It implies openness by all parties to the possibility of conversion. Reasonable accommodation, in contrast, would seem to imply that each faith is happy to see the other remain within its own hermetically sealed compartment.
No person should have to deny their religious faith in order to exercise their human rights. Conscience should never be trodden upon by either a state religion or triumphalist secularism. When women and men of faith enter the public forum they should not have to leave their faith at home.
The closer humanity gets to a true faith, the closer it will get to a society where human dignity flourishes. The content of faith is relevant and should not be brushed aside in the interest of reasonable accommodation. But the spirit of dialogue should always prevail above intolerance, discrimination and conflict.
Today's elected officials may view the crucifix in their midst as a comforting reminder of a na‹ve past. But that past includes the legacy of Sts. Jean Br‚beuf and Gabriel Lalemant, whose hearts were ripped from their chests and eaten before their eyes in one of the most grotesque martyrdoms ever. It also includes the likes of Samuel de Champlain, St. Marguerite d'Youville and Blessed Francois de Laval who endured great hardships in order to plant the faith in a new land.
An openly secular Quebec society has turned its back on that past. It is a glorious past, but it is still past. But in working for a truly human future, Quebec leaders should never forget Peter's words to Jesus: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).
- Glen Argan
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