Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 28, 2002
Churches have lost political power -- official
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The churches in the West may have lost the political power and influence they once wielded in society but the general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches doesn't see that as a bad thing.
"I thank God that the false power that the churches used to have is no longer available to us," said Janet Somerville, in a homily marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan.18-25.
Somerville gave an example of how "unpowerful" the churches are, saying letters can be sent to the prime minister of Canada with the signatures of all Church leaders on it and the only response may be a token letter of acknowledgment months later.
"There is no political price to pay for ignoring the churches," she said at the ecumenical service Jan. 20 in Ottawa.
Somerville, the first woman and first Catholic general secretary of the CCC, said the churches are not treated with the same respect they once were.
They are often associated in the media with scandals, such as that at the Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland or the abuses of students of Indian residential schools, she said.
"When I was a youngster, residential schools stood for missionary sacrifice," said Somerville, 64. "We now see the arrogance of a colonizing people demanding to make over society in their own image."
Through the loss of their political power, she said, churches have been forced to become more Christ-like and in some cases even despised. "God is making the institutional churches more like the Jesus hanging on a cross," said Somerville.
There are no "mainline" churches in Canada when it comes to political power, Somerville said. "We're all sidelined."