Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 13, 2006
Religious orders knock 'intransigent' Church
"If we push aside the Gospel, well what are we going to become?
- Bishop Gilles Cazabon
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Compassion must be balanced with the high ideals of Church teaching, otherwise the Church risks putting aside the Gospel.
That's how the president of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops responded to a controversial letter from the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) criticizing the Catholic Church.
The letter says the Church is rigid and intransigent on sexual morals, unwelcoming to homosexuals, has a "clerical mentality," and is unwilling to give women decision-making roles.
Lack of independence
The CRC also "regrets" the Canadian bishops' lack of independence from Rome.
"We hope that our Church will position itself closer to the major issues of the world: impoverishment, inequalities, rights and roles of women, defence of the disenfranchised, respect for the environment, and the safeguarding of humanity," the letter says.
In an accompanying message, the CRC says its members believe that the criticism the Church is currently receiving "comes not from evil, bad or deviant spirits."
"We strongly believe that Christian faith and modernity are not in opposition. For that, the strong values of this modernity must also inspire us in the pursuit of our faith," it said.
Church has high ideals
In a March 6 telephone interview Saint-Jerome, Que., Bishop Gilles Cazabon stressed that the Church must be compassionate, but added: "If we put aside these high ideals, we put aside the Gospel, basically."
"If we push aside the Gospel, well what are we going to become? We are going to become a people gathered around a very vague doctrine, with no specific identity, and I would say with no impact on humanity as such."
The CRC letter was based on a survey to which 60 per cent of Canada's 230 religious orders responded. It was leaked to La Presse newspaper March 3.
"The document was meant to be a personal dialogue with our bishops and was not to be debated in public," says CRC spokeswoman Louise Stafford.
Cazabon, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, said he welcomes the collegial spirit of the letter and understands well the concerns of religious because he is one himself.
"We welcome any views they would like to express," he said. "Sometimes though in reading their message, I had an impression that they speak to the Church . . . as if they are not in the Church."
"We are not antagonistic bodies. We are together the Church. So, I'm afraid what comes out of their document that they don't come across as being very self-critical."
In response to the CRC's criticism of the CCCB's "unconditional alignment of our Church with directives issued from Rome," Cazabon said, "When it comes to the basic doctrinal content, of course, we are all one. When it comes to more disciplinary aspects, we are one on the main things.
"On the other hand, we as bishops, we are members of the college of bishops and the head of this college is the pope. So we always try to accomplish our ministry with our brother bishops and with the pope."
"So, I feel as a bishop I have the autonomy to do what I can do, and what I should do within the general framework of the Church and I'm happy to work within that."
God is Love
Cazabon hopes Pope Benedict's latest encyclical Deus Caritas Est - God is Love - will help dispel the image of the Church as legalistic, another criticism in the CRC letter.
As for the role of women in the Church, Cazabon pointed out that his diocese has 45 active priests and 80 lay pastoral associates, 75 of whom are women.
"These women are all in the meetings we attend, they express their views and they are wonderful collaborators in our ministry. If this is not giving enough space to lay people, especially women, I don't know what else can we do?"
The CRC letter was sent to the bishops in advance of their ad limina visits to Rome this year. Every five years the bishops give an account of their dioceses to the pope and accept his counsel.
Since the media leak, the CRC has posted the entire letter on its website at www.crc-canada.org.
Letter to the Editor - 03/27/06