Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 5, 2007
Church's collapse root of Quebec's problems – Ouellet
Anti-religious sentiment misplaced, cardinal says
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"The real problem in Quebec is the spiritual void created by the religious and cultural rupture."
He asked if that meant getting rid of public monuments to religious figures from Quebec's past, or removing crucifixes from public buildings. Would it mean ceasing to say "Merry Christmas" in the halls of government and exchanging it with a bland, inclusive "Happy Holidays"?
Believers and unbelievers carry their creed or unbelief to all areas they attend, he said. Removing all religious symbols from public spaces would promote unbelief as the only value with the right to show itself in public.
"The presence of the crucifix in the National Assembly, at City Hall and at the crossroads (in rural Quebec), is not a sign of any state religion," he said. "It is a sign of identity and cultural history tied to a concrete real population who is entitled to the continuity of its institutions and symbols."
This symbol is not primarily a religious sign but a witness to the cultural heritage of a society marked by its being the historical cradle of evangelization in North America, he said.
Removing it would mean a cultural break, "a denial of what we have been and what we are called to be as an historic community based on the values of Christianity."
Ouellet, a former rector of St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, also recognized the pluralistic nature of Quebec.
"Refugees and immigrants have brought us the richness of their witness and their cultural values that have added to the common values of Quebec society," he said, noting the number of actual requests for accommodation is small.
"Openness to others and welcoming newcomers from other traditions "does not remove our right to be ourselves."
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet
"Welcome, sharing and solidarity must remain the basis for attitudes towards immigrants and their religious and human needs," he said.
Ouellet also warned of the grave threat to religious freedom posed by Quebec's Bill 95 that will impose a mandatory course presenting the views of six or seven religions on all schools next year, both public and private.
"No European nation has ever adopted a policy that radical, overturning the convictions and religious freedoms of its citizens," he said.
Ouellet said the course's "dictatorship of relativism is likely to make even more difficult the transmission of our religious heritage." He objected to the state's interference in parents' rights to choose between moral or confessional teachings in the schools.
In an interview following his presentation, Ouellet said he had issued a call to the Catholic majority in Quebec to be more proud of their rituals, customs and symbols, and more open to the Gospel values of charity in building a harmonious society.
He described three decades of radical secularization as leading to a "dead end if we continue in this way."
"The times are right for a sort of religious revival that will also apply to the rest of Canada," he said, noting that the "cradle of evangelization is Quebec." He said he hoped the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City next June would launch that revival.
Openness to others and welcoming newcomers from other traditions "does not remove our right to be ourselves," he said.
"We have given up too much to this trend," he said. He stressed his opposition to Bill 95 which would impose just one religious and ethics course on everyone, even private Catholic schools.
"For me that's a scandal," he said.
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