Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 19, 2007
Cardinal Ouellet's warnings need to be heeded throughout Canada
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Cardinal Marc Ouellet's assessment of Quebec's spiritual void, his passionate defence of her Christian history and his warning about the threat of fundamentalist secularism should be heeded in the rest of Canada, say religious freedom experts.
Ouellet's Oct. 30 brief to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission studying reasonable accommodation has drawn vitriolic responses from some columnists in Quebec, but those on the forefront of religious freedom battles see his intervention as timely and courageous.
"It is an excellent recognition of the fact of secularist dominance and a corresponding anti-religiosity in the culture and in the media," said Iain Benson, executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal.
Peter Lauwers, a constitutional lawyer who often represents Catholic interests before the courts, noted Ouellet's insistence that "there must be space in the public square for religious identity."
"His warning about the dangers in ignoring history and in radical secularism will resonate across Canada," he said.
Who is following?
McGill Christian studies professor Douglas Farrow agreed, describing Ouellet's intervention as "courageous and insightful leadership from the top but it's not clear who's following."
"He is arguing that the manifestations of religion in society are part of the fabric of society and belong to the citizens, to the people, and they give continuity to the people in their identity," Farrow said.
"The whole country was established on political and social and philosophical foundations in which the Christian religion played an enormous role," he said. "Some of the difficulties we are facing today are difficulties that arise from having moved off that foundation."
By forgetting our heritage, "we're creating a structure that is very weak and is inflated by false rights discourse and susceptible to collapse," he said.
The experts also agreed with Ouellet's defence of the presence of religious symbols and statues in Quebec's public square.
"Everyone reacted with horror when the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues," Lauwers said. "What's the difference between that and taking down the crucifixes and public statuary?"
Ouellet is not looking for the return of a time when religious organizations ruled, Lauwers said.
"He is saying that one can be a practising, believing Catholic and say you are without offending the mores of society."
Lauwers sees Ouellet's call for a revival of Quebec's Catholic Christian roots as "matching nicely" with recent research by sociologist Reginald Bibby who has found evidence of a "deep spiritual hunger" among Canadians.
But he doubts Canada, given its diversity, will ever return to any form of religious consensus.
Campaign Life Coalition President Jim Hughes said Ouellet has addressed "the core of the problem" Canada faces and is calling on Christians "to wear our Christianity on our sleeve."