Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Ethics course worries bishops
Quebec prelates urge parents to be vigilant about religious culture course
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
TROIS-RIVIERES, QUEBEC - The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops (AECQ) has raised significant concerns about Quebec's controversial ethics and religious culture course (ERC).
"The Ethics and Religious Culture program raises very important challenges, particularly where it concerns the fundamental rights and values of our society," the AECQ president Bishop Martin Veillette wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to the province's education minister.
"We now possess a substantial amount of data based on observations by those involved in the program's implementation and on objective analysis of the pedagogical material," he wrote. "We must say we are concerned."
A chief concern is the lack of information made available to parents, whom the AECQ president stressed "are the ones who are primarily responsible for the education of their children."
The province has made the ERC compulsory, even in private Catholic schools or those of other religious denominations. Some Quebec parents have gone to court to get their children exempted from the program.
Parents from Drummondville are appealing an August Quebec Superior Court decision that denied their application to have their children exempted.
Loyola High School, a private Catholic high school in Montreal, has also launched a legal battle against the compulsory nature of the course.
The bishop's letter reiterated the AECQ's respect for parental choice in moral and religious education matters.
The bishops had committed to a vigilant, but open approach to the ERC, but used its network of diocesan leaders and experts to consult widely. They examined not only the teaching materials but testimonies on how the program was being implemented, the letter said.
Veillette also objected to the presentation of the Christian tradition in the elementary school textbooks, saying they did not meet the program's requirements.
"Our experts have found that the importance given to the Christian tradition is comparable to that given to other religions, failing thereby to meet the requirements that the Christian tradition be taught throughout the year of a particular cycle," he wrote.
The cycle had been promised for the Christian faith. He also pointed out the importance of "Christianity's contribution to the social and cultural life of Quebec" is either absent or barely mentioned.
Veillette said the presentation of the Christian tradition has not taken into account students' ages or the experiential dimension of the faith.
"If there is no effort to provide explanations that are adapted to the students' age, it is quite possible that prejudices will develop concerning a particular religious belief or practice," he said.
"Given the unique and very sensitive nature of the ERC program, we are calling upon you to exercise vigilance regarding the use of unapproved exercise books," he said.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.