01 March, 2010

In response to todays Gallup Poll, I offer this re-working of one of the foundational posts of this blog - "Je me souviens"

Working as I do within the beauty of the Ottawa Valley, I see many cars pass by from “la belle province” emblazoned with the motto “je me souviens” imprinted on each licence plate. These words is a declaration of the desire of the majority francophone people to  “remember” the struggles of “la révolution tranquille” (the Quiet Revolution) ; an epoch which transformed Quebec society into the modern secular state, within whom the francophone population, seemingly all at once, have turned a deaf ear to the voice of the Catholic Church within their culture. They've chosen instead to follow the siren cry of the modern secularist project. In the wake this sudden shift, the Catholic Church was  rendered  impotent and irrelevant in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the Quebec population. Within the few years of the Quiet Revolution, virtually 400 years of Catholic practice had vanished.

  The most graphic illustration of this variation can be seen in statistics re: church attendance (from the high 80% or more in 1960 to approximately 5%-10% today). The Quebec society is also more advanced in implementing the modern secular agenda: legalization of same-sex marriages, abortions, and the stripping of religion from the public.

  The parallel to the situation within the English Canadian Catholic Church of today is eerily similar to the situation of Quebec in the 60’s, although at first blush one might have trouble seeing in the connection. Then it was young academics and labour leaders such as Pierre Trudeau and Jean Marchand, educated in church run colleges, who led the charge towards the “modernization” of the French project within Quebec. Having drunk deeply from the chalice of philosophy, reason and justice that they studied in catholic schools, they stepped forward as leaders who were seduced by a misapplication of the teachings of Rev. John Courtney Murray in his differentiation of the spheres of church and civic compete nce (see recent writings of G.S. Weigel on the subject). Perhaps like any parent who sees their child begin to make a name for themselves the Bishops, religious and clergy of Quebec sat back in silence because they were blinded with a nationalist pride as they saw this new generation establish a genuine francophone body of leaders who would ensure the survival of the “French fact”. This had been a responsibility that the Church had carried since the days of the English Conquest on the Plains of Abraham.  Alas, these children did not share in the values of their “spiritual” parents.

  With an amazing rapidity, the church found its ignored in the secular debates of the day; debates which has led the majority of Québecois to abandon the moral authority of the church. This patricide inflicted upon the Bishops doomed the church to being relegated to the sidelines for the foreseeable future as the liberal, secular humanist project continues apace.

  This same process is happening again, only this time it is not a societal debate about the virtues of secularism or the role of Catholic institutions. Nor is it an expression of a collective pent up anger in the face of centuries of clericalism. Rather, the moral suasion of the church is being rapidly eroded by the litany of sex abuse scandals that beset the Catholic Church and the hierarchies continuing failure to effectively confront this evil. The unwillingness of our religious leaders to forcefully and actively engage in the societal debates which have erupted in the wake of this crisis dooms us to repeat the failures of Quebec. Surely this cannot be the path that God intends for his Church and the faithful.

  There have been exceptions. Archbishop Anthony Mancini (Halifax) addressed this issue forcefully with an emotionally charged letter to Catholics in his Diocese in the wake of the 2009 Bishop Raymond Lahey pornography scandal. Other have used the levers of public discourse afforded them within both new and traditional media forums to provide a Catholic voice on crucial debates   of the day. When called upon, Archbishop Tom Collins (Toronto) and Bishop Fred Henry (Calgary) have both used the media to superb effect to teach and preach an authentic Catholic message. Sadly though, these examples seem to be few and far between within our national Episcopacy. Too often commentary is  offered in the language theological statements  issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishop (CCCB), which functions (in theory,) as the Bishops’ collective voice. It is virtually incomprehensible to the majority of today's Canadian Catholic who lack the doctrinal formation and catechisis needed understand these episcopal pronouncements.

  Seemingly afraid to stand out from amongst their brother bishops, many have rendered themselves impotent in guiding the faithful through these difficult waters by simply refusing to speak.

  The Bishops of English speaking Canada should heed the lessons of "la révolution tranquille" lest “je me souviens” become the lament of  today's Canadian Catholic Church. It is time for each of them, to preach and teach as they are called to do by virtue of their ordination, and engage in the questions of the day. Individually and collectively, using every lever at their disposal, and using the language and instruments of social communications offered them today they must present the argument for the faith, before it is too late. May they will heed the lessons learned from the silence of their French confreres 40 years ago, and not repeat that same mistake again.

10 comments:

  1. The Church does not teach Christians. The Church is Christians.

    The people you are talking about leaving the Church behind, if asked, will tell you they believe in God. They will self identify as Christians and Catholics. They will admit that they pray, daily.

    And yet, these same people don't attend Church regularly. They don't participate in some of the sacraments that you've made up. They do not seek intimacy among fellow parish members and avoid personal contact with you, the priest.

    The problem isn't them turning away from God. They are Godly people. The problem is you are not offering anything they recognize as Godly. The simple fact that they don't, proves that it's true.

    God is with everyone that wants him. He's not with you Tim and neither are Christians. The people aren't leaving the Church, they are seeking God. The Church has left God. The men of the Church are not disciples of Christ or men of God. If they were, God would be with them, Christians would be with them. The Catholic Church is no longer a real Church because the Church is where the Christians are.

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  2. ("He's not with you Tim and neither are Christians.")

    I should not have to belabor the obvious, reddog, but it seems to have escaped you. You are not God. You are not capable of seeing into the heart of even your closest friend, let alone dismissing an entire congregation as not being Christians.

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  3. The Church in Quebec was an integral part of the culture and insofar as it became the servant of culture it became irrelevant. The task of the Church is to preach the gospel of Jesus, not preserve the Francophone culture in the face of opposition.

    The lesson should be obvious. The Church's task is to be countercultural... to bring the light of Christ to the prevailing culture and say "We beg to differ." We saw this in play after the Constantinian revolution. All of a sudden the Church went from being a persecuted sect to the established religion of an empire.

    What most people do not see is the ebb and flow of these things. As the Church became mired in the politics of empire and corruption began to seep in, something else was happening. This was the beginnings of Christian monasticism with people like Benedict of Nursia and Anthony of Egypt.

    Are we to assume that the monks and hermits were the "real" Christians and those left in the cities were no longer the "real" Church? Not at all... and this is something people do not understand to this day. They are both part of the Church. We are all sinners.

    The problem with coming up with some spiritual definition of Christian is that someone must judge who fits it and who does not. Any definition of Christian that involves knowing what is in the deepest heart of a person is by its nature totally unworkable.

    One of the biggest challenges facing the Church in the years following the Edict of Milan was what to do with those who had recanted... who had given in under torture and abandoned their faith. It would be instructive to read the history of those times for those problems are still with us.

    We have a society that does not understand anything except punishment, that knows nothing of redemption and forgiveness. We have people who want to throw others out of the Church wholesale leaving a remnant that is spiritually pure.

    Apparently there are people who wish to consign the entire parish of St. Anne's along with its pastor to the outer darkness... sorry... we beg to differ... your god is too small.

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  4. What you say is true. Each person decides, based on his/her own relationship with God whether or not he/she is or is not a Christian. That's all you can say and even then it is impossible to establish a strict definition of what qualities and beliefs self identifying Christians share. Those that share similar beliefs recognize each other and congregate together. It is not a duty or obligation, it is the greatest pleasure in life.

    Most people who self identify as Catholic, no longer retain a close relationship with the Church infrastructure. They do not seek personal guidance or spiritual support from it. They do not feel obligated to adopt or practice its teachings if they don't personally agree with them. I don't know if you think I can say that but I do.

    A lot of what are now called orthodox Catholics are quick to point out that the Church is not a democracy. This is both correct and incorrect. The institutional Church may choose to foster any teachings it wants, whether they are accepted by the majority of congregants or not. In the end though, the Church goes where the people go. Real Christianity is the truest form of democracy.

    The Church puts itself up for election every day. They are not getting the votes they need from the people who matter.

    Thank you for correcting me Freyr.

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  5. ("The institutional Church may choose to foster any teachings it wants, whether they are accepted by the majority of congregants or not. In the end though, the Church goes where the people go. Real Christianity is the truest form of democracy.")

    Actually you have hit upon a conflict that exists both within the Catholic Church as well as other denominations. It is also the topic that began this thread. Let me see if I can phrase the question in a more useful way.

    How should the Church respond to the demands of the culture in which it finds itself? Should it adapt itself to that culture in hopes that it may increase its numbers and influence? How far can it go in responding to the cultural forces around it? How far is too far?

    I would be interested in your response to this. Just for the record... as I never tire of telling my more traditionalist friends... I am not a hyphenated Catholic. I do have an interest in history but when it comes to matters of doctrine I usually refer to the Catechism.

    You know the big green one... why the bishops chose that particular shade of green remains one of the mysteries we shall not know the answer to on this side of the parousia.

    The other mysteries for those who have not heard...

    How many kinds of Franciscans are there?
    What are the Dominicans saying anyway?
    And just what are the Jesuits up to?

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  6. If I can add my two cents: First off, Freyr, thanks for the way you ended your post. I've spent half of today in an emergency room with an elderly priest that I care for. He fell out of his bed late this morning trying to get himself either into or out of his wheelchair - a close repeat of last March 18th when he broke his hip in the same manner. Aside from being unable to walk (ruptured AAA), he suffered a stroke and has lost the capacity to remember from moment to moment. It's fun having a conversation with him - it resembles something between a the 1960's beat-poetry reading or a theological debate of some matter or other. However, it's not so much fun when you keep forgetting that you are incapable of doing some you mastered before you were two... like walking. Thankfully nothing broken this time just a bad bruise. So I've sat staring at another putrid shade of green myself. At least the Catechism is a nice 'kelly green'.

    As to defining a Christian... that's easy. If they believe in baptism (and hopefully experienced same earlier in life), believe in the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, the inspired nature of scripture, and accept the existence of Christ's Church (which subsists in its fullness in the RC Church - sorry, had to slip that in) which continues through the apostles until His return.

    That is a Christian. Eliminate any of those essential points and you have a heretical version of Christianity.

    Just thought I'd throw that out come clarification and comment.

    Fr. Tim

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  7. Fr. Tim,
    Sorry to hear about your friend... he will be in my prayers.

    As for defining what a Christian is, I would have to differ from you somewhat. First I would have to limit it to the first seven councils. By that time most of the Christological controversies were settled. That would include the Orthodox. Can't leave them out...

    Second, I would have to hedge a little bit on baptism if only because that would exclude the Salvation Army. Not that I'm fond of band music you understand... However, I did score 9 out of 10 on their list of things a Salvationist must believe. Sola scriptura was the one I couldn't go for... Anyways, I just couldn't look a Salvationist in the face and tell him he wasn't a Christian. Nope.

    Apostolic? Well... that would leave out the German Baptist who brought me to Mass after an absence of several years in my teens. He was a pastor and loved Sibellius as I recall. Nope...ain't leavin' him out.

    There are a few who believe that Jesus is the Archangel Michael or that he was created... that might be a tad too far. Basically I would hold that anyone who believes in the Nicene Creed can call themselves Christian.

    Oh... and it isn't kelly green but CCCB green. My old missal is the same color.

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  8. SmallTownGuy03 March, 2010

    Dear Tim,
    I hope you don't mind me not calling you "Father" or "Fr Tim" because I wish to obey Jesus when he said call no man father.

    While I can agree with some points you make, on the question of what is the true church and what is a christian, we will have different views. Sadly, there is practically no reference to what the Bible teaches in your comments. I must say that the Bible should be the only rule of faith and practice simply because that is what the Bible itself teaches we are to believe. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2 Timothy Ch3 vs16.

    Although the RCC does say the RCC believes in Holy Scripture, they also say they believe equally in tradition. But what then does that mean? Jesus condemned tradition. What if a doctrine, based on a claim of tradition, contradicts Scripture? Many RC doctrines are based on the claim that they are supported by tradition, but the proclamation of these dogmas has not been unanimous in RC councils. For example, the claim by a Vatican Council that the Pope is infallible was not unanimous and is not supported by Scripture. If one cares to look into what the Bible says about it, they won't even find the idea of a Pope taught. The apostle Paul, who was the most prolific writer of New Testament epistles never even mentioned a Pope. One would think that such a central teaching and position in the RCC would at least be mentioned somewhere or in many places in the New Testament, but it is not mentioned at all. The whole doctrine of the papacy is based on an debatable interpretation of one verse (Matthew 16:18). Even this official RC interpretation has been disputed by RC theologians in the past and has never been unanimous.

    On the definition of a christian, I will have to leave that for another time as time is getting on.
    - Wayne

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  9. Leave it to a Catholic priest to know exactly the correct definition of a proper Christian and immediately invoke heresy on anyone found lacking.

    It would help if the Church was honest and maintained an interest in God rather than simply the furtherance of its own agenda.

    You need look only as far as this blog to see how censorship, suppression of free expression and the denial of each individuals right to a personal understanding of and relationship with God prevail in the Catholic Church. It is especially saddening to realize that Tim is among the very best of the boys in black.

    Nice of you to bring up heresy in the discussion of differences among Christians. It puts everything into the correct Catholic perspective.

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  10. Dear Small town guy,

    Your opening salvo concerning the passage of scripture (which just happens to be the gospel reading of yesterday's mass)is a complete misrepresentation of the meaning of the text. Given your scriptural interpretation, I guess I should never call my dad 'father' either?

    The teaching of the passage is that whenever we use the term 'instructor' or 'teacher' or 'father', there is only one who is supreme: Our Heavenly Father (notice in the passage that this 'f' is capitalized. Ultimately there is only one great instructor, teacher.

    While we all attempt to do our best in these roles, God is the ultimate and supreme one!

    Father Steve

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