Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Northern Exposure

It might be another three weeks 'til Election Day south of the 49th, but above the parallel in Canada, for the 40th time in the nation's history, the vote takes place today.

In a miracle of brevity, its bishops might've been able to produce a three-page voter guide... but across the Pond from the True North, a morning wave or two washed ashore at home courtesy of its primate -- Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, currently in Rome serving as secretary of this month's Synod -- who took his "scathing criticism" of the province's secular culture to the pages of a Milan-based journal (fulltext):
Cardinal Ouellet reiterated views he has expressed recently that have touched on what he sees as the religious and cultural breakdown of Quebec society since the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s.

"Hence the confusion of our youths, the dramatic drop in marriages, the very low birth rate and the alarming number of abortions and suicides," he writes. "The crisis in values and the search for meaning are profound and urgent problems in Quebec that are even having serious repercussions on public health that have led to considerable costs on the health-care system."

In part he blames the Quebec media for promoting anti-Catholic rhetoric that over the years has fuelled shame and contempt for the province's religious heritage. Quebec, he adds, is ripe for a renewed effort of evangelization and urges Catholics to take up the cause.

Cardinal Ouellet also takes aim at the Quebec government for recently introducing a course on ethics and religious culture that is part of the mandatory curriculum.

The controversial course is an overview of various religions around the world, and Cardinal Ouellet strongly opposes it, seeing it as a means to repress the teaching of Catholicism in Quebec schools.

"It amounts to the dictatorship of relativism implemented right from the elementary school level," he says, adding that the Quebec government has gone too far in adopting laws that distance themselves from the Catholic doctrine. The course imposed by the Quebec Ministry of Education denies students their religious identity, he argues.

"During classes, information is given on the main religions in the world, where controversial issues such as abortion or euthanasia are discussed with no obligation to take a position one way or another," he says.

He remains convinced that the course will do little to create harmony among different religious groups. And he argues that in the name of religious freedom, Quebeckers, the vast majority of whom are Catholics, are getting shortchanged. They will soon realize that teachers have neither the training nor sufficient knowledge to remain neutral in attempting to grasp complicated religious notions found in other religions, he says....

Luciano Dorotea, the province's former delegate in Rome, took strong exception to Cardinal Ouellet's views of Quebec society. He said they are far too negative and, if taken literally, could create the impression that religious freedom has been banned in Quebec.

"His comments could lead some to believe that Quebec was almost like an anti-Catholic totalitarian state," Mr. Dorotea told Radio-Canada in an interview yesterday, noting that Cardinal Ouellet's views do not reflect those of the province's bishops.

Cardinal Ouellet has been pleading with Quebeckers for some time to return to their Catholic roots. Last year, he published a letter apologizing for the church's anti-Semitism prior to the Quiet Revolution, as well as certain priests' sexual abuse of minors, treatment of aboriginal students and discrimination toward women and homosexuals.

"Forgive us for all this pain," he wrote in the letter that was penned on his own initiative, without the official support of the province's bishops.
In other matters Canuck, at the bishops' fall plenary last month in Cornwall -- headlined by its first-day focus on the nation's Aboriginal community -- the nuncio to Ottawa Archbishop Luigi Ventura used his traditional "Year in Review" talk to pay an extensive tribute to his fellow Brescian Paul VI... whilst also reminding the bench of B16's recent monitum on being "more severe" in the administration of the sacraments.