As the Pope sees us

  • November 7, 2008
{mosimage}Every now and again it is useful to look at ourselves through the eyes of others. Our own faults, as well as gifts, take on revealing hues when they are presented to us from a more arm’s length point of view.

In late October that perspective was offered by Pope Benedict XVI. He was commenting on Canada in his official greetings to the new Canadian ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Leahy, when she arrived to present her official credentials.
To a culture that sometimes is too eager to embrace all that is new and novel — and reject its own history — Benedict presented a useful corrective. The reason Canada is such a magnet for immigrants — “recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity” — can be traced to the combined efforts of those who came before us, people whose beliefs were grounded in Christianity. Moreover, he added, “Catholicism, thanks to its institutions and the culture that it promotes, represents the cornerstone of the building of Canadian society.”

Due, to a significant degree, to this fact, Canada has an enviable reputation in the world today. Pope Benedict gave two brief examples — the work of our government to develop an international treaty to ban land mines and efforts to contribute to peace and development in Africa — as evidence of Canada’s ability to support international efforts for the common good.

The Pope also made special reference to our Catholic schools, which, “thanks to their contribution to the transmission of the faith to new generations, preparing them for dialogue among the different components of the nation, carry out a constant need of the church’s mission for the good of all, and enrich Canadian society as a whole.”

These points are well worth making to the larger Canadian society. In recent decades Canadians, like those in many other Western societies, have been infected with aggressive secularism, an ideology that strives to root out all influence of religion in the public square. For too many influential opinion makers, religion is a reactionary force, opposed to all progress. As a result, the Pope gently observes, society is changing in ways that are clearly dangerous to all Canadians and their well-being. “These changes mainly concern the areas of defence and the promotion of life and the family based on natural marriage.”

There is an urgent need, he said, to “redefine the meaning of the exercise of liberty, which is perceived more and more as an absolute value. . . . In this interpretation, only the individual can decide and choose the form, characteristics, and ends of life, death and marriage.”

Canadians would do well to reflect on the Pope’s message. In rejecting Christianity, we reject much of what has been the best of our past and current society. And we are vulnerable to becoming a much less human — and humane — country.

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