Religion and Politics

  • September 18, 2007

{mosimage}Clashes between religion and politics are breaking out all over these days. Those predictions a generation ago that religion would die quietly in a new enlightened secular age appear to be the only thing to have passed to the Great Beyond. Religion is hale and hearty by comparison, though it is appearing in situations that are causing people of faith to squirm.

To wit:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rails against the chief electoral officer of Canada for allowing Muslim women wearing face veils to vote in federal elections as long as they show proper identification. It appears the Prime Minister feels the potential for a couple of hundred Muslim women to hoodwink election officers is a greater scandal to democracy than the 80,000 who mail in their votes without showing their faces to any officialdom at all.

In Quebec, a new provincial commission begins its work examining the relationship between minorities — ethnic and religious — and mainstream society. Its very first session features a noisy denunciation of all religions in a province once dominated at the highest levels by the Roman Catholic Church. Quebeckers appear so allergic to any manifestation of religion that some are even criticizing one of the commission’s co-chairs — left-leaning Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor — for accepting the Templeton Prize because it has something to do with religion. They’ve come a long way, baby.

Meanwhile, in Ontario tempers are flaring in a feverish election campaign debate over government funding for religious education. Conservative Leader John Tory’s proposal to treat non-Catholic religious parents just like Catholic parents has provoked some people to demand that Catholic schools be shut down too — all for the sake of fairness.

What do these examples say about faith and politics? That never the twain shall meet, that church and state must be forever strangers? Not really, as they will meet whether we like it or not. To force religion down some rabbit hole, where people can light their candles and say their prayers in the dark, would be fatal to the health of pluralistic society. Our task is to find ways to allow religion to play the truly positive role in public life of which it is capable, while creating common ground for all and respecting differences. It may seem an impossible job, but it is the mission of our times.

Bishop Clune

We mourn the passing of Bishop Robert Clune, retired auxiliary bishop of Toronto, who died Sept. 6 at age 86 (see obituary on Page 3). In doing so, we also celebrate a life of humble service in God’s vineyard. Bishop Clune served the Lord and His people in biblical fashion, doing whatever was required by the Catholic Church, and doing it with good cheer, compassion and enthusiasm without a hint of self-aggrandizement.

From his priestly ordination in 1945, through his episcopal responsibilities (1979-1997) and even during retirement, Bishop Clune was ready, able and willing to help out where needed.

To all who knew him, it was clear he loved his priesthood, his church, his flock and, most especially, his Lord.

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