Don't fear faithful

  • June 4, 2010
fearThere is an unfortunate trend in Canada to try to deny religion its rightful place in the debating rooms of the nation.

We’ve seen this tendency manifest recently in the publication of an alarmist book about the so-called Christian right’s influence in Ottawa, in attacks on Cardinal Marc Ouellet for affirming Church teaching and, most recently, in shrill reaction after the head of Opus Dei accepted an invitation to dine on Parliament Hill with MPs.

Each of these instances has produced a media clamour dripping with a distinct anti-Christian and anti-Catholic undercurrent. The most extreme example came in a hate rant from a Montreal columnist who wished a slow and painful death on Ouellet. But intolerance has also tainted dialogue among politicians, particularly in Quebec, where suspicion and animosity concerning the Church runs deep.

But the most recent case of Church bashing involved a luncheon in the Parliamentarian dining room at which Msgr. Frederick Dolan, the Canadian vicar of Opus Dei, was invited to meet politicians from all parties. About 20 of them attended, most from the Conservative Party but also some Liberals. But because Opus Dei is regarded as a conservative Catholic organization, the luncheon was widely portrayed as yet another example of dangerous activity by a government that, critics wail, should not be mixing religion and politics.

The meeting was neither secret nor closed. All MPs were welcome. There was no hidden agenda. Just lunch and conversation. Routine. It was the third time Dolan had been invited to such a gathering in Ottawa.

Yet, a columnist in the Montreal Gazette decried the gathering as another example of  an “ultra conservative” religious lobby being too cozy with the Harper government. The columnist seemed to imply that Canadians should not tolerate religious voices being heard in Ottawa, as if to say opinions shouldn’t count if they are based on faith.

How did it come to this? When did such intolerance (dare we say bigotry?) become fashionable in Canada? When did it become acceptable to demand the political process be closed to a specific subset of society, to those who are openly faithful?

In the view of these secularists, people who pray in public can’t be trusted. Those who preach the Bible must have a secret agenda. Those who publicly express belief in Christ must be plotting a theocracy. Those who carry a rosary must be subversive. Those who bring a crucifix to a peaceful march must be dangerous. Those who defend the Pope and Church teaching must be wishing it was 1950 again. What nonsense.

Canadians take pride in being a tolerant people. The Canadian mosaic includes many races, cultures and lifestyles, and all are encouraged to join the political process. Religion brings yet another voice to the political debate and it has every right to be there and to be heard.

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