Editorial: Ideological idols

  • May 5, 2022

The best thing to say about a recent report to the minister of national defence from an advisory panel on systemic racism and discrimination in Canada’s military is that it’s not wholly bad.

Sadly, when it’s bad, it’s rotten. An entire section constitutes such scandalous political antagonism toward Canadians of faith that it should never have been published in any government document, and certainly not one paid with the tax dollars of millions of religiously faithful.

In a courtroom context, the report’s “Re-Defining Chaplaincy” segment would be labelled Exhibit A for uber antagonistic. Under the pretext of “inclusivity,” it flatly calls for the Department of National Defence to bar as chaplains all clergy who represent churches that fail to extend priesthood to women or recognize same-sex marriage.

“(DND) cannot consider itself supportive of inclusivity when it employs as chaplains members of organizations whose values are not consistent with National Defence’s ethics and values —even if those members express non-adherence to the policies of their chosen religion,” the report insists. “If the Defence Team…is working hard to remove systemic barriers to the employment of marginalized people, it cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership.”

As Fr. Raymond de Souza wrote in the National Post, this is demanding the State overreach into the very theology of Canada’s religious traditions. It is seeking to establish a government-sanctioned secular creed as grounds for employment. It is the antithesis of diversity, and anathema to our liberal democratic traditions.

Catholic faithful should instantly discern a targeted “No Popery” bigotry that would have embarrassed even the late Rev. Ian Paisley, that extremist Ulsterman for whom the Orange Lodge was insufficiently anti-papist. Catholics across Canada, and above all in Church leadership, should loudly demand the minister reject such intolerance. A ministerial declaration must make clear that while the report’s authors were free to write what they wished, those parts of the report’s recommendations and its mindset will never form government policy. 

It’s vital to do so because, even amid such anti-Catholic contumely, some recommendations in “Re-defining Chaplaincy” deserve quick action. It recommends, for example, selecting military chaplains representing “forms of spirituality beyond the Abrahamic faiths.” In pluralistic Canada, such diversity is so sensible it should already be DND policy. Similarly, it calls for jettisoning the prerequisite of a master’s degree to qualify as a military chaplain. Instead, DND should permit educational equivalencies so Indigenous knowledge keepers can serve as chaplains. But sacrificing military chaplains to appease the idols of extreme ideological “inclusivity” and the demi-gods of exclusionary diversity? No. We must demand the minister repudiate such deplorable anti-faith antagonism.

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