Unvaccinated parishioners celebrate Mass outside of Montreal’s Corpus Christi Parish Feb. 13, 2022. Photo by Peter Stockland

Editorial: The other is us

  • October 7, 2022

Last winter, Quebec Catholics knelt on ice in Arctic weather to celebrate Mass outdoors after the provincial government sealed church entrances without warning.

Last July, Pope Francis made Quebec City a centre point of his historic penitential pilgrimage across Canada and appealed for a renewed spirit of faith, hope and charity.

On Monday, Quebec voters everywhere but the island of Montreal cast their lot with the CAQ government of Premier François Legault and supported his party slogan “Continuons,”  thereby continuing to freeze out the message of the Church and give the cold shoulder to the Holy Father’s call for reconciliation.

That doesn’t bode well for the near in extremis position of a Quebec Church already facing rampantly aggressive secularism. But it should equally give pause to the citizenry itself. Indeed, the callous disregard of the Church, including the deep ignoring of the social mediating role it could once again play at this turning point in the province’s history, should be a critical catalyst for questions about what kind of society Quebecers want. Even more pointedly, what kind of society they are going to get whether they want it or not.

Obviously, the stalwart causes remain. Ubiquity, not mere protection, of French must be a priority when 80 per cent speak it as a first language at home. That isn’t even an appeal to justice. It’s simple fairness. Likewise, given its precarious perch on the North American continent, Quebec’s economic approaches must be recognized as sui generis. No other jurisdiction of 8.4 million people must deal with the unique pressure of being a nation within a country comprising a confederation.

Even given such givens, do they justify the appalling lack of charity in the CAQ election campaign’s denigration of immigrants as sources of laziness, violence and resistance to learning the common language? Can they justify Premier Legault’s intemperate falsehood about it being “suicide” if Quebec fails to cut immigration levels heavily? Are they justification for voters rewarding the authors of such corrosive sophistry with 89 seats in the 125-seat National Assembly?

A model active now within the Catholic Church supplies the emphatic answer: “No.” Whatever nits we pick with Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, whatever kvetching arises about its onerous mechanics, it is a worldwide exercise in listening to those who just might not seem like us. Its spirit, so evident in Pope Francis’ remarks in Quebec City last summer and in the fortitude of those who froze for their faith last winter, is the coalescence of difference into the fruits of our future. It is the Church’s counsel of ages that “others” are not enemies. They are the essential expression of the catholic — i.e., the universal — us.

The Quebec election has cast shadows that make the mythical grande noirceur  — the great darkness — of an earlier age seem like summer sunshine. Has the time not come at long last, then, to let the Church’s light shine again?

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