In response to Collective Community Services removing the “Catholic” from their name, the Montreal archdiocese created another welfare agency called Catholic Action. Bishop Thomas Dowd maintains that the two agencies will not be in competition with each other as one is faith based and the other is secular. CCN photo

Montreal archdiocese restores the Catholic in new welfare agency

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • March 18, 2015

MONTREAL - In response to a controversial decision to drop the word “Catholic” from the name of a prominent Montreal social agency, the archdiocese has announced the launch of a new welfare agency called Catholic Action.

In January, the board of Catholic Community Services changed its corporate name to Collective Community Services because “the word Catholic scares people away,” said the agency’s director general.

That decision did not sit well with the archdiocese, which said then it was determined to ensure the Catholic Church remained an identifiable presence in the community.

In announcing the creation of Catholic Action during a March 15 Mass at St. Gabriel’s Church, Bishop Thomas Dowd said a working relationship between Catholic Action and Collective Community Services remains to be sorted out. He insisted the two will not be in competition but be like two trains running along parallel tracks.

“One will be faith based,” he said. “The other is secular.”

As part of Catholic Community Services, the archdiocese was directly involved with a wide range of charitable and developmental programs in the city. The archdiocese will now maintain its charitable presence through Catholic Action.

Dowd acknowledged the question of Catholic identity is part of an ongoing debate in a secular society. Loyola High School, he pointed out, is currently asserting and seeking to protect its Catholic faith in a case that has gone all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Court is expected to render its decision March 19, but Dowd said “regardless of how the court rules, we will still have the discussion: Is faith something that can be trusted on its own, or does it have to be managed?”

He warned that an emphasis on good works alone can subvert the importance of faith.

“Faith can come to be seen as something sinister, or untrustworthy. Or, in a gentler form, people of faith are seen as those who are kind of dumb, who believe in the Invisible Man.

“As people of faith often disagree on fundamental issues, faith is seen as something that must be managed, placed in a box, almost like toxic cleaning products we keep in our home and that we want to keep away from our children.”

Consequently, he said, a Catholic identity has to be an identifiable part of any charitable endeavour that professes to be Catholic. 

“A culture and a society that claims to welcome all has to welcome the faith,” he insisted.  “We must rally the good works of the people of faith, and to put those good works at the service of our city in partnership with those whose faith background is different.

“We can meet on the common ground of basic good works. We can meet on the common ground of feeding the hungry, of welcoming immigrants and refugees, of taking care of the sick. There are so many ways we can live our faith in practical charity, and the Catholic Church will never pull back from that. 

“We can’t, or we would be abandoning the word of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Hustak is a contributing editor for in Montreal.)

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