Academics tackling some ‘evil’ trends

By 
  • September 20, 2019

OTTAWA -- Catholic academics from across North America will gather in Montreal Sept. 27-29 to examine how Catholics can navigate a society that increasingly pushes them to the margins.

The theme of the conference of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars is “Goodness, truth and beauty … and the encounter with evil.”

The program committee presented the topic to the board because of “the sense on both sides of the border there are more and more threats to the faith coming from secularists, Satanists and a variety of directions,” said Robert Berard, president of the Canadian chapter and a professor of history and public policy at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

“What I see happening is a conscious attempt to not only isolate but to drive Catholic faithful from all of the professions: out of medicine, out of law and out of higher education,” said Berard.

Whether it’s conscience rights for health professionals in Ontario, the right of Trinity Western University to have a covenant regarding sexual behaviour outside of traditional marriage or senators in the United States questioning a judicial nominee for his membership in the Knights of Columbus, the signs of marginalization are growing, according to Berard. 

He pointed specifically to the Canada Summer Jobs attestation that required applicants to sign a pro-abortion attestation to qualify for grants in 2018 as an example of a threat in Canada.

“Whatever changes or amendments they made to it (in 2019) were superficial and were irrelevant to the core issue,” Berard said.

Abortion is not the only issue driving the clamp down.

“There is an automatic assumption that if you don’t accept all the premises of these very sexualized communities that you must hate them and want to restrict their liberty as citizens,” Berard said. “So that the general cry against Catholics is that they are intolerant instead of the fact they see things differently.

“The Catholic Church defines marriage very differently than say those who advocate for same-sex marriage,” he said. “Catholics as citizens are often quite prepared to be tolerant, even generous towards people with a different idea of marriage, but it’s not ours.

“At this point in our history, having effectively lost the culture war over the last 60 years, we are really now in danger of being driven out of the public square, marginalized in society, silenced and that’s the big fight right now,” he said. “It’s much more difficult to transform society if all of the mechanisms you have to do so are increasingly taken away.”

The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars began in the 1970s on Catholic university campuses where clergy and professors “felt they were being increasingly marginalized by dissenters,” he said.

The founders “felt the Catholic character of their universities was being undermined and they were being isolated,” he said. “Later on Catholic scholars from secular universities came to join as well, as they found themselves increasingly isolated on their own campuses.”

Three Canadians will be honoured at the convention: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa; Douglas Farrow, professor of Christian Thought at McGill University; and Graydon Nicholas, the first Indigenous Canadian to serve as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

Details about the conference can be found at www.catholicscholars.org.

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