Albert Conservative MP Garnett Genius on CTV's Question Period. Catholic Register screen capture.

Parties fan anti-Catholic flames, MP charges

  • November 16, 2019

OTTAWA -- An Alberta Conservative MP accused other political parties of playing a dangerous game by trying to smear federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer by implying there is something sinister about him being a practising Catholic.

“I don’t see other leaders and candidates being asked theological questions, as if there is some kind of litmus test that only Catholics have to pass to be considered for office,” Garnett Genuis told Canadian Catholic News Nov. 11 after a Remembrance Day ceremony in his riding of Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. 

“I don’t think we want to be the kind of country that applies a religious test to running for office. That is being out of step with what a pluralistic society looks like.”

For people who take their personal faith as Catholics seriously, Genuis said the implications of focusing on Scheer’s faith may dissuade other Catholics from engaging in public life. 

Scheer has often been asked about his faith — both during and since — the October federal election in which the federal Liberals won a minority government. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also a Catholic, has taken positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and gay rights that are at odds with the Church.

Scheer, who has not attended any Gay Pride events since becoming Conservative Party leader, was recently asked by a CTV reporter if he considers homosexuality to be a “sin.” He answered by stating he respects the rights of “every single Canadian,” and that he would stand up for “the rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ Canadians.”

Scheer has repeatedly stated that any government he led would not reopen debates on same-sex marriage or abortion rights in Canada, although he would not block individual MPs from introducing motions on such issues.

According to the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada, Roman Catholics make up by far Canada’s largest single religious group, with 38.7 per cent of the population self-identifying as Catholic. However, there is a difference between identifying as a Catholic and actually being faithful to Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality and abortion.

Genuis said there are several historic reasons why so many Canadians identify as Catholic, but those who actually practise their faith in their personal life seem to face a double standard that suggests they could have dual loyalties — to the country and to the Church. Genius likens that attitude to anti-Catholic bigotry.

“There seems to be this thing where they go, ‘Oh, he’s that kind of Catholic,’ ” Genuis said. “Some other parties are pushing this idea and anti-Catholic stereotypes of what it means to be Catholic.

“These things are being pushed by other parties, and they should be very careful about what the implications of that are,” he said.

Appearing on the CTV program Question Period, Genuis said his party intended to “push back” against “anti-Catholic bigotry from the other parties.” 

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