Opposition attacks 'anti-Christian bigotry'

  • June 3, 2010
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe OTTAWA - Recent attacks by federal politicians on Opus Dei have raised concerns about efforts to drive Christians out of public life.

A number of Opposition politicians accused Opus Dei of being “fundamentalist,” right wing and “creepy” and having an undue influence on the Tory government, attacks that began after Msgr. Fred Dolan, Vicar for Opus Dei in Canada, spoke at a May 26 luncheon at the Parliamentary restaurant for MPs, Senators and Parliament Hill staff.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Dolan in an interview from his Montreal office. “I was mystified because the whole purpose for my going there was basically just to feed the spiritual needs of anyone who wanted to come.”

During Question Period the next day, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe mentioned the luncheon and “outed” a Quebec political candidate and a Conservative Party official as Opus Dei members.

“Will the Prime Minister admit that his policy is influenced by the fundamentalist religious right?” Duceppe asked.

Duceppe also mentioned Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast in his efforts to point to a hidden anti-abortion agenda in the Harper government. Yet both have challenged the Harper government to show more courage in addressing the legal vacuum in Canada that leaves the unborn child with no protection at any stage of pregnancy.

Duceppe was not the only politician to take a swing at Opus Dei. The NDP’s Pat Martin also took shots at the Catholic lay movement.

“I think Opus Dei is creepy and, you know, you can’t account for some people’s taste but I can’t imagine why a Member of Parliament would invite them for a meeting on Parliament Hill,” said Martin May 28 during a scrum after Question Period.  

“That’s like calling apple pie creepy,” said Dolan, who said he came not as the Opus Dei leader but as a simple priest, hoping to help anyone willing to listen learn how to “get a bigger vision of their life not just in Parliament but as a whole.”

This was his third talk on the Hill since 2008. None of his talks have ever been of a political nature or touched on hot button issues such as abortion. MPs, Senators and staffers from all parties were invited, and while most in attendance were Conservatives, there were Liberals there as well. 

The anti-Christian rancour has arisen not only as part of the Opposition parties’ insistence abortion be included in any overseas maternal and child health initiative, but also the result of a new book warning of the rise of a Christian right with undue influence on government, bent on establishing a theocracy in Canada that would impose Old Testament law. Marci McDonald, in The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, says, “Theirs is a dark and dangerous vision, one that brooks no dissent and requires the dismantling of key democratic institutions.”

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer said he was disappointed in the sentiments his colleagues expressed. People of faith have done great things for the country and their engagement in public life has never been problematic before, he said.

“The last time it was a crime to be a Catholic was in 1827 in Nova Scotia when they repealed the penal laws,” said Scheer, who hosted the luncheon.

“It is a shame that some people are trying to again make members of certain faith groups disqualified from public life.”

Author and human rights activist Ezra Levant called the recent attacks anti-Christian bigotry. On CBC’s Power and Politics program May 28, he asked viewers to imagine if anyone had called a turban-wearing Sikh or a yarmulke-wearing Jew “creepy.”

Levant is among several columnists who have criticized McDonald’s book for a new kind of McCarthyism in Ottawa.

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