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Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Charles Lewis: Time for Catholics to stop the passivity

  • November 22, 2019

During the federal election I wrote about the unfair treatment Andrew Scheer received in the media.

I will admit I became a bit obsessed with what I perceived as anti-Catholic themes, particularly by one writer, a former Catholic. Some suggested that I leave it alone as it would only give him more oxygen to vent. I argued that since his writing appeared in four major media outlets he needed to be challenged. So I wrote a column and I wrote letters complaining about his work.

The Toronto Star actually published one of my letters. At that point I decided enough was enough. Let others challenge him if they feel the need. He is not really that important.

I was moving on … I thought.

Until, that is, someone sent me a link to a column by CBC opinion writer Neil Macdonald. It was also an attack on Scheer’s Catholicism, questioning the Tory leader’s ability to put his religion in a box should he become prime minister.

Lines like this sent me into a minor rage: “The key, (Scheer) seems to think, is to claim his views on such matters are strictly personal — he is a religious man — and swear that as prime minister, he would never try bringing the land’s laws more into alignment with his faith. As though ‘faith,’ a term treasured by social conservatives for its virtuous connotation, confers some sort of shield that licenses bigotry.”

I should note Macdonald’s column was written after the election. I am assuming he raised the alarms in case Scheer, known for his aggressiveness, should stage a violent coup. 

I was all set to do what I had done with the other anti-Catholic columns: write a bunch of letters, get frustrated and finally let it go.

But then something clicked in about how to handle what I considered another drive-by attack on the Church and faith in general. 

Why not go broader, I thought. So I sent out an e-mail, with the offending column, to almost everyone I know. 

I asked these people to write to the CBC’s ombudsman to complain about the column if they agreed with me. 

Frankly, I was not expecting a giant apology from Macdonald or the CBC. Two years ago I complained about another Macdonald column about Scheer. In it, he wrote that religious people have no business in the public square.

He wrote: “To be clear here, I am all for a person’s right to believe in whatever he or she desires, to embrace foundational myths of aliens, or miracles, or extreme positions of love or hatred, as long as it remains in a place of worship, with the door closed.”

The CBC said it was his right to express his opinion then and they still believe he has that right. 

However, despite their refusal to admit the story was wrong, something was accomplished. I estimate about 30 people sent letters, maybe more. That does not sound like a lot but I believe it was enough to get the ombudsman’s attention.

Somewhere in the bowels of the CBC, that national institution dedicated to representing “all” Canadians,  someone must have thought that maybe, just maybe, Macdonald was off base. That he was in effect saying that people of faith are not really true Canadians at all. And that attacks on faith are no different than attacks on other identifiable groups. 

For me I saw something positive in this incident, something that should be a new norm: That when Catholics decide that something is overtly biased then it is time to pick up a pen (or tap a keyboard) and write. Do not wait for instructions but just take the initiative. 

But also tell your friends and those you know in your parish. Do not be afraid. The CBC cannot cut you off from their broadcasts and the police will not drag you away in the middle of the night.

It is time we stopped the passivity. Not that we should become little snowflakes, overly sensitive to every dirty look. We are smart enough to know the difference between fair comment and bias.

Remember, some in the media will hide behind their secularism and use it like “some sort of shield that licenses bigotry.”

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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