Secular Quebec and the crucifix

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  • October 10, 2013

QUEBEC CITY - Last week the National Assembly here was the scene of a rather unlovely protest, with topless women of a feminist bent protesting the presence of the crucifix over the Speaker’s chair in the chamber. Stripping off in the presence of the province’s first female premier, the protesters had written their slogans on their naked torsos, loosely translated as “heritage belongs in a museum.” The reference was to the Parti Québécois position that the crucifix will remain in the National Assembly, even while “conspicuous” religious symbols are banned from the public sector under the proposed “Charter of Quebec Values.” The crucifix is not a religious symbol, the government maintains, but a manifestation of Quebec’s “cultural heritage.”

Put the patrimony in a museum argued the protesters, all the while shouting “Crucifix décâlisse” in the manner of Quebec’s sacrilegious curses: “Crucifix, get the hell out.”

Which brings to mind the classic response of American writer Flannery O’Connor to someone who proposed that the Eucharist was better understood as a mere symbol: “If it’s only a symbol, to hell with it.”

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