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Religious Freedom In School

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Ville-d'Array: Entrance to the Wood, etc.
(Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Ville-d'Array: Entrance to the Wood, etc. Source)

Note: This text is a critic of the speech called La liberté religieuse ŕ l'école, made by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, during a press conference on March 12, 2007, at the Oratory of the Ursulines in Quebec City. The sloppy English translation is mine.

[Green] The question of religious freedom in school deserves the attention of the electoral campaign in Quebec, because Bill 95, enacted in June 2005, has radically modified the status of religion in school. From now on, the system of choice between a Catholic or Protestant religion course, and an Ethics course, will be replaced by an Ethics And Religious Culture course everywhere and at all levels of primary and secondary, both in the public and private schools.

[Green] Hundreds of thousands of parents thus lose their right to choose the religous education they wish to transmit to their children in school.

[Green] Many will have problems finding the means to reorganize themselves otherwise outside school, because of practical constraints of time, work, money and available resources.

It's true, but the question of time and money is totally secondary, when it's compared with the fact the State is infringing on the fundamental rights of the Church and families!

[Green] I support the effort of parents who want amendments to Law 95 which imposes a single State course for all. I support in particular the private Catholic shcools who will have to substantially modify their curricula if Law 95 is not amended before it starts to apply in September 2008.

[Green] Many of these schools are the work of religious communities who have served education in Quebec for decades, if not for centuries. They are now forced to marginalize the Catholic religion inside their own institution, to make room for the compulsory State Course on Ethics and Religious Culture.

OK, it might just be a matter of taste, but if I were a general leading troops, I wouldn't say things like: "Now that our homeland has been attacked, we no longer have a choice. We have to let the invaders do everything they want". Let's just say I would not lead them thus to battle!

[Yellow] This imposition by the State marks a setback ("recul" in French) for religious freedom in Quebec,

A "setback"? If a Catholic school can't even teach Catholicism anymore, is that a "setback", or an elimination of religious freedom?

[Green] according to a large number of persons, including the Bishops. That is why the Quebec Assembly of Bishops adopted the following resolution during last week's plenary: "The Assembly of Bishops

[Red] asks


[Green] that in the name of religious freedom, the Ethics and Religious Culture Course be not imposed in Catholic private schools".

As I've already mentioned in another Instrument of Surrender Pastoral Letter by Cardinal Ouellet, Formation to Christian Life, the Catholic Church doesn't teach that we have a right to one hour of religion per week, in the schools that the State has stolen from us. The Church teaches that:

Without religion there can be no moral education deserving of the name, nor of any good, for the very nature and force of all duty comes from those special duties which bind man to God, who commands, forbids, and determines what is good and evil. And so, to be desirous that minds should be imbued with good and at the same time to leave them without religion is as senseless as to invite people to virtue after having taken away the foundations on which it rests.
Affari vos, #5]

[...] since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is "the way, the truth and the life," there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.
[Divini Illius Magistri, #7]

By necessary consequence the Church is independent of any sort of earthly power as well in the origin as in the exercise of her mission as educator
[Divini Illius Magistri, #18]

Similarly it is necessary to avoid at all costs, as most dangerous, those schools in which all beliefs are welcomed and treated as equal, as if, in what regards God and divine things, it makes no difference whether one believes rightly or wrongly, and takes up with truth or error. You know well, Venerable Brethren, that every school of this kind has been condemned by the Church, because nothing can be more harmful or better calculated to ruin the integrity of the faith and to turn aside the tender minds of the young from the way of truth.
Affari vos, #4]

Consequently this sacred synod proclaims anew what has already been taught in several documents of the magisterium, namely: the right of the Church to establish and to conduct freely schools of every type and level. [...] The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.
[ Gravissimum Educationis, #8, my emphasis]

Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. It is parents who have the right to choose the school to which they send their children and the right to set up and support educational centres in accordance with their own beliefs.
[Libertatis conscientia, #94]

Where this fundamental liberty is thwarted or interfered with, Catholics will never feel, whatever may have been the sacrifices already made, that they have done enough, for the support and defense of their schools and for the securing of laws that will do them justice.
[Divini Illius Magistri, #83]

Imagine if burglars kicked down the door to your house, threw you out, and settled down in your home. What would you say if the police, faced with this injustice, made a press conference to suggest that the burglars should let you into your own house, 5 minutes a day, so you could brew yourself a pot of coffee? Would you say those policemen are doing their duty?

[Yellow] I insist that the Bishops are not opposed to the development of this State course

By the way, before giving an episcopal blessing to this course, I'd really like to see it. I'm willing to bet this course is a septic tank of Moral Relativism and Post-Modernism.

[Green] which wants to maintain contents of Ethics and Religious culture in school. They are even in favor of it, in principle. But they contest that this course is compulsory for all and everywhere, without taking into consideration the rights of parents and the religious freedom of citizens.

[Green] This question is related to the future of families

[Yellow] and the transmission of an important dimension of our collective patrimony.

It would be soothing if the Cardinal talked a bit less about "patrimony", and a bit more about truth. Hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an "important dimension of our collective patrimony", but an absolute right of all men (and not just Christians).

[Red] It is asked to the leaders of the different parties and their candidates in order to inform the population about a major issue of education, that of religious freedom in school. The answer of future elected officials will help find, when the time comes, the necessary amendments to satisfy the requirements of democracy and the prioritary rights of parents.

[Red] Now the floor belongs to the politicians and the population will decide.

Here, things get totally screwed up. The Cardinal seems to be saying that an absolute right of the Church and families is in fact a simple privilege that the State can grant, if it feels like it.

It's even more ridiculous if we consider that all the parties who have a mathematical chance of forming the next government don't have the slightest intention of defending the rights of the Church and families. In other words, we already know, before the vote, that taking the fight to this political battleground will lead us to defeat.

If the Cardinal had explained that no human vote can change the inviolable rights of the Church and families, at least the damages would have been reduced. On the contrary, his manoeuvre guarantees that all politicians will be able to say: "Shut up, your own Cardinal said that the vote would decide". And we've already seen elsewhere the consequences of such a "pre-lost vote about an unvotable question".

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