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The Object Of Ridicule, And The Cause Of Mirth

Victor Vasnetsov. Dressed as a Buffoon.
"Why is everybody laughing at me?"
(Victor Vasnetsov. Dressed as a Buffoon. Source)

Note: On February 25, 2005, a group of writers published in the Le Devoir daily an open letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet called " The Church must not become just another right-wing lobby", with the sub-title "We have become an object of ridicule, and we refuse it".

[Green] Mister Cardinal, since your nomination as Archbishop of Quebec, several of your positions, spread far and wide by the media, indispose us. Indeed, they give to the Church a face which we refuse.

[Red] We are full members, in good standing, of the Catholic Church in Quebec

In a way, that is the most important line of this whole open letter.

If we define a "full Catholic member, in good standing" as being "all holders of a Baptismal Certificate, whatever their beliefs", then I agree.

But with such a definition, we could be Catholics while believing that Jesus is a lawn mower! See also "Excommunication, that gesture of love!".

[Green] we judge it necessary to speak out publicly to manifest our disagreement with the ecclesiastical model you're putting forth.

[Red] We are doing this based on the "sense of the faith" that is conferred upon us by Baptism.

I don't think the "sense of the faith" is a kind of magic wand, with which we can make Catholicism conform to all our fancies! Let's look at what the holy Vatican II Council teaches concerning the sense of the faith:

That sense of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God [...]
[Lumen Gentium, No. 12, our emphasis].

The real "sense of faith" seems to be, by definition, submitted to the authority of the Holy Father.

[Yellow] This Church model which we don't want, is the one you already put forth in the pompous inauguration ceremony of your cardinalship (broadcast on the French CBC news channel (RDI) in November 2003). You had at that time, in your homily, drawn an excessively dark picture of the current situation here in Quebec. Such words, which you have often repeated, offered a vision of the Church as somehow "overhanging" above a world it reduces, in it's discourse, to a field of decadence.

I can't pronounce myself. I voluntarily don't have a TV. I prefer to read good books (like the official teachings of the Vatican II Council).

[Yellow] Even though we are aware of the numerous challenges faced by our nation, we think it's biased to denounce in such a way the limits of the current society without recognizing at the same time what is good, just, true and typically evangelical in it. This un-nuanced reading of reality perpetuates the gap of incomprehension and indifference between the Church and a constantly growing proportion of our fellow citizens.

[Yellow] As believers, we reject the condescending and pessimistic tone which is neither that of the Bishops of the Province of Quebec, nor that of the majority of Christians here.

You see how I carefully read your open letter, by coloring in green, yellow or red all your assertions? (See also "The Critical Traffic Light") I imagine you had the intellectual honesty of doing the same thing with Cardinal Ouellet's "reading of reality", since you denounce it. Could you please send me a hyperlink to that work you've done, so I'll be able to decide whether I agree with you? Thanks!

[Green] We would rather have a Church able to speak to our collectivity with humility and goodwill, while at the same time recognizing itself to be part and parcel of the common quest for forward-looking solutions, a Church which sticks its neck out for Human Rights, as you did, in the wake of the United Church, for the Mohamed Cherfi issue.

A true vision of school

[Yellow] This Church model we don't want is also the one you put forth with your many declarations concerning religion in schools (among others in your Pastoral Letter on Formation to Christian Life). Your obstinate promotion of the renewal of the notwithstanding clauses, which unduly maintain school privileges for Catholics and Protestants, can only be caused by blindness.

Personally, I don't agree with the Cardinal's Pastoral Letter on "Formation to Christian Life". Apparently, we at least partially agree here.

[Yellow] You could easily associate yourself with the more enlightened members of our society who, in the name of an open laity, recommend the implementation of an innovative program of Education to Citizenship, Ethics and Religions which takes into account our Christian roots while gathering youths of all faiths in a common public school.

The course you describe seems wonderfully good. I'd like to see its contents. Is it on the Internet?

[Red] On the contrary, by defending the status quo, you make yourself the spokesman of the more conservative fringe of Catholicism here in Quebec.

(Warning, little joke!) Cardinal Ouellet, all will agree, is absolutely not the "spokesman of the more conservative fringe of Catholicism"! That thankless job is mine!

[Green] If we consider the recent evolution of the denominational school file and

[Red] the irreversible pluralism of our society,

I feel like saying that our society currently tends toward everything except pluralism. I would argue that Catholics who are faithful to the Pope are being hunted down, insulted and harassed by intolerant people like you.

Normally, everybody in the Province of Quebec should have a right to adore God as their conscience enjoins them to (notwithstanding the requirements of the Common Good). If you were really pluralistic, you would say things like: "We certainly don't want to oppress people who want to be faithful to the Pope! On the contrairy, those people have the right to their own Church". See among others " Dignitatis Humanae" from the Vatican II Council, on religious freedom.

Look at me. I'm absolutely not forcing you to be faithful to the Pope. You are free to create the religion of your choice, and to practice it as you see fit. I'm very tolerant, you see!

Seriously, I do think we have to be careful during this whole debate. You have rights, but we have rights too.

[Green] your position can only lead us down a dead-end. As Michel Venne recently emphasized it in Le Devoir, you risk becoming an accomplice to the disappearance, in short order, of any reference to the religious dimension in the school curriculum.

Yes, I think that the "religious dimension" is threatened by the kind of half-measures proposed by Cardinal Ouellet.

[Green] As believers, we reject such a type of Church which, to defend its acquired rights, settles into rear guard skirmishes.

As I've said, you are quite free to go in the Church of your choice, under the condition of not harassing and oppressing people who want to adore God by staying in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

[Green] We would rather have a Church that worried about the common good, and able to contribute, with vision and generosity, to the evolution and social cohesion of Quebec.

I too am struggling to get such a Church.

Condemning homophobia and sexism

[Green] This Church model which we don't want is also the one you put forth in your letter called "Marriage and Society", published last January. In it, you oppose yourself to the Federal Government's Bill on the redefinition of civil marriage, a project that follows on the positive legal opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada, and based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Here I must excuse myself, since I haven't yet had time to scrutinize that letter by Cardinal Ouellet. I hope it defends marriage as the union of one heman and one woman!

[Green] Your ill-timed zeal, concerning that issue, "hurts the moral sense and the religious sensitivities of a large number of citizens,

[Red] Catholics

[Green] or non-Catholics".

[Green] Indeed, the respect of the rights of minorities, the promotion of an open and tolerant society as well as the quest for justice and equality - whatever the sex, origins, beliefs

[Red] and the sexual orientation of persons

[Green] are for us fundamental values which are rooted in the Gospels.

You seem to be asserting that homosexual acts are a fundamental value rooted in the Gospels.

The issue of people with same-sex attractions seems complex to me. God willing, someday I'll finish the reading list I've started for homosexual persons. In the meantime, I think we must not lose sight of one of the essential components to any solution: contact with reality. But the Bible really condemns homosexual acts. See The Bible And Homosexual Attractions.

[Green] We are therefore scandalized by this crusade you're doing against the broadening of the definition of civil marriage.

I have no doubts you are scandalized.

[Green] As believers, we reject such a type of Church

That's what I keep trying to tell you: "You reject the Catholic Church". We all agree on that.

[Red] which associates itself, without the slightest shame, to the reactionary platform of the Conservative Party of Canada and to the most active factions of the American religious right [Translator's note: the actual French word used is "unitedstatesan", which is often pejoratively used to avoid saying "American"]

Canada's Conservative Party, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, was trying a few days ago to include in its official party platform a "Pontius Pilate Clause", so it wouldn't have to speak out officially on important issues like abortion and homosexual unions! (The Globe and Mail, front page, March 10, 2005) I'd say the Conservative Party is the caboose, not the locomotive of this movement.

As for the "factions of the unitedstatesan religious right", I don't know them enough to be able to say anything.

[Green] We rather want a Church which never misses an opportunity to condemn - first of all in itself - homophobia, sexism and xenophobia in all their forms.

I too am opposed to homophobia. See among others #4 of A Reading List for Homosexual Persons.

[Green] We represent the face of the Catholicism that wants to stop perpetuating the ostracism of homosexual persons, and especially support, rather than overburden, young persons who discover in them this affective orientation. We want a Church which offers them - as well as their significant others - an authentic solicitude

We totally agree with you, as long as "support" is properly defined. See among others the excellent:

Harvey, John F. The Truth About Homosexuality; The Cry of the Faithful, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1996.

[Red] instead of cruel condemnations which encourage violence and contempt.

Indeed, do you have actual quotes of "cruel condemnations" coming from the official documents of the Catholic Church?

Hyperlinks to all the teachings of the Church on homosexual attractions are on the following pages: "A Few Good Books", whether it's the CCC, or the "Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons", or "Homosexualitatis problema", etc.

If you have such actual quotes, I'm interested. If not, please stop "encouraging violence and contempt" towards Catholics with your groundless assertions.

Diversity and freedom in the Church

[Green] This Church model we don't want, finally, is the one you put forth in your most recent Pastoral Letter on the  Practice of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

I absolutely agree with you that you have no use for such a Church model. It's the Catholic Church model, after all!

[Yellow] Against a widely held opinion,

I admit I don't have scientific polls on this topic. Do you?

[Green] you put an end to celebrations with collective absolution, which had developed themselves in your Diocese.

[Yellow] These celebrations had given back relevance and meaning to a Sacrament long abandoned by a majority.

I'm not sure how you define "relevant" and "meaningful", so I can't say anything.

[Green] This decision - taken to conform yourself to a Diktat from Rome - is perceived, by many of

[Red] your

[Green] Priests and

[Red] your

[Green] faithful, as a step backward and a coup. We hope that numerous Christian communities, after having done their own discernment, will decide to ignore this roman guideline and will continue, with freedom and courage, the fruitful experiences of pastoral renewal of which they are the rich holders.

Me too, as long as they have the courage of publicly saying they don't give a hoot about the Pope. I have no doubts that many people hate confessing their sins. As far as I'm concerned, it bothers me less and less, insofar as  I become less proud.

[Green] As believers, we reject this type of Church where Christians communities must slavishly submit themselves to the brutal decrees of a Central administration, exactly the way branches of Wal-Mart must do with the multinational's Head Office.

All together now for the chorus line: "We know you reject that type of Church!" Just reject it once and for all, and leave Catholics practice their religion in peace!

Seriously, most people I know want to kiss the Cardinal's feet for his courageous letter on Confession. I'm not saying you have to agree with us, but I am saying our religious freedoms must be respected too, just like yours. It's a question of social peace.

[Green] We refuse this centralism and unilateral operation

[Red] which corrupts the nature of the Bishop's ministry as it was defined during the last Council.

I imagine the "last Council" you're referring to is Vatican II. Let's look at what that dear funny little Council has to say:

"Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff"
[Lumen Gentium, #25, my emphasis].

[Green] We believe in a catholicity which, far from annihilating the legitimate diversity and the initiative of local Churches, rather promotes it, in conformity with a dynamic and living vision of ecclesial communion.

I'd say you're defining exactly the Anglican notion of "catholicity". There is a superb Anglican church right behind my house, and the woman Pastor is very sweet (Ms. Mia Anderson; she also has a passion for gardening).

[Green] To make a long story short,

[Red] as Quebec Catholics,

[Green] we say "no" to a Church which stoops down to the level of a vulgar right-wing lobby by associating itself publicly with the most reactionary and conservative positions of our society.

[Green] As Fernand Dumont used to say, "We have become the object of ridicule"

Indeed, you're quite funny! You scream and vociferate that you have the right to be in the Anglican Church, while remaining seated in the pew of a Catholic church!

You're not paralysed. "Take up thy pallet and walk", as Jesus would say!

[Green] and we refuse it.

[Red] This catholicism of the besieged citadel is a betrayal of Vatican II

Maybe the imaginary Vatican II, which can be "seen" after having smoked an ENORMOUS joint of marijuana! (See also The Satanic "Spirit" Of Vatican II)

[Green] of the Dumont commission and the synods held in several Dioceses of the Province of Quebec during the past few years. Let it be known that we the baptized will not let Quebec catholicism be kidnapped by integrism.

OK, we're sorry we "kidnapped" you! You're free to leave now, the door was never locked!

Seriously, please see " Free Offer For Catholicotherapy!"


[Green] Ghislain Bédard, L'Ancienne-Lorette; Normand Breault, Montréal; Lorraine Bélanger, Sainte-Françoise; Sylvie Bélanger, Sainte-Françoise; Guy Bonin, Montréal; Hélène Chénier, Montréal; Jean Clermont-Drolet, Québec; Réjane Cliche, Stoneham; Louis Cornellier, Joliette; Louise Dallaire, Saint-Antonin; Diane Falardeau, Québec; Lise Gosselin, Québec; Marie Laberge, Boucherville; Julie Landry, Maria; Anne-Marie Larose, Cap-Rouge; Gaétan Nadeau, Montréal; Martin Parent, Québec; Stéphane Proulx, Boucherville; Jean-Philippe Perreault, Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures; Marco Veilleux, Montréal; Nicole Villeneuve, Québec.

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