Monday, September 6, 2010

There Ain't No Use Waitin' on it

Ottawa is the capital of this country. Under Archbishop Prendergast it is the spiritual heart of the country as well. He has provided the type of episcopal leadership that this country has required, not a cult of personality that we've seen so many times. Quebec has a glorious history in the Church, so had Alexandria and Antioch. Those days are done. Quebec City has only been referred to as the primatial see out of reverence for Cardinal Ouellet. How do I know this? The only time people ever mentioned it in the last forty years was during his pontificate (an antiquated, but legitimate use of the term). Baltimore is no more a primatial see than is Quebec, than is Milan, than is Ravenna, than is Aachen. (Bonus points for you if you can figure out why I listed those last three!!)

It's interesting to note that of all the great Catholic countries of the world, the majority of their capitals are generally assigned cardinals by the grace of the Holy Father: Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Kiev, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Zagreb, Madrid, Mexico City, Manila, London (called Westminster), Prague... and usually - but not at this moment - others like Washington and Warsaw... Of course, there are notable exceptions, like Utrecht, but the point is, in the majority of cases of countries with more than one cardinal, it is the case that the capital city will constitute one of them. Canada usually has two cardinals.

You'd get no argument from me that Toronto has a traditional claim on this dignity, and that, of Canadian cities, it ought to continue to possess this honour; nor would you find me contesting the inherent worth of His Grace, Archbishop Thomas Collins, to ascend to it; nor deny that this would itself constitute a blessing to the entire Church in Canada were it so. What I am saying is that, of all bishops, Prendergast is the greatest, and of all sees, Ottawa's claim is perhaps grounded upon the strongest prudential basis. Archbishop Prendergast has been at the forefront of all bold political action in this country for the last decade by the Church, and he has been of tremendous service to the Church Universal.

It's time to wake up to the reality of things in Canada, and stop pretending things are as they were a lifetime or two ago. The Church has two tremendous bishops at the helm of the two most important sees in this country: Ottawa and Toronto. That the 2001 Census indicated an 83% Catholic population for Quebec is ridiculous to the point of pointlessness (relative to the 44% average for the country as a whole). One CBC article puts church attendance in Quebec at 20% in 2000, while another says that it's 32% for the rest of the country. Frankly, I think that the Church in Quebec should be punished for its failures, by depriving it for a time of the pope's favour, that is, the cardinalate. The clergy in Quebec are not immune from the folkloric sense of entitlement that its past glories has produced. Great Blessed Laval would want nothing other - the first and greatest of Canada's bishops. The cardinalate in Quebec might be misinterpreted as papal approval for a sad state of affairs indeed. Other than the most anomalous Cardinal Ouellet, what in recent years have Quebec clergy done that has not brought shame upon the papacy and the Church Universal? If you don't believe me, check out these - just the tip of the iceberg:

Anecdotal, or the sign of a systemic problem?

Now, obviously, I'm exaggerating here, but the point remains that the culture of the clergy in Quebec is in a general sad state of affairs. Cardinal Ouellet was treated as a pariah, an anomaly in need of explanation. The call to sense that has been penetrating most dioceses in Canada over the last decade, it seems to me, is yet to extend itself in any appreciable way into Quebec. I have just coined that phrase - historians will use it to describe this epiphenomena - "The 1990-20** Call to Sense". I say 1990, but you can date it from somewhere between the publication of Veritatis Splendor to Dominus Iesus (i.e. 1993 and 2000). We are talking about a ecclesiastical-cultural change, and perhaps an even better measure would be the kind of bishops Canada has been getting over this time, as compared to the twenty years previous - or perhaps the kind of clergy seminaries have been produces over these relative time spans. But it is a wholesale change: it emanated not from Canada but from Rome, because we have seen all of these things changing in the US and elsewhere. I have detected no sign that French Canada has been effected by it at all, but I am prepared to be corrected.

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