Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quebec's Religion

This won't be a popular post with my readers. Sorry in advance.

This is about the Supreme Court ruling re. the 'madatory' religion and ethics program in Quebec.

Now, I acknowledge two things ahead of time:

1) I am not a lawyer,

2) I am not even that up-to-date on the details of this issue.

These things being acknowledged, I will give my two cents here.

Was this any surprise?! Are the ruling re. homosexual unions surprising? Why do so many Catholics treat them like they can't anticipate the outcomes? Are you aware of the basic jurisprudential principles of our legal system? But that's not really what I want to talk about.

Is this the end of the world. Has anything changed?

The answer to both of these questions is no. Were you - Quebec parents - depending on the public school system to provide your children with faith in the Church? If so, there's your problem. Not even here in Barry's Bay - the centre of the most conservative riding in the country, where we have a wonderful Catholic school - would I advise parents to depend upon a school to do this. I don't even agree with my own colleagues at OLSWA about everything. I don't want anyone raising my kids but Anne-Marie and me.

I think it's the words 'mandatory' and 'no exemptions,' that are throwing people into confusion and madness. And rightly so if their false understanding of those concept were actually the ones intended by the Courts and the Quebec school boards.

The one thing these things do not mean is police will come to your house if your children do not happen to be in school one day, or if you are teaching the CCC in your own home. Now, there are some countries in the world where homeschooling is illegal, well, not home school, but non-attendance at government schools. You should not live in those countries. Quebec may be skirting awfully close to that - I do not know, if they are there yet. My understanding of this ruling is that its use of the words 'mandatory' and 'no exemptions' do not constitute that.

A little known story about the guy who is thetheologyofdad. When I was in my first year of my BA at Dalhousie University in Halifax, a new convert, idealistic, uneducated, etc., my English prof. assigned that scurrilous book, The Handmaid's Tale, by that otherwise nincompoopie Margaret Atwood. I told her that I found it morally objectionable. My primary point consisted in its too-graphic description of a sex-act. She said that it was 'mandatory' and if I wanted to exclusively write my essay on various other assigned works then she would grade it accordingly. I did, and got a poor mark. In truth, I got a poor mark because at that time I could not write well - I had gone to public school, after all! What this 17- or 18-year-old knew at that time was that Christian discipleship required suffering on account of the Faith. I knew that at that time, even if I did not know how to  write a good essay.

Reading that drivel was in one sense mandatory and there were no exemptions. But yet I didn't read it - passed page 60 anyway. And, if the teacher had told me that if my essay did not display proof of having read it in its entirety that I would go to jail, I would happily have gone to jail. Such is life.

I like reading about the world's religions. Anything that presumed to be education and not treat of that most important of all human factors - religion - would be no education at all. I would complain that my kids had never heard of Buddha, Islam, Hinduism, Heracles, etc.

Do I expect a secular government to proselytize? No. Do I want it to? Sure, that'd be good. But I'm sure that I wouldn't like how they'd end up doing that either - just like I don't like how my colleagues at OLSWA do it (sometimes!). I don't think too many of us would actually want to maintain that the Quebec government should only be teaching Catholicism. (There's should and then there's should, of course.) The claim that Catholicism has a privileged position in Quebec because of Quebec history is weak. A fortiori, they should be teaching aboriginal spirituality.

That Quebec's public system is our concern at all is the problem. Quebec Catholics failed to make their religion attractive to others. The fault lies there, nowhere else. The fault runs from the top down: mostly it lies with the Archbishops of Montreal and Quebec City and their predecessors, next the other bishops, next the pastors and parents. From the articles I have read it sounds like the parents were no Ciceros. They were Quebec Catholicism's spokesmen?! You've got to hand it to them for trying, hint hint, Cardinal Turcotte. It wasn't their job! Why are lay people doing the work of the clergy? That's a post for another day - but don't worry it's coming!

So, 'no exemptions' in education-speak means this:

We are not providing for an alternative curriculum or activities. This is what we are teaching at that point in the day. We believe this constitutes good education. To provide an alternative means that this is not good education, since we do not provide an alternative to math, biology, gym.

It does not mean:

We are going to go to your house and take your kids from you if they don't appear.

I am not suggesting that there is no legal basis in the Quebec Education Act or related law for taking your kids away from you. I am saying that the Supreme Court did not interpret this program as amounting to this.

What's more, I don't like grumbling for sake of grumbling. It's a conservative's vice. To speculate about how everything is going to end up with us running for our lives in the forest away from those black helicopters as in a Michael O'Brien novel gets a little old. I think these people talk like this because they enjoy it. Some people love conspiracies and actually love to worry. Well, I like constructive talk, not presenting an enjoyable pastime as love of truth.

I think the lessons to be learned here are this:

1. Intellectually weak faith gets us nowhere. The arguments of the plaintiffs in this case were shamefully weak.

2. Freedom is a Christian's duty. To ensure your own, you must ensure the other's. Christians should veer closer towards libertarianism - but that, again, is a post for another time (I have talked about it before!).

3.Quebec sucks, and the only thing keeping the rest of the country from making freedom of thought and religion as illegal as Quebec already has are #s 1 and 2 above. Make no mistake about it.

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