IS QUEBEC STILL CATHOLIC?

Not by an normal measurement, it isn’t. Only about 10 per cent of the population go to mass regularly. The number of priests, monks and religious is way down. So are vocations. Catholic churches are being closed all over the place.

Despite all that, there is a theme emerging at the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on Quebec’s identity that suggests Catholicism may be much stronger here than all the church closings suggest. Mario Dumont caught onto this early on when he suggested the Quebecois need to reconnect with their past, the one that the generation of the Quiet Revolution had wholly rejected.

The Commission hearings reveal just how uncritical many Quebeckers seem to be toward that past. And a major element of that past is the Catholic religion. Journal de Montreal columnist Richard Martineau writes: “You’d think the years when the Catholic Church lorded over Quebec society were a golden age ….”

There seems to be a prevailing sense among many young Quebeckers that their society has lost its bearings and that one way to get them back is to re-embrace what it has always meant to be a Quebecois in the first place: their language, families and memory.

There is scarce evidence that this “re-rooting” is driving young Quebeckers back into the pews. But that doesn’t mean young Quebeckers are willing to purge their society of its Catholic traditions, something that next to sovereignty was job number one for their secularist parents.

Today’s parents have decried the Ministry of Education’s plan to replace classes on church catechism with a course in world religions and ethics beginning next year. The vast majority of parents still enroll their children in religion classes even though they themselves rarely go to Sunday Mass. They do so because these classes don’t just teach children about Catholic doctrine but about Quebec’s history and traditions.

Mr. Dumont again: “I won’t accept that we take periods of our history, rip them out and throw them in the garbage.” A big part of that history was Catholicism. Sure, there are plenty of older Catholics who’d like to see a return to traditional Catholic values. What is really surprising is that so many young Quebeckers are asking what happened to their religious patrimony in today’s secularist Quebec.

Would you agree with the sentiment that Quebec is still fundamentally Catholic?

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5 Comments »

  1. 1
    Barbara Says:

    At times like the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, that Catholic heritage comes through loudly and clearly. I recall prayer vigils at the Oratory and someone posting the Salve Regina on a cegep bulletin board. It is bred in the bone.

  2. 2
    Joshua Zuckerman Says:

    A year after the Nation Motion there is more linguistic and racial tension in Quebec than ever, language laws are still in place, the Anglophone community is dying out, people still can’t send children to a public school of their choice or have a sign in their own language, employment advancement for non-Francophones is non-existant, and Quebec still dominates every issue on the Canadian agenda. I hope you now realize how ridiculous your attempt to justify Bill 101 earlier this year was.

  3. 3

    Joshua:
    I’m not clear on what the Charter of the French Language (Bill101) has to do with the Catholic roots of Quebec unless you are thinking of the fact that Dr. Camil Laurin, the chief force behind the bill, was a devout Roman Catholic.
    I certainly am not aware of much linguistic and racial tension in Quebec nor are my friends. Nothing like the kind provoked by John Rory in Ontario when he tried to help minority schools.
    The fact of the matter is that to the surprise of its supporters Bill 101 probably did more than any other legislation to keep Quebec in Canada.

  4. 4
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I fail to see the tensions mentioned by Joshua and I have lived here all my life.
    As for Catholicism as Barbara said it is in our bones just as it still is in France despite 1789 and 1902. Granted the churches are empty most of the time but even unmarried couples have their children baptized, being a godmother or godfather is still seen as an honor and most people want at least a Celebration of the Word before cremation or burial.
    Let’s not confuse packed churches with true Faith.

  5. 5
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “The fact of the matter is that to the surprise of its supporters Bill 101 probably did more than any other legislation to keep Quebec in Canada.”

    What a pity… there’s another reason for Ontarians like me to appose bill 101.


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