19 September 2013

Let's Talk about Quebec

Why, you ask?  Because it's my blog.  Because it is a cautionary tale to American Catholics and a warning that we could yet-- though probably won't-- heed.

My family and I were blessed to visit Quebec in 2012.  We absolutely loved it.  We spent many days both in Montreal and Quebec City and other areas. As I wrote last year, we were Canada's second most popular tourist attraction.

That fact is just one practical symptom of Quebec's problem.  And as usual, Quebec's problem is the Catholic Church's problem.

Quebec's Neutron Bomb
At the time, I had several gut reactions to Quebec.  First of all, it is beautiful, with stunning architecture and natural beauty.  And it is so "Catholic" in the harmony between nature and artifice, faith and culture.  Streets are mostly named after saints.  Churches of great beauty abound.  Due to the historical 'accident' of being founded by Catholic France, then taken over by Britain before the anti-Catholic French Revolution (and Britain allowing freedom to practice the Catholic Faith, which it did not give to its own citizens a century or so earlier), it retains a look and feel of a royalist French province.

And yet, it is inescapably obvious that this impression is a facade. I commented to my lovely wife, Sharon, that it was as though someone had dropped a neutron bomb on Quebec.  All the Catholics are gone, but their stuff remains. 

Catholic churches. Catholic buildings.  Catholic art.  Catholic cultural residue.  No Catholics.

The impetus of this post is this article that I found referenced and discussed on the Fisheaters forum.  The title is half-right:  
 "Neither Practising nor Believing, but Catholic Even So".

But of course, you can't be Catholic if you neither believe nor practice.  So goes that truth, so goes Quebec.  

In Montreal, the Basilica of Notre Dame (which you see in the photo above) is a stunning Church, inside and out.  We visited it once-- actually, twice, because the first time we were denied entry because there was a "light show" for paying customers.

When we returned the next day, we saw a glorious church with some weird lighting. There is a chapel behind the sanctuary you see above that is stupendously ugly. That is where the weekday Masses are celebrated. It was built in 1970. As far as I know, no one has yet been prosecuted for it.

That is a microcosm of Qubec's institutional Church: loss of confidence in the Faith, mired in 1960s ugliness, hawking its past to tourists instead of converting souls.

The Museum of Civilization as a description of Quebec

There is an otherwise fine museum in Quebec City called, rather ambitiously, The Museum of Civilization

There is a permanent exhibit there on the history of the Québécois people; as far as production values go, it is exceptionally well done. There are essays, multimedia presentations, and memorabilia. Great, until you get to the modern era. There is a term for the flushing of Western civilization that is particular to Quebec-- The Quiet Revolution. This was a true revolution that embraced the most destructive secularism and threw off the "shackles" of Christ's true religion. I guess it was inconvenient.

There is an exhibit at the museum about Catholicism and the state. It glorifies the state and basically assigns the Church, Communism-like, to the dustbin of histoire. The write-up sounded like Henry VIII wrote it. You see, the people took their rightful role and booted the Church from its insidious control over education, healthcare, and the family. Now that people could sin at will, everyone was much happier. Hopefully soon all the Catholics will die.

I barely exaggerate.

My wife and I got a bit miffed, but also enjoyed some gallows humor, at the display of antique Catholic relics like altars, breviaries, etc. my favorite: the Brown Scapular. The description of this included this beauty: "this was worn by Catholics until the mid-twentieth century. Catholics were told that wearing this item would guarantee their entry into heaven..."

My family all had on our scapulars. I checked mine. No expiration date.

There is no denying that the Church in Quebec has withered in a way even a cynical American couldn't (yet) recognize. The article states it this way:

Their forebears sacrificed what little they had - they had no choice, since it was forcibly extracted in the form of a tithe legalized in the Quebec Act of 1774 - to adorn Quebec with the biggest, most ornate parishes in the New World. But when baby boomers rebelled against the Church's repression and hypocrisy, against the tedious, ritualistic lives and fearful piety of their parents, they didn't ruminate.

A description worthy of Anglo-Toronto's paper of record. Church's repression? If only. It goes on:

Church attendance, which stood at more than 90 per cent before 1960, didn't so much collapse as vaporize - at least among those born after 1945. "At a precise moment, during the year 1966 in fact, the churches suddenly emptied in a matter of months. A strange phenomenon that no one has ever been able to explain," Father Leclerc, the priest in Denys Arcand's Barbarian Invasions , tells a French appraiser to whom he is trying to peddle church artifacts.

No one can explain any connection to the year after Vatican II ended? The super-de-duperest bestest council ever? I might be able to explain that, Father.

And what does Quebec have now? A welfare state. No God. No Church. No children. No hope.

Catholics in the U.S. are on notice. We've already begun the descent here. Is there any chance to stop it?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a better example of what happens when the faith is publically denied, i.e. the Winnipeg Statement.

When the clergy and the people take that kind of stand hearts will be hardened and the bitter fruit will ripen.


Jane Chantal said...

It was deeply sad and sobering to read these observations, and I'd recommend -- to those able to take some more heartache -- reading the essay that is referenced ("Neither practising nor believing, but Catholic even so").

Never having heard of the Quebec Act of 1774, I googled it and have tried in vain to find another reference to impoverished Quebecois driven deeper into poverty by being forced to fund opulent churches. I'm not saying it didn't happen, since the Act did restore the Church's right to collect tithes -- but corroboration of that particular claim certainly did not leap out at me via any of several searches.

Otoh, I learned fairly quickly that the Quebec Act of 1774 guaranteed Quebec's Catholics the right to freely practice their Faith, removed all reference to Protestantism from the Oath of Allegiance [to the British crown], and gave Catholics the right to sit on legislative councils and hold government office.

These many years later -- liberated from "fearful piety" and "the Church's repression and hypocrisy" -- Quebec is home to the largest number of abortion clinics in Canada.

Given the choice, I think I'd rather pay for beautiful churches than dead babies.