On March 28, Cardinal Thomas Collins gave a speech in Toronto to The Canadian Club titled, “Faith Meets Secularism: Threat or Opportunity?”. According to a statement on their website, "The Canadian Club is a forum to hear trailblazers in politics, business, social development and the media over lunch.” His Eminence’s talk makes a strong argument for resolving conflicts between secularism and faith in a democratic and mutually respectful way. The answer is found neither in war nor in the culture of relativism because both approaches are counter-productive. They fail to build the Common Good.
Cardinal Collins states on the one hand, “Those who espouse secularism, in the sense of the elimination of religious influence from matters of public policy, sometimes forget that the pastors of the Church and active laypeople are deeply involved in this secular world, addressing questions of charity and of justice, day by day, on the street. They walk the talk.”
On the other hand he says, “…believers are not inclined to leave their faith at home, or in the sacristy, nor to agree to the secularist assertion that the public square must be purified of religious input. Individual cases are often complex, and the particular questions in which the secularist and the person of faith may disagree vary greatly. But people of faith who, if nothing else, make up a large portion of the population in our democracy, will continue to propose their insights in the political process, and to act through the voluntary organizations without which our society would be a crueler place.”
Cardinal Collins then goes on to conclude by suggesting how society can resolve the clash between secularism and faith, “In our pluralistic society, faith and secularism meet in the public square. I cannot speak for secularism, but the voice of faith is not going to retreat into the world of private devotion. So we need to be able to listen to each other attentively, and to engage humbly and courteously in the democratic conversation, with mutual respect, for the benefit of all.”
We thank and applaud Cardinal Collins for presenting these views at The Canadian Club. Of course, we all agree to peaceful solutions to resolve societal differences. Everyday for Life Canada only wishes his views will be brought to the larger public square. The average Christian doesn't attend luncheons at The Canadian Club. Why not make this speech part of a pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Toronto in resolving the current clash between faith and secular humanism? We say this humbly and respectfully: Would it not be constructive for the Common Good if our shepherds were more outspoken and engaged in the secular issues that families, parishes and schools are confronting today?
Parents surely want to know how they can use Cardinal Collins’ collaborative strategy, in Ontario, to fight for their parental rights and for religious liberty as the government of the day forces them to accept “equity and inclusive education”. But having no other alternative, on March 29, Christian parents held a protest rally at Queen's Park in order to try to get the government to listen to them. In Ecclesia in America, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Blessed John Paul II makes this wise observation about America, and it's equally true for Canada. As he writes about evangelizing culture, the media and centers of education, he says,
“To carry out these tasks, the Church in America requires a degree of freedom in the field of education; this is not to be seen as a privilege but as a right, in virtue of the evangelizing mission entrusted to the Church by the Lord. Furthermore, parents have a fundamental and primary right to make decisions about the education of their children; consequently, Catholic parents must be able to choose an education in harmony with their religious convictions.
“The function of the State in this area is subsidiary; the State has the duty to ensure that education is available to all and to respect and defend freedom of instruction. A State monopoly in this area must be condemned as a form of totalitarianism, which violates the fundamental rights, which it ought to defend, especially the right of parents to provide religious education for their children. The family is the place where the education of the person primarily takes place.”
So in the end, the crucial question that remains is what are the faithful to do when the government will not listen and proposes legislation to make their faith irrelevant, even illegal, in the public square, in their public schools and their public institutions?