Friday, April 15, 2005

Rebuilt

In the comment thread to my post about Tory outreach to Quebec, Tom made some very good observations (he's got the advantage in that Quebec is his home province). He pointed out that the Catholic church has a bad name in that province because of it's long, cozy relationship with the government there. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about that, other than I know it's true and the resentment may well be justified. So... am I mad or what? Why suggest that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, might be a useful way to reach out to that province? The reason I like my faith is not because want the Pope to rule the world like an autocrat. No, that wouldn't do at all. I like my faith because it's the most amazing philosophy I've come across. It also has an administrative side that, not surprisingly, has had problems. I say "not surprisingly" because putting ideas into action is always tough. Human frailties and difficult cases take their toll. In truth, however, there is no one form of government that is "Catholic." Monarchy has been popular for historical and philosophical reasons, it's true, but there is no official tie between them. One of the challenges that modern, North American Catholics face is to try and show that their faith can survive and flourish in a modern, democratic society. It's an important task because democracy is not without it's problems:
It is a grave error to presume that if the vote is widespread, meaningful participation in government is assured. This misconception contributes to the disintegration of intermediate institutions which can weigh against state power, and pits an atomized and disorganized mass of voters against those few who can pull the strings necessary to obtain political office. The so-called will of the people must always be represented, shaped and brokered, and will often be misrepresented, negated or ignored by those who understand how to wield political influence. In our own country [the U.S.], the standard means of shaping the chaos of the electorate into some semblance of order and strength is the political party.
In light of the sordid details justice Gomery is uncovering, those observations ring true. Counterweights to government power are needed. Canada used to have a a tripartite government of parliament, monarch and senate. Today we effectively have government by cabinet. It's hardly a healthy situation. We tend to oppose our oligarchy through our provincial governments, and who knows, maybe that can bear some fruit. There's also a host of smaller groups like unions available but their leadership and effectiveness has left a lot to be desired. Churches can play a role here. I don't personally want to see them get too close to the government (Federal or Provincial), but they can play a role in creating and maintaining a sense of shared community and human dignity that, with any luck, might help to steer our government away from passing envelopes back and forth in dark restaurants. It's a bottom up, voluntary association of people that care for their communities that I have hopes for. It's the kind of thing you do when you realize that if you don't do it, no one will. I think it can appeal to young people, many of whom are burning with distain for government over-reach. Can Catholic Quebecers rebuild themselves on those lines? I'd love to find out. Healthy communities generate healthier government, mostly by seeking less from it, and also by recognizing government illness at early stages and countering it when it arises. Interfaith dialogue is a step in that direction.

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