Secularity and Catholicism in Canada

Last week, for four days, I was in Kananaskis, Alberta, about 90 minutes from Calgary. I was speaking at the annual Blueprints conference, an extraordinarily well-coordinated gathering for principals of Catholic schools and their trustees. I returned to the close of the Fordham school year utterly exhausted, but in a good way, by the nearly 200 Catholic principals and trustees who welcomed me into their meeting in the belly of the Kananaskis Valley under the gargantuan shadow of the Canadian rockies. Many shared the opportunities and difficulties involved with the unique situation in Alberta of public funding for Catholic schools, a situation which seems to inform almost every conversation there about Catholic education.

Whether it is Albertan Catholic creativity, the Canadian sensibility, or something else, I again enjoyed the relaxed and casually creative character I have so often found in my sojourns to the Great White North. The opportunity to work with this community became the occasion for me to read several works on secularization in Canada, and this reading and the many conversations last week have enriched my understanding of the travails of Catholicism in secular cultures, and the travails of secularity in Catholic cultures. They patiently heard me present my current thinking about some important dynamics of secularity, theologically understood: the tension between the affirmation and criticism of secularity in contemporary philosophy; the parallel tension between the affirmation and criticism of secularity in recent Catholic teaching and magisterial discourse; the prevalence of popular media culture as a source for spirituality in secularity; the turn to the everyday in theological research in secular culture; the many theological problems in the measurement of faith in recent research about religion in secularity; and the development of a secular Catholicism in Western culture. These topics and more were the stuff of many good conversations.


And did I mention there are a good number of Rush fans among these Catholic education professionals? Unfortunately, I did not get to sample Edmonton or Calgary’s rockish wares, so I will have to return.

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States

Cross-posted to Rock and Theology, where you can see a Canadian legend, la petite Quebecoise,transvaluing -- or is it elevating to Canadian transcendence? -- a legendary rock anthem.

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Brandon Kemp
8 years 8 months ago
"Secular" culture-in the sense of openly critical, independent-minded societies and individuals-has been pushing the Catholic church to better itself since the time of Galileo. Let's be honest, secular culture has kept Catholicism accountable for its sex abuse scandals, pushed it on issues like slavery and capital punishment, and rightly challenged it with its rigorous skepticism and ever vigilant watch for hypocrisy. Where would we be without Voltaire, Kant, Freud, Marx, Sartre, Nietzsche, Darwin, and the like? I mean, Ireland, a historically Catholic country, just got legal divorce in the 90s! The 90s! Secular society, like it or not, has advanced the position of women by granting them such rights (one can't help but think of Aquinian arguments for the inferiority of the female sex). It challenged the notion of "just war" with experience, advanced scientific understanding of the world, and continues to fight for the place of various minorities (including LGBT persons) within society at large. The church needs secularism, just as much as secular society needs "religious figures" like JPII, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and the like to check it.
8 years 8 months ago
''Where would we be without Voltaire, Kant, Freud, Marx, Sartre, Nietzsche, Darwin''
Probably a lot better off.  Most of these people espoused ideologies based on false premises that have not done the world any good.  I would exempt Kant but the rest, the world could have done without.
Vince Killoran
8 years 8 months ago
Did Cosgrove really write that "the world could have done without" Darwin?!  I think he's just joking.
Thanks Tom Beaudoin for your post.  After reading a couple of these replies I am convinced that the way forward is not to posit some fictive world where the Church stands in stark contrast to the Modern World.  We don't, and it does no good to pretend otherwise.
8 years 8 months ago
''Did Cosgrove really write that ''the world could have done without'' Darwin?!  I think he's just joking.''
No, I am not joking.  Darwin was a materialist and used his ideas to promote it though he couched it very cleverly because of the religious beliefs of his wife and friends.  But the atheists and eugenicists ran with it and still do today.  The science he promoted is very useful but limited and does not explain most of what he and others have claimed it does.  Modern day genetics and medicine makes use of some of Darwin's ideas but as for an explanation for life in general it nearly always runs into dead ends that it can not solve.
The whole eugenics movement flowed from Darwin's writing and were promoted by his cousin and sons.  An extremely negative consequence.  Modern day atheists claim that they owe their beliefs to Darwin, the science of which has never been demonstrated. Many gullible people have also subscribed to this without understanding just what Darwin's ideas can explain.  This is not the place to have such a debate but Darwin wrote for the popular masses, that was what his book was all about and there are many popular treatments on the topic available today and all point to the limitation of Darwin's ideas.  When Richard Dawkins, atheist extraordinaire, cannot defend it in his most recent book, then one has to question the range for which Darwin's ideas are applicable.
For a Catholic's view of the limitation of Darwin's ideas read Michael Behe's book, The Edge of Evolution.  But again this is not the place to debate this since this is a thread on secularism.  But a lot of secularism owes it origin to Darwin and the false understanding of what it shows.
Vince Killoran
8 years 8 months ago
I think your take on Darwin is wrong on just about everything but, fair enough Cosgrove: this isn't the best place to debate Darwin (although I notice, as usual, that you get the first and last word).
8 years 8 months ago
''although I notice, as usual, that you get the first and last word''
In order to make your statement true in this case, I will reply.  I hadn't meant to reply any further on this issue for the reasons I gave.  But you attacked my judgment and credibility and I replied with a reasonable answer on a topic that I am very well read.  Was I not supposed to reply to a direct challenge to what I said?  Anyone can be wrong on something and am always grateful when someone informs me of something that I did not know.
Paul Kelley
8 years 8 months ago
The April 28 Ecumenical News International reported that in Nepal ''Hundreds of Christians have held their first public vigil in the Nepalese capital to pressure the government into implementing a new, secular constitution within a stipulated deadline.'' Theyare joined intheir vigil by  the Unified Communist Party.Christians are seeking a new law in the constitution that will protect their religious rights. They want it to allow conversions to Christianity. They also want a religious commission to look after their affairs similar to a Muslim commission set up. Also leaders in Kenya have abandoned constitutional talks with the government, announcing that they will rally Christians to vote against the draft basic law for the east African country when it is put to a referendum. The draft law seeks to entrench Islamic courts known as Kadhi and it also seeks to legalise abortion if the health or life of a mother is threatened. Thes Christians, I submit, recognize the basic fact that they, as we in the United States, benefit most from a secular constitution, law and society. I wish that Catholics would lay off bashing secularism for we have benefited from it as muchas anyone.


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