By Alan Hustak
Long gone are the days when a parish priest could wade into an election campaign and tell parishioners how to vote. But Catholics looking to elect a Prime Minister in sync with their views might be curious to learn about the religious background of our political leaders.
In a secular, pluralistic society, governments no longer attempt to legislate morality; as Prime Minister Trudeau articulated so forcefully, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used again and again to trump religious dogma. But surely that does not mean parliamentarians should be prohibited from a free and open exchange and expressing their views on such subjects as abortion, assisted suicide, sex education, same sex marriage, and parental rights.
There are things other than sexual mores to consider. As Pope Francis recently reminded us, politicans must “truly be at the service of the human person,” and work to heal the hurt of those who are marginalized, work to protect the environment, and should “not be fearful of foreigners.”
In a pluralistic society, a leader’s religious beliefs, are of course, a private matter.But intellectually responsible believers have a right to know to what degree a candidate’s faith might affect public policy.
Both NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were raised as Roman Catholics. Both are transparent about their faith journeys. Trudeau is the product of a Jesuit education; his father, he tells us, was a devout Catholic. So devout that when he and Margaret divorced one of the conditions was that she could not remarry in the Catholic church. Justin points out the irony that his father, who as Justice minister, reformed Canada’s divorce laws, personally subscribed to the notion that” what God had joined together, no man could put asunder.” Pierre Trudeau questioned his faith after his youngest son, Michel, was killed in an avalanche in 1998.
Justin too had his doubts. “I believe in the existence of God and in the values and principles universal to all major religions. It was the dogmas of Catholicism I struggled with, particularly the idea that someone who was not a sincere and practicing catholic could not gain entrance to heaven,” he writes. Justin’s faith was rekindled after he was persuaded to take a rigorous ALPHA Program of instruction about the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. “Sometimes we need God’s help, and the course helped me welcome God’s presence in my life,” he explains.
Tom Mulcair, too, writes about growing up in Laval where he was influenced by Father Alan Cox, “a brilliant, tough and extraordinary determined” Roman Catholic priest. “He made me appreciate there was a lot wrong with the world, and that it was up to us to change it.” Mulcair went to Chomedey Catholic High, and was an altar boy at Holy Name of Jesus, but he became ambivalent about religion as a result of what happened to his mother, who had given birth to ten children.
“Mom and dad decided not to have any more kids… this choice did not go down well with our parish priest who refused to give mom absolution when she said she was using birth control. Up until that summer we had never been allowed to miss Mass – but from then on it became completely optional.” Mulcair remains a cultural Catholic, and says he practices “in his own way, according to his own conscience.”
Of the three candidates, Steven Harper is the most guarded about his religious convictions. Harper has never spoken about his faith and the books written about him mention his religion only in passing. He was raised in the United Church but dropped out in his teens before he could be confirmed. His minister, Jim Moulton told the United Church Observer that young Steve was still wrestling with “the concept of God.” When Harper moved west, he became a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, an evangelical denomination. According to its website, adherents believe that the world is divided between the infidels and the righteous - those who accept a Christian God and those who don't and that "the just shall be resurrected; the unjust will be sent unto judgment.” What is telling, perhaps, is that when Harper went to Israel, there were 21 rabbis and representatives of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Trinity Bible Church, the Crossroads Christian Communications and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Although a Roman Catholic priest, Father Raymond de Souza was part of the delegation, but as a columnist for the National Post. A broader range of Christian faiths including Orthodox, Anglican and United churches were not included.
Last Night at the Gayete
The Centaur Theatre's - season is drawing to a close with its final production of Last Night at the Gayety, a musical comedy by Bowser & Blue which runs until May 22nd.