Has Quebec become the sole religion of Quebecers? Is it their God State?

When discussing Heritage Day 1977 journalist Jean-Guy Dubuc put on his white gloves and said:

“To avoid excommunication and condemning each other within the new nationalist religion, whose dogma and morality are stricter than anything we’ve ever known, we needed something to tie us to the celebration, some common ground we are all proud of and that binds us together. That common ground is our heritage.”

Churches and motherhouses are up for sale. Priests are getting married and having kids. Anti-clericals, who are no longer in fashion, have said out loud what they were thinking to themselves. Some joker stole Brother André’s heart. Roger Peyrefitte claims the Pope is a homosexual and Montreal newspaper Le Devoir doesn’t even respond. A Member of Parliament publicly scolds a bishop without a single worry he’ll lose his seat. Things are just not the same around here.

However, to paraphrase the Voltaire witticism, “Quebecers made God in their own image.”

I ask Joe about his name:

“Joseph is pretty much the only Catholic thing left about me. I was given this name after St. Joseph of Alma. Back then we were all named after saints to make sure they watched over us. Priests refused to baptise children with pagan names. Joe is definitely less Catholic sounding than Joseph. I heard that the baptismal fonts used to make me a child of God and of the Church were sold to American antique dealers.”

There are many church buildings on the market in the ville aux cent clochers (Montreal, the city with a hundred bell towers).

“The obsession of French Canadians with these huge buildings raised to the glory of God is very similar to that of the Mayans and Ancient Egyptians who worked themselves to the bone, carving and stacking stone, and who ended up with no supplies when it came time to push back the enemy.” This apocalyptic observation made in the early 1950s comes from Miriam Chapin’s Quebec Now and brings to mind the empty shell of the St. James Church on St. Catherine Street where it is said the barbarians came through town, bringing with them treasures and women.

“One of these days the good Catholics are going to break down,” wrote Father Marie Gaudreault, O.P. in 1946. “As men of the Church we are too involved in too many secular activities and this could be dangerous on many levels. Anti-clericalism is gaining popularity very quickly; a lot faster than anyone could have imagined.”

Stones will soon start to rain down on the padre’s lawn. People are harsh, and so are their judgements.

In Parti pris (a Montreal political and cultural magazine), Andrée Benoist writes, “The importance we’ve placed on religion in the field of education promotes self-deprecation, resignation, obedience and submission.”

As for Marcel Rioux, he says, “On a broader scale, Quebecers are still infused with this religion that translates into their quest of the absolute, their deductive reasoning, their fondness for hierarchical structures, their Manichean attitudes and their extensive selection of religious swear words.”

Maurice Tremblay brought up a valid point in 1950:

“Overall, this French Canadian Catholicism seems to be a closet Catholicism that has yet to undergo the radical transformations this ever-evolving world is demanding of Christianity. It’s a perfect example of the narrow-minded and unproductive ultramontanism the Church has adopted as its weapon of choice in its general policy for preserving and defending French Canadian Christianity.”

There are fewer and fewer miracles taking place in Quebec. And fewer holy apparitions, too!

Freethinkers, like Charles Chiniquy, T.D. Bouchard and Jean-Charles Harvey, are everywhere! Some 37 have been identified in the National Assembly alone. MNA Camil Samson tabled a motion to reintroduce prayer at the opening of daily sessions (a practice abandoned in December 1976). He lost by a count of 37 to 31, with 10 lukewarm members abstaining from voting so as not to be labeled Church suck-ups or fake Christians. And while the Université de Montréal and the Vatican keep discussing who has supreme authority over the theology department, well-meaning Quebecers are asking important questions through Letters to the Editor: “Why don’t we ordain nuns to the priesthood and promote women’s lib at the same time? Will our Communist priests be excommunicated? Could politics and the high clergy ever go back to being part of Quebec socialism?” These are all good questions. It’s too bad no one dares to answer them.

My own priest, a diehard traditionalist, confessed to me that, “If materialism is global, our clergy was obviously shortsighted about the whole thing: we should never have given up control of the schools!” And smiling, he added, “We should advertise…”

And why not?!

Banding together to swear louder than ever (but only using swear words that are not so religious anymore), Quebecers have either become not-so-practicing Catholics or downright pagans. However, their consumer behaviours reveal to what extent French Canadian Catholicism has made an impact on them. Just like that blessed woman in Italy who exhibited the stigmata, Quebecers are bleeding profusely from their hands, their feet, and their bank accounts.

© 2022 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.