The Canadian Dioceses

I am overwhelmed by large statistical surveys of anything, though it strikes me that the comparative survey of American dioceses, reviewed elsewhere throughout this issue, in fact confirms what we’d expect from good sense. Bishops do make a difference, and have great power to lead their flocks toward life or toward death.
I write from Canada, where they also certainly make a difference, though I’m aware of no survey up here that can give statistical surrogates to the morale of the presbyterate, the replenishment of vocations, and the strength of evangelization, diocese by diocese. While the toxic solvent of postmodernity dissolves glue across all borders, the historical situation of the Church in Canada is much different.
The United States had no region like Quebec, which was once what Protestants would consider a Catholic “theocratic state-within-the-state.” Maryland was never comparable, nor New England with its relatively high Catholic proportions, supplied from the first by a mix of immigrants. Quebec was a Catholic North American culture sui generis; and the collapse of Church authority and allegiance in Quebec, during the Silent Revolution of the 1960s, was like nothing ever seen. It was a dam bursting, leaving in its wake an abject spiritual wasteland.
The Catholic experience in English Canada is more easily comparable to the United States, though with its own national peculiarities. Catholics are a significant minority in most Canadian regions, forming distinct ghettos here and there. But they have related to the larger society in a different way, because the majority of Protestants belong to one of only four large, mainstream denominations. The Catholics thus easily won status as “another big church,” while in the States, where the principle of free enterprise applied as much to religion as to economy, Catholics stood out more distinctly as a small and exceptional tribe of non-schismatics.
That was then, but this is now. The huge Canadian Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and “United” (chiefly Methodist) federations are all now on the path to extinction, each having fully embraced the vacuum of contemporary feel-good and moral relativism. Canadian Protestantism is increasingly a minority, conservative, evangelical phenomenon. And with the help of immigration from southern Europe and third-world countries, the Catholic Church has emerged more visibly as the Christian sine qua non, even while cradle Catholics have been following their mainstream Protestant brethren through the “post-Christian” bowels.
The Catholic contraction has been helped along by more than our share of what I would characterize as rogue bishops, seemingly more interested in media posturing than in the fate of their flocks. The post–Vatican II liturgical collapse also destroyed cradle continuity here, so that the average living native-born English- or French-speaking Catholic in Canada carries few resonances from his cultural past, no haunting memories of the Mass, and has precious little idea what his Credo might mean.
This will change, and I think largely because of bishops. Our Canadian primate, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, is a powerful rekindler of faith, and the newly designated archbishop of the key diocese of Toronto, Thomas Collins, is a fine “Ratzinger appointment.” As the U.S. survey shows, there are many good, solid, and industrious bishops the media ignore, who respond well to the increasing seriousness of the call from Rome.
A shakeout is in progress, as the Church throughout the West begins to peel the mud of late modernity from its garments, and a new arrangement is sought in which Catholic authorities emerge as the natural earthly spokesmen for the Triune God—and, signally, practice what they’re preaching.

David Warren

By

David Warren is a Canadian journalist who writes mostly on international affairs. His Web site is www.davidwarrenonline.com.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)
MENU