Quebec cardinal’s complaints against govt’s COVID restrictions come too late
July 31, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The archbishop of Québec, Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, made a formal protest last Sunday against the COVID-19 measures that left religions, and in particular the Catholic Church, behind in the French-speaking province of Canada. In his statement, given last Sunday in the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, on the feast day of Saint Anne, patroness of Québec, Cardinal Lacroix listed the “disappointing” ways in which the rights of believers were neglected throughout the Chinese coronavirus crisis.
“It was very arduous to make ourselves heard,” said Cardinal Lacroix, who later remarked that the Québec government never entered into direct dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious authorities. “This leaves me with the impression that government authorities do not take us seriously and want to ignore our existence,” he stated.
“After 400 years of presence, of commitment and cooperation in building this country, it is not fair that faith communities should be treated this way. Our participation in building Quebec is not insignificant. We are proud of our contribution and we have no intention of retreating into our sacristies. The mission of the Church is at the heart of society,” he said at the end of his statement.
He had already noted that places of worship were largely ignored throughout the first phases of lockdown, only to appear when many restrictions had been lifted, including for casinos: “In the Government of Quebec’s schedule published on May 25, we learned that after the preliminary phase, after Phases 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, ‘places of worship’ appear in the item Subsequent Phases in the same way as bars and cruises.”
While outspoken, the cardinal’s public protest comes late in the day and appears to have been mainly aimed at reassuring the many Catholics of Québec who have been “questioning the commitment of the Bishops of Quebec throughout this pandemic.”
His clarifications were, however, somewhat disappointing.
Cardinal Lacroix insisted at length on attempted dialogue on the part of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Québec with the authorities, and also on their willingness to observe all health regulations even if he had been disappointed to find that the government did not take reasonable “deconfinement protocols” developed by them into account. It does not appear from his statement that the Catholic Church firmly insisted on its rights and prerogatives when “in dialogue” with the government.
“While the sale of alcohol and cannabis has been deemed an essential service throughout the pandemic, faith communities, which we can certainly consider an essential service to the community, have been virtually ignored. Even casinos were given the right, before us, to accommodate 250 people in places much smaller than our churches. It makes no sense at all!” he went on to say. Strong language, certainly, but Québec Catholics would probably have liked to hear it during the long weeks without the Holy Mass and the sacraments.
The Catholic Church’s strategy in Québec appears to have been to join all other faith groups — “Anglicans, Evangelical Christians, Jews and Muslims” — in their dialogue with the public health authorities in order to ask for a common solution.
Cardinal Lacroix made clear that the Catholic authorities fully aligned themselves on an “interreligious” platform: “Spiritual needs are an integral part of human life for those who manifest that need — and there are many still in Quebec; all these people deserve to be treated with respect, to be considered by their government. Our faith communities are not just places of prayer. They are also places of support, of mutual aid at the social, family and human levels.”
On his blog hosted by Campagne Québec-Vie, Augustin Hamilton observed that the cardinal appears to believe that only part of the population feels “spiritual needs,” as if all others “could do without.” “All men have spiritual needs. All have their eternal salvation at stake,” he commented.
Hamilton also noted that the cardinal did not underscore the fact that access to abortion was presented as an “essential need” throughout the confinement.
Seen from France, Cardinal Lacroix’s and his collaborators’ strategy seems to have been doomed to fail. When several groups of traditionally minded Catholic associations and individuals seized the Council of State through an emergency procedure, last May, in order to request for the discrimination against the Catholic Church in the deconfinement protocols that had been put in place on May 12, they presented themselves specifically as Catholics.
They conceded that prayer can be done anywhere and insisted that uniting as communities was not the main issue. Their leading counsel told the judges that Catholics need to be able to unite in church because Mass is the non-bloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Our Lord and that in Holy Communion, Catholics receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that this can not take place virtually by following Mass on the internet.
It was an audacious strategy, because France is a secularist state, where Church and State were formally separated in 1905 through a law that was enforced with violence. But it paid off: public Masses were allowed to resume before the French government initially planned for it, and other faith groups obtained the right to have public gatherings once more, by ricochet.
Here below is LifeSite’s full translation of Cardinal Lacroix’ statement.
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Statement by Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix
Archbishop of Quebec
in the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré,
July 26, 2020, Feast of Saint Anne, Patron Saint of Quebec
The situation we have been experiencing since March has not been easy, both for you and for us. No one had foreseen such a pandemic and no one had a response plan in hand. We developed one as the situation unfolded. All of us did our best to protect the health of the faithful, of the ordained ministers, and of the collaborators in the various spheres of our Church's life.
This has forced us to make difficult and demanding decisions. I am aware that the closure of our places of worship and the cancellation of community pastoral activities have upset many people. Being deprived of Eucharistic celebration, Eucharistic communion and the other sacraments for almost four months has been very painful, be it for the faithful as well as for the pastors and pastoral teams.
Many of you have been questioning the commitment of the Bishops of Quebec throughout this pandemic: "What are our Bishops doing? Are they maintaining a dialogue with the authorities of Public Health and the Government of Quebec in order to promote our needs and to ensure that believers are taken into account?
I can assure you that, from the very first hours of this pandemic, the Catholic Bishops of Quebec have made great efforts to enter into dialogue with the Quebec authorities. It was very arduous to make ourselves heard.
We took the initiative of bringing together leaders from other faith communities: Catholics, Anglicans, Evangelical Christians, Jews and Muslims, to reflect together and let the Public Health authorities and the Government of Quebec know that we wanted to collaborate by transmitting to our faithful the instructions so that this malignant virus would spread as little as possible. From the beginning – and throughout the last few months – we have been fair players, wishing to do our part for the good of society and to collaborate in the collective effort in times of crisis. It was necessary for us to stand together and we have done so.
Unfortunately, we must note that there has been little or no recognition of all these efforts. Communities of faith, regardless of who they are, do not seem to get the attention of our elected officials or public health authorities. This leaves me with the impression that government authorities do not take us seriously and want to ignore our existence.
At no time have we managed to establish a frank and direct dialogue with Government and Public Health officials. Our contacts have been continuously limited to third parties. We have worked and submitted protocols for eventual deconfinement. We were told by third parties that these protocols were well prepared and developed, but there was never an official announcement that they were accepted.
On two occasions, in press conferences with the Prime Minister and the director of public health, it took questions from reporters to find out what was happening with places of worship. Only then were we able to receive, piecemeal, partial information concerning our situation. In the Government of Quebec's schedule published on May 25, we learned that after the preliminary phase, after Phases 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, “places of worship” appear in the item Subsequent Phases in the same way as bars and cruises. In my humble opinion, this is distinctly disappointing.
That we should be prevented from celebrating Christian funerals in our large churches, when funeral companies were soon able to offer funeral rites in their small parlors, has caused a great deal of misunderstanding. It is as though there is a double standard. Despite our protests, the authorities have always turned a blind eye to this reality.
While the sale of alcohol and cannabis has been deemed an essential service throughout the pandemic, faith communities, which we can certainly consider an essential service to the community, have been virtually ignored. Even casinos were given the right, before us, to accommodate 250 people in places much smaller than our churches. It makes no sense at all!
Spiritual needs are an integral part of human life for those who manifest that need - and there are many still in Quebec; all these people deserve to be treated with respect, to be considered by their government. Our faith communities are not just places of prayer. They are also places of support, of mutual aid at the social, family and human levels.
I confess that the timidity with which our government has avoided any open and serene dialogue with the leaders of faith communities does not seem to me to be healthy for our Quebec society. Let me be clear: we are not claiming any privileges from the government. Believers are full-fledged citizens, they are women and men involved in all areas of human life in the Quebec we love. We have the right to be considered with respect and not ignored or relegated to the status of VARIA.
To this day, we still have to negotiate week after week with the authorities, who are trying to impose unreasonable restrictions on us.
Here, as in all our places of worship, teams have worked very hard to put in place the necessary measures to ensure maximum respect for hand washing, wearing masks, two-meter distancing, and continuous cleaning between celebrations. I am very proud of the thorough work that our teams have accomplished.
Please, give us a break! We've made our case. For the past four months, we have proved ourselves to be very good collaborators. Do not abuse our patience and stop ignoring our existence and our sense of responsibility.
Forgive these rather long words on the feast of St. Anne. But I wanted you to know that the Bishops have been very active and committed, in your name, in the name of all the faith communities of Quebec. This is our responsibility as pastors and we want to fulfill it. It's not because we haven't yet managed to make ourselves heard in a satisfactory way that we're going to give up. It is not only for the good of our Catholic community, but also for the good of all faith communities and for the “living together” of the Quebec people.
After 400 years of presence, of commitment and cooperation in building this country, it is not fair that faith communities should be treated this way. Our participation in building Quebec is not insignificant. We are proud of our contribution and we have no intention of retreating into our sacristies. The mission of the Church is at the heart of society; it is there that the disciples of Jesus must bear witness to the faith that animates them and keeps them alive, to be beside their brothers and sisters, believers or non-believers, as collaborators for the future of our country.
The state is secular, but society is not! In our beloved Quebec, believers and unbelievers live together. All must be respected because all have a right to their place. Brothers and sisters, you can count on us to continue to seek ways of dialogue. This is the most promising way to continue our journey together, in harmony, respect and peace.
Gérald C. Cardinal Lacroix
Archbishop of Quebec
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, July 26, 2020.