Canadian Bishop: Pope is Right, “Church in Canada is Undergoing Secularization”

By John-Henry Westen

ROME, June 2, 2006 ( - Pope Benedict continued meetings last week with bishops from Canada. One bishop he met with, the Bishop of the diocese of Saint John, New Brunswick, J. Faber MacDonald, after meeting with Pope, gave an interview on Vatican radio in which he agreed with the Pope’s impression of Canada.Â

“Pope Benedict has an accurate assessment of the church in Canada,” said Bishop Macdonald on Vatican Radio.“The Church in Canada is undergoing secularization.”

TheÂSaint John Bishop returned to Canada today and spoke with about his experiences in Rome.

Asked for an example of secularization in the church in Canada Bishop Faber Macdonald noted first that by secularization he meant “putting emphasis mostly on life in this world and a loss of the sense of the transcendent and loss of the importance of responding to the transcendent.”Â

For examples he used marriage and family prayer. Regarding marriage he said, “a number of couples don’t bother getting ready to live together by faith and life in the church, withdrawing or retreating from the basic statement of God himself in the Word, what God joins together (let no man separate) . . . there’s a loss of touch with that.” And regarding family prayer, Bishop Macdonald said that in his diocese “family prayer had all but disappeared.”

In addressing these concerns the bishop has himself written a booklet on family prayer and has sent priests from his diocese to study both the theology of the body and about the “domestic church”. Those initiatives, said the bishop, are already having some success.

Regarding his impressions of Pope Benedict, Bishop Macdonald spoke of the “two contrasts between” Pope Benedict and his predecessor John Paul.“John Paul is an extrovert,Â[Benedict’s] more of an introvert, John Paul is a philosopher, Benedict XVI a theologian.” He noted that Pope John Paul attracted massive crowds, but Pope Benedict, at his weekly audiences, is heard by even larger crowds.

Bishop Macdonald recalled one meeting between the Holy Father and children who were about to receiveÂtheir first communion and confession.“One little girl asked him why is it necessary to confess before receiving communion for our sins if they are always the same. He smiled and said ‘it’s true that our sins are always the same, yet do we not clean our house, our room once a week though the dirt is always the same. If we do not we run the risk of the dirt accumulating though we do not see it. The same is true of our souls . . .’”

Bishop Macdonald added, “He’s a profound theologian, but at the same time there’s a simplicity about him, and this simplicity enables him to root his teaching in the Gospel so even little children can understand.”

Asked if the Pope had any specific advice for Canada, Bishop Macdonald replied: “It’s always the same advice. We have to continue to put as priority the faith, and people’s relationship with God.” Specifically, he recalled that the Pope warned, “We can get caught up in reorganizing the structure of the parish or the diocese, but unless it is done maintaining a rootedness in faith and the communion of the church which is rooted in the Trinitarian communion, then we are kind of going off in the wrong direction.”

Concluding, Bishop Macdonald said, “It’s just down to earth wisdom that he shares. As a bishop listening to this down to earth wisdom I think, ‘now why didn’t I think of that myself?’”

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