Tuesday August 17, 2010

Quebec Bishop on Cardinal Ouellet: “Emotional” and Out of Touch with Quebec

By Patrick B. Craine

QUEBEC, August 16, 2010 ( – Amidst the congratulations and best wishes imparted this week to Cardinal Marc Ouellet as he heads to his new post in Rome, the head of the Quebec Bishops’ Assembly has publicly criticized certain aspects of the Cardinal’s efforts to restore faith and morality in the once vibrantly-Catholic province.

In an interview with the Canadian Press on Friday, only days before the Cardinal’s farewell Mass, Bishop Martin Veillette of Trois-Rivières called Ouellet “an emotional person, who reacts quickly enough and who sometimes gets carried away by emotions, feelings, affection.”

Cardinal Ouellet served as Archbishop of Quebec City and Primate of Canada since 2002, but has been appointed prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. In these eight years, he has become known as one of the country’s greatest defenders of faith, life, and the family.

He’s been a strong critic of the increasing secularization of Quebec society, condemning, for example, the province’s newly-imposed course in relativism, Ethics and Religious Culture. In the spring he drew loud criticism, from within and outside the Church, after he reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of unborn life, even in cases of rape.

Bishop Veillette noted that Ouellet is a teacher, and as such “his desire was to emphasize certain points of view that he considers important.”

“The bishops here have also taught, but in the way to do it, at the time to do it,” he continued. “There are times when it is more important to keep silent than to speak. There are things like that, sometimes, that you need to know how to manage. It’s a bit delicate.”

The bishop remarked further that the cardinal’s long absence from the province caused an “inevitable” gap between him and Quebec society. Apart from a couple stints in Canada, Ouellet has spent much of his career as a seminary professor in Latin America and Rome, as well as serving at the Vatican before his appointment to Quebec.

Quebeckers who spend a long time away, explained Bishop Veillette, lose touch with the province’s religious and social landscape. “When they return, they are a bit uneasy, they have more difficulty understanding the situations where we have arrived,” he said. “It’s not surprising that Cardinal Ouellet, who was absent for many years, does not have the same grasp of the questions, the situations.”

But according to Georges Buscemi, head of Campaigne Quebec-Vie, the false pastoral approach Bishop Veillette is advocating, as opposed to that of Cardinal Ouellet, has led to Quebec’s unprecedented decline in faith over the last 40 years. “I don’t think that Quebec can afford a pastoral approach that chooses silence and accommodation at the expense of human life and human dignity,” he emphasized. “Being discrete hasn’t served Quebec Catholicism.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made a similar point as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1986. Writing to the world’s bishops he said, “We wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral.” In that letter Ratzinger was specifically speaking about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

“The sheep have all gone running off and it’s a wasteland out there,” said Buscemi, speaking of Quebec. “Right now it’s a matter of gathering up the ones that are more or less intact.”

He lamented that the bishop’s comments seem to “deflate and discredit” the cardinal’s attempts to spread and renew Quebec’s historic faith. “It’s unfortunate that [Bishop Veillette] would not use the opportunity to defend what the cardinal said, in actually pretty nuanced language.”

The cardinal “knows exactly what the source of Quebeckers’ anguish is, why they’re so sensitive to these issues,” he said. “He knows exactly what’s wrong with Quebec, and he dares speak out against it.”

Buscemi said that after not being given the Catholic Church’s full teaching over the last 40 years, the Quebec people have a “distorted” view of the Church. “So, when Ouellet speaks the full truth, then he sounds like he’s saying something that people haven’t heard, and it sounds out of touch,” he said. “But, in fact, he’s exactly in touch.”

He noted the resurgence of faith that has flowered under Ouellet, and he pointed out that the cardinal was congratulated with a lengthy standing ovation at his farewell Mass in St. Anne de Beaupre on Sunday. “This is somebody that the faithful can get behind. He has a project, he has a clear message – the full Gospel,” he said.

“I think that if every bishop did what Ouellet does and did, we would see a renewal of the Catholic faith in Quebec like we’ve never seen,” he added. “It would be a second Pentecost almost.”

No one at the Quebec Bishops’ Assembly was available for comment.

Contact Information:

Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops

3331, rue Sherbrooke Est

Montreal, Quebec H1W 1C5

Phone: 514-274-4323

Fax: 514-274-4383

E-mail: Fill in the form here.

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