By Gudrun Schultz

Archbishop Collins  TORONTO, Ontario, June 5, 2007 ( – Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins urged people of all faiths to step forward and contribute to political discussions, in an address to the Empire Club of Canada on May 31. He said the balance offered by a faith-based perspective on society is a vital element in democratic discourse.

“When religious people take part in the democratic conversation they bring to the table
  an invaluable tradition of ancient wisdom, a passionate concern to defend the
  vulnerable, and the credibility that comes from the fact that they daily contribute to the well-being of the community by caring for those most in need,” Archbishop Collins said.

“What they contribute to the general discussion of the problems of society… are insights that are based not only on faith but on reason and natural justice. They invite the public to consider the insights they offer, and to assess them sincerely and critically, and not to dismiss them unheard because they come from religious people. Obviously, a person can, as a matter of freedom of speech and religion, speak from a religious perspective when discussing social issues in a multi-cultural society. But to be persuasive to citizens who profess various religions including the religion of secularism, an appeal to reason is also necessary. There is a wisdom in religious tradition which can be shared with persons of other faiths or of no faith, and shared not only through an appeal to faith but also an appeal to reason.”

elievers who, after all, constitute most of the citizenry, have every right and duty to become actively engaged in the public discussion of various, often contentious, social issues, and to do so with courtesy and respect,” he stated. “Whatever the irritation caused to those who profess a secularist faith – and secularism is itself a kind of faith – it is of great value to any healthy society that a strong religious voice speak out on all issues of public concern.”

  Religion should not remain simply a private matter, Archbishop Collins said. He rejected what he called the “common contemporary vision” of religion’s place in society, which sees “no place for religion in the public forum.”

“In that view, religion is a kind of personal emotional experience, a security blanket that some individuals apparently need in order to handle the stresses of life in a dangerous world. It should be neither seen nor heard, but should be safely tucked away in irrelevant corners of private life, and perhaps provide an occasional bit of pageantry to enliven the social scene. Religion, in this view, is tolerated only as a kind of hobby, like stamp collecting.”

  The Archbishop pointed to the saints as an example of what religion has to offer society, saying, “Fairness dictates that religion be judged by its saints, not by its sinners.”

“Anyone can put on a hockey jersey and stumble around the rink, but that reveals nothing about hockey. All that is revealed is the incompetence of the individual. If you want to see what hockey really is, you look at a great hockey player, perhaps (and I am betraying my recent life as an Edmontonian) Wayne Gretzky in the glory days of the Edmonton Oilers. That is why the Catholic Church highlights saints: it says “This is how it is done”“This is what it looks like.” To see Catholic faith lived to the full, look to Mother Theresa, look to Pope John Paul.”

  Read the full text of Archbishop Collins’ address: