Everyday Theology: Proclaiming a creed is not always the best choice

"It’s time for more compromise when it comes to freedom of conscience and religion."

It’s time for more compromise when it comes to freedom of conscience and religion, as a nine-year legal battle over a prayer in Saguenay, Quebec demonstrates.

Briefly, Jean Tremblay, the Catholic mayor of Saguenay, and his council were in the habit of beginning their meetings with the traditional Catholic ‘sign of the cross’ followed by a prayer.  This made Alain Simoneau, an atheist and citizen of Saguenay who attended council meetings, feel uncomfortable and excluded. He asked the mayor to discontinue the religious practice. Tremblay refused, and the game was on.

After meandering through various judicial bodies, the final match was played out before the Supreme Court of Canada, who awarded the win to Simoneau and co-appellant Mouvement laïque québécois, an organization dedicated to the secularization of Quebec.

Looking in from the outside at this case, it seems to me that both sides were more intent on proclaiming a creed than on reaching a workable solution. Both, you might say, had an agenda, and finding a reasonable compromise was not on the table.

A compromise, such as praying in private before the meeting or arriving after the prayer was concluded, could have resolved the dispute.  But, a compromise requires at least one side to give way, to forgo ‘it’s the principle’ mentality: a mentality that has become a standard excuse for trying to prove that you’re right and the other person is wrong. When religion and secularism mix, it’s a poor strategy if you want to persuade someone that your worldview has something positive to offer to society.

I have no doubt that Tremblay was sincere in his belief that he was fighting, as he told the Human Rights Tribunal, a noble battle for Christ. And while I admire him for his nine-year commitment to his conviction, I don’t think this battle did anything much for Christ, nor am I sure that this is the kind of battle in which Christ asks his disciples to engage.

As a practicing Catholic with a deep attachment to the traditions of the Church, I believe we are called to find new ways to bring the gospel message to the world. We can cherish the outward forms of traditional prayer and worship, but form is not the end game; a particular way of praying should not become a battleground and overshadow the substance of the gospel.

Pope Francis, who is so immensely popular with Catholics and non-Catholics alike because of his authentic witness to the gospel, challenges Catholics to engage with the world, not through public displays of piety, such as became an issue in Saguenay, but through personal conversion and acts of social justice.

The match up between Tremblay and Simoneau pitted Catholicism against secularism. Ironically, both worldviews promote the dignity and equality of the human person and foster respect among people.  When religion and the public sphere intersect, these points of commonality often get lost when people begin clamoring for their rights.  A polarized ‘all or nothing’ approach serves no one well, and does nothing to further a more just, equitable, tolerant and compassionate society.

Trail, BC resident Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. Her blog is www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com .

Just Posted

Trail military exercises provide crucial training

Exercise Sapper Crucible: ‘The nuts and bolts of what a soldier is’

Last stand for Silver City summer

Fall officially arrives in Trail at 6:54 p.m. on Saturday

Tell the Times

Web Poll: Will you be attending a candidates forum in the Trail area?

More parking meters vandalized in downtown Trail

City of Trail: The parking meters parts budget had been overspent by $26,000 at the end of July

Trail councillors will all be acclaimed

One Trail candidate has withdrawn, leaving six remaining candidates to fill the six council seats

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

New silver collector coin features Indigenous dancer

New silver collectors coin captures fast-paced energy of an Indigenous powwow

B.C. woman with autism has scooter stolen from SkyTrain station

Kayla Polege purchased scooter after ‘shutdowns’ on transit

Off Nova Scotia, a bid to ‘unravel the mystery’ of great white sharks

The question: Is Nova Scotia the second mating site for Atlantic white sharks, something scientists say could be key to protecting the endangered species.

Man arrested after carjacking, collision, pepper spray attacks in Vancouver

Vancouver police say one man is in custody after a chaotic scene of events in the downtown core

Canadian investigator says World Anti-Doping Agency got a bad deal from Russia

A Canadian lawyer says the World Anti-Doping Agency rushed into accepting a bad deal by reinstating the country’s drug-testing program.

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

Most Read