Justin Trudeau’s summer jobs initiative in Canada has attracted some international publicity.
It consists of attaching checklists to any application for government funding. Applicants must check boxes to affirm that they support abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism … and so on. It is a plain religious and ideological test, and those who get it wrong become anathema to the bureaucracy.
On the face of it, the measure was silly, and my own first impulse was to laugh at a leftist self-parody. The young prime minister looks out of his depth. A man whose preparation for high political office was gym coach, nightclub bouncer and the family name was now experimenting with a kind of secular theocracy. Even quite “liberal” talking heads and pundits said the measure went too far. And the meekest of church leaders were piping up.
But then Trudeau, and the “cool” cabinet ministers he appointed, doubled down. That was when one had to stop laughing. Could our government do things like that? But they just did.
Catholics – or should I say, our surviving minority of faithful? – have been under siege from courts and legislatures across Canada for some time now. As I write, for instance, doctors in Ontario have been stripped of “conscience rights” to exclude themselves from any participation in assisted suicide by a divisional court. Our Catholic Civil Rights League, which took up that hopeless fight, is overburdened with dossiers. For the truth is that the received Catholic doctrine they represent – which was usually the received Protestant position, too, and that of most other “faith traditions” – is incompatible with the progressive or politically correct agenda. The progressives claim to have no religion, but their post-Christian zeitgeist is proving a very jealous god.
In opposition to them, we have mush. Polls in Canada (as elsewhere) show that clear majorities of nominal Christ followers, especially Catholics, much prefer Mammon. They may not be onside with much in the progressive agenda – at least half the population is not – but they can’t find an argument, and don’t care. “Progress” cuts through them like a knife through butter.
And meanwhile our glib media do not even bother to report opposition to Trudeau in Parliament, or anywhere else. To them it’s just not news.
It would not be possible to explain this phenomenon without its deeper history. The great majority of Catholics today, in Canada but also throughout the West, were never instructed in their faith, or in the reasons for their faith; and their Church was retreating long before Vatican II. How can they be expected to defend principles they’ve never heard of? Especially when surrounded every waking hour by material distractions.
The Catholics of a previous generation, who welcomed financial dependence on the state, and eagerly accepted funding for Catholic schools and all of our declining charitable institutions, did not appreciate the full significance of their Faustian bargain. The paperwork of the secular bureaucracies now reaches through every rectory. The state’s priorities displace our own, even within the Church. We serve the state’s very secular agenda, hop and bow to fulfil its conditions, haplessly beg for another state dime, while our churches empty.
One prays for those errants, but the truth is most are beyond earthly retrieval. Their children are not even nominal Catholics; the children of their children do not even get born.
Justin Trudeau is an illustration. We are shown a stable family man, with a charming wife and children. But what is his religion? “Catholic,” he is happy to say, to the several million lapsed who still say “Catholic” themselves, as if it were a quaint ethnicity. In Canada, that’s still good for a few million votes.
Compare him with his famous father: Pierre Trudeau, author of a 1982 Charter of Rights that armed our courts with effective legislative powers now invariably turned against us. He was educated by Jesuits. He could read Latin. He was an apostate himself, in my opinion, but knew enough about the Church to offer her some respect. He had some nostalgic recollection of 20 centuries of Church history, and knew better than to troll a sleeping giant.
But his son has none of this.
We might wish to explain our position to him, but I don’t see how it can be done. How do you explain something complex yet intellectually coherent to a man like him? He does not have the equipment. You can’t teach catechism to a soap bubble. The most you can do is wait for it to pop.
So very well, we must now pay our own way, strictly. But by “pay”, I do not only mean with money: for the Cross will remind us what the fees are.
David Warren is a writer and journalist based in Toronto (davidwarrenonline.com)
This article first appeared in the March 2nd 2018 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here