THE HIDDEN FAILURE OF OUR CHURCHES
Our Christian churches look healthy. But within, church leaders themselves fear the churches are unfit: too lazy, too social, too weak. Ralph Allen reports on where they've gone wrong and what they can still do about it
WHEN THIS YEAR'S CENSUS, the first since 1951, is made public it will contain the statement that at least nine Canadians in every ten are adherents of a Christian church or have been committed to one by their parents or guardians. Together these sixteen million declared Christians make up Canada's largest moral force by far. Whether they are also the strongest is a different and more important question. In the answers and in other answers to be sought in the rest of the world of professing Christians may lie the fate of all mankind. Against such other gigantic forces as communism, materialism and thinly sheathed militarism, the Christian church is widely held to be the most hopeful protector of the human race, physically as well as spiritually.
How powerful an influence does the church ready have? How much does it in fact affect not only the world's stated beliefs hut its actions? How well is it heeded and obeyed between Sundays'? Does it truly cut much ice beyond earshot of the pulpit?
At first glance the signs—at least those close to home—are reassuring. The massive blows that various forms of rebellion, reaction and nationalism have dealt the Catholic and Protestant churches in Asia. Africa, Europe and Latin America have scarcely been felt in North America. Statistically the Christian denominations and sects in Canada and the United States are in good health. Their growth in membership and attendance is. in nearly all cases, either keeping up with or surpassing the growth in population.
Put almost without exception the leaders of the Christian churches are the first to admit that the statistics are misleading. Their control over the conscience and behavior of Western man is seriously shaken and perhaps in imminent danger of being lost, and nowhere is this realized so agonizingly as in the churches themselves. In the heart til Quebec, which by all known standards of arithmetic is the most thoroughly Christian society outside the Vatican, an eminent Roman Catholic priest told me sadly a month orso ago: "If the province were isolated from Anglo-Saxon Canada, if it were truly a Roman Catholic island like Cuba or Spain or Mexico, it would already be on the brink
How the churches' toughest critics talk: overleaf Special survey of churchgoing in one town: page 15
e‘1n some universities, the Christian group is hardly visible. Instead, there is a hidden spiritual hunger”
ol the same kind of revolution these other Catholic countries have had. On the surface this revolt would be against the political order but in fact it would be against the religious order. And it would not necessarily be a mere polite intellectual revolt. There might be bloodshed. Thousands of Catholics have been allowed to forget that the Church’s real concern is for human souls and human welfare, and see it chiefly as an officious nag telling them perpetually when they can take a drink, when they can sleep with their wives, where they should spend their money, what they should teach their children.”
As many other prominent representatives of other denominations have testified, this sort of misgiving about the churches’ real standing with their people is far from rare. And it is not limited to mavericks and malcontents. The Very Rev. Angus James MacQueen. past moderator of the United Church. Canada’s largest Protestant group, said recently:
“On the whole the church is not doing a very creditable job. . . . In many areas of her life she is unfit for the tasks of the hour. She is too comfortable and too well adjusted to the status quo. and too ready to equate it with the Kingdom of God on earth. She is too preoccupied with her own denominational projects and ambitions, and even with her own congregational budgets and buildings. She is too divided in her own structure to launch much of an assault against evil, or to preach unity and reconciliation to the world. And she is too pietistic and irrelevant in the face of the real stuff of life and great issues of our day—the feeble guardian of personal decency and the fount of tranquility and optimism.”
A distinguished Presbyterian professor. Dr. Joseph C. McLeiland of Montreal, asserts that “most church work is a denial of Christian service.” Dr. Emlvn Davies of Toronto, one of the country's most respected Baptists, contends that the church is the only thing in society "against which the gates of Hell will not prevail and yet the church doesn't inspire this kind ol confidence. When 1 think of how inadequate the Christian church in history has been. I think it's a miracle, a miracle, we're even here at all." East fall the executive secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Canada, the Rev. Roy G. DeMarsh. shook the biennial meeting of the Canadian Council of Churches with the observation that "in some universities, the Christian group on the campus is hardly visible any longer. . . . There is a sort of hidden spiritual hunger (among the students). They know that there is more to life than the secular realm and the business of getting a college degree, getting the best possible job and getting a good home with a two-car garage and a beautiful wife or husband. I hey know there is more to life than this, but they are only mildly interested and there are many distractions.”
In the lace ot such hard conclusions as these all the churches are embarked on new endeavors to correct not only the shortcomings of their errant or uncertain flocks, but also their own shortcomings as shepherds. All of them face problems that are neither of their own devising nor the devising of their congregations. One of the greatest is the shift of population since the war; the rush from the rural areas to the cities and the rush from the cities to the suburbs has made it impossible, in many places, for the churches to keep track of their people or look after their needs. It is impossible to examine the Christian churches as though they were one entity, for whatever else they are. they are not that. In this informal survey, the Catholic Church is examined first, for it does have a uniformity of doctrine and a size unapproached, in Canada, by any other. The latter part of the article will touch on sonic of the current problems of the major Protestant denominations and how some of them are being dealt with.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH has launched the most massive program of statistical research and self-criticism in its Canadian history. Phis centres on a series of projects called Great Missions, a combination of fact-finding survey and mass revival. Millions of Catholics have been or soon will be polled by thousands of volunteer door-knockers working under sociologists ot the University of Montreal and Laval University and using the recognized techniques of motivation research. Their replies are put through International Business Machines computers. The bishops to whom the full results are passed on use them to correct weaknesses in their parish priests, to make their liturgical practices as attractive as possible within the prescribed rules, to liven up their sermons and generally to bring the clergy closer to the laity. From the first pilot studies to the last stages of the pastoral follow-up. a Great Mission can take up to ten years.
Thus far Missions have been partly completed in the big French-speaking dioceses of Montreal and St. Jérôme. Others have been begun in Quebec City and the south St. Lawrence industrial area of St. Jean, and still others are planned for at least two other regions. Similar programs, called Family Life Surveys, have been carried out in the English-speaking dioceses of Sault Ste. Marie. Halifax. Kamloops and Saskatoon.
The detailed findings are closely guarded, even from the majority of priests; they touch on highly personal matters and were never intended for general circulation. But Catholic spokesmen agree that many of them underline the church's greatest weakness and perhaps the most urgent single task ahead of it. A serious rift has been growing between the clergy and the laity, and the church has been bending much of its energy and management skill toward correcting it.
Traditionally the Church of Rome demands higher and more unquestioning obedience of its followers than does almost any other. Aidan Gasquet. the English cardinal and church historian, once pointed to one of the hazards in this relationship. “What is the position of the layman in the Church?” a priest was asked. “To kneel before the altar and to sit beneath the pulpit.” the priest replied. The cardinal’s wry comment was that the layman is sometimes granted a third privilege: to put his hand in his pocket.
Nowhere do Catholics find it easier to understand this sort of pleasantry than in Quebec. Alter 1759. conquered by England and deserted by France, the essentially peasant society of French Canada found itself almost wholly dependent on the Church for leadership. In most communities only the notary, the doctor and the priest could read and write and it was to the priest, with his special sense of responsibility, that the job of helping the people run their worldly as well as their religious affairs fell most frequently, whether the priest wanted the job or not. It would be strange if. in two hundred years, many of the priests had not become overbearing and many of the laymen resentful.
Partly because of this. Catholic Canada and especially the French part of it is fighting off (or some say succumbing to) an attack of split personality. On the one hand is the average Catholic’s unshaken faith in the things his church has told him about the spiritual universe. On the other hand is the growing feeling that the Church has been telling him more things than it has a right to tell him about the temporal universe.
I came upon one example of this almost too pat to be believed. It w'as in Quebec, the loveliest and oldest and strongest of all Canadian cities. Christmas was a few days away. The first good snow of the winter had fallen and the square before the city hall gleamed in the dusk like a piece of softly lighted tapestry. Across from the staunch Hôtel de Ville itself rose the steeple of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and. a little beyond, the walls of Laval University. In between were an illuminated crèche, a skyscraper-sized Christmas tree dancing with lights ot ils own. and the tall dark statue of old Cardinal Taschereau. At the toot of the square the Empire Theatre was playing a double bill: Brides ot Dracula and The Leech Woman. In its approved and widely published guide to current pictures the Church had warned all but adults against the first picture and all but "particularly knowing” adults against the second. Nevertheless the ”2 Excitants Films d Horreur” — to quote the Empire Theatre's advertisements-—-were doing good business and fully half the people going in were teenagers.
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The churches’ toughest critics are their own leaders. Here are a few of their most stinging accusations — from sloth to bigotry
F ALL THE CHARGES MADE against the Christian Church, in good times and bad, from within and without, there are two that seldom abate: the charges of smugness and self-righteousness.
Today, whatever their other strengths or weaknesses may be. the churches do not lack for self-criticism. Much of it is vigorous, almost inflammatory, and some of it departs strikingly from the traditional patterns of self-criticism in the churches. It is not exclusively the product of ginger groups, mavericks or Young Turks; a good deal comes from officials of great seniority and orthodoxy. Nor is its chief target lazy or disobedient congregations: in many cases the target is not the erring parishioner but the erring clergy or the Church itself as an institution.
Here is a sampling of recent utterances by clergymen and Christian scholars of many faiths.
Q “It is true that religion has often acted as an opiate or soporific. And the history of the Church is blackened with examples of cowardice, conservatism, worldliness, and pietistic aloofness. Popular religion is very likely to be morally flabby, socially irrelevant. and politically subservient. This is one reason why many people, sensitive to the struggles and deprivations of the underdog, have abandoned the Church as a supine supporter of the status quo." — I he Very Rev. Angus James MacQueen. past moderator, the United Church of Canada.
9 “There is . . . no place in American society where a person with moral, social or racial blemish is more penalized as an intruder than in the church—more than in schools, in industry, or government. In the most crucial issues of life, friendship and love, marriage and home, death and burial, the Christian obeys submissively the dictates of American culture and public opinion rather than the claims of the Christian gospel."—Dr. Jitsuo Morikawa, secretary. American Home Mission Societies, New York.
9 “We are exposed in the Christian ministry to ail the temptations the flesh is heir to. ... In all of (the churches) ambitious men reflect sometimes upon the necessity of cultivating the acquaintance of the right people, pulling the right strings, and playing their cards properly to get ahead in the church. This goes on even in churches which assert the parity of ministers, yet also assert in practice that some are a little more equal than others. . . . The common ministerial faults which are pilloried so often in the portraits of ministers in fiction, and which appear so often in real life— egotism, dogmatism, intolerance, and thinly veneered selfishness—will flourish anywhere if they are not kept in check by spiritual disciplines."—Dr. Neil Gregor Smith. Knox College, Toronto.
9 “Our churches are not producing enough ministers for their needs, and they are not giving a very large proportion of their income to missions, and there are areas of our life and society upon which they seem to have little influence."—Dr. W. J. Gallagher, general secretary, Canadian Council of Churches.
9 "May I point out the pitfalls into which sometimes the home, the school, the Church collectively or individually may have fallen. It is that in our desire to pass on the faith which we ourselves hold so dearly, to give of the vision which we ourselves have formed, we have imagined that it was sufficient to tell the children. We have sometimes been satisfied with the externals, with performance rather than virtue: with verbosity rather than vitality, with recitation rather than reaction. In the very zeal of the action of the home, the school and the Church on the young we have a terrible temptation to over-protect, to over-teach, to over-coddle."—The Very Rev. G. F.mmett Carter, principal, St. Joseph's Teachers' College, Montreal.
9 “We Canadian Baptists have not held our own in this growing nation. We have not adjusted our program and methods to the new factors which have so greatly altered the way of life for so many of our people. We have made too little use of the resources now available to us through the wizardry of science. ... In short, while we have been doing many of the right things, we have too often been doing them in the wrong ways, and in too much of a routinized, dutiful, uninspired fashion."—Dr. T. B. McDormand. vice-president, Acadia University; past general secretary-treasurer, Baptist Federation of Canada.
9 “To find the Christian style of life for the twentieth century—this is the task today; not to find new forms of Church work, bigger and better groups, organizations, movements and programs. All these call men out of the world into the artificial and hothouse world of ‘Church.’ Now here is the crux of the matter: if the Church is understood as the training ground for action in the world, that is good; but if it is regarded as an end in itself, that is evil."—Dr. Joseph C. McLelland. professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, Presbyterian College, Montreal; associate professor, McGill.
9 "Americans more than ever see the churches of Jesus C hrist as competing social groups pulling and hauling, propagandizing and pressuring for their own organizational advantages."—Dr. Fugene Blake, executive head of the Presbyterian C hurch, U.S.A.
9 "I believe the United Church stands in a slippery place because it is becoming a clubby, chubby Church."—Dr. J. R. Mutchmor, secretary. Board of Evangelism and Social Service, United Church of Canada.
9 "The church, instead of being a goad, is by and large at peace with society. Throughout the world the church has tended to sanctify the regime. Jesus meant the church to be the yeast that leavened the whole loaf. But the vast majority of laymen and many of the clergy see the church as the sanctifier of the status quo.”—The Rt. Rev. James A. Pike, Episcopal Bishop of California.
9 “The traditional forms of instruction in our churches have not provided most Christian students coming into the university with a grasp of the faith sufficiently mature to serve as a basis for their intellectual life. Common reactions among them are: to abandon Christianity for some form of liberal or scientific humanism: to attempt to put Christ and faith in a watertight compartment far removed from all intellectual activities: to drift into a state of indifference where religion loses its significance; to live in a state of unresolved tension or despair." —Commission on the Church and University, Canadian Council of Churches.
9 “The church as money-raiser is no shining example to other forms of American life. Its most patent accommodation to secular norms, its most obvious conformity to ‘the world’ is that range of activities which makes of the church a store, a marketplace, a beggar with a tin cup approaching merchants and non-Christians for the institutional needs of churches. It is time someone blew the trumpet for a halt." —Editorial in The Christian Century.
9 “I'm very sure the church in God will survive. I’m not so sure of the church in history.”—Dr. Fmlyn Davies, Yorkminster Baptist Church, Toronto.
“You (jet our Catholicism . . . shrivelled, fearful, iynorant, reduced to a morality . . . still neç/ative''
No conception of French Canada is more false than the image of a monolithic church exacting unquestioning obedience from a meek people. Before its astonishing victory over Union Nationale in the last provincial election, the Quebec Liberal party conducted a secret poll to discover whether the priest or bishop was still the man whose advice or hints the voters followed most closely when they marked their ballots. The answer was a resounding no. In political matters the town's, village's or parish's successful businessmen carried far more weight than the clergy. I asked Dr. Philippe Garigue. dean of the faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Montreal, to give me his own current assessment of the Church's influence in temporal affairs. Garigue. a layman and a devoted Catholic, put it this way: "You must think of a spectrum. This one has five primary colors. At one end are political affairs and economic affairs, where the Church's influence is small. At the other end are religion and morals and family life, and there the Church's authority is still very strong. In the middle is education, where the layman and the clergy have about equal authority." Garigue has made a special, continuing study of rural Quebec since he came to Canada in the mid-1950s. "In the parishes I know best.” he says, “it ceased to be news long ago that the priest doesn't tell people how to vote. Even if he wanted to. which is not always the case, he wouldn't dare. The people would not only ignore the priest but they would also lose respect for his authority in the areas where it belongs."
A few months ago the 100.000-member Frcnch-Canadian labor alliance. the Confederation of National Syndicates, created a brief cause célèbre by dropping the word Catholic from its name. The Confederation has also eliminated a clause from its constitution committing itself to the social doctrines of the Catholic Church. “We are still sworn to follow C hristian principles.” Jean Marchand, secretary-general of the Syndicates, explains, "but we have taken the right to interpret those principles for ourselves. For years we had a rule that the chaplain of a member union or a member local could veto any union vote. I don't think the veto was ever used, but it was there. In discarding our formal, written allegiance to the Catholic C hurch. we are just recognizing that our field is labor and the Church’s field is religion.”
1 housands ot French-C anadian intellectuals, including a large percentage of the clergy, are still talking about an article that appeared in the December issue of the small but influential magazine Cité Libre. This was a vigorous defense ot the position ot the agnostic—not an earth-shaking article in itself but an astonishing one to get a hearing under such respected auspices. Two other new publications, one by the controversial Abbés Louis O'Neill and Gérard Dion of Laval and the other by a group of professors from Montreal. Quebec and Sherbrooke, criticize the clergy’s continuing if diminishing political activity, and its still powerful hold on the universities of French Canada.
A much greater publishing sensation in Quebec has been a little paperback book called Les Insolences du Urere Untel. T his interprets roughly as the Impertinences of Brother So-and-So. Brother So-and-So in real life is Brother Pierre-Jérôme, a 33-ycar-old teacher of philosophy and mathematics in a Catholic college at Alma. He began his literary career with a few relatively innocent letters to the editor of Le Devoir deploring such things as "jouai”—jouai being a common mispronunciation of the familiar word cheval and as excruciating to a Frcnch-Canadian purist as an English-Canadian purist finds the rendition of Toronto as Tranna.
From jouai. Brother Untel went on to stronger meat. Soon he was writing things like this: "At the time of St. Augustine, one of the faithful would get up before the meeting to discuss or challenge a statement of St. Augustine. Can you imagine that today—a laborer or a doctor getting up in the cathedral to argue with the bishop? That would suppose that the worker or the doctor in question feels himself interested viscerally in what the bishop says. And that supposes also that the constable hasn't time to intervene. And it supposes, finally, on the part of authority a respect for the individual to which we are not accustomed.”
In one of his more vigorous passages the country teacher offered the comment that "the essence of catholicity ...” is “to capitalize together all the Christian values.” "Let us face the facts.” he went on. "that |the Protestants I have known better than we how to conserve the sense of liberty which so well possessed St. Thomas Aquinas but which later became suspect for tactical and not dogmatic reasons. Historically our Catholicism is the Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation. Add the Protestant conquest. You get our Catholicism — shrivelled, fearful, ignorant. reduced to a morality, to a sexual morality, and still negative.”
When Frère Untel’s pointed musings were gathered together, the resulting book became one of the most spectacular best-sellers in Canadian publishing history. Almost overnight it went through I ()().()()() copies. The author's ecclesiastical superiors were confronted with the added embarrassment that he had neglected to submit his manuscript for the Church's required seals of permission, the Imprimatur and Nihil Qbstat. They accepted the explanation that Frère Untel and his publishers had been led into an honest misunderstanding and so far the bodacious brother's standing as a religious has not been impaired, at least officially.
T he Catholic Church in Canada can w'cll afford to accept such incidents with a mixture of grim patience and indulgence. A far more serious problem, and a slightly overlapping one, is its shortage of priests, a more acute danger perhaps than even the equivalent shortage of pastors in most of the Protestant denominations. In launching a huge recruiting drive last month in Montreal Cardinal Léger said the church required one priest for every 700 souls. Montreal is now furnishing no more than one priest tor every 3.000 souls. In 191 I. in a diocesan population of 600,000, the number of new priests ordained was 25. In I960, with the population at two million, there were only 27 ordinations. It has taken, on the yearly average. 12.000 families and six entire parishes to produce a single priest, a far cry from the ancient Catholic tradition that it is every family's ambition to give a son to the priesthood. And because of its sheer structural size and its concept of the wide range of its duties and rights, a scarcity of priests, nuns and monks means far more to the Catholic Church than a shortage of people to preach sermons, serve the mass, offer communion and hear confessions. It means a shortage of people to run its multimillion-dollar business affairs and physical plant, of teachers at its schools and universities, of nurses for its hospitals, of scholars as well as clerks and even corner-lot hockey coaches.
I hese signs of trouble, present and pending, have speeded up and lent an air of urgency to at least a dozen changes in the Catholic Church’s approach to its own members and to the world outside Catholicism. In matters of dogma its whole reason for being decrees that it cannot change very much or very quickly. But in the ways in which it proclaims its dogma, practises its liturgy, marshals its faithful and comes to terms with non-Catholics it can change quickly to meet new conditions and it has been doing so.
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People pay lip service to their churches but ignore them in life What a Maclean’s survey—first of its kind — found in Guelph, Ont.
HAT iM-.OPi i really think and do about their religion is essentially a secret between each individual and his God. No poll will ever unravel it.
Nevertheless what people say about their religion is at least one step to understanding what they feel about it. As a part of this study of the Christian churches, Maclean's commissioned the research firm of Blankenship. Gruneau to go into one Canadian city and ask a cross-section of its people a few basic questions about their church attendance, their attitude to the church and how closely they are following its teaching in their everyday lives. The city selected was Guelph, a Western Ontario community of 40.000.
Guelph is old enough to have a strong feeling for its past, which began officially on St. George's Day, 1827, when the Scottish explorer. author and real-estate promoter John Galt delivered a ceremonial axe-stroke at a huge maple tree, took a slug of whisky, named the unborn settlement for the British royal family and drew some hopeful comparisons between himself and Romulus. And Guelph is young and vigorous enough to have felt the country’s postwar surge of growth and change without being smothered by it. It has thirty-five churches, most of which are filled at least once each Sunday morning. In their size and perspective they range from the towering, cathedral-like Catholic Church of Our Lady to an infinitely less imposing building on the other end of town where a little group of colored Episcopalians are struggling to keep out of debt and stay alive. Guelph has three Anglican churches, three Baptist churches, three Presbyterian churches and six United churches. There are two Reformed churches and a Mormon church. Few Canadian cities have a greater concentration and variety of houses of w'orship.
The accompanying survey points to two main conclusions about the churchgoers of Guelph.
Most of them believe in God and in their churches — or say they do — in much the same way as did their fathers'and the fathers of their fathers.
But in their everyday lives they are paying very little real attention to their churches ami taking very little guidance from them. Of the
Protestants interviewed by the Blankenship, Gruneau researchers, seventy percent said they went to church at least once a month but only one in five could remember having done anything within the last year as a direct result of church influence. Only about ten percent listen to what the church tells them about drinking and less than three percent to what it tells them about sex. A third said the church's precepts helped them decide on public causes or govern their own business or professional lives.
The responses from Catholics differed in detail, but the main conclusion was the same. Ninety percent said they went to mass every week but only eleven percent could remember having done anything w ithin the last year (aside from performing their strictly religious duties) as a direct result of church influence. Only one in five admitted to having followed the Church's instructions on birth control. Three in a hundred said they had followed it on alcohol, and one in five on public causes or in their business or professional lives.
At first these findings seemed difficult to believe. As a check against them 1 spent several days going back over the trail of the door-knockers. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that the people represented in the poll knew exactly what they were saying, and meant exactly what they said. Many, perhaps most, of them like their churches but don't take them very seriously. As in many other parts of Canada, the church is often regarded as a dear but troublesome old aunt w'ho mustn't be offended because, in the first place, she doesn't deserve it and in the second place she might just happen to have a secret bank account. One pleasant, quiet - spoken young United Church grandmother expressed a view' that is far more common than even the most pessimistic parson or priest ever dreams. "The church has always meant a lot to me." she said, "and so 1 go whenever nothing else gets in the way. I like sitting there. 1 like the singing and the feeling of closeness and the whole atmosphere: it reminds me of when 1 w'as a little girl. Of course, 1 never listen to the sermons, 1 just close my ears to them. They’re almost always silly and dull, and if I don’t know howto live a decent life at my age no sermon is going to teach me.”
Results expressed in percentages; columns will not always total 100.
TROTESCATHO1 ATTEND CHURCH t AN I S EICS At least once a week .... 36 91 At least once a month . . . 33 6 Once or tw ice a year .... 24 1.7 Almost never........... 7.5 1.5 On the whole the church 33 10 MV BASIC ATTITUDE TOWARD The usefulness of the church 1.3 1.4 THE CHURCH IS BEST EXPRESSED AS FOLLOWS : The church is appointed by 47 84 God. It is the home and refuge of all mankind. Although 1 do not believe 17 1.5 the church is directly appointed by God. I consider it the one sure foundation of civilized life. Every member of society should be educated in and support it. stands for the best in human life, in spite of the shortcomings found in all human institutions. is doubtful. It may do as much harm as good. CAN VOl! THINK OF ANYTHING YOU DID IN THE PAST YEAR AS A DIRECT RESULT OF CHURCH INFLUENCE? (Do not count such basically "church" activities as attending church, giving time or money to the church, or private worship. ) Yes ................... 19 No .................... 81 89 HAS YOUR BEHAVIOR BEEN SPECIFICALLY AFFECTED IN ANY OF THE FOLLOWING MATTERS AS A RESULT OF CHURCH ATTENDANCE? ( Percentage who said yes. ) Use of alcohol .......... 1 L4 Birth control............ 5 Sunday observance....... 25 17 Sexual behavior........ 2.5 1 I Political decisions........ 6.6 3 Public causes or organiza12.5 14 tions Business or professional con20 duct.
Continued from page 14
The Great Missions in French Canada and the similar studies and revivals in Fnglish Canada are only one example. By papal decree Catholics since 1957 have been absolved from the requirement to fast overnight before taking communion, this has meant a sizeable increase in attendance at mid-day, late-afternoon and evening masses, particularly in the big cities. More masses are being delivered not in the original Latin but in the vernacular—French, English, Italian, Polish or the primary mother tongue of the par-
ish. There are far more dialogue masses, responsive readings between the priest and the congregation, to give the people a feeling of participation. The churches arc being urged to make the confessional more truly secret: in a small congregation a suspected sinner who is seen entering the confessional is admitting his sin not privately to God but publicly to his neighbors. One of the recommendations arising out of the Montreal Great Mission was that confessional boxes be at the back of the churches, near the doors, that the soundproofing be improved and that greater care be taken to offer a choice of priests to hear the confession.
And the priests are being adjured and commanded as never before to liven up their sermons and make them less condescending and more meaningful. The provocative Frère Untel is not alone in demanding: “Of the three well-known lusts, the one that torments men longest is the third, that no one ever speaks of. that no one ever denounces from the pulpit: the spirit of domination. Do you know of any preachers who denounce the snares or traps of authority?”
A young apostate I met in Quebec put his own dissatisfaction with the quality of the sermons in this brief explosion: "Every year the same subjects, the same words. The sermon on humility, the sermon on pride. I finally quit the church because it just wasn’t talking to me; it became as much a matter of boredom as of disbelief. I am not an atheist. I am not an agnostic. 1 am not a Catholic. 1 don't know' what 1 am except that 1 have lost interest. My girl doesn't go to church either and her brother is a priest. The other night 1 was at her house and her brother was there. 1 was trying to tell him politely why I had left the church. Immediately he said: 'Your trouble is—’ 1 could hardly help shouting: It is not my trouble, it is your trouble!’ But he doesn’t know it is his trouble. Ffe will still be preaching his canned sermons on humility and pride twenty years from now."
Claude Ryan, secretary of the 700,000member Action Catholique Canadienne and probably Canada's most influential Christian layman, puts this sort of con-
fiict much more temperately but is quick to agree it can't be overlooked. "A significant part of the newdy intellectual class (in French Canada) has just quit on religion." he told me. Father Gérard Lalonde, who directed the Great Mission in Montreal, is almost as specific: "The mission showed us a lot of weaknesses in our approach to the laity." he said. "Just ten years ago we could tell them
what to do and expect few arguments or doubts. Now we have learned we must be more careful to tell the faithful the whys as well as the whats. We must have more positive preaching. Many of the faithful don’t integrate their religious life into life as a whole. They have a double conscience. one for the church and one when they are out of the environment of the church. They are still obedient, but not in the same way: they want to be shown, and the Great Mission and other evidence around us have emphasized that we priests must do a better job of showing."
Archbishop Maurice Roy of Quebec has launched a unique training program at l.aval University. After their ordination the young priests in his diocese are required to serve what amounts to a period of internship: they have their decrees but arc not yet ready to enter fully into practice. They receive postings as parish assistants but for two days a week for the first year they come back to Laval to live together under the supervision of the university’s new Pastoral Institute. They talk over their experiences and unforeseen difficulties and receive further instruction in the practical aspects of their vocation.
How Eagle Pass got its name
An engineer named Walter Moberly, commissioned in 1 K65 to lind a wagon route through the Rockies, searched for days along the Gold range of the Monashee mountains without luck. One morning, when he was about to give up. he spied an eagle flying up a narrow valley. Following the bird, he discovered the only pass within miles that penetrates the mountain wall. He named it Eagle Pass.
It is not only in the training of priests that the Catholic Church’s attitude to education is changing. It is far less defensive and sensitive than it used to be about apparent contradictions between its doctrine and secular science and philosophy. In a recent issue of the Basilian Teacher — which speaks for the religious order most deeply concerned with education — the Very Rev. John M. Kelly, president of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, made a strong plea for “fresh twentieth-century approaches” to the teaching of theology. “The odious presupposition of the undergraduate that catechism and a course in apologetics is an adequate theological knowledge.” he wrote, “is the most universally held false proposition in our schools.”
“In its approach to the universities.” Lather Frank Stone, director of the Catholic Information Centre in Toronto, says with satisfaction, “the Church is getting away from the ghetto mentality. It is encouraging more Catholic participation in the state universities, not as a few teachers and students shut off in a corner but as full members of the community.” As Father Stone points out. the Catholic universities, Assumption and Laurentian. have invited Protestant colleges into membership. Many Catholics are modifying their attitude toward education in the public schools as well. At least two English-speaking bishops have even suggested the Church might do well to get out from under the burden of maintaining all its own schools, leave primary teaching to the state and concentrate on improving its high schools.
Leaving aside the imponderables of preaching and teaching, there is one measurable standard for all Catholics: Do they go to mass? To do so at least every Sunday and Holy Day, unless there is a compelling excuse not to, is an inflexible duty. Most of the scores of clergymen and laymen I interviewed agree that only about seventy percent of Canada’s professing Catholics attend mass with anything like this regularity and a fairly substantial percentage never attend at all. To try to find a more precise rule of thumb the Church has been conducting its own census as a check against the forthcoming official government census.
L’Abbé Norbert Lacoste of the Department of Sociology at the University of Montreal was literally knee-deep in the first returns when I saw him earlier in the winter. “We won't know for a long time what’s in them.” he said, waving toward a stack of cardboard boxes on his office floor. Each box contained several hundred questionnaires filled out by people who went to mass in one of ten selected Montreal parishes on the last Sunday of November 1960.
“When we have all the returns,” he explained, “and there ought to be about fifty thousand, we'll run them through the IBM machine here at the university. We didn’t ask the people to fill in their names; the things we wanted were age. occupation, ethnic origin, place of birth and educational level and economic level. The data, when sorted out. will give the Church a kind of yardstick it’s always lacked in trying to sort out the meaning of previous government censuses. The government census will tell us how many people in Montreal say they're Catholics. Our census will tell us how many of them went to mass on a given Sunday. It will tell us whether they were rich or poor; industrial workers or white-collar workers; old Canadians or New Canadians; young or old; well educated or poorly educated. It will cast at least some fresh light on where the Church is strongest and where it’s weakest.”
The English dioceses of Sault Ste. Marie. Kamloops, Halifax and Saskatoon have been gathering equally up-to-date information through their Christian Family Surveys. Among the first down-toearth uses for which it is intended, to quote the directive of Bishop Alexander Carter of Sault Ste. Marie, are low-cost co-operative housing, a good living wage for every family, more Credit Unions, and an expanded effort to “influence legislation in a way that takes into consideration the needs and rights of the family” and to “influence advertising media to consider Christian values in methods of promotion.”
No one speaks for the Catholic Church in Canada as a whole. The two cardinals, Paul-Emile Léger in Montreal and James McGuigan in Toronto, have no more authority outside their own territories than do the heads of the sixty-six other dioceses. But if the Catholic Church in Canada did have an official and unified line on any non-theological matter, it would undoubtedly be that it has a lot of catching up to do. Catching up with the postwar shifts of population (twenty languages were used in the Montreal Great Mission). Catching up with the changes of occupation (one Montreal priest is fully employed ministering to taxi drivers, and another spends all his time with firemen whose hours make it hard for them to get to mass or confession). Catching up. above all, with its past failures to give the Catholic layman a place of greater importance and respect in the affairs of the church as a whole. Father Georges-Henri Lévesque, the brilliant Dominican social scientist, is one of the many churchmen who refuse to regard the outlook with either total gloom or unbridled optimism. “In the relations between the Catholic and the members of the clergy in Quebec,” Lévesque predicts, “I’m afraid the next five years will be crucial.”
For the Protestants, there’s the conflict between revivalism and the “refined Bourgeois” churches
The Protestant churches face a different kind of challenge. On the surface it’s a more nebulous one but nearly all their scores of denominations, sects and cults recognize it as real. It is basically a conflict of goals—the tug between a highly concentrated religious gospel and what the fire-eating revivalist Billy Sunday used to call the “godless social service nonsense” of progressivism.
Virtually all the Protestant churches —particularly the largest ones, the United. Anglican. Baptist. Presbyterian and Lutheran—have been scrambling since the war to readjust to a scrambled population. Demographic studies show that twentyfive percent of Canada's young families change their address once a year. The rush to the suburbs has emptied dozens of downtown churches and festooned the brick-veneer perimeters of the cities with some of the fanciest and most disputed architecture since the early days of Frank Lloyd Wright. People are moving by the hundreds of thousands from congregation to congregation and often, if a matter of convenience is involved, from denomination to denomination. When a new Presbyterian church opened recently in the exploding Toronto suburb of Don Mills, its congregation actually turned out to have more members of the United Church than it had Presbyterians.
Almost without exception the new churches and their young suburban families have placed great emphasis and value on their auxiliary activities—Boy Scout,
Cub and Girl Guide groups, men’s clubs, women’s clubs, teenage clubs, sports and special classes that have no formal connection with the scriptures. The older congregations in the main are stepping up their extra-Biblical activities too, even though they are far from unanimous in the belief that it’s a good thing.
One of those who think it’s a bad thing is Dr. Joseph C. McLelland, a noted
teacher at Presbyterian College in Montreal. Heaping scorn on the "neatniks" of suburbia. McLelland warns them that "the Church on our continent is in grave danger because it is so successful.”
“The suburban style of life is a refined bourgeois style,” he wrote recently, “a hangover from our Protestant past but without the ‘Protestant principle’ of reforming adventure at its heart. Therefore
it is being sucked into the devouring maw of Religion; it is being fooled into thinking that more Church work means more Christianity.”
All the Protestant churches share an uneasy feeling that their basements and parish halls may be getting too big and their altars too small.
One of the many expressions of this view came a few months ago from Angus MacQueen before he ended his term as moderator of the United Church. "Worship is always the primary concern of the C hristian Church.” he said, “and must como before education, fellowship and all other services and humanitarian interests.
I he sense of Ciod is the only thing which can combat modern Ciodlessness.” T he Rev. 1 . H. Mason, stewardship counsellor of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, feels the church is becoming too "culturalized.” “It's too much like the
world outside,” he said. “Instead of the church turning the world upside down, the world is turning the church upside down.” The Rev. Arne Kristo, pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Port Credit, Ontario, had different words for the same idea; "The churches are neither hot nor cold. To be a Christian you can’t just fill out an application form. It's a lot of hard work.” Dr. Leonard Hatfield, executive secretary of the Anglican Council for Social Service, says: "The major interest in our Church is toward a return to the standards of faith."
Most Protestants agree that the fundamentalist denominations and sects are growing somewhat faster than the “liberal" ones. There arc no accurate figures for Canada and even when it does appear the official census will offer only the wildest sort of approximation. (The Anglican Church, which keeps more realistic records than most of the others, admits that of the more than two million adherents the last census gave it. there arc almost a million it has never seen or heard from,
in or out of church.) But for what it's worth, the official count of heads is expected to show nearly half Canada's population as Roman Catholic, around twenty-two percent as United and something like fifteen percent as Anglican, with the biggest percentage gains among such militant or straight-gospel groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostal Assemblies.
Whatever the state of the membership rolls, the shortage of clergymen will remain for the Protestants, as for the Catholics. a haunting and immediate. worry. In two other vital fields, labor and the universities, they all have another major cause for uneasiness. A few months ago the United Church Observer conducted a poll of its readers and discovered that only four percent were union men or the wives of union men. This strengthened Dr. James Mutchmor, the uncompromising moralist who is secretary of the church's Board of Evangelism, in his conclusion that while his church is "holding its .farmer and small shopkeeper, as well as its professional and successful and even rich business members ... it is losing labor." He added the warning: "It was with the loss of labor that the Protestant Church started to decline in Britain until today, fewer than ten percent of all the people there have any vital relation to the church."
The Anglicans' social-service secretary. Leonard Hatfield, admits that for many years his church had the reputation of being "a sort of overseas chaplain service” for displaced English gentlemen. I he reputation was never wholly deserved, he insists, but deserved or not. the Anglicans are trying to repair it. "A few of our priests have begun to study Italian; we httve no wish to convert Italians who are already good Catholics but some new Canadians are unchurched. We think we ought to be able to talk to them.”
One or two Anglican dioceses are quietly toying with the idea of opening storefront churches in some of the heavily industrialized areas where more impressive (anil nearly empty) buildings can no longer be supported. "T he traditional parish system should not be abandoned.” says Bishop I . S. Reed of Ottawa, "but it needs to be supplemented. We must not neglect our mission to men in industry. The Church Downtown still has a lot to offer shift workers, commuters, roomers and apartment dwellers anil it cannot be allowed to go to seed just because it no longer fits the old-fashioned parish pattern.” This conviction is held just as strongly by the Rev. Mariano Di Gangi, the colorful young minister of St. Enoch's Presbyterian in Hamilton. Di Gangi is particularly well qualified to discuss both the church and labor and the church and New Canadians. Ninety-five percent of his heads of families work on the assembly lines at Stelco. Westinghouse. International Harvester, Procter & Gamble or other Hamilton factories. Most of them are of Scottish blood. Di Gangi himself is an Italian-American from Brooklyn, but he has been trying staunchly to close the cultural gap by studying Gaelic. His many admirers claim the roll of his r's is without precedent and beyond compare.
“People are staying away because we lack convictions,” says one minister
Di Gangi believes the churches are making a great mistake in selling downtown land and, in effect, fleeing to the suburbs. “No matter how rundown the old residential areas may become,” he says, "the large old houses are converted into rooming houses and the roomers need a church.” And wherever the churches find their people, he insists, they must speak up to them. “People are staying away from churches because we lack denominational convictions. They’re staying away because we don’t make specific stands in our doctrine, because we aren't definite enough in our Christian witnesses.”
Whether the churches are firm enough on dogma, or too firm on it, is a timeless subject of debate in perhaps their most difficult single testing ground, the universities. The universities catch young men and women at a time when revolt and skepticism are natural to them. In many cases it faces them with their first real dose of science and non-religious philosophy, and an atmosphere in which nothing needs to be accepted unless it can be proved. Hundreds of Canadians go into the universities every year as professed and unquestioning Christians and come out four or five years later as agnostics, atheists or serious doubters.
I had an oddly moving interview with one of them not long ago. He is a graduate student at the University of Toronto who for several months, and through no desire of his own, had the bizarre experience of being president of the campus Student Christian Movement while at the same time being an avowed agnostic. He is still an agnostic. “It happens to a lot of us.” he reflected. “You grow up in a Christian family. Say your prayers. Go to Sunday school. Read the Sunday school paper. Go to Bible class. Go to church. You hear all the church has to say without discussion, without debate, without even the faintest suggestion that there is anything open to debate. Then you go to university, into a world where, first of all, not everyone accepts your religion and. second and most important, not everyone accepts the notion that religion must never be argued.
“Your beliefs are tackled, in the classroom or over a cup of coffee or a beer, by people who are prepared to argue and have had some experience in argument. You find that your church has asked you to accept certain propositions but has given you no help in defending them, except to close your eyes and clench your teeth. I think 1 could have weathered the humiliation all right, but after several years of this I found I’d lost more than my pride. I'd lost my faith.”
What about his career in the Student Christian Movement? “Well.” the young man said, “when I came to the final discovery that I was no longer a Christian, I was halfway through my term as president. Naturally I resigned. They had a meeting from which 1 was excused and
they asked me to finish out the year anyway. So I did. Actually 1 have a lot of respect for the Student Christian Movement. It’s doing the best it can, but it just can’t retrieve the mistakes of the churches.”
The inter-denominational SCM is one of several campus Christian groups supported by the churches. The other main ones are the Inter - Varsity Christian Fellowship (also inter-denominational, but more fundamentalist than the SCM), the Newman Club for Catholics, the Canterbury for Anglicans and the Westminster for Presbyterians. Most of them agree that the test they and their members meet in the universities is a tough and demanding one. Roy DeMarsh, national secretary of the SCM, views the central problem in almost exactly the same way as the former SCM leader quoted above. “Even the best trained of our church young people,” he says, “are not sufficiently informed and articulate to engage in open forum dialogue with the outspoken humanist who is convinced of the irrelevance of the church and the Biblical message.”
The SCM has been conducting a novel experiment in what it calls Agnostics’ Conferences — weekends at which professed Christians and unbelievers meet for informal talk. So far these have not alter-
ed DeMarsh's conviction that the Christians, intellectually at least, are at a disadvantage. “Many of them just shy away,” he says. H. W. Sutherland, general secretary of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, agrees that religion on the campus no longer enjoys the “vogue” it had for the first years after the war. But he refuses to lament the decline. “Wherever religion is fashionable it is essentially at a low ebb,” he says. “Perhaps the end result of whatever shakedown is happening in the universities is that we’ll end up with fewer bad Christians and more good ones.”
Amid so many shades of opinion and varieties of ferment, few safe generalizations can be applied to the churches in Canada as a whole. By almost every yardstick their real influence in the secular world is declining fast. Against this they are all trying harder perhaps than at any other time in this century to define their shortcomings, to measure them and take steps to measure up to them.
“It’s a common saying.” Dr. James Gallagher, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, points out, “that Christianity is never more than a generation away from extinction. So long as we keep reminding ourselves of that, we’ll be here for a long time.” ★