Another day, another church vandalized. Welcome to Canada, the land formerly called glorious and free. It turns out not everyone in Canada is obsessed with hockey, maple syrup, and saying “sorry” needlessly. Arson, vandalism, and violence are now legitimate pastimes.
That churches are being torched in my home country is, of course, a horrific reaction by we-don’t-know-who to the finding of unmarked graves on the land of former Indigenous residential schools. Two things should be noted before proceeding:
First, residential schools are a tragic part of Canadian history. In 1880 the federal government enlisted various religions to help them set up these boarding schools for Indigenous youth. More than half of these schools were run by the Catholic Church. By the early 1900s these schools were in full swing, with the intent to “get rid of the Indian problem.” Children were forcibly taken from their parents, and most endured a life of frightful abuse. With tuberculosis and the Spanish flu rampant around this time, several thousand Indigenous children died at the schools, or were sent home to die (thus allowing for a lower death count at the schools, yet also spreading the disease to their families).
Second, however, is that the horror of residential schools is not some new discovery. When I hear Canadians exclaim how shocked they are that unmarked graves are being located, I cannot help but wonder: “Where have you been the past decade or two?” In 2008 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to aid the healing process from this dark chapter in Canadian history. Much work has been done by all sides. Even Pope Benedict XVI, in 2009, apologized for the Catholic Church’s “deplorable” role in these schools. Further, universities and schools have been teaching this history relentlessly. For instance, as a grade five teacher I must teach about the residential schools as part of the curriculum. To be perfectly honest, I have had students roll their eyes when I bring up the schools, not because the students are uncaring, but rather because, by the age of ten, they have already been lectured importunately on what happened. I say this not to condemn any students, but only to illustrate how much work has been done in teaching about these schools. It must be repeated: The horror of residential schools is not a new discovery.
This is the “enlightened” year of 2021, however. Suddenly, as if by some inexplicable media influence (with remarkable similarities to America’s summer of 2020 race frenzy), ignorant Canadians are being egged into a new racial and religious divide which the country, and Church, may not escape intact. This is causing both renewed traumatic memories for Indigenous people, and shameful and unacceptable assaults on Canadian Catholic churches. It is complex, and I perhaps have spoken with too much simplicity (especially when money gets involved). However, what is straightforward is that Canada is a hot mess right now. More specifically, the Catholic Church in Canada is on the brink of burning to the ground, and I do not speak only of physical church buildings.
Woe Canada! Gone are the days of Catholic Quebec, where real saints inspired and spread the faith, and built lasting monuments to the glory of God. Gone are the days of our Jesuit martyrs who sacrificially loved the Indigenous people, and cared for their eternal salvation. Gone are the days when a small prairie farming village, such as the one my parents hailed from, could produce dozens of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Canada once had the faith, it burned bright, but now it endures as a different kind of fire. It is a dumpster fire.
Yes, I do believe the abuses of residential schools have stonewalled grace away from the Church in Canada. But this is not all. Think of the province of Quebec. Large Catholic families were once the norm. Church buildings arose as shining beacons of a living faith. Now, the average birth rate for women in Montreal is less than 1.5 children. Churches are frequently sold in real estate ventures. Crucifixes are forbidden in public settings. You even have to pay money to walk into the famous Notre Dame Basilica. The Catholic Church burns in Quebec.
Where were the Canadian bishops when all of this began? They were the ones gathering kindling and striking the flint. Canada is famous for The Winnipeg Statement. In 1968, immediately following Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae which taught against contraception, the Canadian bishops responded by stating that, in regards to birth control, Catholics were free to simply follow their conscience. “[W]hoever chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience” (n. 26). In other words: Contracept! The Church will accompany you! Kindling ignited. Not only did this statement immediately dam up the flow of grace from God to most Canadian Catholics, but to this day I still hear Canadian Catholics explain how they are “permitted” to use artificial contraception if needed. The Winnipeg Statement has never been rescinded.
As if by clock work, the following year, 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau legalized abortion in certain circumstances. By 1988 abortion was given free rein in the country. Now an unborn child can be killed at any time while in his mother’s womb, with my tax dollars paying for this atrocity. I currently help fund over 100,000 such murders a year. But I challenge you to hear the outcry from most bishops and priests in Canada. I have attended more than a few pro-life rallies at local Catholic churches, where the parish priest has not even bothered to attend. It is disheartening. Rather, abortion is treated without a sense of urgency or seriousness.
It gets worse. It can be demonstrated that the Canadian bishops help fund abortion enterprises. The Canadian bishops have long utilized the “Catholic” charity Development & Peace (D&P). D&P has been caught funding pro-abortion activities in various countries. At first the Canadian bishops attacked Lifesitenews for breaking the story. Eventually, when this funding became blatantly obvious, the bishops stopped funding D&P for a short time (though in un-Canadian fashion they never apologized to Lifesitenews). However, as a dog returns to its vomit, so too the bishops have returned to D&P. Church collections still occur to support this organization. My own diocese stated it would collect money for D&P and then tell them not to spend it on funding abortion initiatives. How firm.
While Development and Peace receives the support of the Canadian bishops, it also receives funding from the Justin Trudeau-led Canadian government – over $18 million per year, in fact. Alas, it is inevitable to mention Justin Trudeau, Canada’s “Catholic” Prime Minister who never met a Marxist/feminist idea he did not cherish. Trudeau readily promotes and funds abortions worldwide, as well as any woke ideology that is anti-Catholic. However, Justin Trudeau is still free to receive Holy Communion in Canada. I betray some personal bitterness to this, seeing as my own bishop (just retired) forbade Communion to me recently – all because I receive on the tongue. I guess I did not have $18 million to bribe the bishops. But Trudeau does, and so not a word of ecclesial admonishment goes his way. In a sense, Justin Trudeau symbolizes the modern state of the Church in Canada. I cannot think of a ghastlier statement than that.
I have not even brought up the failed Canadian Born of the Spirit catechism, the pandemic of insipid liturgies, sexual abuse scandals, ex-bishop Lahey, nor the dreadful shuttering of churches during COVID lockdowns (while bishops were cowering, and even discouraging baptisms, protestant pastors in Canada were being arrested for shepherding their flock). My head spins thinking of it all. Christ promised His Church would endure, but I do not recall Him specifically stating the Church in Canada would.
This does not appear to be the same Church in Canada which inspired Sts. André, Jean de Brebeuf, Francois de Laval, Kateri Tekakwitha, and many others. It is some hollow shell of what it once was, and it is burning. So when, not if, you hear of another Catholic church building burning in my native country, please spare a prayer or two for us. These are not merely flames lit by a new woke mob. This blaze was burning long before 2021.
Woe Canada! Return to God, if there still is time.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of four. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.