Bishops of Canada Reflect on Continuing Challenges to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, in Light of the Canadian Constitutional Approach to Religious Pluralism

Thursday, September 26 2013

(CCCB – Ottawa)… On the fourth day of the Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Bishops reflected on the continuing challenges to freedom of conscience and religion. The day also included the annual meeting of the CCCB French Sector, while a number of Bishops of the English Sector participated in a media formation workshop with Salt + Light TV. The Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of Canada also met earlier in the day. Yesterday, the daily Eucharistic celebration was the Divine Liturgy according to the Byzantine tradition, presided by Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M., Eparchial Archbishop of Winnipeg and Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada.

During their meeting, the Bishops of the French Sector welcomed Father Henri Delhougne, O.S.B., a monk from Clervaux Abbey in Luxembourg, who coordinated the international translation work for a new French-language translation of the Bible to be used in the liturgy. . Work on the new translation took about 15 years. The Bible liturgique has now been formerly approved by the Bishops of all French-speaking countries, including Canada, and received the recognitio of the Holy See. This new official translation will be launched this coming November, with a Canadian soft-cover edition to be published by the CCCB.

Freedom of Conscience and Religion

The Permanent Council had invited the Episcopal Commission for Doctrine and Edmonton lawyer Mr. Kevin P. Feehan, QC, to lead a session on the continuing challenges in Canada to freedom of conscience and religion. This reflection by the Plenary Assembly was in view of the Loyola College case which is before the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as in light of other concerns across the country. Mr. Feehan, partner in the law firm Dentons Canada, looked at the question from the perspective of the Canadian constitutional approach to religious pluralism in the public square.  In his presentation, he made three principal points: First,  the Canadian Constitution is different from the American Constitution, and Canadians, especially the courts, , must not forget  this distinction. Secondly, the Canadian constitutional model is based on religious pluralism, and not on “normative pluralism” which tends to a strict separation between Church and State. Thirdly,  the Canadian Constitution emphasizes collective rights, while the American Constitution  emphasizes individual rights.

Following Mr. Feehan’s presentation, the Most Reverend Pierre-André Fournier, Archbishop of Rimouski and President of the Assembly of Québec Catholic Bishops, outlined the approach taken by the Bishops of Quebec in their recent statement on Bill 52 and the proposal by the Government of Quebec for a Charter of Values. Bill 52 envisages the use of euthanasia in hospitals and nursing homes, which the Bill refers to as “doctor-assisted dying”.

Daily Briefings on the 2013 Plenary Assembly

For a second year,daily briefings on the Plenary were broadcast in English and French on Internet with the collaboration of Salt + Light TV. At the end of each day,  Monday to Thursday, the CCCB Vice President the Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, and CCCB Co-Treasurer the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Hamilton,  reviewed the day’s major topics and events. Tomorrow, the daily briefing will feature the outgoing CCCB President, the Most Reverend Richard Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton, and the newly elected President, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher.