Bishops of Canada Reflect on Responsible Ministry and Healing the Faith Community, and Discuss Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Thursday, September 27 2012

(CCCB – Ottawa)… On the third and fourth days of the Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Bishops of the country reflected on responsible ministry and the healing the faith community, as well as on freedom of conscience and religion.

Both days were also consecrated to the annual meetings of the CCCB French and the English Sectors. On 26 September, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of Canada met together.The next day, the celebration of the Eucharist was presided by Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M., Eparchial Archbishop of Winnipeg and Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada. All the Bishops of the country concelebrated with the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in a celebration of the Divine Liturgy, with the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops as the principal celebrants. Later in the day, the Plenary Assembly re-elected Msgr. Patrick Powers, P.H., as CCCB General Secretary for a second three-year term.

Father James Flavin, director of clinical operations of the Saint John Vianney Center in Pennsylvania, as well as Sister Miriam D. Ukeritis, C.S.J., and Dr. Sam Mikail, both from the Southdown Institute in Ontario, led the 26 September reflection on responsible ministry. This session focused on sexual abuse and the healing of the faith community. The first part was on the support Bishops can give to the life and ministry of priests. The second part was on the prevention of sexual abuse and how to identify conditions of risk. Since the CCCB published its document From Pain to Hope in 1992, the Bishops of Canada have continued to reflect and act on these concerns. Currently, their two principal approaches are the healing of victims and the faith community, and the reviewing of policies and protocols.

Freedom of Conscience and Religion

The Episcopal Commission for Doctrine on 27 September assisted the Bishops in a reflection on freedom of conscience and religion, specifically from the Canadian perspective. In May 2012, the CCCB Permanent Council had published a Pastoral Letter entitled Freedom of Conscience and Religion. Mr. Iain Benson, a lawyer specializing in constitutional law, assisted this reflection.

Mr. Benson outlined the current state of freedom of religion and conscience in view of Canadian jurisprudence, providing numerous examples from recent case law. He suggested that commonly used language, such as “religion and the secular”, can be detrimental to the well-being of religion in society. Such language, he said, suggests religious believers are somehow different from everyone else. On the contrary, Mr. Benson stated, everyone believes something, whether they are atheist, agnostic, or a religious believer. He also proposed a deeper exploration of the concept of pluralism. The “public square”, he said, is not a place to be cleansed of religion, but simply the place where people, whatever their beliefs, interact in public. If our society genuinely upheld the right of all to hold to and act upon their own beliefs, whether religious or not, Mr. Benson said, there would not have been serious attacks on religious believers in recent decades. He pointed out that the recent CCCB Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion.has made a valuable contribution in this regard.

Daily Briefings on the 2012 Plenary Assembly

This year, a daily briefing on the Plenary is broadcast on Internet with the collaboration of Salt + Light TV. At the end of each day, from Monday to Thursday, CCCB Vice President Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau has reviewed the day’s major topics and events.  Tomorrow, the daily briefing will feature CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton.

On the evening of 26 September, the Bishops had the opportunity to view the “rough cut” of a film by Salt + Light TV on Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The premiere of the film will be in Rome during October, as part of the celebrations surrounding her canonization.