I think it’s because the popular definition of what a catholic is has changed, compared to the formal definition.The Quebecer thinker Fernand Dumont helps to make sense of that.When you look at how many believe in an unique god, it’s a similar number than the self-identified catholics.
However this is often not catholicism, it is deism.Every individual has a personal definition of what a god is, and it can be very abstract.Many people have this assumption that all religions lead to the exact same god, and so that each of them is a different avatar of the same universal concept.People have all sort of superstitions that are unrelated to christianity : telepathy, spiritism, reincarnation, astral voyage…Quebecers invented the notion of « catholique non-pratiquant » (non-practicing catholic).
They believe that you can be catholic while not going to the mass every sunday, while not observing the dogma of what you are supposed to believe, while not doing your confession in Easter minimally…Catholism contains rituals rooted in the events of life : baptism, marriage, sepulture.For some reason often people have not yet substituted a secular ritual to the religious one.For example people will marry in the church just because they are used to the magnificence of a catholic church and might even convert to catholicism and get a crash course into it while in reality it’s hypocrite : they will never practice the religion, it was just to be entitled to access to the catholic ritual.Sometimes granma is still actually catholic and pretending to be makes her shut up.The fundamental institution of Québec’s society for centuries was the parish.
It was the fundamental unit of social life.There are all sorts of parrochial institutions that still have some presence in Quebecer social life : the Chevaliers de Colomb, for example.Syncretism is not a problem anymore.Religious exclusivity has disappeared.
People now can use any source at all for beliefs and do the weirdest mixes, disregarding any dogma of anyone.Let me tell you of some of my experiences with « catholics » : I know a girl from the Magdalen islands, an archipelago relatively far from Continental Québec in which the population is ethnically Acadian.She pretends to be catholic and believes in an unique god and in the existence of Jesus at least as an historical character.However I observed that she was not observing even the most basic dogmas of the religion.
It didn’t seem to matter to her, she believed that you could be catholic just by believing in an unique god and a version of Jesus.I’m sure she could be heretic in so many ways that the church would not acknowledge her as catholic, but she doesn’t seem to know you don’t have the freedom to believe what you want in catholicism.I know a girl from the deep countryside in Québec.In her village, people still attend church… the parish is still the unit of social life… however the priest is not necessarly the leader of the parish anymore.
My friend does not have faith in religions but she likes to sing religious music, her mother plays the orgue, she likes the rituals, like a monarchist would like the bling-bling around the marriages of the royal family in the UK.This parish is actually quite rebellious and they often did ceremonies in the church in the past without the approval of the diocese.The parish is famous for being rebellious in the catholic hierarchy.
This is why the priest they liked and managed to domesticate was replaced by a priest that is more rigid in the catholic docrine and that was sent by the diocese to put them back in the right tracks… They hate the new priest.This is why I joke with my friend they might be the spark of a new « Quebecer Reform » and actually… I don’t know if it’s a joke or not… The religious practice for them can only survive because they define themselves the religion they want and disregard any authority, as a result, it can manage to remain up to date with the people without falling in irrelevance like catholicism.Yes the fanatic catholics of the past still exist : it’s peculiarly true of the Saint Pius X Brotherhood in Lévis, but they are really marginal and often regarded with contempt.My stepmother pretended to be catholic but she never went in a church apart from the baptisms and sepultures.When she married at the City Hall, she did pay a visit some time before to a fortune teller to be certain to do the right choice.
When she died she had the catholic ritual in a chapel and was buried in blessed land.She was also cremated, which used to be forbidden in catholicism.He’s dead of old age now but there used to be a quite popular priest that was gay and that even was a prostitute in his previous life, and it was not a problem, quite on the contrary.I have met a certain number of franco and anglo women, and one man, that believed in spiritism.One woman believed there was an hereditary gift in the family to communicate with the deads and she was convinced to be communicating with her dead brother.
As for the guy, he asked me seriously where one could find some haunted house.There are sometimes announcements in the journals of people that claim to be able to summon the deads.Some saints are still popular heroes, like Saint André of Montréal.You see a picture of him in many churches, the Saint-Joseph « oratory » is associated to him, etc.I know people that were not catholic that did the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage in France, just for fun.When you used to be a theocratic society like Québec, it’s pretty difficult to tell apart what is religious and what is secular.
Every time you take a look at something traditional in Québec, it’s necessarily catholic.The unions were catholic.The “état civil” was the parish records.
The “ministry of Education” was a council of priests.The nurse was a nun.Doing humanitarian aid meant being a missionary in Africa or Haiti.
Welfare meant the church.Every municipal reunion started with a prayer.Bishops were actual political figures with political agenda.
Teachers were monks.There was no aspect of life that wasn’t catholic.As a result, if you remove the catholic factor, there is no past in Québec.
It’s empty.Catholicism is the big fact you can’t ignore so even when you are not catholic, there are echoes of it everywhere.
Because waking up early on Sunday, driving over to your local church/cathedral (in Québec churches are so big they’re considered cathedrals by foreigners), and sitting/standing for one hour is a bit of drag for most people.Personally, I’m 100% Christian – and I would like to go to church once a month, ideally – but in reality I end up going three times a year.Church attendance in no way reflects personal beliefs.
I pray every night before going to bed, because it essentially gives me the same connection with God, but without all the trouble of actually attending mass.Some wishful thinkers believe that having a low church attendance automatically means low beliefs, however that is simply not the case.Even in very religious countries such as Lebanon, which has a 50/50 Muslim/Christian split, there is still low attendance.
This is evidently not because of low beliefs (given that there was a 15 year long civil war over religion from 1975–1990), but because people are lazy.Also, it is important to note that 85% of Québécois selected “Christian” on the 2011 Canadian household census.I repeat: they actively selected “Christian”.
This is not based on baptism records or church claims.People seem to forget this when discussing religious statistics in Québec.Québec, despite its relatively liberal social stands (especially with regards to homosexual marriage/acts), is by far the most Catholic province north of Mexico.
Roman Catholicism is part religion and part culture.So people can still identify as Catholic despite not being active participants.Other mainline churches would really love to have that kind of brand loyalty.