In October 1996, as dusk was settling in on a white-sand beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast near the town of Sarasota, my friend, The King of Farts, was marrying the Queen of Domesticity. The event was being officiated by a woman wearing the garb of the Anglican Church, although her affiliation with that organization was never exactly made clear and there were reasons to believe she was a freelancer, not to say someone who’d just rented the outfit from a party store.
We were chatting after the ceremony. She asked where I was from and I responded, “Possibly the only town in North America that has no church.” Unexpectedly, she replied, “Lucky you.” That was when I began to wonder about her bona fides, a subject she cleared up in the next sentence, telling me she’d been raised a Catholic but migrated to the Anglicans because they recognized women as real people.
We both laughed.
Of course, it wasn’t really funny. Nor exclusive. There are all sorts of people the Catholic Church, as an institution, won’t really recognize as full-blown people—women, homosexuals, transgender and non-binary folks, divorced people and those who marry outside their religion. And that, of course, doesn’t even begin to count the millions, probably billions of people who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal saviour and son of the one true God, whose beneficence has doomed them to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell... even if they’ve never even heard of him or his only begotten son.
So when I read, as I did last week, the words reportedly spoken by the padre at Our Lady of Perpetual Powder, Andrew L’Heureux, I’m left with only one question. Well, actually a number of questions. Here’s what he had to say.
“[F]or Catholics, our whole thing is whenever you demean the human person into some sort of a label or category, you remove an aspect of their humanity and then they become something that can be dispensed of. That’s something we’re always very careful of.”
And, I might add, very good at. Father, consider yourself nominated for the International Hubris Award.
The Catholic Church has a rich and bloody history of demeaning the human person, labelling them, categorizing them and removing all aspects of their humanity. As well as their lives. I’m not sure the good padre didn’t mean disposed of instead of dispensed of but I’m not certain it matters.
Ironically, he wasn’t trying to explain or justify the recent history of the church demeaning, dehumanizing and burying in unmarked graves the hundreds of First Nations children who died in residential schools run by the diocese of which he is currently affiliated. He wasn’t trying to soften the reality of the scores of pedophile priests who crammed religion down the throats of their young followers. He wasn’t talking of the barbaric Inquisitions the church ran in more remote times.
No. He was answering a question put to him by Pique reporter Brandon Barrett about whether he thought the Napa Institute’s ideals align with the majority of Canadians or the Whistler community.
What’s the Napa Institute got to do with anything? Father L’Heureux is spearheading a fundraising campaign to expand Our Lady of the Mountains, down at the end of Lorimer Road. As did so many of his predecessors, he has grandiose dreams of a larger church designed, it seems, for religious tourism.
The current building is large enough for the 160 parishioners the church hosted before a number of them decided they couldn’t condone the steps the padre has taken. But not the one-day-a-year overflow crowds at Christmas mass. So a new build here, a tweak there, and plans are for something that’ll seat 200 with the existing hall opening up to hold another 300 folks.
Part of the perceived problem with the existing structure is the padre’s quip, shortly after arriving in 2018, that, “I don’t find God here.” The padre, obviously not a Jesuit, must have been absent the day they covered the Book of Matthew in seminary school. Let’s see, what was that passage? “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
It ain’t about the building, Father, at least not in God’s eyes. It’s about the people, the believers, the spirit.
But then, it’s never been about the people for the institution of the Catholic Church. Back when I would actually step inside churches, I was always struck by the wealth on display in even the smallest old churches in agrarian, subsistence-level villages where peasants were browbeaten into tithing funds, crops and livestock they could better have used to nurture their mortal selves, sacrificed to the glory of God for their eternal salvation in the afterlife rather than eternal damnation for pissing off the priests.
But back to the Napa Institute. The funds needed to realize Father L’Heureux’s dream come to around $5 million. Hard to raise with 160 parishioners... even when one of them has deep pockets. Enter the Napa Institute, a conservative, California-based, Catholic organization that seems to believe in the separation of church and state at least as far as keeping the state out of the church while allowing the church to manipulate the state is fair game.
As reported in Brandon’s outstanding piece last week, Tim Busch, one of Napa’s co-founders, described the organization’s mission as, “[F]aith formation, truth telling and uniting Catholic leaders to transform the culture,” which he said was more urgent than ever as “religious liberty is attacked, right to life is attacked, transgender ideology is forced upon our children and Black Lives Matter is promoting racism, critical race theory, and destroying the nuclear family.”
In other words, virtually every single dog-whistle, red-meat, social-conservative movement defining the current Republican Party in the U.S.
Is this really what the parishioners of Whistler’s Catholic church want?
Which of those demeaning, humanity-stripping ideals fit well with this community and Canada in general? Here’s the short answer, father: NONE!
Religious liberty is not under attack here. Quite the opposite. The intolerance shown is far more frequently instigated by religions than the other way around. Seems to me the church still ducks property taxes, just for example. Right to life is an attack on women’s and society’s choice around reproduction. Abortion is legal in Canada. Same sex marriage too. Transgender acceptance is preached here.
The intolerance and ideological jihad preached by Napa has no place here. And yes, I am intolerant about intolerance. And I appreciate the irony.