Catholics need to hold onto their faith and spiritual identity amid a culture that’s openly hostile and fosters the spread of “fake news,” says the Archbishop of Edmonton.
“As Catholics, we know from Jesus himself that we’re supposed to live out our faith with integrity, authenticity, to be witnesses before others,” said Archbishop Richard Smith told reporters May 8 at his 10th annual media breakfast.
“But what we’re finding is that what Jesus also promised is coming true all the time. He said, ‘If the world hated me, you can expect that the world is going to hate you too.’ If the society at large is informed by fake news, or is informed by sources that don’t understand what Catholicism is, there can be a lot of misunderstandings and false ideas (about the faith).”
When it comes to news, said Smith, the Church needs journalists to shed light on the truth — even when that truth is uncomfortable to hear about.
“As soon as we start living in darkness, the shadows and try to cover and hide things, then we are acting counter to our identity. And if that is the case, we need to be called on that, and journalism has done so.”
The Media Breakfast comes as Pope Francis marks World Communications Day on May 13. Archbishop Smith commented on the Pope’s letter.
Smith addressed a wide range of challenges currently affecting the Church: Its relationship with the LGBTQ community, the request by a majority of MPs for Pope Francis to apologize for the legacy of residential schools, and the Canada Summer Jobs grant attestation.
Under new federal government rules, applicants for Canada Summer Jobs grant funding – including faith groups – must sign an attestation that their “core mandate” respects Charter rights as well as the government’s view of reproductive rights, including the right to abortion.
Archbishop Smith noted that there is no right to abortion in Canada. Instead, there is a legal vacuum that hasn’t been filled by Parliament since the Morgentaler decision three decades ago.
There is however, a Charter right to freedom of religion.
“What we’ve had in this particular episode is the government actually ignoring and trampling upon a constitutionally recognized right, in order to further what is falsely presented as a right,” Archbishop Smith said.
“And they’ve been called out on it, they’ve been called out by all sectors of the society, even with those who don’t agree with our stance on abortion. Abortion is the taking of an innocent human life in the womb, full stop, and therefore it is wrong and ought not to happen.”
The Church as a whole is also under fire over the legacy of residential schools, with MPs voting 269 to 10 last week on a motion to invite Pope Francis to apologize for its role. An apology from the Pope was one of the 94 calls for action under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Smith said while Pope Francis has said that he couldn’t personally respond to that call, the Church has made apologies in the past dating back to 1991 and First Nations remain a pastoral priority for him and Canada’s bishops.
The Archbishop also addressed the dismissal of Mark Guevarra which made headlines in February when the former pastoral assistant at St. Albert Parish said he was let go due to his same-sex relationship.
While Smith said he was limited in what he could say because it is a personnel issue, he noted that a Catholic leader of any kind means living one’s life in conformity with the teachings of the Church – including the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Archbishop Smith also commented, in general, on the issue of lesbian, gay and transgender relationships.
“The question often is posed, ‘Is there a place for me in the Church?’ Well, the answer to that has to be ‘Yes, because Christ died for everybody,’” Smith explained.
“So there’s room in the Church, but what’s not often asked is a second question. It’s not just ‘Is there room for me in the Church?’ It’s ‘Is there room for the Church in you?’ In other words, are you open to receive and to assimilate into your life that which the Church teaches?”