What Happened to Catholic Quebec?

This new book from the University of Toronto Press caught my eye for something it doesn’t address, at least judging from the publisher’s description. Quebec in a Global Light: Reaching for the Common Ground, by Robert Calderisi, purports to be a survey of Quebecois society–its commitments and values. Conspicuously absent from those commitments and values is religion, specifically, Catholicism. Quebec went through a Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, after which the Catholic Church, once so important, became something of an afterthought, at best–a phenomenon captured brilliantly by films like The Barbarian Invasions. I have no reason to think the author is wrong in leaving Catholicism off the list. But his doing so suggests how profoundly secular Quebec has become in a short time. Perhaps a similar process is taking place in Ireland today. Here’s the publisher’s description:

To the outside world, Quebec is Canada’s most distinctive province. To many Canadians, it has sometimes seemed the most troublesome. But, over the last quarter century, quietly but steadily, it has wrestled successfully with two of the West’s most daunting challenges: protecting national values in the face of mass immigration and striking a proper balance between economic efficiency and a sound social safety net. Quebec has also taken a lead in fighting climate change. Yet, many people – including many Quebeckers – are unaware of this progress and much remains to be done. These achievements, and the tenacity that made them possible, are rooted in centuries of adversity and struggle.

In this masterful survey of the major social and economic issues facing Quebec, Robert Calderisi offers an intimate look into the sensitivities and strengths of a society that has grown accustomed to being misunderstood. In doing so, he argues that the values uniting Quebeckers – their common sense, courtesy, concern for the downtrodden, aversion to conflict, and mild form of nationalism, linked to a firm refusal to be homogenized by globalization – make them the most “Canadian” of all Canadians.

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