Friday, March 25, 2011

Fr. Raymond Gravel: Mayor Jean Tremblay is the "Clown of the Saguenay"

Fr. Raymond Gravel labels Mayor Jean Tremblay “The Clown of the Saguenay”

Yes, Fr. Gravel is back ranting against faithful Catholics. Now he is denouncing Mayor Jean Tremblay as a “clown” for continuing to pray in the Saguenay City Council in spite of a ruling against him by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Here is my translation of his most recent work:

Ever since the Human Rights Tribunal ordered the City of Saguenay and mayor Jean Tremblay to stop reciting prayers during municipal council meetings and to withdraw all religious symbols from the rooms where public meetings are held, the mayor has decided to contest the judgement by calling upon the generosity of Quebeckers, who responded en masse, as he collected $140 000, which could fund his fight to the Supreme Court.

Personally, I am flabbergasted by this situation. In this day and age when churches are closing because of the inability to maintain them, here comes a public official from a regional municipality who goes on a crusade to save Catholic culture (so he says) by reciting a prayer just as we did ages ago in all our public meetings, and there you go: Jean Tremblay is perceived as a new Messiah who has come to remind the wimpy people of Quebec that our Catholic roots are much more profound than we think, and that it’s not a couple of flabbergasted atheists from the Mouvement laïque québecois who will come and uproot them. And all this time, Mayor Tremblay prides himself in being the defender of Catholic values all the while insulting all those who do not think like him: Fr. Gravel is an insignificant personality, and Louise Beaudoin, a useless parasite for the last 40 years. As far as Christian charity goes, we can expect better.

And if we only thought about it a little. I can understand that novelty scares some people, and that some people live with a certain nostalgia for the past and are ready to hang on to the last vestiges of an outdated religion that, unfortunately, continues to breathe, but Catholic culture cannot be reduced to a recited prayer or to a Sacred Heart decorating a public place; if that’s the case, that’s lamentable. For 400 years, hasn’t the Catholic Church left a more substantial heritage to Quebeckers? When we read the Gospel, what values does Christ propose? “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and the public squares, in order to be seen by men. In truth, I tell you, they have already received their reward” (Mt. 6:5). And again “When you pray, do not keep harping on like the pagans do; they imagine that it’s through their numerous words that their prayers will be answered” (Mt. 6:7). How are we to pray then? “For you, when you want to pray, go to your most secret room, lock the door, and address your prayer to your Father who is there with you in secret. And your Father, who sees you in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:6)

It seems to me that the Gospel is addressed to all Catholics, including the mayor. Removing the traditional prayer at a municipal meeting is not renouncing the faith; on the contrary, it is accepting to open oneself up to the other, the stranger, and to propose another way of doing things so he can benefit and profit as well. Wouldn’t this be an occasion to show creativity and create a space and a moment for reflection where all could feel included? And why not replace the plaster Sacred Heart by a work sculpted by an artist from the Saguenay, a work which would have a religious theme that would represent the spiritual values of the people?

As a Catholic priest, I am not against prayer nor against the presence of religious symbols in public spaces. On the other hand, I am against the caricature and the buffoonery of the mayor, who does not in any way represent the Catholic Church in Quebec. His attitude is shameful, and his battle is useless. In my humble opinion, if Mr. Tremblay pretends to manifest a bit of respect for the Church that he claims to defend, he should give the money that he raised to the diocese of Chicoutimi to benefit those who work there and who find it important to transmit Catholic and Christian values.