Quebec’s Quiet Revolution

One of our [readers] recently told us a story that was both fascinating-and disturbing. Her name is Tessa Littlejohn. She is a flight attendant who lives in Ontario. Tessa recently worked with another flight attendant from Quebec, whom I will call Cecile. As they worked, Cecile told Tessa all about her boyfriend, Gerard. Cecile was wearing a ring on her left hand, so Tessa asked her if she was engaged. Cecile blushed. "Actually," she said, "Gerard and I have been married for two years."

Then why on earth was she calling Gerard her "boyfriend"? Because, Cecile explained, no one in Quebec gets married anymore. If she referred to Gerard as her husband, Cecile said, "I would sound like an old lady. It would feel too weird."

Tessa was not too surprised at Cecile's reasoning, but it did make her think about what happens when a society abandons God and His laws.

For Quebec, this abandonment began during what became known as the Quiet Revolution. As Richard Neuhaus writes in the March issue of First Things, up until 1960, when Quebec's Liberal Party took power, there was an almost total synthesis of Church, culture, and state; the Catholic Church provided nearly all educational and social services.

As American scholar Charles Doran notes, it was Catholic clergy who helped people survive the hardships of a new and rough land, and "provided the social cement for the colony." But in the 1960s, Canadians abandoned their Judeo-Christian values in favor of modernity. And as Doran notes, the Catholic clergy "became an embarrassing reminder of a past that everyone wanted to forget." Tragically, the Church willingly cooperated in its own retreat.

The predictable result of this revolution was that the role of the state became greatly enlarged, because the state alone was capable of implementing desired social changes. Today, nearly five decades later, the churches largely stand empty-and the consequences of modernity are on stark display.

Of all the Canadian provinces, Quebec has the lowest marriage rate. It also has the lowest birth rate-the province is literally dying out. Quebec's abortion rate is higher than all other Canadian provinces, with 30 percent of all pregnancies ending in abortion! Quebec leads the other provinces in divorce and suicide rates as well. And its chief city, Montreal, has become a notorious haven for pedophiles, according to Canada's leading news magazine.

As Tessa notes, "Society is collapsing; they are on the cusp of a crisis that is only mitigated by the fact that they are part of a larger country, which is not at the same point of moral failure. If you want to know what happens to society when it rejects God," Tessa concludes, "look at Quebec."

What is happening to French Canadians is tragic-and it should serve as a warning to those of us living south of the border. Religious faith and practice cannot be cut adrift from a healthy society — not if the society, that is, wants to stay healthy.

Americans have already traveled perilously far down this same road, and suffer many of the social traumas Quebecers do. The question is: Are we going to continue down this same, destructive road-or change course? Will we learn from the disastrous lab experiment conducted to the north — or copy it?

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