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A national church no longer Catholic?

Montreal -- In Quebec, Notre Dame Basilica, dating from 1678, is regarded by many as a national monument to bygone days rather than as a parish church. Catholics who still see the Basilica as first and foremost a Catholic venue must have been taken aback again with the "lay funeral" of Pierre Bourgault on Saturday, June 21.

In his Toronto Star column, Graham Fraser pointed out that Bourgault "was gay and did not hide it at a time when homosexuality was tightly closeted. He was an atheist when religion was omnipresent in Quebec. And he was a progressive independiste when nationalism was conservative and independence feared" (June 22).

The several hundred people at the funeral included a who's who of Quebec politics: Premier Jean Charest, ex-premiers Bernard Landry, Lucien Bouchard, and Jacques Parizeau; Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe; and Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay. The funeral, as noted, was not a Catholic service though conducted by the parish priest dressed in regular clothes rather than in vestments.

Why was this atheist buried from Notre Dame Basilica? Because he stipulated it in his will. Why did the hierarchy allow it? Probably for the same reason that atheist Jean-Paul Riopelle was buried from Montreal's Immaculate Conception church (see C.I. May 2002, p. 32), and atheist and philanderer Rene Levesque was sent off with a solemn High Mass attended by 20 bishops in Quebec City when all he had asked for was a state funeral in Montreal: to prove the Church in Quebec is truly broad-minded about those of her baptized sons and daughters who have abandoned the Church but who still feel a pinch of sentimental regret at having done so.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:278
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