By Fr. J. H. CREHAN, S.J.
IT has recently become known that according to Canada's 1961 census 50.2 per cent of those aged under 15 were baptised as Catholics. Now, therefore, most people under 18 are Catholics. At the other end of the scale the census showed that only 32.2 per cent over 65 were Catholics. The percentage of Catholics in the whole population is 45.7.
Is this what the Protestant settlers of Ontario used to fear as "Quebec's revenge"? Is a French-speaking horde advancing towards the Great Lakes carrying all before it? That is not the picture that presentsitself to an observer from abroad who looks about for himself.
Some quarter million "New Canadians" are admitted by immigration each year, and many of these are Catholics from Italy, Portugal, Malta, and (recently) from British Guiana. A large contingent of Hungarian refugees was admitted after 1956 and these have now settled in as
Canadians with much success.
There is also the problem of the French language. Is it dominant or recessive in those who use it as their first language? Statistics produced by a Montreal editor in June showed that in the city of Montreal there were 1,366,357 people whose first language was French, and fewer than I per cent of them were of non-French origin.
There were 494.667 people of English speech. of whom 31 per cent were non-British in origin. This would seem to show that even within the Province of Quebec there is a tendency for the French Canadian to lose his national character.
That a major member of the Commonwealth should have a Catholic majority on the verge of making itself felt cannot be a matter or indifference to Catholics in England. Protestant revivalists will soon be working up fears of what may happen to a country that falls under papal supremacy.
But for six there is the more important question of the deep cultural and national division within this Catholic majority, a division which in a recent pronouncement Cardinal Edger of Montreal accepted as a permanent factor not to be removed. He was preaching to a vast congregation on the Sunday preceding the traditional French Canadian feast of St. John the Baptist.
He deprecated violence in the pursuit of separatist aims, but accepted the fact that Canada was two nations and told the French Canadians that this involved duties
as well as rights. Sonic of these. he said. had been forgotten or allowed to lapse, and there was much need of study before any attempt was made to reclaim them.
It is thought that the Cardinal was here alluding to the lack of opportunity for scientific training available to French Canadians.
Anyone who looks at the historical record and weighs the effect to the eighteenth century Quebec Act (the first enactment for the toleration of Catholics passed by a British government) on Catholics in England can only regret that, when there is a prospect of an effective Catholic majority in Canada, this should be so deeply divided on national lines.
The French Canadian is a Canadian, and not just a Frenchman translated to the Now World. Fresh flowers round the statue of Champlain at Quebec can still be seen. hut it is quite likely that the original French Canadians would have had a "Boston tea-party" of their own had they not been stormed by Wolfe.
The English Canadian is not anxious to be absorbed by America, and the presence of a French Canadian co-national by his side is a help against that pressure. But to make a divided majority cohesive for the benefit of the Church will call for high ecclesiastical ,statesmanship.
On the side of the highway from Ottawa to Montreal someone has painted a slogan high up on a crag: "Existence before essence". Perhaps it was the work of some frustrated examinee. But 'it may be much deeper than that.