Paula Celani will be in a Montreal courtroom Nov. 1 fighting a fine for attending an illegal Roman Catholic Mass. Canadians of all religious faiths – and even those who care only about protecting Charter freedoms – should cross their fingers that she wins.
Celani actually showed up to fight the case this week. Alas, three public sector “witnesses” expected to testify against her were no shows so the matter was delayed until the day after Halloween.
. . . Celani is the one in court only because her signature was on a $700 rental contract for the use of two rooms in a city-owned complex called La Maison du Brasseur in the borough of Lachine, just west of downtown Montreal.
About 100 people belonging to a lay Catholic association used the rooms to watch some inspirational videos and have a potluck lunch together. Oh, and horror of horrors, they sang songs and held a Mass behind closed doors. Then everyone went home. End of story. Or so it seemed. Except that seven months later, in April 2010, Celani received a $144 ticket for having allowed the Mass to take place.
By so doing, she had broken a bylaw that prohibits “cultic” activity such as “praying, singing religious songs or conducting religious celebrations.” Under the same regulations, interestingly, renters are allowed to serve liquor provided they have the necessary permits. They are forbidden, however, from using propane tanks to cook inside the building. So, you can get hammered in La Maison du Brasseur. You just can’t blow the place up or mention God.
What Celani and her group did not realize was that they were being “observed” by three employees of the borough of Lachine working at the complex that day. In fact, no one had warned Celani, or anyone else in the group, that a Catholic Mass is now a legally prohibited activity in parts of Quebec.
Still, the observers dutifully filed reports attesting that the law had been ravaged by prayer, song and thanksgiving.
. . . By what authority can municipal pipsqueaks in Montreal or Lachine or anywhere else for that matter, decide that “religious songs” are anathema while hip-hop music, to take one genre, is just ducky?
Under what mandate can they forbid a group of people from renting a room to quietly celebrate their faith, yet allow, say, a group of louts to rent space to set up a TV and collectively drink their faces off watching the Canadiens lose to the Leafs during the Stanley Cup playoffs? (Okay, bad example because it will never happen. But you get my point.)
And finally, how do they dare go against established Charter law that freedom of religion doesn’t just mean the freedom to keep one’s faith in one’s head. It means the freedom to live out that faith within the very wide ambit of reasonable behavior in a free and democratic society?
Nick Donnelly remarks:
Anyone who has read Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien’s ‘Children of the Last Days’ series knows that Canada is fast becoming a bad place to be a Catholic, in fact a bad place to be a human being.
Recently, a Canadian judge ruled that it wasn’t illegal for a mother to strangle her new born baby because Canadian law allowed abortion. Also, an opinion poll shows that religious belief is collapsing in Canada, no doubt as a result of relentless secularization and, it must be admitted, the shameful failings of the sections of the Canadian [Catholic] hierarchy to deal with child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Evil in Canadian society, and evil within the Canadian Catholic Church, have transformed that country into a crucible for aggressive secularization, with its extremism and absurdity masquerading as law.
The case of the oppressive prosecution of Paula Celani is the latest example of the banal evil that is taking hold of a once great nation that was known for its strong civic society and defense of true freedom, not the mockery of freedom peddled by bureaucrats.