By Patrick Jamieson
Patrick Jamieson is founding editor of Island Catholic News on Vancouver Island (1986) and author of three books on prophetic Catholicism including a history of Catholicism on Vancouver Island (1997), a biography of Bishop Remi De Roo (2002) and the current volume of investigative reporting The ‘Vindication’ of Remi De Roo, The Lacey Land Saga, Political Sea Change in the Catholic Church.
I would say that it is generally perceived (or received) that the return to fundamentalism in organized religions is purportedly for the purpose of purifying the specific faith involved. The basic premise being that by returning to the fundamental principles, the accrued encrustations of decadence and secularism are done away with. Such is the working theory.
In the Roman Catholic experience of this process of the last twenty-five years – if that is what was intended – it seems to have introduced just the opposite, a new form of corruption. In this case, the values of the market place have been replacing those of the Christian Gospels.
Twenty-five years earlier, The Second Vatican Council, (1962-65), was an effort to place the Gospels in a more central position within the Roman Catholic Perspective. Has it failed? Or is there a third chapter to rectify the balance?
Take for example the case of Victoria Bishop Remi De Roo (1962-1999), who during his nearly four decades as bishop was a national figure in Canada standing up for human rights. He was the first chairperson of the BC Human Rights Commission – justice for all and a more human and humane Catholic Church.
De Roo was very popular with working Canadians generally and the other Christian denominations and many non-Christian faiths. He was lauded in the Victoria Conservative synagogue as a true rabbi.
But something went awry after he left office. It must be said he was not always as popular with traditionalist Roman Catholics. And the discrediting of his reputation after the year 2000 was at the hands of his own church.
He was depicted by his own diocese as being a very poor financial administrator, of having invested in race horses, been bilked by a shady American business man, and buying land in Washington State that virtually bankrupted the Catholic church on Vancouver Island. Many of us knew it was all a lot of nonsense but it took The Globe and Mail newspaper to reveal just how.
My recent book on the subject documents the amazing contrast between what the actual court records show and what was being swallowed whole by the local media and the local parishioners. None of the above allegations happen to be true about De Roo but the deliberately soiled legacy may well be part of the permanent record. Why did this happen?
De Roo’s prophetic Catholic values fell out of favour in the church and his record was to be expunged. The Gospel values of justice, peace and fairness for all, including compassion for the poor and those discriminated against were being replaced in their inclusivity by the exclusive values of the market place and its implicit elitism.
De Roo was not the only victim of this purge. A gay administrator at Holy Cross parish in Victoria and the parish priest who defended his right to work there were publicly removed, as graphically reported in the pages of this newspaper in the late winter of 2007.
Thankfully, in De Roo’s case, The Globe and Mail journalists did an objective job on the reporting, with his announced vindication on Tuesday, May 31, 2005. His business partner was awarded a $12 million (US) court judgment for being cheated out of his due in what was a sound business investment.
Subsequently De Roo’s reputation is slowly being restored but it is an object lesson for any faith tradition to be vigilant about this shadow side of such fundamentalism when it enters into the equation in the name of purifying the faith. Watch out how your prophetic figures with purportedly left wing (i.e. secular) values are treated. Stay awake!