Roman Catholicism in Quebec

Roman Catholicism in Quebec

An opinion peice by Peter Stuart, one of our regular contributors.


For those of you who haven’t been into AngloStore recently, I’ve recently written a book entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’. 

In the book, I talk about how just how important is this faith, and how it has traditionally been articulated through the Roman Catholic Church, and how it continues to act as the keystone in the ongoing leitmotif of the Province of Québec’s survival as a distinctly French-speaking civilization in North America. I also touch on a series of hot button linguistic and cultural debates in Québec, as well as having collaborated with Father Allan Savage of St. Patrick’s Parish in co-authoring the book. 

But as I sat at home this New Year’s Day of 2012 and took stock of my day’s labour and contemplated divine mysteries, something came to me: The French-Canadian language is truly resplendent with references to the faith, and I’m not just talking about the usual litany of profanities which seem to flow ever so freely from the mouths of many of my French-Canadian compatriots. (In fact, it has gotten to the point, that an ‘ostie’, or rather ‘stie’, as the clipped version of the communion wafer is called in French, is now coming dangerously close to supplanting the once ubiquitous comma in everyday colloquial Canadian French. But I digress). 

I am, rather, speaking of a far more sanctified and sacred repository of colloquial usages which just goes to show that despite all signs to the contrary, this ‘Terre de nos aieux’ or ‘land of our forbearers’ as the French version of the National anthem so aptly puts it, is still very much a land of ‘valeur de foi trempé’, or ‘valour, imbued with faith’ , another line from the French version of our National Anthem, which, by the way, was written long before the English version, and was written explicitly with the intent of exhorting French-Canadians to remain: 1) French, 2) Canadian and last but not least 3) ROMAN CATHOLIC! 

Take for example the famous expression we use in this Province, when we feel that something is just not morally correct. We say: ‘C’est pas Catholique, ça!’ Or literally: ‘That’s not Catholic!’ I remember my Mother used to say that all the time when she’d break into French when she’d get all worked up over something that wasn’t right. 

Another good one is somewhat in the other direction, when somebody is expecting of you a level of moral rectitude which is just so squeaky clean that you would almost appear to be rather quite the foolish person if you were to go along with it: We say, ‘Chu pas plus Catholique que le Pape!’ Or, ‘I’m not more Catholic than the Pope!’ 

We also have an interesting expression which relates to the world of business. When we are coming to the realization that we are not going to come to terms with a potential client or business partner, usually over questions of money, we say, ‘Ouihn ça l’air qu’on fera pas des noce! Or, ‘Well, it looks like there’ll be no wedding!’ 

Although most of these expressions are, like most French-Canadian ecclesiastical references, slightly laced with a mild to moderate profane, cynical, irreverent, or fatalistic streak to them, they still retain enough of the sacred to them to maintain their link to the faith of the religion which has forever shaped and will continue to shape the destiny of this Province. 

So if you get a chance to pass by Anglo Store any time soon, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy of my book, and read for yourselves just how important not only this faith and religion is to our province, but also how much of a linguistic and cultural backbone it is to the social fabric of French Canada, especially in Québec. 

Read on, there folks, and have a Happy New Year!

God Bless.

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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