Canada’s religious Christian population is plummeting. This is the finding of the last census carried out in the country. When the population of the Christian Church represented 77.1% of the population in 2001, it represents only 53.3% of the population in 2021, according to data published by Statistics Canada. But this impressive decline is not justified by the increase in attachment to another religion: the proportion of people with no religious affiliation has skyrocketed from 16.5% in 2001 to 34.6% in 2021, indicates The right.
Behind this desertion, there are several reasons. It is first important to remember that religion as an obligation is less and less a reality in our Western societies. Effectively, traditional religious societal structures are evaporating in favor of choice. “Church activities need to be engaging and believable, but we haven’t done well on that front.”, explains Catherine Clifford, professor of theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.
This disappearance of the obligation is also explained by substantial demographic movements. Indeed, as in the majority of developed countries, population movements migrating from rural to urban areas are massive. “In the villages, the churches remain community meeting points. They can still play a role not only of worship, but of encounter. The church, basically, is not buildings, it is communities. Maybe it is necessary to separate from certain monuments or churches while maintaining the vitality of these small communities”, explains Catherine Clifford.
Abuse and Violence in the Church
But this lack of interest is largely justified by the affairs that are shaking the Catholic Church. Whether in France with the current case of Michel Santier, in the United States or in Canada, cases of sexual abuse committed against worshipers are legion. These cases have, moreover, only few repercussions for the incriminated priests, inducing in believers a feeling of impunity granted to the representatives of the institution. “It is a structural problem that emerges from country to country. It undermines the credibility of the pastorate and church leaders. Bishops mishandled sexual abuse and failed to prioritize victims”, explains the professor to the Canadian newspaper.
But to these scandals is added a Canadian particularity. Indeed, the Catholic Church has also been tarnished by terrible affairs concerning the natives, still recalls Le Droit. Many Catholic boarding schools were responsible for native mistreatment.
Finally, a fundamental criticism of the Canadian Church lies in its backwardness with regard to primordial societal issues such as marriage for all and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities. “[Pour les jeunes], churchmen are hypocrites. We haven’t been welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. […] We have not succeeded in integrating and retaining the younger generations. We can wonder if we have really accompanied young people well in Christian formation. The Catholic Church is going through a great crisis of credibility. She mishandled her response to the issue of residential schools for example and with reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Catholic Church globally is also going through a great crisis of sexual abuse.”, explains Catherine Clifford.