A few minutes ago on CBC National News, Prime Minister Harper announced a key objective to Canadian foreign policy. Andrew Bennett has been named ambassador for ‘Canada's Office of Religious Freedom’ - - monitoring religious freedom around the world.
Bennett, a Catholic, is dean of Augustine College, a Christian liberal arts college in Ottawa. He has a PhD in politics from the University of Edinburgh and a master of arts in history from Montreal’s McGill University.
Also, in last week’s headlines, Canadians are wondering if Quebec cardinal Marc Ouellet can save the Catholic Church. As the church struggles to adapt to a changing world, is a Quebec cardinal the right man to become the next pope?
“Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet has spoken out strongly in criticism of the Church of Scientology and warned Catholics about it on three occasions over the last two years including his last two annual press lunches in 2009 and 2010 before taking up his present post as head of the powerful Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican. He is regularly cited as a leading candidate to succeed Pope Benedict.”
In February 2010, Cardinal Ouellet served a warning against the Church of Scientology inviting Catholics to be cautious and again asking the Quebec government for clear criteria for an organization to be recognized as a religion.
The Cardinal posed the question of what the criteria are that tax authorities in Quebec extend tax exemptions to religious organizations and mentions the excesses of the Solar Temple and the mass suicides due to other sects, stressing that the vigilance of the State and citizens was necessary to protect the public against abuse of all kinds.
In an article published December 4, 2011 ‘Scientology-Narconon vs. Catholic Church’, Legal Land Registry documents were cited concerning the Church of Scientology, Narconon Trois-Rivières and potentially involving the Catholic Oblates (secular nuns), in Quebec, Canada.
The Catholic Oblates were deeply concerned that the purchase of their property not be used for any Scientology activities whatsoever, and included a clause in the purchase and sale agreement as follows;
“The buyer or any tenant or nominee or company that operates within the premises included in the present sale promise to exercise no activity in connection with the Church of Scientology, and this in or on all buildings and/or grounds included in the present sale. They also promise not to sell any of the property acquired by this sale to the Church of Scientology directly or indirectly, under penalty of lawsuit for damages and interest by the seller [the nuns].”
It’s clear that the Catholic Church is concerned about dangerous cults in Canada; especially ones that abuse and exploit followers. Several countries, including Canada, do not recognize Scientology as a religion. Religious scholars Douglas E. Cowan and David G. Bromley stated in a 2006 publication that "Scientology has yet to receive official recognition as a religion in Canada.
Although today’s announcement by Prime Minster Harper that Andrew Bennett has been appointed as ambassador for ‘Canada's Office of Religious Freedom’, only time will tell how ‘Catholics versus Scientology’ plays out in the ongoing controversy.
David Edgar Love