Archbishop Durocher’s address was titled “Echo Chamber or Megaphone? The Church in Canada and the Prophetic Voice of Pope Francis.” It kicked off “Love Your Neighbour,” an exhibition at the St. Michael’s College Kelly Library until June 8. Photo by Michael Swan

Archbishop Durocher: Church must adapt to changing times

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  • March 27, 2018

It’s a new era in the Church and therefore a new era for the Church’s social teaching, says Archbishop Paul-André Durocher.

“Proclaiming the Church’s social teaching will not be the way of the future for the Church,” the archbishop of Gatineau, Que., told The Catholic Register as he prepared to deliver the annual Royackers Lecture at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College, March 22. “On the other hand, an evangelization that does not take into account the social dimension of our faith, I think, is bound to be partial — to disfigure what the Gospel is about.”

Durocher’s address was titled “Echo Chamber or Megaphone? The Church in Canada and the Prophetic Voice of Pope Francis.” It kicked off “Love Your Neighbour,” an exhibition at the St. Michael’s College Kelly Library until June 8. The show recalls the work of Toronto Catholics inspired by papal teaching since Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum in 1891. Through photographs, videos, news stories and first editions, the display shows how Toronto Catholics put their faith on the line for the poor and vulnerable for more than a century.

Catholics today don’t have to choose between a megaphone or an echo chamber, said Durocher. Most of us live our lives somewhere on a continuum between the inwardly focused echo chamber and the outward projection of a megaphone, he said. But the leadership of Pope Francis is showing the Church how to move outward and proclaim the Gospel in our words and in our actions, Durocher said. 

Reading Lumen Fidei, Evangelii Gaudium, Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si’ — the four major teaching documents of the Francis papacy — gives us a new way to understand the balance between reflection and action, according to the archbishop. 

“As we listen to Francis, who really has a special way of teaching, how do we respond to the call that he sets out there for us?” he asked. “One of Francis’s key sentences is ‘We’re not in an epoch of change; we’re in a change of epoch.’ In that sense, the times, they are a-changin’.” 

But Durocher warns against the search for a kind of social justice formula for reviving Church fortunes against an indifferent world.

“There is no one way of engaging the world,” he said. “To think we will find the one key and that will be it, that’s an illusion.”

The challenge of following Francis is mostly about adapting to life on the edge, he said. Where the Church was once central to life in Quebec, Catholics must now find their identity in the humility of Christ.

“There was an expectation after the Second Vatican Council that somehow the Church would find itself relevant in speaking to everybody, and there would be all this energy. And there was,” Durocher said. “It corresponded to the baby-boomer generation and to a greater, more educated laity in those first years. But the reality is that secularism is a huge force.”

Quebeckers see Pope Francis leading the Church into a kind of friendship with the secular world — encouraging the best instincts of secular people and always offering, in love and in joy, the Gospel.

“In French Canada and Quebec, there’s no polarization around Pope Francis. The world I’m coming from is one where the great majority of people feel great empathy for what he’s saying, feel excited by the direction he is proposing,” Durocher said. “The fact is that we’re not going back to what existed in the early 20th century. That time is finished. The shape and the style that the Church will take will be new. 

“But the Church has always had new shapes and new styles throughout the centuries. Our memories are so short and we have such a lack of historical perspective.”

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