CBC TELEVISION - THE NATIONAL - August 22, 2010
Interview with Cardinal Marc Ouellet as he prepares to ascend to the Vatican.
KIM BRUNHUBER (HOST):
- Plus, Canada's controversial man of the cloth. Heather Hiscox speaks with Cardinal Marc Ouellet as he prepares to ascend to the Vatican. -
- Moral certainty in the face of modern convictions. We speak to Cardinal Marc Ouellet as he prepares to enter the Vatican's inner circle. -
He's loved and loathed. Now Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is about to take on one of the most important positions at the Vatican. He's traveling to Rome to head up the Congregation of Bishops, the body that determines the future leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. No Canadian has ever risen so high in the Church. Some say it puts him in line to be pope. The CBC's Heather Hiscox spoke to Cardinal Ouellet days before his departure.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): Cardinal Marc Ouellet looked out at an extraordinary site last Sunday inside the beautiful Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. The pews filled with worshipers and the worshippers were filled with emotion. The head of their Church in Quebec was celebrating mass with them for the last time. The Vatican has summoned Cardinal Ouellet, in days he will move to Rome and into the inner circle of Pope Benedict. (Interview) How did you find out you had been chosen?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: I found out at the end of May. I received a call from the secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, asking me on behalf of the Holy Father to accept this position.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): On the phone. And what was your reaction privately to yourself?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: My reaction was a big surprise. And I said: "oh mamma mia." Because I was really surprised. I had heard comments, you know, in the "milieu", here and elsewhere that some day I could return to Rome. But I did not expect to be called so quickly to be at this Congregation.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): Or to such an influential position. Cardinal Ouellet will head the Congregation for Bishops, meaning he will have a principle role both in determining the leaders of the future and in dealing with the stain of the past, sexual abuse by clergy, and the bishops who covered up or turned a blind eye. (Interview) You said in accepting, one of the things that you are quoted as saying: "I will help the bishops be good bishops." What do you mean by that?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: There is the need to address the difficult situations in the Church, in a diocese there might be a crisis between the bishop and his priests, or something else ... a case of abuse.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): How do you plan to deal with that?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: This is a very important question. And I think Pope Benedict has begun to address the situation with firmness, with rigor so the Church has certainly to go forward with transparency and also with a new awareness of the damage that was done to the victims. So this is a big challenge for the Church today. I mean, I feel ...
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): It's enormous, people want to make sure it never happens again.
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: Yes, exactly. Because the problem is a very serious problem. And the fact that the clergy itself has been sort of under attack on this side of its ministry, it is a signal that the problem is much broader in society also. But the reform has to begin within those who have the greatest responsibility in helping others, to grow in holiness, to grow in the response to their call.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): Cardinal Ouellet has known Pope Benedict for more than 20 years. They share a friendship, a trust, and a strict conservative theology. Ouellet has been unyielding in his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. He applauded the Harper government this summer for refusing to fund abortion for developing countries in its G8 maternal health initiative. He said then, and readily repeats, abortion is a crime to human life even when rape is involved.
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: I reminded people that the human being is worth of respect, even in those cases.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): (Interview) There were some who heard in an unjustifiable moral crime even in cases of rape, they heard in you trying to put this on the political agenda and trying to perhaps return to the debate of the decriminalization of abortion which was settled in lw over 20 years ago. Was that your intent?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: Yes. It is not a subtle question because there is an objective injustice for the child who is weak, who is a human being, who is a person with dignity and has no protection whatsoever. It might be legal, it is legal, but it is morally unacceptable.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): His comments unleashed fury in Quebec. One newspaper columnist went so far as to wish him a long and painful death. (Interview) Are you comfortable having been a lightning rod?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: Oh yes. I think I did what I have to do.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): Long after the Quiet Revolution, much of Quebec still views the Catholic Church as repressive and irrelevent. Cardinal Ouellet, the traditionalist, has been a polarizing figure.
ONSCREEN: (Cardinal Ouellet speaking during mass) I am conscious that many people might have been hurt or pained ...
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): He acknowledged as much in his final homily, even offering an apology to anyone who had ever been hurt by his comment.
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: My comment on ... so apologizing was not pointing out to a specific situation, abortion or marriage, but it was more general. I want God to forgive me and also the people because it not meant to hurt people at all but to give them the light of the Gospel and the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): There are Bishop colleagues who have not seen the Gospel in quite the same light and I'm thinking even of the Quebec Assembly of Bishops. The head of that group gave an interview after your appointment and was quite strong in saying essentially "good riddance, he never saw Quebec's position properly, he was too emotional but he didn't get the sensitivities and issues in post-Quiet Revolution Quebec." I found it quite striking that he would attack so strongly. What did you think?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: I have been trying to do my homework and sometimes we've had points of view ... so, that's the Church. And we are not forced to say always the same thing at the same time, the same words. And I hope for the future, we need Bishops that are able to teach and to teach in a convincing manner to their people and Bishops that are close to their people. I think that is a great quality of the Bishops of Quebec. They know the situations and maybe they have more sensitivity than I have for the very concrete situation in this part of the country. I saw also the need of a clear affirmation of what is catholic doctrine about some matters.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): In stressing those, as you approach that doctrine, do you think that arrested the decline of religious faith in Quebec? Or did it help it, if you know what I mean? It sounded like the Bishops were saying "he's been bad for reparations in Quebec."
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: On the short term it may be interpreted in this way, that it has shaken up some people and even some people have taken more distance. It is possible. But on the long term I think what I did is a good seed for the people of Quebec. We are at a moment of crisis, of void to a certain extent and we really need to help and to gather our strength around these spiritual values.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): Cardinal Ouellet walks in moral certainty and climbs in the catholic hierarchy at a stunning pace. After just eight years as cardinal, people now speak seriously of him as "papabile", a man who might one day become pope. (Interview) I know one wouldn't campain actively for that, that that wouldn't be seemly, but in your private, prayerful moments, do you ever allow yourself to contemplate that?
CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: So you have given your life to God. And so the christian basic attitude, especially a religious attitude, is to be available for God, for His plan. And when thoughts of this sort come to mind, I think it is interpreted more as temptation, as a dream, if you want, because when you know closely the Pope and, I 've known these two Popes, so you see the burden that they have on their shoulder, it is a difficult ministry to keep the Church in unity, that's the ministry of Peter. So I pray for the Pope. And I ask the people to pray for me and the new task I will now take in obedience to God.
HEATHER HISCOX (REPORTER): For CBC News, I'm Heather Hiscox in Quebec City.