Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Church-State Relations in Canada (1604-1685)"

Cornelius Jaenan, Church-State Relations in Canada (1604-1685), Volume 34, CCHA Study Sessions, pp. 9-28 (1967).

This article from 1967 argues that there is a dearth of research into church-state relations during the New France era of Canadian history. After a brief and somewhat unfocused overview, it then discusses ten aspects of this history that are said to warrant further investigation. Each aspect receives a few paragraphs of attention, and the article concludes with an impressive list of sources in footnotes. The topics discussed are:

1) The role of clergy in colonial administration.

2) Some cases which tested the power of the clergy to interfere in state matters.

3) The problem of "precedence" (standing in the community according to rank, honorifics, & prestige). Jaenan notes that "[i]n the late 1640's there was already interminable wrangling over precedence in processions, distribution of blessed bread, receipt of the communion, disposition of soldiers at church parades, and in placement of pews."

4) Naming of a Bishop.

5) "Frenchification of the Indians". Jaenan states that "[t]he missionaries, as cultural ambassadors, often failed to distinguish between Europeanization and evangelization, between cultural assimilation and Christianization."

6) The role of religious rivalry between Catholic sects.

7) The treatment of Protestants. Adherents of "the pretended Reformed religion" received hostile treatment in the colony, and lacked the right to practice their faith freely.

8) Tithing and Parochial Organization

9) Fur Trading & Brandy Trafficking.

10) Morality. Jaenan states that "The state supported the church in matters of censorship of reading matter; observance of holy days; attendance at mass; control of rumblings of witchcraft, crimes of violence, blasphemy, and seditious talk; combatting begging, prostitution and secret assemblies. The general impression one obtains of the colonists is that while independent and self-assertive, they were generally devout and much attached to various pious practices."

In conclusion, the author argues that "New France was neither a tyranny nor a theocracy" and that "[a]lthough the church affected everyday undertakings, and it was associated with every major decision to be made, it did not overshadow, in practice, environmental materialistic considerations and influences."

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