Vitality and Hope in a New Era
by Reginald Bibby and Angus Reid
Novalis, Toronto, June, 2016
192 pages. $19.95 CAD
An essential guide to the Canadian Catholic
Church from award-winning sociologist
Reginald Bibby and well-known pollster
The Catholic Church in Canada experienced
seismic shifts in the 20th century.
Once a stronghold of national and provincial
culture and life, the Church underwent a
dramatic transformation, with decreased
participation and a loss of social prominence
However, according to Bibby and Reid, there’s
evidence that we ought not despair Rather, the
Church is in a period of major transformation,
and there is hope.
Drawing from a new cross-country survey
of 3,000 Canadians, Bibby and Reid offer an
insightful look into what lay Catholics believe
and what draws women and men to the life
of the Church.
Reg. Bibby Wiki Bio: http://tinyurl.com/j8svkru
Angus Reid Institute: http://angusreid.org/
Bibby is Protestant by background, and
Reid is Roman Catholic. Their research synergy
greatly enhances the quality of this book.
(Partway through our collaboration since 2014,
Reg came up with an idea that would help us
make this book possible – to extend the overall
sample of a Canadian survey on attitudes to
religion in this country – to include 1,000 Catholics.)
This allowed us to generate largely unprecedented
data on beliefs, attitudes, and practices of Catholics
across the country, including, of course – Quebec.
Comprehensive national survey data on Catholics
has been sparse, which is somewhat surprising,
given the historical place of the (Catholic) Church
in Canada, especially during the country’s
Media reports in recent decades, for example,
have offered at best a confusing picture of the
status of Catholicism in Canada… (some of the
perspectives tend to portray a Church in decline,
while others suggest a Church that is healthy,
vigorous and confident.)
Faced with this cacophony of mixed signals, and
contradictory reports (Reg and Angus) decided to
go straight to Catholics to get a more direct
reading that would help provide insight into
current trends and future directions.
Contrary to dominant views among social
scientists that religion has been experiencing
a declining role in contemporary societies, we
have found precisely the opposite to be the
case in Canada when it comes to Catholics.
Indeed, globalization and immigration have
been bringing to our shores millions of people
whose identities are firmly fixed by religious
beliefs and practices.
Surprisingly, the Catholic Church in Canada has
been benefiting enormously from developments
in the postmodern world that experts had
predicted would be its nemesis.
Independent of the immigration factor, we also
see a Catholic community that remains deeply
rooted in an identity that is Catholic… Catholic
culture, along with beliefs, practices and the
vital role of faith in life’s key events – birth,
marriage and death – serve to unite the 13
million Canadians who define themselves as
Catholic. Our research points to considerable
vitality and fertile ground for creating vibrant
Christian communities in the new millennium…
The spirit of the research project and this book
has been a full-fledged partnership… an uplifting
and enjoyable relationship.
Our hope is that Catholics and others will find
the material to be of value.
– Angus and Reg in the Introduction
Review by Dr. Wayne Holst
Taken together, Bibby and Reid have been polling
Canadians for three quarters of a century. That
means they have developed a rather refined sense
of the communities out of which we live our lives,
and what occupies our thoughts. What a formidable
combination on an increasingly complex topic!
It is surprising that the subject they address in
this book – Canada’s Catholics – has received so
little attention over the years. Here, they set
about to rectify that deficiency.
Since Roman Catholics make up a third of the
Canadian population – by far the largest single
religious grouping in the country – this subject
is of considerable importance as far as faith
studies go. Their work benefits not only
Catholics, but the rest of us as well.
The strong presence of Catholics in Canada,
(in terms of the total population, including the
large French-speaking Catholic population of
Quebec) is a very big factor distinguishing
this country from the United States.
Protestants were the principle founders of America.
while Catholics were the formative constituency of
Canada. Subsequent immigration has changed the
population mix of both nations, but that important
distinction remains. When Canadians and Americans
assess each other, this key reality may be forgotten.
I would suggest that the book under consideration
should not only serve Canadians, but those wishing
to gain a better understanding of Canada from an
international perspective. Indeed, the book is written
with a globalized point of view. We are a nation of
immigrants – no doubt our First Nations people as
well – and we are now, more than ever, a global
community and not simply a people with European
ancestry. This is reflected in our church life today.
In a true sense, the Catholic Church is positioned,
like few others, to benefit significantly from our
global society, multi-cultural in-migration, and
the resulting Canadian population.
Stated simply, many Catholics from around the
globe are helping to build the new Canada and
the new church of which we are all part.
As this occurs, I am so grateful that Canada
today is a far different place, faith-wise,
than it used to be. In a world where narrow
nativism constantly raises its ugly head, we
Canadian shave been celebrating globalized
religious and cultural diversity for almost
What benefits some of us benefits us all.
When Canada’s heart goes out to Muslim
refugees and when “Canada’s Catholics”
celebrate the revitalization of a Christian
tradition other than my own – I take great
pride in my country. I am part of it – even
as I must also be mindful that this blessed
tolerant state could easily be lost without
I rejoice that all non-Catholic Canadians –
Protestants and non-Christian people of
faith – are part of a great development.
Speaking more to this volume – I have read,
reviewed or introduced most of Reg Bibby’s
books over the past 30 years (see a selected
list of them by clicking his Wiki bio, above).
I am not as familiar with Angus Reid’s work,
even though he has been a household name.
To have a Catholic and a Protestant join
forces to create this important study is
indeed fortuitous. My sense is that one
tends to complement the other. Where
one has lacked background, the other is
there to fill the gap.
In an ever-increasing and effective way,
Canadians are able to articulate their
evolving identity as a people. This book
is one more building block making that
For these and many other good reasons,
I encourage you to secure and read this
book and to make it part of the way you
understand Canada and religion in this
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