Quebec Studies

Religiosity and Reform in Québec: The Role of Catholic Elites in the Quiet Revolution

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 57–71.


Religiosity and Reform in Québec: The Role of Catholic Elites in the Quiet Revolution Gary G. Meyers Since the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s, Québec has undergone extensive changes in the social, economic, and political realms. Underlying these various transformations has been the rapid expansion of the powers of the provincial state. This expansion of public policy capability was, in turn, the result of a far-reaching transfer of institutional influence from the Roman Catholic Church to secular authorities in the areas of education, social welfare, and health care. What this paper seeks to explore are the ideological roots of this "révolution tranquille." It is commonly assumed that this transformation of traditional social, political, and cultural institutions stemmed in large measure from changing values at the mass and/or leader­ ship levels. In either case, the emergence of a "secular" political culture is seen as reflecting a sharp break with the social phi­ losophy traditionally articulated by the Catholic Church in Québec. Recent research on political development in other national settings, however, has called into question the conventional wisdom in the social sciences which held that religious values pose serious obstacles to such changes. It is now becoming clear that this traditional line of reasoning erred in two important respects—both of potential significance for theories of social, political, and economic change in Québec. The first of these caveats concerns the fact that "seculari­ zation"—here defined in its more limited sense to mean a diminu­ tion in the power of religious authorities over various institu­ tions in society—need not lead immediately to "secularism" in values. Value change, as has recently been demonstrated most graphically in various Islamic countries, may indeed lag well behind transformations at the structural level. This resis­ tance of religious belief systems to change may be especially 1 2 3

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Author details

Meyers, Gary