Summary + PICTURES of the 2022 Annual Conference of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars “Religion in the Public Square: the Gifts, the Challenges”

The following is a summary of the proceedings and talks at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars was held on October 21-22, 2022 with the main theme of

 “Religion in the Public Square: the Gifts, the Challenges.”

The conference took place at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

After two years without a conference due to the pandemic, we were delight to have one this year in Edmonton. Our thanks to Dr. Ryan Topping, Vice-President of the College and Director of the Benedict XVI Institute, who provided an excellent environment for the event.

There were eleven speakers at the conference. All talks were well received and encourage considerable discussion. We hope to have the talks published in future issues of the journal.

Attendance varied but there were between 24-30 people at each talk. The meals, organized by Celene Sidloski and Paul Flaman, were excellent. Celene had two of her nieces prepare excellent buns and cakes for the breakfast and other meals. Paul arranged for everyone to have a classic Ukrainian lunch We closed the conference with a Mass, offered by Fr. Matthew Hysell.

Please note that some of the titles and presentation times listed below from the conference were changed due to time constraints.

To begin is the letter of the Archbishop of Edmonton, the Program, and Presenters short Bios and Abstracts below. We hope that the talks will be soon published in the Canadian FCS Journal Fidelitas and subsequently on the Canadian FCS website. Those who attended thought the talks were of a high caliber.

October 4, 2022

Dear friends, 

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Edmonton and to our Archdiocese for this gathering, the first Conference since 2019, of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

The Archdiocese of Edmonton traces its roots to the 19th century, when French missionaries (Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Grey Nuns and others) were sent to accompany employees of the Hudson's Bay company, and to minister among the First Nations and Métis peoples of Western Canada. Originally erected as the Diocese of St. Albert (1871), covering a vast territory that is today Alberta and much of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, the See was apportioned in 1912 to new diocesan boundaries, transferred to the provincial capital of Edmonton and elevated to the status of an Archdiocese. Today, the Archdiocese covers some 150,000 square kilometres in central Alberta, stretching from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Saskatchewan boundary in the east, within a region touching three treaty territories (Treaties 6, 7 and 8). It includes 61 parishes with resident priests and serves an additional 64 missions. Within its boundaries are 10 Catholic school districts, 10 Catholic health facilities and a vast network of Catholic Social Services assisting persons in need throughout central and northern Alberta.

The theme chosen for your conference "Religion in the Public Square - the Gifts, the Challenges," is especially relevant to the history and contemporary context of our Archdiocese. Catholicism has always been handed on here in concert with public discourse: with Indigenous, ecumenical, and interreligious partners, with secular powers, and amidst an ever-growing, ever diverse populace. Essential to evangelization within such a setting is the key value of religious freedom that respects and honours the good and holy within all traditions, peoples, and identities. In this, all churches, all communities of faith or of no faith have a role to play in discerning and forging both the gifts and the challenges of right relationships into the future.

I am delighted to know you will be present with us, and although other commitments this weekend will prevent me from joining you in person, Fr Matthew Hysell (Professor of Systematic Theology at Newman Theological College), has graciously accepted to represent me and offer Mass at your Conference. I pray for the success of your deliberations and for the work of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in the strengthening of Catholic higher education in Canada.

Yours sincerely in Christ,


Description automatically generated Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton

2022 Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Canada Conference

Religion in the Public Square: The Gifts, the Challenges

Friday, October 21st & Saturday October 22nd, 2022

Newman Theological College, 10012-84 Street, Edmonton, Alberta


Friday, October 21 -

5:00 p.m.  Registration opens

6:00 p.m.        Welcome and Opening Prayer

6:15 p.m. Gwen Landolt - How the Supreme Court Undermines Democracy in Canada (read by Dr Patrick Redmond)

7:00 p.m. Keynote Address: Dr Ryan N.S. Topping Renewing Catholic Education – Six Signs for Hope

9:00 p.m. Wine & Cheese Reception

Saturday, October 22 -

8:00 a.m. Continental breakfast with muffins and coffee 

8:30 a.m. Dr Gerald McLarney, Homer in the Classroom: Can Hector Help Turn the Tide in the War on Boys?

9:30 a.m. Dr Celene Sidloski - Fighting the Good Fight: Sophrosyne and Phronesis in Sophocles’ Antigone

Fr Greg Smith-Windsor – Conscientious Objection and the Natural Law

10:45 a.m. Coffee Break

11:00 a.m.  Dr David M. Foley - Reviving the Medieval Latin Tradition: Translation and the Pandaemonium of the Public Square

12:00 p.m. Ukranian Lunch

1:00 p.m. Dr Francis Fast, The Essential Function of Civil Friendship in    the Catholic Vision of Society

2: 00 p.m. Dr Robert N. Berard – The Catholic Church and Indian Residential School in Canada: the Apologies of Pope Francis

3:00 p.m. Coffee Break

3:30 p.m. Brett Fawcett – “You're a Theocrat, Too”: Identifying the Religious Character of Modern Liberalism as an Evangelistic and Apologetic Strategy 

4:30 p.m. Dr Christian D. Elia - Preservice Religious Education for Catholic Teacher Candidates during the Global Pandemic 

5:30 p.m. Mark Doerksen - The Religious Shield-Wall of Alfred’s England: Alfred the Great’s Intellectual and Religious Programs in the Formation of Anglo-Saxon England 

6:15 p.m. Closing comments by Dr Robert Berard

6:45 p.m. Anticipated Mass of Sunday, 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Celebrant – Fr Matthew Heysell. O.P.

Some members of the Board and some of the Speakers went out for dinner at Continental Treat following the mass.

Presenters and Presentation Abstracts

Gwen Landolt - How the Supreme Court Undermines Democracy in Canada (read by Dr Patrick Redmond)

Canada’s system of government was founded on a clear separation of powers between the Legislative (Parliament - the House of Commons and Senate), Executive (Governor-General, Prime Minister and Cabinet and their respective ministries), and the Judicial branches. This separation has been the foundation of the Westminster Parliamentary System since the 1688 Revolution and the Act of Settlement 1701. The separation of powers is a means to provide checks and balances on governmental power to protect and safeguard the liberties of the individual and is based upon the principles that no one, including government, is above the law and that only the consent of the governed gives legitimacy to government. I argue that this well-designed system has been compromised in Canada, especially since the adoption of the Charter of Rights, which now imperils Canada’s ability to function as a free parliamentary democracy.

C. Gwendolyn Landolt graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia and was called to the British Columbia bar. She has had an extensive legal career in private practice, as a Crown prosecutor and as a lawyer with the federal givernment, where she specialized in immigration and indigenous affairs.  Mrs. Landolt has written extensively on Canadian constitutional issues, in particular the Canadian Charter of Rights and has been involved in morre than thirty cases, mostly before the Supreme Court of Canada. She has published many articles as well as Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s Great Betrayal (2017).

Dr Ryan N.S. Topping – Conference Keynote Address - Renewing Catholic Education: Six Signs for Hope

Until the 1960s, the Catholic Church in Canada relied upon the classical liberal arts tradition to foster the faith and Catholic culture of our young.  That confidence broke apart as schools and colleges disengaged from their foundations and has been further eroded as a result of the rise of Woke culture within academia.  In recent years, pockets of renewal have appeared.  Confining my remarks to the sphere of education, and drawing upon sociological data on Catholic Education in Canada, as well as the theoretical framework of John Henry Newman, this paper identifies six areas where those looking to renew Catholic Education in Canada may draw inspiration.

Dr Ryan Topping has published widely in both popular and scholarly venues on Catholic themes and figures.  His forthcoming work is Thinking as Though God Exists: Newman on Evangelizing the ‘Nones’. He is a recipient of the Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal and serves as Vice-President and the Director of the Benedict XVI Institute for the New Evangelization at Newman Theological College in Edmonton.  

Dr Gerald McLarney - Homer in the Classroom: Can Hector Help Turn the Tide in the War on Boys?

There is a war being waged and the boys are losing. Across a plethora of metrics, boys are consistently outranked by girls. To the chorus of suggested remedies, this paper proffers a novel one for boys at the secondary level, namely Homer’s tutelage and the study of his Trojan Prince Hector. Not only does the Iliad’s hero provide a template for the besieged but Hector also epitomizes the Homeric vision of what it means to be a loyal son, a faithful husband, a loving father, a disciplined brother, and above all, a properly ordered thumatic man. After sketching how Hector is key to understanding Homeric anthropology and addressing various Homeric criticisms, we consider the ways by which Homer’s exposition of manhood in Hector can serve as a helpful narrative template for adolescent boys seeking to become well-ordered thumatic men. 

Dr McLarney is a secondary teacher and Headmaster at the Chesterton Academy of St. Isidore in Sherwood Park, AB., and serves as a sessional instructor at St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta. His academic interests include St. Augustine, Religious Education, World Religions, J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as Mythology and Sacred Scripture.

Dr Celene Sidloski - Fighting the Good Fight: Sophrosyne and Phronesis in Sophocles’ Antigone

Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone reveals what is at stake in the conflict between divine law and civil law when the latter refuses to be informed by the former, and the human virtues required to achieve true justice within such a conflict. This classical tragedy, written, for public performance at Athens’ yearly religious festival (to Dionysus), is a prime expositor of the always-precarious position of religion in public life and of those who fight on its behalf. 

The familiarity of stories told within the plays to Greek audiences demonstrates the degree to which ancient Athenian culture desired to keep in view the vices and errors to which human judgment and action are naturally prone in relation to the divine and in the navigation of public conflict. I will argue that in Antigone it is the highly multivalent virtue of sophrosyne in both its masculine and feminine aspects that is revealed as necessary in both Creon’s and Antigone’s approaches to the conflict. However, the limitations of the historically-bound meanings of sophrosyne require that we also consider the role of phronesis (prudence, or practical wisdom). Understanding both sophorosyne and phronesis aids in revealing for us the most abiding lessons we might learn from Antigone in our own attempts to preserve or re-integrate religious principles in public life.

Dr Celene Sidloski (B.Ed., B.A., M.A. (University of Saskatchewan)), Ph.D. (English, U of T) teaches in the English and Interdisciplinary Studies Departments at St. Thomas More College and in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.  She is also the founder and director of Rebuilding Catholic Culture, a non-profit apostolate devoted to the exploration of the Catholic intellectual tradition through its art, literature, philosophy, and theology.

Fr Greg Smith-Windsor – Conscientious Objection and the Natural Law

The relationship between the authority of conscience and the authority of the state is a perennial issue in both political and ethical philosophy. An extreme emphasis on the authority of the state or the conscience leads to the undermining of a free society.  This

paper will explore issues at play in this interaction from the perspective of natural law by exploring the proper domain and orientation of each sphere of authority. It will then demonstrate how the application of natural law principles offers a practical solution to the fraught issue of conscientious objection in a medical context. The solution that the application of natural law offers to this social issue properly respects the freedom of conscience necessary for a free society while allowing for the reasonable limits that governments need to maintain and enact the legal order necessary for a society.

Fr Greg Smith-Windsor holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in from the University of Saskatchewan (2009) and an Advanced Master’s in Divinity from St Peter’s Seminary in London, ON (2015); and he is currently completing a Master’s in Philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently pastor of St Mary’s Parish in Langan, SK and Holy Rosary Parish in Leroy, SK. He has also taught at St Therese Institute of Faith and Mission at Bruno, SK. His research interests focus on the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, with particular attention to his ethical works.

Dr David M. Foley - Reviving the Medieval Latin Tradition: Translation and the Pandemonium of the Public Square

The eviction of the Latin language from every domain of Catholic culture since the middle of the last century represents a blow to the life of the Church. On reflection, perhaps the best way to convert the Babel of the modern world was not to cut the mother tongue from the mouth of the Catholic tradition. I consider here how we should go about reviving our Catholic identity, which is bound inextricably to two-thousand years of authoritative documents, biblical commentaries, liturgical poetry, hagiography, and theological treatises written in a language that no one reads anymore. It contend that, as we begin seriously to read, study, and teach –– in a word, to naturalize –– the medieval tradition, we will simultaneously be cultivating a rich Catholic culture that, by its very nature, offers the most virile resistance against a “dictatorship of relativism” that has come to possess the mind of the West. One way that we can begin to re-immerse ourselves in this great tradition is through the work of translation. 

Dr David Foley received his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto (Centre for Medieval Studies) in 2020. His research is focused on the critical edition of early scholastic manuscripts, and the Latin tradition of Gospel commentary from the Church Fathers to the medieval masters, with a special concentration on twelfth-century exegesis. Recently, he has begun to produce translations of medieval texts for Angelus Press. He resides in Saskatoon, where he teaches Latin to homeschoolers.

Dr Francis Fast - The Essential Function of Civil Friendship in the Catholic Vision of Society

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church observes that “life in society takes on all its significance when it is based on civil friendship and on fraternity,” yet this concept has very little explicit development within the document.  The origins of the notion of civil friendship within the document come directly from the thought of Aristotle, which raises certain questions about their applicability to the modern context.  However, unpacking Aristotle’s notion of civil friendship clarifies why this precept of the church’s social doctrine is perennially true, and suggests both that a number of current social problems stem from the breakdown specifically of civil friendship, and that the church is uniquely positioned to build up a culture of civil friendship in the wake of its erosion.

Dr Francis Fast is the Director of the Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies at Newman Theological College.  He received a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy from the University of Dallas, where he wrote on the social thought of Thomas Aquinas.  While he teaches a wide range of courses on philosophy at Newman, his research interests are more specifically on Thomist social theory and its intersection with Catholic Social Teaching. 

Dr Robert N. Berard – The Catholic Church and Indian Residential School in Canada: the Apologies of Pope Francis

The visit of Pope Francis to Canada in July 2022 took place in response to demands from within and without the Catholic Church that the Holy Father come to Canada and deliver a formal apology on behalf of the Church to indigenous peoples who had been adversely affected by their experience in Church-staffed residential schools from the end of the 19th century to the 1970s. My presentation will examine the Pope’s remarks at his various public appearances during his visit and try to relate them to previous papal apologies, to the larger tragedy of the Indian Residential School system, and to the “Truth and Reconciliation” process sponsored by the Canadian government.

Dr Robert N. Berard is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University. He holds a B.A. in history from Antioch College (OH), M.A. and Ph.D. in history from McMaster University (ON), and a B.Ed. from Dalhousie University (NS).


Dr Berard has published articles on a variety of topics in historiography, educational and cultural history, and Canadian Catholic history. He is currently working on a biography of Archbishop John T. McNally, first Bishop of Calgary, Bishop of Hamilton (ON), and Archbishop of Halifax. He has served since 2006 as President of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Canada) and editor of Fidelitas, the Fellowship’s semi-annual journal.

Brett Fawcett – “You're a Theocrat, Too”: Identifying the Religious Character of Modern Liberalism as an Evangelistic and Apologetic Strategy

The modern liberal secular justifies the suppression and restriction of religious speech and exercise on the grounds that religion properly belongs in the "private" sphere and becomes dangerous and illegitimate when it forms "public" policy. This paper will argue, however, that the modern liberal secular "public" is itself based on theological premises (from Locke all the way down to Rawls), that its policies rely on religious assumptions, that it happily embraces political movements with expressly theological justifications, and that multiculturalism requires at least an allowance for religiously-inspired policy formation.

Brett Fawcett is a teacher and writer from Alberta with an academic background in education, law, and theology. He is an Ed.D. student at the University of Calgary, the author of Spitting Towards the West: Catholic Ruminations from the Edge of the Autism Spectrum, and has written for Fidelitas, the Canadian Journal for Scholarship and the Christian Faith, the Global Journal for Classic Theology, the St. Austin Review, Our Sunday Visitor, the Edmonton Journal, and other outlets of secular, religious, academic, and popular orientation.

Dr Christian Elia & Karen De Ponte - Preservice Religious Education for Catholic Teacher Candidates during the Global Pandemic

Intended as a follow-up to a 2017 paper with co-author Jim McGee (A Personal Encounter with Christ and His Church: An Effective Approach to Teaching Future Teachers for Catholic Schools), this study relies on data collected by co-author and co-researcher Ms. Katarina De Ponte, a student in the same pre-service Catholic education course in 2021. We were to track her experiences and draw conclusions on the efficacy of the course based on a student’s perspective.  With the pandemic lock-downs in Ontario, the course was shifted from a live, in-person delivery method to an asynchronous online format. This radical change in course delivery made it impossible to compare the 2017 and 2021 data. The experiences of the student-researcher were so affected by the delivery format, that the study shifted to an examination of preservice Catholic education in the pandemic and the effectiveness of delivering it in an asynchronous online-only format.

Dr Christian Elia is an Academic Associate at Ontario Tech University in the Faculty of Education and Sessional Instructor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). He is also the Executive Director of the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL). His research interests include Catholic education, and freedom of religion in educational institutions. 

Katarina De Ponte studied Religious Studies at York University and Teacher Education at Niagara University. She is a graduate of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), where she now also works as an occasional teacher. 

Mark Doerksen - The Religious Shield-Wall of Alfred’s England: Alfred the Great’s Intellectual and Religious Programs in the Formation of Anglo-Saxon England

In response to the threat in the ninth century to the survival of the Anglo-Saxon people and Christian realm in England, Alfred the Great initiated military and civil projects to protect against attack. He built fortified cities and a navy, but his most enduring legacy may have been an intellectual program aimed at enhancing the social and cultural cohesion of his subjects. 

If Anglo-Saxons were separated from Danes only by minor differences in language and culture, what made Anglo-Saxon England a distinct society? The Catholic faith gave England its identity, as it did to Europe as a whole, and Alfred’s cultural program of translation and education helped to preserve that identity down to our own time. The totality of Alfred’s approach neither disregarded the religious nor the secular sphere. Against an oncoming tide of societal dissolution, religion itself was the shield wall of Alfred’s England.   

Mark Doerksen received his BA from the University of Saskatchewan in 2014, majoring in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies. Continuing this interdisciplinary focus, he received his MA in Medieval Studies from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 2015 where he studied Latin, Old English, and Medieval Literature. In 2016 he enrolled in the PhD program in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. His area of study includes Anglo-Saxon eschatological texts and the theological implications of philology in Anglo-Saxon religious poetry. He is currently working on his dissertation under Saint Thomas More College's Dr Michael Cichon on the philological relationship between Anglo-Saxon eschatological poetry and the Germanic oral tradition.     

Fr Matthew-Anthony Heysell, O.P. – 

Fr Heysell serves as Administrator of St Mark's (Catholic) Community of the Deaf and of St Emeric's Hungarian Catholic Parish in Edmonton, AB and is a Lecturer in Dogmatic Theology at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton.  He also serves as the National Chaplain of the Canadian Section of the International Catholic Deaf Association.