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There is probably some truth in the criticism. We Canadians tend to be a little smug about ourselves. We're abundantly blessed with natural resources, we have an immensely talented labor pool and topnotch schools and universities. We boast an enviable lifestyle and continue to attract well-qualified immigrants from many nations. And so we rest on our laurels.

But this criticism has echoes in other aspects of Canadian life, too. Notably, these are areas ignored by economic think tanks and the corporate elite. We're talking about our spiritual health and this is one area in which Canadians can truly use some soul-searching.

Pope Benedict XVI offered an analysis to Ontario's bishops during their ad limina meeting last September that should be just as important to Canada's decision-makers as those dire economic reports. While praising the country's commitment to justice and peace and its vibrant multiculturalism, the Pope gently pointed out that we are increasingly detached from our moral roots.

"Certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing ways," he said, citing the legalization of same-sex marriage and the ongoing scandal of unfettered abortion.

He noted "the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom."

Could it be that the lack of attention to our spiritual health is showing up elsewhere? Pope Benedict seems to think so. A country based on nothing beyond the material pleasure of its members will not inspire its citizens to die for it. Nor does it inspire excellence, idealism or lofty ambition. If we truly are "productivity laggards," it's because we are spiritual laggards first.

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Joseph Sinasac is publisher and editor of The Catholic Register.

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