Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 1, 2004
State cannot redefine marriage
Speakers discuss Church's stand on same sex marriage
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and the state has no right to redefine it, says the archbishop of Edmonton.
Speaking at a public forum on same sex marriage, Archbishop Thomas Collins said the state has a perfect right to regulate the civil effects of marriage but cannot change it because it didn't create it.
"The state is a servant, not a master of marriage," he said. "Marriage pre-exists the state. The state didn't make it and the state has no authority whatsoever to redefine the nature of marriage itself."
And Collins said assurances by the Canadian government that clergy will not be forced to perform marriages that go against their consciences are irrelevant because no clergy will perform gay marriages anyway. "Certainly no Catholic priest will and I think that's true of many other faiths as well."
Knights sponsor meeting
Collins was one of four speakers at a public forum on same-sex marriages at St. Dominic Savio Parish Hall Feb. 19. The Knights of Columbus of Alberta and Northwest Territories put on the meeting, whose purpose was to give the community an understanding of the faith of the Church on the same-sex marriage issue.
Mickey Casavant, state deputy for the Alberta/NWT Knights, hosted the two-and-a-half-hour-session.
Basilian Father Jack Gallagher, president of Newman Theological College, John MacDonald of the Family Enrichment Centre and Richard Corneil, an assistant professor at St. Joseph's University College, also spoke at the meeting. Close to 100 people attended.
Gallagher warned that changing the definition of marriage, whose prime function is the procreation, raising and education of children, would lead to the destruction of the family and society, as we know them.
"There is no more fundamental issue in public life than the welfare of the next generation and there is no other institution that takes better care of it than marriage," he said. "If you think that you can play with that and redefine it and not have ramifications, you are mad."
Collins noted that the "false" argument of justice is the single most crucial thing in the same-sex marriage debate.
"This isn't a passing thing and it has been put on our agenda by a group whose members feel that their rights are being denied," he warned the congregation.
The use of the human rights argument in the same-sex marriage debate has led many people, including many Catholics, to favourably respond to the attempts of the state to redefine marriage, he noted.
"This is presented not as a question of the nature of marriage but rather as a question of human rights. Once that illegitimate switch in perspective is established, many people, without considering the implications, would want to support the move (to redefine marriage as an act) to redress an injustice."
But Collins implied that denying state recognition for same-sex marriage is no more discriminatory than denying employment in an orchestra to a person who does not know or is not willing to play a musical instrument.
"So it is not a question of injustice, it is a question of the reality of marriage," he said. "The thought that everyone must be able to be married or else as if they are being cheated (out of something)" is simply out of line. Not everyone, not any of us, can do everything in life."
Collins said noted proposed changes to the institution of marriage would have been unthinkable 20 or 25 years ago. "It is something that is truly radical and yet it is something that just has been proposed off the cuff and now dominates the agenda. "(Catholics) need to think about this because marriage is one of the pillars of society," Collins said. "Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman faithfully in love and open to life."
Allowing same-sex marriage would reduce the fundamental reality of traditional marriage to a simple title or form. "Marriage itself (would become) one flavour of marriage. This is enormously destructive."
It is vital that parishes address the same-sex marriage issue "because this is a profoundly serious issue and one that affects the nature of society," Collins told his audience.
"We too have a right to speak. But we must approach (the issue) with love, clarity, charity and justice.
Catholics must also learn to act effectively and they must "pray for those who so forcefully are seeking to advance these destructive views.
"We need to pray and have compassion as well for those who find these false views attractive."
A key factor in same sex relationships is friendship. But friendship is there for every person "and it does not mean that such relationships are marriage or should be called marriage or that that type of a thing is the proper and real foundation of marriage," Collins said.
"The reality of marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman faithfully in love and open to life. And those realities must always be at the foundation of it all."
Courage group established
MacDonald, the Family Enrichment Centre director, said same-sex attracted people are people like everyone else and should be treated with love, dignity and respect.
"These people are our brothers and our sisters. They are as much a part of God's plan of love and beauty as you and me are and deserve our love, respect and support as much as you and me do."
With full backing from the archbishop, MacDonald has just launched a group called Courage in the Edmonton Archdiocese. This is a spiritual support group that helps homosexual men and women to live in accordance with the Church's teaching on homosexuality.
For more information on Courage call MacDonald at 469-2323.