Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 20, 2004
Catholics urged to enter the marriage debate
Alberta bishops challenge right to gay marriages
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Bishops of Alberta are urging the faithful to make their voices heard in the same-sex marriage debate.
"It is the right and responsibility of all Catholics and of all citizens who are troubled by the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage, to enter into the forthcoming debate and, with clarity and charity, make their voices heard by our political leaders," the bishops said in a brief statement released Dec. 9.
"Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, faithful in love and open to the gift of life," they said.
"Marriage and the family are the foundation of society through which children are brought into this world and nurtured as they grow into adulthood. The family is a more fundamental social institution than the state, and the strength of the family is vital for the well-being of our whole society."
The bishops released their statement only hours after the Supreme Court of Canada made public its opinion on a government reference case, saying Ottawa can redefine marriage to include homosexual couples.
Prime Minister Paul Martin announced his government early next year will introduce a bill to legalize gay marriage across the country. Church ministers will not be compelled to perform marriages that conflict with their beliefs.
Archbishop Thomas Collins said the state has no right to change the nature of marriage and called on citizens to fight its attempt.
"The state has every right to try to regulate the civil effects of marriage but has no right to try to redefine that basic institution which is far more fundamental than the state," he said.
"If a bill were present that would change the nature of marriage, I think that members of Parliament ought to vote against it. We are asking everyone who is troubled by this effort to reinvent marriage to express their voice. People who wish to change the nature of marriage have not been hesitant to speak out."
Collins said it is unthinkable that the Church would sanction gay marriages.
Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary said extending the meaning of "marriage" to include same-sex unions won't change the way the Church sees marriage.
"We will continue to celebrate the sacrament of Marriage as a union of a man and a woman, period," he said Dec. 9. "That's not something that the Supreme Court has the authority or the jurisdiction to decide on as far as we are concerned. And so there will be no situation or circumstance in which a Catholic priest will have the freedom to solemnize or bless any other kind of union."
Henry said he plans to be involved in the same-sex marriage debate and called on the laity to do the same. But he warned against engaging in any unjust discrimination against people in same-sex unions.
"We don't consider this to be a question of individual rights at all," Henry said of the issue. "Marriage is the rock or the foundation upon which our society is built; inherent in that notion is marriage's ability to procreate and to nurture children and to provide for the future of the society itself. And a same-sex union is simply not open to that possibility."
The Calgary bishop hopes Martin will allow a free vote on the issue in Parliament. "This is not a time in which to exercise a strong-handed approach here and insist on cabinet solidarity. Members of Parliament must be allowed to vote their conscience."
Collins called on the faithful to enter into the democratic discussion and to present their views to their members of Parliament "forcefully and persuasively and with clarity and with charity."
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