Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2005
Collins challenges 'flawed' reasoning
Same-sex marriage defended with misguided arguments, he says
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The arguments being put forward to justify changing the legal definition of marriage are shallow and misguided, says the archbishop of Edmonton.
"There are lots of reasons being put forward for this change, which really are not well founded, and there are a lot of flaws in the reasoning," says Archbishop Thomas Collins. "And this is misleading."
Collins made his comments Jan. 10 following the release of his Some Reflections on the Current Discussion of Marriage, a 4,100-word document designed to give Catholics "a background resource that examines in greater detail some of the weak argumentation that is being used to support this change."
In an interview, Collins noted proponents of the change have managed to convince many citizens, including many Catholics, that changing the legal definition "is the fair thing to do, even the Christian thing to do."
For this he blamed the media, which he said presents the arguments in favour of the change "in a very persuasive but shallow way, playing largely to the emotions and without really looking at the issues themselves."
Collins said the Church had no option but to get involved in the political debate. "This issue has been forced upon us and we have a duty to respond since the protection of marriage is a vitally important concern for us and all citizens.
"This is being pressed forward largely through the courts, which have this idea that this is a question of human rights, which I would say it is not. So these are initiatives being taken by those who are trying to change what is the long, established and fundamental definition (of marriage). So when that is happening I think somebody has to say something about it. We have to respond to it because others are pushing it."
What the letter is intended to do "is give a background so the people who are involved in this issue and who are trying to promote what is right will be able to have a resource which examines in greater detail some of the weak argumentation that is being used to support this change," the archbishop said.
In his published reflections, Collins debunks each of the arguments with solid analysis, defining marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, faithful in love and open to the gift of life.
He says the definition of marriage is unchangeable "because the stable reality of marriage and the family is the context for bringing into existence new human persons and nurturing them as they grow into adulthood."
A marriage between partners of the same sex is not truly life giving because it is out of harmony with the nature of marriage and the great gift of sexuality, the archbishop said.
Permitting same-sex marriage affects everyone in the country, not just those who enter into such arrangements.
"It changes the legitimized legal concept of marriage for the whole of society in which we all live and in which we all try to sustain the basic reality of the family," the archbishop writes. It also relegates marriage to the status of being simply one variety of marriage.
"All of us suffer if marriage is so diminished in our civil community. No one has the right to do that."
Collins says it is misleading to present the proposal to redefine marriage as a human rights issue because it is not.
"It is not unjust, or a limitation of anyone's legitimate rights and freedoms to insist that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman," he argues. "The procreative potential of marriage . . . is a basic element of what marriage is, just as swimming is a basic element of being a lifeguard and playing music is a basic element of being a musician in an orchestra."
In the Gospels Jesus welcomes everyone with unconditional love but it is a caricature to equate his love with the idea that any behaviour is fine, argues Collins, noting that Jesus said marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. "To ignore the Gospels and say that Jesus gives people a licence to do whatever they want is not responsible. That is not what the love of Jesus means."
In the interview Collins said he expects the government to introduce legislation changing the definition of marriage by the end of January.
"It is disturbing that the prime minister, although allowing a free vote for the backbenchers has insisted that cabinet ministers vote in favour of this," he lamented. "This is a matter of conscience and I would say that if this is going to be voted on at all every single member of Parliament, whatever party, should be able to vote their conscience."
The archbishop said people should write and call their members of Parliament expressing their views on the same-sex marriage issue and on the actual legislation.
Regardless of what happens, Catholic priests will never perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, Collins said.
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