Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 31, 2005
Bishops lead the fight
Prelates outspoken on need to protect traditional marriage
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
In dioceses across Canada, Catholic bishops have led the charge in the battle to preserve traditional marriage and now face the return salvos from those who reject their stand against same-sex marriage.
"At the risk of being judged politically incorrect, we need to recall that the bill under discussion is offensive to the moral and religious sensibility of a great number of citizens, both Catholic and non-Catholic," wrote Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Church in Canada.
"The debate on this question has only just begun. Let us hope that it will be careful and serious," Ouellet said in a Jan. 21 pastoral letter.
Ouellet's letter received widespread coverage in the secular media, as did Toronto Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic's Jan. 18 open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin and Calgary Bishop Fred Henry's Jan. 16 pastoral letter.
Several speak out
But their missives were only three among several public statements by bishops across Canada.
Bishop Anthony Tonnos of Hamilton called for his followers to let members of Parliament know that "the traditional definitions of marriage must be upheld for the common good of our society." And Edmonton's Archbishop Thomas Collins issued a 4,100-word document through the WCR challenging "some of the weak argumentation that is being used to support" same-sex marriage.
Other bishops who have issued public statements in the last month include Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Halifax, Vancouver Archbishop Raymond Roussin and Bishop Ron Fabbro of London, Ont.
As well, bishops' conferences in both Alberta and Ontario have urged Catholics to lobby parliamentarians to oppose same-sex marriage.
But there is of yet no concerted nation-wide strategy by the bishops to oppose same-sex marriage legislation, said Archbishop Brendan O'Brien of St. John's, Nfld., president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
O'Brien said the CCCB executive will consider a strategic approach to take once the legislation is tabled.
He said the CCCB has encouraged bishops since December to engage in the debate and inform parishioners of the importance of their being involved.
Cardinal Ambrozic urged Martin to legislate the opposite sex definition of marriage and invoke the charter's notwithstanding clause to allow five years of sober reflection on the implications of same-sex marriage.
Attorney General Irwin Cotler rejected Ambrozic's request.
"Rights are rights are rights," Colter told The Globe and Mail. Cotler added that use of the charter's over-ride provision "would really be an acknowledgement by the government that it is violating rights."
Archbishop O'Brien said there's a "fundamental disconnect" between the view of those like Cotler who say the debate is about human rights and those who see marriage as a basic social institution for the procreating and nurturing of children.
Calgary's Bishop Henry has had a rough ride for his letter on the topic.
A Jan. 18 Globe and Mail editorial said Henry "should be reprimanded and his views repudiated by the Church hierarchy" for equating homosexuality with adultery, prostitution and pornography.
Asked if Henry should or could be reprimanded, O'Brien said that the CCCB is an association of bishops and that "I'm not the superior of anyone. We're not a disciplinary body."
"A bishop's superior authority is the holy father," he said.
Bishop Henry "is also very capable of defending himself," he said, smiling.
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