Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 14, 2005
Bishops fear fallout from gay 'marriage'
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Canada's Catholic bishops have warned of unknown social consequences should the federal government's same-sex marriage legislation be approved.
"What one can already anticipate will be prolonged and divisive litigation across Canada on the rights under freedom of conscience and religion," the bishops said in a Feb. 3 statement.
The bishops say litigation will come in three possible areas. Freedom of conscience may be threatened when individuals or Church groups:
Refuse to participate in same-sex "marriages."
Teach and preach on marriage and homosexuality as consistent with one's faith and conscience."
Refuse the use of their facilities for same-sex celebrations.
"The proposed redefinition of marriage not only clashes with Catholic faith and practice, but has enormous civil and social implications for all Canadians."
While the government and proponents of same-sex marriage frame the debate in terms of individual rights, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) continues to frame marriage as a social institution necessary to the common good.
The CCCB also maintains that marriage is inherently procreative, something a same-sex marriage can never be.
"The draft legislation overlooks how the conjugal partnership of a man and a woman in marriage constitutes an irreplaceable good for society in providing a stable and positive environment for children and thus for future generations," the bishops' statement says.
The bishops also point out that the Supreme Court in its Dec. 9 opinion on the marriage reference never said the traditional definition of marriage is contrary to the charter or that same-sex marriage legislation is necessary.
The bishops also raise concerns about the protection for faith groups should the bill pass since the Supreme Court has said that the provinces have jurisdiction over the solemnization of marriage.
They say the legislation does not protect faith groups from losing their charitable status if they do not agree with the redefinition of marriage.
The bishops urge all political parties to allow a free vote to all members.
The Liberals will force cabinet ministers to toe the party line, and the NDP is requiring all members to support the bill, though the Manitoba MP Bev Desjarlais (Churchill) has said she will oppose the bill.
The bishops' full statement is available on the CCCB website at www.cccb.ca.
A free vote in Parliament may not be enough for Canadians. A COMPAS Inc. poll done for the National Post and Global Television published Feb. 2, which shows that more than two-thirds of Canadians want a national referendum on marriage.
The polls says that if a referendum were held, a similar percentage would vote to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.
An SES poll published the same day in the Sun newspaper chain showed that almost 42 per cent of Canadians say they would punish MPs who vote against their position on marriage. That poll showed a fairly even split among those for and against same-sex marriage.
In the meantime, postcards, letters and emails continue to inundate MPs' offices, including a postcard campaign led by the Knights of Columbus. The bill is expected to go into second reading in the House of Commons the week of Feb. 14, when debate on the principles of the bill will begin before it is referred to a special legislative committee.
It's unclear how long the debate will last, as Conservative House Leader Jay Hill, has told journalists that more than half of his 99-member caucus wants to speak on the bill. The Liberal caucus is divided on the bill, so it's expected many back-benchers will also want to enter the debate.
Offer civil unions
Conservative leader Stephen Harper says his party plans to introduce amendments to preserve the traditional opposite sex definition of marriage and offer civil unions for gays and lesbians with all the rights and privileges of marriage without the name.
If any amendments are put forward, that starts a whole new round of debate.
After the second-reading debate, the bill will be voted on in principle. If that vote passes without any significant amendments, sources say there will be little "wiggle room" for changes to the legislation. But Hill said amendments could still take place at the committee stage and the committee could choose to travel or invite witnesses.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.