Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 28, 2005
Same sex law threatens freedom
Cardinal Marc Ouellet warns of future dire restrictions
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Cardinal Marc Ouellet said he is concerned about the impact that proposed same-sex marriage legislation could have on the future of religious freedom.
Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, also said that by promoting same-sex marriage the Canadian government is "sowing confusion" and bringing "deep division to society on the basis of a supposed right."
In a telephone interview from Quebec City Feb. 17, the day after Prime Minister Paul Martin began debate on Bill C-38 in the House of Commons, Ouellet said same-sex marriage discards the basic fact "that a man is a man and a woman is a woman, and their union is marriage."
"There is a sort of abusive interpretation of discrimination and the fundamental right to marriage," he said.
"If you take (conjugality) out, you don't have marriage. You have something else. You have a generic sort of union, but you don't have marriage," he said.
Ouellet warned that the state is advocating something that is contrary to the natural order of things, and in doing so its leaders are falling into "subjectivism" and "everything becomes arbitrary and you have no foundations for civil rights or civil marriage."
"If the words can be twisted in this way, so religious freedom, too, or any other thing can be twisted in any way according to the arbitrary power of pressure groups," he said.
"It will divide the country deeply and for a long time, and it will put religious freedom under attack in the very near future," he said.
Ouellet predicted that once the groups wanting this change get state recognition for same-sex marriage, the next step will be to force the churches to recognize and to bless those unions.
"If they bring me to the court because I am teaching against homosexuality as part of the doctrine of the Catholic Church, I will be accused of homophobia," he said. "Those things are very serious, and it's on the way. We are very concerned, very concerned with the future."
Martin's speech narrowly framed religious freedom in terms of the rights of religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, but Ouellet said that religious freedom means far more than merely what happens inside a church during a wedding.
He raised concerns about religious groups having to allow their churches or other buildings to be used for same-sex marriage celebrations and that groups opposing same-sex marriage risk having their charitable status removed.
He said that even the promises to protect religious officials are empty because solemnization of marriage is under provincial jurisdiction.
Ouellet said he was especially concerned about how Martin defined same-sex marriage as a human right and cast opponents of Bill C-38 as against the Charter of Rights.
He also raised concerns about the conscience rights of Canadians who work in government or in the public school system.
"They will be forced to teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are the same thing, that they are equally acceptable, even if contrary to their convictions," he said.
Ouellet's concerns echoed those the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops raised in a Feb. 15 letter to the prime minister.
During the House of Commons debate, Canada's opposition leader, Conservative Party member Stephen Harper, proposed that Parliament keep the traditional definition of marriage and allow the provinces to offer a civil-union option for gays and lesbians.
He said the Supreme Court has not ruled that traditional marriage is unconstitutional, and he said same-sex marriage is not a human right. He said Parliament could make a statute to preserve the opposite-sex definition of marriage.
Ouellet said Canada was in "juridical chaos" and that Parliament making a law to protect the opposite-sex definition of marriage "would set the parameters for the judges to interpret the Charter (of Rights) and would respect basic facts of human reality."