Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 4, 2005
Same-sex marriage undermines communal values
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
and RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Canadians are "witnessing a dangerous deterioration of their communal values," the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in the wake of the House of Commons vote to legalize same-sex marriage.
Archbishop Brendan O'Brien said the bill is a step toward eliminating "recognition and appreciation for the unique importance of the committed relationship of a man and a woman in marriage."
The deterioration of communal values is also evident, O'Brien said, in the high rates of divorce, abortion, declining birth rates and the troubles facing the health care system.
On June 28, after an historic final vote in the House of Commons, Canada became poised to become the third country after the Netherlands and Belgium to legalize same-sex marriage.
After weeks of divisive debate and political drama, the final vote on the bill was 158 to 133.
In Edmonton, Archbishop Thomas Collins issued a statement saying, "This is a sad day for all citizens of our diminished country. Our judges and legislators have failed in their duty to serve the common good, and our society will suffer in the years that lie ahead."
In comments to the WCR, Collins said the passing of the same-sex marriage bill undermines the nature of marriage.
"I think it is very unfortunate," Collins said June 29. "Clearly a pressure group within society has been able to get this through."
Even though the bill provides protection to religious groups who refuse to marry homosexual couples, Collins predicts problems for lay marriage commissioners. "I think in practice the issue of religious freedom is going to be very problematic, not for ministers or priests, but for lay people (who work as) marriage commissioners. If they refuse (to marry a gay couple), they are fired."
The archbishop said the battle is not over. "I think we just have to deal with it. I do think it undermines the status of marriage, makes real marriage into just a form of marriage and diminishes it into that. The law provides a very distorted vision of marriage that is destructive to our whole society."
Collins emphasized that no priest in the Edmonton Archdiocese will ever perform a gay marriage ceremony.
"Never, never," he said emphatically.
O'Brien, the CCCB president, also raised concerns about the lack of respect for freedom of conscience evident in the vote.
"Members of Parliament were forced to follow a political deadline and to vote along party lines on an issue which deeply divides and troubles Canadians," he said.
The St. John's, Nfld., archbishop said the lack of respect for conscience is "an ominous sign" of what can be expected in the future as provinces implement the bill, enact human rights legislation and establish school policies on social and moral questions.
Bill C-38 now goes to Canada's Senate where most anticipate speedy passage. The CCCB president, however, urged senators to hold public hearings and fully examine the religious, civic, legal and social consequences.
Liberal cabinet minister Joe Comuzzi resigned from his post as Northern Ontario economic development minister so he could vote against the legislation, since the Liberal cabinet - many of whom are Roman Catholic - were forced to support the government bill.
The Catholic Civil Rights League, in a June 29 statement, predicted a scenario of litigation, human rights complaints and challenges to charitable status, despite the passage of an amendment to Bill C-38 purporting to protect it.
"The rights of marriage commissioners to refuse to perform these marriages, the rights of Church organizations to control the use of their properties, the rights of parents and school teachers to address what is taught in family life programs, are just some of the problems that are going to land in courts and human rights' tribunals because of this law," said CCRL president Phil Horgan.
The day of the vote, members of the Defend Marriage Coalition, which includes the CCRL, Campaign Life Coalition, Real Women of Canada and the Canadian Family Action Coalition, held a news conference to encourage pro-marriage forces to stay involved in the fight and elect a pro-marriage Parliament in the next election.
Defend Marriage spokesman Charles McVety said the formal fight against same-sex marriage was only beginning.
Following the vote, pro-marriage Liberal MP John McKay said, given the coalition of religious and non-religious groups united around traditional moral principles, the legalization of gay marriage could mean "the potential awakening of a sleeping giant and political parties better prepare for it."
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.