Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 7, 2007
Individualism tears at society's fabric
People are inherently social beings, says Archbishop Smith
- Design Pics photo
Fight society's prison and reach out for the Holy Spirit's guidance.
By GLEN ARGAN
When Canada's Parliament legalized same-sex marriage two years ago, Pembroke Bishop Richard Smith was one of the outspoken opponents.
Like many bishops, he wrote to the faithful of his diocese. Smith said the government had "arbitrarily fashioned a new concept of marriage.
"This is a radical and unjustifiable break from ages-old tradition and robs the matrimonial union of a man and a woman of its uniqueness."
And when the issue re-emerged last year after the election of a Conservative government, he spoke out again.
One opportunity came at the national Catholic Women's League convention in Halifax in August. There, he urged CWL members across Canada to write letters and speak personally with their MPs on the "incredibly important issue."
A few weeks later, as president of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, he addressed Pope Benedict when the bishops were making their ad limina visits to Rome. Smith told the pope how Canada's bishops, along with many priests and laity, participated in the public debate "to defend the truth concerning marriage.
"This truth will continue to be defended," he continued, "not only by making our voices heard but also through the clear and joyful witness that many of our families give to the beauty of marriage as inscribed in human nature by our Creator."
In an April 12 interview with the WCR, Smith said same-sex marriage was "just one issue" reflecting the deeper problem of individualism and relativism in society.
That individualism continues to be expressed in how society grapples with other issues such as consumerism and the end of a person's life, he said.
The Church needs to offer society "a vision that sees the human being as an individual that is also inalienably and unavoidably linked with God who has fashioned us," he said.
We need God
There is "a need for God written right into the nature of the human being. We need to acknowledge that and live from it."
"What impels us is simply the truth,"
- Archbishop Richard Smith
As well, people are inherently social beings, the archbishop said. Each person is "called to reach out to the other in love, precisely as another subject. " A person is not a thing to be manipulated.
But in today's society, individual rights are being pursued without any reference to God or any concern for the common good, he said.
"That all came out very clearly in the debate over marriage. But that was just one issue."
Smith said politicians may no longer be considering the issue of same-sex marriage, but that will not impede the Church's witness.
"What impels us is simply the truth," he said. "The fact that there may be setbacks at the level of the legislature doesn't mean that we cease to hold what we know to be true."
Part of that witness, he said, comes at "the ground level." CWL members, for example, were deeply troubled by and deeply engaged in the same-sex marriage issue.
As women who have raised families, "they're in a wonderful position to give that witness that we need right now - to holy, wholesome lives."
We don't know what effect that witness will have, he said. "But as Christians we do this impelled by and empowered by the Holy Spirit who takes all of our efforts and somehow brings them to fruition in accordance with God's plan.
"We don't always see how that's unfolding, but we do trust that the Spirit is working to turn all things to the good."