For the first time since the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of Canada from coast to coast have spoken out, not anonymously in a group via the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as hitherto, but as individual heads of their own dioceses. "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?" asked Jesus (Mark 4:21).
The issue that moved the bishops was the proposed federal legislation to change the definition of marriage. It is as if, after a long slumber of almost 40 years, the bishops have been finally aroused to exercise their role as prophets and teachers in the long neglected area of marital and sexual morality. The awakening is none too early because the tsunami of moral permissiveness which began in the nineteen-sixties has finally rolled ashore threatening to wash away the legal foundations of the basic unit of society, the family. Has the alarm system gone off too late to save us?
Let us not dwell on this last question. The battle has been joined at last, the traditional position of marriage in society is being proclaimed once again, the liberal-secular ideologues have been challenged and, perhaps too, the momentum has begun to shift in favour of truth, freedom and the dignity of the family. Note also that Evangelical Protestant congregations in Canada are calling for vigorous defensive action from their members, while the Knights of Columbus in Quebec have begun to stir up the otherwise religiously somnambulant Catholic community of that province. "Error is approved by non-resistance, and truth is suffocated by not defending her," wrote Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) a hundred years ago.
More to do
What has been done so far? The two dozen Episcopal statements have not gone much beyond the reiteration of the sanctity of marriage and a general invitation to participate in the debate. Archbishop Prendergast's early reaction (Halifax, Dec. 15) in exposing four falsehoods was useful in dispelling right away the notion that the cause was already lost.
The common thread running through the pastoral letters--as well as the January 19 open letter of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic to the Prime Minister--is the demand for a truly free vote (no coercion of Cabinet Ministers), the rejection--implicitly or explicitly--of the newly invented definition of marriage as a "right" and, in the case of Cardinal Ambrozic and some others, the call to use the Notwithstanding Clause to gain a respite for re-thinking the government's course of action. In teaching in accordance with the truth, the bishops project marriage as originating in the will of God and therefore not a human construct subject to change at will.
Of interest is the pastoral letter of Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry who expressed himself directly and forcefully. Two of his points are specially noteworthy:
1) "Contrary to what is normally alleged, the primary goals in seeking legalization of same-sex 'marriage' are not the financial or health or inheritance or pension benefits associated with marriage.... The principal objective in seeking same-sex 'marriage' is not really even about equality of rights. The goal is to acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society's rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance."
2) "The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to same-sex couples is not discrimination. It is not something opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires such an opposition" (see also C.I., February 2005, pp.22-24).
One further observation. Societal acceptance of homosexual activity and lifestyle will not ease the conscience of those who imagine that it will.
Needless to say, there are other things to be done. Most important is to repeat the Pope's teaching that "lawmakers and Catholic legislators may never vote in favour of laws attacking life or attacking the family." [Feb. 28, 2004. See C.I., Feb. 2005, p.42]. Sixteen of the 39 Cabinet ministers are Catholics. They live in the dioceses of Montreal, Toronto, London, Hamilton, Ottawa and Regina. Other Catholic MPs are not in Cabinet but also reject Church teaching. Their Catholic faith is at stake.
One other consequence of remaining silent is to discourage Members of Parliament who are faithful, and who for their troubles, are branded "bigots," "homophobes" and "fundamentalists" by the media.
Lent is a time of repentance and sacrifice. Perhaps each one of us could make some special sacrifice done in praise of God during these weeks for God's healing of our country. Moreover, St. Joseph's feast day is March 19 and he is the Patron Saint of Canada. Pray to him.
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|Title Annotation:||Canadian Catholic bishops speak against marriage laws|
|Author:||de Valk, Alphonse|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2005|
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