The catholic community battles same-sex 'marriage'.
The March 2005 editorial, "Canada's tsunami," pointed out that same-sex "marriage" (SSM) legislation has moved Canada's bishops to speak out individually from coast to coast for the first time since the close of Vatican II in 1965. What have they said and how effective have they been?
It won't surprise readers that our survey reveals varied reactions, ranging from being "to the point" and assertive, to being soft-spoken and almost timid. A few bishops have confronted members of Parliament publicly; some have done so privately; others, again, wrote letters and/or issued pastoral statements restricted to basic Catholic teaching on marriage, barely mentioning SSM or not at all. In Quebec most bishops have stayed silent.
Measuring the effectiveness of these communications will always be imperfect. Aside from the content of the pastoral letters themselves, much depends on what parish priests do with them, whether or not they get summarized or printed in the daily press, and whether Catholic weeklies spread the word not only by printing the texts but also by following up with Parliamentary progress reports.
The Maritime weeklies--the New Freeman (St. John, N.B.) and the Atlantic Catholic (Antigonish, N.S.)--plus Ontario's Catholic Register did very well, keeping at it week after week. The Western weeklies--the B.C. Catholic and the Western Catholic Reporter--also kept their readers informed. An exception was the Prairie Messenger, which serves Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While it could not very well avoid printing summaries of the local bishops' letters, it approached the SSM subject with reluctance, in line with its recent attitude that homosexuals are hard done by. This prairie drought was countered by the Marian, charismatic, bi-weekly tabloid Its Time (Regina). It emphasizes the pro-life cause in both Canada and the United States and gives flail coverage to bishops who speak out strongly. The monthly Catholic Times of Montreal covered Cardinal Ouellet's statement for the English Catholics there. The monthly magazine Challenge also spoke out against SSM.
As for Toronto's independent bi-weekly the Catholic New Times, it continued its warfare on Catholic teaching by defending the homosexual lifestyle and supporting SSM.
How effective has the teaching been? One measure is the attitude of our Catholic Members of Parliament. As noted elsewhere in this issue, the rate of defiance of Catholic teaching among them (93 per cent in Quebec, 60 per cent in Ontario) is deeply troubling. But the story will not be over until we find out whether Catholics in the pews decide to take the issue seriously by supporting the NOs opposed to Paul Martin's legislation in the coming election, and voting against the YES sayers.
One observation may be useful here. If Catholics are to be evangelized properly, much more is required in a diocese than the publishing of a bishop's single pastoral letter. The late Pope John Paul II set the example: he never ceased explaining and defending moral issues. Over a 13-month period, from December 2003 to January 2005, John Paul spoke against SSM on no fewer than seven separate occasions (see C.I., "Catholic teaching on same-sex legislation," February 2005, pp. 3 and 42). Bishop Fred Henry is following in his footsteps.
Slow start in 2003
The June 2003 ruling of the three Ontario Appeal Court judges declaring the traditional definition of marriage unconstitutional led to Prime Minister Jean Chretien's decision to go ahead with SSM. Thereupon, bishops in Ontario began calling on Catholics to offer resistance by means of a brief exhortation inserted in parish bulletins. This resulted in considerable activity at the parish level, in the making of phone calls and the sending of letters, e-mails and postcards to local Members of Parliament. The Knights of Columbus and Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) provided suitable cards.
One bishop, Jean-Louis Plouffe of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, issued a pastoral letter regarding SSM and the family in August 2003.
Aside from the above, Canada's Catholic bishops failed to use the time available for education and evangelization. Jean Chretien was replaced by Paul Martin as Prime Minister on December 12, 2003. Martin made it very clear he would carry on with Chretien's promised SSM legislation, though he did not get around to it right away (see C.I. articles, "Paul Martin: Faith without works?," Feb. 2004; "Why Catholics should vote," Mar. 2004; "Why Paul Martin should be replaced," May 2004). In June 2004, he called an election that delivered him a minority government in a House of 135 Liberals, 99 Conservatives, 52 Bloc Quebecois and 19 NDP. His justice minister, Irwin Cotler, then appealed to the Supreme Court asking it to order the government to proceed with SSM legislation. During this time activist groups like CLC and Real Women continued working together with Evangelical groups in organizing anti-SSM rallies. The bishops remained silent. The CCCB did gain intervenor status with the Supreme Court and together with the Interfaith Coalition on Marriage was supposed to be warning the Supreme Court of the threat to religious freedom. According to one critic, however, their lawyers made a "pathetic spectacle" of themselves by submissively pleading for mercy instead of challenging the authority of the Court to tell Parliament what to do (R. Leishman, London Free Press, Oct. 19, '04).
In October 2004, the bishops held their annual plenary assembly. The bishops of Quebec reported that in September they had spent a half-day discussing same-sex unions (which Quebec had already legislated and which the bishops, in turn, had accepted). They had concluded however, that the debate over the issue could be good for the Church. Such a debate, the report said, presents "an opportunity to advance the Catholic culture and faith in a pluralistic context by helping Catholics understand their faith." The report continued: "The position of the Church should be perceived as good news and a path leading to liberation, but on which the cross is present." However, "peremptory declarations indicating that the Church already knows everything should be avoided. While remaining proud of the present and past accomplishment of the Church, a certain humility and modesty in statements is appropriate when speaking out" (CNN, Oct. 24, 2004).
Was the reference to "peremptory declarations" a slap at Pope John Paul II and the Vatican for the July 2003 document which denounced homosexual unions? One cannot help thinking that for a province where bishops have barely--many times not at all--spoken up in defence of Catholic doctrine and morality during forty years, this is a little much. Is a "certain humility and modesty" called for when speaking out? Of course, there is always a time for humility and modesty. But there is also a time for courage and clear speaking, never more so than when homosexual activists are engaged in open warfare; when they are bullying, harassing, and threatening ordinary citizens across the country with lawsuits (see "Religious freedom under attack in Canada," C.I., May 2005); when they have succeeded in convincing school teachers that the real threat in society and in schools does not come from practitioners of the sodomite lifestyle, but from those who oppose it, the newly-dubbed 'homophobes'.
December 9, 2004
Both the CCCB and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (evangelicals have taken a very active role in opposing SSM) started on the wrong footing in their reaction to the Supreme Court ruling of December 9. CLC called the ruling "a disaster." The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) denounced it. Even the Catholic Women's League expressed "its dismay." The CCCB, on the other hand, while affirming Catholic teaching on marriage and encouraging all Catholics to participate in the marriage debate and to make their views known, began by congratulating the Supreme Court for supposedly safeguarding religious rights. No doubt the CCCB did this on the advice of its legal counsel, Mr. William Sammon, who continues to suffer from misplaced optimism and a lack of critical acumen. The illusion was soon dispelled, however, and belatedly acknowledged on January 24, 2005, when CCCB president Archbishop Brendan O'Brien admitted to Canadian Catholic News that religious rights were "not as protected as they might be." In reality, they were not protected at all; the administration of marriage is a provincial jurisdiction, not a federal one, and federal "guarantees" are meaningless in this case. The December 9 statement, meanwhile, had been published in the Catholic weeklies.
The CCCB's December 9 statement did trigger a batch of episcopal exhortations across Canada. Alberta bishops as a group issued a short letter, calling on Catholics to vocally protest SSM. A month later, on Jan. 22, 2005, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton published a lengthy and detailed examination of marriage, part of which also appeared in the Edmonton Journal. He also led a prayer service with 400 people in front of the Alberta Legislature.
Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary had already become known nationwide as the bishop who speaks his mind clearly about Catholic MPs mocking Catholic teaching--specifically Prime Minister Paul Martin. The Prime Minister's philosophy was "incoherent," he had said in 2004, and his behaviour was "a scandal to the Catholic community."
In June that year, his pastoral letter, "Political twists and turns" now also on the diocesan website, became an issue with the Canada Customs and Revenue office in Calgary. Its spokesman, Terry De March, demanded that it be removed, arguing that otherwise the charitable status of the diocese would have to be re-examined. Bishop Henry turned the request down. There was still such a thing as freedom of speech in Canada, he responded; moreover, the letter had nothing to do with partisan politics. Six months later, the incident was still alive. On December 9, discussing the Supreme Court decision on CBC's program Politics, Scott Reid of Paul Martin's office denied that anything like this had ever happened. Conservative MP Dick Harris (Cariboo-St. George) asked Revenue Minister John McCallum about it in Question Period the next day, but, as expected, could not get a straight answer from the Minister.
On January 15, 2005, Bishop Henry released another hard-hitting letter to the faithful. Especially noteworthy is the following:
"Contrary to what is normally alleged, the primary goals in seeking legislation of same-sex 'marriage' are not the financial or health or inheritance or pension benefits associated with marriage. The search for stability and exclusivity in a homosexual relationship is not the driving force. The principal objective in seeking same-sex marriage' is not really even about equality 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."
It could not have been said better.
The bishop also stated that the government has a duty to suppress public expressions of homosexuality: "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good." This has become the new cause celebre ("Government has duty to restrict homosexuality, says Calgary bishop," Calgary Herald, also in Edmonton Journal, Jan.). It, in turn, led two lesbians to file complaints against the bishop before the Alberta Human Rights Commission in March for "discrimination."
In the meantime, on January 30, the Calgary Sun had published the bishop's column entitled, "Some straight talk on the same-sex issue," and in a February 28 column, the bishop took the Liberal government to task on Bill C-38, reminding Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew that Canadian Christians were still waiting for an apology for his remark that they should butt out of politics.
In the Maritimes, Bishop Faber MacDonald of St. John, .N.B. was the first to engage the issue. In a public letter to Supreme Court judges dated December 7, 2004, he denounced the assumption that marriage is merely a manmade construct. He also called upon Catholic MPs to "make themselves aware of Catholic teaching, because they have a moral duty to clearly oppose such (SSM) legislation that is so harmful to the common good." To date, Bishop MacDonald's letter, along with Bishop Henry's statements, has remained the most precise and effective response of all the bishops' communications, because it addresses the Catholic MPs and cabinet ministers whose compliance has enabled Mr. Martin to continue on his calamitous way.
Also in the Maritimes, on December 15, 2004, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Halifax made a trenchant foray into the controversy by exposing four false assumptions about the federal government's proposed SSM legislation: that marriage can be redefined; that the Supreme Court, in interpreting the Charter of Rights, has made the decision already; that the rights of religious institutions are protected; and that those who oppose the SSM legislation "hate" homosexuals. These were reported in the Halifax Herald. The Archbishop also spoke on CBC radio, and his views received further coverage in Catholic weeklies and on the LifeSite internet news service. Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, N.S., in his turn, composed a column for publication in the Atlantic Catholic calling for a respectful debate, but saying little about SSM. Bishop Vernon Fougere of Charlottetown, P.E.I. also wrote a good letter with several points well put (Atlantic Catholic, Feb. 4).
The reaction in Ontario was vigorous. On December 9, 2004, Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke used parts of the CCCB statement to formulate his own pastoral letter. In early January 2005, Bishops Ronald Fabbro of London, Anthony Tonnos of Hamilton, Nicola De Angelis of Peterborough and, a little later, Jean-Louis Plouffe of Sault-Ste. Marie, Anthony Meagher of Kingston, James Wingle of St. Catharines (Feb.) and Eparch Stephen Chmilar of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto (Jan. 13) followed suit. Most of these letters were reported in the local daily press under such headings as "Bishop's letter targets MPs" (Kitchener Record, Jan. 20, re Bishop Tonnos; that same paper also published an editorial attacking Tonnos). All these bishops reiterated the theme of actively participating in the public debate without confronting the SSM issue head on in terms that might galvanize the faithful into doing more than fill in cards. Bishop Plouffe revealed that he had made his position "known to the MPs in our diocese" (Jan. 18, 05).
On January 5, 2005, Can West News Service noted that the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops (OCCB) was enlisting parishioners in the campaign against SSM (Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal and others in the newspaper chain, including National Post). OCCB General Secretary Tom Reilly acknowledged it was "a very important issue to the bishops." The OCCB's plan of action included steps to encourage sending pastoral letters from bishops to parishioners spelling out Catholic teaching and reminding them of their civic duty to express opposition to SSM; having married couples make statements at weekend Masses; asking pastors to include bulletin inserts; having petitions about marriage during prayers of the faithful; and asking parish priests to establish teams of lay people to lead seminars, discussion groups, and presentations, and distribute material.
In Ottawa, Archbishop Marcel Gervais had taken a position against SSM earlier, in 2003, when the diocese handed an 18,000 signature petition to the House of Commons. In 2004 he wrote the Prime Minister because the PM was a parishioner in Ottawa, but he then refused to discuss the contents of the letters, claiming they were private. In a February 1, 2005, letter read in all the churches, the Archbishop called on parishioners to contact political representatives to "insist that the traditional definition of marriage must be upheld for the common good of our society" and "that a totally free vote be allowed."
On January 19, 2005, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic of Toronto made a big splash with an open letter to the Prime Minister given exclusively to the Globe and Mail. It had also been sent out to the parishes earlier. The newspaper gave the story prominence on its front page with a large photo of the Cardinal and with the text on the inside. The Cardinal called on Prime Minister Martin not only to maintain the traditional definition of marriage, but, to use the Notwithstanding Clause to override the previous judicial decisions:
"Judges are not elected and are ultimately not accountable for their decisions," he wrote. "Fundamental social change should only occur with the consent of the people through their democratic institutions. This understanding of the role of Parliament led to the inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms). Its use in the context of same-sex marriage would be most appropriate."
This letter, too, spoke of "participating in the debate" and, like others, demanded a free vote for all MPs, including cabinet ministers. While the Cardinal pleaded for more time, he said nothing about the duty of Catholic MPs and Catholic voters to oppose the legislation. In other words, it was a dispassionate, secular document.
Another aspect was the flawed strategy of its publication. The Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto gave it exclusively to the Globe (circulation 330,000). This ensured that the three other Toronto news papers--the National Post, the Toronto Star and the Sun, with a combined circulation of 1.2 million--as well as the TV and radio media were left high and dry. Naturally these papers were miffed at this slap in the face and, thereafter, maintained silence except for a brief report in the Star the next day. As for the Globe, which is Canada's most anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, pro-SSM newspaper, only the day before, it had reported Bishop Henry's views as "Bishop blasted for calling on the state to target gays." and then attacked him in an editorial entitled, "A bishop's tirade," saying Bishop Henry "should be reprimanded and his views repudiated by the Church hierarchy." The day after the Cardinal's letter, January 20, a Globe front-page report stated, "Ottawa rejects call to halt gay marriage"; it quoted Irwin Cotler's "No to Ambrozic on notwithstanding clause," and Cotler's statement "rights are rights are rights." The Globe added a long editorial, "The Cardinal's views on same-sex marriage," in which it first tried to play off Cardinal Ambrozic ("reasonable") against Bishop Henry and the Vatican ("diatribes"), then rejected the Cardinal's arguments, and then denied that anybody was "tampering with marriage."
Bishops in the West also carried the common theme of participating in the public debate. Bishop Eugene Cooney of the Diocese of Nelson, B.C. referred to SSM and "gay unions" on January 12, as did Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George on January 10, Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg on January 13 in the Winnipeg Free Press, and Bishop Albert LeGatt of Saskatoon on January 19. The bishops explained the Catholic view of marriage and issued an exhortation to contact MPs. The Archbishop of Regina was ill and had resigned and nothing emanated from there. In Victoria, Bishop Richard Gagnon cast his February 2 pastoral letter in the form of a letter to the prime minister. And Archbishop Emilius Goulet of St. Boniface, MB, issued a letter to his priests suggesting that it might be a useful form of catechesis (Jan. 20).
The pastoral letter of Archbishop Raymond Roussin of Vancouver was extensive and to the point. Earlier, in 2004, he had warned Catholics against supporting SSM. On January 28, 2005, he went into considerable detail in analyzing false arguments about "tolerance," and about "evolving" morality, and the "live and let live" attitude. He also set forth the true values of human dignity and the meaning of the "love the sinner but hate the sin" adage. He pointed to the fallacy which holds that SSM poses no threat to religious institutions or to parents in their teaching role. Bishop David Monroe of Kamloops, B.C., on February 9, followed suit, though more briefly.
In Quebec, on December 19, 2004 Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte of Montreal asserted in a television interview that the SSM legislation should be challenged; however, he never issued a pastoral letter of any kind on the subject of marriage, thus playing into the hands of those claiming the issue was of no interest to Quebeckers. No other Quebec bishops reacted at all until Cardinal Ouellet's letter in late January.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec City, was the first--and, to this day (May 1, 2005) the only--spiritual leader in that province to speak out on SSM in some detail. Three other bishops, Bishops Pierre Morissette of Baie Comeau, Jacques Berthelet of Saint-Jean Longueuil, and Martin Veillette of Trois Rivieres (Feb. 1), published brief notes calling on parishioners to contact their MPs. They provided them with K of C pre-printed postcards.
In his January 22 2005, letter, "For a free and enlightened vote," Cardinal Ouellet recalled the actions of former prime minister Jean Chretien, and he underlined the restricted mandate of a Supreme Court that, in any event, had now handed the case over to Parliament. He, too, encouraged a free debate on SSM, but like the others, did so once more in almost philosophical terms rather than as a matter of urgency in a vital and irrevocable social decision. This letter, too, omitted to refer to the teaching that Catholic legislators may not and must not vote for this legislation if a true relationships with Jesus and His Church is to be maintained.
On Feb. 17, the day when Paul Martin opened the debate on Bill C-38 in the House of Commons, the Cardinal spoke more plainly. In an interview with the U.S. Catholic News Service--and later on in Toronto with Salt & Light TV--he spoke of "juridical chaos" and of the fact that Canada was 'toying with basic religious freedoms.' The civil foundation of Canada was being undermined by "subjectivism," he stated; that is, the idea that rights are based on personal desires only, not on objective standards. Marriage is between a man and a woman and anything other is not marriage, he said. He warned of great divisiveness in the country. The next step, he predicted, is to force upon people the total acceptance of homosexuality. We are very concerned, he concluded (LifeSite News, Feb. 23, 05).
The Melkite Catholic Bishop, Ibrahim Ibrahim, wrote a public letter directly to the Prime Minister (Feb. 10).
ACCCB statement of January 31 was sent to the four party leaders. It denounced Canada's Foreign Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, for his comment that the Church should butt out of politics. Next, on February 3, CCCB president Archbishop Brendan O'Brien responded to the government's SSM Bill C-38 introduced on February 1. He warned of unknown social consequences, asserting again that the common good of society is not served by this legislation and that we can "anticipate prolonged and divisive litigation across Canada on the rights under freedom of conscience and religion." Bill C-38 "not only clashes with Catholic faith and practice, but has enormous civil and social implications for all Canadians." He also called on Martin to ensure that all MPs, including cabinet ministers, would be allowed to vote according to their consciences. Finally, he pointed out that the Supreme Court on December 9, 2004, did not say SSM legislation is necessary.
On February 9, Ash Wednesday, the CCCB issued a pastoral letter to all Canadian Catholics, repeating the points above and calling on them to "express their social concerns, by writing to the prime minister, the minister of justice, members of Parliament, and other elected officials. As Canadian citizens, you not only have the right but the responsibility to inform your political representatives of your convictions about marriage and the social issues that are involved in its definition and nature." While distributed by the Catholic weeklies, the LifeSite and Zenit internet services, and the American Catholic documentary service Origins (Feb. 24), the letter does not appear to have been covered by Canada's daily press. CCCB statements are issued in both English and French and are placed on their website.
On February 23, the CCCB affiliate COLF (Catholic Organization for Life and Family) addressed a letter to all MPs, and in March placed ten Marriage Memos on their website, answering arguments put forward by SSM supporters under the title "Does marriage have to be redefined?" (http://colf.cccb.ca/Publications.htm).
Part II: The crisis
Dissenters and other difficulties
The bishops' campaign to move the Catholic faithful to a more active opposition to SSM inevitably had to run into opposition from dissenting fellow Catholics. Looking at it positively, one of the fruits of a more vigorous teaching is that the bad apples on the tree fall to the ground for everyone to see.
Catholic New Times
Catholic Insight published the article, "The Anti-Catholic New Times" (CNT), a ten-page expose of this bi-weekly's rejection of Catholic sexual-moral teaching in April--see website (http://www.catholicinsight.com). CNT's February 16, 2005, issue marked a principled break with the Church in an editorial in which the Church's stand against SSM was rejected outright. The paper is the medium of malcontent Catholics in English Canada, especially teachers. It has a circulation of 8,000 or so. In the city of London, ON, seven of eight Catholic parishes contacted in February confirmed that they receive this paper for distribution in their churches (E-mail, February 22, 2005). The CNT dissents systematically from Catholic doctrines and makes readers believe that one can still be a Catholic while disobeying God's commandments.
The latest five editions (March and April) have continued in the same vein. March 8 contained part two of the paper's editorial rebuff of the Church's SSM teaching based on the 1977 book Human Sexuality. With the election of John Paul II in 1978, readers are told, the "ice age" began, and from there on the Church devoted herself to "the obsession with pelvic orthodoxy." That edition carried a 12-page vocation insert paid for by religious orders, male and female which helps to explain how CNT survives financially. It also says something about where one may find its supporters.
The March 20 edition praised the late Jacques Dupuis, SJ, providing an opportunity for kicking the Vatican Curia. Another article praised Cuba's Castro. Two others hailed the late, murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, both useful for goading Rome which, readers were told, wants nothing to do with him. Rosemary Ganley, assistant editor, updated readers on the forthcoming women's ordination conference in Ottawa and American professor Daniel Maguire contributed "The 'pro-life' lie". No mention, of course, that he is a pro-abortion ex-priest whose anti-life views were demolished three decades ago.
Crisis of faith
It is all so tiresome and I will not go on except to mention the gloating sentiments of long-time-pro-homosexual, now-suspended priest, Toronto's Tim Ryan, in CNTs April 10 edition. "Catholics in Canada," he states, "have a great deal to be thankful for. Statistical surveys indicate that more than half of Canadian Catholics agree with the government's proposed changes to the definition of marriage. This, in spite of a massive mobilization of the bishops to shape Church opinion." We should reflect on this but, first, let us get the technicalities out of the way.
The polls I know say, first, that 52 per cent of all Canadians reject SSM and only 44 per cent agree with it (CBC poll, April 12, 2005). Only 38 per cent of Ontarians and 35 per cent of Canadians are in favour (Conservative Party poll, January 2005). Other polls show that three-quarters of Canadians would like a referendum and, furthermore, that if a referendum were to be held, 67 per cent would vote against SSM (Compass, Feb. 3).
With Catholics, the weakest link is Quebec. If 90% of Quebecers are counted as Catholics, then Ryan's observation is correct. We should also note that sociologist Reginald Bibby's survey for the Vanier Institute of the Family of December 10/04 shows that of Catholics across Canada, outside Quebec, who attended services monthly or more, 25% approve gay marriages (Dec. 10, 2004). For those Catholics who go to church less than once a month, the percentage jumps to 55%.
We ourselves have shown that our Catholic Members of Parliament are lopsidedly in favour of SSM. But take into account that a good 70 MPs--a considerable number of them Catholics--are under duress; that is, they're under pain of losing their positions in cabinet, or as parliamentary secretaries, if they dare to stand against Bill C-38.
With respect to "the massive mobilization of the bishops," I am trying to show here that this has only just begun in English Canada and barely at all in Quebec.
Despite these considerations, when we add everything together we are looking at a crisis of faith and widespread apostasy in Canada. As everyone knows, the dissent is not restricted to SSM. Rather, dissent on SSM has followed dissent on contraceptives, abortion, divorce, pornography, IVF, sexual relations outside marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and other matters.
As for Tim Ryan, he gloats about this. He believes--together with others at CNT and elsewhere--that one can reject Catholic teaching on grave moral principles in full knowledge and with a free will, and still remain a Catholic. This is not what St. Paul says:
"Let us, then, be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine that originates in human trickery and skill in proposing error. Rather, let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love. I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as the pagans dot--their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance; without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct."--Ephesians 4:14-20
Returning to CNT, before Catholic Insight's article appeared in our April edition, Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke, ON, had already directed his parishes to stop facilitating CNT's distribution, pointing to the February 17 editorial that denounced the Church's teaching on homosexuality as the reason why. Since that time, the Peterborough diocese has followed suit.
Fr. John Walsh
A spirit of defiance was also expressed by some individual priests. One is the pastor of Paul Martin's parish in Montreal, Father John Walsh. In January, the Globe and Mail had quoted him as ridiculing the suggestion he should speak to Mr. Martin. Once discovered by the media as a dissenter, he became their favourite. He was given a full-page interview in the February 14, 2005, issue of Maclean's magazine, where he was quoted as saying that the Vatican II council "opened us to new meanings of marriage." He commended Martin for showing "integrity" by bringing forth the SSM issue on the basis of the Charter of Rights! He indicated he was finding "it difficult to come down on one side of the SSM debate." Maclean's main quote read: "If there is no place for the sinner, there is no place for me." Apparently, Father Walsh also employs similarly cheap and invalid logic in his weekly radio show. His bishop, apparently, has not objected. CBC TV quoted Cardinal Turcotte as saying, "We do not interfere in parochial matters." Whether he actually said this we were unable to confirm.
Confronting dissenting Catholic MPs
A few bishops and priests have adopted a direct action position in their role as shepherds. Sault-Ste Marie Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe participated in two demonstrations, first in support of Nickel Belt Lib. MP Ray Bonin, who opposes SSM, and then against Liberal MP Diane Marleau at her Sudbury office, objecting to her pro-SSM stand (Sudbury Star, Jan. 29). He also took issue with Sault-Ste. Marie NDP MP Tony Martin. Both Marleau and Martin are practising Catholics. Martin is a member of the Knights of Columbus and served as a lector in his parish. His parish priest, backed by the bishop, asked him to lay down his task as a reader. Martin, for his part, has remained publicly defiant. When his turn came to speak on SSM in the House of Commons, he praised Bill C-38 and made a point of saying that his stand, rather than contradicting his Catholic faith, was the natural conclusion of his Catholic beliefs! (Hansard, March 24, 2005).
In the Diocese of Timmins, ON, Bishop Paul Marchand participated in a peaceful prayer demonstration in front of the constituency office of NDP MP Charlie Angus on February 10 (Press release). Earlier, he had called on the faithful to start contacting their Members of Parliament. He backed Angus' parish priest in Cobalt, ON, Father John Lemire, when he told the MP he could not, in conscience, give him Communion if he stuck to his pro-SSM stand (LifeSite News). Angus, too, has so far refused to change his thinking. One may note that he is an occasional contributor to the Catholic New Times.
Some bishops will be contacting MPs personally. So far, one bishop--Anthony Tonnos of Hamilton--confirmed with us that "I have already been in contact with some of the local MPs regarding this issue and hope to see others as well" (Letter, April 4, 2005).
Another Ontario MP, Lloyd St. Amand, Lib. MP for Brant, on being told by his parish priest that he could not receive Holy Communion as long as he supported SSM, did not desist. He ceased coming to church. On April 12, he voted with the government.
Aileen Carroll, Minister of International Co-operation and MP for Barrie, ON, was confronted with the fact that as a Catholic she stood to alienate herself from the Church. She resisted changing her attitude toward SSM, and her parish priest, Fr. Frank McDevitt, was not helpful when the issue was brought up by certain Knights of Columbus. He denounced the Knights as "shit disturbers". He told Lifesite "Aileen Carroll is a member in good standing," and also had some choice words for the bishop of Calgary (LifeSite News, Feb. 3). Carroll voted with the government on April 12.
Other MPs are just plain embarrassed. MP Joe Volpe, Minister of Immigration explained at a luncheon in Powell River, B.C., how he had come to rationalize in his own mind his decision to support the bill (insisting on guarantees for freedom), while still believing marriage is between one man and one woman (Fraser Field, Mar. 8).
The above incidents should neither be discouraging nor surprising. After a long silence of many years on sexual-moral matters--except for the actions of small pro-life groups of Catholics throughout Canada--the Church may now finally have begun the task of re-evangelizing the Catholic faithful. To expect immediate results is unrealistic. This cannot be done except by "holding up" the truth more zealously and clearly. Evangelization is successful only after years of prayer and sacrifice by clergy and faithful.
Part III: Problems
An unfortunate event: OCCB congratulates Dalton McGuinty
After December 9, 2004, the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops was anxious to establish safeguards for the Church in Ontario against possible coercion with SSM. It had become clear that the promises of the federal minister of justice meant nothing at all. Representatives, therefore, made contact with various ministries and actively sought such protection from the Ontario government.
On February 22, 2005, the McGuinty government. tabled Bill 171 to define "gay" and lesbian couples as spouses and change 73 Ontario statutes. The bill wiped out all references to traditional marriage wherever it occurred, and such wordings as father, mother, husbands and wives, were replaced by the terms "parents" and "spouses." The legislation came without warning.
Even though federal Bill C-38 had only been barely introduced in the House of Commons, the McGuinty Liberals were anxious to help Paul Martin in exchange for more provincial funding. They also struck a deal with the new Conservative leader, John Tory, to get Bill 171 passed without opposition and without a recorded vote. Tory, a former Rogers Corp. TV executive, is, like Premier Dalton McGuinty, pro-abortion and pro-SSM. He was more than willing to strike a blow against the social conservatives in his party. The OCCB executive helped both of them to do it noiselessly.
On that same day of Feb. 22, the OCCB issued a press release, "Ontario Catholic bishops support protective legislation." The text reads:
On February 22, 2005, the government of Ontario tabled legislation to respond to the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal to redefine marriage as "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others," a decision that we continue to oppose. The Ontario legislation, however, provides protection for religious officials so that they are not compelled to solemnize same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs or those of the religious body to which they belong. "The Ontario government has followed the clear instructions of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Same-Sex Marriage Reference to legislate in a way that protects the rights of religious officials," said Tom Reilly, General Secretary. "The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops supports protection for religious officials and commends Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government for proposing this legislation," he added. One area of particular concern to the Catholic Bishops of Ontario is the use of church property. "The bishops wanted to be sure that religious bodies could not be compelled to allow their properties to be used for purposes associated with same-sex unions if such are contrary to their teachings, as is true for the Catholic Church" said Mr. Reilly. "The bill clearly provides this protection and the Ontario Bishops accordingly support it," he added.
The last sentence destroyed any opposition that might have expressed itself in the legislature. Even last-minute attempts to rally a Conservative opposition to force a recorded vote failed when, on February 24, only three Conservative MPPs--Frank Klees, Bill Murdoch and Jerry Ouellette--were found willing to stand up when five were needed.
Where was so-called pro-life Jim Flaherty (Whitby) who knew about the vote? Absent. What did Catholic PC MPP Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent) do? She first spoke and then voted in favour of Bill 171. Others made themselves scarce. That is why only 27 Liberals out of 71 were present. Where were the pro-life Catholics whose consciences might have been pricked? The bishops' support for Bill 171 removed any incentive to question it. Moreover, McGuinty's party had put a three-line whip on the vote. That is, they gave it the category of a confidence vote, so that any caucus members who spoke or voted against it risked being booted out of the party or suffer some severe punishment. Publicly, they had designated it as "merely a housekeeping matter" ("Democracy is dead in Ontario," LifeSite News, March 4, 2005).
An Ottawa Citizen editorial spoke of how "all but three Ontario MPPs acted in a cowardly fashion" (Feb. 28). Toronto Sun's Christina Blizzard observed that "what I find truly disgraceful is the weasely way the vote ... happened" (March 4). Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren referred to the vote as "the creepiness of life and law in the New Canada" (March 6).
The OCCB soon enough realized it had committed a first-class blunder. Yes, Catholic clergy and Catholic Church property were now protected, but for how long? What governments make today, they can un-make tomorrow. Aside from clergy and property, nothing else is protected, not the faithful, not the schools, not the press, not academia. Even Federal MPs were using the OCCB statement to convince themselves and others that the Church had caved in.
On March 15, the president of the OCCB, Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke, issued a new statement to MPs trying to undo the damage of February 22. Ontario's bishops continue to oppose Bill C-38, he said. That Bill provides no legal protection of religious rights at all. Moreover, far more than religious rights are at stake, namely, the rights of institutions, families, children, and schools. As for Ontario, he said, its guarantees sadly came in a context of changing the status of marriage to which the bishops remain opposed, as before.
(Mc Guinty received his payback on May 7 when--after a nine-hour session--Paul Martin promised Ontario an extra $5.75 billion deal over five years. By that time Martin had issued an extra $15 billion in promissory election bribes across the country beyond the original budget).
Who was responsible?
What remains puzzling is why an otherwise alert OCCB office involved in actively opposing SSM fell into this trap so easily. In essence, the OCCB had sold the birthright of the Catholic community for a mess of pottage. They had acquired safety for clergy and Church property (from being sued by homosexuals) but had surrendered the right of protection for the faithful, for schools, civilian officials, judges, indeed, for society at large. Why?
One can only surmise that the thinking behind it was the same as that expressed by Toronto Auxiliary Bishop Richard Grecco in 2004 when he warned parish priests not to speak out against SSM because the Church might lose her charitable status.
Two more serious issues
A controversial issue can be regarded as a problem or as an opportunity. Canadian Catholics have two such. One is the debate over whether Catholics who publicly reject important Catholic teaching should be denied access to the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion. The second, whether those who speak out publicly on behalf of the truth should be left to fight the battle alone.
Withholding Holy Communion
Should Catholic politicians who publicly deny and oppose Catholic teaching and who continue to do so after they have been contacted by their bishop, be denied Holy Communion? The issue was broached quite explicitly in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, where it pertained first of all to abortion, and secondarily to SSM. A few bishops answered Yes; a few others said No; and the remainder (ninety percent perhaps) said nothing.
Those who answer Yes base themselves first on Scripture. St. Paul, for example, writes: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" (I Cor 11:27). This rule has found expression in the Code of Canon Law's canon 915, particularly the last part: "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion" (emphasis ours). The key phrase is "obstinately," usually interpreted as persisting in their attitude after being warned by Church authorities both in general and in person. The latter is done by the bishop of the diocese where the politician resides.
In Canada Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has made it clear that he would not give communion to politicians such as Paul Martin (or Joe Clark and Jean Chretien). But Paul Martin has his residence in Ottawa, not Calgary. The bishop of Ottawa is Archbishop Marcel Gervais, who thinks otherwise. On March 24, 2005, his Communications Director, Gilles Ouellette, provided the Archbishop's response:
"Refusing communion and excommunication are very serious actions, and are means that the Church uses only as a last resort. Refusing communion to a leader of Parliament is serious to the extreme. I, like most other bishops, would not entertain such a thought without the backing of my brother bishops, or without prior communication with the Holy See.... "Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, however, is fully within his right as a Catholic leader of a diocese to express his judgment on situations concerning faith and morals. He chooses now to say he would consider refusing communion to the Prime Minister, and possibly excommunicate him. To him the PM is a federal politician. "To me he is also a faithful member of my cathedral parish. He did not personally bring his party to adopt this policy. He has come to the conclusion that it is according to the plan of God for him to accept to be the leader of his party and, in this arena, it is acceptable for him to represent his policies. As the leader of the party in power, he believes that his personal opinion is not relevant to his role as leader. While I do not agree either with his argument or his conclusion on same sex marriage, I do not think, at this time, his position merits refusing him communion" (LifeSite News, Mar. 24, '05).
A critic may wonder whether the archbishop would have come to the same conclusion if the issue had been racism, or anti-Semitism. Aside from that, two other observations.
First, two leading cardinals in the Vatican, one of whom is the new Pope Benedict, did speak on the subject last year. Cardinal Francis Arinze thought it was self-evident that such politicians should not receive Communion; he repeated this on EWTN TV in March 2005. The other, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, affirmed this in a specific letter dated June 14, 2004 ("Worthiness to receive Holy Communion"; text in Catholic Insight, Sept. 2004, p.23).
Second, Archbishop Gervais makes a distinction between the Prime Minister as politician and as a parishioner. He calls the P.M. "a faithful member." This is difficult to accept because this parishioner
* refuses to accept basic moral teaching on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, homosexuality, marriage, and, as his justice
minister has indicated, possibly also on euthanasia;
* uses his political position to coerce fellow Catholics within the Liberal party to violate their consciences when the bishops and Canadians in general are asking for a free vote;
* despite numerous warnings is opening the door for future judicial and financial persecution of religious communities and their institutions which he claims he cherishes;
* has reduced defending the dignity of human life to a "sectarian" position, one which may be cast aside when utility demands it;
* has subverted the concept of human rights further by arguing that the sodomite lifestyle has Charter rights, including a right to marry;
* has refused to listen to the Vatican and to half a dozen Canadian bishops who have written him personally, either publicly or privately.
Conclusion: Mr. Martin's unrelenting search to first acquire the highest political power in the land and then to keep it, has silenced his Catholic conscience. He has done so wilfully, voluntarily and recklessly. Are these the characteristics of a "faithful" Catholic?
Facing persecution: Bishop Henry
About the other serious issue one can be brief. Bishop Henry has spoken in defence of Catholic teaching and has now been dragged before a Human Rights Commission. Archbishop Gervais, speaking at the April 9 March for Marriage rally on Parliament Hill attended by 15,000 to 20,000 people, said, "Our government wants sodomy to be accepted and part of the norm and we refuse that." He added that he stands "arm in arm" with his brother bishop in Calgary (LifeSite News, April 11, '05). The question is, what does standing" arm in arm" mean when a brother is being persecuted?
Bishop Henry has received the support of the CCRL, whose president, Phil Horgan, declared: "This action strikes at the core of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.... Bishop Henry's remarks were completely consistent with a Church leader fulfilling his teaching function" (CCRL Press release, Mar. 31).
Others have expressed support as well. MP Maurice Vellacott (CPC--Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) pointed out that "this militant attack against the Calgary bishop is another example--in a growing body of evidence--exposing the dishonesty of the Prime Minister's claims" (Press release, April 12). Lawyer Iain Benson, member of the Ottawa Centre for Cultural Renewal, wrote the Alberta Human Rights Commission and warned it not to lose sight of essential freedoms or "they will imperil their very role in society."
As Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren put it in his column, "The last real leader," "Bishop Fred Henry is one of the few willing to stand up for faith and family. That is why the state is working to quiet him" (Western Standard Magazine, May 2).
Bishop Henry does not shun the fight. He has re-iterated his position that "the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them [homosexuality, adultery, prostitution, pornography, etc.] in the interests of the common good," in his latest, May 1, 2005, pastoral letter.
But other bishops must now speak out just as clearly, to show the government and the judiciary that Bishop Henry is not an isolated voice but that he speaks for the whole community of faithful Catholics in Canada. They must do the exact opposite of what the Globe & Mail told them to do; namely, that Henry "should be reprimanded and his views repudiated by the Church hierarchy." Individual bishops in Canada should make Bishop Henry's stand their own, in writing. If complaints are launched against them, so much the better.
Father Alphonse de Valk, C.S.B. is a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil and the editor of Catholic Insight magzine.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||de Valk, Alphonse|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||Saint Hilary of Poitiers.|
|Next Article:||John Paul's living memory.|