"Jesus did not teach that any behavior is acceptable as long as someone wants it. The authentic Jesus called for moral conversion, and repentance."
Cardinal Raymond Roussin, Archbishop of Vancouver
Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada
January 28, 2005
ZENIT, Weekly News Analysis
February 05, 2005
Canada Braces for a Social Tsunami
OTTAWA, FEB. 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Canada's federal government tabled a draft law in Parliament this week that would introduce marriage for same-sex couples. The move follows a series of legal decisions in provinces allowing same-sex couples to marry. The matter was then referred to the Canadian Supreme Court, which in a decision last December handed over responsibility to the federal government, recommending that the law be changed.
Prime Minister Paul Martin and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler presented the legislation "as a natural and necessary evolution of minority-rights protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the newspaper Globe and Mail reported Wednesday.
The bill, which when approved would be known as the Civil Marriage Act, redefines marriage as "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others." The government has tried to allay fears of religious groups by including in the legislation a provision that says "officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs."
Opposition to the bill from many churches has been fierce, however. A Jan. 31 letter to the Canadian prime minister from Archbishop Brendan O'Brien, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated that the prelates "stand united in their opposition to legislation that would redefine marriage in such a way that it is no longer recognized as the unique, essential and fundamental relationship of a man and a woman."
"The conjugal partnership of a man and a woman constitutes a unique good for society, providing a stable and positive environment for children and thus for future generations," Archbishop O'Brien continued.
His letter also asked that Martin allow all the members of his party, including Cabinet ministers, to have a free vote on the issue, so as "to exercise their fundamental freedom of conscience and religion." Other letters were also sent to the leaders of the main political parties urging them to oppose the legislation.
The common good
Many of Canada's Catholic bishops have also made declarations on the issue. Vancouver Archbishop Raymond Roussin, in a pastoral letter dated Jan. 28, stated: "Marriage has always been recognized as the necessary context for raising and educating children, the foundation of future generations. The reality of marriage is that it supersedes politics and man-made laws."
The letter noted that some are defending the move to extend marriage to homosexual couples in the basis of human rights. But Archbishop Roussin insisted: "This is not a human rights issue, it is about recognizing the biological basis for the social structure that protects the procreation and nurturing of children in our society."
He also rejected the argument that allowing same-sex couples to marry is needed in order to demonstrate tolerance. Such a move "is a false tolerance." He observed: "The procreative potential of marriage is a basic element of what marriage is, and it is not unjust to insist that marriage is a complementary union of a man and a woman."
Another argument used to justify extending marriage is the idea that we need to adapt institutions to keep pace with social changes. In fact, this was a point of view adopted by the Supreme Court in its decision last December, noted the Vancouver prelate. However, "The question is whether the development is legitimate," he argued.
We should treat all people with dignity and respect, just as Jesus taught us, Archbishop Roussin said. But he added: "Jesus did not teach that any behavior is acceptable as long as someone wants it. The authentic Jesus called for moral conversion, and repentance."
On Jan. 22 Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada, published a letter on the issue of same-sex marriage. "We now find ourselves before a critical threshold in the evolution of society and culture, and we must reflect very seriously before crossing it," he said.
Extending the status of marriage to same-sex couples, the Quebec prelate wrote, is a change that "affects the most fundamental institution and the primary value of society: marriage and family, which have existed throughout human history and predate the state and the law themselves."
Changing marriage in this way "would alter the institution of marriage by ignoring two of its essential finalities: the procreation and education of children, within the context of the love of a man and a woman, guarantee the future of society."
Cardinal Quellet also pointed out that the bill "is offensive to the moral and religious sensibility of a great number of citizens, both Catholic and non-Catholic. In fact, many Christians and adherents of other religious traditions find the union of persons of the same sex to be morally unacceptable, even as they refrain from judging those persons themselves."
Toronto's archbishop, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, wrote to Prime Minister Martin on Jan. 18. He urged the need to be cautious before "we alter social structures like marriage and the family that lie at the core of our society, and that represent the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages."
He also noted the importance of law as a teaching force in society. Legalizing marriage for homosexuals "will be teaching that homosexual activity and heterosexual activity are morally equivalent," wrote the cardinal. Many Canadians are not in agreement with this, he said.
Religion in the dock
He also expressed concern over the legal guarantees to protect religious officials and organizations that wish to decline celebrating same-sex marriages that are contrary to their faith.
This concern is well founded, as a Jan. 25 report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed. A lesbian couple from the province of British Columbia has taken the Knights of Columbus before a human rights tribunal, accusing them of discrimination by refusing to rent them a hall for their wedding reception.
Proceedings before the tribunal began Monday. The pair allege that the Knights canceled the booking after finding out it was for a same-sex couple and that this is discriminatory.
In a Jan. 26 editorial the newspaper National Post noted that even though the Supreme Court in its December decision ruled that churches should not be obliged to celebrate same-sex marriages, "precedent in this area does not provide us much comfort. … Canadian jurists and bureaucrats often seem all too eager to put other freedoms aside so that they may enshrine the more fashionable cause of gay equality."
Hostility to Church opposition on the same-sex marriage issue was also patent in comments made by Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew. He called for the Catholic Church to "keep its nose out of the government's same-sex marriage legislation," the National Post reported Jan. 28. The article also noted that the prime minister has mandated that all members of Cabinet vote with the government in supporting the bill.
Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton rejected Pettigrew's remarks. "We have every right to make our voice heard as well," he said. The archbishop added that Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage is shared by other Christian groups, as well as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Orthodox Jews.
Coming days will see efforts by these groups to derail the legislation. Reuter on Wednesday reported that the Canada Family Action Coalition is printing half a million leaflets opposing the bill and is organizing a mass rally. Another group, Concerned Christians Canada, is scheduled to stage a rally today in the city of Calgary.
And, according to Reuters, Tom Reilly, general secretary of the Ontario
Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Church had begun holding talks
with representatives of Sikh and other faiths to coordinate action
against the bill. A crucial moment for Canadian society, indeed.
ZENIT, Weekly News Analysis
The World Seen From Rome
March 9, 2005
A "No" to Homophobia, and Homosexual Acts
Church Is Against Discrimination, Says a Mexican Panel
MEXICO CITY, MARCH 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- It is one thing not to discriminate against homosexuals -- but quite another to promote same-sex relations.
So says a document published by a commission of the Mexican bishops' conference when analyzing a governmental campaign against homophobia.
"The term 'homophobia' is relatively new and it is used to signify an 'obsessive aversion toward homosexual persons,'" explained the note published by the Family Pastoral Care Commission, signed by its president, Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez of Matehuala.
"A campaign that promotes that a homosexual person should not be rejected, is something worthy of recognition," it said.
"A homosexual person has all the dignity that corresponds to him/her as the human person that he/she is," the note states. "The Catholic Church does not insult, attack or incite the discrimination of any person; on the contrary, it defends, respects and promotes the dignity of each and all, also homosexuals."
The bishop clarified that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. However, a distinction must be made between the homosexual inclination and homosexual acts. The inclination is disordered in itself, but it does not, on its own, constitute a fault if there is no intention to fuel that inclination through homosexual acts."
The Church "has always stated that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered," Bishop Aguilar observed. "They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not stem from a true emotional and sexual complementarity. They cannot be approved in any case."
The episcopal note was in response to an advertising campaign launched by the Health Secretariat, a ministry of the Mexican government, and the National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS.
Bishop Aguilar's note stated: "If the campaign against homophobia pretends to present to society a homosexual person as a legitimate personal option, with the 'right to be different,' it assumes a position of apparent humanity and respect for the person by attempting to base itself on the criteria of pluralism, tolerance and nondiscrimination.
"However, it is basing itself on false and deceitful anthropological bases, distorting the concepts and language."
The prelate added: "It cannot be upheld that just as some have the inclination to a heterosexual relationship and love, others have the right to a homosexual relationship and love, in a way similar to the acceptance and respect owed to a person regardless of whether he/she is right- or left-handed, or has a different color of skin."
Tories unmuzzled: Party says convention can now have social debate
Ian Bailey; with files from Anne Dawson
CanWest News Service
March 10, 2005
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, surrounded by fellow MPs, bluffs to stand for a vote against the Liberal government's federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 9, 2005. Harper and his party abstained from voting on the budget, which passed in the House of Commons.
OTTAWA - Conservative party MPs, acknowledging a ferocious controversy, yesterday backed off a plan that could have cancelled debate on such sensitive social issues as abortion and same-sex marriage at next week's crucial party policy convention aimed at positioning the party for the next election.
British Columbia MP Gary Lunn, chairman of the convention's rules committee, acknowledged a "mistake" in putting forward the controversial resolution that sparked outrage among rank-and-file Conservatives, but rejected suggestions from reporters that he was engineering a flip-flop.
"Maybe we have made a mistake here. I accept that," Mr. Lunn said, following a weekly caucus meeting where MPs and senators agreed to change the resolution they had submitted for debate at the March 17-19 convention in Montreal. Mr. Lunn called the change a "fix," noting: "I don't know that it's a flip-flop."
The Saanich-Gulf Islands MP said there was a "consensus" behind closed doors to change direction on the issue -- a shift that came amid criticism that the Tories were trying to muzzle debate on key issues. "What it says is that we're listening to our caucus. It says we're listening to the representation of delegates; that we're ... taking those representations and acting on them," he said.
The dispute began this week when the Conservatives released the resolutions up for debate at the convention, the first since the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance united in 2003.
One resolution, submitted by the caucus, proposed to cancel resolutions opposing same-sex marriage, late-term abortions, any move to regulate abortion, and also to examine euthanasia if the caucus proposal -- dubbed P90 -- was endorsed by delegates.
During a background briefing on the convention this week, senior party officials seemed caught offguard by the contradictions in P 90. Deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay had staunchly defended the resolution and predicted it would pass.
The controversial resolution, which would give MPs the right to vote freely on "issues of moral conscience" such as abortion, the definition of marriage and euthanasia, will still be debated and voted on, but will have no effect on other resolutions.
Tory leader Stephen Harper, speaking on the issue for the first time, suggested MPs felt the controversial resolution should be reviewed.
"The majority of caucus just felt that the rules committee should re-examine that rule because, obviously, a lot of people don't feel that particular resolution has to preclude other resolutions," Mr. Harper said.
Critics of the Tories relished the dispute.
NDP leader Jack Layton said the party was "flip-flopping on debating policy," following what he called unclear positions on missile defence and the Liberal government's budget.
Scott Reid, a spokesman for Prime Minister Paul Martin, suggested Mr. Harper wanted a "three-monkey's convention: 'hear no policy, speak no policy, see no policy.' His party and caucus rebelled. So now Mr. Muzzle's position is that if people are going to insist on actually talking about issues, then he'll just insist on ignoring what they have to say."
But some of the fiercest attacks came from socially conservative members of the Tory party, outraged on points ranging from the futility of spending money to attend an event where there would be no discussion of cherished issues, to the view that the grassroots were being muzzled by elected members.
"The reaction on the social-conservative side of things was one of absolute anger. There was complete rage that in a party claiming to be grassroots and democratic, they were doing an end-run around social conservatives," said Craig Chandler, CEO of Concerned Christians Canada, a Calgary-based group focused now on opposition to same-sex marriage legislation.
Some of the critics saluted the turnaround yesterday.
"It was the right thing to do," said Connie Wilkins, vice-president of the Kingston and the Islands riding association, who has put forward a resolution to ban late-term abortions that could have been voided if P 90 had passed.
"A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into developing resolutions they felt should be part of the party process. It would have been a shame if a caucus resolution would have taken that work and destroyed it," she said.
© National Post 2005
Roszko's records detail the 46-year-old man's long criminal past, which included pointing a loaded handgun at a young man he had lured into his house and demanding sex, as well as using alcohol and money in attempts to befriend young people.
In 1994, he was charged with sexually assaulting a young male, and later spent two and a half years in prison.