Debate on Reopening the question of the Redefinition of Civil Marriage: Comment by the President of the CCCB

Friday, December 01 2006
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 MarriageDiscussions on whether to reopen the debate on the civil definition of marriage will take place in the near future in the House of Commons.  In view of a vote on the possible reopening of the debate on this important question, the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has reaffirmed the position the Bishops of Canada:  "Our society needs to do more to encourage the committed relationship of man and woman which remains so basic to all civilizations, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children."

Comment by the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Most Reverend André Gaumond, Archbishop of Sherbrooke

The Government of Canada has announced on 29 November 2006 that Parliament will soon be invited to vote on whether to reopen the debate on the redefinition of civil marriage.

The teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage is clear, constant and well known, and has been reiterated by the Bishops of Canada on many earlier occasions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing the Second Vatican Council, states: "The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman.... ‘The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life'" (no. 1603, quoting the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, no. 47).

The Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops of Canada uphold the exclusive union of a man and a woman as central to marriage, and thus cannot accept the civil redefinition as the union of any two persons. Our conviction is shared by many other Canadians from all religious traditions as well as those who hold no religious faith. As members of the Supreme Court of Canada noted in November 1995 in the case Egan v. Canada, "marriage is by nature heterosexual" as its "ultimate raison d'être ... is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship."

Our society needs to do more to encourage the committed relationship of man and woman which remains so basic to all civilizations, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children. Canadians have to reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the  redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage. As the keystone of society, the family is the most favourable environment in which to welcome children. At the same time, freedom of conscience and religion needs to be ensured, while also respecting the dignity of all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.

As the House of Commons prepares for its debate, the Bishops of Canada again urge that all members of Parliament be able to vote freely on this question of such ethical and social import, in accordance with their conscience.         

+Andre Gaumond
Archbishop of Sherbrooke
President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Last Updated on Monday, December 04 2006