CCCB Comment on Second Reading of Bill C-38

Wednesday, May 04 2005

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is concerned and disappointed that Bill C-38 passed second reading in the House of Commons on 4 May 2005.

“In proposing to redefine the nature of marriage, Bill C-38 if approved would mean that society and the state no longer support the unique partnership of a man and a woman in marriage, and no longer recognize the importance of the committed relationship of a mother and father for future generations of children,” said Most Reverend Brendan M. O’Brien, Archbishop of St. John’s and President of the CCCB.

The CCCB President also noted that the Bill was able to pass second reading because neither the New Democratic Party of Canada nor the Liberal Party of Canada recognizes the significance of freedom of conscience and religion as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The NDP members of Parliament, as well as Liberal MPs who are parliamentary secretaries and Cabinet ministers, were obliged to vote on Bill C-38 according to party lines. “The failure of political parties to respect freedom of conscience and religion is an ominous sign for the future,” Archbishop O’Brien said.

The CCCB has repeatedly called for the federal government to respect the definition of marriage as the committed and exclusive relationship of a man and a woman. Failing that, the Catholic Bishops of Canada have called on MPs at least to ensure freedom of conscience and religion by protecting civil and religious officials from being compelled to be involved in the solemnization of marriages contrary to their conscience and beliefs. Also of concern to the CCCB is the right of religious organizations to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding celebrations contrary to their faith; guaranteeing protection for the charitable status of religious organizations not in agreement with the provisions of Bill C-38; and the rights of all Canadians, including religious leaders, parents and teachers, to speak about sexual morality in light of their own conscience and faith.

With Bill C-38 now to be reviewed in committee, Archbishop O’Brien again urged the Special Legislative Committee to hold public hearings and to enable as many Canadians as possible who oppose the redefinition of marriage to speak on the draft legislation.

Praising and thanking those MPs who “have had the courage to speak out in Parliament and in public against Bill C-38” and in support of what some polls are reported to indicate to be the opposition of the majority of Canadians, Archbishop O’Brien encouraged Catholics to continue sharing their concerns about Bill C-38 with their MPs as well as with all political candidates who might soon be running for Parliament.

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