Debate on the definition of marriage: Letter of the CCCB President to PM and leaders of the parties in the Opposition
Dear Prime Minister:
For Catholics, marriage is an issue intimately related to human nature which has been created male and female. Despite the recent decision of the House of Commons, Catholic teaching on this remains consistent and constant: marriage is the exclusive union of one man and one woman.
Immediately following the recent vote in the House of Commons on whether to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage, in the name of the Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops of Canada all Catholics in this country have been encouraged to continue the debate on marriage and to undertake the following:
1. To encourage the special relationship of man and woman in marriage which remains the enduring basis of all society, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children;
2. To continue to look for ways to assist and support heterosexual couples who, as the Supreme Court of Canada noted in 1997, “have the unique ability to procreate” and who are responsible for caring for and nurturing most of the children of Canada;
3. To urge federal politicians to undertake research and further consultations on the long-term impact of the redefinition of civil marriage on society and future generations;
4. To monitor provincial and territorial legislation as well as policies to ensure full protection of freedom of religion and conscience and also freedom of expression for all citizens in the private and public spheres;
5. To collaborate with departments of education and school boards to ensure that classroom teaching and school resources respect the traditional understanding of marriage;
6. To respect the dignity of all persons, whatever their sexual orientation, by avoiding every sign of unjust discrimination toward men and women with same-sex tendencies (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358);
7. To guard against further changes to the definition of civil marriage, including polygamy;
8. To urge political parties to allow their members a free vote on basic ethical and moral questions that shape our society, particularly those issues that impact on the fundamental rights of freedom of religion and conscience, such as the definition of marriage;
9. To urge the federal government to safeguard faith groups that do not accept the redefinition of marriage from being penalized with respect to their charitable status.
I would like to draw to your attention those points that involve the Government of Canada, whether directly or indirectly: the need for further research on the long-term impact of the redefinition of civil marriage; the importance of collaboration among all levels of government to ensure full protection of freedom of religion and conscience and freedom of expression for all citizens in the private and public spheres; respect for the dignity of all persons, whatever their sexual orientation; protection for the traditional understanding of marriage; and safeguards for faith groups that do not accept the redefinition from being penalized with respect to their charitable status.
Most importantly, however, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, with the majority of other faith groups and also many citizens of no religious affiliation, are especially concerned that the recent vote in the House of Commons is yet another step toward the de-institutionalization of marriage, the privatization of human rights, the marginalization of family life, and the alienation of legal and social structures from human nature and the common good.
Statistics show that children do best when their father and mother are in a stable married relationship. We urge the Government of Canada and all political parties to do more to safeguard the rights of all children, to strengthen family life, and to provide basic protection for the social and economic well being of married couples. As noted above, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that heterosexual couples are responsible in caring for and nurturing the great majority of children in our country. Can the Government of Canada not find a way forward to recognizing this reality?
Finally, the Catholic Bishops of Canada continue to find it worrisome that not all political parties are prepared to recognize the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as is evident when some political leaders feel free to force their members to vote along party lines on the most basic moral and ethical questions.
Given the significance of all the above concerns, I am taking this opportunity to provide copies of my letter to the leaders of all the opposition parties.
We would be most appreciative for any assistance that the Government of Canada and all federal political parties can provide in helping to resolve these issues.
Sincerely,+ André Gaumond Archbishop of Sherbrooke President Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
CC. The Hon. Stéphane Dion, leader of the Official Opposition
The Hon. Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
Mr. Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québécois