CCCB Continues to Urge Maintaining the Definition of Marriage

Wednesday, April 13 2005

(CCCB – Ottawa) Following the vote yesterday in the House of Commons on a proposed amendment to Bill C-38, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) once more strongly objects that all members of Parliament are not free to vote on a question as important to Canadian society as the definition of marriage.

Yesterday again, a number of members of Parliament, including Liberal Cabinet ministers, could not vote according to their conscience because of directives imposed by their party. This is one of a number of concerns that continue to be made by CCCB President Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien of St. John’s.

In a letter this past February to Prime Minister Paul Martin, Archbishop O’Brien said Bill C-38 does not protect freedom of conscience and religion, and that without the cooperation of federal, provincial and territorial governments faith groups would not be fully protected to teach on marriage and on homosexuality according to their own beliefs. As well, he said, facilities owned or rented by religious organizations are not protected from compulsory use in marriage ceremonies contrary to their religious beliefs. Archbishop O’Brien also called on the federal government to “affirm cooperation with provincial and territorial governments to ensure all civil as well as religious officials who witness marriages in Canada in every province and territory are protected from being compelled to assist when these are contrary to their conscience and religion.”

The CCCB President hopes debate on the institution of marriage will continue as the lifelong covenant of a man and a woman is unique, irreplaceable and essential for the survival of society. The Episcopal Conference has asked for an invitation to appear before the special legislative committee that is to study Bill C-38 and listen to the opinions of Canadians on the issue. To date there has been no indication the committee will hold public hearings for individuals and organizations wishing to comment on the redefinition of marriage.

Although the government launched a debate on marriage more than two years ago, Canadians remain divided over the issue. According to Archbishop O’Brien, defining same-sex unions as marriage would seriously compromise its meaning as a social institution, with all consensual adult relationships wanting to be treated in the same way.

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