Marriage: For the Good of Society

Thursday, February 13 2003

(Ottawa-CCCB) – Two representatives from the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops (CCCB) presented a brief today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on the question of marriage and same-sex unions.

“We affirm that marriage is a unique and exclusive public commitment between a man and a woman whose love overflows in fruitfulness, and ultimately brings children into the world,” said Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke. “We believe that the transmission of marital love from generation to generation, communicated a thousand times over from one couple to another, from one family to another, is indisputable evidence of the greatness and grace of marriage. It deserves the support and protection of society and the Church.”

The brief, presented in the name of Canada’s bishops who serve more than 12 million Canadians, not only discussed the religious significance of marriage but also examined its anthropological, personal and societal aspects. The message presented was clear. Archbishop Gaumond told the committee members that “married couples perform a role within society which is of service to all and distinct from all other forms of human relationships. We strongly urge you to maintain this distinction for the good of all Canadians.”

The other CCCB representative was Dr. Marlene Smadu of Regina, a registered nurse and adult educator, who is also on the board of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF). Dr. Smadu told the Committee: “We believe that marriage is a unique way of life, of benefit to couples, to future children and to society. Indeed, the 2001 Census shows that 68 percent of children aged 0-14 live with married parents and 13 percent with common-law parents, while 19 percent do not live with both parents.”

Dr. Smadu refuted the argument that allowing same-sex partners to marry would not change the meaning of marriage for society, saying that it would have major consequences. “Laws must be examined not only for their impact on individuals but also for their impact on the social fabric. It is important for the stability of the family and ultimately society to strengthen the institution of marriage. The main-tenance of the opposite-sex definition of marriage is a decision that upholds the common good and ensures the future of society,” said the mother of three children.

Archbishop Gaumond also insisted that “exceptions do not invalidate but prove the rule; individual practices and choices do not determine the objectives of an institution such as marriage which plays such a pivotal social role. The inherent biological fact remains that a marriage between a man and a woman will usually produce children which no shift in thinking, social trends or technologies can alter.”

The Archbishop of Sherbrooke, who is also a member of the CCCB Executive Committee, also told the hearing that Catholic clergy celebrate about 35,000 marriages each year and are involved with lay people in pre-marriage and marriage enrichment courses as well as marriage counseling.

“Marriage as a public commitment between a man and a woman has profound significance for all faiths,” he said. “For Christians, marriage means a man and a woman creating a shared sacred history, one that began for each of them at baptism, and becoming a community of life and love, a sign of the love of Christ for his Church. The Bishops of Canada, as pastoral leaders of the Catholic Church, want marriage to be maintained as an ‘opposite-sex institution’.”