Rebel priest to resign as MP

By 
  • September 6, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Dissident Catholic priest Fr. Raymond Gravel is stepping down as a Bloc Quebecois MP after receiving an ultimatum from the Vatican.

“My bishop had received instructions from Rome that I must make a choice between the priesthood and the calling of an MP,” Gravel told the Sept. 3 French-language newspaper La Presse. “There was the threat of laicization and they could defrock me.”

Gravel received a letter from Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, instructing him to quit politics. He said he would respect the Vatican’s decision.

“It’s my life, to be a priest,” he said.

Gravel, 55, who had publicly supported same-sex marriage and abortion before entering political life, continued to advocate positions contrary to Catholic Church teaching, despite instructions to the contrary from his bishop. In 2003 he attacked the church's position on same-sex marriage and in March, Gravel voted against the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, a private members' bill that would have recognized unborn children as victims if they are killed or harmed as result of a violent crime against the mother. This prompted complaints to the Vatican and the apostolic nunciature, or Vatican Embassy, in Ottawa.

Gravel also publicly supported the July 1 appointment of abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada.

Joliette Bishop Gilles Lussier had stripped Gravel of his sacerdotal functions when he ran for the Bloc in a November 2006 by-election and won, replacing Repentigny MP Benoît Sauvageau, who died in a car accident. The priest was not allowed to perform any sacraments under the imposed discipline.

Gravel told La Presse that many English-speaking Catholics complained to the Vatican about his controversial stands. He said the “religious right” was to blame.

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