Canadian bishops express concern about marriage vote

By  Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News
  • December 22, 2006
OTTAWA - The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has written Prime Minister Stephen Harper, raising a number of concerns in the wake of a failed motion to restore the traditional definition of marriage.

"For Catholics, marriage is an issue intimately related to human nature which has been created male and female," wrote Sherbrooke Archbishop Andre Gaumond in a Dec. 18 letter to Harper. "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.

"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," Gaumond wrote. "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."

Pointing out that the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the vast majority of children are cared for and nurtured by heterosexual couples, Gaumond asked: "Can the Government of Canada not find a way forward to recognizing this reality?"

Gaumond reiterated what the Roman and Eastern Catholic bishops of Canada had already told Canadian Catholics in an open letter released the day after the Dec. 7 vote, in which they encouraged them to continue supporting traditional marriage, to look for ways to protect the rights of children and to guard religious freedom among other points.

"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," Gaumond wrote Harper.

Gaumond also sent copies to all the opposition leaders.

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