National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  August 15, 2003

Ontario bishops launch petition campaign against same-sex marriages

By Art Babych
Catholic News Service

The Ontario Catholic bishops have launched a petition campaign calling on members of Parliament to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Tom Reilly, general secretary of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops have received many requests from individuals wanting to add their opinions to the current national debate over same-sex marriage and that signing a petition is one of the simplest ways.

“We’re aware that petitions are not a terribly effective method of influencing parliamentarians -- I think they become inured to them,” he said. “But I think it will let them know that people are conscious of this issue, and I think if I was a parliamentarian it would have some effect on me.”

The petition notes that in 1999, Parliament affirmed “that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.”

The petition also states that marriage is an institution that existed before the state “because it is based on a profound human need for having children and continuing the family from generation to generation.” The petition says as well that marriage is an institution “so basic to the human condition and the common good that its nature is beyond the reach of civil law to change.”

It concludes by calling upon Parliament to take all necessary means to maintain and support the current definition of marriage in Canada.

Parliament will vote on legislation that will legalize same-sex marriage when it receives a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada on the proposed bill’s constitutionality. A decision is not expected for at least a year. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples are free to marry in Ontario and British Columbia.

The Ontario bishops’ conference also sent a memo to all dioceses in the province Aug. 5 asking them to take steps to have the petition signed by as many adult Canadians as possible. The petition is to be presented in the House of Commons after Parliament returns from its summer break Sept. 15.

The petition campaign is the latest salvo in the church’s battle against same-sex marriages in the wake of the decision by the government not to appeal a June 10 Ontario court ruling that the definition of marriage as the union between “a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be changed to “two persons.”

On July 31, the Vatican issued new instructions calling on Catholic politicians to oppose same-sex marriage, as well as abortion and euthanasia. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier argued that legislation redefining marriage to include same-sex partners would devalue traditional marriage as the basis of the family.

Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, Alberta, suggested that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, a Catholic, risked “his eternal salvation” if he made same-sex marriage legal. Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais wrote Chretien, who is one of his parishioners, saying that as a Catholic he should be supporting the church’s position against same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Gervais also took his fight against same-sex marriage to the pulpit.

“Even though it would appear that Parliament has abdicated its primary responsibility of being the place where discussion and debate takes place, each one of us has a duty to be heard by our members of Parliament, who will eventually speak on our behalf in this regard,” he said in a recent homily.

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003

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