Pete Vere, JCL
The Interim

Charlie Angus, the New Democrat MP for Timmins-James Bay, Ont., has a problem. His parish priest has told Angus, a former Catholic New Times columnist, that he may no longer receive Holy Communion if he votes to give state recognition to so-called same-sex “marriages.” Bishop Paul Marchand of Timmins is standing behind his priest.

“I haven’t decided what I will do,” Angus told the Hill Times newspaper. “I go to Mass not to have to deal with problems, but to get a respite from them, so with the friction … it doesn’t really make me feel on Sunday morning like getting up and going.”

Fr. John Lemire is Angus’s parish priest and a leading proponent of traditional marriage. Lemire happened to be watching the parliamentary debates over the legalization of same-sex unions. According to the Hill Times, “After (openly homosexual MP Bill Siksay) was finished speaking … Angus got up to congratulate him and to shake his hand. Five minutes later, (Lemire) left him a pointed message on his cellphone.” A subsequent National Post article quoted Angus as stating: “I’m not going to have my career as a politician judged by the parish priest. That’s not his job.”

Actually, it is Lemire’s job. Canon law, which is the Catholic church’s internal legal system, clearly establishes it as such in Canon 528: “The parish priest has the obligation of ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish. He … is to make every effort to bring the Gospel message to those also who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith.”

By his actions, Angus does not profess the true faith to which Catholic politicians are bound in both their public and private lives. One can read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. As the church’s head theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger outlines both the true faith of Catholics and the how Catholic politicians ought to respond to this issue.

With regard to the former, Ratzinger states: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar, or even remotely analogous, to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts ‘close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.’”

Likewise, Ratzinger outlines the obligation of every Catholic politician to publicly oppose any legislative attempt to corrupt the natural definition of marriage: “When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.”

Of course, Angus is politically free to renounce God and serve Caesar. In so doing, however, he acts in a manner that is harmful to society and gravely immoral.

In keeping with Canon 223, “Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ’s faithful.” This includes the right to Holy Communion. For as Canon 915 states: “Those … who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Pete Vere, JCL, a regular contributor to The Interim, is a canon lawyer and co-author of Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law with Michael Trueman (Servant Books/Saint Anthony Messenger Press).