Editor’s Note: Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry released this pastoral letter on Sept. 8, 2006.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Pope Benedict XVI begins his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, with the words from the First Letter of John: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” These words express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith.
The proclamation of God’s passionate love for the world is what the church is all about. The Gospel, however, is not a private matter. The Gospel has public implications, because defending the inalienable dignity and infinite value built into human beings by their Creator is a public matter. One way the Gospel has public effects is through the formation of cultures: a culture inspired by a Christian view of the human person will affirm certain kinds of politics as compatible with the dignity of men and women and it will reject others for their incompatibility with that dignity.
The church is not in the business of designing or running governments; the church is in the business of forming the kind of people who can design and run governments in which freedom leads to genuine human flourishing.
Pope Benedict reminds us that: “Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life; its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics” (DCE 28). We cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.
Our prime minister, Stephen Harper, has said he intends to re-open the debate on same-sex “marriage” this fall.
In July 2005, the Canadian government changed the traditional definition of marriage as “a voluntary union between one man and one woman for life” to a “voluntary union between two persons,” including two men or between two women.
Today, one year later, members of the media claim that society has not been affected, that the sky has not fallen and that Canadians are not concerned about this change. Some people on the street have similar thoughts: “gay ‘marriage’ doesn’t affect me … my life goes on as normal.” And so we are led to believe that legislation should be left alone.
Many people who oppose same-sex “marriage” are unaware of the adverse effects already posed by our current legislation. A few of the more more important effects are:
1. The homosexual lifestyle must now be treated as wholesome and legitimate, when in reality, it is unwholesome and immoral. 2. The traditional family has its status and necessary privileges questioned. 3. Freedom of speech is threatened for those who oppose same-sex “marriage” in public. 4. Civil servants unwilling to cooperate with same-sex “marriage” – such as marriage commissioners in B.C., Saskatchewan and other provinces – are dismissed. 5. Adoption of children by “gays” and lesbians is “legal.” 6. “Gay” activists have now demanded successfully in B.C. that the curriculum be changed to suit their agenda.
Where are we heading?
1. The polls confirm that the majority of Canadians do not favour same-sex “marriage,” because there is no gender complementarity and it is closed to procreation. It is contrary to the natural law. 2. The new legislation undermines the legal status of marriage by undermining its unique and exclusive nature. In the last session of government, a private member’s bill called for the recognition and equality of what are called transgendered and transvestite people. Other bills can be expected that clamour for the acceptance of polygamy (more than one wife) and polyandry (more than one husband).
In December 2005 (in Labaye vs. the Attorney General), the Supreme Court ruled that swingers clubs, which include the swapping of partners and public orgies, are perfectly legal. The justices no longer recognize the existence of “community standards.” 3. The legal acceptance of so-called same-sex “marriage” should be seen in the light of many years of agitation for the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle. Writing on August 16, 2000 in the Chicago Free Press, homosexual activist Paul Varnell stated: “The gay movement, whether we acknowledge it or not, is not a civil rights movement, not even a sexual liberation movement, but a moral revolution aimed at changing people’s view of homosexuality.”
We now find ourselves confronted by a false way of thinking, which has weakened the moral fabric of our society and attacked the social primacy of the family. It is time to push back. 1. Make a commitment to pray every day for the institution of traditional marriage in Canada. 2. Contact your MP; write a letter; better still, make an appointment to see him or her personally. Communicate the continuing importance of this issue to your elected representatives. Insist that the traditional definition of marriage be re-opened. 3. Study the teachings of the church on marriage, consult the Canadian bishops’ website and be faithful to this teaching in your own lives and marriages. Teach and stress it to your children, grandchildren and friends. Tell others to do the same. Jesus often repeated this exhortation to the disciples: “In the world you will have fear; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
Wishing you all the best, I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Frederick Henry.