Special to The Interim

Prime Minister Paul Martin has presided over the passage of some of the most socially destructive legislation in Canada’s history and continues vocally to insist on his status as a “strong” Catholic. The recent visit of Mexican President Vincente Fox provided him with yet another occasion to appropriate the title, despite the fact he spearheaded the homosexual “marriage” bill’s passage, which is only a few months in the past.

“I am a practising Catholic. In fact I am a strong Catholic,” Martin said at a news conference with the Mexican President. “But, I am also a legislator and I believe in the separation of church and state.”

Martin added, “Have I discussed (this) with senior churchmen, with bishops? The answer is: yes, I have. But, as far as any further comment, I’m a legislator and that’s public and I will comment on my public position. As a Catholic, that’s my faith and I’ll keep that to myself.”

Martin’s pretensions however, are disputed by the leadership of the church to which he claims to belong. Even some Canadian bishops, who for the most part, have for decades maintained a stoic silence on the scandal, are saying that a synod of bishops underway in Rome is likely to result in a correction for politicians who deny Catholic doctrine with their actions and still presume to receive Communion.

Most Rev. Thomas Collins, archbishop of Edmonton, said recently, “If it was clear that the politician … manifestly just rejected the Gospel, then I think the bishop would say to that person, “Come to Mass, listen to the words of the Gospel, but it’s really not appropriate for you to receive Communion’.”

The strongest episcopal voice has been that of Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, who has written numerous pastoral letters condemning homosexual union legislation and the “Catholic” politicians who support it. In his April 2004 pastoral letter, he said of Paul Martin, “His recently clarified position re: abortion and same-sex unions is a source of scandal in the Catholic community and reflects a fundamental moral incoherence.”

The synod’s working document, which sets the agenda for the meeting, said, “The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion without even thinking that they might be in the state of mortal sin.”

Pope Benedict XVI has already hinted that problems like this will be taken seriously at the synod, when he said in his opening speech, “A tolerance which allows God as a private opinion, but which excludes Him from public life, from the reality of the world and our lives, is not tolerance, but hypocrisy.

“When man makes himself the only master of the world and master of himself, justice cannot exist. Then, arbitrariness, power and interests rule.” Too many Catholic lives could be compared to “vinegar, rather than wine,” because of the indifference to God, the pontiff said.

A version of this article originally appeared Oct. 3 on Reprinted with permission.