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Same-Sex Marriage

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Results of recent polling of Canadians indicate that, by almost two thirds, “same sex marriage” is unacceptable to Canadians, an oxymoron. Now in an attempt to regroup, appealing to our sense of tolerance and justice, proponents of “same sex marriage” have attempted to shift the focus of the debate, opting for “equal marriage.” However, all the packaging in the world doesn’t alter substance.

There are many kinds of friendship open to all; but that particular kind of friendship that is marriage involves gender complementarity and the life-creating potential that can be found only in the relationship between a man and a woman. To construe anything else as similar to marriage or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and the family is to confront an insurmountable biological impossibility.

A marriage is a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

Nevertheless, according to Bill C-38, the social institution that has always symbolized our society’s commitment to the future - our children - will be transformed into an institution that symbolizes our commitment to the present, the needs and desires of adults. Marriage will have a new primary purpose, to validate and protect sexually intimate adult relationships.

Legislation which redefines marriage cannot achieve the impossible. It cannot alter the simple reality that there is a fundamental difference between a relationship that, by its nature, has the potential to create a child and a relationship, that by its nature, absolutely does not.

It is not unjust, or a limitation of anyone’s legitimate rights and freedoms, to insist that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. If one were refused such positions because of race, or religion, or ethnic background, or something not related to the nature of the reality at issue, then that would indeed be an injustice and a denial of individual rights.

If, however, one were refused because one excludes basic elements of the role itself, that is not in any way an injustice.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not state in the reference case that opposite sex marriage was discriminatory against same-sex couples. It merely stated that the government may, as a matter of policy, extend marriage to same-sex couples, but it did not require the government to do so, on the basis that it was an equality or human right issue.

In one of my previous pastoral letters I wrote: “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.”

Each, in its own way, undermines the foundations of the family. My list was never meant to be exhaustive as the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions: divorce, fornication, rape, etc.

The state obviously responds to each of these threats to family life in different ways as it exercises its coercive power. The government has a solemn obligation to protect, not re-engineer, an institution that is more fundamental to human life than the state. In a word, it must “build fences” to protect the institution of marriage.

The coercive power of the state extends to traffic laws, tax policy, education curriculum, communication regulations, and a whole host of other areas including marriage.

For example, in the case of marriage, federal legislation prohibits people from marrying if they are related linearly or as brother and sister, whether by whole blood, half blood or by adoption. Specifically: a woman may not marry her grandfather, father, grandson, son or brother. A man may not marry his grandmother, mother, granddaughter, daughter of sister.

The time has come for the government of Canada to use its coercive powers to legislate that a couple being married must be one man and one woman.

This is not a fascist or Hitler-like position, nor even an anti-homosexual stance, but it reflects Christian teaching on the primordial status of marriage and family life.

As an Albertan, I am afraid that we have been so concerned with the Bill - C 38, communicating with and attempting to influence federal politicians that we have neglected the provincial scene. As a result, Premier Klein and our provincial government continue to flip flop on traditional marriage.

One minute, posturing as the champions of traditional marriage, and promising to renew the notwithstanding provision of the Alberta Defence of Marriage Act, and the next moment, allowing the notwithstanding provision to expire on March 22. The ultimate argument being that provincial legislation would end up being a waste of tax-payer dollars.

Such an argument is hollow as there is no better place for Alberta to invest its money than in the defence of marriage and family life. It is time to be pro-active, not reactive. We don’t have to wait for the federal government to act.

We should renew the notwithstanding provision of the Alberta Defence of Marriage Act and add an amendment to the existing Marriage Act stating that in order for a marriage to be solemnized in Alberta and a marriage licence issued, the couple needs to be a man and a woman. The issuing of marriage licences is a provincial right and this is where our power resides.

April 21, 2005

F. B. Henry

Bishop of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

E-Mail Bishop Frederick Henry



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved