Bishops Criticize Official for Salute to Homosexual Couple

Canadian Prelates Call Governor-General´s Message Offensive

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TORONTO, JAN. 17, 2001 ( Canada´s Catholic bishops rebuked the governor-general for sending best wishes by e-mail to a homosexual couple about to go through a marriage ceremony, calling her message offensive and controversial, The Globe and Mail reported today.

Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, British Columbia, head of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a letter Tuesday to Adrienne Clarkson that he was writing «with regret» and out of the respect «that we believe is owed to the office of governor-general,» the Toronto newspaper said.

A strongly worded letter of complaint about Clarkson´s action was also sent to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the newspaper said. It was signed by Monsignor Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the bishops´ conference.

It states: «Canadians should be able to expect the Governor-General to respect and uphold their basic values and laws. However, this controversial action by the office of the Governor-General offends most faiths, almost all of which believe that marriage by definition is the sacred union of a man and a woman, and is also at odds with Canadian civil and legal tradition.»

Last week, bank manager Kevin Bourassa sent an e-mail to Clarkson, inviting her to attend his «wedding» to Joe Varnell, performed Sunday in a Toronto church.

A staff member in Rideau Hall, the governor-general´s residence, replied by e-mail, saying Clarkson would be unable to attend and conveying her best wishes. Clarkson´s spokesman, Stewart Wheeler, said the reply was a standard courteous form, sent in response to thousands of invitations the governor-general cannot accept.

Father Schonenbach said in an interview: «Even though it appears it was a staff-generated memo, when we send something out with the president´s signature, he´s stuck with it. Many people won´t read the fine print, and will say, ´Oh, the governor-general´s for it.´»

Wheeler said the bishops have misunderstood the nature of the e-mails between Clarkson´s office and Bourassa. «We regret the misunderstanding,» he said. «The governor-general will be responding personally right away.»

Douglas Elliott, lawyer for the Metropolitan Community Church, said it is unfortunate that the Catholic bishops are trying to draw Clarkson into controversy. He said the Rev. Brent Hawkes, who performed the marriage ceremony and who told the congregation of Clarkson´s message, would be writing to her to assure her that he was not trying to draw her into the issue.

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