Canadian Bishop's Letter to Chrétien on Same-Sex Unions

“The Institution of Marriage Cannot Be Modified”

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OTTAWA, JUNE 26, 2003 ( Here is the text of a letter recently sent by Bishop Jacques Berthelet, president of the Canadian bishops’ conference, to the country’s Prime Minister regarding marriage and same-sex unions.

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June 19, 2003

Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
Langevin Block
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

In the name of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with the support of its Permanent Council, allow me to say that I am deeply concerned and profoundly disappointed with respect to the decision that you have taken not to appeal the rulings of the Appeal Courts of Ontario and British Columbia regarding the redefinition of marriage. The prospect of the bill that you are preparing to present to the House of Commons in support of the redefinition of marriage by including same-sex partners would mean a devaluation of traditional marriage as the basis of the family and as an essential institution for the stability and equilibrium of society.

Marriage understood as the lasting union of a man and woman to the exclusion of others pre-exists the State. Because it pre-exists the State and because it is fundamental for society, the institution of marriage cannot be modified, whether by the Charter of Rights, the State or a court of law.

The point is not that, because same-sex partners cannot have access to marriage, there would be discrimination. Rather, it is the contrary that is true. Enlarging and thereby altering the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex partners discriminates against heterosexual marriage and the family, which are thus deprived of their social and legal recognition as the fundamental and irreplaceable basis of society.

Same-sex unions cannot be considered as marriage. The definition of marriage that has been introduced by the Ontario Court of Appeal leads simply to a legal confusion which a rigorous analysis by the Supreme Court should be capable of denouncing, if there is no undue haste and improvisation.

Mr. Prime Minister, I would very much hope that the legacy you are leaving does not include legislation that represents an assault on common sense, an assault on the values of societies which are advanced but not amoral, and an assault on the liberties of men and women of good will.

I pray that you will have the courage to act in conformity with the law that is inscribed within human nature and which is not affected by every wind that blows.

Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

[Translation by Canadian bishops’ conference]

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