Canada's Bishops Not Budging on Marriage

Urge Continued Opposition to New Law on Same-Sex Relations

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OTTAWA, JULY 21, 2005 ( Canada’s Catholic bishops say that the Church will continue to defend marriage as the exclusive union between a man and a woman, despite the country’s new law.

Canada legalized homosexual marriage Wednesday, becoming the fourth nation to grant full legal rights to same-sex couples. Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin signed the legislation making it law, hours after it was approved by the Senate late Tuesday.

«From the perspective of the Catholic Church, the new federal statute denatures the moral values and principles,» the bishops said in a statement.

«Catholics are to continue to oppose it, and to ensure that all provincial and territorial regulations on the solemnization of marriages provide full protection for freedom of conscience and religion, as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,» the prelates said.

The bishops’ conference noted «with deep gratitude and respect the efforts that so many Canadians of all faiths and also of no religious adherence» invested, «and continue to invest, in ensuring that the universal definition of marriage is maintained and protected.»

«A great number of citizens, including public officials, have defended the true reality of marriage with great courage and considerable personal sacrifice, even at the risk of their own careers,» the prelates noted.

«In dissent»

The bishops were saddened, however, by the fact that «some Catholics» promoted «the redefinition of marriage, including politicians who have voted in its favor. In this regard, they are in dissent from the teaching of the Church as enunciated by the Holy Father and the bishops.»

The episcopal statement said that «Canadians in general have been and remain deeply divided about changing the nature of marriage and altering its basic meaning. It is clear this debate is far from over, and that it will be a significant issue in the upcoming federal election.»

The bishops added that the «Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops of Canada will be studying the immediate ramifications of these decisions. … There will be further reflections by this conference and from individual bishops to assist in the ongoing defense of marriage and family life.»

Lastly, the prelates said, in regard to homosexual persons, that «they must always be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. At the same time that the universal and traditional definition of marriage is to be upheld, every unjust discrimination in their regard is to be avoided.»

The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain have also legalized homosexual marriage.

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