With Canada’s gay marriage bill just days away from becoming law, the country’s top Catholic leader has warned that the church could refuse to baptize the children of same-sex parents.
“If I take the example of the ceremony of baptism, according to our canon law, we cannot accept the signatures of two fathers or two mothers as parents of an infant,” Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Canadian Catholic Church, told a Senate committee hearing held here on the pending legislation this week.
The same-sex marriage legislation, passed last month by Canada’s House of Commons, redefines civil marriage to be the “lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” and not just between a man and a woman.
But the pending law allows religious officials to refuse to perform marriages “that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
On Monday, the committee will recommend that the Senate pass the same-sex marriage bill with no amendments. The legislation is expected to receive final passage in the upper chamber Tuesday or Wednesday. Canada would follow Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain in passing laws allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.
The cardinal’s statement was the latest salvo of Canadian Catholic officials in their opposition to the same-sex marriage bill.
The church has already reprimanded two opposition members of Parliament who are Roman Catholic and who supported the legislation, which passed the House of Commons on a 158-133 vote late last month.
A member of Parliament from the New Democratic Party, Charlie Angus, who represents an Ontario district in the Commons, was denied Communion for supporting the bill.
Meanwhile, fellow Ontario NDP parliamentarian Joe Comartin, an active member of his church who taught marriage preparation classes, had his duties suspended “until [he] has a change of mind with regard to the moral status of homosexual activity,” said Bishop Ronald Fabbro in a pastoral letter issued to all churches in the Ontario diocese of London.
About 30 parishioners of the church Comartin attends walked out of Sunday Mass last week when the document was read from the pulpit.
Even Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, a Catholic, has not been immune to the church’s hard line against gay marriage. A Montreal priest has said that the prime minister should be denied Communion and that he hoped Martin would lose his seat in the next federal election.
Ouellet declared that the Catholic clergy felt “threatened” by the same-sex legislation.
“Even our priests sometimes do not feel free to preach on homosexual and sexual morality because they are accused of homophobia,” he said in his testimony, which was delivered in French over two hours on Wednesday.
“Once the state imposes a new standard affirming that homosexual behavior is a social good, those who oppose it for religious motives or motives of conscience will be considered as bigots, anti-gay and homophobes, and then risk prosecution,” he said.
Ouellet told reporters after his presentation that supporters of same-sex marriage had created an “insane atmosphere” in Canada.
“It is not good for religious freedom if you cannot express your views and you cannot teach your beliefs,” he said.
However, it is “false, wrong and offensive” to equate gay marriage with the unions of married opposite-sex couples who have “produced children to society,” Ouellet said.
“This is something a homosexual union cannot offer to society, and you would like Canadian society to accept that as justice itself? I have to say I find that completely irrational.”