From far and near, from left and right, from Catholics and non-Catholics, the actions and non-actions of the Canadian Catholic hierarchy towards Canadian Catholic politicians is coming under fire. The recent passage of the same-sex "marriage" law in Canada with the votes of a majority of Catholic politicians, and at the behest of a Catholic Prime Minister has focussed attention in Canada on renegade Catholicism rampant in politics and seemingly unchecked by the majority of Canada's bishops.
Of the well over 50 Catholic MPs and Senators who voted in favour of homosexual "marriage" despite the desperate pleas of Catholic bishops, only three are known to have received any discipline from the Church, and all three happen to represent the same political party - the NDP the furthest left-leaning mainline party in Canada's political makeup.
MP Charlie Angus has been denied communion by his priest with the support of Timmins Bishop Paul March and London Bishop Ronald Fabbro has publicly announced that MP Joe Comartin is no longer allowed to act in public roles in the Church, neither to give marriage preparation classes (as he did formerly) nor to distribute communion nor to read the Bible at Masses. MP Tony Martin who expressed publicly his support for homosexual "marriage" prior to the vote on the legislation was suspended as a reader at Masses.
Sure enough the bishops who dared to act were blasted by the press for their actions, editorials cropped up in many papers decrying the bishops for daring to do what faithful Catholics regard as taking the faith seriously.
Even England's (albeit left-leaning) Catholic paper The Tablet decried the actions against Angus making him sound more like a martyr than a public sinner.
In mid-July, the Windsor Star newspaper conducted a survey contacting 51 Catholic MPs who had voted in favour of homosexual "marriage". While most did not respond, 11 said they were not reprimanded in any way, four refused to say, 34 were unavailable and two (NDP MPs mentioned above) noted their reprimands.
The fact that the three NDP MPs have been publicly reprimanded while the Catholic Liberal Prime Minister who proposed and foisted the legislation on Parliament, also forcing his cabinet to support the measure under pain of being booted from cabinet, was not is raising eyebrows. In a column in July, conservative commentator Ted Byfield - a non-Catholic Orthodox Christian - wondered if the Catholic Church had a "special exception for prime ministers".
"If poor Charlie Angus is out, why is Paul Martin still in? Does the Church provide special dispensation for prime ministers?," asked Byfield. By way of answer he speculated: "Unlikely as this may seem, perhaps it does. A similar situation arose five years ago at the death of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, another Catholic whose devotion to the faith was frequently noted by an admiring media.
"Catholic Church rules specify that anyone who plays a role in an abortion commits a dire sin - and Trudeau, it can be argued, played a pivotal role in countless abortions. He was responsible for the legislation that eventually left Canada with no legal restrictions whatsoever on abortion. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church buried Pierre Trudeau with full honours."
The position of the Catholic Church from Rome is crystal clear, both the current Pope and his predecessor, and the Cardinal in charge of the sacraments and his predecessor have said that Catholic politicians who flout Church teaching on core issues such as abortion and homosexual "marriage" must be denied communion.
The stark contrast in the approach of at least one Canadian bishop, Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry, is nowhere more evident than in the approach to the Prime Minister. While Bishop Henry wrote a pastoral letter indicating to his flock that the media was misleading in referring to Prime Minister Martin as a "devout Catholic", Martin's own bishop, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais considers the PM a "faithful member" of his Cathedral parish. Even after giving the homosexual "marriage" law a final push while claiming on radio to be a "very strong Roman Catholic" Martin did not succeed in altering the opinion of his bishop.
In a column, published in the Ottawa Citizen on 24 July, David Warren, a recent convert to Catholicism, wrote, "It feels odd, to be defending Catholic authority, so soon after my arrival. Yet, if I don't speak, who will? It can be no secret that the majority of Canadian Catholic bishops are cowards. With the important exception of the Bishop of Calgary (Fred Henry), they run away from almost any opportunity to defend the faith they were entrusted to defend. They will act, grudgingly, when they get instructions directly from the Vatican, but then they let everyone feel their pain. Some appear to be themselves opposed to most Church teaching. It is thus left to the laity to do for the Catholic Church that for which its 'hands on' leadership have not the stomach."