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Bishop Fred Henry responds to the recent Saskatchewan Court decision regarding the religious rights of civil servants

Wrong Ruling on Same-sex Marriage by Bishop Fred Henry (Calgary)

Regrettably both the Calgary Herald editorial and the Saskatchewan Appeal Court got it wrong re marriage commissioners.

Religious belief is intertwined with our nation’s history, the spirit of the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, our national anthem, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms  which begins “Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

Immediately, the Charter proceeds to list our fundamental freedoms. The first one is the freedom of conscience and religion. The second is freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression.

Only after, not before,  asserting our fundamental freedoms, does the Charter begin to spell out rights - first democratic rights, then mobility rights, followed by legal rights, then equality rights , etc.

Freedom of conscience and of religion. is a primary and inalienable right of the human person; what is more, insofar as it touches the innermost sphere of the spirit, one can even say that it upholds the justification, deeply rooted in each individual, of all other liberties. Of course, such freedom can only be exercised in a responsible way, that is, in accordance with ethical principles

A commitment to human rights is not alien to any authentic quest for religious or moral truth because it flows from the very nature of the human person and emerges naturally in all authentic religious, moral and cultural traditions as they move to express more deeply the truth of human life. It is significant that nations with widely varying religious heritages have embraced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The proposed legislation adequately balanced the interests of all parties, ensuring that same-sex couples had access to marriage, and that marriage commissioners had protection for their religious beliefs. It is disappointing that the Court did not see the wisdom of this balanced approach.

The Court did, however, leave open the possibility of introducing a “single entry point system, such as that used in Ontario, under which “a couple seeking these services of a marriage commissioner would proceed, not directly contacting an individual commissioner, but dealing with the Director of the Marriage Unit or some other central office.”

This whole scenario, however,  is not just about marriage commissioners and there is a need to examine the ideology that produces such judgments as the challenges that they propose will return on different stages and with similar theatrical garb.

We might well ask: “Who’s next?”

Are physicians and surgeons going to lose their right not to perform a service or offer advice when doing so would be to act contrary to his or her conscience or religious and ethical principles.

Of course, every patient does have the right to good medical care. This does not translate, however, into a right to demand that a physician set aside deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to accommodate every wish of the patient, e.g termination of a pregnancy, euthanasia, sterilization, etc..

Such an expectation would constitute a terrible violation of the freedom to act in accordance with conscience or religion, which is a fundamental right of every citizen, regardless of occupation. In the event of a conflict between a physician's right to freedom of conscience and the desires of a patient, the physician need only communicate clearly and respectfully to the patient the limits of his or her medical practice.

January 17, 2011
✠ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary.


  1. The analogy with physicians is flawed. Most Physicians are in private practice, not employed by the government just paid by the government. Government officials are required to administer government services equally to all, according to the law of the land. A better anaology would be to a person of faith teaching in a public school. Would he or she be able to excercise their freedom conscience and expel from their class room a student with gay parents? One could of course in a Catholic school (happens all the time where children get expelled for the "sins" of their parents), but not in a public school. The teacher in a public school must accept the law of the land and teach all students.

  2. Michael

    You say kids get expelled from Catholic School "all the time" for having gay parents. I'm not aware of a single case where this has happened. Do you have any examples? In fact I know in my sons school there are a few kids with gay parents and they've been there for years.


  3. Quick check on Google brought up three.

    Children get expelled from Catholic schools for sexual "sins" of their parents, generally divirced and remarried, but also not marriaged or same sex. It's strange but telling as it's never for any other type of sin by their parents.

  4. Actually Michael. You are right. There are a couple cases of children expelled from Catholic Schools for having gay parents but it doesn't happen all the time. But you have to ask yourself this, who is abusing the child more? The gay parent knowingly sending their child to a school that teaches a faith contrary to their chosen lifestyle or the Church that refuses them in because it will confuse the other children and obviously cause unnecessary hurt for the child? I think if you scratch the surface of many of these cases, you'll find gay activist parents willing to use their children as pawns to promote their lifestyle in the Catholic schools or force them to tiptoe around the issue because their children are in the class.
    That to me is far more abusive than the school refusing them admittance. What gay person on earth is not aware that the Catholic Churches stance on homosexuality? To send your kids there and then pretend to be shocked and outraged that there are issues with your chosen lifestyle is simply window dressing. I think many are simply trying to force the gay agenda down our throats and willing to use their children to do it.


  5. I know many loving, caring gay households. I also know many horrible heterosexual households. Sexual orientation is not the key to a stable loving home environmnet to bring up a child.

    Gay's know the Church's stand on abortion, just like divorced Catholics know the Church's stand on remarriage but the "sin" is not the child's, it's the parents. The parents may want a Catholic upbringing for the child and the fact that they are unable to meet the Church's moral standard should not adversely affect the child (at least in my ethics).

    That said, I know of no circumstance where a child was ever expelled from a Catholic school for a sin of the parents that was not sexual. Parents can be bank robbers, cheat on their taxes, steal cars, etc. and the child is never expelled. Only when sex is involved on the part of the parents does the church expell the child. I would be interested if anyone has an example to disprove this.

  6. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    Are you gay ?

  7. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    This Paul fellow here is your most ardent and devout followers. He recieves plenty of nourishment from you or you from him or more likeey you feed on one another.Cheers

  8. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    For so many years I heard the ‘ Borne’ the molester of young boys rant about his disgust and intolerance of gay people. Now when I hear the same rant from anyone it sets off an alarm. There is little doubt that there is a correlation , I don't know if its a causal one but it really is worth questioning because there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the correlation is a causal one in one direction or the other.

  9. Come on, no gay inuendo or accusations. Deal with the topic. I could care less if Paul, Larry or nay one is gay. I only care about when their rights are infringed. As we all should.

  10. No Larry I'm not gay, are you? You seem to take it personally when homosexuality is criticized.
    I'm not an ardent follower of Fr. Tim though I think we're pretty much on the same track on most issues, I'm a follower of Christ. His word tells us homosexuality is a sin so I'm not going to dispute that or pretend it doesn't exist.


  11. You're free to describe homosexuality as a sin, along with all the other vices.

    "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9)

    Would you champion civil servants not serving any of these other "damned" groups or do you only pick out one?

  12. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    You better believe it I am personally offended and I thank God that I am . Your hate and your cowardice are positively revolting to me. How anyone can hide behind there computer like Tim does, posting and supporting these kind of disgusting hate filled messages inflames and sickens me. It’s a blog set up to attract the likes of Paul. Thank God the number of ‘ pauls’ are decreasing no thanks to the catholic church. The number of ‘Tims’ are decreasing to at the same rate as participation in the catholic church.

    Michael it’s nice to hear you forgive homosexuals for their sins along with all the other sinners.( good lad you are)) Don’t talk to me about innuendo or accusation , get your head out of your ass - the facts speak for themselves.

  13. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    By the way Tim. Would you say that in a situation where one of the partners of a married gay couple that to terminate the pregnancy is the moraly right thing to do?

  14. Larry: If I understand your question correctly, the answer would be 'No, do not terminate the pregnancy.' What would the sexual orientation of parents have to do with whether or not the unborn child should live or die?

    On your previous point, I wish to let you know that I do not 'hide behind a computer screen'. My name is attached to everything I post. You might disagree with what I post, but you certainly have no grounds to infer (as you clearly do) that I am either hateful or cowardly.

    Before you start cast allegations, you should perhaps send some time thinking about that old proverb about 'throwing stones in glass houses'. You posts here have contained far more anger and insult than most others.

    Fr. Tim

  15. Mr. Green - We were having a civil discussion until you came along and starting asking people if they are gay.

    By the way I don't forgive homosexuals their "sins" as I don't think they "sin". I don't share their choice, but I support their right to live their life. My comment was that Christians, of which I cam not one, often stress the homosexual lifestyle as an the only one of Paul's sins worthy of this level of condemnation.

    I will henceforth ignore you and your rants until you can behave civily.

  16. Does anyone know?
    Was there a news report some time ago about a bishop or church official in Alberta who would not allow vacinations in Catholic schools in Alberta for sexually transmitted diseases? If so, was this the official (bishop) who made this ruling? Did he overrule the Catholic school board to prevent vaccinations for STDs? If so, how would prohibiting vaccine for STDs prevent students from having sex? Can anyone verify this report which I vaguely recollect.

  17. One in the same

    His reasoning, I guess, is that woman having a vaccine against some STD may make them more sexually active, whereas if they are faithful to one person and (they hope) their husband is faithful, the vaccine is unneccessary. If either partner slips up, it could be fatal for the woman.

    Scaring people to be sexually faithful is like scaring Catholics about hell. Didn't really work and was immoral.

    Note: I beleive this is different from condom use which Catholics believe is intrinsically evil for hetero sex. Fr. Tim? I don't belive the church has condemned the vaccine (yet) in that way.

  18. Michael,
    Thanks for your comments and especially the link. That new report give a very good explanation of what it was all about.

  19. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    Tim, you do understand my question correctly. Given the fact that you would like to maintain the luxury of denying the right for them to marry because there gay . They will no doubt teach their children to grow up demanding the catholic church comply with the rest of civilization. There is always the danger of gay people flooding the planet with offspring in order to take over.( scary thought)
    “ My name is attached to everything I post.” It’s the things said in here that others names are attached to. Therein lies the insidious tactic you employ to communicate your ‘ real’ position on issues. You do not hesitate to the things with which you disagree (not only but especially if it something that even threatens to deflate your ego a smidgen) but more often than not you provoke the likes of Paul start spewing hate and you sit back in passive mode. That’s the coward way that I speak of.
    I haven’t cast any allegations at all. Anytime anyone expresses discomfort or distain for a perceived ‘ flaw’ in other people ,contrary to what you may believe , it almost always has it’s origin within . They are afraid to face the same characteristic within themselves. I asked Paul if he was gay with the hope that he may do an introspective examination and perhaps find some peace in and with himself. No need to contemplate the proverb because I don’t throw stones . I do not pretend for one minute that my house in many many ways is one made of glass and that does not cause me any pain at all. I stand firmly in front and in love with all gay people and this glass house along with theirs wont back down from any stones hurled by anyone.

    Michael :

    You said “Mr. Green - We were having a civil discussion until you came along and starting asking people if they are gay.” In reality you were in a modern civilization having a primitive grunting session.
    The truth for those who don’t want hear it always sounds like insult. I prefer not to be vague about the truth, some people need to be shocked into straightening themselves up. So be it with your “henceforth ignoring me and my rants.”

  20. Larry: Quite sincerely, I have no idea where you anger comes from. This blog is conceived of as being a place where current issues are presented, debated and vetted. Every topic that gets posted here is done so with that aim in mind. The gay issue is one that is a very 'hot topic' in our country and in our church. It is only natural that it would be among the more prominent of issues discussed here. The fact that I am presenting from a position different than yours is not a sign of any of the insulting qualities you have slung at me. You impute my intentions, throw innuendo and slurs to demean me, you challenge my honesty, holiness and psyche... and yet your comments keep appearing - I've never blocked or deleted even one. I guess my ego is a little tougher than you give me credit for. It's really too bad that you cannot draw upon your earlier experiences of me when I served in your Church. Back then you used to regularly tell me how much you appreciated my ministry. I remember those encounters with you fondly and would have thought that it would merit you offering me civility and charity, if not the benefit of the doubt. Be assured that despite recent evidence, I still will hold to my first opinion of you.

    Fr. Tim

  21. Larry: I realize that I didn't deal with your contention that you have not cast allegations. Consider this: when you combine points like 'we hate most that which we hate within ourselves' with questions like 'Are you gay?', it is logical to conclude that you are asserting that your partner in conversations is a sexually repressed/immature individual. It's like asking 'When did you stop beating your wife?' It's an allegation no matter how you want to spin it. The intent was to demean or diminish those that disagree with you.

    All I ask is this: disagree to your hearts content... not many of us who post here agree with each other (Michael Brandon and I being the notable exception) but we try not to be disagreeable. Please try to do the same.

    Fr. Tim

  22. Larry Green18 January, 2011

    Tim if you are not up to being challenged , why challenge the honesty,holiness and spirit of other very beutifull people ?
    The gay issue is a ' hot topic' in our church not our country , you are out of touch.
    The logical conclusion you drew with regard to asking Paul if he was gay is correct as I have indicated above. An 'allegation' though only through your dark colored glasses.
    Asking another human being if they are gay, is like asking someone if they have stopped beating their wife, it's demeaning and its meant to diminish. That to me sounds like hate to me and to anyone who is gay even if you can't comprehend why it sounds like hate to me and to anyone who is gay. Thats more than insult.If you said that to (as you may well have)a young person (male or female) who happened to be struggling with their own sexuality,comming to terms and working toward acceptance of themselves for who they are, it could be enough to cause them to hate themselves.You really need to think oudside yourself Tim.
    You have no right whatsoever to tell me I shouldn't be disagreeable.You can refer to me as an insulting this or an insulting that but you cannot make me an agreeable puppet.

  23. Larry: Another very good illustration of my point! You link together the question of whether or not I manipulate or shirk the challenge of legitimate confrontation with my insistence upon civility and voila... a lovely straw man argument intended to attain some sort of 'victory' or 'point' for you by casting doubt on my integrity and character.

    We are not in a contest, fight or competition. You are not a spokesman for anything other than your opinion, which you are free to express - so long as it is about issues, events or ideas and not about your inept assessments of the talents or motives of others.

    What part of this are you having trouble comprehending?

    For example, it is not the question about a particular sexual orientation of ANYONE who posts here. It is not a civil or polite conversation. It is like asking someone when they stopped beating their wife. It is an inappropriate question to ask.

    Thank you once again for assuming the worst possible intention on my part. I guess my 'dark glasses' must have started a fashion trend.

    Fr. Tim

  24. Larry: One last point you raised that I should address. No one here, not Paul, Lady Janus, Cliff, Michael, Martin, you... no one participates in all the comment threads. We all have a life to live outside of our computer time so we tend to focus on comments that relate to our particular interest at the time. I tend to respond to any question put to me, or if I am referenced in a comment.

    I do not post articles and sit back so that anyone can pound on anyone else.

    Again... try to listen to your better angels when considering the motives or intentions of anyone here.

    Fr. Tim

  25. Larry:
    Thanks for your concern for my repressed sexual issues. I gave it some thought and I'm still having a hard time getting excited at the thought of having a hairy man crawl into bed with me. I'll stick with my beautiful wife thanks.
    Its quite simple really, scripture says homosexuality is immoral and I'm not above God to tell him otherwise. I'm also pretty sure a basic understanding of human biology would lead one to believe men were not designed to fit together like a man and a woman. If you've had a prostate exam you'll know what I mean. That being said, if gay sex was in God's plan he totally messed up the design.
    You also keep telling me I hate gay people because I believe homosexuality is contrary to God's design for human sexuality.
    You seem to think that if you don't accept someones behaviour then you must hate them. You're simply wrong.
    The woman caught in adultery was a perfect example. Jesus saved her from execution out of love but he also told her to sin no more out of that same love. Applying your logic, we have to assume Christ hated this woman because he didn't accept the adultery she was engaged in.



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