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Trying to be a Light of Authentic Witness in the Smoke of Clergy Abuse


By Carman Bradley

The law is a teacher. Does Canadian society as a whole, and do parents in particular, understand what the law will be teaching in this instance? It will be teaching that homosexual activity and heterosexual activity are morally equivalent. Public schools will be required to provide sex education in that light.[i]- Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto

This is why lines must be drawn, standards discussed, and battles fought.  Because when people push the envelope of morality and get away with it, they don’t sit back to enjoy the sensation.  They reach further – touching the lives of people around them – touching the lives of your children, and someday, mine.[ii]  - Kristi Hamrick, Press Secretary, Family Research Council


On January 16, 2005, Bishop Frederick G. Henry released a letter[iii] on the issue of same-sex marriage to over 400,000[iv] members of the Diocese of Calgary.  In this message, he wrote:


Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.[v]

He also wrote that the goal of same-sex marriage law was not equality rights, but “to acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society’s rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle into a gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance.”[vi]  His views were subsequently published in a Calgary Sun article.  His letter and Sun column prompted two complaints to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.  In response, he called a news conference to argue that his rights to freedom of religion and free speech had been violated:

Those who support same-sex marriage want to shut the churches out of this important debate.

Those who favour same-sex marriage have been given a full opportunity to state their views on the issue. But now they are saying anyone who speaks out against same-sex marriage is discriminating against homosexuals.[vii]

On May 1, 2005, Bishop Henry released a second letter[viii] to his Diocese refining his argument against redefining marriage.  He wrote:

It is not unjust, or a limitation of anyone’s legitimate rights and freedoms, to insist that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman…The Supreme Court did not state in the reference case that opposite sex marriage was discriminatory against same-sex couples.

And in regard to categorizing homosexuality in with adultery, prostitution and pornography, he wrote:

Each, in its own way, undermines the foundations of the family.  My list was never meant to be exhaustive as the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions: divorce, fornication, rape etc.  The state obviously responds to each of these threats to family life in different ways as it exercises its coercive power.  The government has a solemn obligation to protect, not re-engineer, an institution that is more fundamental to human life than the state. In a word, it must 'build fences' to protect the institution of marriage.[ix]

Bishop Henry’s stand against same-sex marriage placed him front and centre in the fight for traditional marriage and his adversaries labeled him "The Bishop of Bigotry."   Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell (the first gay men “married” in Canada) coined the term in their article[x] for Equal Marriage, titled “Purging toxic religion in Canada: gay marriage exposes faith-based bigotry.”  Ironically, these activists proved Bishop Henry’s point about the real goal of redefining marriage when they wrote:

We know from firsthand experience, as we've documented in our book Just Married, that gay marriage is leading Canadians towards acceptance of homosexuality. Henry doesn't like this because he knows that either his church will have to change or it risks the continued loss of support from its dwindling faithful. The lies this religion maintains about homosexuals cannot be supported when society reflects reality.[xi]

Undeterred by name-calling and litigation threats, the bishop argued in the Calgary Sun that gay marriage legislation was a “Betrayal of Children.”[xii]   In September 2006, Bishop Henry wrote a third letter[xiii] to his Diocese titled, “Time to Push Back,” in which he described six adverse effects of same-sex marriage legislation:

1 -The homosexual lifestyle must now be treated as wholesome and legitimate, when in reality, it is unwholesome and immoral.

2 - The traditional family has its status and necessary privileges questioned.

3 - Freedom of speech is threatened for those who oppose same-sex “marriage” in public.

4 - Civil servants unwilling to cooperate with same sex “marriage’ -- such as marriage commissioners in B.C., Saskatchewan and other provinces -- are dismissed.

5 - Adoption of children by “gays” and lesbians is “legal.”

6 - “Gay” activists have now demanded successfully in B.C. that the curriculum be changed to suit their agenda.

Through the fight, he counseled his parishioners, writing:

It is the right and the responsibility of all citizens who are troubled by the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage, to enter into the debate and, with clarity and charity, to make their voices heard by their fellow citizens and our political leaders.

Please take the time to write, email and/or fax government leaders and your local member of parliament registering your objection to the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage.[xiv]

Make a commitment to pray every day for the institution of traditional marriage in Canada.

Study the teachings of the Church on marriage, consult the Canadian bishops web site, and be faithful to this teaching in your own lives and marriages. Teach and stress it to your children, grandchildren, and friends. Tell others to do the same.[xv]

Most will agree that each case of clergy misconduct and abuse, whether heterosexual or homosexual, whether by Catholic or Evangelical, weakens the authority and credibility of authentic witness by the church.  The Christian sexual code has equal application to clergy and lay believers.  The consequences of sexual misconduct are bad; however, they are likely worse for clergy, since they are by their identification our spiritual leaders, the shepherds of our flock, the human examples of Christ’s anointing. 


Rupturing the status quo witness within Canadian Christendom requires a spirit of repentance, but equally important, is the need for a spirit of obedience and righteousness.  We cannot effectively and credibly hold up certain things as right and others as wrong, while publicly witnessing wrong conduct in our lives.  Christ hates such double-mindedness, such hypocrisy. 


Copyright © 2008 StandForGod.Org

[i] Life Site, “Cardinal Ambrozic letter to Canadian Prime Minister Martin Re: Same-Sex Marriage Bill,” dated 18 Jan 2005,, 13 Nov 2007.

[ii]Joe Dallas, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement (Eugene Oregon: Harvest House, 1996), p.37.  Quote by Kristi Hamrick, Press Secretary, Family Research Council. 

[ii] Denis Stairs, The Diplomacy of Constraint: Canada, the Korean War, and the United States (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), pp. 297 and 298.

[iii] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, released Jan 15-16 2005,, 12 Nov 2007.

[v] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, released Jan 15-16 2005,, 12 Nov 2007.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Calgary bishop defiant about gay marriage views, Canadian Press, March 31, 2005, 12 Nov 2007.

[viii] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, released May 1 2005,, 12 Nov 2007.  

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, “Purging toxic religion in Canada: Gay marriage exposes faith-based bigotry,” Equal Marriage, 18 Jan 2005,, 13 Nov 2007.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Life Site, “Calgary Bishop Henry Argues Gay ‘Marriage’ Legislation is a ‘Betrayal of Children,’, 13 Nov 2007.

[xiii] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, titled “Time to Push Back,” dated 8 Sep 2006,, 12 Nov 2007.

[xiv] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, released May 1 2005,, 12 Nov 2007.  

[xv] Bishop Henry, Open letter to Diocese on same-sex marriage, titled “Time to Push Back,” dated 8 Sep 2006,, 12 Nov 2007.