- Views outlined in court affidavit
- Catholic Church opposes draft law LESLIE SCRIVENER, FAITH AND ETHICS REPORTER
February 5, 2004
The definition of marriage should include same-sex couples, says Tim Ryan, a Toronto Catholic priest who has worked for 30 years with the gay and lesbian community. And he supports redefining marriage as a union for life of two people. The court is to deal with four questions submitted by the federal government next fall.
In his statement (here in right column), Ryan stands in direct opposition to a recent document from the Vatican that condemns homosexual unions."There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," it says. "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law," reads the document from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released last July.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked to intervene in the reference question being put by the federal government before the Supreme Court of Canada. The bishops argue that the traditional definition of marriage, between a man and woman, is constitutional and the draft bill supporting same-sex unions breaches freedom of conscience and religion.
Last month, the conference released a 12-page document, called "Marriage Matters," using a question-and-answer format to explain the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage. Among the questions addressed: "What difference does it make to traditionally married couples if same-sex partners are allowed to marry?" and "What is the point of trying to save an institution when fewer and fewer people are choosing it ... ?"
The bishops argue that by permitting same-sex marriage, future generations may believe that the primary purpose of marriage is to protect a sexually intimate adult relationship, and that all else — creation of children and a wider family life — is secondary.Ryan's sworn statement was taken last August as part of court materials prepared by Toronto's Metropolitan Community Church. He urged Ottawa not to appeal decisions by courts in Ontario and British Columbia to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. No religious authority should have to conduct marriages that do not conform to its beliefs, his affidavit reads.
Ryan, 67, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has one of the "sharpest theological minds" in the Scarboro Missions, said a member who asked not to be named. One of his most successful innovations was to open the community of priests to include lay people in missionary work. "He tried to create something totally new in a church that tends to be hierarchical. ... And it's still going on, though not in the numbers we'd hoped," the member said. "Tim has always taken the side of those whose rights are not recognized."
Tom Reilly of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Church understands that people make mistakes. "In the judgment of the Church at the moment, Fr. Ryan is wrong."
Leaders of the Scarboro Missions had only recently learned of Ryan's affidavit. It had been on an equal marriage Web site for some months, along with statements from other clergy supporting same-sex marriage, but this week appeared on a pro-life, family Web site. Ryan was acting without the knowledge or approval of the society, said Vicar-General Mike Traher. "The Scarboro Missions does not in any way endorse any other position than the official teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the definition of marriage."Ryan's work in the gay and lesbian community, he said, was a "personal ministry, not something we assigned."
(within a few weeks of this article's publication, Father Ryan was suspended by the Archdiocese of Toronto and may no longer celebrate mass in public or preach in a church.)
Gay Catholics Outraged with Suspension of Priest
Published articles by Father Ryan:
- The Troubling Tone and Tactics of the Canadian Bishops
- Same-sex marriage: A Catholic priest dissents
Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.