Monday, January 09, 2006

A matter of conscience

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary in Canada is suggesting that Catholic Canadian politicians follow the example of Sir Thomas More and face martyrdom rather than bend on same-sex marriage, which has become legal in Canada, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail. More, who was martyred by King Henry VIII for refusing to acknowledge the king's authority over the Church of England, is the patron of conscientious objection for many.

Of course, conscience cuts both ways, and it's likely that at least some Catholics in Canada believe in conscience that, regardless of their religious beliefs about homosexuality or same-sex marriage, religious institutions should not be able to restrict the civil rights of citizens solely on religious grounds. And, despite their appeals to the natural law and marriage as society's foundation--both debateable--arguments against same-sex marriage or civil unions or what have you are fundamentally religious.

Ironically, I think Thomas More would not share Bishop Henry's position. If his writings are any guide--in his Utopia, he argued for a married clergy, the ordination of women, and divorce (though he is a Catholic saint!)--I bet he'd be a strong proponent of the separation of church and state. His martyrdom, after all, was directly connected to his refusal to submit to the secular ruler's claim of religious authority.


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