Vol. 1 No. 2 - Nativity 2006
From the Trenches:
Rome and Same Sex Unions
"Put not your hope in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation" - Psalm 145(6):3
So our leaders in the Canadian Parliament voted not to revisit the definition of marriage in Canadian law, leaving the definition almost entirely a matter of personal definition. The Prime Minister, who has done his best to restore the traditional definition of marriage to Canadian law, was unable to muster even all the votes of his own caucus on the issue. Politically speaking, the question is now closed.
It was ironic to observe the change that has come over our country on moral issues over the last decade. Quebec MPs, who represent a province that is (or at least, was) mostly Roman Catholic, voted almost unanimously to keep the traditional definition of marriage out of Canadian law. This includes the new opposition leader, a Roman Catholic who sees the question not as one of eternal truth, but as a question of civil rights. One new separatist MP, a Roman Catholic priest and advocate on homosexual issues, had the honesty to say that although he believed the Vatican was wrong on the question, as an MP who is also a cleric, he would stay away from such votes - that is, until he is able to set the Vatican straight, as it were.
Bowed by the defeat of the government motion supporting traditional marriage, the Prime Minister announced he would not be introducing legislation to protect clergy who choose not to perform such unions, preferring to leave the question up to the courts. In short, he knew such a law would not pass. At the same time, some Ontarians threatened legal action against Roman Catholic authorities for denying two Roman Catholic homosexuals the right to communion. The courts will settle this, too, no doubt, ensuring their Constitutional right to do as they please, along with the rights of atheists to receive Communion, pet owners to baptize their squirrels, and polygamists to get a group rate on weddings. Yes, it's all funny now, but so was the concept of same sex "marriage" in Canada five years ago.
For many Orthodox Canadians, the issue has hardly registered on their radar. Many in the Church will continue to march out to the ballot box and vote for Members of Parliament who believe the parish priest should go to jail when he refuses to solemnize the union of Adam and Steve. Of course, like any religious group, there are true believers and "adherents"; the Lord Himself had such in His circle, and still does today. Such non-adhering "adherents" should repent of their apostasy, of course, but most won't feel the need to do so, since they only come for Pascha, weddings, and funerals, or more often, not at all.
Like the Roman Catholics, the real test on the marriage question will be whether Orthodox priests will have the courage to give up serving as government agents for legally recognized marriages, and choose to simply serve as priests. The First Ecumenical Council forbade holding any state office, yet most clergy do just that as agents for registering marriages. The consequences of such a decision would likely be a sharp decline in marriages in the Church; short of a means of pleasing grandma, Church marriages for those who are merely "adherents" would be a giant inconvenience. The secular wedding chapel business will grow; Church membership rosters will shrink, but only to include those who already participate in a meaningful way. Like Roman Catholics in the province of Quebec, many who are Orthodox in name only would choose to go their own way. The rest would have to count the cost - financial, personal, and family - of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian.
Now that the largest religious group in the country has revealed its own gaping gap between belief and practice, everything is up to the courts, and such a decision for Orthodox clergy and faithful alike cannot be very far away.
Father Geoffrey Korz, (Nativity, 2006)
© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2007.