Charlie Angus MP and His Very Bad Day
From a March 7, 2005 story by Paco Francoli in The Hill Times:
Rookie NDP MP Charlie Angus says he was confronted by his Catholic parish priest over his open support of the Liberal government's legislation to legalize same-sex marriage about three weeks ago and was told he will be denied holy communion during mass if he votes with the government on the controversial legislation.
Mr. Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.), a devout practising Catholic who has an active church life, hasn't been to Sunday mass since and said he doesn't know when he'll go back.Well there you go; very strange indeed. A Catholic priest is actually calling his devout Catholic MP to task for flouting Catholic teaching in the most public manner possible. Does Charlie expect a papal knighthood for his actions in the Commons?
"I haven't decided what I will do," said a despondent Mr. Angus in a telephone interview with The Hill Times from his riding last week. "I go to mass not to have to deal with problems, but to get a respite from them, so with the friction... it doesn't really make me feel on Sunday morning like getting up and going."
The matter came to a head when the controversial same-sex bill came up for debate in the House on Feb. 16. That day, Mr. Angus said he was in the House of Commons listening to his colleague Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas, B.C.), who is openly gay, deliver the NDP's lead speech on the bill.
After his colleague was finished speaking, Mr. Angus got up to congratulate him and to shake his hand. Five minutes later, his parish priest, Father John Lemire, who had been watching the House proceedings on TV, left him a pointed message on his cellphone.
"He [the priest] told me that he was scandalized," recounted Mr. Angus. "He said that I had scandalized people and that he was very disturbed to see me getting up and shaking this man's hand. I thought it was all rather strange."
Father Lemire is also the coordinator for the "Marriage Campaign" in the diocese and has taken a leading role in a campaign urging Roman Catholics throughout the region to target Mr. Angus and Liberal MP Anthony Rota (Nipissing-Timiskaming, Ont.), who is also a Catholic and supports same-sex marriage.Indeed it is. It seems that Charlie Angus MP is going to have to choose between his devout Catholicism and his devout socialism. Life is full of tough choices, but in this case my bet is that Mr. Angus will drift to the socialist, rather than the Catholic, side of the street.
Father Lemire said that "it's a cause of scandal and concern that both [Mr. Angus and Mr. Rota] profess to be good practising Catholics and yet vote in favour of the legislation."
Perhaps he can start attending mass in the home parish of another devout Catholic MP. That way he can continue to pretend to be devout, while publicly acting against Catholic teaching on fundamental moral questions.
Many Catholic MPs have found themselves at odds with the Catholic Church over this divisive issue, including Prime Minister Paul Martin (LaSalle-Émard, Que.) who is also a practising Catholic.Father Walsh is no St. Jean Baptiste. In his neo-Catholicism, no one should ever, ever, ever, feel rejected. No making straight the ways of the Lord for him. But I guess that anything that helps Mr. Martin get through his devoutly dithering days without pangs of conscience .....
But the Prime Minister's own parish priest at St. John Brebeuf in Montreal, Rev. John Walsh, recently told The Globe and Mail that he believes the Catholic Church should open its arms to gays and lesbians, pointing that all the churches are being asked to do is respect civil gay marriage.
Declared Rev. Walsh: "People aren't less human being because they're born gay. I open my heart and my church to them. We have to find a way so that these people never feel rejected. But we're divided. Everybody is divided
You may think this is bad. It gets worse.
Father Lemire said he agrees with Bishop Henry's [of Calgary] position. He added that Catholics are "routinely" denied communion for going against the church's teachings. He explained that Catholics who are divorced and then go on to remarry in non-Catholic churches also face being denied communion "because they would be in an immoral state in the eyes of the church."
Mr. Angus said he consulted a cannon lawyer in Ottawa and also met with the Bishop of his Diocese, Bishop Paul Marchand, for a second opinion. Both told him he can't be denied communion. Mr. Angus said the Bishop told him that the church's job "is to propose, not to impose."Bishop Marchand could not be reached for an interview last week.
One can always hope that Mr. Angus is misquoting his bishop. Alas, the statement rings true. It is a typical kind of blather uttered by far too many in the Canadian Catholic episcopacy.
Saint John Cardinal Fisher and St. Thomas More pray for us. And Lord, bless your faithful servant and priest Fr. Lemire.