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Has Tony Martin lost the Catholic vote?

Sault Ste. Marie's Catholics, by far the largest local faith group claiming 46 percent of the population, are being heavily lobbied behind the scenes to support pro-family, pro-life candidates in the January 23 federal election.
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Sault Ste. Marie's Catholics, by far the largest local faith group claiming 46 percent of the population, are being heavily lobbied behind the scenes to support pro-family, pro-life candidates in the January 23 federal election.

"It is our responsibility to demand that the next government develop policies to support married couples who are ensuring the survival of society by giving birth to new citizens and raising them in the most stable environment," says an open letter issued this week by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, an autonomous non-profit corporation co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus.

A similar letter has reportedly been mailed by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's fraternal benefit society, to its 239,000 Canadian members.

"These basic questions about life and marriage are central to the current issues," says the Knights of Columbus letter, signed by Jean Migneault, international deputy supreme knight and Dennis Savoie, president of the Canadian Association of Knights of Columbus.

"Political leaders, using all their personal convictions must truly serve the common good by crafting legislation respecting freedom of religion and conscience," the letter states. Source

What the bishop said

As SooToday.com reported yesterday, Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie is also distributing an election-related pastoral letter to area parishes this coming weekend.

"Choose the ones that are most likely to support our values and convictions, to sustain the social life to which we aspire, to respect the life and dignity of persons, to defend the poor, the marginalized, the excluded, to promote family, the environment, universal health care and justice," the bishop urged.

While ostensibly non-partisan, the bishop's carefully worded letter was interpreted by some SooToday.com readers as being squarely aimed at Sault MP Tony Martin's decision last year to defy his Church's leadership and vote in favour of the Liberals' same-sex marriage bill that redefined marriage to include lesbian and gay couples.

What Tony said

"I respect my church," Martin, a former Catholic school trustee once employed by the Church as a pastoral and youth worker, said in a March 24 speech to the House of Commons. "I respect it and love it enough to be able to tell its leaders when I think they are wrong. I know there are other good and faithful Catholics who think the same."

"I believe same-sex marriage for civil society is a justice issue but I wanted it clarified that I believe this is so because of my own personal Roman Catholic convictions, not in spite of them," Martin said.

"I have not disassociated myself from the church .... It was the spirit of Vatican Two that challenged me to inform my conscience and that informed conscience says we must reach out to Bill and Scott and Libby and Real and all members of the gay and lesbian community to say you are as whole and wholesome as all humanity."

Targeted in homily in his own church

In an interview earlier this year with the Hill Times newspaper, Martin said that his own priest has made his disapproval of his position on same-sex marriages clear in a homily delivered during a Sunday service. "I felt that [the homily] was certainly being targeted at me as the MP for Sault Ste Marie," Martin told the newspaper. "But above and beyond that [the priest] also shared with the community that this is where Tony comes on Sunday for some spiritual respite and nourishment and it should not be a place where he is to be harassed or attacked over this. And it hasn't happened."

Any loss of Catholic votes could be a serious problem for Martin, who's facing a strong local Liberal candidate, a vigorous national showing by the Conservative Party, and a Green Party opponent with demonstrated potential to siphon off as many as 2,250 votes. The following is the letter released this week by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.

********************* Open letter to Canadian Catholics from the Catholic Organization for Life and Family

What country for tomorrow?

On January 23, Canadians will choose a new government.

The electoral campaign is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the type of country we wish to build and bequeath to future generations.

As such, we find it important to emphasize certain considerations which have not received the attention they deserve over the last few weeks.

Life

At this time in the history of Canada, a realistic look at society reveals a fundamental problem – the loss of respect for human life and dignity.

This is evident in so many ways: the legal void that permits abortion right up to birth; medical research that authorizes the destruction of embryos; a mentality that increasingly favours euthanasia and assisted suicide; the gratuitous violence in our schoolyards; abuse of women and children; the violent deaths of young men; the silence that surrounds so many situations of poverty; the widespread incidence of prostitution, pornography and drugs.

Human life and human dignity encounter too many obstacles in Canada.

As we prepare to elect a new government, we must determine the position of candidates on the first of all human rights: the right to life.

If this is not respected, should we be surprised that other rights will sooner or later be threatened?

Family

The family is also under attack. The recent redefinition of marriage in our country contradicts the reality inscribed in nature. It has become urgent to announce to the next generations God's plan for human love and marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of the family. It is also urgent to ensure that our schools respect these convictions by not proposing a conflicting vision to our children.

It is our responsibility to demand that the next government develop policies to support married couples who are ensuring the survival of society by giving birth to new citizens and raising them in the most stable environment.

We should also remember that the family, as the vital social unit, is not at the service of the state; rather, the state should be at the service of the family.

Following the principle of subsidiarity, the state is to respect the rights of the family and, through fiscal and social policies, help it to fulfill its duties, including the raising of children.

Many Canadian families live below the poverty line. In a spirit of justice, it is up to us to work towards a better distribution of resources and equitable access to essential goods so that all will be assured of a decent quality of life.

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