.- A Canadian parish priest, who has been an outspoken supporter of abortion and same-sex marriage, announced last week that he will be running in a federal by-election for the separatist Bloc Quebecois Party this month.
Fr. Raymond Gravel of the Diocese of Joliette said he will run as a candidate in the riding of Repentigny, located north of Montreal.
According to a report by LifeSiteNews.com, he was granted the permission of his bishop to run for public office, despite a prohibition of such activity in the Church's Code of Canon Law.
In his blog, Waiting in Joyful Hope, Montreal priest Fr. Tom Dowd, underlines that the Code of Canon Law, canon 285, forbids all clerics from entering political life.
Seminary professor and Canon Law expert Edward Peters makes a similar point on his blog, “In the Light of the Law,” noting that the entire story seems to wrought with Canonical errors. “In short,” Dr. Peters says, “it seems that someone has either thoroughly confused Canon 285 with Canon 287 (which allows priestly participation in the governance of unions or political parties), or has deeply disregarded Canons 87 and 90.” Canons 87 and 90 state, respectively, that a bishop cannot offer a dispensation reserved to the Holy See and that a dispensation cannot be granted without a “just and reasonable cause.”
A former homosexual prostitute, Fr. Gravel was ordained a priest in 1986. However, since then, he has voiced continuous opposition to the Church’s teachings on celibacy, homosexuality, and the sanctity of life.
In February, he was one of 19 priests to create a huge Canadian media stir when they issued a letter of dissent to the Canadian bishops regarding the bishops’ stance against same-sex marriage.
Gilles Ferland, communications director for the Diocese of Joliette, told LifeSiteNews that part of the agreement with the bishop was that Fr. Gravel would not take positions as a politician that "go against the doctrines of the Church." He added that the Vatican was not consulted in the decision, but the diocese's council of priests was consulted and agreed.
Fr. Dowd adds that Fr. Gravel did not obtain permission from the Vatican to enter into political life. “This was confirmed by the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada himself,” he writes.
According to Fr. Dowd, Fr. Gravel’s bishop also warned him that if he were to enter into political life he would have to give up all public ministry.
“He [Fr. Gravel] will still be required to maintain all priestly obligations (particularly celibacy), but he will only be permitted to celebrate mass privately — no funerals, no marriages, no baptisms, no preaching in church, etc.,” he writes.
Dr. Peters, notes that although the ministerial “restriction” twist is “interesting,” there are still, “no conditions upon which episcopal ‘permission’ to hold governmental office can be given to a priest.”