The passage of Canada’s same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons yesterday is an indication “that Canadians are witnessing a dangerous deterioration of their communal values,” said the president of the Canadian bishops’ conference.

In a statement released last night, Archbishop Brendan O’Brien said with the passage of the bill “Canadians take another unfortunate step toward eliminating civil and social recognition and appreciation for the unique importance of the committed relationship of a man and a woman in marriage.”

The passage of the bill, he said, puts the future of marriage and the irreplaceable role of a husband and wife in conceiving and raising children at risk.

Bill C-38 was passed by a vote of 158-133 Tuesday evening. The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois largely supported the bill, leaving only the Conservatives and some Liberal backbenchers voting against it.

Archbishop O’Brien commented on the “political manoeuvering” that took place in order to ram the legislation through quickly. He said it was “particularly troubling to note the continued refusal by certain political parties and their leaders to recognize and respect freedom of conscience and religion.”

Bill C-38 was put to a free vote. However, this did not apply to Prime Minister Paul Martin’s cabinet ministers, who were required to vote in favor of the bill. Unable to vote for the bill, Minister of State Joe Comuzzi resigned from cabinet earlier yesterday.

NDP Leader Jack Layton also instructed all members of his party to vote according to the party line.

“Members of Parliament were forced to follow a political deadline and to vote along party lines on an issue which deeply divides and troubles Canadians,” said Archbishop O’Brien. The archbishop called this political hardball “an ominous sign” of what can be expected in future debates on the application of bill C-38 with regard to human rights legislation, the solemnization of marriage, and school policies on moral and social questions.

He also said the amendments to bill C-38 are not enough to “diminish significant concerns about protecting freedom of conscience and religion.”

While the House passed the bill, it is not yet law. It will now move to the Senate. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging the Senate to give the proposed legislation “prudent consideration” and to order public hearings on the matter.

For the full statement, go to