March 5, 2003 (Updated March 10)
and unusual punishment
am well aware of the Vatican's recent pronouncement against the legal recognition
of same-sex marriage and the fact that the Catholic Bishops are seeking to pursue
this appeal. As with various issues touching on matters of sex and sexuality many
Canadian Catholics do not share the views of the hierarchy, including myself."
We first met Rev. Tim Ryan over twenty years ago when he was a guest of a mutual friend at a dinner party in our home. So it was with pleasure that we found ourselves with an opportunity to reconnect with the Catholic Priest last fall as we were preparing for a Supreme Court of Canada motion to quash an appeal of the landmark Ontario victory for equal marriage.
In response, we needed to counter the faith-based bigotry of our opponents with affidavits in support of equal marriage from respected leaders of various faith communities. We were able to demonstrate support from the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Anglican Church, the United Church, the Quakers, and thanks to Rev. Ryan, even from a Catholic Priest.
Although the Vatican has been draconian in its treatment of gays and lesbians, and politicians have been threatened with damnation, a few Catholic priests have been willing to speak out against the hate-mongering promoted by the Canadian Catholic Bishops.
Rev. Raymond Gavel published a letter in a Montreal paper calling the Vatican's position "discriminatory, hurtful and offensive". Rev. Paul Lundrigan told his Newfoundland parishioners the Catholic Church was hypocritical in its stand against same-sex marriage and he refused to tell his faithful to lobby politicians to continue discrimination against gays. Rev. Scott Gale of Thunder Bay called for more informed discussion on the issue instead of parroting the Pope's position. We know of other less public acts from Priests across the country.
The Catholic Church anticipates that Rev. Ryan's affidavit in support of equal marriage will be used in October's Supreme Court of Canada review of proposed legislation that will roll-out equal marriage across the rest of Canada. The Catholic Church will participate in that review, again arguing for discrimination. By suspending Ryan, the Church hopes to discredit the priest's affidavit in the eyes of the court. But in doing so, the Church discredits itself and shows, as with the ongoing sex scandals, that they have lost their moral authority and credibility.
Rev. Ryan was actually suspended a month ago. After 42 years of service, Rev. Ryan at first thought everything might blow over and the suspension wouldn't last too long. He held his head down and remained silent until his Archdiocese decided to go public.
"They're declaring public war," Rev. Ryan told us in a conversation yesterday. "I don't think they will ever let me back in ministry now that it is public. They've done what they had at their disposal. I can't celebrate the Eucharist in public, or preach, or perform any of the sacraments."
The suspension has been a major affront to Rev. Ryan's dignity and has overlapped into his family, as he can no longer perform the upcoming marriage of his niece. He described the action of the Archdiocese as "cruel and unusual punishment".
But if the Church hoped that this would silence Rev. Ryan, they are wrong.
"I'm not taking this lying down," he said with determination. "Since they've gone public, so have I."
Rev. Ryan began doing media interviews within hours after the Church announced his suspension. We hope that Rev. Ryan will serve as an example of courage and conscience to other Priests in the Catholic Church who must take a stand against the bigotry of their leaders.
Still, we were deeply troubled that our request for help from Rev. Ryan had resulted in such harsh treatment by the Church he has served for so long. We expressed our sympathy and gratitude for his scarifice, but Rev. Ryan would not allow us to express regret.
"It's not that I regret providing the affidavit. I regret the penalty and I think it's unfair, but if that's the price to pay on a civil rights issue, I've paid it. It means a lot to me. It's a big loss. It's heavy handed. I thought they would publicly criticize me, which is fair, but I never expected they would go to these lengths."
Rev. Ryan paused as we contemplated the sad state of Catholic leadership.
"You have to stand up sometimes," he said, comforting our own feelings on his fate. "I probably should have done something more public sooner. You just gave me the opportunity."
What you can do