Harper, Pope draw battle lines

Peter Jackson
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Now there’s a sensational headline, for sure.

It’s a nod to Canada’s most mobile pundit, Andrew Coyne, who downsized fellow journalists for over-hyping last week’s same-sex marriage kerfuffle.

Coyne has a column again in the National Post, though he may still be with Maclean’s, but definitely not with The Globe and Mail, though he’s still a stalwart on CBC-TV’s “At Issue” panel.

You can imagine his osprey-like glower as he wrote Friday’s Post column, where he described the controversy as “a toxic mix of shrewd lawyering, shoddy reporting and partisan opportunism.”

Ink and irk

He reserved most of his irk for The Globe, which broke the story that federal lawyers were arguing same-sex couples from abroad could not file for divorce in Canada, even though they were married in Canada in the first place.

The implication was that their marriages were no longer recognized. Predictably, that caused something of an uproar.

Coyne’s complaint is that The Globe — and “the frothing mob it aroused” — supposedly inferred the case was some backdoor ploy by the Harper government to nullify gay marriages. In reality, it was just a legal loophole that created the problem.

Playing well with others

Canada has to strike a balance with other countries when it comes to conflicting laws. It must take into account that gay marriages are not recognized in the U.S. and Britain, for example, even if couples living there were married in Canada.

The Harper cabinet played no part in the matter. In fact, Harper took pains to assure Canadians that the law would be fixed to maintain the validity of these cross-border marriages.

Coyne was astonished, it seems, that reporters didn’t get an immediate, sound legal opinion before setting off alarm bells.

Perhaps, but was it unreasonable for those reading or hearing about the story to surmise that perhaps. just possibly, just maybe, the Conservative government might want to undermine same-sex weddings?

Harper made no bones about his views in a letter to the Calgary Herald in 1994: “I do not support the special legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the compulsory provision of marital benefits to same-sex couples, or a number of other possible implications of such legislation.”

And in a 1995 Canadian Press article: “Liberals may talk about minorities. But undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on the beliefs of all cultural and religious communities who have come to this country.”

And Harper is arguably not among the most homophobic of the Conservative caucus.


The real irony here, of course, is that the people who so vehemently fought same-sex marriages, when painted into a corner, were forced to validate them all over again.

There you go, Adam and Steve. Stephen Harper now pronounces you husband and husband — again. Live long and prosper.

Not only that, but the whole affair puts the prime minister squarely in the crosshairs of His Holy Papalness.

Only a few days before Marriage-gate, Benedict XVI told an audience at the Vatican that liberal family values would be the ultimate undoing of humanity. And by that, he meant same-sex marriages and gay adoption.

“The family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman … is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society,” said His Holiness, quoted in an Agence France-Presse article.

Funny how political pragmatism can sometimes force even the most fierce dogmatist into rolling over like a puppy.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.

Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pjackson_NL

Organizations: The Globe, National Post, Globe and Mail CBC Calgary Herald Canadian Press Agence France-Presse

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Britain Vatican

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Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    January 19, 2012 - 07:32

    Questioning the actions of the Pope is a no-win situation, given that His Holiness (and I use the term advisedly when applyng it to a mortal being) is infalable-OR NOT. Does anyone know if there is lightening in the immediate weather forcast? . Excuse me while I remove my tongue from my cheek.

  • Gospel According to Peter
    January 18, 2012 - 19:06

    You should have provided the excat quote of the Pope in context and not just read into it that he is purposuly targeting homosexual sin alone as the ruin of society for I am sure that by "liberal family values" things such as abortion, divose of straits, pre-marital sex, cheating, open-marriages, not raising children in the faith, and countless evils.

  • pontifi-gate
    January 18, 2012 - 14:20

    Interesting observation. If the Canadian Civil Law sounds confused, ecclesiastical, i.e.Canon lawyers are in a real tangle. When PET introduced the new Divorce Act in 1968 he gave jurisdiction have them heard in Provincial Superior Courts. Not a great idea in QC or NL. Almost all were religious marriages being dissolved. The orthodox religious observers were unsure of what to be ired by. One of their faith getting divorced - or that the marriage was mixed faith in the first place. Annul is the key word here - if a marriage intrinsically annuled - then why do they need ANY due process? Mr. Harper is not RC - does not undertstand the faith - he is still confused over wafer-gate. He really should stay out of the mess. If a same gender couple raised their children in the faith - would clerics object? The famous Dr. Huxtable (Bill Cosby) is the expert in this subject - "........matters of the heart....... go talk to your mother.....".

  • Herb Morrison
    January 18, 2012 - 13:01

    Given that His Holiness demonstrates here not only his adeptness at both double-talking and the use of so-called smoke and mirors techniques, when He is dealing same-sex marriage, in particular and homosexuality in general, and the manner in which he has dealt with both the alleged and proven incidents of abuse within His Church, suggests to me that the Pope might have missed His true calling. I think His Holiness would have made one hell of a politician.

  • Lane
    January 18, 2012 - 11:19

    Mr. Jackson: "Irk" is not a noun. It is a verb and only a verb, as in: "It really irks me when professional writers abuse the English language to the detriment of our society's literacy."

    • Peter Jackson
      January 18, 2012 - 11:36

      LANE: Almost as irksome as those who can't detect harmless literary licence when they see it.

  • Herb Morrison
    January 18, 2012 - 10:33

    My original post should have read So the Pope Clais that liberal family values will ultimately the undoing of humanit. This will only prove to be true if practices such as violation of trust, exploitation of children, political corruption, and other forms of injustice don't prove to be the undoing of humanity first.

  • Peter Jackson
    January 18, 2012 - 08:41

    NEWSREADER: To clarify, I didn't mean to say Benedict specifically mentioned gays and lesbians. There is some ambiguity in my words. I should have said: "And by that, he CLEARLY meant same-sex marriages and gay adoption." In other words, the implication of his words should be clear to all but the wilfully blind, considering he has singled out homosexuality before in this regard. And it is true he addressed other issues in his speech, most prominently the global economy. This is beside the point.

    • Newsreader
      January 18, 2012 - 10:18

      You as many others read the Pope’s words with a preconceived idea and a strong bias, namely that the Pope is attacking gay people. No the Pope is not attacking anyone, he is simply speaking for something. In his speech, concerning the places where young people receive education the Pope says: “Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society.” Let’s see what is involved in this sentence: “family based on marriage” – In this the Pope is highlighting the importance of a family to be based on marriage and the corresponding values of fidelity, sacrificial love and openness to life. This is a very positive statement and there is nothing negative about it. If, on the other hand, you want turn this into a criticism, it is a criticism of every ‘family’ or ‘union’ that is not based on these values, on the idea of marriage: single parents (by choice or by divorce), cohabitating couples, divorced individuals, etc. So, why aren’t you reacting to any of these? Why aren’t you complaining about the Pope attacking single parent families? I believe, because (as most people are when the see the word ‘Pope’ or ‘Catholic’), you are biased. “family based on marriage of a man and a woman” The Pope describes the natural fundamental cell of society and its importance: only a man and a woman can procreate and raise children without the involvement of a third party (mutual support is possible in all kinds of relationships). To interpret the highlighting of this normative truth (and the values involved) about human procreation and childbearing as an attack on gays is a sign of your bias. How can the highlighting of the ability of procreation by those who by nature are apt to do it can be understood as an attack on those who by nature (without the involvement of a third party) cannot procreate? How can the highlighting of the longstanding and scientifically proven fact that the best place for a child is to grow up with his/her biological parents in a loving, stable family can be construed as a premeditated attack on gays? This twisted logic is only good for satisfying one’s desire to find fault in the Pope’s speech. Finally, the two specific issues that the Pope specifically mentioned as undermining the family are stem cell patenting and abortion, and not gays. Why aren’t you mentioning this? Again, your reporting and arguing is strongly biased and as such it is dishonest.

  • Herb Morrison
    January 18, 2012 - 07:59

    So the Pope claims that liberal family values will ultimately be the undoing of humanity. This will only prove true if practices such as violation of trust, exploitation of children, political corruption and other forms of injustice, which exist within rthe society in which we live, destroy humanity first.

  • newsreader
    January 18, 2012 - 07:29

    "Only a few days before Marriage-gate, Benedict XVI told an audience at the Vatican that liberal family values would be the ultimate undoing of humanity. And by that, he meant same-sex marriages and gay adoption." Oh, the usual gay hysteria lacking substance and objectivity. It is obviouse that you never red what the Pope wrote or said, because he never mentioned gays or same-sex marriage while he specifically mentioned other issues in his speach. You are simply parroting the hysterical frothings of the headlines. Please, check your sources. It goes to honesty