Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is moving now to engage in thought-policing of their congregations. Bishop Fabbro has sanctioned MP Joe Comartin for publicly supporting Bill C-38.
Says the Bishop:
“My decision will remain in effect until Mr. Comartin has a change of mind with regard to the moral status of homosexual activity and the use of the word ‘marriage’ with reference to some homosexual unions,” the letter continued. “In the meantime, I would urge Mr. Comartin, other Catholic politicians, and other Catholics who share his views to take the necessary steps to form their consciences correctly on these issues according to the teachings of our Church.”
I see - so what the Bishop is saying - if I may paraphrase: "A Catholic's right to freedom of speech and conscience is limited by what the local Bishop is willing to sanction". Further, if you happen to dissent with the ever wise teachings of the Church publicly, you will be punished by the Church. As this article points out, the Church has already begun to punish members of parliament it is displeased with.
Further, senior clergy in the Catholic Church just brought out this little gem of logic, wherein they basically say that anyone who receives communion, but supports a politician who runs contrary to Church Teaching is in state of mortal sin. Not just sin, but Mortal Sin.
While I freely acknowledge the Church's right to act in accordance with its teachings in many regards, I find it deeply troubling that the Church would essentially state "vote this way (or that), or you will be held as being "in mortal sin"", or as has happened to a few politicians in Canada who voted for Bill C-38, find yourself refused communion. Essentially, the Church is moving itself into the realm of being a political lobby at this point. Not only are they lobbying - and in some respects, threatening - our politicians, but they are also acting to coerce their membership to vote in specific ways. I think the word coerce is very important here - it is not merely an attempt to influence the vote of their congregants by means of persuasion of argument, but there is also an implicit threat to the congregant based on the belief of their 'immortal soul'.
Were I to start a political lobby that suggested that 'accidents' might befall members who do not vote 'my way', I would find myself in a very awkward place indeed. At the very least, I would be defending myself on charges of uttering threats; worse, I would find myself accused by my membership of every unfortunate event that should befall them. How are the actions of the Roman Catholic clergy in Canada any different? They are not.
Essentially, the Roman Catholic Church is arguing that freedom of speech and religion are absolute - only as long you believe as the church fathers assert. The rest of us who dissent for one reason or another shall be held in "mortal sin", or even "excommunicate".
I find it fascinating that Church clergy such as Bishop Henry will complain about how recent legislation impinges upon their freedom of belief/speech/whatever, yet they fail to acknowledge that their own activities and stand fly in the face of the same freedoms held by every other Canadian citizen.
I have seen it argued that in writing in an explicit separation of Church from State, Thomas Jefferson was not merely trying to protect politics from religion, but religion from the pollution of politics. After reviewing some of this page of quotes attributed to Mr. Jefferson, I'm inclined to agree with that analysis. Mr. Jefferson may have been more correct than he had ever imagined. The growing pluralism in the world as immigration breaks down the old geographic isolation of religious beliefs renders it ever more difficult to have a 'fair and just' society where the laws are based on interpretations of a specific religious tradition.
It is time that the religious bodies in this land learned to persuade people, not engage in the kind of bully-boy tactics that raise the spectre of Inquisition as the churches assume that people are errant sheep not thinking human beings.