OTTAWA, Ontario, January 10, 2006 ( – Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, of the diocese of St. Johns, Newfoundland-Labrador, criticized Prime Minister Paul Martin for threatening to remove the notwithstanding clause from the Constitution, after previously indicating he would consider using it to protect them from performing gay ‘marriages.’

“That statement was meant as a reassurance to the churches, and it was reassuring,” said Archbishop O’Brien, in an interview with LifeSiteNews today. “Removing the clause would certainly put us in a more vulnerable position.”

In the leadership debates last night Martin said the first act of a new Liberal government would be the removal of the clause from the Constitution.

Archbishop O’Brien said churches could withdraw from witnessing civil marriages as a way of avoiding homosexual unions, if necessary.

“But even without the clause, would we be forced to perform homosexual ‘marriages’?” he said. “Would the courts force us to perform sacramental marriages [for homosexual unions]? I doubt that.”

Archbishop O’Brien was president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) from 2003-2005. He is presently a member of the CCCB’s Social Affairs Commission.

For complete LifeSiteNews coverage of PM Martin’s statement, see:

To see a transcript of last nights’ leaders debate, go to: