By John-Henry Westen

OTTAWA, March 7, 2006 ( – The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), the official organization representing the over 200 religious congregations in Canada (groups of monks, nuns and priests organized into religious orders), has publicly voiced dissent to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The controversial statements come in a letter and document written by Alain Ambeault C.S.V., the President of the Canadian Religious Conference, which intends to make suggestions to Canadian bishops as they go for their once-every-five-year visit with the Pope in the coming months.

“Today, I speak for the 230 religious congregations (sisters, brothers, priests) that live in this country,” writes Ambeault in an intro letter to the document outlining concerns sent to the bishops.Â

The document takes issue with Church teaching on divorce, contraception, condoms and even assisted suicide.“We regret,” says the CRC, “In terms of ethics and bioethics, the holding up of an ideal that leaves little room for advancement and progress; the defence of principles that do not reflect human experience (divorce, contraception, protection against AIDS, alleviation of suffering at the end of life).”

The document further laments Church teaching against homosexuality.“We regret,” the document says, “The legalistic image of the Catholic Church – and of our Canadian Church – its rigidity and its intransigent stands on sexual morals; its lack of openness regarding access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics, its lack of compassion for them; its unwelcoming attitude towards homosexuals.”

The CRC takes direct and unabashed aim at ‘Rome’ – meaning the authority of the Pope. The document says “we regret . . . The unconditional alignment of our Church with directives issued from Rome.” It later slams the Pope and the Vatican curia for insisting that the integrity of faith be maintained. As the CRC puts it, they regret: “The rigidity of the directives of Roman documents: the insistence on the observance of rules rather than taking into account the life experiences of participants.”

Despite the fact that Pope John Paul II ruled definitively on the matter, the CRC lobbies numerous times in the brief for women priests.

Finally the CRC asks the Catholic Church to be open even to homosexual ‘marriage’.“We hope,” says the document, “That our Bishops create opportunities for discussion and discernment; engaging in the questions and problematic situations raised in today’s society: . . . the place of women in the Church, marriage between persons of the same sex, assisted suicide.”

While Ambeault claims to speak for all the religious congregations, that contention is hotly contested. Basilian Father Alphonse de Valk, told “The CRC certainly doesn’t speak for me. They may be speaking for a number of those religious congregations but certainly not for all of them.” Rev. de Valk, the editor of Catholic Insight magazine, said, “the more recent history of CRC includes heavy involvement in new age thinking and recently Fr. Renshaw associated with the CRC came out as one who no longer accepts the church teaching on homosexual tendencies.”

That reference is familiar to readers since Rev. Richard Reshaw, C.S.C., former Assistant Secretary General of the Canadian Religious Conference (1994-2002),Ârevealed himself as homosexual and supportive of the ‘gay culture’ on Canadian national radio in December. (see coverage )

See the CRC cover letter and document here:

To express concerns to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:
[email protected]

To respectfully contact individual Canadian bishops, click on dioceses within each region of Canada