By Hilary White

JOLIETTE, October 24, 2006 ( – The Catholic priest who is probably Canada’s most outspoken opponent of Catholic teaching on sexuality, Fr. Raymond Gravel, has announced his candidacy for the Bloc nomination for Repentigny, Quebec, in a coming federal by-election.

Should Fr. Gravel win the Bloc nomination, he is likely to win the seat to Canada’s Parliament. Repentigny, a riding just north of Montreal, is considered a stronghold for the separatist Bloc Quebecois party.

Fr. Gravel was unavailable for comment from his parish, St. Joachim de LaPlaine, but in an interview on Radio Canada, the French language version of the CBC, he anticipated that his political career would be cut short. Since 1980 according to the decree of the late Pope John Paul II, Catholic priests are forbidden to run for or hold political office.

The 1980 ruling came not from any dicastery, but from the Pope himself in response to the scandal at that time of an American Jesuit priest, Fr. Robert Drinan who, as a US Congressman had been a major player in forming US pro-abortion politics. Even after being ordered by Rome to leave politics, Drinan spoke and wrote in support of then President Clinton’s vetoing of the partial birth abortion ban.

Gravel says that he has sought permission to run for the nomination from his bishop, Gilles Lussier of Joliette. He told Radio Canada, “If it is impossible, if (running for office)…is incompatible to remain priest, then I will not.”

So strong was the conflict between a priest’s vocation and the holding of office, the Church wrote the prohibition into the newly revised 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The Code states in two separate passages that “clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power,” referring to such exercise as “unbecoming to their state.” The Code repeats the prohibition saying priests are “not to have an active part in political parties.”

More recently, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy issued a document titled,
  Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, that used even stronger language, calling political office “foreign to the clerical state,” Published in 1994, it warned that for priests to run for office poses the “grave danger of division” in the Church. On the contrary, the document says, the function of the priest is “to be a central point of spiritual fraternity” and forming in the laity “an upright conscience.”

As with most modern Vatican decrees, however, the final decision is left to the local bishop who may grant permission if he thinks there is serious necessity for the “protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good.”

A spokesman for the diocese of Joliette, France Lévesque, told, “Presently, (the Bishop) Msgr. Lussier is in a period of reflection and consultation and no decision has yet been made.”

Gravel’s display of potential obedience is unlikely to impress those who have followed his very public displays of defiance of Catholic doctrine and clerical discipline.

In parallel to the case of Fr. Drinan for which the prohibition is considered to have been written, Fr. Gravel has made his own support for abortion and homosexuality, a matter of the public record.

In 2004, he boasted to a radio interviewer, “I am pro-choice and there is not a bishop on earth that will prevent me from receiving Communion, not even the Pope.”

In February this year, Gravel joined a group of nineteen priests who issued a letter condemning Catholic teaching on sexual purity. Specifically, the letter was a rejection of the submission by the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops to Parliament on same sex marriage. Again, despite many reports of Catholics calling for the situation to be addressed publicly by the local bishops, little response was forthcoming.

In reaction to the February letter, Canadian canon lawyer, Peter Vere, suggested that the persistent non-response of the local Catholic authorities had forced Catholics to move up the chain of command to demand action. Vere suggested that those concerned contact the relevant authorities in the Vatican, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Congregation for Clergy.

Read related coverage:
  Quebec Priests Bash Church on Homosexuality – Real Problem is the Bishops

Quebec Catholic Priest Publicly Rebukes Vatican Document on Homosexual Unions

To respectfully communicate concern:

The Most Rev. Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio
  724 Manor Ave.
  Ottawa, ON K1M 0E3
  Phone: (613) 746-4914
  FAX: (613) 746-4786

  Diocèse de Joliette
  2, rue St-Charles-Borromée Nord
  C.P. 470
  Joliette, Qc
  J6E 6H6

Telephone: (450) 753-7596
  fax: (450) 753-7933
  e-mail: [email protected]

Mail or fax (most effective):
  William Cardinal Levada
  Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy

To email the CDF:
  William Cardinal Levada
  E-mail: [email protected]