Third reading of Bill C-266, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II DayPublished on 16 December 2014 Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton (retired)
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, I’ll be very brief on this, but I do want to register my opposition to this particular bill.
I understand the thrust being done by the proponents. John Paul II is a historic figure in the current context. He was an inspiration to many political leaders in Eastern Europe, those leaders ultimately bringing down the Iron Curtain. But there is another side to this that needs to be considered as well.
The first thing, as was stated yesterday by Senator Joyal, is that there is a blurring of the principle of the separation of church and state. This gives a privilege to one particular religious group over others. There are many leaders in religious communities who have had a profound impact on the lives of people in this world and the lives of people in this country. To pick one over others leads one to believe that there could be many more that could be considered. I just don’t think that this blurring of the separation between church and state is a very wise thing to do, so I oppose it on those grounds.
I also oppose it on the grounds of some very disturbing things that happened in the Vatican. We know that equality of women is not advanced at all through that institution. Yesterday, Senator Joyal mentioned that there were 122 cardinals elected to Pope. Of course, they are all men. This is an institutional culture. It’s not biblical. It’s an institutional culture that is way out of date and should have been changed a long time ago.
The most disturbing thing though, in terms of things that have happened at the Vatican, is how poorly they have handled the matter of sexual abuse, sexual abuse against thousands of children by thousands of priests. They’ve shuffled priests here and there; they’ve covered up here and there. It is not the kind of thing that should in any way be condoned.
You can’t put that all at the feet of John Paul II, but one does have to bear in mind that he was the supreme pontiff. He was, in fact, the head of the Vatican, and this did happen on his watch.
I think, for those reasons, this is not an appropriate move to make. Therefore, I intend to oppose the bill.