Controversial Canadian priest runs for election

A Canadian bishop has allowed a Quebec priest, who is an outspoken critic of the Church's opposition to abortion and same sex marriage and was once a male prostitute, to stand as a candidate in an upcoming by election for a seat in Canada's parliament.

But Fr Raymond Gavel says he will put the church's teachings first in the political decisions that he will face, Catholic News Service reports.

"I am a priest first and then a politician," Fr Gravel told reporters.

"If [a policy] is in contradiction with the Catholic Church, I won't be able to vote, or I'll abstain. In any case, I'll see what I can do, because I have to be faithful to my life as a priest," he told Radio Canada.

Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette, Quebec, authorised Fr Gravel to run as a candidate for the Bloc Quebecois, a separatist political party that defends the interests of Quebec.

As the Bloc Quebecois candidate, he will run in an election on 27 November to replace Bloc Quebecois legislator, Benoit Sauvageau, who died in a road accident.

Gilles Ferland, spokesman for the Diocese of Joliette, said Bishop Lussier decided to authorise Fr Gravel's participation in politics on the basis of a text from the 1971 World Synod of Bishops in Rome. Although it said priests do not have a political mission, it also set out certain exceptional circumstances that could allow a priest to participate in a political party.

Ferland said Bishop Lussier had determined that in this case exceptional circumstances existed and that the community has urged Fr Gravel to serve them in political office.

However, when Fr Gravel was sworn in as the Bloc Quebecois candidate on 29 October, he was no longer eligible to administer the sacraments.

Fr Gravel told local media that he will miss saying Mass and celebrating the sacraments.

Commentators say his chances of being elected are high.

In recent years, he has been in newspaper headlines for defending gay marriage and abortion.

Fr Gravel told local media that, if he is elected, he will abstain from voting on gay marriage rights when Parliament revisits the issue.

'I'm priest first,' says Catholic cleric running for political office (Catholic Online/CNS, 30/10/06)
Controversial priest running in Repentigny byelection (CBC News, Canada, 30/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Joliette diocese, Canada (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Bishop Gilles Lussier (Catholic-Hierarchy)

1 Nov 2006