It seems the center of Catholic LGBT news right now is Australia, where a non-binding plebiscite over marriage equality has ignited an intense debate in which Catholics are heavily involved.
Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart had threatened to fire church workers who entered same-gender civil marriages, should marriage equality be legalized in the future. Now, a fellow archbishop has clarified the archbishop’s comments.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, claimed Archbishop Hart’s comments had been misreported. Costelloe said individual bishops would decide how to handle such cases should marriage equality become legal. He continued, according to The Christian Post:
“Normally such issues would be addressed, in the first instance, in discussions between the staff member concerned and the local leadership of the school. The aim would be to discover a way forward for the school and the staff member that preserves the Catholic ethos of the school.”
Other Catholic leaders have weighed in on the issues surrounding Australian marriage equality.
The St. Vincent Health Association responded to Archbishop Hart’s comments with its own statement. The Association, sponsored by Sisters of Charity of Australia, appealed to those people it served through its healthcare ministries:
“We want to acknowledge this may be a difficult time for many of our staff, their families and friends. We want to be absolutely clear: all our LGBTQI employees have the full support of St Vincent’s Health Australia. We value you. We recognise you and are grateful for your contribution and care. This will never change.
“St Vincent’s has a long tradition of embracing diversity in our workforce. We will continue to support all our staff in whatever marriage choices they make in the future. All of our staff, whatever their life experiences and backgrounds, have a significant part to play in helping us serve the people who come to us for care. Our staff from the LGBTQI community are no exception.”
Elsewhere, the Edmund Rice Centre published a guide to aid Catholics in their participation in the plebiscite. The Centre is a ministry of the Christian Brothers, who also sponsor many schools in Australia. The guide begins:
“The survey [a.k.a. plebiscite] asks only one question: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ It is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender identity, ‘Safe Schools’ or political correctness.
“For the Edmund Rice Centre, an organisation inspired by Catholic Social Teaching and the Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice, the issue of marriage equality is about human rights and anti-discrimination. Rights for all people, including those who identify as LGBTQI, are guaranteed in various United Nations human rights conventions.”
The guide continued by debunking myths about marriage equality, and concluded succinctly:
“Marriage equality is not a threat to freedom of religion or freedom of speech. It is simply a question of whether same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights as opposite sex couples. Love is love. It is as simple as that.”
Finally, historian and writer Paul Collins authored an open letter to Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher who has opposed marriage equality. Collins, who serves on the advisory board for Australian Catholics for Equality, wrote:
“Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church.”
Collins proceeded to detail how church teaching on marriage has developed over time. He said the archbishop’s thoughts on marriage “are really drawn from an early-twentieth century, bourgeois notion of marriage which found a slightly more modern, post-World War II expression, in the nuclear family.” Collins concluded the letter:
“The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country. You may agree with such people, but please don’t identify our church with them. . .My request is that you take these issues into consideration before you go on the record again claiming that your views represent those of Australian Catholicism. They don’t.”
To reading Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of how Catholics have been involved in ongoing Australia’s marriage equality debate, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2017