The national director of the same-sex marriage lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has threatened to invoke anti-discrimination legislation against Tasmania’s Archbishop Julian Porteous, after 12,000 copies of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Don’t Mess With Marriage, was given to Tasmanian high school students to take home.
Rodney Croome from AME said, ““The booklet likely breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act and I urge everyone who finds it offensive and inappropriate, including teachers, parents and students, to complain to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks.”
He added, “The Catholic Church has every right to express its views from the pulpit but it is completely inappropriate to enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice.”
Archbishop Porteous responded, saying, “A document defending the current law in our nation could hardly be called discrimination. The Don’t Mess With Marriage booklet is respectful of diversity and does not advocate hatred or vilification of people with a same-sex attraction.”
The Archbishop added, “The Catholic Church in Tasmania is exercising its right to freedom of opinion, just as opponents to the Church’s views on marriage are also exercising their rights.
“The intention of the Church is to offer families the opportunity to understand why the Church has taken the position it has on this question of the legal definition of marriage enshrined in Commonwealth law.”
Copies of the pastoral letter, issued as a booklet by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on May 28, were sent home with students attending Catholic schools in the Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn archdioceses, as well as Hobart.
About 100,000 copies were sent home with students at Sydney archdiocesan schools.
The Catholic Leader in Brisbane reported that Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the pastoral letter had been handed out to 56 Catholic schools in his archdiocese.
Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart directed Don’t Mess With Marriage be distributed in dozens of schools, with the added request that principals ask parents to oppose the legalisation of same-sex marriage and write to their members of Parliament.
Archbishop Porteous said the Pastoral Letter had been well received.
“I have received a number of emails from parishioners thanking me for providing copies of the Don’t Mess with Marriage Pastoral Letter to parishes. I also spoke with parishioners in relation to the Letter following Mass at Bellerive recently,” Archbishop Julian said.
“At Confirmation at Kingston Beach parents also spoke positively about the document they picked up at Mass.”
In an earlier letter to Tasmanian Catholics, the Archbishop outlined the issues facing Australia on this issue.
“The issue of marriage is now firmly on the national agenda with increasing pressure being placed on politicians to amend the Marriage Act. I believe several points need to be made.
“We forget that terms have specific meanings without which they become nonsensical. The term ‘marriage’ refers to a life-long relationship of sexual fidelity between one man and one woman.
“We therefore need to stop speaking of ‘same-sex marriage’ as this is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Marriage does not and never has simply referred to a ‘loving relationship’ between two people.
“The term ‘marriage’ gets its very meaning from the complementary biological and personal nature of the relationship between a man and woman.
“We can therefore no more speak of same sex marriage than of a square circle. No individual or group has the right to simply redefine commonly accepted terms. If we start here where do we stop?”
Archbishop Porteous said the argument is not about marriage, or indeed marriage equality, “we have achieved marriage equality in Australia, all marriages have equal legal standing.”
Rather, he said, the current argument is about whether society should value relationships of lifelong sexual fidelity between those of the same sex in the same way as it values marriage.
Society has valued marriage, above de-facto relationships, and same-sex relationships, not simply because it is a particular type of loving relationship, but because of the unique contribution the marriage relationship makes to well-being of children and because of this, more broadly, the stability of society.
He said that human beings have an innate need to know both their biological mother and father, this helps them to know their story. The act of procreation necessarily requires a man and woman.
“The marriage relationship is a lifelong commitment, ideally grounded in the self-sacrificial love of the couple, which communicates to children an important truth: they are the natural embodiment of their parents’ love.
“These children know their identity and generational history. They also have the stability and example of their parents relationship which gives them security and confidence as they grow.
“Mothers and fathers each bring distinct qualities to their relationship with their child, which help a child grow into a resilient adult.”
Archbishop Porteous said that there are many situations where a child does not have the opportunity to grow up in a loving relationship between their biological mother and father, in particular, through the death of one parent, separation or divorce.
“Yet this does not alter the reality that the ideal, or best situation for children, is to grow up in a low conflict familial relationship raised by their biological parents who are married. Research confirms that children have better developmental and life outcomes when this ideal is realised.
“The truth of same sex relationships is that they cannot biologically by themselves procreate children.
“In order to have children they must seek the involvement of another person of the opposite sex and thereby deliberately create a child who will be deprived of a mother or a father, a motherless or fatherless family.”
He said, “It is one thing for a child to grow up without a mother or father due to events beyond anyone’s control, but to actually seek to bring into existence a human being who you will knowingly deprive of either their mother or father is an act that violates the basic rights of the child.
“The problem is that in all this argument about marriage we have forgotten about the good of the child and indeed the rights of the child.”