Aussie bishops engage with same-sex marriage debate

Australia’s Catholic bishops have issued a pastoral letter titled “Don’t Mess with Marriage” as debate on same-sex marriage gains momentum.

Released by the bishops’ Commission for Family, Youth and Life, the letter highlights the meaning of marriage and also spells out implications of redefining marriage.

The bishops state that in issuing the letter, they want to engage with the debate, present the Church’s teaching to the faithful and “explain the position of the Catholic faithful to the wider community”.

The letter came in the wake of the recent referendum in Ireland and statements by Australian politicians that they plan to introduce same-sex marriage legislation.

In the bishops’ letter, the dignity of every person is affirmed, including those who experience same-sex attraction.

“They must be treated with respect, sensitivity, and love.”

But the bishops critique the notion that marriage is “nothing more than a commitment to love”.

“On this view, marriage is essentially an emotional tie, enhanced by public promises and consensual sexual activity.”

In the Church’s view, marriage includes an emotional union, but it goes further than that.

“It involves a substantial bodily and spiritual union of a man and a woman.”

Among the letter’s warnings about the consequences of redefining marriage are possible threats to freedom of conscience, belief and worship.

“. . . [P]eople who adhere to the perennial and natural definition of marriage will be characterised as old-fashioned, even bigots, who must answer to social disapproval and the law.”

If “civil law ceases to define marriage as traditionally understood, it will be a serious injustice and undermine that common good for which the civil law exists”, the letter stated.

In a press release, Archbishop Anthony Fisher warned of the grave injustice of legitimising “the false assertion that there is nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother”.

“Children have a right to grow up with their natural mother and father, where possible,” he said.

“Surely there are other ways of honouring the friendships of same-sex attracted and other people without further deconstructing marriage and the family,” Archbishop Fisher said.


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