BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has advocated reconciliation and healing in Advent following the bitter same-sex marriage debate.
In the wake of the postal survey and as new marriage legislation takes shape, Archbishop Coleridge has called for “clear-eyed vigilance” to ensure religious freedoms were protected, and a new approach to marriage preparation within the Church.
“After a debate which was often vitriolic or worse, there’s a need to heal wounds and build bridges,” the Archbishop writes in a letter distributed to parishes this weekend.
Archbishop Coleridge said some opponents of the Catholic Church would see the vote and legislation as a major victory in a long ideological war in which the Church “is an enemy whose influence and freedom are to be curtailed at every opportunity”.
“That’s why there’s a need not for paranoia or panic but for clear-eyed vigilance,” he said.
“The newly constructed right of same-sex couples to marry must not be set against long-recognised rights to religious freedom which are fundamental to the health of society.
“It’s worth recalling that, in the area of religious freedom, we’re talking about genuine rights, not exemptions which may be grudgingly conceded by government but withdrawn at any time in the future if government so decides.
“In the same-sex marriage survey 61.6 per cent of Australians voted yes in support, however the 38.4 per cent ‘no’ vote represented a rump of about 5 million voters.”
Archbishop Coleridge said there was an urgent need “to strengthen and renew our catechesis of marriage in every way and at every point”.
“This is the call of Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), and it’s time for us in Australia to respond in practical and positive ways,” he said.
“This is especially true at a time when evidence of the trivialisation of marriage is all around us, no more clearly than in mass entertainment, particularly some television shows.”
“As the Pope writes in Amoris Laetitia: ‘There is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them. We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism (35-36)’.”
Archbishop Coleridge (pictured) said it was time to consider a new language to express what the Church believed and taught about marriage, “given that the language we have used speaks to too few”.
“Pope Francis again: ‘We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage (AL 40)’,” he said.
“We need a new nuptial catechesis which begins long before engagement and marriage.
“This would be the beginning of a journey on which the Church accompanies the couple at every point.
“Marriage preparation can’t be consigned to a few sessions just before marriage. It needs to begin long before.
“Given how counter-cultural our understanding of marriage has become, preparation for it needs to be a kind of catechumenate.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the Church needed to accompany couples as part of a life journey, including when a marriage failed.
“The Church has to travel the road with those who are divorced and with those who have remarried beyond divorce,” he said.
“We need to ask what resources we will need for such a ministry – educational resources, formative communities, celebrations for different moments of the journey and support for those in trouble.”
Archbishop Coleridge said marriage as “a lifelong nuptial journey and the Church’s accompaniment of it” would be on the agenda heading towards the Plenary Council in 2020, and he’s invited Catholics across Brisbane archdiocese to contribute ideas about the Church’s future approach.