AS the same-sex marriage postal survey approaches a final deadline, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said yet-to-decide Catholics should vote with a “well formed and informed” conscience.
“That means knowing what the Church teaches on marriage and why, understanding the relationship between the Church’s view of marriage and the secular law, and sifting some of the very slippery language that has characterised this campaign,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“I and other bishops have sought to do those three things which hasn’t been easy, given the consistent hostility of many in the media which has led to a fair bit of skewed reporting.”
Archbishop Coleridge spoke out soon after advocates for and against same-sex marriage went head-to-head on an ABC Q&A program on October 23 – including Jesuit Father Frank Brennan, who will vote “Yes” on the survey and Sydney Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, who was supporting the “No” case.
They were joined by actress and same-sex marriage advocate Magda Szubanski and “No” campaign spokesperson Karina Okotel
Fr Brennan was challenged about his same-sex marriage support, given Church teaching that states that marriage was between a man and a woman.
Fr Brennan said he believed same-sex couples could not have a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church, however, he said, “in terms of the question of the civil law I see it as quite a different question from that about the dogma within the Church”.
Actress and same-sex marriage advocate Magda Szubanski challenged Archbishop Davies (pictured) over the influence she believed churches held in the civil domain regarding marriage.
Ms Szubanski said she accepted that the Church would “never marry” her, but the notion she couldn’t marry outside of it “grieves me in ways you will never know”.
“I’m the one in my family when I buried my parents I organised every detail of the Masses, I wrote the orders of service, I put the pall over my mother’s coffin,” she said.
“Now I accept the Catholic Church will never marry me, but you won’t even let me marry outside the Church.
“Fair enough, in your domain, you do what you like. We live in a live-and-let-live society. I don’t want to tell anyone else what to do. Why should you have the right to tell me or any other person, straight or gay, what they do in the civil domain?”
Fr Brennan said he “believe(d) Magda cannot have a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church”.
“But I believe she can have a civil marriage in Australia and I actually think God would be happy with that,” he said.
“In terms of the question of the civil law I see it as quite a different question from that about the dogma within the Church.”
Archbishop Davies disagreed.
He said marriage could not be separated from the biblical definition of being between a heterosexual couple.
“I believe that Jesus’ words continue to have power and influence and authority today,” he said, referring to Matthew 19, a passage in the Bible where Jesus speaks on marriage and divorce.
“I differ here with regard to Frank. It’s not just for Christians like a sacramental marriage but marriage is God’s design for all people.”
Even before his television appearance, Fr Brennan defended his “Yes” stance via Facebook, citing the intensity of the same-sex marriage debate and its impact on staff working with him at Catholic Social Services Australia.
“A month ago, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, vice-president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference rightly said, ‘Of course, it’s possible to vote ‘yes’. It depends why you vote ‘yes’. As a Catholic, you can vote ‘yes’ or you can vote ‘no’. He’s voting ‘no’, and I’m voting ‘yes’,” he said.
Fr Brennan has received scores of social media comments – both criticism and support of his SSM support.
“Pope Francis has repeatedly argued that the legalisation of same-sex marriage would be ‘a step backwards for humanity’ (an ‘anthropological regression’) and gravely harm us all – homosexuals included – because the health of the ‘human ecology’ depends on a healthy marital culture,” wrote Lilian Schmid.
The Bureau of Statistics will release results of the survey on November 15.