AN Australian bishop has called an Edmund Rice Centre “guide” on same-sex marriage confusing to Catholics and recommended changing it to match Church teachings.
Former Brisbane priest, Sydney auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo made the call after reading Rights for LGBTQI Australians – A Guide to the Marriage Equality Plebiscite – a document published on the Edmund Rice Centre website.
It is understood the document has ruffled some of the Centre’s partners and supporters because it challenges recent advice from Australian Church leaders.
The Edmund Rice Centre works to promote social justice, human rights and eco-justice through research, community education, advocacy and networking. The Centre’s work is shaped by a commitment to the tradition of Catholic social teaching and the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice.
Several partners contacted by The Catholic Leader declined to comment.
One partner listed on the ERC website said they had had not been a partner “for a while”.
The guide promotes respectful and informed discussion on the same sex marriage issue, and ERC director Phil Glendenning said “in Australia there is a separation between Church and State – a difference in the realm of the Church and the State.”
“We think it is entirely appropriate the Church determines the sacrament of marriage, but the civil law is a different beast,” he said.
“I think the statement is fairly measured and made on behalf of people trying to struggle through this.”
He conceded a final sentence “Love is love. It is as simple as that” was a first draft and should not have appeared on the website.
The guide appears to contradict Catholic bishops who have warned that legislation allowing same-sex marriage could threaten freedom of religion and conscience.
“Discrimination against LGBTQI people can only serve to cause them and their families’ pain and suffering. There is nothing wrong with a mature, respectful and informed discussion about this issue,” the document states.
“However, we are disappointed that a vocal group of political and community leaders are using false, straw man (sic) and in many instances, offensive arguments to campaign against change.”
Bishop Randazzo, who believes “marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman” said he would speak to Centre staff, ask them to clarify the teachings of the Church or remove those two paragraphs.
The guide was released on August 23, a day after a two-page pastoral letter from Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, in which he reiterated the Church’s stance on same sex marriage.
“It is entirely possible future legislation about same-sex marriage could infringe fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and conscience,” he said.
“It could result in restrictions on the right of ministers of religion and religious bodies and organisations having the freedom to teach, preach and speak about marriage between persons of the same sex being contrary to their religious or conscientious beliefs.”
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher expressed similar concerns that same-sex marriage legislation could affect religious liberties.
“In other parts of the world that have legalised same-sex marriage, those who believe in traditional marriage have been harassed or coerced into complying with the new view of marriage,” Archbishop Fisher said.
The ERC guide states “the claim made by some opponents of marriage equality that a ‘yes’ vote will result in the ‘loss of freedom of speech’ is not correct … the claim that ‘freedom of religion’ will not be threatened by marriage equality is also not correct.”
Independent of the marriage law issue, Mr Glendenning said he believed freedom of religion laws in Australia were not as strong as they should be, and “need to be strengthened”.
“Religions have a perfect right to practice their faith as they see fit. And I’m a Catholic and I will continue to do that,” he said.
“This is a question for the society and how the society makes sense of it (SSM).”
“There’s one thing to say the Church has an absolute total right to say sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman … but society which is made up of everybody – Christian and non-Christian – has to make a different decision.”
After reading the Edmund Rice Centre guide, Bishop Randazzo said: “Catholic social teaching promotes and defends that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Because of this, every person is an equal bearer of God given dignity.”
“However, it is important that we do not confuse equality with sameness, as if they were synonymous,” he said.
“While each of us is an equal custodian of God given dignity, that dignity is not an abstract label. It is concretely marked in culture, language, ethnicity, and gender. More specifically, we believe our dignity comes from the fact that God created us as male and female.
“Marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. It is for the mutual up building of the couple and is directed to the procreation and raising of children.
“It is a complementary part of God’s plan where the differences between a man and a woman can nonetheless come together in life giving unity.
“As Catholic Christians, we believe that this nuptial mystery is fully expressed in a lifelong married commitment between a man and a woman.
“There is no discrimination involved.
“To think otherwise would be to place limits on God’s plan for human life.
“Every Christian is responsible for guarding against any behaviour that violates the dignity of the human person.”