UPDATED: Tuesday November 17
ARCHBISHOP Julian Porteous’ defence of the Church’s teachings on marriage following a notification that threatened all Australia’s Catholic Bishops to a hearing has moved the initial complainant who last night asked for the matter to be conciliated.
The Archbishop of Hobart last week received notification that a complaint raised by Federal Greens candidate and same-sex marriage supporter Martine Delaney posing a pastoral letter ‘Don’t Mess with Marriage’ sent to Catholic schools in Tasmania had been viewed as a possible breach on the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
In a media statement yesterday, Ms Delaney said she was “heartened” by Archbishop Porteous’ response and called for conciliation rather than an immediate hearing.
“In light of the Archbishop’s comments, I wrote yesterday to the Commissioner requesting her to refer this matter to the conciliation process. I look forward to a positive resolution, and thank Archbishop Porteous for allowing this possibility,” she said.
Archbishop Porteous had suggested an opportunity to meet with Ms Delaney to discuss the complaint.
“I’m very happy if we can arrange to meet through the offices of the Commission for Anti-Discrimination, to see if we can sit down and talk and see if we can find a resolution,” he said.
Background: Church teaching deemed discriminatory to same-sex marriage advocates
The Australian Bishops were named as respondents to the possible breach of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws after their pastoral letter, which was distributed to Hobart Catholic schools, agencies and parishes, was deemed “humiliating” to same-sex attracted persons, including Greens candidate Martine Delaney.
Section 17(1) of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 prohibits any person to offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule another person on the basis of their sexual orientation, among other characteristics.
But Archbishop Porteous said in a press conference last week the booklet was never intended to humiliate or insult same-sex attracted persons.
“The distribution of the booklet which was produced by the Australian Catholic Bishops was essentially an effort to communicate to the Catholic people the explanation for the Church’s stance on marriage and in relation to the debate on same-sex marriage and the change of the definition of marriage,” he said.
“So the booklet was produced by the Bishops and at that particular moment when the leader of the Opposition had suggested we have a debate and a vote in parliament (on same-sex marriage) and so we (the Australian Catholic Bishops) thought it was an appropriate time to distribute the booklet to help the Catholic people understand the meaning of the Church’s teaching about the nature of marriage.
“Can I say very clearly it was never the intent of the document, nor of myself to in any way cause any distress for people.
“I realise there are people who are in situations that are highly sensitive and can feel hurt but never the intention that we wanted to cause hurt or distress, any humiliation or insult.”
Archbishop Porteous said the letter was not just a statement but also an explanation on why the Church does not support same-sex marriage.
“Essentially what I tried to do is present, as my role in a Bishop and as a Church, to explain not just to make statements but to explain the reasons why the Church teaches what it teaches.
“We do that as a service to our own Catholic people but we also want to offer it as a general service to society.
“I’m hoping through this whole process this will be understood and we will be able to continue to do this again, always, wishing to show respect for anybody who may hold different views than ourselves.”
Archbishop Porteous and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference were given 21 days to respond to the Commission’s findings and will await the consideration of conciliation from Tasmania’s commissioner.