By Paul Dobbyn
CLAIMS by the same-sex marriage lobby that aspects of the Catholic bishops’ “Don’t Mess With Marriage” booklet may be illegal and should not have been sent home with students have been rebutted.
Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous said “the booklet was fully in accord with the current definition of marriage contained in the Australian Marriage Act”.
“A document defending the current law in our nation could hardly be called discrimination,” he said. “The ‘Don’t Mess With Marriage’ booklet is respectful of diversity and does not advocate hatred or vilification of people with a same-sex attraction.”
Copies of the pastoral letter, issued as a booklet by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on May 28, were sent home with students attending Catholic schools in Tasmania, and in the Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn archdioceses.
About 100,000 copies were sent home with students at Sydney archdiocesan schools with about 12,000 Tasmanian Catholic students given the pastoral letter to take home.
Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the ACBC’s pastoral letter had been handed out to 56 Catholic schools in his archdiocese.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart directed “Don’t Mess With Marriage” be distributed in dozens of schools, with the added request that principals ask parents to oppose the legalisation of same-sex marriage and write to their members of Parliament.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said, “This booklet denigrates and demeans same-sex relationships and will do immense harm to gay students and students being raised by same-sex couples.
“The booklet likely breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act …
“The Catholic Church has every right to express its views from the pulpit but it is completely inappropriate to enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice.”
Archbishop Porteous said, “The Catholic Church in Tasmania is exercising its right to freedom of opinion, just as opponents to the Church’s views on marriage are also exercising their rights.
“The intention of the Church is to offer families the opportunity to understand why the Church has taken the position it has on this question of the legal definition of marriage enshrined in Commonwealth law.”
Sydney Catholic Education Office director of religious education and evangelisation Anthony Cleary was given oversight of the distribution of the “Don’t Mess With Marriage” pastoral letter throughout the archdiocese. He received about 12 complaints “none of them having anything to do with the issue of marriage”.
“Positive comments outnumbered complaints about two or three to one,” he said.
“Also it wasn’t as though the sending home of information was a bolt from the blue … a range of information, for example, opposition to the execution of the Bali Nine men, constantly goes home to parents.
“Also we see schools as part of the evangelising mission of the Church, not apart from it.
“The other point is that the pro case for the legalisation of same-sex marriage is saturating mainstream and social media. There is very little given to the opposing viewpoint.
“Anyway when it comes to presenting moral, ethical and social issues, it should be no surprise that our school system will do this from the perspective of the Catholic Church’s teachings.”