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It's time to recognise secular same sex marriage


Rainbow-painted hands forming the shape of a love heartThe US Supreme Court and our newly installed Prime Minister have put their weight behind legal recognition of same sex marriage.

Kevin Rudd before resuming the prime ministership wrote that he had 'come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage. I also believe that this change should legally exempt religious institutions from any requirement to change their historic position and practice that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.'

Change is still some way off here in Australia and the arguments are still a little confused. But change is coming.

On 26 June 2013, the US Supreme Court gave two decisions impacting on same sex marriage under a constitution which vests in the states, and not Congress, the power to make laws with respect to marriage. Here in Australia, the Commonwealth Parliament, and not any state parliament, has the overriding power to make laws with respect to marriage. So Australian states are not assured the constitutional mandate to go it on their own.

One of the US Supreme Court decisions cleared the way for same sex marriage in California, the 12th state of the union to recognise such marriages, and the other struck down the Congress' Defense of Marriage Act which provided that in all federal rules and rulings 'the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife'. Writing for the majority in US v Windsor, Justice Kennedy striking down Congress' attempt to limit marriage to the exclusive union of a man and a woman said:

It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage. For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilisation.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, described the Supreme Court decisions as a 'tragic day for marriage and our nation', saying, 'The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so.' He and his fellow bishops said, 'Marriage is the only instituion that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.'

Australia's bishops have been fairly quiet on this issue. But in April, Australia's most theologically literate bishop Mark Coleridge appeared on the ABC Q&A opposing not just same sex marriage but any civil recogntion of same sex unions, describing homosexuality as 'a warp in the creation' and as an impossibility in God's plan.

It is high time to draw a distinction between a marriage recognised by civil law and a sacramental marriage. In deciding whether to expand civil marriage to the union of two persons of the same gender, legislators should have regard not just for the wellbeing of same sex couples and the children already part of their family units, but also for the wellbeing of all future children who may be affected, as well as the common good of society in setting appropriate contours for legally recognised relationships.

Same sex couples wanting to create their own children may in the forseeable future be able to use only their own genetic material, precluding the possibility that such children will have a biological father and a biological mother. Whether or not we legislate for same sex marriage, we should restrict artificial reproduction of children such that they will have a biological father and a biological mother, and hopefully able to be known by them.

Legislators making laws regarding adoption ought be able to demand that adoption agencies continue to consider the best interests of the child. In the case of a child unrelated to any prospective adopting couple, the adoption agency ought be able to have regard to the desirability of a child being brought up in a family with an adult male and an adult female.

If these concerns were met or at least weighed in the balance against the claims of children already in same sex families deserving respect and nurture by the state and society, society could properly move to recognition of civil unions or same sex marriage if and when the overwhelming majority of the population (including those who are presently married civilly) supported such change.

In the US proceedings, the Court was told that there are already 40,000 children in California alone who are being brought up by same sex couples. We need to be mindful of the wellbeing and dignity of these children as well as the handful who will be up for adoption and the unknown number in future who will be created in a test tube.

There has been a clear divergence of view within the Catholic Church on civil unions as a means of doing justice and according dignity to gay couples, while leaving unanswered the questions about adopted children and children created with advancing reproductive technology, and maintaining a distinction from marriage even in civil terms.

In June 2012, Coleridge had written to Campbell Newman the new Premier of Queensland urging a repeal of the law recognising civil partnerships. He spoke of 'the evidence that seems to be emerging ... that there is a slippery slope from registration to civil partnerships to same-sex marriage. I would urge you therefore to honour the promise made before the election — to repeal the civil partnerships legislation in order to safeguard marriage and the family as they have been known through the millennia.'

On Q&A Coleridge then said:

But what the Church has to do is to remain faithful to our understanding of homosexuality and yet, at the same time, to work in every way we can to ensure justice for homosexual people. Now, clearly this doesn't mean to say, for instance, that we support gay marriage. The Church's position on that is very well known and controversial. But in every other way, to work to defend the dignity of homosexual people, just as we work to defend the dignity of other people.

How to do that and to maintain fidelity to our understanding of homosexuality, which is grounded upon a particular vision of what the human person is and what human sexuality is within that context. How to hold those two things together is the conundrum that we are dealing with. I don't think it is an Achilles' heel but I think it is a real conundrum with which the Church has to continue to grapple at this time and in this culture.

The Archbishop was right to insist on the need 'to work in every way we can to ensure justice for homosexual people' and 'to work to defend the dignity of homosexual people, just as we work to defend the dignity of other people'. It would be just and a service to the common good for the State to give some recognition and support to committed, faithful, long-term relationships between gay couples deserving dignity, being able to love and support each other in sickness and in health, until death they do part.

Should legislators in our pluralistic democratic society withhold such just and dignified recognition of civil unions because this might be a slippery slope to same sex marriage? Pope Benedict XVI when at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opposed even civil unions. However Pope Francis when Archbishop of Buenos Aires had told gay rights activists that 'homosexuals need to have recognised rights' and that he 'supported civil unions, but not same sex marriage'.

I am with Francis on civil unions but, unlike him, I now accept that we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage. That will be the long term consequence of last month's US Supreme Court decisions which will impact much further west than California.

Frank Brennan headshotFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at Australian Catholic University, and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University. Frank's previous pieces on same sex marriage are here, here, and here.

Rainbow hands image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, same sex marriage, gay rights, civil unions, Kevin Rudd



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Existing comments

Two basic issues re same-sex marriage have become taboo. See http://v2catholic.com/johnw/2013/2013-06-17same-sex-marriage-two-elephants-in-the-men's-room.htm

John Wotherspoon | 09 July 2013  

Fr Frank Brennan your not allowed to drink full cream milk, your only allowed skim milk. Im telling you that because I can. Oh, and I have nothing against your type of people. As I have plenty of friends of your type. Who do I remind you of?

Jasonb84 | 10 July 2013  

Father Brennan, that Cardinal Bergoglio upheld gay unions is just not true! Lifesite reported 'Miguel Woites, a "confidant of Pope Francis while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, is denying a widely publicized claim that the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio suggested the endorsement of gay civil unions as an alternative to "homosexual marriage" during a private meeting with fellow bishops in 2010. In an interview granted to the Catholic news agency ACI Prensa, Woites said that the story "isn't true. It's a complete error." The principle source of the claim, Bergoglio biographer Sergio Rubín, "never said who told him, when they told him," said Woites. Meanwhile regarding the latest Encyclical, Lifesite noted that although the section of the encyclical on the subject was short, only a few paragraphs, it is a “significant” aid in the struggle against the global efforts by the homosexualist lobby to dismantle legal definitions of marriage. “The message from Pope Francis in his first encyclical is that the life-bearing potential of heterosexuality is the prerequisite of marriage.” Of course one doesn't have to be "Australias most theologically literate" to detect the moral bankruptcy of gay union legislation![Any wonder Cardinal Bergoglio referred to gay marriage as the work of the devil].

Father John George | 10 July 2013  

Good Article by Fr. Frank, which does more to unite two views from sides that can't seem to find common ground than any other view I have seen. Fr Frank has balanced the rights of homosexual couples with the rights of children to a mother and father, in a way only Fr Frank can do. He has also provided that such a change can only happen if assented to by the overwhelming majority of the population, which impliedly means a referendum - and in doing so has taken into account the rights of those currently civilly married who have staked an investment on the male-female paradigm of marriage (generally people of faith). I personally oppose same sex marriage, but would accept the verdict of the majority of people in the majority of states without any hesitation. In such a case, the Catholic Church, which has the most authentic position on marriage based on the one fleshness principle could use this as an opportunity to promote the unique message about marriage which it owns. Sacramental marriage would be strengthened . The headline is wrong to suggest that "Its time for secular same sex marriage". This is not what Fr. Frank advocates.

Neil | 10 July 2013  

Unfortunately the ability to adjust one's views in response to new knowledge and events is apparently still rare, if the comments above are any guide. Thanks, Frank, for remaining open to a change of views on secular marriage, even when your beliefs demand an opposite perspective on religious marriage. Balancing belief and rationality is hard, and you've provided a wise example of how it can be achieved.

Jim Woulfe | 10 July 2013  

Just imagine a pope writing in continuity with tradition! What next Humanae Vitae solemnly defined? Painting Pope emeritus as fly [of "limitations"]in ointment is churlish; Pope Francis follows upon a paragon of Roman Catholic orthodoxy and hands-on -orthopraxis; and a man of extraordinary charity[eating strudel with enfant terrible, Kung, in private audience! "Use a long spoon when supping with Devil"[Chaucer]. Francis walks in the footsteps of an outstanding Ecumenist, brilliant Encyclical writer, global outreach in travel, addressing the United Nations and more importantly his evening Silent Adoration of Blessed Sacrament with huge silent reverent crowds at Sydney WYD on racecourse [and not forgetting his visit to ailing clergy incl. myself at nursing home.] His outreach to implacable Lefevrists denotes heroic patience-[when his 'cause' is initiated]

Father John George | 10 July 2013  

What the church, or any other institutionalised belief system, wants to recognise as 'marriage' is the prerogative of that institution and the state, after expressing an opinion, should butt out. Similarly, what the state defines as 'marriage' is the prerogative of the state, and the church and other institutions, after expressing an opinion, should similarly butt out. Thank you Frank for the first sensible words on this subject from a Catholic cleric that I have ever heard.

Ginger Meggs | 10 July 2013  

A sane, thoughtful and nuanced article, Frank. I think the time of civil same sex marriage is upon us whether we like it or not. There are powerful politicians, such as Penny Wong, the Leader of the Senate pushing most strongly for it. I think Kevin Rudd's approach, protecting Church rights in this matter, is as good an offer as traditional Christians will get. There are, within the Churches, clergy who are militating for it and would want same sex church marriages for themselves. A couple of Anglican clergy in London went through a same sex (non-legal) marriage service during the last Lambeth Conference (it was separate and not a part of same) which caused a great "for and against "controversy in the UK. Certain dioceses of ECUSA and the Anglican Church in Canada declared themselves in favour of same sex church marriage years ago. This needs to be known as it may become another (Heaven help us!) divisive issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion. I imagine the Uniting Church and its sister denominations abroad have similar differences. Catholics may well find they; they Orthodox; Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches standing alone on this issue.

Edward F | 11 July 2013  

Father Brennan, thank you for saying from a Catholic perspective what many of us have been saying all along. Secular marriage is legislated by our laws. Sacramental marriage is the church's business. They are separate and definitely not the same. Secular marriage equality is now inevitable and this is a good thing because it allows the creation of more new families. It is the bond of family that's the glue for society and it is right that ALL families enjoy equal legal and social support. As you are professor at law at Australian Catholic University I truly hope catholics actually listen to what you are saying and take note. Freedom of religion for those who wish to practise it MUST also include freedom from religion for those who desire it. Thank you.

Andrew | 11 July 2013  

Kevin Rudd's declaration of support for same-sex marriage is welcome news for couples in a same-sex relationship who wish to marry. Now for the Opposition Leader to allow his troops to have a conscience vote on the issue! For those same-sex couples who are Christians the issue is a little more complex. I don't doubt that many feel 'excluded' in particular ways and churches need to do a bit better in recognising, and truly supporting, diversity. I was disappointed with Archbishop Coleridge's pronouncements on Q&A. And ditto for the stance taken by the hierarchy of Sydney Anglicans.

Pam | 11 July 2013  

Fr George asserts I have said something about the Pope which is not true. My position on civil unions has been much the same as that put by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn who defended the traditional definition of marriage in a speech reported in The Tablet in April, while urging “respect” for same-sex relationships: "There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection. Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life. We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect." I have taken this to be similar to the position put by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio before he became Pope. No matter where one lines up on the so called conservative-liberal spectrum, most informed English speaking Catholics find John Allen from the National Catholic Reporter to be careful in his reporting on matters Vatican. He travelled to Argentina in April to ascertain as best he could the rumours about Bergoglio having supported civil unions. He reported at http://ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/hard-questions-about-francis-argentina-and-lesson-chile. This is what he wrote: “On March 19, The New York Times reported that when Argentina was gearing up for a bitter national debate on gay marriage in 2009 and 2010, Bergoglio quietly favored a compromise solution that would have included civil unions for same-sex couples. One source for that story was an Argentine journalist named Sergio Rubin, co-author with Francesca Ambrogetti of an interview book with Bergoglio titled El Jesuita. (I met Ambrogetti while I was in Buenos Aires. She told me the full version of how it took years for the notoriously media-averse Bergoglio to agree to the interview.) Rubin's version of events was swiftly denied by Miguel Woites, director of the Argentinian Catholic Information Agency, a news outlet linked to the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Woites insisted Bergoglio would "never" have favored any legal recognition of same-sex unions and said the Times report was a "complete error." On this score, I was told by three sources in Argentina that the Times basically got it right: Bergoglio did, in fact, favor civil unions. That was confirmed on background by two senior officials of the bishops' conference in Argentina, both of whom worked with Bergoglio and took part in the behind-the-scenes discussions as the conference tried to shape its position. "Bergoglio supported civil unions," one of those officials told me. Mariano de Vedia, a veteran journalist for La Nación, has covered church/state issues in Argentina for years and said he could confirm Bergoglio's position had been correctly described in the Times account. Guillermo Villarreal, a Catholic journalist in Argentina, said it was well known at the time that Bergoglio's moderate position was opposed by Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer of La Plata, the leader of the hawks. The difference was not over whether to oppose gay marriage, but how ferociously to do so and whether there was room for a compromise on civil unions. Villareal described the standoff over gay marriage as the only vote Bergoglio ever lost during his six years as president of the conference. Behind the scenes, sources say Bergoglio tried to avoid fireworks on the gay marriage issue. One young Catholic told me, for instance, he had wanted to organize a public recitation of the rosary on the eve of the vote outside the legislature, knowing that supporters of gay marriage would also be there and the prayer would be a provocation. He wrote to Bergoglio seeking advice, he said, and Bergoglio called him directly, suggesting they pray at home instead. Oesterheld suggested Bergoglio went along with the harder line espoused by the majority of the bishops' conference even if it wasn't his own instinct. "At that time, there were different views within the bishops' conference on how open the church should be [to compromise solutions]," Oesterheld said. "The cardinal went along with what the majority wanted. He didn't impose his own views. He never publicly expressed his own feelings on the matter, because he didn't want to seem to be undercutting the common position of the bishops."

Frank Brennan SJ | 11 July 2013  

How can one call themselves a minister and then confirm to the ways of the world with all the warnings against such lunacy in the Word? There are special warnings for those in leadership positions who lead God's lambs astray. I pray for wisdom for yourself and others who seek to lead people away from the truth for the sake of the acceptance of the world.

Joe | 11 July 2013  

If we understand this correctly, if same sex marriage becomes legal in Australia, civil marriages will be open to same sex couples, but religious marriages will not be changed. In other words, churches will not be forced to perform same sex marriages, and will be protected under the law from having to do so. Is this workable, and will the marriage equality movement really accept such a compromise?

Ross | 11 July 2013  

Very few homosexuals are even interested in getting married, let alone staying monagomous until death. With heterosexuals abandoning marriage in droves, I can´t understand why they want to marry. This is simply a ploy to destroy marriage.

Therese | 11 July 2013  

I really thought Frank Brennan would be the last person to fall into preferring what is popular, as opposed to what is rationally and fundamentally true. A man of his stature and intelligence would know that this argument is not simply about providing equal rights to same-sex couples - they can have fully equal rights via civil unions - rather it is about redefining 'marriage'. Caving into public pressure to use the word 'marriage' to describe something that contradicts the actual definition of marriage, is disappointing to say the least!

Anna W | 11 July 2013  

Is it arrogance or myopia that causes the church to believe that it has a monopoly on the definition or celebration of marriage? Marriage has existed for much longer than the church, and continues to exist outside the church. In the west, the church lost its monopoly when the state legislated for civil marriage. Civil marriage is whatever the state decides it to be.

Ginger Meggs | 11 July 2013  

I agree with Pope Francis' view. Yes respect for gay unions okay....'civil unions' in law, but please leave 'marriage' only between one man & one woman for all the obvious reasons. "Opposites" & "same" are as different as oranges and apples. Children's natural healthy right to have a parent of both sexes seem to be the last point considered in the same sex unions lobby. Despite the fact that sometimes we as humans may mess it up.... the time honoured traditional marriage ideal is always best for balanced healthy children.

Penny | 11 July 2013  

"Butt out" my eye ginger! The RCC in democratic society has done no more than any other group of people, viz presented its beliefs[full stop] Surely Mr Ginge you are not suppressing the right to campaign. Even the gay claque has that right and option[We are not in the Third Reich] Your 'no talkies' between church and state is straight out of KGB Manual of Suppression: "What Stalin thinks and Churches think is not open for discussion,butt out!- [forget perestroika and glasnost hype]" Both Church and State are bound by Natural Law not moral anarchy.

Father John George | 11 July 2013  

Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, have issued an unusual collaborative document in which they restate the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

The 82-page encyclical, issued today, says marriage should be a “stable union of man and woman.” It continues, “This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgement and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation.” Encyclicals are documents written by popes for circulation to Catholic clergy members.

The encyclical, which also deals with other topics, appears to be the first one written by two popes, although it bears only Francis’s signature. “Francis paid tribute to pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the encyclical, saying that the ex-pontiff had ‘almost completed’ the text before stepping down in a historic resignation this year and that he himself had merely added ‘further contributions,’” reports Agence France-Presse. Benedict was the first pope to resign voluntarily in 700 years.

Among the other subjects in the encyclical, Francis and Benedict call for dialogue by Catholics with nonbelievers and members of other religions, emphasize that there is no conflict between faith and science, and say that faith does not “serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter, it helps us build our societies.”

denis lynch | 11 July 2013  

As a grandfather I walk this journey. My grandchildren are loved by all. Their loving nuturing mums are their parents in a stable relationship born of stable relationship. My grandchildren deserve that relationship to be recognised for what it is. They belong to a loving family born out of many generations of stable loving relationships. Jesus is so clear in his messages of love and around children. My hope is the message can be heard.

john | 11 July 2013  

Ouch! I didn't realise that I'd touched such a sore point FrJG. Of course, in a democratic society, the church, like any other person or institution is free to express its opinion and argue its case. (The same has not been the case of course within a Nazi state or a Stalinist state or even a theocratic state, nor is it yet within the church itself). And by all means argue that 'the State [should be] bound by Natural Law' if that is what you believe, but don't be surprised if others see that as just another attempt to impose a theocracy. I've never understood why those things in which you believe are quite obviously and self-evidently 'natural law', but those in which others believe are obviously and self-evidently errors or worse.

Ginger Meggs | 11 July 2013  

Only marriage is between a man and woman. Whatever same sex couples have it is not marriage. Marriage is the bedrock of our society and allowing SSM changes everything. Children are entitled to be in family with a father and a mother. To go down this path will result in attacks on religious freedom and freedom of speech as we see in Canada and the UK.

Jill Stirling | 11 July 2013  

One of the problems facing any group (including Catholics) attempting to in any way limit some in the marriage equality camp is that is exactly what some of the people in that camp want: total equality in all aspects of marriage and family to heterosexual couples. This of course, includes the area of reproduction. Frank Brennan's suggestions on the matter would be unacceptable to someone coming from this point of view. To them this is a human rights issue. They see this as rectifying a long history of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Edward F | 11 July 2013  

Edward F "Standing alone" is nothing big deal; Jesus was alone on Calvary

Father John George | 11 July 2013  

I stand with Frank Brennan. It is time to realize that gay marriage is a reality and a blest one. It is time to realize that "gayness" is not God's mistake. It is part of God's loving diverse creation.

Jeffrey Calligan | 12 July 2013  

Such a first world problem! It is no coincidence that Rudd claimed his support for Same sex marriage the week he knifed Julia Gillard. The vote of Penny Wong spring Rudd is questionable, and so are the deals that were done. Penny Wong was such a before with Gillard but she knifed her when she needed the deal done. This is a first World political issue. I wish real issues would receive as much debate. What is the number of same sex couples, probably not as high as our homeless, starving and hungry. Let's just get our priorities right

kay | 12 July 2013  

I'd like to know where the information about 40.000 children from same sex couples and living in CAL was taken from?

Tony | 12 July 2013  

1 Gay unions certainly need civil protection as we hear of the elderly surviving partner of a long term relationship even being thrown out of his/her home if it is in the dead partner's name or being refused access to the bedside of someone they have loved and supported for years. 2 All humans live in communion with others. Most feel the need for a special partner who knows understands and loves them. 3 I think the church should recognise and bless gay unions even though they are not open to new life. We should ask God's blessing on the commitment to love and support each other that they wish to make What they do behind closed doors has to be their decision.. 4 Conventional marriage partnerslike them have the right and duty to act in a responsible manner with regard to the conception of new life. 4 I will be disappointed to have the definition of marriage changed . Why do we not follow the lead of many countries that have a civil ceremony that registers the union and protects their rights If you want it you have a separate religious or other ceremony.

Patricia Ryan | 12 July 2013  

Frank Brennan always give food for thought, and thinking is what is required in this complex subject, not visceral reactions, either for or against.

paul finnane | 12 July 2013  

Justice Kennedy mentioned the figure of 40,000 during oral argument on 25 March 2013, and this was reported in the New York Times. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-case.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. Supreme Court Justices in these circumstances rely only on material provided in the briefs which can of course be contradicted by other parties. I am not aware of any contradiction of the figure. I assume this figure in part informed the opinion of some of the justices, including Justice Kennedy.

Frank Brennan SJ | 12 July 2013  

Frank, thanks for your honesty in accepting that "we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage." We need more Church leaders who like you are prepared to change their minds in ensuring that the Church is always faithfully applying Christ's teachings of love. I am unable to understand how the Church can discriminate in so many ways against people who are created with a same-sex orientation as if their natural attractions were inherently sinful. You note that "Australia's most theologically literate bishop Mark Coleridge appeared on the ABC Q&A opposing not just same sex marriage but any civil recogntion of same sex unions, describing homosexuality as 'a warp in the creation' and as an impossibility in God's plan." So homosexuality is a divine mistake? The archbishop should apply his own very Christian test "to work to defend the dignity of homosexual people, just as we work to defend the dignity of other people."

Peter Johnstone | 12 July 2013  

Father, adultery and homosexuality are sinful behaviors that should not be legalized by changing definitions of marriage. All people should be treated with dignity, even homosexuals, but we do not tell God He is wrong to say such behavior is sinful so we are going to let sinful behavior be allowed because God is wrong to say it is sinful. Father same sex marriage is contrary to God's teachings. We cannot allow sinful behavior to be rationalized into acceptable behavior. No homosexual should be harmed. Yet sinful behavior is still sinful behavior. Society has no right to change the definition of marriage but all homosexuals deserve not to be tied to a fence, beaten, and left to die as has been done by wrong thinking hateful people. I cannot believe God is saying "Oops, I got that wrong!". We may respect same sex couples loyalty to each other and not try to harm them but we cannot say their sinfulness is acceptable behavior in a God fearing society that should not honor poor behavior. Our Pope Francis is not wrong Father. Society is wrong. Oh yeah Father, Ad majorem Dei gloriam. Peace to everyone, everywhere.

Lou | 12 July 2013  

Congratulations to Fr Frank, he has articulated what many, many Catholics think. I support same sex marriage very much as Fr Frank has outlined. It's not rocket science to understand that the church and state can have different positions and practices; it's a question of choice. What is wrong with that? No one is forcing the Church to take a position it does not want to take. It's regrettable that the tone from number of commentators is one of disapproval and patronisation; you can hear the tut tutting. Surely the days of homophobic rhetoric, disguised as concern and care hate the sin but not the sinner clap trap, are over. Those commentators, and neo-conservatives within the Church, should concentrate on other important issues, e.g. the plight of the poor, refugees, social wage, sexual abuse and the environment etc., and stop an unhealthy fascination for what people do in private.

Jeff Kevin | 12 July 2013  

I would fully support the balanced, nuanced and politically realistic approach of Frank Brennan. The problem with that approach, as I tried to point out in my last post, is that those in the marriage equality group want same sex marriage to be termed marriage and to be seen as the norm which includes all normal familial and reproductive rights. There were even statements that religious marriage, because it would now deviate from the "norm" would need to be termed something else. This is, of course, an extreme position, but does exist. As I also said, I think the Catholic Church would ultimately be standing apart from some other Christian denominations on this matter. The pressure on the current Archbishop of Canterbury to recognise single sex marriage may increase from certain sections in the Church of England on theological and equity grounds. I would imagine some of the more latitudinarian Anglicans in this country may go along with this. Penny Wong is a member of the Uniting Church, has a same sex partner and child conceived, as far as I am aware through IVF with donor sperm. She is one of the strongest proponents of same sex marriage in the Labor Party. I think those totally against, or attempting to limit marriage equality in any way have a real battle in front of them.

Edward F | 12 July 2013  

Too much water in Fr. Brennan's cordial!

Maria | 12 July 2013  

Except that recognising 'same sex marriage' will have a flow on effect in our education system. If same sex marriage is 'equal' to regular marriage, then homosexuality deserves equal billing in the teaching of sex education. That means, for teachers like me, we can expect that the sex education (Health and Physical Education) curriculum area would include such topics as: how to know your homosexual; how to find a partner; how to express your love sexually in a homosexual relationship; health issues associated with homosexual practice... etc etc. I'm not being facetious. I'm stating the reality. Of course some may welcome such an educational approach, but truth is many - particularly Christians and other faiths who do not accept homosexual acts as acceptable - do not want their children formed in this way. Government laws that rubber stamp same sex marriage - will lead to laws that insist on a homosexual-friendly education curriculum...

Veritas | 12 July 2013  

Since when has the law enshrined itself in contrived oxymoronic formulae as Frank Brennan urges that it do? Is he speaking as an individual, a representative of the Catholic Church, or his religious order; and would he support the call for a referendum on this issue?

John | 12 July 2013  

Paul Finnane is right. We need to address this with our brains, not our guts, and do some rational work, as Frank (and then-Cardinal Bergoglio) have evidently done. As long as the interests of children are absolutely safeguarded - and I agree with Frank's suggestions here - the state should recognize the union of two committed partners, whatever their sex. The Church can, I believe, surrender the use of the word 'marriage' and reserve its rights with regard to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Joan Seymour | 12 July 2013  

I oppose bringing unions between couples of the same sex under the Marriage Act, as such unions can never be the same as unions of heterosexual couples. The differences stand out clearly when one considers the question how do they produce children, and the possible consequences for the children produced. However I do not oppose separate legislation specifically for same sex unions designed to give them similar rights to heterosexual couple and their children. This is a matter for the States.

Tony Santospirito | 12 July 2013  

Further aside from mortal sin why legalise a demographic disaster of monumental proportions?

Father John George | 12 July 2013  

Thank you Fr Frank Brennan for another very balanced article. Like it or not the majority of people in our Western world sooner or later will come to accept the civil rights of peoples to live according to their conscience. Religious opinion cannot impose a belief on others who may not share their own one traditional interpretation of marriage in a more accepting society of today. Some people just want the state to accept their union, some couples but fewer in numbers, will want their Church to bless them. Civil marriage ceremonies are more frequent today then Church ceremonies It took a long time to abolish religious opinion regarding the interpretation of centuries ago on usury, slavery, civil rights. It will happen but I will not live long enough to see it.

Fr.Tyrone Deere | 12 July 2013  

It disappoints me that the main protagonists who speak and write about same-sex marriage in the media are speaking either from a religious, legal or moral point of view. Marriage is a social construct. It has origins beyond witten history. Why are there not more sociologists and anthropologists writing on this subject? Do they think it is beneath their dignity to try to engage with the man/woman in the street? Or do they perceive as I do that the issue has become a political football? Just look at the way Fr Brennan's clear, concise, erudite, cogent and humane article has been unfairly and illogically criticised by opponents. I sometimes ask myself why he bothers. I can only surmise that he is being faithful to his Jesuit charism - to make the all-embracing love of Jesus present in the world.

Uncle Pat | 12 July 2013  

Paul Finnane methinks most posts err on the side of cerebral than visceral.

Father John George | 13 July 2013  

There are two holes in Fr Frank's arguments which will cause ongoing problems in many areas of human endeavour. Firstly, if he is arguing the case for SSM on the basis of giving protection to children (40 000 children of same-sex parents in California) it follows that the same recognition for dignity rights before the laws of the USA need to be afforded to all babies in the womb from the moment of conception, thus making abortion illegal. Secondly, marriage is much more - in legal and scientific terms than the issues touched on by the very 'finely tuned' and legally limited and limiting arguments presented to the USA Supreme Court. For instance, no where in the judgements does the Court rule that homosexual and lesbian acts of physical sexual activity are equal or could ever be equal - before the Law, with heterosexual acts of sexual intimacy. And it is those very scientific criteria which have always defined marriage. I learnt so much about the USA societal and political attitudes to the Law by watching Spielberg's film "Lincoln." It surely shows up a shallowness which must be avoided by the rest of us in Western culture.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 13 July 2013  

Frank again is a sensible voice in the storm. The US Supreme Court decision is particularly interesting because it is not riven with sturm and dang. Looking coldly at our Constitution, which nowhere precluded gay mariage simply because no one ever thought of such a thing until recently, the Court ruled that banning such marriage was unlawful. Frank is right that probably the only sensible solution is church/state. In many ways we are arguing about semantics here; what difference is there really between 'civil union' and 'marriage' but the words? Are we not talking realistically about taxes and health care benefits, despite all the yelling? And, I ask quietly, is this issue really very important when compared to starving and raped children, fouled air and water, and millions of people forced to be refugees, jobless, homeless?

Brian Doyle | 13 July 2013  

Insinuating that same-sex couples make bad parents is incredibly insulting, and completely untrue. All scientific data on the issue shows that outcomes for children parented by same-sex couples are about the same as for those parented by opposite-sex couples. This makes a lot of sense, because men and women are both real sentient human beings, not artificial caricatures designed to fill the imaginary gender roles advocated by many conservatives.

Tobias Cohen | 13 July 2013  

Seeing that all of us who are God people seem to think that we can speak with authority on what God considers right, I feel OK about asking a couple of questions from the little I've had a chance to read of this Eureka. Firstly, about this article. Since homosexuality is an occurrence within human chemistry-for which, as God people, we give God creational authority, might we not consider that at this stage of our human-race fecundity, loving relationship, rather than child-production is where God might direct our attention at this stage. ( I think this one gained emphasis a couple of 1000 years ago.) The other question about celebration of Christmas is asked by someone in the culture who might consider what an outsider would observe about the celebration of Christmas-----or almost anything. Some of us have the privilege of too much food to enter our awareness: whatever our culture.

helen cantwell | 13 July 2013  

Uncle Pat, the social scientists are indeed researching same sex marriage: "A study on short-term same-sex registered partnerships in Norway and Sweden found that divorce rates were 50-167% higher for same-sex couples than opposite-sex marriages, and that unions of lesbians are considerably less stable, or more subject to serious change, than unions of gay men.[11] The authors cited that this may be due to same-sex couples "non-involvement in joint parenthood", "lower exposure to normative pressure about the necessity of life-long unions" as well as differing motivations for getting married".[11][Wiki.]

Father John George | 13 July 2013  

Frank, a word to offer appreciation of your clarity and integrity on this issue. This takes courage in our somewhat oppressive church community. A couple of points though: should full state recognition of same-sex marriage be dependent on "majority rules"? We all know how this can be used to deny civil rights to minorities. Second, the evidence is strong that children in same-sex couples are fine - I'm with Hilary Clinton - it takes a village to raise a child - the mum and dad nuclear family is not enough anyway. Third, thanks for separating the issue of same-sex marriage from various forms of assisted reproduction. The second needs continuing discussion and careful thought - for all couples and for society as a whole. Third, I would suggest same-sex marriages are already "sacramental" since the couple confer the sacrament on each other. These unions have the potential to be truly holy and life-giving - in time the church will need to acknowledge this reality that so many of us already know and see. Finally, I wonder how we move forward re official teaching on same-sex love-making - way beyond "intrinsic evil" and "grave depravity". That challenge awaits.

Michael B Kelly | 13 July 2013  

The radical instability of SSU[evident from my posted Norway/Sweden research] augurs abysmally for SSU adopted children[despite Michael B Kelly take that SSU adoption is just "fine"!

Father John George | 13 July 2013  

It is obvious that the State can recognise homosexual unions if it has the numbers in Parliament to do so, that does not mean that Catholics should support such legislation. The Church has long been against homosexual activity, let alone homosexual marriage. And today there is good reason why this should still be the case. Men and woman women are physically different so that society could reproduce itself. Homosexual relationships can today never result in reproduction. If a homosexual couple raises the child of one of the homosexual partners, the child has to be removed from the other parent of the child. This is a grave injustice that was recognised when government apologies were given to indigenous children and children from forced adoptions, who were taken from their parents. A potential injustice will also occur if, as a result of scientific advances, it is possible for a homosexual couple to produce a child. The child may rightfully resent being raised in an atypical family situation to satisfy the wishes of the parents. One wonders if all of the 40,000 Californian children cited in Fr Brennan’s article are happy with the minority group family situation chosen by their parents.

Kevin Reed | 14 July 2013  

Thank you, Father George, I appreciate there are limited studies being conducted in academic circles about SSM - but they tend to concentrate on the negatives. Just as studies of heterosexual marriages tend to concentrate on the breakdowns - which is not a happy picture. However the point I was trying to make was the absence of academics dedicated to the study of human society (history, sociology, anthropology etc) in the the public square. Most of the commentators, pro and con, speak from a dogmatic position on how, when and where people of same sex attraction should be permitted to express their love for one another.

Uncle Pat | 14 July 2013  

Is Fr Frank on Kevin Rudd's campaign team? Strange how Frank has come out in support of same sex marriage. Is it a true change of heart, or a cynical political ploy?

Miriam | 14 July 2013  

‘Men and woman women are physically different so that society could reproduce itself’. Sexuality predates society, it has nothing to with ‘society’; ask any of the many species that reproduce sexually. ‘Homosexual relationships can never result in reproduction’. Nor can relationships where one of both parties is sterile; does that proscribe marriage between seniors? ‘If a homosexual couple raises a child of one of the partners, the child has to be removed from the other parent’. Why is that different from a heterosexual couple doing the same thing? Why don’t you admit Kevin that you, and Miriam, and FrJG, and others have made up your minds and that rather than being open to rational debate you’re really just cherry-picking reasons to justify your faith-based conclusions.

Ginger Meggs | 15 July 2013  

Fr Brennan is advocating a position with is at odds with the Catholic faith and the natural law. The state has no interest whatsoever in supporting committed, long term sexual unions other than that of heterosexual marriage. The oft-repeated mantra of Fr Brennan has no basis in common sense. What's good about being "committed" and "long term" if it's in fact a commitment to long term spiritual and moral ruin (as Fr Brennan's Catholic Faith and the natural law instruct him it is)? I just wonder: If a homosexual couple went to Fr Brennan for counselling on their rocky relationship, would he suggest it was best if they could find a way to stay together? On the contrary: a prudent state would be discouraging such unions, since they are inimical to the well being of society, and especially to the unfortunate individuals involved, despite any good intentions they may have. Similarly, the state ought to be encouraging heterosexual de facto couples to either move into marriage or move apart. Pandering to the whims of a society that has lost its moral compass is neither just nor charitable.

Hugh Henry | 15 July 2013  

I agree that gay people be able to marry in a civil service. That way they are able to gain recognition for their commitment to each other. In many countries people need to have two ceremonies, one civil and then one in a church if they desire. This seems to make sense.

Chris | 15 July 2013  

Thank you Father Frank for stating what I had concluded in such a fair and reasonable way. I have been restling with this difficult topic, however, your analysis is balanced and realistic. Above we must love one another and treat all people fairly.

Cate | 15 July 2013  

That's a lot of intellectualising, moralising, legalising and twisting and turning just to avoid admitting that the church doesn't have a clue about sexuality and the current church teachings seem to be designed for another planet in mind - Mars maybe - while most of us live on Earth (or Venus maybe)

AURELIUS | 15 July 2013  

The church needs to explain how it's teaching on homosexuality can be regarded as just and charitable. Accepting the homosexual condition on the one hand, but condemning any bodily expression of it is just cruel. No one has been created to live a life of solitude - except perhaps for some mad and eccentric monks who are in the minority and dwindling. The needs to come to some sort of understanding that not all sex outside marriage is evil. For God's sake, people are being slaughtered in some parts of the world, and some people are more concerned about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes.

AURELIUS | 15 July 2013  

Aurelius, Catholic teaching is just because it upholds the natural ends of human sexuality as created by God and the right of children to a mother and a father. It is merely emotive to suggest as you do that sexual activity is necessary for social participation. The issue is not about private sexual activity at all: the homosexual lobby has made SSM a very public matter affecting the whole of society.

John | 15 July 2013  

Precisely, Chris. It’s high time that all marriages in this country be performed as civil ceremonies according to civil law, and that any religious service be an optional add-on for those who want it and subject to the rules of that institution but which has no legal significance. This has long been the case in France notwithstanding the significant proportion of the country that identifies as Catholic.

Ginger Meggs | 15 July 2013  

I contest Fr Brennan's statement on civil SSU viz "My[Fr B's position] on civil unions has been much the same as that put by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn". Such comment needs most grave qualification indeed: http://protectthepope.com/?p=7137

Father John George | 15 July 2013  

to JOHN: I did not mention "sexual activity" - I wrote "bodily expression". How I express myself is a matter between my God and my conscience and the people around me who I live with in community. Same "sex" means same GENDER. It does not mean SEXUAL ACTS.

AURELIUS | 16 July 2013  

Sadly I read the moralising and just see the children, the ones who already are and the ones who will be. And they are all children of God.

john | 16 July 2013  

Same sex marriage has got nothing to do with the rights of children. In case you all haven't noticed, two people of the same sex cannot reproduce. If you are talking about adoption and artifical reproduction technologies, then let's have a debate about that because it's already legal outside the bounds of traditional marriage. The church no longer has any moral authority to talk about family structure. It needs to repent for its own sins. We need to return to the teachings of Jesus.

AURELIUS | 16 July 2013  

Fr Brennan, I'd be interested if you could do an article on the legal implications of separating the sacrament of matrimony from civil marriage. In my opinion, such a radical redefinition of marriage should allow for the possibility that people will feel that their marriage no longer has anything to do with the civil concept. What if people felt that they wanted to get married by the Church but did not want to register it as a civil marriage? Would this be possible? What if people wanted to de-register their relationship at law as marriage while still having it recognised by the Church? To me, this is not a puerile question but a recognition of a real truth: soon we may be no longer talking about the same thing. The Catholic Church is for the man and woman to be co-celebrants in a life long union for the begetting and raising of children. I daresay the civil form will no longer have any of these intentions. While it may be good for the state to recognise Holy Matrimony as marriage, is it essential to do so? Some Catholics may want to register their relationship as a civil marriage while others may not. The state recognises de-facto relationships without the need for formal registration. It would seem prudent to consider the possibility that we might part ways and consider how this could be constructed to ensure the stability of society? I would really appreciate your thoughts because it is a complex legal matter.

AD Stephens | 16 July 2013  

Aurelius, just how are we to return to the teachings of Jesus if we ignore the Church and the mandate he gave it to "teach all nations"? The notion that norms for "bodily expression" are to be determined exclusively in immediate relationships is a formula for alienation and social fragmentation.

John | 16 July 2013  

Not that the ABC will ever acknowledge it, but homosexuality is as Archbishop Coleridge describes: a warp in God's plan. It is a consequence of the Fall, as are such conditions as, say, alcoholism, kleptomania, and the myriad other conditions with which all of us non-immaculate Adamites are afflicted, one way or another. God does not positively will these post-Fall conditions, but, given Adam's fateful free choice, permits them to exist, in order to draw some good from those afflicted with them. In our relativist era when any "diversity" is instantly canonized as healthy, it is important to recognise these conditions for what they are: not alternative modes of perfection, as in, say, a bed of variously coloured and shaped flowers, but as tragic deviations from the natural. Heterosexuality is the natural condition of humanity. Any departure from that is not a good thing, though great heroism and indeed sanctity may ensue. Those who suffer accordingly should be treated with special concern and love. Needless to say, for a society to imagine that something resembling authentic marriage can be attempted between same sex couples says more about the sickness of that society than it does about the possibilities for marriage.

Hugh Henry | 16 July 2013  

The Marriage Act is Law defined as a union between two persons of opposite sex. Same sex couples wish to “aspire to occupy the same status and dignity” as those defined by the Marriage Act. But the status and dignity of any individual, in a country based on Christian values is not at risk. Same sex partners are already protected from economic, parental or other bias by other Laws. They currently wish however, to have attached to their union the word ‘MARRIAGE’, as though it somehow gives them “status and dignity’? ‘MARRIAGE’ as a word to also define the union of two persons of the same sex is anathema to the majority of Church-based persons (whether Christian – Islamic or Hindu etc.). For them ‘Marriage’ is a sacramental public act under the aegis of a Priest or Minister or Imam in the preferred faith of two opposite sex persons. Perhaps what should be aimed at by both i.e. same sex couples and heterosexual couples, is that both perform a Civil Union by Law. Those whose desire a sacramental ‘MARRIAGE’ by a religiously proclaimed person, should feel free to do so without being/feeling socially ostracised by a minority group.

Karl Cameron-Jackson | 17 July 2013  

JOHN, Jesus didn't specify what specific bodily activities whether sexual or dietary or whatever were good or bad - his teachings were based on our faithfulness, respect, love towards one another. Just as you mentioned that sexual expression is not a prerequisite for social inclusion, neither is there any evidence in the teachings of Jesus that sexual expression excludes people.

AURELIUS | 17 July 2013  

Aurelius, Catholic teaching is not based on private interpretation of scripture alone, but also on the Apostolic tradition and its magisterium. These are the reliable sources for Jesus's teachings because they are his own legacy, sealed with the gift of his own Holy Spirit. Denial of Church teaching diminishes our access to him and opens the way for private distortions of who he is and his teaching.

Name | 18 July 2013  

Hohn, I am not denying Catholic teaching, but under your method of reasoning, homosexuals are just as likely to be excommunicated/condemmed tthe fires of hell as Protestants, divorcees, unmarried couples, women who use contraception, people who masturbate, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and anyone else who does not attend weekly Holy Communion or repent for not having done so. If that's the case, then let's not put all the burden for human salvation on homosexuals. Let's broaden the moral debate. Why hasn't Jesus teaching on social issues like treatment of the poor and distribution of wealth been so heavily codified in the magisterium? Maybe because the church as an institution would fail that basic test.

AURELIUS | 18 July 2013  

The Queen has now given royal assent to the same sex marriage law in England and Wales. The civil law recognises same sex marriage already in jurisdictions such as Canada and New Zealand. The US Supreme Court decisions mean that many more (if not all) than the present 13 jurisdictions there will recognise same sex marriage very soon. Its against this legal background that Australian legislators need to make their decisions, including whether to recognise marriages from those overseas jurisdictions regardless of the Australian marriage law. It really is time to move the focus to the internal theological discussion about marriage rather than presuming that the civil law will always, or ought always, mirror the Church position on a social institution which affects ongoing status and civil entitlements.

Frank Brennan SJ | 18 July 2013  

I hope all you commentators had an opportunity to see the Catalyst program this evening (July 18). It would seem there has been very little research done on how the "marital" experiences of heterosexual and homosexual couples compare. Likewise there has has been very little research done comparing the outcomes for children of same-sex couples with kids of hetrosexual unions. Opinions expressed by opponents of same-sex marriage would appear to rest on no or minimal empirical evidence. They seem to find it hard to accept that homosexuality occurs naturally and by thei very existence expose the fallacy of basing sexual morality/ethics on a Natural Law that allows exceptions.

Uncle Pat | 18 July 2013  

Moving debate on this radical issue into an internal theological forum as Frank Brennan now suggests would advance the cause of those who seek to eliminate religion and its moral and social influence from the public arena. So much for democratic process. So much for social inclusion.

John | 19 July 2013  

Well, John, It would allow EVERYONE to participate in the debate - believers/atheists, hetero/homosexual. You seem to deny that people can be homosexual and believe in God at the same time. You can't separate the high and mighty theological debate from the pastoral/compassionate implications.

AURELIUS | 19 July 2013  

Pursuant to the consecration of Russia by Pius XII in 1952 and Fatima's promise of Russia's conversion : #Vladimir Putin signed bill that means people disseminating 'propaganda' about homosexual relationships to minors risk fines. #President Vladimir Putin’s new laws criminalise blasphemy and outlaws public activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) #The Upper House of the Russian Parliament voted last month to approve a bill banning adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples and also a federal “anti-propaganda” bill, which bans the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships to minors.

Father John George | 19 July 2013  

Aurelius, if the theological dimension of this issue cannot be separated, as you say, from "pastoral/compassionate implications", why endorse its ostracism from public discourse? And how is the proposed removal of the theological dimension an enhancement of participatory discussion in public life?

John | 19 July 2013  

77 comments and the conversation (I use the term loosely) pro and con has not added anything substantial to Fr Brennan's realistic assessment of the same-sex marriage debate. The pro-s seem to argue a posteriori and the con-s a priori. I was more impressed by an article in today's SMH by Gary Nunn on the import of the House of Lords approving a bill allowing British same-sex couples to marry. Civil same sex partnerships had been recognised by British law since 2005. Nunn thought this was a backward step because marriage is enshrined in religious & patriarchal baggage. It is about property, dowries and husbands effectively enslaving their wives. But he recognised the universal language of love. How much more emotionally satisfying it must be for a gay man to say to his male lover: Will you marry me? than to ask "Would you like to enter into a civil same-sex partnership with me?"

Uncle Pat | 19 July 2013  

Aurelius pleads: "We need to return to the teachings of Jesus"
When asked when the kingdom of God should come, Jesus replied, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot: they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed. (Luke’s gospel)”

Father John George | 21 July 2013  

Uncle Pat your entreaty, "homosexuality occurs naturally", overlooks homosexuality born in antepartum hormonal pathology in prenatal pathology studies, e.g. "Girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, for example, are exposed to high levels of adrenal androgens [hormones] prenatally. Research indicates that postnatally they show greater aggression, enhance (i.e. masculine) visuospatial abilities, more masculine occupational preferences, and an increased rate of bisexual or homosexual sexual orientation in fantasy and/or behavior."[similar hormonal pathology mutatis mutandis occurs with prenatal males] Moreover, SSM children are clear sufferers obviously in ssm: Sweden/Denmark research indicates SSM attrition rate 150% higher than hetero marriage.

father john george | 22 July 2013  

Yes FATHER GEORGE - for once I agree with you. Jesus rightly berated sodomists (rapists/abusers/paedophiles) It's a pity our church didn't berate them like Jesus did.

AURELIUS | 22 July 2013  

Fr George, in the Gospel of Matthew (and corresponding verse) when Jesus warns of a worse judgment for some cities than Sodom, inhospitality is perceived by some as the sin, while others see it fundamentally being impenitence: If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. --Matthew 10:14-15. The nonsexual view focuses on the cultural importance of hospitality, which this biblical story shares with other ancient civilizations, such as Greece and Rome, where hospitality was of singular importance and strangers were under the protection of the gods. The orthodox position does not deny this important cultural aspect, but tends to see the refusal to repent as being the main issue behind Jesus's condemnation, with this being causative of the particular inhospitality shown by the cities Jesus referred to. Wikipedia.

Monica | 22 July 2013  

...and MERCY is the HEART of Jesus' teachings, not condemnation.

Monica | 22 July 2013  

Fr JG, Frank's article has nothing to do with whether same-sex marriage is 'right' or 'wrong', or whether it is more of less likely to be stable, or whatever else you want to drag into the discussion. It's about whether or not the Catholic Church in Australia should continue to oppose the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples given that it has already happened in many western countries and will inevitably happen here. Your cause, Fr JG, is lost, just as your causes on divorce, and pre-marital sex, and contraception, and IVF, and adoption by same-sex couples were lost many years ago. Frank, I think, accepts this, and is encouraging Catholics to accept that the community will just not buy it. By all means debate and meditate on the meaning of Christian marriage in the Christian context, but in the public space, arguments based on Canon Law or Catholic dogma carry no more weight than arguments based on Sharia Law and Muslim dogma. Which is as it should be in a secular society.

Ginger Meggs | 22 July 2013  

The reality of marriage as the union of a mother and a father is grounded in our very biology. As is love in it's purest form.

Bernstein | 23 July 2013  

Ginger Meggs, you make the point that society has rejected the Catholic view of marriage, which I agree with. It is the rejection of the Catholic view that causes a lot of misery in people's lives. The people have spoken, and will probably soon speak again with regards to same-sex marriage, which is why I think that the Church should assert the truth that the sacrament of matrimony really has very little or nothing in common with the modern concept of marriage. The phenomenon of government getting involved in marriage is a modern one. I think the Church should get out of "marriage" and focus on its sacrament of matrimony. Let the individual couples decide if they want to register their relationship with the government. Should a priest now play a role in witnessing official government documents? It is by reaffirming the importance of the sacrament of matrimony that our marriages can witness to society of our Way.

AD Stephens | 23 July 2013  

GM, I think you've been confused by the limp-wristed versions of Christianity abounding in many Western societies today. Jesus didn't say "Go teach all nations ... oh, but if they don't accept your teaching, lock yourselves behind closed doors and keep quiet." The proper role of the Church in a secular society is the same role it has in any context, be it pagan Rome, darkest Africa, 17th century China, or Reformation England: namely, convert it into a Christian society - down to the very last soul. To settle for anything less is a betrayal of Christ Our King and of our neighbour.

Hugh Henry | 23 July 2013  

Oh yes, Hugh Henry, I understand the inherent proselytising nature of militant Christianism because I grew up in just such an environment. Militant Christianism differs very little in either its beliefs or its methods from militant Islamism, or militant Zionism (or militant Communism, for that matter) but the idea that any of these isms, including Christianism, has access to the ultimate truth is an arrogant delusion. And in any case, the majority of your great unwashed out there don't want a bar of it. And as for Christianism's record in 'pagan Rome, darkest Africa, 17th century China, Reformation England', or (you didn't mention them) South and Central America, the value of the outcomes are to say the least, dubious.

Ginger Meggs | 23 July 2013  

Catholic Hierarchies have taken firm steps on SSM: "His Eminence Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, has informed this pontifical representation that the Community of Sant’Egidio has plans to present an award to the Governor of Illinois, Mr. Quinn, for suppressing the death penalty in that state. Attested that Mr. Quinn is of the Catholic faith, the Bishops and Cardinal George retain that this recognition is inopportune for the following reasons: - He promoted the law on homosexual marriage; - He is in favour of abortion;" Nuzzi, Gianluigi (2013-02-27). Ratzinger was afraid (Adagio) (Kindle Locations 3540-3545). Casaleggio Associati. Kindle Edition.

Father John George | 23 July 2013  

GM, "militant Christianism", as you call spreading the gospel, ended the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of people per year in South and Central America to pagan gods, cannibalism in places like PNG, slavery in England, suttee in India, child marriage and polygamy in Australia, and so on. The great unwashed may not appreciate the Christian claim, but in the form of refugees the world over they are fleeing to countries whose legal and cultural ethos is based on Christianity. Schools, hospitals, the rule of law, private property, the dignity of every individual and the importance of the family - these legacies of Christianity are what draws them, even if they are not explicitly aware of the connection.

Hugh Henry | 25 July 2013  

As for the query about where I got the “40,000 children” figure, you might consider the following: The respondent’s brief in the US Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v Perry stated: “Ironically, the surest and most direct impact of Proposition 8 on children is not to increase the likelihood that they will be raised in stable and enduring family units, but, instead, as the district court found, to make it ‘less likely that California children will be raised in stable households’ by reducing the number of families who can be married. And because Proponents acknowledge ‘the undisputed truth that children suffer when procreation and childrearing take place outside stable family units,’ they must also acknowledge that the undeniable effect of Proposition 8 is to cause ‘suffer[ing]’ among the nearly 40,000 children in California being raised by gay and lesbian couples.” During the oral argument in the US Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy put to counsel: “On the other hand, there is an immediate legal injury or legal -- what could be a legal injury, and that's the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California, according to the Red Brief, that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?”

Frank Brennan SJ | 29 July 2013  

On his way back from WYD on the plane, Francis gave a very informal press conference. Amongst other things he said: "There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card." "When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem ... they're our brothers." I was interviewed on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/homosexual-orientation-not-sinful-pope/4852646

Frank Brennan SJ | 30 July 2013  

Pope Francis's words cited by Frank Brennan (30/7) do not, of course, indicate papal support for "gay marriage" - quite the contrary, in fact, since the concept is a construct of the "gay lobby" not endorsed by the Holy Father.

John | 31 July 2013  

If you want a scenario where children do not automatically belong to their biological parents, then gay marriage is that means. Gay marriage is a social movement to separate children from their biological parents. Of course the gays can choose their lifestyles. Having a tendency is very different from being willing and bold to act them out. Gay activists want you to believe that they can't help being promiscuous. Fr Frank, remember, you will have to account to your maker. You are not God.

Alice | 04 August 2013  

Pope Francis's position on civil unions is set out at pp 312-6 of Austen Ivereigh's The Great Reformer. He warned his fellow bishops that outright opposition to same sex marriage without support for civil unions would play into the hands of the Kirchner government. It did.

Frank brennan sj | 23 December 2014  

We ought to obey God rather than men.

Cathryn | 22 December 2016  

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