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US Bishops reckon with same sex marriage support rollercoaster


Two Liberal backbenchers in the Australian federal parliament, Teresa Gambaro and Warren Entsch, with two Labor MPs, Terri Butler and Laurie Ferguson, are drafting a cross-party private member’s bill in a bid to legalise same-sex marriage in the next sitting of parliament.

Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is pouring cold water on the idea, saying he doesn’t support the bill and that the government has greater priorities to pursue regarding the economy and national security.

This new effort to legalise gay marriage in Australia comes hard on the heels of the US Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago ruling that the American constitution guarantees the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states in the USA. This overturns laws in the remaining 14 states that prohibited same-sex marriage.

Frank Brennan published an incisive article last week in Eureka Street outlining his reservations about the US Supreme Court decision.

Catholic bishops in the US and Australia are in a quandary on the issue. Same-sex marriage is clearly against traditional Catholic Church teachings on homosexuality and marriage, and bishops have spoken out strongly against it.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently published a Pastoral Letter on the topic with the simple and pointed title, Don’t Mess With Marriage.

But many grass-roots Catholics in both countries support same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Catechism teaches in article 2358 that homosexuals ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’

The journalist featured in this interview recorded via Skype for Eureka Street TV has covered this issue extensively in the United States. Here he talks about American Church reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.

Michael O’Loughlin is national reporter for Crux, The Boston Globe’s publication covering Catholic life and the Church in America. Brought up in a Catholic family in Massachusetts, he now lives and works in Chicago, and reports occasionally from Rome.

O’Loughlin is a graduate of Saint Anselm College, a liberal arts college founded by the Benedictines in New Hampshire, where he began his writing career working for the student newspaper. After graduating from Saint Anselm’s he went on to further theological study at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.

Before joining the staff of Crux, he had a six month stint as an intern at the Jesuit publication America, followed by five years in Washington DC as a freelance writer with articles appearing in a number of mainstream and religious news outlets including America, National Catholic Reporter, and Religion & Politics.

O’Loughlin has appeared on several US TV networks discussing the Catholic Church’s influence on public life, and frequently gives talks on a range of Catholic issues.

His book The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters, to be published in September, uses Pope Francis’s tweets to his nearly 21 million followers to explain why this pope has captured the world’s imagination and to explore his strategy and vision for the Catholic Church.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood



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Existing comments

Hearing, yet again, of the continuing mass exodus of members of the Catholic Church, and that most Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on how the Christian message should be applied to crucial issues, the question to the hierarchy has to be: just where do you think this is going to end for the Church?

Russell | 06 July 2015  

Re US Episcopal Church on gay marriage: The leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church, released a statement expressing his “deep concern” over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s resolution to change the definition of marriage. “Its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.” http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2015/06/archbishop-of-canterbury-response-to-us-episcopal-church-resolution-on-marriage.aspx

Father John George | 07 July 2015  

I imagine the Pope and bishops will pray, practise and encourage faith and service, be pastors and teachers and call people to follow in the way of Christ. That's the way, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the faith of its people, the Church has endured, been renewed and flourished from the start, despite wishful thinking and hostilities on the part its opponents.

John Kelly | 07 July 2015  

Seems like common language and common interpretation of language is becoming less common. Is it due to our fast paced society fragmenting and splintering and recombining in a myriad of new ways, of which some will be lasting? The new that goes the distance, will become the new mores. Marriage had a meaning which we all understood, with only one main subtext. Two adults of opposite sex coming together to procreate and nourish the next generation, fundamentally. All the business re property etc was to simplify and code the processes of ownership and rights to own in order to keep that societal process humming without undue strife. When it didn't go well it was usually due to greed and/or a criminal mindset. For the moment that looks secure enough.
The issue is, pragmatically, that it is linguistically and intellectually lazy that a new word was not found by those that wished to have a same sex union legally recognised, so that in secular law that union conferred the same benefits as a heterosexual marriage. Seems as though the material acquisitiveness of our society and the preparedness to lie, cheat and steal to claim whatever we want, or feel we need, is an epidemic that is manifesting as "I want what you've got; I want to be equal." Plagiarism has no bounds. It's a thought process, and in one form or another has been a component that has helped mankind to feel that we cross borders and open new frontiers. But that is not what is happening. Plagiarism is not innovation, it is not inventive. Not creative in any shape or form.
And now Peter Kirkwood, who are the faithful Catholics? I don't remember who the Irish journalist was that recently raised issue with exactly the same context. The question was asked how the term "faithful", applied to a person absent from the body of the Church and the meaning of her teachings, can apply to the same person. This is not trivial; wishful thinking does not create the fact. These "faithful" are cultural Catholics, or maybe they're catholics. I've been there and have dear ones there at present. I found a way back because there were unashamed people of faith that provided a beacon. And thankfully we have a Pope, and we have a congregation of Bishops in the USA and Australia (and how are they in a quandary?) prepared to echo the love of Christ and to say we are to love the sinner, but make no mistake, we are not accepting the sin. Kirkwood, I think you demonstrate that, thanks for the link. But why do you then make the concept of basic Catholicism opaque and incredibly wishy-washy by writing "grass roots Catholics (in both countries) support same sex marriage." Nooo. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is cannot be supported by grass roots Catholics as a union that people that are not heterosexual can claim. They are excluded by Canon Law, but are not excluded from being loved or of loving. The State gives them certain rights, that are not privileges, and the State also does not give rats whether they love, or are loved.
Written in a hope for tighter journalistic language, more true to Catholic faith, and less euphemistic.

MichCook | 09 July 2015  

MitchCook - who are the "faithful" Catholics? I didn't know there was a difference between faithful and unfaithful Catholics. Or are you referring to sinners and non-sinners? Or mass-goers,/lapsed; gay/straight; left/right; baptised/unbaptised. My catechism lessons is primary school taught me that I am Catholic by virtue of baptism, and born of parents unite by the sacrament of marriage. But I do not believe that my religious privilege by virtue of birth should be imposed on the whole of society, just as Muslims and Jews don't expect everyone to abstain from eating pork.

AURELIUS | 12 July 2015  

My words seem to have stung you AURELIUS. My context and quarrel with "faithful" is clearly spelt out.

MichCook | 12 July 2015  

MichCook, the legislation being proposed by the four Commonwealth parliamentarians is about civil marriage. It has nothing to do with your 'Sacrament of Holy Matrimony', nor with the corresponding practices and beliefs of any other religion. It won't change any of those. As to your concern about the use of the word 'marriage', you don't seem to object to its use when applied to heterosexual unions forged outside your particular church even though it doesn't recognise them as valid, so why get your knickers in a knot when it's applied to same sex unions forged under civil law?

Ginger Meggs | 16 July 2015