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Gay marriage debate has a long way to go


Gay marriage SMH coverOn the weekend the ALP party conference voted to amend the party platform on same sex marriage. The platform now states: 'Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life.'

Churches and religious organisations will retain the freedom to perform marriage ceremonies only for a man and a woman eligible for marriage under the rules of the church or organisation.

The conference voted by 208 to 184 to allow Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue. Tony Abbott continues to insist that Liberal MPs will not be granted a conscience vote. This will change. If it doesn't, several Liberals, including Malcolm Turnbull, will cross the floor. It could even become a leadership issue in the party.

Within the life of the present parliament, our elected leaders will probably be voting on the issue, and in all likelihood the members of all major parties will have a conscience vote.

How should the conscientious Catholic member of parliament vote? If I were a member of parliament, I would support a law for the recognition of civil unions similar to the present United Kingdom law, and I would vote against any bill extending the definition of marriage to include the union of two men or two women.

I would do so because I think the State should not discriminate against couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life (whatever their sexual orientation), while affirming that the bearing and nurturing of the children of the union is a constitutive good of marriage (even though not all marriages produce children).

Sadly in Australia, there is not much interest in a national approach for the recognition of civil unions. It is a winner takes all approach: either same sex marriage or no national symbolic, legal recognition of same sex unions. Just as states and territories can legislate with their own variations for de facto partnerships, they could also legislate for civil unions — as Queensland has just done.

Speaking from Rome on the weekend, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, said: 'Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been. Any Australia-wide political party which repudiates this does not want to govern, and rejects both tradition and the working class.'

We need to distinguish between moral teaching and pastoral advice offered our co-religionists,  and reasoned advocacy for laws and public policy applicable to all persons.

On the issue of civil recognition of same-sex unions it is not appropriate in the public square simply to agitate about the Catholic view of the sacramentality of marriage. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 'The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination ... constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'

How then could the law best express this respect, compassion, sensitivity, and non-discrimination for all persons including same sex attracted persons who commit themselves to loving, faithful relationships?

There is room even in the community of faith for a diversity of views. I have been greatly assisted by the line of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales by unanimous acclamation in 2009, who last month after their Bishops Conference said, 'We were very nuanced. We did not oppose gay civil partnerships. We recognised that in English law there might be a case for those.'

Archbishop Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, was also in Rome last weekend, and speaking about civil unions and same sex marriage. He said: 'Clearly, respect must be shown to those who in the situation in England use a civil partnership to bring stability to a relationship. Equality is very important and there should be no unjust discrimination. (However) commitment plus equality do not equal marriage.'

I concede that some Catholic commentators might argue for limits on non-discrimination and compassion on the basis that the very recognition of a same sex relationship is contrary to the natural law. For example, the Catechism states: 'The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices.

'It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.'

But these commentators would then need to establish that the extension of non-discrimination and compassion to same sex couples would undermine the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community.

Even if the Australian Parliament does legislate to expand the definition of marriage beyond its traditional meaning in the Marriage Act, there will undoubtedly be a constitutional challenge in the High Court given that the Parliament does not have the power to expand its legislative competence beyond the wording of the Constitution. Under the Constitution, the Parliament has power 'to make laws with respect to marriage'.

In 1991, Justice Dawson on the High Court observed that the Commonwealth power to legislate with respect to marriage 'is predicated upon the existence of marriage as a recognisable (although not immutable) institution'. He then said, 'Just how far any attempt to define or redefine, in an abstract way, the rights and obligations of the parties to a marriage may involve a departure from that recognisable institution, and hence travel outside constitutional power, is a question of no small dimension.'

So this debate has a long way to go. It would be a pity if those of us trying to contribute the strength of the Catholic tradition to the debate were simply characterised as homophobic naysayers. And it would be helpful if some of the nuances of the experienced UK bishops could get some airplay here from our own bishops who also wrestle with the pastoral and moral dimensions of this question. 


Frank BrennanFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University.

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Labor Conference, gay marriage, same-sex unions



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Existing comments

You seem to hide the real issue: [that the conservative factions of Catholic hierarchy] need to establish that the extension of non-discrimination and compassion to same sex couples would undermine the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community.

Marco Luxe | 07 December 2011  

The problem with this analysis is that it starts from too limited a view of what "marriage" may have been and has come to mean. There is a better account at http://www.advocate.com/Politics/Commentary/Oped_Taking_a_Lesson_from_Down_Under/ where a modern understanding of the commitment and its ritual is explored in the context of the incredible success of the GetUp! ad.

Tom Lalor | 07 December 2011  

A nicely nuanced comment from Fr Frank! Some catholic leaders seem terrified that any accommodation of same sex unions will somehow erode the traditional value of marriage. Given that homosexual people are a small minority of the population, this would hardly be the case. But as Frank says, the argument is not based on numbers, but on notions of compassion and equality, great Biblical injunctions.
Of course, we are also dealing here with Love as one of the indispensible an age-old mysteries associated with marriage. It is this mystery, operating in the lives of hetero and homo- sexualouples that first moves them towards notions of shared life and permanent commitments. We should be very careful in judging that Love can only be understood in some Christian way and is only available to a man and a woman.

At this stage, Australians may be best advised to follow the pattern of marriage for heterosexuals, and unions/partnerships for homosexuals, provided that the values of compassion and equality are applied justly to all.

Garry | 07 December 2011  

Good to have some insight Fr Brennan.However, why would the Catholic Church use up energy and resources to challenge a general society change in definition of marriage when the Churches can continue in their discriminatory belief and ceremonies.

As history and Herstory shows, boxes of rules which are traditional and "Natural" to you are not to others and we do have a freer more tolerant society because of democracy and law.
eg.in 1963 the hospital priest told my mum because she had married a Protestant - even though I was legitimate in law, to the Church I was a bastard! How times change..?
To be rejected is a terrible harm.
Babies are born of same-sex couples and no babies are born of heterosexual marriages. Surely your God doesn't discrimate - well mine doesn't.

We don't have to have shams of marriage anymore because for the want of male heirs, which to me is a great improvement.

Julie McNeill | 07 December 2011  

Civil unions are not working in the UK. They have been found to entrench discrimination not address it. It is for this reason the UK government plans to introduce law next year that will allow sames-x couples to marry. Otherwise you simply highlight that "this is for us" and "that is for them".

Skathleen | 07 December 2011  

"the bearing and nurturing of the children of the union is a constitutive good of marriage".. What about gay couples who have children? What about heterosexual married couples who adopt? what about gay couples who adopt? What about heterosexual married couples who use a sperm donor in order to get pregnant? What about gay couples who desperately want children, but are less likely to be eligible in an adoption process? What about couples who are not married but still have children? I think Frank Brennan's loose reasoning requires a little more explanation.

Naomi | 07 December 2011  

I sometimes think that Father Brennan must feel like John the Baptist - a voice crying in the wilderness.

I feel proud that the Catholic Church (the community of Christ) and, within it, the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus)has produced a man with such lucidity of expression and cogency of argument.

Would that we had more catholic intellectuals of his ilk. May God bless his work. Ad multos annos.

Uncle Pat | 07 December 2011  

Onward to full civil and marriage equality rights now. Period.
And keep your religion away from my marriage.

Jos. A. Mustich, CT USA, Marriage Officiant | 07 December 2011  

Thanks Frank. I fear that those who oppose "marriage equality" are already presented as "homophobic nasayers", "bigots" (see the protestors at the rally in Sydney) "racists" (see Raimond Gaita lecture at the ANU). Look at the popular press on this issue which in turn is mirrored by many in politics who seats are under threat. You only have to witness Malcolm Turnbull's position of this. I heard him only about a year ago supporting traditional marriage, now he suggests that he doesn't. I support legal recognition of same sex relationships, but not ss marriage. I fear however changes to this institution, which many claim are inevitable, will have ramifications far bigger than any private relationship bewteen 2 individuals. Look out for demonstrations outside churches and school in the future for failing to support homosexual marriage. Sounds extreme, but this will usher in a whole new way of thinking imposed by the law of the State exercised by militant activists.

It's happening already | 07 December 2011  

As always, thanks for this food for thought.

In trying to develop a position on this, I return to the purpose of the institution of a Christian marriage -- the protection of the fertility of women, their children, and of course (big time) evolved from the management of property. Now to the major developments in each of these fields: medical opportunities to control fertility, laws of property have vastly changed; generally speaking, gone are the terrible and illogical days when women were blamed for unwanted pregnancy). Of course the divorce statistics undermine marriage as a predictable environment for children. (I wonder which planet people are on when they argue against the same sex upbringing of children – they clearly do not understand the ever increasing emotional and economic pressures on single parents -- and, are they going to ban the single parent living with the grandmother or sister as well?)
Removing these core reasons for marriage leaves commitment – a public intention to share life.
Although civil unions accommodating same sex commitment may appear an attractive societal compromise, in the final analysis I believe the concept of marriage requires detachment from a past that present realities have overridden. This leads me to support marriage between two people who wish to make this commitment.

Jane | 07 December 2011  

The spoken and written word is very powerful.("The pen is mightier than the sword"). I imagine this is a truism of sorts in that "the word", however presented, is the instrument through which mankind expresses its very being, its soul. Perhaps, if the words used in this debate were "gay union" rather than "gay marriage" the whole thing would be done and dusted. We of Christian persuasion feel threatened by the erosion of the sacramental nature, ethics and societal importance of marriage in the historical advance of Western civilisation based on Judeo- Christian principals, much of that also dependent on the word. There is no doubt that our society is under great threat of corrosion of ethics and so many other of the principals that contributed to the enormous advance of civilisation since the Renaissance based on the Judeo-Christian ethic. To me, it is this threat which drives the debates on issues such as marriage, euthanasia, abortion etc or anything that deals with human life. We might not feel so threatened if we simply changed the words to "gay union" and consigned this childish debate in the political arena to the rubbish bin so that the high school debaters in government could get on and govern!

Thank goodness Prof Brennan that you express the word so eloquently in these controversial areas.Let us hope the pollies read Eureka Street. (I suspect that in their paranoia and desperate attempts to canvas potential votes, or loss thereof, that they do).

john frawley | 07 December 2011  

I hve an open mind on the issue, but I smile when I read about definition of marriage being clear for centuries. In th early 20th century marriages were forcibly arranged on the basis of property. In Ireland, a catholic country in my generation many marriages of dughters were arrnged by the father. This happened to most of my sisters in law in a large family of 9 girls & 4 boys. Most of the girls had no choice. I think Adults who make genuine choice should be recognised and supported

margaret o'reilly | 07 December 2011  

We have been through it all before: White Australia, capital punishment, corporal punishment in schools, divorce - the sky was about to fall.

Marriage is a civil contract and the churches should stay out of it; matrimony is a sacrament and the state should stay out of it. Let each of them make their own rules and for goodness sake, let one run the country and the other help us to live decent lives.

Ten years from now, like they said about Mark Anthony, we "will live and laught at this hereafter."

Frank | 07 December 2011  

In recent generations, we’ve seen the belief evolve that the overriding purpose of marriage is the spouses’ mutual pleasure. This is what enabled a politician to say, “I don’t see how my marriage is any more moral than the same-sex couples I know.” This claim, of course, only makes sense if companionship and sexual pleasure are matrimony’s preeminent ends.

But this deviates from what every culture in history has recognized as the heart of marriage: the begetting and education of children. The happiness of the couple is vital, to be sure, but it’s not the only or primary purpose and never has been. Why? Because “happiness” produces no definitive benefit for society, whereas the rearing of children clearly does. As the Vatican recently noted, “Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage.”

Because of this, it makes sense for society to support traditional marriage alone. Conversely, allowing same-sex spousal unions makes no sense. Indeed, we can only allow homosexual spousal unions if the central purpose of marriage is the spouses’ happiness. If that’s true, then heterosexual-only wedlock is indeed discrimination. But if marriage has a higher purpose, then anything that undermines its traditional framework also threatens to undermine its desired result—the rearing of healthy, productive, contributing citizens.

If the central purpose of government is to promote the general welfare, then the state must promote always what is best for society’s health, security, and long-term viability. This requires the state to make prudential judgments about various segments of our population: Those under 17 may not drive. Those under 18 may not drink. You must possess some academic knowledge to join the military. Information about paroled child molesters must be made available so parents can protect their children.

Some label these prudential
decisions “discrimination,” but discriminating in such matters promotes the general welfare. The unique affirmation of heterosexual marriage operates under the same principle. Traditional matrimony is the foundation of society, and society should neither encourage nor recognize anything pretending to approximate it. Again, the reason for this relates to marriage’s primary purpose: The spousal union produces families, and such families are the building blocks of society.

Granted, some marriages don’t produce children. Some soldiers don’t face combat and yet are still eligible for veterans’ benefits. But the state rewards each institution based on its ability to provide society with a valuable function. Governments favor historical marriage and seek to strengthen it in its policies because virtually everything that happens in society, for good or ill, can be traced back to families and family life.

The marriage revolution would not only undermine matrimony—and thus society—but it would effectively destroy it.

Trent | 07 December 2011  

Even before the Church became involved, marriage was a social contract between two entities (tribes, families, individuals) to unite towards a common goal. Creating heirs was only one part of that goal.
The way to solve the Church’s moral problem with same sex marriage is to remove Churches as agents of the State. Marriages (contracts) should be performed as a function between the couple and the State. If a particular couple wants their wedding blessed within a cult tradition, that would be a separate ceremony and not legally binding.

nothingpetty | 07 December 2011  

I guess it comes down to the definition of marriage. For some, the defining feature seems to be that the two people involved are of opposite genders. To me, the defining feature of marriage is a wholehearted commitment to a longstanding relationship, with all that implies in terms of responsibility, loyalty and faithfulness. Under this definition, homosexual marriage is every bit as valid as heterosexual marriage and should be treated as such by the law.

Monty | 07 December 2011  

I find it interesting that in all these conversation about ‘redefining’ Marriage people seem to continually ignore the social disease of heterosexism and its homophobic fruits.

Rampant homophobia in our society be it in our schoolyard, our parishes, our homes continues destroy the spirit and even lives of our fellow sisters and brothers, young and old. High suicide rates caused by homophobic social bullying, prejudices, language, and practices continue to be prevalent to non-heterosexual members of our community.

Try being Catholic and walking into St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney holding your same gender partner/friend’s hand; the very knowing of the prevalence of homophobic perverse assumptions is enough to ‘deter’ that from happening; it is true spiritual, social and psychological violence.

I’m saddened by the fact that someone whom I admire like Frank in trying to decipher social problems seems to have left out the many tragic human-stories faced by non-heterosexual sisters and brothers, whilst seemingly quite comfortable in defending an ideological stance held by those who would be quite happy to be virulently homophobic in their practices.

A sobering read of “Writing Themselves In – 3” from the landmark national study is a reminder in asking- Have we as a society even began comprehending all those who have to live daily through the trauma of heterosexism and homophobia?

TJ Lawson | 07 December 2011  

The Marriage Act is an act of Parliament, nothing more. In a secular society, the legal definition of marriage should be separate from the religious interpretation especially given the range of religious beliefs in our community. It is disappointing but not unexpected that Cardinal Pell would take a hardline on this.

Kate | 07 December 2011  

Whenever I read Brennan on same-sex marriage, I’m always struck by the half-heartedness of his argument. He has a clear and oft-articulated commitment to civil equality for same-sex-attracted people, and in this year’s ABC Compass program he acknowledged with warmth and admiration the depth realised in many same-sex partnerships. Brennan argues powerfully and repeatedly that same-sex relationships are often worthy and honourable, and that same-sex couples should have complete equality in civil law. Yet, his opposition to marriage equality comes down, essentially, to an unfounded requirement that our Federal marriage law must manifest a religious, traditional view. Religious traditions no longer determine our laws on termination of pregnancy, divorce, retail trading hours, to name just a few. In reflecting religious traditions, our marriage law is now a special case, and Brennan doesn’t make a convincing case why this situation should be maintained. Further, while acknowledging above that religious celebrants will not be required to solemnise a marriage in conflict with their religious beliefs, he makes no argument about why this is not good enough. Marriage in Australia is now a secular institution: 69% of weddings are performed by civil celebrants. There simply is no reason why those secular marriages should be bound by a religious definition. Brennan is clearly a fair-minded man, struggling to balance a genuine respect for human rights with a love of the Catholic church and its teachings. I think this conflict makes him a very weak opponent of equal marriage.

Jim Woulfe | 07 December 2011  

Thank God for Professor Brennan's voice of reason. At the end of the day, I suspect that he and I would finish up agreeing to differ on the substantive question, but at least the discussion would have been rational, respecting, and led to a better understanding of the other's point of view. Which is more than I could say for the comment attributed to Cardinal Pell which seems to be more about encouraging Tony Abbott to hold firm against the move within his party for a conscious vote, than it is about engaging in the debate itself.

Ginger Meggs | 07 December 2011  

We have been through it all before: White Australia, capital punishment, corporal punishment in schools, divorce - the sky was about to fall. Marriage is a civil contract and the churches should stay out of it; matrimony is a sacrament and the state should stay out of it. Let each of them make their own rules and for goodness sake, let one run the country and the other help us to live decent lives. Ten years from now, like they said about Mark Anthony, we "will live and laught at this hereafter."

Frank | 07 December 2011  

TRENT, you make it sound as if having children does not result in happiness for heterosexual couples, and that they somehow "procreate/copulate" in some mechanical way, without pleasure, just to fulfill the purpose of their marriage. You state that 'the spousal union produces families'. Yes, and some members of these families will be homosexual. Where do they fit into God's plan? Are they meant to ignore their sexuality/humanity to the point of mental breakdown and just fade away or jump off a cliff. No, enough is enough. Marriage equality is for the betterment of society. Ask any Catholic parent with a gay son or daughter and they will agree.

AURELIUS | 07 December 2011  

Long ago, when I was still suffering the education provided by the Marist Brothers, it became clear to me that Catholicism was mainly about judgment, exclusion and punishment. Frank Brennan shows that they're still at it, being careful to define those 'others' and how, because they're 'other', they can be treated differently. And we've all seen where that leads: pink triangles. I'm feeling good about gay marriage because I'm sure it will happen here in the next 10 years, that a few years after it has happened no one will understand what the fuss was about, and that it will be one more little step in us becoming a genuinely Christian society.

Russell | 07 December 2011  

In the constitution it lists marriage, however it does not state that marriage is between a man and a women. So when gay marriage is legal I can't see how the high court could stop it, I think it might be wishful thinking from frank brennan.

Jasonb84 | 07 December 2011  

Thank you for this article. Once again Fr Frank Brennan writes so clearly and strongly about a very difficult issue in society. We are lucky to have such a wonderful scholar in the Catholic Church who is openminded in so many ways. I'd love to see this article printed in many major newspapters around Australia.

Breda O'Reilly | 07 December 2011  

For the record: I have never said that opponents of gay marriage are racists. I have said that one kind of opposition to gay marriage suffers what I called a "blindness to the meaning" of gay sexuality that is in some ways like, and in some ways unlike, the 'meaning blindness' that racists suffer. The ANU lecture to which "It's happening already" refers and misunderstood is at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5gooFdkyb0&feature=youtu.be>. There is also an article in the Age <http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/to-reject-gay-marriage-is-to-be-blind-to-our-common-humanity-20111130-1o6v7.html>.

Raimond Gaita | 07 December 2011  

Indubitably Father Brennan would be "greatly assisted" In his quandary by the Vatican categorical touchstones for politicians re 'gay unions'
That CBCEW maintains "'We were very nuanced. We did not oppose gay civil partnerships" which means; they have lost moral nuance since gay union [living as husband and wife or such sexual mutants] is a grave mortal sin and itemized by Saint Paul as an obstruction to entering the Kingdom of God.

In fact, in the Letter to the Romans, with regard to the moral perversion of the pagans Paul writes: "God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error" (Rom 1:26-27).

Father John Michael George | 07 December 2011  

Further vatican guidelines that offset the ostentatious lack of moral nuance by CCBEW

Father John Michael George | 07 December 2011  

Is Frank just an intellectual version of Cardinal Pell?

John Murphy | 07 December 2011  

John Faulkner said it best "human rights are not a matter of conscience".

Marilyn Shepherd | 07 December 2011  

I am absolutely supportive of civil unions... so long as their definition is not arbitrarily related to the gender of one's chosen partner. If churches contend that "marriage" relates specifically to the religious ceremony they have performed for so long between men and women, then I do not wish to be married. As an atheist, I too should be civil-unioned. "Marriage" has no meaning at all to me if it cannot encompass the loving relationships of my gay friends. And since the state has no business in a religious ceremony, I would wish all civil marriages to be renamed civil-unions. No-one is asking churches to solemnise gay marriages, so I really don't see how the churches' opinions on this matter. Keep your ceremonies exclusive if you wish, but you should expect more and more young couples to move away from the concept.

Edwina Byrne | 07 December 2011  

Gay marriage raises issues for the Church – particularly in schools where, presumably, married gay staff will be required to teach children about traditional religious notions of marriage, and also in health care institutions, where there will be increased pressure on Catholic health providers to give gay couples access to fertility treatments. So you can certainly see why it would be an issue that the Church has a stake in. However, to appreciate the Church’s position on this issue, you need to firstly believe in God, and secondly believe that God inspires a love between a man and a woman that is fundamentally (divinely) different than love between two people of the same sex, no matter what biological attraction might exist between them. The Church’s understanding of these issues means gay marriage is an impossibility, an irrationality. Marriage, in Christian understanding, forms the basis of family and society, so any erosion of the institution has an impact on our society and culture. But the case against gay marriage is a difficult one to argue to a public that either isn’t religious, or doesn’t accept the Church’s teaching on this issue. Frank Brennan’s, and the UK Bishops’, argument might be the best one the Church has. But it’s hard to see it prevailing in the long term.

Joseph Vine | 07 December 2011  

Thank you Frank. At last someone sees the simple truth that makes much of the present discussion misleading.

Parliament does not have the power to change the meaning of marriage (or divorce), because it can only make laws with regard to marriage as that word is used in the Constitution, and Parliament can not extend the meaning of the words in the Constitution that give it power. That can be done only by a referendum or by the High Court if and when the question of the meaning comes before it in some case.

If the definition in the Marriage Act were changed, many people would form relationships and enter into arrangements about property and custody of children on the basis of its validity. What a disaster it would be for them if five years later the High Court were to hold that the change was beyond power!! That is at least as likely as its holding that it was valid. You are right to say that a challenge would be certain.
Should a government take such a risk?

This is where I think the tragedy lies in the present campaign. These people need community recognition of the significance of their unions, but not only that. They need a fair and equitable system that makes provision for what happens when some of those relationships break down, with regard especially to such matters as the welfare of children, maintenance of needy partners and disposition of property. Some States recognise civil unions, but legislation about them is not uniform throughout the Commonwealth. As Master of the Supreme Court in the ACT I had occasion to deal with just such a situation. In the absence at that time of appropriate legislation it was not possible to achieve the same sort of equitable result as would be possible in the Family Court. The common law rules of Equity were not adequate for the purpose. So, while the political world is in a tangle over semantics, no one is doing anything about the need for uniform legislation in the States and Territories to deal with real life issues.
A campaign that does not advert to the complexity and risk involved in a proposal simply to change the definition in the Marriage act is misleading and deceptive. The only sure and honest way to effect the change is by a referendum.

Alan Hogan | 07 December 2011  

"How should the conscientious Catholic member of parliament vote? If I were a member of parliament, I would support a law for the recognition of civil unions similar to the present United Kingdom law, and I would vote against any bill extending the definition of marriage to include the union of two men or two women."
"When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral"[CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

Father John Michael George | 07 December 2011  

Yes, FATHER JOHN GEORGE MICHAEL - you are right quoting Romans. "Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another."

But we are not talking about people who have given up heterosexual relationships (ie, heterosexuals having homosexual affairs and cheating on their spouses as the situation in Romans suggests), we are talking about people who are predominantly homosexual from birth, either due to nature or nuture, as recognised by the Catholic Church as deserving of pastoral care.

AURELIUS | 07 December 2011  

As I have said before, in response to your comments on Compass, Frank, my daughter, husband and I, were all raised catholic, all baptised. There are now two little additions to this family, both baptised catholics. Their mother, our gay daughter is being denied access to marriage with her partner. So these two little ones will wonder why their mummies are not married, like most of their friend’s parents. Where is the equality in this? In human terms, where is the love and compassion? This human story is our reality. Your legal and doctrinal comments miss the point.

jo dallimore | 07 December 2011  

Frank, I really appreciate your comments in relation to the belief that same sex atracted people should not be discriminated against. It is refreshing to hear the this body of evidence. I have compassion for the stance that some believe that same sex attracted people should not marry and whilst I disagree with this I am more concerned about the general view that is prevalent in churches that same sex attracted people are lesser and not acceptable in the eyes of God. As upopular as it might be with my colleagues I am willing to set aside my right to marry if we can only get to a point where we as faithful people can acknowledge that people who are same sex attracted are not evil and therefore avoid the terrible and sometimes tragic consequence of this belief. I have experienced this view from church members in mulitple experiences and reject it intirely (although it hurt very much at the time). But I can concede how important the issue of same sex marriage is to people who believe it is important on either side of the argument. Whilst I do think time will be on the side of same sex marriage I do understand that will me hurtful and hard for a number of people whom have a different belief. Perhaps the discussion in between is the place of the future?

Caz Coleman | 07 December 2011  

'..an intellectual version of Cardinal Pell...'
John, your imagination does you much credit.

I feel that a lot of opposition to gay marriage is simple visceral revulsion at the thought of men making love to men. (Less so women to women.) It's almost as if people believe they are keeping themselves (and their own marriages) clean by drawing a line between men who may penetrate other men and themselves. 'Ok, let's give them a civil union, which is spiritually below the level of my heterosexual marriage but slightly above the sanctity of the registration sticker on my car.' The details of physical actions performed are so unimportant, if they are between adults who love (or possibly only really like) each other, and they bring mutual pleasure. Not all heterosexual sexual acts are performed purely for the 'production' of children, which is a horrible way of thinking of things, as if sex is a kind of assembly line. (Back to cars again.)

Marriage is the ideal place for sexual and other personal explorations to take place. Heterosexuals are lucky in that children may more easily result from their love, but it doesn't mean that their love itself is better or purer.

Penelope | 07 December 2011  

It would seem that the term marriage can be re-defined by the Parliament of Australia. Depending on how it is defined eg "a public expression, witnessed as required by law, of a lifelong commitment by two people to share life together" (or some such formula), the matter will be resolved.
For the Churches, they will provide a different definition, and those wishing to adhere to that definition and its requirements, will make their expression of commitment according to that rubric..
In a sense, both commitments could be registered legally as "married". This would avoid the discriminatory practice of only recognizing some couples, as at present, as married. Legally, neither form of marriage would be superior, nor inferior, to the other.

The Churches and their formation agencies would do as they have always done: try to prepare people for marriage according to their beliefs and teachings.

It remains to be seen if society would be any worse off for being so inclusive, compassionate and equal, in its treatment of its citizens.

Garry | 07 December 2011  

I have had some of these same thoughts for years. However I take a different tack. I leave Religion completely out of it. The simple fact that not all are religious and religion clouds the issue and end up quoting parts of the bible and the different interpretations of it. To me, the winning argument is Civilization itself. There is ONLY one formula for it, a Man and Woman 'There is NO OTHER. Therefor, it is compelling to protect it and nourish it from all others (Gays) Pity.

daniwitz13 | 07 December 2011  

Thanks Fr Frank for being able to clearly state where the Australian Catholic Church needs to situate itself on this matter.
Your inspired and well argued reasoning is both challenging - to all Catholics as well as non-Catholics, even, non-believers, and it is also challenging to those who would think they can easily compose new legislation to ensure a "recognisable institution."
The bottom line (excuse the pun) is going to stand or fall on the 'physical' involved - and so,it would seem, the matter must rest with marriage as between a man and a woman. Civil Union legislation for same-sex couples can be enacted, so long as it is predicated, only on an agreed commitment, and not on what is impossible, physically.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 07 December 2011  

I deal with the legal and constitutional arguments in my 2007 book “Acting on Conscience” at pp. 190-214. The key High Court decisions to consider are In the Marriage of Cormick (1984) 156 CLR 170 and The Queen v L (1992) 174 CLR 379. Of course the contemporary High Court might be convinced to go the “living tree interpretation” path of the Canadian Supreme Court in Reference re Same-Sex Marriage 2004 SCC 79. But this would have major ramifications for all future interpretation of the various heads of Commonwealth power in s.51.

Frank Brennan SJ | 07 December 2011  

Cardinal Pell, is same sex marriage anymore unnatural that the practice of celibacy by some church groups, such as numeraries Opus Dei? Or the practice of wearing a cilice by the Opus Dei sect? Where in the Bible are the above practices encouraged?

Why isn’t Cardinal Pell as strong condemning the abuse of children by the Catholic Church as he is in condemning same sex marriage?

Rafael Perez | 07 December 2011  

As the comments indicate, this issue has become bitterly polemical. Cardinal Pell and Father John Michael George are among those who contend there can be no official union between persons of the same sex. Perhaps partly because of the rigidity of this position there are now many who will accept nothing less than a change in the definition of marriage to accomodate both homosexual people and heterosexual people.

The conservative Catholic view is that members of parliament should not endorse policies which are against Catholic beliefs. Surely, though, they are able to understand that Catholic members of parliament are not in parliament to represent the Catholic Church.

Gay people are not going to simply go away; they will continue to demand recognition of same-sex relationships and are likely to become more strident in the face of continued rigid opposition.

I find Frank Brennan's lucid argument insightful and hopeful and wish that there were more like-minded Catholic leaders.

Maureen Strazzari | 07 December 2011  

Frank, We who come from other than the Roman tradition of the Christian faith still need to understand why you and your coreligionists make it a matter of moral probity that marriage be defined to include as of necessity the bringing forth of children .

graham patison | 08 December 2011  

Frank, I really appreeciate your comments in relation to the belief that same sex atracted people should not be discriminated against. It is refreshing to hear this body of evidence. I have compassion for the stance that some believe that same sex attracted people should not marry and whilst I disagree with this I am more concerned about the general view that is prevalent in churches that same sex attracted people are lesser and not acceptable in the eyes of God. As upopular as it might be with my friends I am willing to set aside my right to marry if we can only get to a point where we as faithful people can acknowledge that people who are same sex attracted are not evil and therefore avoid the terrible and sometimes tragic consequence of this belief. I have experienced this view from church members in mulitple experiences and reject it entirely (although it hurt very much at the time). Whilst I do think time will be on the side of same sex marriage I do understand that it will be hurtful and hard for a number of people who have a different belief. Perhaps the discussion inbetween is the place of the future?

Caz Coleman | 08 December 2011  

Maureen Strazzari must realize parliamentarians are not there to stand for moral anarchy either.

Father John Michael George | 08 December 2011  

Well argued, Frank.
From my perspective, it affirms the very point that I have found missing from the public debate - If same sex couples have no restriction on their rights and access, by the civil formalisation of their commitment to each other, why is it so important to pursue the use of the word marriage.

I have sensed a lack of intellectual rigour from this quarter, as I have not come across any arguments, in this regard, in the public domain.

Noel Will | 08 December 2011  

Thank you to Fr. Brennan for your measured response..which is difficult for all of us thinking about this issue. A measured response is difficult because the sexual orientation of others and particularly the sexual enjoyments of others are never easy to 'hold in mind' lest we feel perverse. We are all caught up in this. People with same-sex orientation and those with different-sex orientation... and we can all hate the 'other' with equal measure, but I do not hear that cry from Fr Brennan at all.

Franc | 08 December 2011  

Just a comment on the 'side issue' of Catholic Church teachings impacting on public policy and also the issue of should a Catholic Parliamentarian vote according to Catholic teaching in this and other moral issues.

The Catholic Church has as its mission/mandate from Christ himself to convert the world to all truth - Matthew 28:19-20 (paraphrased).

This is safely and consistently interpreted as a belief that what the Church is saying on such matters is a universal truth, regardless of any religious affiliation, or none.

Marriage as between a man and a woman, for the good of society, children and all individuals is the universal truth that the Catholic Church upholds and how it teaches that truth in relation to same-sex attracted people is a matter that will also have Gospel foundations. Parliament and, hopefully, those who offer public media services, will welcome, not deride, hearing what the Church believes and teaches, from its believing and practising members.Fr Frank Brennan is correct in thinking that the Australian Constitution, which guarantees a fair hearing for all, may be, through the High Court, the best arbiter in this matter.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 08 December 2011  

Fr Mick , maybe you and Michael Voris have a lot more in common than I would ever have thought.


Bronwyn | 08 December 2011  

Father John Michael George contends that I "must realize parliamentarians are not there to stand for moral anarchy ...".

I am confused as to how George defines the term "moral anarchy", for example, does he take "moral" to mean right or does he take it to mean just; does he take anarchy to mean chaos or to mean revolution.

It seems to me that we are facing an ethical revolution; traditional ideas of what is right or wrong are being contested. It is a challenge that Catholic leaders must face and I suggest that asserting that persons in same-sex relationships are committing mortal sin is not helpful to an honest debate. From my knowledge for a sin to be mortal it hs to be grievous and requires the person or persons involved to have full consent of their will and full knowledge of their guilt. If this is correct, George is assuming gay people are knowingly and willingly doing something grievously wrong.

It seems to me that this is the 'hole in the bucket' of his argument because what is accepted as morally right and wrong is changing.

Maureen Strazzari | 08 December 2011  

There is an interesting article in The Age today by someone who is both a believer and an advocate of human rights. see
< www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/marriage-remains-sacred-even-if-gays-are-allowed-in-20111207-1oih3.html >

Ginger Meggs | 08 December 2011  

So the compelling reasons to not extend the civil right of marriage to same-sex couples in Australian law are.. what, exactly? It seems to me that maintaining a ban on same-sex marriage is a slack way for the state to go about "affirming that the bearing and nurturing of the children of the union is a constitutive good of marriage". Not only is it overtly discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from this, but same-sex couples can and do have children too; same-sex families would and should stand to benefit from the constitutive good of marriage too. Foreshadowing the threat of a High Court challenge, as if to discourage the change that would motivate it, is illogical and questionable. I can't help wondering if the author is putting hurdles before the outcome that he personally disagrees with in order to prop up his preferred alternative (civil unions) to make it seem more suitable. Civil marriage is a civil union.

Brendan of Wollongong NSW | 08 December 2011  

Ultimately it will be a matter for the High Court to determine if the Commonwealth Parliament has power to extend “marriage” to include “same sex marriage”. Advocates for the recognition of same sex marriage argue that marriage is an arrangement between an adult couple irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life. This is an extension of the traditional definition of marriage. For example the 1992 Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary defines marriage as “the legal union of a man and a woman in order to live together and often to have children”. The 2002 Webster’s defines marriage as “the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family”.

To give the constitutional example I have used previously. The Commonwealth Parliament has power “to make laws with respect to lighthouses”. The Parliament could not just pass a law defining all houses with lights as lighthouses, thereby attracting to itself the power to make laws with respect to all houses in Australia.

I have not said that the High Court would necessarily find a law with respect to same sex marriage invalid. But there would undoubtedly be a challenge and there would be a fair chance of the challenge being successful. For example one of Australia’s most eminent constitutional scholars, Geoffrey Lindell, Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Law School, published an article in the Sydney Law Review just three years ago saying:

“At the time of federation the meaning of the term ‘marriage’ most commonly acknowledged was that contained in the cases which refused to recognise foreign polygamous marriage because such unions did not satisfy the traditional meaning of marriage now explicitly embodied in the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth). Not surprisingly this will make it difficult for the Court to accept that same-sex marriage now comes within the meaning of the term ‘marriage’ in s 51(xxi) of the Commonwealth Constitution – a view that has already attracted some judicial support.

“Although difficult and probably unlikely at the moment, despite the progressive nature of the principles of constitutional interpretation mentioned above, it is however by no means impossible, given the inherent flexibility of the relevant principles of constitutional interpretation.”

Since Lindell’s article was published, Justice Kirby the chief advocate of progressive constitutional interpretation has left the Bench. The contemporary High Court might uphold a Commonwealth law with respect to same sex marriage; but then again it might not. It would undoubtedly uphold the validity of a State law with respect to civil unions. In discussions of this sort, there is no point in pretending the Constitution does not exist.

Frank Brennan SJ | 11 December 2011  

All this legalistic jargon and rationalising (theologically and legally) just obscures the issue that all members of the human race want to love and be loved, regardless of their sexuality. I am beginning to realise that this debate is doing many homossexual people psychological harm and that disassociating with church would be healthier. I have been clinging on to my faith very thinly but I know longer believe that church teachings are being used in the way they are intended.

AURELIUS | 12 December 2011  

Aurelius you protest all members of the human race want to be loved-however AURELIUS love is not ineluctably sexual in act thus homosexuals have a right to love and be loved but homosexual love must eclipse coitus or copula since homosexual love is impotent regarding procreation of life[homosexual love has all the variations of heterosexual love except sexual acts intended for generation of new life putting aside sexual reproduction Jesus was the greatest lover ever in laying down his life for salvation of others-need i mention the rich continuum of non genital love[eg between members of a family THUS to reduce love to a sexual act is the ultimate myopia] the church has the most serious obligation to support homosexuals with their heavy cross by prayer and sacrament and to publicly reject distortions of love by politicians and lawyers in institutionalising mortal sin

Father John Michael George | 12 December 2011  

It is obvious the Fr Brennan realises that marriage is the unique union of two people from the two genders existing in our nature. This marriage, unlike other loving relstionships, is meaningful not only to the couple but also to society. It is the only institution that naturally sustains and stabilises society.

Mal | 12 December 2011  

The ABC carries this report today: A bishop has intervened to overturn a Catholic primary school's decision to refuse to enrol a lesbian couple's daughter. The couple, who do not want to be identified, had tried to enrol their child at Sacred Heart Primary School at Broken Hill in far western New South Wales. They say the principal told them their relationship was the reason the application had been turned down. The acting bishop for the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese, Kevin Manning, says he is appalled by that decision. "There's no way in the world one can penalise a child for what his or her parents do," he said. "To penalise a five year old child because her parents are living in a homosexual relationship is just quite wrong and I've been in touch with both the school principal and also the parish priests." He says a place at the school for 2012 has now been extended to the girl. The school's original decision was panned by a same-sex lobby group and the Greens, who had urged the State Government to intervene. State Greens MP John Kaye said the school receives 85 per cent of its funding from the public purse.

Frank Brennan SJ | 14 December 2011  

to Father John Michael George: Since when is suppporting someone's cross the Christian thing to do? The cross of Jesus was not a good thing. He was murdered because he stood up for the poor and he stood for justice. Homosexuality is not a cross - the bigotry and homophobica of society is the cross - and the only way to help in a Christian way is it lower gay people from the cross.

AURELIUS | 15 December 2011  

Aurelius the cross of homosexuality is incapacity to have natural sexual relationships[copula] the icon of helping to carry a heavy cross is that of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross[Simon did not hope for Jesus to be crucified or hung on the cross the church is in opposition to IRRATIONAL homophobia, but against SSU and homosexual genital acts [the church supports homosexuals against temptations to sin against chastity and against unjust discrimination NB opposing SSU is not as such homophobia or injustice[in fact,the church teaches that the homosexual disposition is morally neutral as distinct from homosexual genital acts which are objectively grave mortal sin] such is a distressing burden for some;the church acts with compassion re this unavoidable cross and offers whatever pastoral/spiritual/sacramental support is possible. The church cannot take away this 'cross' by abrogating moral teaching spelt out in scripture[old and new testaments and magisterium] anymore than can the church abrogate adultery or Humanae Vitae to alleviate burdened crosses of heterosexuals[perhaps Aurelius sees this and such moral teaching as heterophobia???? and injunctions against incest as incestophobia; to label Decalogue as 10 phobias is veering towards dei-phobia=as revolting as deicide[as distinct from legitimate 'fear of the Lord'] and urging young to obey parents[4th commandment] as infantophobia?

Father John Michael George | 15 December 2011  

I agree with your statement: "I would support a law for the recognition of civil unions similar to the present United Kingdom law, and I would vote against any bill extending the definition of marriage to include the union of two men or two women." I also, for once, agree with Cardinal Pell, in so far as he states: "Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been." (I don't agree with his comment about parties not wanting to govern.) Why should same sex couples pretend to be the same as married couples when the essential difference is that they cannot produce a family of themselves but must resort to IVF or adoption?

Tony | 15 December 2011  

In stark contrast to Bishop Manning, there is Archbishop Chaput, who in March 2010, ("Catholic schools: Partners in faith with parents") eloquently defended the decision of a Catholic School in Boulder, Colorado to refuse the enrollment of the child of a same sex couple: "The policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves. Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church." "Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents. That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community."

HH | 15 December 2011  

Peters is also a recently appointed consultant to the vatican apostolic signatura

Father John Michael George | 15 December 2011  

I came to this article by way of reference in a local newspaper.

Can homosexual and heterosexual unions be merged into one unified all embracing legislation? No; what are the common impediments to both civil and religious heterosexual marriage? Australian law on consanguinity does not allows marriage between closely related family members. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals subscribe to these impediments to heterosexual marriage as sensible discrimination.

What would be the impediments to homosexual marriage? Implicit in impediment to civil and religious heterosexual marriage is a central function of procreation of children. Heterosexual sex is the engine that drives our evolution. It’s a great force of nature that perpetuates the species and allows it to adapt. This is something assisted fertilisation could never achieve, is not designed to achieve, and hopefully would never achieve (shades of back to the future with Aldous Huxley’s 1932 Brave New World.) Assisted fertilisation acts at the level of the individual.
Skathleen made the point that civil unions are not working in the UK. They have been found to entrench discrimination not address it... you simply highlight that "this is for us" and "that is for them".
I would submit that with same sex marriage you would still have the ‘’them and us.’’ The wording of each union would differ depending on the impediments of each,these would emphasise the deference.
What is so sad is that seventy years after the holocaust we are still playing by the bigots rules. The IQ of one group is higher than another; eugenics scientifically proves differences. The foundation of our immunity to the propaganda, and knowing the irrelevance of the differences,even if they existed, is belief in the inalienable dignity of each individual. That is our real armour against abuse. Saying things are the same when they are not does not help. It implies that differences are relevant and so need to be minimised.

Patrick Keefe | 15 December 2011  

the contents of email posted to CDF 15/12/2011 4:42:42 PM Most Eminent Cardinal I enclose the link to an article in which Australian Jesuit lawyer advises politicians to vote for legislation allowing same sex union[my letters are below the article opposing his stance-his advice will be heeded by catholic politicians thus the scandal during this public debate. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=29333 yours sincerely in corde jesu FatherJohn M.George

Father John Michael George | 16 December 2011  

Fr Brennan please be so kind as to advise archbishop Nichols: A]that "commitment plus equality[in 'GENITAL'] SSU do not equal marriage" [FRJG ADDS, "in fact, fact they correspond to a state of mortal sin not a morally neutral arrangement] B] A ' SSU is a proximate occasion of mortal sin for homosexual partners not a morally innocuous provision c] a SSU between Catholic partners either way constitutes a grave immoral scandal regardless of heathenistic secular custom and practice in GB

Father John M George | 16 December 2011  

To Father John M George: It seems you are obsessed with the genitality of human relationships. There is more to any marriage then what people do with their genitals and to reduce all human expression to this level is to dehumanise everyone. It the Catholic church accepts that the homosexual condition is morally neutral, then the chastity and faithfulness and respect is an equal challenge for everyone, regardless of their sexuality. God does not create flawed human beings. Sexuality is a gift for everyone, but you obviously see it as a dirty thing. The shameless unnatural acts you quote from the bible are not fruits of a loving, consensual, faithful, monogamous hetero or homosexual relationship.

AURELIUS | 16 December 2011  

Aurelius God doesn't create flawed individuals he en-souls a given embryo[already pre-packaged with genetic and DNA capacities and flaws[god doesn't directly create embryos or zygots or male and female cells even the soul directly created by god is in a nanosecond flawed not by god but by original sin due to Adam, in the prenatal stage gender alignment of the brain at least begins[ some ARE affected by pathology[eg hormonal disruption,] thus: Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb-this Aurelius is where homosexual disorder or flaw occurs due to hormonal pathology OF THE HORMONAL SURGE god doesn't directly cause or create this flaw or intrinsic disorder anymore than other pathologies[or abnormalities]

Father John Michael George | 16 December 2011  

To Father John Michael George: There are numerous scientific theories and opinions, but in the end, I can't see why it matters - the current research shows that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, reflecting the official positions of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. In fact the research you quoted refers to transexuals - not homosexuality. (althought transexualism is not a pathology either). Sexuality is a spectrum and 80% of humanity has bisexual tendencies and only the few percent at either end of the scale are exclusively gay or straight. Enlightened scientific and theological thought defines homosexuality as consistent with natural law. It may not be "normal" ie otherwise the human race would die out, but it's a natural variation.

AURELIUS | 17 December 2011  

transexualism is just one of the prenatal hormonal abnormalities of hormonal surge pathology
as for dsm[welcome to planet earth
1. a vote was taken at dsm convention on homosexual abnormality.
2. The gay claque raided the assembly nabbed the microphone and harangue the gathering with how normal they were-hardly an objective voting environment.
3. science as I have shown has adjudicated on this disorder[just one of which is transvestism versus browbeaten intimidated psychologists.

Father John Michael George | 17 December 2011  

Aurelius just for the sake of accuracy "transvestites doll up like the opposite sex and transsexuals metamorphose to the other sex" both pathologies can be originated in antepartum hormonal pathology.

Father John Michael George | 18 December 2011  

Wondering who is this recurring Fr John Michael George who reports me to the CDF, I find on a blog entitled “True Catholic” (http://members7.boardhost.com/TrueCatholic/msg/1323870113.html) his message: “I STIRR 'EM UP ON EUREKA STREET,NCR ETC”. Christmas greetings to all my readers, including the self-confessed clerical stirrers.

Frank Brennan SJ | 19 December 2011  

Be totally assured Rev Brennan SJ,I have exited 'true catholic' DB as it is some sort of anti Rome SEDEVACANTIST ETHOS. Me? well I am a simple catholic priest and erstwhile door knocking,street slogging pastor with no academic pretensions at best a GKC TYPE FATHER BROWN DETECTIVE Our paths may have crossed circa 1967: A]]me a former MSC[exited as an harassed papist to Archdiocese of Sydney] well I studied church history and linguistic analysis philosophy at Australian National University Canberra CIRCA 1967[at that time a group of Jesuit scholastics attended also-including i think Andrew Hamilton[my memory now has been battered by thalamic stroke B In 1968 due to circs some MSC SCHOLASTICS lodged briefly in the Dominican priory Watson [?]Canberra [I recall invading Jesuits lodged in floor above for a free night-coffee also C] My next encounter with Jesuits was at Ateneo De Manila Uni where my MSC superiors sent me in desperation to be updated into a lil modernist programmed to sprout all the post-gone-sillier buzz wordstoMSC frustration less hundreds of dollars tuition D][I returned more papist than ever but with latest info on modernist dogmas and strategies learnt from East Asian Pastoral Institute[then an Asian Mecca for brainwashing GLOBAL conservatives

Father John Michael George | 19 December 2011  

Very thought provoking and good article Fr Frank. Yes, it is about time the media gave some airtime to the alternative views and not depict anyone who disagrees as bigoted. Anyway I reckon, as in the UK it has been observed [SKathleen] governments can legislate all they like but people will still form their own predujices or otherwise. I can't see what gay people in Australia have got against civil unions? Children cannot be born of gay couple without the intervention of a third party, therefore part of the true meaning of marriage is also lost.[ Yes, I hear there will be argument for the case of childless couples etc] A civil union must mean a loving union & can be subject to the same legal obligations etc. as a marriage. If we don't distinguish between the two we are,I think, simply confusing children on top of other issues. Or have gay people only their own interests at heart? Maybe harsh but something to consider.

Penny | 20 December 2011  

True equality and anti-discrimination principles do not come with an opt-out clause. In the case of the ALP, "conscience vote" is just a euphemism for a craven, unconscionable opt-out clause. Surely the ALP's decision to sell uranium to India is more worthy of a conscience vote than a policy change which endorses genuine regard for human rights - marriage equality. Or does God fear homosexuality more than potential nuclear holocaust? Marriage is not a word or an institution which belongs to the Catholic church, or any other religious denomination. Australia is a secular country. A couple choosing to marry within the church may do just that, under the rules of that church. It is insulting in the extreme that any religion presumes itself entitled to belittle any one else's lawful,sacred, moral and legitimate relationship. The church demands respect - it should be prepared to return the favour.

Michelle Goldsmith | 20 December 2011  

To PENNY, who said: 'I can't see what gay people in Australia have got against civil unions.' I don't pretend to speak for all 'gay people', as I'm sure there is a plethora of thought amongst gay and heterosexual people - but as a practicing Catholic, I would not be satisfied with a civil union in the same way I would not be satisfied with a civil funeral or Baptism (whatever that would be). The right to marry should not be confused with what you seem to imply is a "right to have children". I think most gay people are quite aware that they cannot reproduce, but the ethical/moral issues on families ie. adoption, surrogacy, IVF etc are the same for everyone regardless of their sexuality. I will not judge gay couples' desire for children, but my personal opinion is that if they are in a loving relationship and adopt a child in a spirit of generosity, I cannot see how that child would be confused. The confusion comes from the harsh and false judgments made by sections of society, usually inspired by religion, that create unecessary fear.

AURELIUS | 28 December 2011  

The Marriage Act presently prohibits marriage between siblings and also marriage to one’s ancestor or descendant. Would these prohibitions be maintained for same sex marriage? Or would these prohibitions be removed for all persons wanting to marry, on the ground of non-discrimination? If the state interest in the wellbeing of children remains a relevant consideration, as I think it should, these will be difficult questions to answer.

Frank Brennan SJ | 24 February 2012  

The real issue is sexual acts, including same-sex sexual acts, that do not respect the inherent personal and relational essence of the human person, created in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male or female, are not acts of Love. Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self gratification.

Nancy | 17 February 2013  

I'm not sure Brennan is hammering on the right nail. The ease of dissolution of marriage in most every country means the state of marriage as recognised by a public authority doesn't count for much.What counts is the internalised attitude towards marriage of the parties to any marriage, and people don't always tell the truth. My mother stayed unmarried with my father for decades because she internally viewed her relationship as marriage and as a Catholic viewed it as permanent, even if he was a pain in the neck. Not 'knowing' other guys prior might also have counted. I avoid sexual relationships with women because I don't want to sleep with someone I don't want to spend the rest of my life with. But if she was right, I wouldn't hesitate to do it before marriage and I wouldn't use marriage to test the genuineness of her commitment to, I'd use other things. Not sure it would bother me in the slightest if there was a new law that said, you're a white man who's had premarital sex with women, and you're banned from marrying. The Church has totally missed the bus on marriage, silly for it to still argue.

Name | 23 July 2013  

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