November 17, 2015
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has decried as “astonishing and truly alarming” the threat of legal action being brought against a brother bishop for distributing a pamphlet to local Catholic schools that supported Catholic teaching on marriage being between a man and woman.
“Australia is party to treaties guaranteeing freedoms of religion and of speech, and regularly exhorts other nations to observe these. It is therefore astonishing and truly alarming that people might be proceeded against for stating traditional Christian beliefs on marriage,” the archbishop said last week in reaction to Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous having received notification from the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that a complaint had been filed against him.
A complaint from transgender activist Martine Delaney — a biological male who now says he is a woman — was launched after Archbishop Porteous distributed an 18-page pamphlet titled “Don’t Mess With Marriage” to local Catholic schools. The pamphlet, put out by the country’s bishops, details the Church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage. It makes the case that it is “gravely unjust” to children, adults, and society to redefine marriage to allow for homosexual partnerships to be called “marriage.”
“The Catholic Church cares deeply about marriage because it is a fundamental good in itself, a foundation of human existence and flourishing, and a blessing from God,” states the pamphlet.
In his complaint lodged September 15, Delaney said the pamphlet “offends and humiliates” same-sex partners and the children they look after by indicating that “same-sex relationships are [merely] friendships,” that “same-sex attracted people are not whole,” and that the “children of same-sex couples are not healthy or virtuous.”
Delaney is not only seeking a public apology from the country’s bishops, but he wants an LGBT awareness program introduced for all staff and students within the Catholic education system.
But Archbishop Fisher said there is nothing in the pamphlet that could be construed as disparaging of any one particular group.
“Fair-minded readers of the bishops’ statement on marriage would see it was a very carefully worded and indeed compassionate statement, not designed to provoke or hurt anyone. The concerted campaign that has followed its publication suggests that some people simply cannot tolerate Christian beliefs being held by anyone, spoken by anyone, influencing anyone,” he said.
Earlier this year Archbishop Fisher denounced efforts to “bully” Australians into accepting same-sex “marriage,” stating that “powerful forces” are “determined to silence any opposition” and “bully us all into accepting the deconstruction and redefinition of a fundamental institution.”
A report from the Sydney Archdiocese pointed out that Delaney lodged his complaint in Tasmania, and not elsewhere, because of loopholes in the states’ system.
“The reason that the complaint was lodged in Tasmania is because its anti-discrimination law is unique in that it prohibits conduct which could be reasonably be anticipated to offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule another person on the basis of, among other items, sexual orientation,” the report stated.
The Commissioner has given Archbishop Porteous and the Bishops’ Conference 21 days to respond to the accusations. The investigation is expected to take up to six months, at which point the complaint could be dismissed, referred for conciliation, or proceed to a tribunal hearing.