A brochure called Pope Francis, Marriage and the Plebiscite has been produced and distributed to all dioceses by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
It provides an overview of Pope Francis’ teaching on marriage, drawing on quotes in Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love) such as “every child has a right to receive love from a mother and a father” and “as Christians we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable”.
The bishops say Pope Francis views marriage as a “unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for people, families and societies”.
He sees that “as a social institution, marriage protects and shapes a shared commitment to a deeper growth in love and commitment to one another, for the good of society as a whole. That is why marriage is more than a fleeting fashion; it is of enduring importance”. (Amoris Laetitia)
Pope Francis has highlighted that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided”.
However, he has also stated “as Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable”.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ of Port Pirie Diocese reiterated in his pastoral letter on September 14 that “if one takes out the ‘man’ and ‘woman’ it is not a marriage, even by analogy, as Pope Francis says”.
Bishop O’Kelly said a Christian sacramental marriage naturally includes but goes well beyond being simply a union of hearts: “We believe marriage between a man and a woman, open to life, is ordained by God and has been since the dawn of time”.
“Same-sex marriage has been an agenda item in only very recent times; traditional marriage is thousands of years old, present in all societies and cultures. Are we at peace with the new social forces bringing about this desire to change?” he writes.
“Will we be free to teach and practise what we believe about marriage and sexuality?
“For profound consideration, is the situation of a deliberately chosen circumstance (not one occasioned by separation or death) of a fatherless or motherless family the best for the rearing of children?”
Bishop O’Kelly stopped short of telling people how to vote, saying the method of Christ was to “propose, not impose” and that “when we vote, whichever way, it will be a thought-out decision made with integrity and good conscience and charity”.
In other developments, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and the executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White co-authored a letter to all school parents and carers reiterating the Church’s teaching on marriage.
“We already know how hard it is to sustain marriages and marriage-based families in a culture that is so often unsupportive, let alone in one that is even more confused about what marriage is,” they wrote.
“Overseas experience suggests that once marriage is redefined in this way, it compromises many of our freedoms, especially our freedoms of speech, religious and association.”
They warned that no protections to religious freedoms had been proposed so far by those promoting the Yes vote.
“We are being asked to vote blind, without seeing what changes will be made to the law and what rights, if any, will be guaranteed.”
The letter concludes: “We will be voting NO and encourage you to do the same. God give us all compassion, wisdom and courage.”
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