Rorate Caeli

Guest Op-Ed: Marriage down under

The following guest op-ed was presented to us by the author:

By an Australian priest

The sensuality in the picture was palpable. Two attractive young men, heads together in a tender moment, against a backdrop of lush farmland. “Crude beauty of a Yorkshire’s shepherd’s gay awakening,’’ the headline proclaimed.The film review of God’s Own Country praised one character’s “respect for intense vulnerability’’ and “depth of love’’. The hint of homo erotica was clear. The sex scenes, readers were promised, were “very graphic’’. Foremost of the film’s themes, readers were told “is the difficulty of living as a gay man in a culture or family where it is not readily accepted.’’ When it comes to sexuality, “culture can be flexible where dogmatic religion cannot.’’

A day earlier, amid Australia’s scorching debate on an upcoming national plebiscite on same-sex “marriage’’, the same online magazine had nailed its colours firmly to the “Yes’’ campaign with two articles. One, entitled “Inside the 'glass closet' of a gay Catholic teacher’’, was written by a religion teacher in a Catholic school. He described his “hurt’’ at needing to conceal his sexuality and his partner’s identity on Facebook, lest “the wrong student or parent catches whiff of our supposedly un-Christian behaviour’’.

On the same day, the magazine carried a related article headed “A credibly Christian church would respect gay employees’’. It was accompanied by a drawing of the rainbow flag.  “The credibility of Catholic organisations as Christian and as humane is at stake,’’ it argued. “It would be inconceivable for Catholic based organisations to dismiss people who contract gay marriages. It would both be inconsistent with their own tradition and would make it impossible for them to commend that tradition to their own members of staff.’’ Its author was Father Andrew Hamilton SJ, consulting editor of the magazine, EurekaStreet, a publication of the Australian Jesuits.

The three Eureka Street articles described above, all embracing ‘’gay’’ culture, form only a part of the Jesuits’ contribution to the same-sex marriage debate in Australia.

As in other Western nations, the same-sex marriage debate has divided Australians, their families, political parties and even churches for several years. In August 2015, after a six-hour meeting of government members of Parliament, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott committed the Liberal/National Coalition Government to a national vote – a move strongly opposed by the Labor Opposition under Bill Shorten, the Greens and the ‘’gay’’ and increasingly vocal ‘’LGBTQI’’ lobby. Proponents of same-sex marriage wanted the issue put to an immediate vote in Parliament, where the ‘’yes’’ side would almost certainly have prevailed.

While traditional and most conservative Catholics, along with pro-life Christian lobby groups, have backed the plebiscite and a ‘’no’’ vote, opinions are divided among more liberal Catholics. No Catholic order or leader, however, has come close to the Jesuits in their promotion of homosexual relationships.Emboldened, seemingly, by Pope Francis’s line: “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" and other signs from the Vatican, the Jesuits, under the guise of mercy and compassion, have moved from ambiguity and equivocation regarding the sinfulness of homosexual acts and relationships to an affirmation of their moral worth. While traditional and conservative Catholics and other Christians have suffered for defending the truth about marriage – between one man and one woman – the Jesuits are at the vanguard of a concerted campaign to change Australian marriage law – and Australian society – by legalising same-sex marriage. If censoriousness is still in fashion among the Australian Jesuits, it has only one target: those who have not yet ‘’got with the program’’ to subvert the institution of marriage.

Alone among the leaders of the nation’s elite independent schools, secular and religious, the Rectors of two of the leading Jesuit boys’ schools, Sydney’s Saint Ignatius College Riverview and Melbourne’s Xavier College have written to parents, staff and students endorsing same-sex relationships.Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on August 31: “St Ignatius' College in Sydney and Xavier College in Melbourne appealed to Pope Francis' teachings on love, mercy and non-judgment, and urged the school community to dwell on their own consciences.’’

The two Jesuit schools, as the article noted have educated generations of Australian politicians. St Ignatius' is the alma mater of former prime minister Tony Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (both staunch defenders of true marriage), while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (who strongly favours same-sex marriage) attended Xavier College. Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is also pro same-sex marriage, is a Catholic convert. Reportedly, he was instructed in the faith by Australian Jesuit Fr Michael Kelly.

The Fairfax article continued:‘’Father Chris Middleton, rector of Xavier College, called on the church to reflect on the overwhelming support for marriage equality among young people, and cited an Irish archbishop who called for the church to take "a reality check"."In my experience, there is almost total unanimity amongst the young in favour of same-sex marriage, and arguments against it have almost no impact on them," Father Middleton wrote."They are driven by a strong emotional commitment to equality, and this is surely something to respect and admire. They are idealistic in the value they ascribe to love, the primary gospel value."The rector of St Ignatius', Father Ross Jones, outlined the rights already afforded to same-sex couples in Australia, adding many now wish to marry "for the same reasons as their opposite-sex counterparts".He argued Catholic couples could "in good conscience" engage in sexual relationships for reasons other than procreation under the "order of reason" school of Natural Law, rather than a physicalist view."Presumably, same sex-couples, who make such a commitment to each other in good conscience, do so by reflecting on experience and on what it is to be human, using their God-given reason," Father Jones wrote.In his August 24 letter, Father Middleton sought to downplay the role of religion in the upcoming postal survey. While maintaining the church had a right to participate in the debate, he noted: "The vote relates to marriage as a civil right, and is not in essence about the Catholic sacramental understanding of marriage."Father Middleton also suggested the church exposed itself to charges of hypocrisy following the revelations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse."To be brutally honest, the church speaking out in controversial areas around sexuality risks being mired in vitriolic attacks on its credibility in the aftermath of the royal commission," he wrote.The Xavier College rector cited a letter by Archbishop Tim Costelloe​ of Perth, an opponent of same-sex marriage, who wrote that there should be no "unjust discrimination" against same-sex couples.But Father Middleton turned that around and told parents: "For many Catholics engaged in the debate the critical question is whether the denial of the right to civil marriage is an 'unjust discrimination'?"In St Ignatius' newsletter Viewpoint, principal Paul Hine rejected a warning from Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart - revealed by Fairfax Media last Sunday - that staff at Catholic schools and parishes who entered same-sex marriages could be sacked.Dr Hine said it was a difficult time for same-sex attracted people, who faced an "onslaught" from not only the media but also "religious institutions". "I do not know if Riverview has any LBGTQI teachers or parents in the college and if they have intentions of marriage: I won't be asking with a view to removing them from the school," he wrote."Those of same-sex orientation who are part of our community are welcomed and valued as part of the greater mission of the church, and that is to bring God's love to the world and those in need of it."A recent poll commissioned by same-sex marriage advocates found 66 per cent of Catholics said they were inclined to vote "yes" in the upcoming postal survey - the same proportion as the general population.’’Readers can judge the statements for themselves, here, here and here

Ironically, Riverview is the alma mater of Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who was the college dux in 1977. Archbishop Fisher is the staunchest defender of the truth about real marriage among Australia’s generally tongue-tied episcopate.

Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart, who has backed away from reports that claimed he said Catholic staff who engaged in same-sex marriages could be sacked, is a Xavier old boy. Sadly, he left many Catholic radio listeners dismayed when he spoke on Melbourne radio recently. His Archdiocesan media office published the transcript: When asked if he would be comfortable with nurses and doctors in a Catholic hospital who were in a gay marriage, Archbishop Hart replied, ‘I’ve got no difficulty about that.’ Schools were a similar matter. According to the Archbishop, if gay marriage were legalised and a teacher entered into a marriage with a same-sex partner, there would be no question whether their position as a teacher was at risk. ‘We’re not entering into their private lives,’ the Archbishop said, adding that his concern was whether they were willing to teach Catholic teaching in schools. ‘The church, like many other organisations, has certain expectations of staff which have to be fulfilled … we exist to teach certain things and the people in our employ need to be able to do that.’ And that would depend on ‘an assessment at a local level.’

The Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne are yet to comment on the politically correct, populist posturing of the headmasters of their alma maters. Faithful lay old boys of both colleges, however, are incandescent about the Rectors’ abandonment of Catholic teaching.

How is it possible, Australian Catholics wonder, that leading Jesuits of the Australian province could so openly and emphatically reject the Church’s clear and binding teaching on sexuality and marriage, without this coming to the attention not only of the Black Pope (Father Sosa, Superior General of the Jesuits), but also of the White Pope, Francis, himself a Jesuit?

Statements on homosexual relationships during the current Pontificate have been ambiguous. In October 2014, in response to a report released during Pope Francis’s first Synod on the family, the ‘’gay’’ lobby was thrilled by what some of its advocates described as a ‘’seismic shift’’ in the Church’s position. The statement in question said: ‘’Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners." 

In the United States, CBS news reported that the Synod statement was lauded, among others, by Jesuit author Father James Martin who said: "This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people. The Synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did." 

In April this year, Pope Francis appointed Fr Martin as a consultant to the Holy See’s Secretariat for Communications.Last week, in Politics and Society, a new book of conversations with French sociologist Dominique Wolton, Pope Francis seemingly endorsed same-sex civil unions: ‘’Let’s call unions between the same sex ‘civil unions’.” 

Previously, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio had proposed civil unions for same-sex couples as an acceptable compromise in the Argentinian same-sex marriage debate.

In Australia, the pro-LBGTQI Jesuit onslaught did not stop with Eureka Street or the heads of two of the nation’s most elite schools. On Friday September 1, prominent Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan, a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, went even further than his confreres, announcing he would be voting “yes’’ in the referendum because he believed same-sex marriage should be legalised for the “common good’’.

Perversely, he seized on one factor often cited by proponents of the “no’’ case – the issue of same-sex couples adopting children – to claim the prevalence of same-sex couples with children was a reason for supporting so-called “marriage equality’’!

Fr Brennan also showed scant regard for widely expressed concerns about the threats posed to existing civil rights, including those of religious freedom, by changes to the Marriage Act. Such concerns, according to Fr Brennan, should be dealt with by Parliament as an afterthought in the event of a “yes’’ vote. 

Archbishop Fisher is not so insouciant. In a statement published on the front page of The Australian national newspaper in mid-August, Archbishop Fisher said:“What protections will be ­offered to people who work for church-run institutions such as schools, hospitals and universities? Will teachers be free to teach church teaching on marriage or will they be forced to teach a more politically correct curriculum?“Will employers of such church agencies be free to choose staff in sympathy with their church’s teachings? Will Catholic welfare agencies be required to provide marriage preparation or marriage counselling for same-sex couples on pain of being dragged before anti-discrimin­ation tribunals?” “Many people believe that redefining marriage won’t affect them. Respectfully, I would say they need to take another look — it will affect every Australian.“In other parts of the world that have legalised same-sex marriage, those who believe in traditional marriage have been harassed or coerced into complying with the new view of marriage. It would be extremely naive to think that won’t happen here.“Things will only get worse if ­marriage is redefined without ade­quate protections being first put in place.”

Other archbishops have been less forthright. Perth’s Archbishop Tim Costelloe told the Perth Now newspaper: “I think it’s important for me to say as the archbishop I have no right to tell anyone how to vote,” he said. “Sometimes the church is characterised as wanting to force everybody into its position, I think that’s a bit unfair.” 

Adelaide’s Archbishop Philip Wilson also shied away from telling Catholics to vote “no’’: “It is imperative, and an obligation upon us from our faith and the Gospel, that we conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of reverence and respect for every person in the nation, and for the choices that they are free to make.’’ 

It may not be without significance that the crisis in Australian civil society, manifested by the same-sex marriage debate, has also unmasked the reality of two opposing and irreconcilable belief systems within the structure of the Catholic Church. Those bishops, priests and laity who affirm the Catholic Creed and moral order in their entirety are now an embattled minority, scorned and pushed to the peripheries not only of their own country but of their own Church.

A new church is in the ascendancy and the Society of Jesus is at its centre. No going out to the peripheries for these sons of Ignatius. Should they succeed in their subversion of Catholic institutions and belief, they will be pleased to receive their reward from the political elite of the new  order that is coming to birth. As lapdog chaplains to the new ruling class their role may be subservient, but ‘’the whelps also eat under the table of the crumbs of the children’’ (Mark 7:28).

In the midst of the imminent threat of shipwreck of both church and state, the Catholic faithful of Australia are entitled to expect a decisive intervention by the Pope, to whom all Jesuits have made a special vow of obedience. If Francis cannot or will not recall his own Jesuits to the faith and its demands, what is the point of his being there?

Meanwhile, with few exceptions, the Australian episcopacy either lies supine with fear or is collaborating with the enemy. In a display of equivocation and evasion that would delight his former Jesuit schoolmasters, the current president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Denis J. Hart, appears to want a foot in both camps, judging by the opaque tone of his pastoral letter on the same-sex marriage issue:‘’We understand that these are complex issues. But certainly, no legislation should be enacted without a deep public conversation in which we all engage about such issues that goes beyond slogans and soundbites. In a pluralist community, we maintain that respect for difference should be as important as a demand for equality. Things can be equal in all respects without having to be uniformly the same.’’