Australian bishop in hot water after distributing pamphlet on same-sex marriage

by Kelly Ledbetter, |
"Don't Mess with Marriage," Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference

HOBART, Tasmania (Christian Examiner) – After a pamphlet about the Catholic views on the same-sex marriage debate was distributed throughout Tasmania, Julian Porteous, the archbishop of Hobart, has been accused of discrimination and causing offense.

Porteous sent home the pamphlet in a sealed envelope to parents of children enrolled in Catholic schools, the Daily Signal reports, adding that the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has been called to answer a charge from Tasmania's anti-discrimination commissioner or face huge fines. The proceedings may land the Bishops' Conference in front of the Tasmanian supreme court.

Marriage is the covenant of a man and a woman to live as husband and wife, exclusively and for life, and open to the procreation of children.

"The word 'marriage' isn't simply a label that can be attached and transferred to different types of relationships as the fashion of the day dictates," concludes the 15-page pamphlet, Don't Mess with Marriage. "It has an intrinsic or natural meaning prior to anything we may invent or the state may legislate. It reflects God's plan for humanity, our personal growth and that of our children and society."

"In distributing the Pastoral Letter, 'Don't Mess With Marriage', my aim was to assist the Catholic community in understanding the teaching of the Catholic Church, at a time when debate on this matter was widespread within the community," Archbishop Porteous said in a media release from the Catholic Church in Australia.

Martine Delany, a transgendered candidate for the Australian Greens political party, who registered the complaint with the anti-discrimination commissioner, claims the pamphlet allegedly implies same-sex attracted people are not "whole" humans and that gay marriage amounted to "messing with kids," the Daily Signal reports.

Delany appears to take these quotes out of context in what the Daily Signal calls "clutching at straws."


"The intention was to inform the debate as leader of the Catholic Church in Tasmania, to ensure the Catholic community understood where we stand on the issue of marriage. It was not my intention to offend, rather, it was and is, to express the teaching of the Catholic Church," said Archbishop Porteous, who said he will work with the Anti-Discrimination Commission on a resolution.

The pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians is respectful of individuals and same-sex relationships. "To say that other friendships are not marriages is not to demean those other friendships or the individuals concerned," the text reads, "but merely to recognise that... marriage is the covenant of a man and a woman to live as husband and wife, exclusively and for life, and open to the procreation of children."

Delany, a male-to-female transgendered person, said the Catholic pamphlet paid only "lip service" to the rights of homosexuals and harmed "the wellbeing of same-sex couples and their families across Tasmania," reported.

With headings about respecting others, marriage equality and discrimination, the importance of marriage and family, and the consequences of redefining marriage, the pamphlet ends with a call to action: "As Christians we must be willing to present the truth about marriage, family and sexuality and to do so charitably and lovingly."

The same-sex marriage vote will likely be put to Australian voters in 2017.