Australian Archbishop Walks Back Church Worker Remarks

It seems the center of Catholic LGBT news right now is Australia, where a non-binding plebiscite over marriage equality has ignited an intense debate in which Catholics are heavily involved.


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart had threatened to fire church workers who entered same-gender civil marriages, should marriage equality be legalized in the future. Now, a fellow archbishop has clarified the archbishop’s comments.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, claimed Archbishop Hart’s comments had been misreported. Costelloe said individual bishops would decide how to handle such cases should marriage equality become legal. He continued, according to The Christian Post:

“Normally such issues would be addressed, in the first instance, in discussions between the staff member concerned and the local leadership of the school. The aim would be to discover a way forward for the school and the staff member that preserves the Catholic ethos of the school.”

Other Catholic leaders have weighed in on the issues surrounding Australian marriage equality.

The St. Vincent Health Association responded to Archbishop Hart’s comments with its own statement. The Association, sponsored by Sisters of Charity of Australia, appealed to those people it served through its healthcare ministries:

“We want to acknowledge this may be a difficult time for many of our staff, their families and friends. We want to be absolutely clear: all our LGBTQI employees have the full support of St Vincent’s Health Australia. We value you. We recognise you and are grateful for your contribution and care. This will never change.

“St Vincent’s has a long tradition of embracing diversity in our workforce. We will continue to support all our staff in whatever marriage choices they make in the future. All of our staff, whatever their life experiences and backgrounds, have a significant part to play in helping us serve the people who come to us for care. Our staff from the LGBTQI community are no exception.”

Elsewhere, the Edmund Rice Centre published a guide to aid Catholics in their participation in the plebiscite. The Centre is a ministry of the Christian Brothers, who also sponsor many schools in Australia. The guide  begins:

“The survey [a.k.a. plebiscite] asks only one question: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ It is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender identity, ‘Safe Schools’ or political correctness.

“For the Edmund Rice Centre, an organisation inspired by Catholic Social Teaching and the Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice, the issue of marriage equality is about human rights and anti-discrimination. Rights for all people, including those who identify as LGBTQI, are guaranteed in various United Nations human rights conventions.”

The guide continued by debunking myths about marriage equality, and concluded succinctly:

“Marriage equality is not a threat to freedom of religion or freedom of speech. It is simply a question of whether same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights as opposite sex couples. Love is love. It is as simple as that.”

Finally, historian and writer Paul Collins authored an open letter to Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher who has opposed marriage equality. Collins, who serves on the advisory board for Australian Catholics for Equality, wrote:

“Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church.”

Collins proceeded to detail how church teaching on marriage has developed over time. He said the archbishop’s thoughts on marriage “are really drawn from an early-twentieth century, bourgeois notion of marriage which found a slightly more modern, post-World War II expression, in the nuclear family.” Collins concluded the letter:

“The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country. You may agree with such people, but please don’t identify our church with them. . .My request is that you take these issues into consideration before you go on the record again claiming that your views represent those of Australian Catholicism. They don’t.”

To reading Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of how Catholics have been involved in ongoing Australia’s marriage equality debate, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2017

7 replies
  1. Frank
    Frank says:

    Excellent article. We need to hear more good news stories like this and how there are people and organisations within the church who support marriage equality.

  2. Thomas Smith
    Thomas Smith says:

    Seem the Australian archbishop has taken the same stance as our Cardinal here in Newark: person-centered leadership, instead of institution-centered, Joseph Tobin called for a review of LGBT church firing policies “on a case by case” basis. At least a step in the right direction.

  3. Prof. Aaron Milavec
    Prof. Aaron Milavec says:

    Homophobia is a social disease that has been widely eradicated during the last sixty years.

    In contrast to the Australian hierarchy, the U.S. Catholic bishops have declared that the U.S. Supreme Court did not change their minds and that God’s law trumps human law. Thus a vocal minority of bishops are carefully orchestrating a campaign to shame and dishonor those Catholics who support or who enter into homosexual unions. Teachers are fired in my archdiocese for supporting youths who come out as gay or lesbians. Lesbian couples in my parish who are active contributors to lay ministry live in fear that their pastor will find out and their ministries and/or their right to take communion would be withdrawn. A gay Catholic suffering a heart attack was denied the last rites by a self-righteous hospital chaplain because he `refused to repent of his lifelong homosexuality.’ THIS TRAMPLES THE RIGHTS OF CATHOLICS! THIS IS SHAMELESS BULLYING! THIS HAS GOT TO BE STOPPED!

    Now we have the opportunity to end this “public bullying” once and for all — from the ground up. For my part, I have prepared the attached eBook, WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY TO A HOMOSEXUAL COUPLE (, as a manual for prayerful reflection and for public action. My hope is to galvanize a movement designed to empower lay persons everywhere to protect LGBT Catholics in their midst (especially vulnerable young people) against the homophobic measures promoted by the hierarchy and their Fundamentalist allies.

    As part of this program, I make clear why Cardinal Ratzinger’s doctrine of homosexuality is seriously flawed. It should be commended to no one, and pastors who recommend it are setting up their LGBT parishioners for an unnatural celibate life which is filled with needless self-hatred, loneliness, shame, and false guilt. In a word, Ratzinger’s doctrine is a crime against the Beneficent Creator who knew precisely what s/he was doing when s/he assigned each person their particular sexual orientation.

    Ret. Prof. Aaron Milavec


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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