Australia Waits for Word on Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Vote

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by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 13, 2017   

Protestants seem to be fighting gay marriage more vigorously than Catholics

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CANBERRA, Australia (ChurchMilitant.com) - Australians are holding their breath ahead of Wednesday's unveiling of the results of the national referendum on same-sex "marriage."

Marriage Act to cover same-sex couples. Though the results are not legally binding, if the pro-legalization "Yes" camp garners enough votes, the government is expected to bring a motion before Parliament to alter the Marriage Act by replacing the phrase "man and woman" with "any two persons." Parliament would then vote on the motion.

Polls are suggesting a "Yes" win, indicating roughly 60 percent of Australians have opted for legalization.

The months-long ballot, which closed November 7, was marked by contentious, fractious debate, with some of the most confusing debate coming from the country's Catholics.  

While some Catholic leaders have voiced opposition to legalization, others have failed to defend Church teaching, with bishop opposing bishop and priest opposing priest across the country.

Faithful Catholics in Australia have been scandalized by the public embrace of same-sex "marriage" by their priests and prelates. A prime example came on October 23, on ABC's "Q&A" program.

In a live nationwide broadcast featuring a panel of pro and con same-sex "marriage" campaigners, the two in favor of legalization were Catholic, the two opposed Protestant. Among the two Catholics, one was living openly as a lesbian; the other was a Jesuit priest.

Father Frank Brennan of Australia Catholic University, described by the program host as a "Catholic intellectual," focused first on the state of discourse in the country, lamenting that Australians weren't nicer to one another.

"[T]here seems to be much more personal stuff at play in this and I even had the experience today, the staff in my office getting lots of phone calls abusing them even, which I think is very sad," he offered.

"Because you're voting yes?" the other self-described Catholic same-sex "marriage" supporter asked him.

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Fr. Frank Brennan

"Because I'm a Catholic priest and voting yes," Brennan answered.

Later in the debate, a member of the audience quizzed the Jesuit clergyman about Church teaching. "You have been reported as saying contemporary Catholics will no longer be bound by dogma they perceive to be outdated," she observed.

"Is this dogma? The Word of the Living God which states that 'a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one'?" she asked. "This has been the framework and basis for marriage for a very long time and I want to understand how contemporary Catholics can view this verse in any other way. If it is dogma, is it really outdated?"

Brennan responded by suggesting that "we're not really so much talking about religious dogma." 

Continuing, he appealed to authority to justify his position:

[T]he vice president of our bishops conference — insofar as hierarchy counts for anything — Archbishop Coleridge ... recently said yes, Catholics can vote "yes" and they can vote "no." And the question is: What are your reasons? So, my reasons [are] ... I'm a human rights lawyer; yes, I'm a Catholic priest. I believe ... in the dogma of the sacramentality of marriage. And yes, I believe that [a homosexual] cannot have a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church. But equally, I as a human rights lawyer believe that she can have a civil marriage in Australia. And I actually think God would be happy with that.

When asked if he thought the Scripture quote is outdated, Brennan countered, "No, I don’t think it's outmoded. I think it's still an integral statement in terms of those of us who are Christian and how we want to profess our lives according to the Scriptures."

"But am I in a position or do I want to or do I even think that Jesus or God would want to impose that on those who are not Christian?" he asked. "No I don't."

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Stephen Wynne

Stephen Wynne is a staff writer for Church Militant.