CAIRNS, Australia (ChurchMilitant.com) - Australian Catholics are outraged that an influential conference for Catholic school leaders is featuring speakers supportive of same-sex "marriage."
A group of faithful Catholics are planning a protest to warn Catholic school leaders attending the Catholic Secondary Principals Australia (CaSPA) conference in July that two of the speakers are openly against Church teachings. Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit and president of Catholic Social Services Australia, and Kristina Keneally, former premier of New South Wales and self-described Catholic, both have come out publicly in support of legalizing same-sex marriage.
Although Fr. Brennan's work with indigenous peoples has been widely hailed and has led to him being called a "living national treasure," during the mail-in vote for same-sex so-called marriage he wrote an opinion piece that Australians should vote to legalize same-sex marriage "for the common good."
"I'll be pleased when marriage equality is recognized by Australian law," Fr. Brennan wrote.
He was concerned that Fr. Brennan's opinion will influence some of the estimated 300 Catholic school leaders and then "that influence will extend down to every child in Australian Catholic schools."
Conor Sweeney, a permanent fellow at John Paul II Institute in Australia, countered Fr. Brennan's support of same-sex marriage as a civil union because "Civil marriages between a man and woman are recognized by the Church as real unions, even in their so-called 'secular' (that is, non-religious) character."
"A Catholic cannot, therefore, support re-defining civil marriage to include same-sex couples," he said.
Keneally, also a keynote speaker for the CaSPA conference, has publicly dissented from Church teachings in even more problematic ways. In reference to her long-time support of homosexual unions, she admits, "Taking a contrary view to Church teaching is not a position I come to lightly."
Keneally explained in an interview how she became a Catholic feminist at eight years old when she was given an "unsatisfactory" answer on why girls could not be altar servers from Toledo Bp. John Donovan.
"He mumbled something about Church tradition and the importance of serving at Mass as a first step towards priesthood – where, again, one obviously had to be male," she recalls, thinking to herself, "Unsatisfactory."
Since that time, she has studied feminist theology and has advocated for women's ordinations. Explaining how she has come to her position contrary to the tradition of the Church, she said, "This is how I came to the views I have espoused in the Parliament and in public debate — by thoroughly forming my conscience."
She wrote an opinion piece in response to Pope Francis' comment that Catholics don't have to "breed like rabbits" in 2015 where she said, "Here was yet another example of the all-male Catholic hierarchy completely failing to understand what it is like to be a woman or to live in a family or to exercise control over fertility."
She continued, "The Catholic church so overtly and fully excludes women from certain jobs and seeks to deny them certain rights ... this is precisely why the Catholic Church needs feminists."
"Agitators for change are part of the Catholic Church's rich history. Catholic feminists follow in that tradition," Keneally said.
O'Brien has reached out to Bp. Foley for help with the CaSPA conference but requests for meetings have not been answered. O'Brien explained that there have been two ordinations in the diocese since the early 1990s, and said, "Currently, we have no young men in the seminary."
A survey of Mass attendance from 2013 published by Catholics for Renewal shows that although the number of Catholics in Australia has increased from nearly 1.6 million to 5.4 million from 1947–2011, the percentage of Catholics that regularly attend Mass plummeted from 63 percent to 10.6 percent in that same time period.
This article was updated to add the second petition.