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Same-sex ‘Marriage’ Debate Heats Up in Australia

Sydney’s Bishops Publish Pastoral Letter; Orthodox and Anglicans Join Effort

SYDNEY, Australia, JUNE 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The same-sex marriage debate has moved to the forefront in Australia with the announcement of the findings of a Senate committee and a pastoral letter read by Sydney’s parish priests on Sunday.

The letter, called “Marriage: One Man and One Woman in a Covenant of Love and Life,” was also available in print at all the parishes, along with an accompanying bookmark with a series of frequently asked questions and answers.

“Many people, with the current debate, are confused about marriage,” said Bishop Julian Porteous, one of Sydney’s auxiliary bishops

“Marriage is more than having one’s love for another legally recognized,” he said.

“It has been protected and supported by the law because governments have recognized its contribution to the good of society. The family based on strong, happy marriages plays a unique role in generating children and providing the best environment in which children can be nurtured and educated. It helps to ensure the future and wellbeing of society,” he added.

Responding to the accusation that not recognizing same-sex marriages is discriminatory, the letter explained, “Marriage is more than having one’s love for another legally recognized.”

“The relationship between a man and a woman cannot be the same as between two men or two women,” the letter continued.

“Only the love of a man and a woman in marriage makes one flesh, and it is the intimacy of a man and woman that creates new life,” the letter explained.

Different

“Marriage is so different that it is actually unjust to treat it as the same as any other sexual relationship,” the letter affirmed.

“Men and women who are homosexual and those in same-sex relationships must be treated with compassion, respect and sensitivity,” the letter urged. “However, it does not respect or serve anyone to deny them the right to the truth about what marriage is and about what the Church teaches on sexuality and marriage.”

On learning of Sydney’s Catholic bishops’ plan to release and have the letter read, the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Peter F. Jensen, decided to write a letter to members of his church declaring his opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

Referring to moves to change marriage laws, he wrote to Sydney’s Anglicans saying: “I am writing to you to urge you to oppose this move as out of keeping both with the word of God and also of the best interests of our community.”

“As never before, marriage needs to be understood and honored so that it can achieve the human good for which God has designed it,” he declared.

“This is not a matter of ‘marriage equality’ nor of human rights, since the right to be married extends equally, but only to those who are qualified,” he explained.

Joining in the defense of marriage, the Greek Orthodox Church published an encyclical on the matter.

It explained that their opposition to changes to the definition of marriage is not the result of hostile feelings, “but because the proposed alteration to the traditional form of marriage (between a man and a woman) is diametrically against the sacredness of marriage and of the family, as taught by the Christian faith and Greek Orthodox Tradition.”

Parliamentary reports

The subject of same-sex “marriage” is set to occupy the news in coming months, with debate in the federal Parliament continuing.

On Monday the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs of the House of Representatives published its report on two proposals before the Parliament to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

The purpose of the report was to examine the two marriage bills and make suggestions on what to do with them.

The report did not make specific recommendations, saying that it was for Parliament to decide what to do. In foreword, however, the chair of the committee, Graham Perrett, did come out in favor of legalizing same-sex “marriage.” 

“It is unjust that two people who love each other are unable to marry each other because of their sexual orientation,” he said.

A separate report by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee is due to be released June 25.

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On the Net:

Full text of Catholic letter: http://www.sydneycatholic.org/pdf/4251b.pdf

FAQ: http://www.sydneycatholic.org/pdf/4251a.pdf

Text of Archbishop Jensen’s letter: http://sydneyanglicans.net/mediareleases/archbishops-letter-to-churches

Greek Orthodox encyclical: http://www.greekorthodox.org.au/downloads/files/events/english/Archbishop_Encyclical_June_2012.pdf

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