Dear Brothers and Sisters
I have been away from the diocese for the month of September attending a course for new bishops in Rome. As a consequence I have missed all of the discussion around the postal survey on same sex marriage. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that as of the 29 September 57.5% of eligible voters have submitted their response. This suggests that, perhaps, most of you have already voted. Nevertheless I would like to give you some thoughts.
As citizens of Australia we should participate in the democratic process. In this instance this includes the postal survey. As your bishop I am not going to tell you how to vote, I only want you to understand the Church’s teaching on marriage so that you may make an informed decision.
The Church understands marriage as a sacrament constituted by a covenant between a baptized man and woman which establishes a lifelong partnership of love, and which is for the well-being of the spouses, and is open to the procreation and upbringing of children. The sacrament is not “given” by the priest; he is the Church’s witness. It is given by the spouses to each other.
The Prime Minister has said that the government would legislate to change the meaning of the word “marriage” in the Marriage Act, if a majority of votes in the postal survey was in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.
It seems to me that the survey is not fundamentally about “equality” but about the meaning of “marriage” in Australian law. We have our understanding which can be at odds with the position of other groups in our country. Should the survey be favourable to same-sex marriage and the government change the meaning of the word “marriage”, this will in no way change the Church’s understanding of marriage and consequently will not change Roman Catholic marriages. Since I cannot see into the future, I cannot be sure that future legislation will not threaten the Church.
The Church’s gospel duty and my obligations as your bishop remain the same; that is care and love of all members of the Church regardless of their vote in this matter, and more generally the love and care of all people.
With prayers and good wishes
+Greg Homeming ocd
Bishop of Lismore