Church of hate (7/8/2003)

Church of hate (7/8/2003)

A statement from the Vatican calling for politicians to oppose laws recognising gay and lesbian relationships has outraged gay activists and local politicians.

The papal statement entitled Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons was released last Thursday, and stated that homosexuality was disordered and depraved and called on civil authorities to oppose the legislation of evil. Further, the statement read: allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such [homosexual] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children -¦

The statement was met with derision by activists and politicians. Rainbow Sash spokesperson Michael Kelly told the Star the release was destructive and hateful and an absolutely appalling piece of work on just about every level. Local MP and Catholic Clover Moore echoed his views, rejecting the paper’s views on a personal and political level. Moore told Sydney Star Observer the papal statement was narrow, reactionary -¦ and ridiculous.

My general feeling, as I think it is for many Catholics, is that it’s irrelevant, Moore said, but also noted her concerns about the papal statement placing duress on members of parliament. Democrats senator Brian Greig also rejected the pope’s appalling interference -¦ into domestic politics.

Gay activist Rodney Croome warned the statement had already spawned negative political results.

It was only two days after this was issued that [federal Liberal parliamentarian] Kevin Andrews announced the federal government’s inquiry into marriage, Croome told the Star. Within two days, we’ve got a federal inquiry launched by a staunch conservative Catholic into -“ in his words -“ the decline of marriage.

Prime minister John Howard spoke out against gay marriage this week following the release of the papal statement. Echoing the views of the pope and recent statements by US president George Bush, Howard said a rejection of gay marriage was about the survival of the species.

That’s almost directly what the Vatican is saying with this document -¦ Kelly said. We’ve been trying to tell the gay community for years that the Catholic Church matters, that its impact on civil society and to politicians who are not even Catholic is potentially enormous -¦ Here you have someone like John Howard -“ who is not even a Catholic -“ almost quoting the Vatican to prop up a stance that he’s already taken privately.

The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group has already announced its intention to challenge the distribution of the statement as a breach of the state’s anti-vilification laws.

Such hateful violent statements from figures of authority lead to queerbashing -¦ Croome said. There are fewer authorities more global than the pope. For young men who have the propensity for violence against LGBT people, this will just be a green light.

Unlike Tasmanian law, NSW anti-vilification laws contain grounds for exemption if statements are made in good faith for -¦ religious instruction.

Croome told the Star he felt the papal statement’s language constituted vilification that went beyond such instruction.

To say that gay parenting is a form of violence against children in my view isn’t in line with Catholic teaching, Croome said.

Moore, who introduced the NSW Anti-Vilification legislation, said the papal statement would probably not legally constitute vilification. We have the [religious defence], which I worked against unsuccessfully, Moore said. I think that would make it more difficult and unlikely to succeed.

Challenging the papal statement on legal grounds in NSW might be problematic, but Kelly told the Star the gay community at large ought to be outraged and they ought to be protesting.

People should be protesting outside St Mary’s, they should be flooding the papal nuncio’s residence in Canberra with letters and rejections of this document, he said. Kelly is also in discussion with global gay rights groups about staging an international day of protest.

Kelly added, however, the response from the Australian Catholic Church constituted a thundering silence, citing two media debates in which the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference did not offer a representative.

I think the Australian bishops are extremely embarrassed about it -¦ and they don’t want to be seen to be defending a document that they themselves find almost indefensible, Kelly said. However, they also can’t be seen to be publicly disagreeing with the Vatican.

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