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Church says gay staff must uphold Catholic values, even if same-sex marriage is legalised.

The Australian Catholic church has not ruled out firing those it employs if they marry their same-sex partner if gay marriage is legalised in the coming months.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax at the weekend, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said if teachers or other employees strayed from the church’s core beliefs, it would be treated “very seriously”.

“I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,” he said. “Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.

“Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage. People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined.”

Fairfax reports more than 180,000 Australians work for the Catholic church in some way, shape or form, according to a 2015 paper by the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations.

The archbishop’s comments come in the same week he said he would risk going to jail rather than report child sex abuse allegations raised during confession. A report from the child sex abuse royal commission has called for it to be illegal to not report child sex abuse information that arises through religious confessions.

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“I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” Hart told ABC radio 774 in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“We are admitting a communication with God is of a higher order,” he said. “It is a sacred trust. It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand but we believe it is most, most sacred and it’s very much part of us.”

Australians have four days to make sure they will be able to vote in the postal plebiscite, with the cut-off for registering on the electoral roll on Thursday, August 24.

Although the vote is not compulsory and not binding, the ABS will be supplied with details from the Australian Electoral Commission about enrolments and addresses prior to sending out ballot forms.

Voters will have until November 7 to complete the vote and send them back, with the result expected to be announced on November 15.

According to the AEC, as of March 2017, 14 per cent of Australians aged below 25 are missing from the electoral roll, with about 800,000 people missing overall.

Listen: This is what Malcolm Turnbull should have said instead.

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