Over the past few days, hundreds of Sydney parents were delivered a letter from their children’s Catholic school. A letter that encourages them to ‘vote No’ in the current marriage equality postal survey, and to reflect upon the “likely significant consequences of redefining marriage”.
The statement, authored by Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher and co-signed by Dr Dan White, the Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, was aimed at parents and carers and distributed to all 152 schools in the Diocese’s jurisdiction.
In addressing the “significant consequences” of marriage equality, the letter spouts vague threats about how the way we traditionally understand “husband, wife and children” will be “undermined”, about how “freedom of speech, religion and association” will be compromised, about how ideas of “family, human sexuality and personal identity” will be forced on teachers and families, about how faith-based schools “have the most to lose”.
It concludes, “This vote and any subsequent law will affect us all. We will be voting NO and encourage you to do the same. God give us all compassion, wisdom and courage.”
A couple from Sydney’s inner-west who received the letter said they have been left frustrated by their school’s attempt to influence a private decision.
“I understand that there are those who will have the same beliefs that the school does on this, but they still have no place to push that onto other families,” the mother (who asked to remain unnamed) told Mamamia.
“This [debate] has nothing to do with religion,” the father added. “That’s the most annoying thing about this. They’re sitting there trying to push their propaganda on us, saying ‘You ought to do what we want you to.’ Well, no, we don’t. This is a civil issue, it’s got nothing to do with the church.”
A spokesperson for Sydney Catholic Schools said Dr White sent a message to school principals within the Sydney diocese, requesting that they include the statement in their parental communication in order to present “the Catholic perspective on the issue”.
“Being a Catholic school, people know we’re there to teach Catholic teachings – most parents who enrol their children accept that. So Dr White felt it was important to show what the Church’s teaching was on [same sex marriage],” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson noted that the decision to distribute the letter was at the behest of the individual principal, however added, “When Dr White requests schools do include something in their parental communication or newsletters, they usually all do so.”
Clint McGilvray of Australian Marriage Equality told Mamamia that, despite the sentiment of some elements of the Church, two thirds of Australian Catholics intend to vote yes in the survey. Of which he is one.
"We know that the majority of Catholics back marriage equality because of their faith, not in spite of it. Fairness and equality underpin the faith of Catholics right across this nation," McGilvray said.
"Civil marriage equality is about allowing every Australian to be included, to be equal, and to have the same dignity, respect and aspirations in life."
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