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Archbishop Porteous faces strife over new pastoral letter

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Archbishop Porteous. Photo: Supplied.

LGBT advocate group Equality Tasmania is seeking a “right of reply” to the state’s Catholic schools in response to an open letter from Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous on human dignity and legislative challenges to religious and parental freedoms.

The four-page pastoral letter titled “We are Salt to the Earth” dated 2 May was published on the archdiocesan website and sent to the archdiocese’s parishes and schools.

It reiterates the church’s teaching on biological sex difference and complementarity, and the exclusivity and indissolubility of marriage in response to the recent Vatican document on human dignity, Dignitas Infinita.

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It also outlines Archbishop Porteous’ concerns regarding the encroachment on Catholic social and moral teachings by abortion and euthanasia laws, as well as draft conversion therapy laws in the state and proposed changes to Federal anti-discrimination laws which many faith-based school leaders say will severely limit the ability of schools to operate according to their ethos.

“It makes no sense for a person to seek to work for or enrol in a Catholic school if they disagree with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” he wrote.

“If they initially can accept the Catholicity of the school but later find that their personal views are at variance with those of the Catholic faith, then it will only make sense they should seek an alternative educational institution more aligned with their views.”

In the letter, the archbishop called for a “state override” provision in legislation to ensure that “all Australians have the same consistent legal protection for the expression of their religious belief regardless of the state in which they live.”

Equality Tasmania took exception to the Archbishop’s opposition to the proposed anti-discrimination reforms and conversion practices ban and his reference to a “radicalised transgender lobby” attacking the “biological reality of being male and female.”

In a 13 May statement President Rowan Richardson said he will write to all Catholic schools asking for a right of reply to the letter and is calling on “parents and taxpayers” to express their views to Catholic Education Australia.

The letter “stigmatised LGBTIQA+ people as a threat to religious values, and thereby created unsafe learning and working environments” as well as being “deliberately misleading about proposed law reforms” Richardson said.

Earlier, Equality Tasmania spokesman Rodney Croome accused Archbishop Porteous of politicising Catholic schools and “spreading misinformation.”

“He is abusing his authority by effectively turning thousands of school students into couriers for his political views,” Mr Croome said.

This is the second time Archbishop Porteous has been the subject of an anti-discrimination complaint.

In 2015 he was brought before Tasmania’s anti-discrimination commissioner for an archdiocesan booklet titled “Don’t Mess with Marriage”, which was distributed to its Catholic schools in the lead-up to the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

At the time the archbishop said his intention was to inform the national debate as a leader of the Catholic Church in Tasmania by expressing the church’s teaching on marriage.

The complaint by a transgender activist was withdrawn in 2016, an outcome the archbishop said was disappointing as it remained uncertain whether further expressions of the church’s teaching would prompt similar anti-discrimination claims.

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