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Reject the false dichotomy in marriage debate, Archbishop tells Catholics

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Archbishop Fisher preaches in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, in this 2015 file photograph. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has issued a clarion call in the final days of the marriage plebiscite, saying that Catholics should continue to reject the false dichotomy between loving same-sex attracted people and loving true marriage.

Reiterating his concern about discrimination in the wake of same-sex marriage, the Archbishop said in his Sunday homily that it would not be unreasonable for people to withhold support for any change to marriage laws until freedom of religion protections were in place.

He also warned government “to keep out of the bedroom” when it came to regulating relationships that were not marital, such as same-sex friendships.

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“Sadly our marriage ‘debate’ has rarely touched on what marriage is, what it’s for,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“We’ve had slogans like ‘love is love’ but not every kind of love is marriage. Nor, if we are honest, is every marriage especially loving, at least all of the time.”

Marriage is a natural and unique institution, the Archbishop said, because of its constituent parts – male and female – and the unique nature of what it might produce, namely children.

“There is only one human capacity each of us only has half of: the capacity to reproduce.

“Only by joining with a person of the opposite sex can we procreate. And if the children that commonly result from people doing what husbands and wives do are to have both mother and father, devoted to each other and to them over the long haul, we need an institution like marriage.

“Marriage is that comprehensive union of minds and bodies, lives and resources, that creates the identity of spouse and mission of parent that supports the family that naturally results.”

The Archbishop said that the debate also revealed how alien once commonplace Christian understandings of the world were becoming, and how a society that thought of itself as tolerant was becoming increasing hostile to Christianity and Christians.

“This poses the question of how to present the Gospel in a culture that increasingly regards Christian views on many things – especially on sexuality, marriage and reverence for life – as arcane, even harmful?

“In a culture which for all its putative open-mindedness is less and less tolerant of Christianity, how will we ensure in the years ahead that people in parishes, schools and other institutions are free to speak and practice their beliefs?

“How will we maintain a sense of who we are and what matters most to us when some others barely tolerate us or even vilify and bully us?”

Revealing his favourite film of 2017 to be Hacksaw Ridge, Archbishop Fisher drew an analogy between the heroism of the film’s pacifist hero, Desmond Doss – who “had the back” of his comrades on the battlefield, in spite of refusing to kill – and a Christian response to current trends.

“Desmond Doss had to make some hard choices, between worldly regard and godliness, between sticking to his principles and selling out to go with the flow.

“He found a way to be true to his beliefs without being bigoted or bitter; indeed, being true to his ideals drove him to heroic compassion towards others and self-sacrifice on their behalf.

“However the marriage debate pans out, I pray people will be able to say of us that we maintained clarity about real marriage while demonstrating charity towards all. God bless our country and its voters with such clarity and charity.”

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