Australia: Incoming Catholic Archbishop calls for halt to equal marriage legislation

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The incoming Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn has said that he wants a moratorium called to stop the passage of any new laws on same-sex marriage in Australia.

Christopher Prowse, currently Bishop of the Sale diocese in Victoria, will take up the role of Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn in late November. The Age reports that Browse thinks that equal marriage should be subject to wider debate and not rushed through.

Bishop Prowse said: “This debate is happening at a time when married life – heterosexual married life – and family life are at a very fragile moment.

”I think we’ve got to look at this particular rising topic in a calm way which is not being pressurised for time or rushed into legislation before a good, philosophical and reasoned debate can be had. I have a feeling myself that Australian society needs a lot more time to consider implications of legislation in this regard.

The Bishop’s comments follow the introduction of a bill to the Legislative Assembly to legalise same-sex marriage.

Though he said he had not seen the proposed bill, Bishop Prowse commented: “I would be calling for more of a moratorium to suspend pending legislation so that we, over the next period of time, can discuss this in a more reasoned way, where both subjective and objective arguments can be put forward and discussed in an atmosphere of calm and reason, particularly holding forward the importance of traditional marriage and its role in society.”

Bishop Prowse continued to say that he believed “traditional,” heterosexual marriage needed protection, and that statistics showing high levels of support for same-sex marriage legislation in Canberra would not change his stance.

“I’m a person who is open to listening to people but I’ve also got plenty of opinions of my own and I think the Catholic Church’s opinion on such matters – we represent a reflection on humanity going over 2000 years … I think that gives us a certain confidence to have our opinions heard and, in a reasoned way, debate with people,” he said.

“The Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter is that homosexual acts are never approved of, but persons who are of homosexual orientation, that a great deal of compassion and understanding should be shown to them.”

The Australian Christian Lobby said at the weekend the ACT’s proposed legislation on same-sex marriage was inappropriate and should be overridden by the federal government should it pass in the territory. The group would not commit to a High Court challenge however.

Upon the announcement of the bill earlier this week, Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said: “With this legislation, we will state loud and clear that all people have equal rights in our society and are treated equally by our laws.

She added that marriage equality was a reform that a “growing proportion of Australians want made.”

Two weeks ago, Australians voted to reject former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – a supporter of equal marriage – in favour of his Liberal opponent, Tony Abbott.