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Australian politicians resisting Vatican pressure on gay marriage legislation


Prominent Catholic MPs, including Labor's Laurie Brereton and Liberal Christopher Pyne, have responded to the church's cry to repeal any gay marriage laws by suggesting the Vatican stay out of government matters.

"MPs should decide issues strictly on their merits. The separation of church from state is fundamental to our system," Mr Brereton said.

Mr Pyne said: "I have a firm belief in the separation of church and state ... so, while the Catholic Church is entitled to its opinion, it's no more than an opinion and I don't feel bound by any direction from anyone."

The Australian says that other politicians it contacted by took cover. Communications Minister Richard Alston refused to comment, as did Ageing Minister Kevin Andrews and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott.

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Prowse said the Catholic Church sympathised with politicians struggling to reconcile the demands of church and party. He said in cases of conflict, politicians should simply do their best.

Australian Democrats' spokesman for sexuality issues, Brian Greig, said the Pope's call was "an appalling interference by the church into domestic politics" and "an abuse of power".

In NSW, the State Health Minister, Morris Iemma, and his ALP colleague, Eddie Obeid, along with National Party member Adrian Piccoli, all signified their opposition to gay marriage but said their opinions were based on their personal beliefs and not influenced by the Pope's statement.

Liberals Barry O'Farrell and Charlie Lynn, along with the Uniting Party's Peter Wong, all signalled that their first priority was to serve their constituencies and represent their electorate, regardless of their Catholic faith.

Independent Clover Moore and Reform the Legal System Party's Peter Breen, both active Catholics, along with self-confessed lapsed Catholic Carmel Tebbutt, were all fiercely opposed to the Pope's statement.

Ms Moore described it as narrow, reactionary and out of touch. "My position reflects Christ's teaching . . . fair, just, inclusive and practical," she said. "My conscience is clear."

Mr Breen has already sent a letter to the Pope, taking him to task for concentrating on the human sexual act instead of human relationships. "Hopefully I will be guided by an informed Christian conscience in my deliberations," he said.

The Vatican last week issued a worldwide directive aimed at stopping homosexual unions gaining the same legal status as heterosexual marriage. Homosexual marriage is legal in two countries, Belgium and The Netherlands, and in two provinces of Canada.

While the document does not differ from the church's doctrine of homosexuality as "a troubled moral and social phenomenon", it does instruct Catholics, especially politicians, on what to do to stop the increasing validity of same-sex unions.

In Canada, where the stakes are higher because of recent legislation in some provinces allowing gay marriage, Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry has warned that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is risking his eternal salvation by proposing legislation in favour of homosexual marriage.

But General-Secretary of the Canadian Bishops Conference Monsignor Peter Schonenbach distanced the other bishops from Henry's statement.

SOURCE
The Mercury/The Age/Sydney Morning Herald

LINKS
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Considerations regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (English official text)
Gay Catholics are torn (New York Daily News)
[Australian] Catholics not out to offend gays (AAP)
Lawmakers see shades of gray (Boston Globe)
Why Has The Holy See Written a Document Against Homosexual Unions? (Zenit)
[Irish Senator David] Norris criticises Catholic Church comments (Ireland Online)
Kerry raps Pope: Senator fuming over gay marriage order (Boston Herald)
General Secretary of Canadian Bishops Conference Minimizes New Vatican Doc (lifesite.ca)
Ontario Bishop Confronts Prime-Minister-in-Waiting (lifesite.ca)
Toronto Cardinal Ambrozic Urges Priests to Preach Against "Same-Sex Marriage" (lifesite.ca)
Catholic Canadian MP Praises Vatican's New Document on Homosexual Unions National Post Coverage of Kenney's Comments Distorted His Message (lifesite.ca)
Reactions to the Vatican Document on Homosexual Unions by Canadian Politicians (lifesite.ca)
Jesuit magazine says Catholics should pray for those who govern them (Catholic News Service)
Bishop Fred Henry: Marriage = man and woman (Western Catholic Reporter)
Bishop says Canadian PM's salvation at risk over gay marriage support (Catholic World News)
Charlotte Hays: Why We Can't Redefine Marriage (Beliefnet)
Andrew Sullivan: The Vatican vs. Same-Sex Marriage (Beliefnet)
A midpoint on the way to a solution (National Catholic Reporter)
[Tasmanian] Gay wrath at Pope's edict (The Mercury)
Bishop draws fire for targeting Chrétien (Toronto Globe and Mail)
Muriel Porter: Catholicism's latest awful hypocrisy (The Age)
Top bishop challenges Martin on same-sex (Toronto Globe and Mail)
[NZ] Gay MPs attack Vatican over same sex marriage
The Guardian: Turning the clock back
Vatican's old men just got more out of touch (New York Daily News)
Vatican tells lawmakers to oppose 'immoral' same-sex unions (1/8/03)

4 Aug 2003