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Fr Joe Parkinson clarifies his media comment

Fr Joe Parkinson has written to CathNews and The West Australian critical of the reporting of his comments published on Monday.

Following is the text of Fr Parkinson's email to us and our reply:

Dear Editor, CathNews

Having spent some time in journalism myself, I know that newspapers sometimes get it wrong. It is doubly distressing, however, when a blatant misrepresentation is broadcast nationally on a Catholic site.

I refer to your piece 'Catholic ethicist argues against pre-nuptial property agreements', published in 'The West Australian' newspaper on 5 January and repeated by you on the same day.

I include here the text of a letter to the Editor of 'The West Australian', sent yesterday:

Dear Editor,

My views have been misrepresented in Wendy Pryer's article 'More fingers crossed as we tie the knot' (West, 5 Jan 2004), and I wish to set the record straight.

It is not my view that 'people who signed prenuptial agreements should not be allowed to marry in the Church'.

While I am not aware of any official Catholic position on prenuptial agreements, the Church clearly teaches that all marriages are to be considered valid until the contrary is proven.

This leads me to conclude that the mere existence of a prenuptial agreement would not necessarily prevent a couple from marrying in the Church.

As the article says, however, an unconditional commitment is at the very heart of the Church's understanding of marriage. It is my personal view that some couples who enter prenuptial agreements may thereby be indicating that they are not committing themselves unconditionally to a lifetime of marriage, and that this limitation may invalidate their consent.

A couple's commitment to permanence is discussed during the 'prenuptial inquiry' phase of preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church.

I will be grateful if you would correct this misrepresentation.

I am disappointed that CathNews has chosen to focus attention on this second-hand story without checking its veracity. I hope that you will immediately publish a correction, and hopefully avoid causing unnecessary diatress to your readers.


Rev Dr Joseph Parkinson Director L J Goody Bioethics Centre 39 Jugan Street Glendalough 6016 Western Australia

Our response:

Fr Joe,

Thank you for sending us the letter you had forwarded to The West. I will include it in the news tonight. Our news service is edited through the night and it is obviously difficult to contact people during the hours in which we are working. The service is principally aimed at providing leaders and people interested in Catholic matters an overview of what is making news during the last 24 hours rather than being a mouthpiece for the Church or any particular agency.

I must confess though that I probably would not have even bothered to check your comment at other times. I accept that newspapers, particularly tabloid newspapers often try to condense complex arguments for popular consumption and get it wrong. When I read your comments in the paper I presumed your actual position was far more nuanced than what came across in the paper. I, and others, have been discussing this on the CathNews Discussion Board that runs behind the news. My own suspicion is that your comment to the newspaper probably did more good than harm and this opportunity it has opened up for a correction has been overwhelmingly positive. I am glad you took the trouble to contact The West and get some more mileage on the subject.

Kind regards,

Brian Coyne (Relief Editor)

SOURCE: Fr Joe Parkinson
LJ Goody Bioethics Centre website


7 Jan 2004