Two of the most prestigious Catholic schools in Australia have defied the Church on their stance on marriage equality.
Rectors of Xavier College and St Ignatius’ College wrote letters to staff and parents asking them to consult their own consciences in the upcoming vote on equal marriage.
Although neither letter formally endorsed a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming postal vote, both colleges reiterated Pope Francis’ teachings on “love and non-judgement” in the context of the divisive issue.
Father Chris Middleton of Xavier College, Melbourne and Father Ross Jones of St Ignatius’ College wrote the letters in an apparent rebuke of the Church’s stance.
The country’s Catholic Archbishops have begun circulating anti-gay marriage leaflets via churches, in line with the Church’s global stance against same-sex unions.
In 2016, Pope Francis released a report on the issue, writing that: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s stance against equal marriage in 2016 (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
In contrast to this, Father Middleton wrote: “In my experience, there is almost total unanimity amongst the young in favour of same-sex marriage, and arguments against it have almost no impact on them.”
He added: “They are driven by a strong emotional commitment to equality, and this is surely something to respect and admire.
“They are idealistic in the value they ascribe to love, the primary gospel value.”
This is contrary to the anti-gay marriage proclamations from Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, who claimed earlier this month: “Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind.
“To treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve.”
Father Jones, the rector of St Ignacious’ College, rebuked this and said that same-sex couples wished to marry: “For the same reasons as their opposite-sex counterparts.”
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Current polling indicates that two-thirds of Catholic Australians plan to vote ‘Yes’ in the upcoming postal vote despite the teaching of the church.
Father Jones continued: “Same-sex couples, who make such a commitment to each other in good conscience, do so by reflecting on experience and on what it is to be human, using their God-given reason”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, The Principal of St Ignatius’ Dr Hine supported this statement and rejected any idea that staff could be fired if they entered into same-sex marriages.
Dr Hine wrote: “Those of same-sex orientation who are part of our community are welcomed and valued as part of the greater mission of the church, and that is to bring God’s love to the world and those in need of it.”
The schools both have a long history of involvement with Australian politicians. St Ignatius’ school educated both former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Current Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is Xavier College alumni.
Tony Abbott has recently been criticised for his anti-equal marriage stance, most notably by his own sister, who is a lesbian.