Church leaders rediscover their voice in defending traditions
However offensive, efforts to subjugate the opinions of tradition-minded Christians during Australia’s same-sex marriage debate will be a blessing in disguise if they encourage more bishops and church leaders to rediscover their right to free speech, especially on issues pertinent to Christian tradition. The issue has caught readers’ attention. “Where is a modern day Constantine?’’ one letter writer asked, referring to the Roman Emperor who outlawed religious persecution in the 4th century.
For too long, most Catholic and Anglican bishops and other Christian leaders in Australia have been practising “elected silence’’ in the public square. Some have ventured forth to rubber stamp politically correct polemics on climate change or refugee policy; many have also frustrated their flocks by adopting the “I will follow my people’’ passive leadership style.
Despite large church bureaucracies and well-resourced media departments in most dioceses, funded by those who pray and pay, few Christian leaders take the initiative on controversial issues relevant to their church priorities. The silence of Christian (and other) church leaders over the insidious gender “fluidity’’ programs being inflicted on schoolchildren and exposed week after week by The Australian has been deafening.
Few, if any, church leaders in Victoria, for example, have condemned the targeting of “sexist’’ preschoolers under the guise of “preventing family violence’’. Many families would prefer to see four year-olds being sent out to play and taught to enjoy reading rather than being guilt-tripped and confused with ideologically driven gender programs. Leaders who take a consistent stand on that argument will win respect.
When they do speak up, Christian leaders normally do well. Brisbane’s Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge was a standout this year when he took on Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and others over the bill introduced by independent Rob Pyne, a former Labor MP, to liberalise the state’s abortion laws. His measured, sensible intervention, alongside a groundswell of grassroots opinion, contributed to the legislation being dropped.
Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher is one of the very few who has taken on the euthanasia controversy. In other states, priests who have received little encouragement from their bishops are working quietly with the Australian Christian Lobby in anticipation of a push across several jurisdictions to follow Holland and Belgium down that problematic path.
It’s been a long time since a range of church leaders and groups has spoken up as unambiguously in defence of Christian doctrine as participants in the same-sex marriage debate are doing. Perhaps that explains why a small minority of same-sex marriage activists have overreacted, vilifying the ACL and the Lachlan Macquarie Institute to the point where those bodies sought and were granted permission to keep the names of their board members secret, on the grounds of “public safety’’. Last year Hobart’s Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous was reported to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission over the church’s moderate, respectful statement, Don’t Mess with Marriage.
On that score, Christian leaders could light another bonfire hit if they challenged a few cringe-worthy reality TV shows. As a Lenten penance they could watch Married at First Sight or Seven Year Switch.
Occasionally, confusing signals have come from parts of the Anglican Communion and the Vatican on same-sex unions. Last week Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his “husband’’, architect Gauthier Destenay, received a warm welcome at the Vatican.
While most bishops are still silent, the attacks on the ACL prompted strong defences from two of Australia’s most senior archbishops, Anthony Fisher, and his Anglican counterpart in Sydney, Glenn Davies. On this page on Friday, Davies wrote what many churchgoers know — the only upside of abuse being hurled at Christians is that “people are beginning to wake up and take notice’’. As Fisher says, “it has long been part of our culture that Australians of all faiths or none contribute to open discussion, without intimidation, coercion or bullying”.
At a time when extremist Islamists are attempting to shake the foundations of Western societies, the archbishop’s defence of the Christian underpinnings of democracy — to a business lunch on Friday — was pertinent. Contemporary democracy, he said, had been influenced by the scriptures and Christian tradition — “beliefs about the dignity of the human person, the rule of law, human rights, separation of church and state, respect for the individual and conscience, and government for the common good’’.
That is not well understood, especially by young people, whose knowledge of history is scant. Christian leaders need to make those points clearly and consistently as a backdrop to the war on terror and extremism.
As Fisher said, since the Enlightenment, some have sought post-Christian foundations for democracy. But the jury is still out on whether agnostic liberalism will ever be enough to ground the democratic experiment. The evidence of recent times suggests he is right when he says “it would be naive to think a ‘live and let live’ attitude will be sufficient for dealing with the problems of a diverse community such as Australia’s in the future’’. The strengthening of democracy and our social fabric is the best reason for Christians to join in the national conversation.
Every child comes from and needs BOTH a mother and a father. Same-sex "marriage" intentionally keeps either a mother or a father from the child. Government should protect the child through upholding traditional marriage.
There is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak”. (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Now is the time to speak, so please speak up and defend children, truth and freedom. Craig Manners
“What the world needs most is a voice that courageously speaks the truth, not when the world is right, but a voice that speaks the truth when the world is wrong.” Fulton Sheen