Distribution of Pastoral Letter at Australian Catholic Schools Enrages Parents

For those who may not be aware, near the middle of June 2015, a noteworthy event had occurred in “the Land Down Under,” or more simply put, Australia. On 11 June 2015, a Pastoral Letter was distributed (in the form of a pamphlet) across the entire Australian Catholic School System by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).

Entitled, Don’t Mess with Marriage, the Catholic Bishops of Australia argued that proponents of same-sex marriage are missing “the real meaning and purpose of marriage,” going as far as to “assume that equal dignity and the principle of nondiscrimination demand the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages.” While it is true the Australian Bishops steadfastly believed that the importance of a “marriage-based family is a ‘basic’ cell of society,” they also raised the point that the family’s purpose “goes far beyond reproduction.” In essence, the Bishops makes note of the fact that both “a mother and a father each contributes in a distinct way to the upbringing of a child,” as well as the fact that “respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father.” (Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life) However, no matter how good-natured the intentions the Australian Bishops had, when they decided to distribute this Pastoral Letter to all Australian Catholic schools, this deed has not gone without controversy. For one Australian mother, upon hearing that her daughter was given this Pastoral Letter at the Catholic school the child attends, she is “furious” of the distribution of such documents. In an interview by news.com.au as part of a written news article, she expressed how much she is “just shocked” by how “this sort of discrimination would be promoted” by Australia’s Catholic Bishops. She also made the claim that “if it’s Catholic teachings and what’s in the Bible that the school is meant to be complying with, it’s contradictory.” (News Corp Australia) Even for parents Down Under, ensuring a Catholic education for their children is not a cheap endeavor. Such a statement is very true indeed, especially for those parents who have ever tried to send their children to a Catholic school, regardless of time or place. But still, all parents (Catholic or otherwise) must bear in mind that whatever goes on within any Catholic school is undeniably under the auspices of a reigning Diocesan Bishop, Archbishop, or Cardinal. Regarding schools, Sections 1-3 of Canon Law No. 803 dictates the following:

§1. A Catholic school is understood as one which a competent ecclesiastical authority or a public ecclesiastical juridic person directs or which ecclesiastical authority recognizes as such through a written document. §2. The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life. §3. Even if it is in fact Catholic, no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.

Since the burden of responsible falls on “competent ecclesiastical authority” (oftentimes a Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal), such clergymen are the ones within any Diocese or Archdiocese who have the right to direct the day-to-day operations within any Catholic schools. Obviously, this also includes upholding the Catholic identity of the schools, even if that means the authorization of a nationwide literature distribution for the purpose of raising awareness about the sanctity of marriage.

-J. Enriquez

Works Cited

Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life. Don’t Mess With Marriage. N.p.: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 2015. Print. “Parents Furious and Anti-gay Marriage Booklets Distributed in Catholic Schools.” News.Com.Au. News Corp Australia, 11 June 2015. Web. 30 June 2015. “Schools.” Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

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