‘We Are Salt to the Earth’: Pastoral Letter on religious freedom

By Catherine Sheehan

Archbishop Julian Porteous has written a Pastoral Letter to the faithful of Tasmania expressing concern over threats to religious freedom posed by “certain ideological positions” imposed “by means of legislation”.

He also expressed concern over “an existential threat” to Catholic schools posed by the federal government’s proposed changes to legislation.

‘We Are Salt to the Earth’, dated 2 May, outlines the Catholic vision of the human person as “created by an act of God” and “personally loved by God”.

“From the outset because we believe that God has revealed the truth about the human person, we attest to the fact that truth is objective and verifiable,” the Archbishop wrote.

“We do not accept the postmodern view that truth is subjective, that reality is a merely political construction and morality meaningless.”

The sexual complementarity of male and female was a gift from God, Archbishop Julian said, hence the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and the indissolubility of marriage.

“These well-known Catholic teachings are now the subject of rejection by many within our society, and we are experiencing efforts to curtail our freedom to live by and teach these essential truths about the nature of human life.”

The letter refers to the many ways ideology is currently being foisted on Australian society, including through the liberalisation of abortion laws, the introduction of euthanasia laws, the redefinition of marriage in 2017, and a ‘woke’ movement pushing for ‘transgender rights’ and ‘Conversion Therapy’ laws.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

“What we are now witnessing in our Australian society is the imposition of certain ideological positions on social and moral questions by means of legislation,” Archbishop Julian wrote.

“It is not impossible in the coming years that the very expression of Catholic belief on certain matters could be essentially made illegal.”

The “existential threat” to Catholic schools is from the Albanese Government’s proposed changes to Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act, the Archbishop stated, to remove exemptions allowing faith-based schools to “discriminate with regard to students and staff in order to maintain the integrity of their religious mission and purpose”.

The Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Act “does not provide any kind of similar protections”, Archbishop Julian said.

“In fact, based on briefings I have received it allows for the possibility of a priest to have a complaint made against him for simply presenting Catholic teaching while preaching at a Sunday Mass.”

“We call on the Prime Minister to develop legislation that presents religious freedom in such a manner that will ensure that we are free to be who we are as people of faith. This legislation also needs to have a ‘state override’ provision to ensure that all Australians have the same consistent legal protection for the expression of their religious belief regardless of the state in which they live.”

Catholic Education Tasmania (CET) also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on 6 May on religious freedom in schools.

“We defend our right to teach the tenets, beliefs and doctrines of our faith to those who seek a Catholic education, without encumbrance or threat of legal action,” the letter signed by Dr Gerard Gaskin, Executive Director of CET, and co-signed by principals from 24 Catholic schools, states.

“Please do not enact legislation that will force our schools to employ teachers or support staff who are opposed to our faith.

“Your proposed legislation will severely impact the Catholic school’s ability to remain Catholic. Schools would not be able to hire for mission, nor require staff to uphold Catholic belief and practice.

“Please do not enact laws that will divide us over religion.”

Read the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter ‘We Are Salt to the Earth’: https://www.calameo.com/read/002628780aa0396aa14cc

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