PAUL COLLINS. An Open Letter to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher

I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church… The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country.

Dear Anthony,

Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church. You must be aware that, as Archbishop, journalists will take what you say as authoritative and as pitching “the Catholic Church in a heated battle against Labor and key backers of the Yes campaign”, as reported in The Australian on 14/8/17. You may be involved in a “heated debate” with the Labor Party and the “yes” campaign, but most Australian Catholics are not.

Yes, I know that similar views to yours were expressed in the 2015 pastoral letter of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage. It has been widely rumoured that you were the substantial author of this document. Be that as it may, it is significant that the pastoral contains only one reference to scripture, simply referring to the two becoming “one flesh”. I would have hoped that you would have trawled through the bible to provide some basis for your views on marriage. The scriptures are normative for us as Catholics, surely?

The theological content of the Don’t Mess document is negligible and it fails to recognize that marriage historically has taken several forms within the Christian era and that the church only became involved in the marriage business in the late-eleventh century.  Prior to that it simply followed societal norms, which were largely based on inheritance of land and clan ties, and the remnants of Roman civil law.

It was not until the early twelfth century that marriage came to be recognized as a sacrament and it was not until the 24th session of the Council of Trent in 1563 that it was declared a sacrament. So, for 1500 years of church history marriage operated largely according to societal rather than theological norms.

Your fellow Dominican, Saint Thomas Aquinas, is interesting on marriage. Discussing the sacramental nature of marriage, he says that it is a sacrament “in so far as it represents the mystery of Christ’s union with the Church.” He continues that “[as to] other advantages…such as the friendship and mutual services which husband and wife render one another, its institution belongs to the civil law” (Summa Theologica, Suppl., q. 42, a. 3). This would indicate that marriages that don’t reflect the union of Christ and the church are not sacramental and therefore are solely subject to the civil law. Surely this applies to gay marriage?

In fact, the arguments put forward in Don’t Mess and in your recent media interventions, are really drawn from an early-twentieth century, bourgeois notion of marriage which found a slightly more modern, post-World War II expression, in the nuclear family. Catholic theological reflection on marriage was sparse right-up to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which at least recognized that the mutual fulfillment in the love of the spouses was one of the fundamental “ends”, or purposes of marriage.

Prior to Vatican II discussion of marriage was almost entirely confined to canon law, usually focussing on issues of consent, consummation and annulment and, in much of the Anglo-American world, on rules governing mixed marriages. The other thing we need to remember is that we both belong to a church with a totally inadequate theology of the body, the flesh and sexuality and that rather than arguing about gay marriage, we ought to be putting our energy into serious theological reflection on these issues.

Another thing while we’re on theology: a bishop’s teaching authority is not absolute, as though he were a local Delphic oracle. Especially on issues that concern it, the church, i.e. the whole community of the faithful, must be consulted before anything that bishops say is binding on anyone. This is precisely what John Henry Newman was talking about in his essay On consulting the laity in matters of doctrine. The doctrine of reception is also important here. Catholic theology clearly holds that for a teaching to be binding on the faithful, it must be received, that is that Catholics accept it as true.

I see no evidence that you have consulted widely with the Sydney church before you made your opinions known to the media. The evidence available points to the contrary. As to the Australian bishops’ pastoral Don’t Mess, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told us that bishops conferences have no teaching authority whatsoever. While I disagree with him on this, I would have thought that Australian Catholics, following Ratzinger, might justifiably take the bishops’ pastoral with a grain of salt.

The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country. You may agree with such people, but please don’t identify our church with them. Also, Sydney Anglican diocese and the Australian Christian Lobby represent a tiny proportion of Christians in Australia and their conservative evangelical emphasis has little in common with Catholicism. Your joining with them is clearly a “marriage of convenience.”

My request is that you take these issues into consideration before you go on the record again claiming that your views represent those of Australian Catholicism. They don’t. Thank you, sincerely, Paul Collins.

Historian and broadcaster Paul Collins most recent books are The Birth of the West (2013) and A Very Contrary Irishman (2014). His Absolute Power will be published early next year by Public Affairs in New York.

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31 Responses to PAUL COLLINS. An Open Letter to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher

  1. Don Humphrey says:

    Regardless of what the Church says or what learned theologians say, I believe that marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. Most societies have their own form of marriage and it is between a man and a woman because these societies realise that from marriage come children, not always, admittedly. Marriage is not just about recognising the love between two people. Many arranged marriages were not based on love but still produced children. I have no objection to people of the same sex living together or even having their union civilly recognised but don’t call it marriage.

  2. Peter Mansour-Nahra says:

    It is quite brain-bruising to read all the philosophical, pseudotheoligical and theological arguments presented in the comments. So many of the “logical” arguments are expositions based on an assumption, viz that the Bible is inspired as God’s revelation. It may well be, or not; at best, it would be a foundation for faith, not for an incontrovertible definition of “nature”. Nature is perceived as physics, which is the basis for a common perception of the world. Law is a convention imposed on nature by humans. So, for a secular society, it is clearly reasonable for the law to embrace marriage equality. The argument about “ordered to procreate” is irrelevant to the concept of marriage; procreation easily occurs without marriage. The undeniable natural fact that same-sex people are attracted to each other simply opens the way for society to recognise their union as marriage.

  3. Bill Burke says:

    Paul,
    You may have a more accurate sense of the feelings of Australian Catholics on same sex marriage than +Anthony Fisher. Certainly, if Irish Catholicism is still echoed in the Australian ethos, then, the outcome of the survey, High Court permitting, approval is a done deal.

    What is surprising are some of the claims you include in your Letter. It is possible to read the following quotes with glib literalism and attribute some truth to what you assert. But it is equally reasonable to suggest that you have chosen to ignore some inconvenient data. You say,

    ….the church only became involved in the marriage business in the late-eleventh century….

    ….So, for 1500 years of church history marriage operated largely according to societal rather than theological norms….

    It would be apt to also acquaint your readership with:

    (1) Paul’s discussion in 1Corinthians 7:12-16. This text is unambiguously discussing the marriage of Christians, explicitly between a man and a woman and affirms the early attachment to indissolubly as it introduces a permitted exception which allowed for separation and remarriage – the founding text for what became known as the Pauline Privilege.

    (2) The Shepherd of Hermas. Authored late first century or early second century, and included in several early lists of canonical writings. This text refers to Christian views on marriage and its permanence.

    (3) For better or worse, most of the Patristic writers dabble in marriage commentary. For example Chrysostom makes multiple references and demonstrates a gradually developing appreciation of the vocation of marriage.

    A few samples to show that the first millennium of Christianity had more than nothing to say about marriage.

    And, the body of those references do much to encourage Archbishop Fisher in his position and stand as challenges to those of us who would consider the possibility that these texts are as time conditioned as the nineteen and half centuries of church endorsement of the acceptability of slavery and its commerce.

    • Peter Bowron says:

      Bill, I comment only on 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.
      Paul actually specifically points out at the start of that quote that the following ideas are his, and not from Christ:
      “To the rest I say – I and not the Lord – that…….” etc. Almost like a judge recusing himself.

      I bow to your superior knowledge in the other areas. I did not take it from Paul’s article that the church had no opinion about marriage. It was rightly concerned It is merely the timing when it became common for the church to perform marriages, first regularly, and later pretty much exclusively in Christian societies. From my readings elsewhere, and the comments Paul made quoting Aquinas, and Trent, his time line gels with that of other historians.

      • Bill Burke says:

        Peter, I take your point that (1Cor 7:10) Paul takes responsibility for his comments and that qualification should influence an interpretation of the text.
        I agree with Paul C when he asserts that the Church was a late arrival in the marriage ceremony processes. But I would still suggest that he has somewhat lopsidedly portrayed the Church’s involvement with marriages prior to his nominated beginnings.
        While the mode of marrying was proscribed by local custom there is a body of evidence which shows local churches making decisions about who were free to remarry in the event of a separation from the original spouse. Hence, my noting of the emergence of what became known as the Pauline Privilege. Also, as early as the fourth century, the Eastern churches were willing to accept divorce/remarriage when a petitioner was declared to be free to remarry as their previous marriage was considered to have suffered a “moral death.” Both of these cases show a church who not merely talked about marriage but intervened and interfered with what it considered to be a valid marriage and what was not. And these judgements had a direct bearing on the standing the affected parties had within the church community.
        Ironically, the two practices were once novel introductions into the life of the Church. And they were motivated to extend understanding, tolerance and inclusion to people distressed by their marital circumstances.

  4. Peter McArdle says:

    Paul Collins is a great thinker.

    His analysis of Anthony Fisher’s comments is learned and eloquent.

    Fisher’s reply will be interesting.

    Of course, very few Australian Catholics take much heed of what the likes of Fisher say. They regard such people and their comments as, at best, quaint anachronisms, and, at worst, representatives of a Church that allowed and protected the widespread rape and sexual abuse of children.

    Paul Collins is to be commended for this article.

  5. There’s a special irony in the Catholic Church’s upholding of marriage when some of their Priests have ‘wantonly’ assaulted & ravaged children from Catholic Households in Catholic Parish Schools & some of these holier than holy generations of Clergy failed to show leadership & feigned ignorance & kept transferring these Priests to wreak havoc in other Parishes. A Pontiff who showed scant interest in these ‘Priestly depredations’ has already been canonised. Doctrine of seperation of church & state dictates that church has a right to only forbid marriage of same sex couples as a sacrament of the Eucharist.
    The Clergy as private citizens can do as they please – using the funds & ‘majesty of the church’ to further harass & drive to distraction & despair the LGBT community is a travesty of natural law & justice. Threatening To sack staff who would wed if ‘ marriage equality’ were law is a heinous response outside of the norms of human & Aussie’s sense of decency.

  6. Daniel says:

    Unfortunately Paul Collins has failed to understand the quotation that he uses concerning St Thomas Aquinas and the nature of marriage. Indeed in the quotation at question, Paul is using this argumentation to support his view. Sadly this claim is gravely mistaken. For the institution of marriage is first and foremost a necessary conclusion from the first principles of the natural law. I would refer Mr Collins to St Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae I-II Q90-95 where he discusses the nature of law, and gives the definition of law as “an ordinance of reason, for the common good given by him who has care of the community and promulgated.” The natural moral law is simply the rational creatures participation of the eternal law.
    Gay marriage fails to conform to the definition of law just given because it is not an ordinance of reason (rather it goes against reason) nor is it for the common good (a good that is not owned by anyone but shared by all – it is the unity that is within the diversity)
    The sacrament of marriage has always existed in the Church from the very beginning of the Church’s existence. It is a fundamental failure not to understand the distinction between explicit and implicit revelation. Just because the Church doesn’t make formally explicit a teaching doesn’t mean it never believed it from the beginning. Marriage as a sacrament was formed by Christ at the Wedding Feast of Cana. In his book “An introduction to the Maronite Faith”, Fr Yuhanna Azize clearly explains that “marriage as a Sacrament of the Church may be inferred from the earliest mention of it in ancient Christian literature, St Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to Polycarp wherein he says “But it is right for both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God and not after their own lust” (p.313)
    In reference back to the quotation that Paul Collins gives within his article, he forgets to mention that St Thomas Aquinas is not referring to the civil law as we see it – that is, we in modern day society tend to think that civil law can determine what the natural law has already determined and that is not the case. When St Thomas Aquinas talks about the civil law and marriage he is speaking of customs concerning marriage, not marriage as an institution. Indeed the first principles of the natural law tell us that the human race needs to reproduce in order to survive. A necessary conclusion from these first principles is that you need a man and a woman. This necessary conclusion belongs to the ius gentium, the law of nations. The Church safeguards as it were these natural institutions (another one is that of property – as that is a necessary conclusion from a first principle that the earth is made for everyone, therefore everyone needs some property).
    Indeed if I can remind Paul that the Church is there to safeguard the natural law and the institutions that the natural law has already established. The problem with the debate concerning gay marriage is that those for it want to impose their will on what already has been determined. St Thomas Aquinas was well aware of this danger and I would refer Paul and anyone else reading this, to read through carefully Q90 -Q95 in the Summa Theologiae. Once one understand these principles, can one understand and agree with Archbishop Fisher as well as the Church’s stance on opposing the idea of gay marriage.

    • Mike Gilligan says:

      Daniel seems oblivious to the array of means, unheard of at Cana, now available to a couple to procreate, and nurture children. What would be welcome is some sign that bishops are aware of how much science has told us about things natural, and furthered our understanding of humanity. Some concession even to the insights of the inquisitive monk Mendel who fathered genetics would be a start. Christ’s love is for the entirety of humanity’s genetic distribution not just some sigma selected and defended as if our comprehension of the human condition can never alter.

    • Peter Bowron says:

      Daniel say “Gay marriage fails to conform to the definition of law just given because it is not an ordinance of reason (rather it goes against reason) nor is it for the common good (a good that is not owned by anyone but shared by all – it is the unity that is within the diversity)”

      Daniel, you play with circular logic, and poorly at that. You say it goes against reason, but present no evidence, only your statement. I can as easily say that it is perfectly reasonably, and by so doing I prove it is perfectly reasonably. I say it again, it is perfectly reasonable, and because I have said it 3 times it must be true. (not quite a direct quote from “The Hunting of The Snark”).

      I always find it interesting that quotes about the marriage feast at Cana are used as an example of Christ “forming” a sacrament. Sorry, that wedding was well in progress in time, the rituals (whatever they may have been) already completed – in a current description, we’re past the wedding and at the reception. And the groom has made a slip up and miscalculated the wine tab. So Jesus, after being asked by his mother, performs his first miracle. Does he sanctify the marriage? No – the couple have sanctified their wedding already, because a wedding is between the two participants. At best, in a Christian marriage, the priest is there as a witness, no more. He does not “marry them”, they marry each other, in God’s presence. If some global conspiracy managed to kill all priests, marriage before God would possibly be the sacrament least affected. So why point to this act of Christ’s as “forming a sacrament” when a wedding was merely the scene of his first “recorded” miracle. [As an aside, so well recorded that it only appears in John]

      “Indeed the first principles of the natural law tell us that the human race needs to reproduce in order to survive. A necessary conclusion from these first principles is that you need a man and a woman. ” Daniel, Daniel, and you wish to appeal to “natural law” to help you? Come with me out of the age of Aquinas, when black death thundered through Europe, and visit for the moment the last 2 centuries. God has given us many gifts, through science, to help the sick – better hygiene, clean water, an understanding of disease. Look around you, the human race has survived so well that it is destroying entire species. Whether you believe that God created the earth in literally seven days, or that God takes a longer view and is happy to create via big bang and evolution, we are stewards of creation. If you want “natural law”, you may have come as far forward as 1859. On The Origin Of The Species. Survival of the fittest. Science. Perhaps you should do a bit more research into the natural world, because you will find plenty of “non-hetero” sex taking place, and cases where “gay” animals help in the survival of the species. Or you can reach 2017 and look beyond. I can assure you that the species has over survived, and it’s continued survival has a lot more to do with people who pretend to be Christian and have their fingers on nuclear destruction in the US, or their immoral equivalents elsewhere.
      [Another aside – to claim that the church safeguards these natural principles – is the most antihistoric comment I have seen written this century”. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Darwin were pilloried in the pulpits, even to the Vatican itself.]

      So let us make a logical argument, and the form goes like this:
      First, you need to state your axioms, things on which you base your argument, and which others (hopefully) see as reasonable. Second, you cannot use those axioms to prove their own self truth. If other disagree with your axioms, then you can go no further until you resolve those points.

      My first axiom: God is love.
      My second axiom: God created each of us equal, and equally deserving of God’s love.

      Complete the logical argument, focussed on the subject of marriage equality. And see if you can find any non-circular way of supporting Bishop Fisher. As a 62 year old Catholic, white, heterosexual male, I stand for equality. Not equality for some, because that is a nonsense.

      • Daniel says:

        Dear Peter, your logic unfortunately does not follow. You claim that my logic is a circular argument, yet fail to show how it is. There are so many assertions that you have made in your response to me that it becomes very difficult to pin down exactly where you actually stand. It is obvious that you so call believe in equality, but any word ending with ‘ity’ is an abstraction and not dealing with the concrete. All men are equal in nature but not in other endowments. I work with principles that are evident of themselves, and these principles are unchanging. Definitions of themselves cannot change. A man will always be a man, a dog will always be a dog. The fallacy many people fall into is this idea of evolution that everything is constantly evolving (change) but that there is no end or purpose. I don’t deny change, but I do deny that evolution is absolute.
        Your logic that God is love only equates as it were to the love of Eros (or exotic) love. Love is first a passion and a passion is a movement of sensitive appetite (again I am giving you definitions to work with here, for we must define our terms before we look to have any argument). But this is sensual love, not intellectual love which is the basis for the theological concept of love. My pet dog loves me, but it is an irrational love, not a love based on reason.

        True love that is based on reason wants total self giving to the other. The sexual act between a male and a female does this, not just physically but also spiritually for when the two become one it is ordered to produce a third. Notice the term ‘ordered’ which is a mark of an intellect. The homosexual act itself is intrinsically disordered – that is not the same as speaking of the persons themselves, we are dealing with the object of the act, not the subject who does the act. In other words I am not talking about the person who commits the act, I am talking about the act itself, objectively considered. This distinction of the person and the act is a distinct seldom understood in today’s society.

        Your comment furthermore that “at best, in a Christian marriage the priest is there as a witness no more”. This actually is not true for the Eastern Catholic Churches it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament of marriage.

        I find it fascinating that you are looking to dismiss my arguments based on ‘circular’ logic, claim to state that I don’t show that ‘gay marriage’ is irrational – in which it is precisely because it goes against what the natural law has already determined.

        Your comment that I have to leave the time of Aquinas and come into 2017 struck a chord with me. It is as if you claim that truth is constantly changing. What Aquinas wrote in his time is applicable then as it is now. Truth is eternal, natures of themselves are eternal. Definitions are simply telling you what the nature of a thing is. Definitions cannot change because truth cannot change. You can argue against these definitions but then my only defense is to show that what you state leads to a contradiction. I am reminded while typing this of that very important principle “whatever is received is received according to the manner of the recipient”

        • Mike Gilligan says:

          Oh well, now we know what it takes to come to the conclusion of the good bishop.

        • Peter Bowron says:

          I will go a little further with this.
          You say:”I work with principles that are evident of themselves, and these principles are unchanging. “, yet you do not state what principle you find evident in itself, unless you are talking about homosexuality as part of (or in the case you choose to argue, not part of) natural law, something which I pointed out.
          You say “truth cannot change”, which I will consider as a theoretically correct philosophical staatement, but what is the “truth” that you speak of, and why should what you happen to believe to be true have any relationship to reality.

          This is not argument: “I say it is true, and truth cannot change, so what I say is true” – this is dogma.

          If you wish to claim the source of truth as the Bible, please do so – we know where you stand. But prepare to argue about interpretation of God’s words in the Bible, because the Bible has been filtered through people. Or if you choose to quote Aquinas, that’s fine too, but he to was just another man, seeing god through what he had absorbed from his parents, teachers and church.

        • Peter Bowron says:

          By the way, please do not have the rudeness to take my statement that “God is love” is my first axiom, and try and turn it into a statement about what you call Eros. Also your comment about procreation (“for when the two become one it is ordered to produce a third.”) is insulting to all those who marry and do not have children. My wife has had a hysterectomy. She is physically incapable of bearing a child. I number amongst my friends a couple who married after their first spouses died. Well beyond the age where they could conceive. They and we cannot be “ordered” to produce a third. It is clear nonsense. Sexual love, non-sexual love, love of parents for their children and so on, are artificial divisions used by some Greek philosophers such as Plato, predating Christianity by 350-400 years and setting up a body=bad/spirit=good dichotomy that pits one against the other, rather than seeing that if we are indeed made in God’s image, it is in both body and spirit.

        • Mike Gilligan says:

          And poor old Aquinas. For one who put such store by reason through knowledge of the natural world (eg science) it does him down to imagine that his writings now with another seven hundreds of years of progress would be the same.

          As an ageing, catholic, hetero father, of science background, it is incomprehensible that Aquinas would vote other than the affirmative for marital equality whatever a bishop might direct on the strength of an interpretation of his thinking in the fourteenth century.

          Others have tried to imagine Aquinas in today’s pool of scientific knowledge: ” Most of all, though, Aquinas would have been entranced by the idea of genes.”
          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/may/15/religion-evolution-purpose-intelligence

    • Meg Sbrocchi says:

      Amen!

  7. Papuq says:

    Interesting, but I do wish people would not refer to “gay marriage”. I do not see myself as gay, but I wish to marry my partner who is transgender, and identifies as (and looks like) a woman. Same-sex marriage if you must, but my preference is marriage equality.

  8. Peter Johnstone says:

    Paul, you highlight a key issue that Church leaders need to consider very carefully, namely equating their personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church, and pursuing those views politically with the full use of their Church-based influence. Opposition to civil marriage equality is not driven by any Christian teaching. I’m amazed that Church leaders don’t focus on the most fundamental of Church teaching, “you should love one another” (John 13:34b, et al); there’s no exclusion of people of a different sexuality who are owed our love as much as anybody. People of different sexuality (God-given!) are constantly discriminated against in many ways by the rest of society. The Church should butt out of a debate about civil marriage equality which will remove a significant area of discrimination.

  9. Patrick says:

    There is nohing in the Bible (Old or New Testaments) which justify marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. Indeed as I recall Adam and Eve were not married. Nor any of their sons (I am not aware of any daughters). Perhaps this opens up another question as to how the human race continued to procreate!

  10. Graeme Wanstall says:

    Well done Paul.
    Particular points that are made from one Bruce Wearne.
    The words “normative scriptures” is stated without Bruce explaining what the words mean and what these so called normative scriptures are.
    Christian or Christians without mentioning who these so called Christians are.
    Why should we discuss ad infinitum with the ACL et al when they are not a real christian organisation.
    Why should the Catholic Church et al be involved with the ACL whose dogma is one of problematical theological rubbish.
    Is Lyle Shelton himself a bishop, a senior pastor or a theology expert of merit?

  11. Tony Smith says:

    Great article, Paul! Thank you.
    I think you have touched on a profound problem in the church by drawing attention to the hierarchy’s reluctance to speak theology to the laity. Over half a century I can recall perhaps half a dozen sermons where priests have shared theological insights – on the Trinity and Corpus Christi for example – and they were then ‘young’ men. Those sermons were quite inspiring but so obviously isolated. This begs the question of exactly what the laity have been fed and the unfortunate answer is ‘clericalism’ which involves conservatism on forms of worship, obedience to authority and fear. This is a daunting obstacle for reformers to overcome.

  12. Jane Anderson says:

    Paul, thank you for continuing to bring Catholicism into the 21st century. When I read the comment made by Bruce Wearne’s I groaned. Liberal Catholics have tried to talk to conservative Catholics for decades but all they have received are answers that do not take into account history, science, culture, and life experience. Now many have moved out of the fossilized institutional Church and onward, recognising that love and its implications for contemporary religion and society cannot be confined to the narrow prescriptions of yesteryear.
    It is refreshing to hear Christians of the Catholic tradition vocalising their support for same-sex marriage. For far too long our voices have been ignored or subdued. May many more openly challenge the stale arguments of their conservative counterparts both within the church and in the public square. May many more openly support same-sex marriage, knowing that this about encouraging human flourishing, which, essentially, is the religious journey.

  13. Terry Laidler says:

    Paul: your tour through the historical development of the current unscientific and impoverished Catholic “party line” on marriage is necessarily brief. But it’s a splendid beginning. Add to it an evidence based and nuanced understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality (e.g.: http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943 ), and dogma might actually start to develop. Overlay the perspective of the politics of the rise, fall and now dying throes of clericalism and we’ll be off and running … great stuff!

  14. Anne Cahill Lambert says:

    Great work, Paul Collins. The stance by some in our church is divisive and based on shallow understanding rather than rigorous research and analysis. I was reading earlier in the day that Fr Frank Brennan will be voting yes. Sure, there are things that need to be resolved, but that’s no reason to balk at moving forward. Here’s a link to Fr Brennan’s essay: https://www.facebook.com/Fr-Frank-Brennan-952305268236552/

  15. Jim KABLE says:

    Well this response from Paul Collins to Andrew Fisher pretty well cuts off the legs of Fisher’s pretend encyclical and arguments on marriage! Where is the argument against those who abuse children – might I ask? Oh, right – Denis HART has that one covered -no honesty and protection to those children (see Mary-Rose McCOLL’s piece to-day in The Guardian) via the Hart “doctrine” of confessional box “sanctity”! The hypocrisy and the we-know-best hubris of Fisher and Hart is simply jaw-dropping after all that we have heard from the Royal Commission – now morphing into their narrow views on matters some of us they suggest could not possibly understand. Send them to their monastic cells and lock the doors, some might suggest! Thoughtful prayer and lots of Hail Marys might help!

  16. roma guerin says:

    Thank you Paul Collins for speaking so eloquently on behalf of the unconsulted Catholic brethren.

  17. Bruce Wearne says:

    There is too much ambiguity, Paul, in your second last paragraph, particularly in your attempt to add to the merits of your case by a carefully crafted innuendo. What begins as your interesting “open letter” to a senior office bearer in your own communion ends with an expansion of bitterness that does no Christian credit to your earlier appeal. Problem is you are now using your disagreement with an Archbishop of your communion to give yourself room to publicly dismiss, if not slur, fellow Christians with whom you disagree and of whose views you have not given any attention here except to dismiss them unilaterally. The argument, “But you are not speaking for all Christians” has become a repeated mantra of wind-vane Christian leadership on this matter and is a cop-out from entering into difficult discussion. Why not engage those you now seem to align so very closely with “some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country”, instead of implying they as “separated brethren” can be dealt with in such peremptory fashion? The Christians you refer to do refer to the “normative scriptures” and despite your disappointment with the Archbishop we do not read your appeal to the scriptures. How then should we read your appeal in that second last paragraph?

    • John Altmann says:

      Thank you Bruce
      Much as one might agree with the early sections of Paul Collins letter the last part of it is particularly unattractive and prejudiced in its own particular way

  18. John Edwards says:

    I look forward to Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s response to Paul Collins’ well-researched and incisive comments. At the very least to see a clear demarcation between personal comment, political comment and theological exposition regarding marriage underpinned by a strong biblical theology. And for the record, as a member of the Sydney Archdiocese I was not consulted by Archbishop Fisher prior to any of his announcements on marriage, let alone marriage equality.

  19. Mike Gilligan says:

    Icons this piece fabulous, and particularly the call
    For theological thinking on the body, sexuality etc.
    Another indication of the hollowness behind
    many “church” positions. I recall being dumbfounded
    by a report that Pope Francis on being asked why
    women aren’t embraced wholly by the church replying
    that this would require first that a theology of the
    woman be constructed. The implications of that
    mindset explain so much about the decay of the Catholic
    institution.

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