✣ Australia votes for same-sex marriage
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has said he is “deeply disappointed” after Australia voted for same-sex marriage. In a postal vote, the Yes side won by a margin of 62 to 38 per cent, gaining 7,817,247 votes against the No campaign’s 4,873,987. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he hopes to pass a new law by Christmas to open marriage to same-sex couples. Political debate will now turn to the question of religious freedom and civil liberties.
What the media are saying
“I’ve fallen in love with my country all over again,” said David Marr in the Guardian. The result, which showed Australia as a “wonderfully muddled, lively society”, had proved “reactionaries” wrong: “All they ever bang on about is sex. Their grim message is always the same: change the sex rules and the roof falls in. The roof is up there still, secure as ever, yet that’s all they’re preaching now.”
In Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Miranda Devine said that, as a No voter, she accepted the result. But “now social conservatives find themselves disenfranchised and unprotected” – and are being “ridiculed” for trying to protect free expression. Senator James Paterson, for instance, has been mocked for his “serious effort to craft a bill that balances competing rights”.
What the bishops are saying
In a press release, Archbishop Fisher said the campaign had been a “David and Goliath struggle with politicians, corporates, celebrities, journalists, professional and sporting organisations drowning out the voices of ordinary Australians and pressuring everyone to vote Yes.” He also called for unity after a divisive public debate, and made a special plea for religious freedom, saying: “It is imperative that our political leaders enact laws that protect the rights of all, religious believers included.”
Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne noted that 4.8 million voted No, and urged parliament to pass protections which “ensure that Australians can continue to express their views on marriage” and that schools and other organisations can act in accordance with their beliefs.
✣ Catholics thrown out of church for saying rosary
French police forcibly removed Catholics praying the rosary from the Church of Our Lady of White Mantles in Paris. About a dozen young men were praying in protest at an ecumenical service marking 500 years since the Reformation. A commenter online wrote: “The police took them out one by one as if they were going to the scaffold.”
Why was it under-reported?
Many Catholic outlets would rather emphasise progress in Christian unity. Such a protest looks like bad manners and is hardly the image of ecumenical harmony the Church wants to project. Pope Francis had just told the Rev Derek Browning, Church of Scotland moderator, that Christians now saw each other “as brothers and sisters” rather than as “adversaries”.
But it was not a one-off. A few days earlier police removed another group of young Catholics praying the rosary at an ecumenical service at the Catholic cathedral in Brussels.
What will happen next?
The flashpoint of the Reformation anniversary has now passed but arguments over ecumenism will continue. The protests in France and Belgium reflect an increasingly fractious debate, in part generated by unease at Pope Francis’s changes. The internet is also having an influence: one protester said he was inspired by reading the Catholic Gentleman blog and ChurchMilitant.com. Meanwhile, the Vatican is preparing for a synod on young people next October – though it seems unlikely that these particular young voices will be included.
✣ The week ahead
Pope Francis will set off on a week-long trip to Burma and Bangladesh on Sunday. On Tuesday he will meet Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s de facto leader, and on Wednesday he will give a talk to high-ranking Buddhist monks at the capital’s peace pagoda. He will arrive in Bangladesh on Thursday and the following day ordain 16 men to the priesthood.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon will celebrate Mass at the Embrace youth festival at Liverpool Cathedral on Saturday. The day-long event will include workshops led by the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols will mark the 440th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Cuthbert Mayne next week. St Cuthbert was executed aged 33 in the town square of Launceston, Cornwall. The cardinal will preach at vespers at Plymouth Cathedral – where the saint’s skull will be displayed for veneration – on Tuesday, and celebrate a Mass at Buckfast Abbey on Wednesday.
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