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New Age penal law for church schools?

By Tim Norris - posted Friday, 29 November 2002

Church schools have a great deal to be proud of in their academic, sporting and social justice contributions to our wider society. However, their primary purpose is to impart the faith, so how could teachers blatantly living in a same-sex or de facto relationship present church teaching on the sacrament of marriage or chastity, for example, with any conviction?

They couldn't – so church schools should not be forced to employ them. This isn't hatred or bigotry, it's common sense.

In keeping with the teachings of Christ, the Catholic Church condemns – rightly – unjust discrimination against and the vilification of homosexual people. However, it also upholds the sanctity of marriage and, however out-of-step or unpopular it might seem, it cannot condone extra-marital sex. (Unpopularity of Christian teaching is nothing new – after all, Christ was crucified for it.)


Taxpayers familiar with the mathematical realities must shudder at the absurd proposition that church schools toe the line or lose funding. About a million Australian children – one in three – attend non-government schools and their parents pay taxes. Available figures shows that state school students in Queensland receive per-capita funding of $7840 from federal and state sources combined, compared with $4466 per capita for non-government students.

At election times, politicians love telling us they stand for "family values". If they were sincere, or had the alacrity of mind to understand the slogan they're mouthing, they'd understand that parents are entitled to make demands of the public moral environment in which their children are educated.

Church schools must not be used to thwart or corrupt children. The difficulty and delicacy of sexual development, so that the child grows up to respect human dignity and not regard others as mere instruments of self-gratification, cannot be overstated. Same-sex relationships lack the deep and complex inter-generational responsibilities of marriage. Amending the law so as to treat them as comparable to marriage is to implement a public policy which damages the family unit, whose welfare is fundamental to our community.

Just as the long-term consequences of the Family Law Act have taken a generation or more to become apparent in terms of broken families and the resulting social effects, this proposed legislation, too, would have a far-reaching, largely unforeseen impact on the wider society.

Over the past 30 years an enormous amount of research points to the reality that if you want to preserve social stability it makes good sense to reinforce the stability of the traditional family. As late as this week, Jennifer Buckingham, a policy analyst for Sydney's Centre for Independent Studies – a secular, independent think-tank – highlighted the link between family stability and boys' continuing educational underachievements.

As Buckingham argues: "This is not to attack single parents for their children, but to recognise that it is imperative to identify groups at risk of disadvantage in order to target assistance effectively. It behooves us to acknowledge where a problem exists, controversial or not ..."


Affording same-sex relationships the same status as marriage, and encouraging children to regard them as normal will do irreparable harm.

When legislation similar to this was mooted back in the 1980s, the late Archbishop of Brisbane, Francis Rush, thumped the lectern at Stuartholme College in Brisbane and said he'd close every Catholic school before he'd allow them to be corrupted in this way.

Social engineering of the kind proposed strikes at the heart of genuine Christian family values – not counterfeit ones. Like the Penal Laws of Ireland and England before 1829, these new age penal laws persecute true faith.

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About the Author

Fr Tim Norris is parish priest of St Kevin's, Geebung.

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