In his submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney has said that over some thousands of years marriage has only meant the union of a man and woman.
If this definition is changed, the social glue holding society together will be further damaged.
No practical or legal advantages will be gained beyond those presently available. It is a symbolic move and designed to prevent Christians in the future from teaching about the true nature of marriage, family and sexual activity.
Cardinal Pell has urged Parliament to continue to recognise and support marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
“Marriage is a union that is publicly recognised, honoured and supported because of its unique capacity to generate children and to meet children’s deepest needs for the love and attachment of both their father and their mother,” Cardinal Pell said.
“Marriage is not simply a loving, committed relationship between two people, but a unique kind of physical and emotional union which is open to the possibility of new life.”
Cardinal Pell explained this understanding of marriage also holds true for those heterosexual married couples who do not or cannot have children due to age or infertility, because their sexual relationship still expresses the potential for and capability of creating life.
“Marriage between a man and a woman always has an inherent capacity for, and orientation towards, the generation of children, whether that capacity is actualized or not.”
Cardinal Pell reiterated that unjust discrimination against homosexual persons is always wrong. At the same time, participation in particular social institutions is not always equally available to all persons within society, because the meaning and character of those institutions needs to be respected.
“It is not unjust discrimination against homosexual couples to uphold marriage as being between a man and a woman. Marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. Justice, in fact, requires society to recognise and respect this difference.”
Cardinal Pell pointed to the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which affirmed that there is no right to same-sex marriage under international law.
“The right to marry is a fundamental human right. However, to respect this right means to accept the objective reality of marriage as a union of a man and a woman that is inherently procreative.”
Cardinal Pell also referred to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which upholds the right of children to their biological heritage and warned that changing the law on marriage would fail to protect this right.
“The family, based on marriage, is the basic unit on which society and the extended family is built… It is a grave injustice to deliberately deprive children of the experience of being loved and raised by their natural mother and father and to prevent them from having a developing and ongoing relationship with their biological siblings.”
While some proponents of same-sex marriage have proposed legal exemptions for the Catholic Church and other religious communities from being required to perform same-sex marriages, His Eminence warned that religious freedom is at risk for all Australians.
“An ‘exemption’ would only apply to religious celebrants, and would offer no legal protection for the vast majority of Catholics and other Australians with a religious and/or conscientiously-held belief that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.”
Changing the legal definition of marriage “would threaten the right of Catholics and all Australians who believe in marriage to live, teach and publicly practise their belief that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.”
Cardinal Pell urged Parliament to consider the profound social impact of a legal redefinition of marriage, warning that society’s understanding of marriage and children will be fundamentally altered, at the expense of children.
“When we equate same-sex relationships with marriage, it further undermines our understanding of family by wrongly implying that biological connectivity of children with their parents and siblings is not important . . . it mistakenly says that having both a mother and a father is an unnecessary and superfluous duplication.
“When legislatures act to change laws, social norms change as a consequence and these impact on all members of the community.”
Cardinal Pell called upon Parliament to recognise the enduring meaning of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, uniquely designed for the gift of children and the continuation of humanity.
“The real and distinctive meaning of marriage – a meaning cherished and preserved for
countless generations of the human family – must not be taken away because of a deeplymisguided idea that marriage only means any kind of committed relationship between two individuals.”