The man in charge of Australia’s fifth largest Catholic Diocese has weighed into the debate about the same-sex marriage postal vote.
In a pastoral letter published on the Catholic Outlook website last week, Parramatta Catholic Diocese Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen pleaded to parishioners to have “a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.”
The Diocese of Parramatta covers most of western Sydney from Dundas Valley to as far west as the Blue Mountains and Wiseman’s Ferry to the north.
Regardless of the survey outcome or any legislation that follows, the Bishop’s letter states that the church will continue to hold that marriage is a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union between a man and woman.
“For many Catholics, the issue of same-sex marriage is not simply theoretical but deeply personal,” Bishop Vincent wrote.
“These may be same-sex attracted people themselves or that may be the case with their relatives and friends. In such cases, they are torn between their love for the church and their love for their same-sex attracted child, grandchild, sibling, cousin, friend or neighbour. As your Bishop, I wish to reiterate the commitment I made at my installation: “I am committed to make the church in Parramatta the house for all peoples, a church where there is less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity.” As a community of disciples, we seek to accommodate, accompany and care for one another irrespective of sexual orientation, marital status and situation.”
He urged Catholic parishioners in the Diocese to exercise their responsibility as citizens to “engage in this community discernment”.
“It should not be a matter of a simple answer Yes or No to the postal survey,” Bishop Vincent wrote.
“It should be an opportunity for us to witness to our deep commitment to the ideal of Christian marriage. But it should also be an opportunity for us to listen to what the Spirit is saying through the signs of the times. Throughout much of history, our gay and lesbian (or LGBTI) brothers and sisters have often not been treated with respect, sensitivity and compassion. Regrettably, the Church has not always been a place where they have felt welcomed, accepted and loved. Thus, regardless of the outcome of the survey, we must commit ourselves to the task of reaching out to our LGBTI brothers and sisters, affirming their dignity and accompanying them on our common journey towards the fullness of life and love in God. Let us pray, discern and act with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Catholics, in keeping with the tradition of the church, are asked to exercise their consciences, ensuring that they are informed as they come to exercise their democratic rights in the coming postal survey.”
His letter sparked a divided reaction on the Diocese’s Facebook page. While many congratulated the Bishop on his message, he also came under criticism for not expressing enough clarity or leadership.
Bishop Vincent has since reiterated his stance that the church will continue to hold that marriage is a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union between a man and woman.
A spokesman from the Diocese told the Parramatta Sun the Bishop will not be making any further public comment on the matter.