Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart has warned that staff at Catholic schools and hospitals could face the sack if they take part in a same-sex marriage ceremony.
He told Fairfax Media that the church’s 180,000 employees were expected to uphold its teachings “totally”, and defiance would be treated “very seriously”.
“I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,” Archbishop Hart (pictured) said.
“Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.
“Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage.
“People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined.
“We shouldn’t be slipping on that.”
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, also cautioned teachers against “undermining” their schools’ values if same-sex marriage became law.
He said parents who sent their children to a Catholic school wanted them educated within a Catholic framework, of which marriage was a vital part.
“In accepting a role in a Catholic school, staff will recognise their responsibility to conduct themselves in such a way as not to undermine the fundamental ethos of the school,” he told Fairfax Media.
“Like all other employers, the Catholic Church should be able to ensure its values are upheld by those who choose to work for the organisation.”
Bishop Michael Stead, chairman of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s Religious Freedom Reference Group, has called for the maintenance of current exemptions to anti-discrimination law.
He said attempts to legislate same-sex marriage in Australia so far were “manifestly deficient” in protecting civil and religious freedoms.
“The experience in countries where marriage has been redefined has been a quick and steady erosion of freedom of speech, conscience and belief,” Bishop Stead said.
“The fact that promised safeguards for freedom of religion have quickly unravelled overseas should serve as a warning to Australians.”
Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, also defended the power of Christian organisations to dismiss staff who married a same-sex partner.
“Religious organisations should have the same freedoms as political parties to ensure that staff share their ethos,” he said.