Australian archbishop faces criticism over pastoral letter on human dignity

Porteous Archbishop Julian Porteous. | Credit: Archdiocese of Hobart

An Australian archbishop has been criticized for his pastoral letter addressing human dignity and legislative challenges to religious and parental freedoms.

Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart released the four-page document titled “We Are Salt to the Earth” on May 2. The pastoral letter was sent to Catholic parishes and schools in the Tasmanian archdiocese.

In the letter, Porteous reiterated the Church’s teaching on the complementarity of the sexes, the sanctity of marriage, and the protection of life from conception to natural death.

“Believing in God as creator we see our identity as male and female as a gift. Thus, we see efforts to disconnect gender from biological sex as denying the reality of who we are and the precious identity we have as a man or a woman,” Porteous wrote.

“God created male and female as sexually complementary. This means that, sexually speaking, we have literally been made for the opposite sex. He intended that man and woman would be drawn to each other, desire a lifelong union in marriage, and so provide a stable and loving environment for the generation and nurturing of children.” 

The archbishop expressed concerns over the impact of abortion and euthanasia and proposed changes to antidiscrimination laws at the state and federal levels.

Drawing on Dignitas Infinita, the prelate wrote: “We see efforts to disconnect gender from biological sex as denying the reality of who we are and the precious identity we have as a man or a woman.”

Equality Tasmania, an LGBT advocacy group, strongly opposed the letter, saying it “stigmatized LGBTIQA+ people,” according to a report by the Australian Catholic Weekly

Group President Rowan Richardson called for a “right of reply” to be distributed in the Catholic schools that received the archbishop’s letter.

According to a report by public broadcaster ABC, independent member of Parliament Kristie Johnston — whose child attends a Catholic school — condemned the letter as hateful and alienating for young people questioning their sexual identity. 

Porteous has faced similar controversies before. In 2015, he distributed the booklet “Don’t Mess with Marriage” during the same-sex marriage debate, which led to legal action. 

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Hobart told ABC: “Archbishop Porteous wrote a pastoral letter that was sent to Catholic parishes and Catholic schools. The letter expresses his concern about threats to religious freedom from the Albanese government’s proposed legislation. In particular, the letter expresses the archbishop’s concern about the freedom of Catholic institutions to teach and uphold the Catholic faith.”

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.