Earlier this week, to no one's surprise, the Catholic Church published a renewed push against same sex marriage in the Australian. "Many people believe that redefining marriage won't affect them," Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher told the paper. "Respectfully, I would say they need to take another look—it will affect every Australian."
The Archbishop obviously feels he'll be affected, along with all the other old people who predominantly make up the bulk of the Catholic leadership. Which raises a question about young Catholics. Do they also believe they'd be adversely affected by the passing of same sex marriage?
I wanted to find out, so I asked around at Catholic university groups for answers.
VICE: Hey Joseph, do you agree with the things the Catholic Church has been saying about same sex marriage?
Joseph: No I don't.
Why is that?
I've got quite an interesting relationship with Catholicism and Catholic weddings, because I'm actually employed by the Catholic Church to coordinate weddings. See, what happens is that when someone in Australia gets married in a religious way, they have to go through the religious ceremony, where a whole lot of Catholic theology is discussed, and they become married in the eyes of God. Then they go through the Australian legal ceremony, where it becomes official in Australian law. Seeing this showed me that it's actually two different things. Say if my girlfriend and I were to go to the town hall and get married, we would legally be married, but a Catholic priest wouldn't view us as married, because the ceremony wasn't Catholic. It was then that I started to think, what the fuck is the difference? I don't think the people yelling no actually understand what's going on. It's all hysteria.
Do you know if the church you go to is against same sex marriage?
There have been numerous occasions when I'm working at the church and someone from the church has come in and dumped a whole lot of propaganda about the evils of same sex marriage on us. My priests thank them for coming in, and then turn to me and say it's complete rubbish. So I think in your local parish you've got a quiet backlash against this opinion. You've got a few of these big guys—bishops and stuff who make these big broad statements—but they are kind of like the random comment your uncle makes at Christmas dinner more than anything else.
Do you ever talk about this with your friends?
Not many of my friends are religious. I'm the only person I know who regularly goes to church. It's hard when people say "those Christians believe…" because it's not Christians, it's conservatives who think that way. That's really frustrating.
Hey Richard, tell me, what's your stance on same sex marriage?
Well the church I go to is against it, and personally I agree with their stance.
Can you explain why?
My opinion comes from what it means to be a Christian. I'm a little bit different in that I've actually experienced same-sex attraction. Given the opportunity, or if I wasn't living a Christian life, I certainly would consider partaking in a same-sex relationship. This certainly hasn't been an easy thing to accept, but I've come to the opinion that sexuality is quite a fluid thing for me.
How does your religion influence your sexuality?
Well if I didn't love Jesus Christ, and didn't know the pleasure I got from pleasing Jesus, I wouldn't have an incentive to be abstinent, or not indulge in homosexual relationships. There have been times when I've wanted to but I think God makes it very clear that practicing homosexuality is not the right thing, and I don't want to do anything that would disappoint him.
Do you think legalising same-sex marriage would impact the deliverance of the Christian message?
I don't think it would change the convictions Christian schools and churches have on marriage. But I do think young children will become confused about what marriage actually is.
Do you have trouble expressing your views to other young people?
Definitely. I find that if you disagree on same-sex marriage, you're thought to be an ignoramus, uneducated, that you have no empathy for people in that position. The other day at uni, a group of us were talking about this at lunch, and it was just kind of assumed that all of us would be voting yes, because it's "the right thing to do," and that only people that live in the country, or are uneducated, would vote no. But I've lived in Melbourne for the last four years. I have a university education. It's primarily because I love Jesus and that's what he's told me that I just wouldn't be able to vote yes.
If same-sex marriage is legalised, how will it directly affect your life as a young Christian?
That's a good question. For me, it's the fact that same-sex marriage will soon assumed to be right. There will be increasing pressure on the church to go along with it and condone it. I personally grew up in a broken home and I didn't see Dad a lot, so it was mainly my mother and aunt who raised me. While that was great, I do think that because I didn't have that father figure around, it's had an affect on how I've developed as a person. I just think it's important for a child to have a mother and a father.
Hi Josie, do you agree with what the Catholic Church has said about the postal vote?
No, it's complete rubbish. Absolute rubbish. I hate that this is all being protested under the guise of religious freedom. I mean, I'm not even sure what's free about the church anyway.
Is this a topic that is discussed at your church or at home?
No, it's not. My parents never encouraged or would engage in discussion on this topic, which my sisters and I despise. It was worse when I was little, when a report would come up on the TV on gay marriage and my parents would just turn the TV off. Or when elections were coming up and they would always collect pamphlets on "traditional marriage and the family" on their way out of mass. It made me sick.
Did your parents' refusal to discuss these issues influence how you feel about it now?
Their refusal to talk about gay marriage stems from a deep-seated and sad practice of not questioning the Church. It's honestly like my parents are illiterate in the practice of inquisitiveness, which I find really sad. I have found that the practice of not questioning has been sometimes greater than the practice of compassion. Devoted followers of the Catholic Church regard it as a sin to question the rules of the faith. It's so disappointing.
Has your understanding of Catholicism changed the way you view this topic?
Well I know that Jesus totally did the opposite of what my parents do: he questioned everything! He questioned society's choice to leave lepers to die on the street. He questioned the oppressive structures of society to the very greatest extent, and yet what do the Catholic Church do now? Tell their followers not to question! By cutting out the practice of questioning, the Church have cut off their access to their key ideology and disabled their connection to compassion. When you partake in the vote, is there a small part of you that might feel guilty because of the way you were raised?
Hey John, which way will you vote?
I'll vote no.
And do you think that's a result of your Catholic upbringing?
I think my Catholic upbringing has had less influence on my beliefs, but has given me more of a reason to understand where this argument is coming from. I just feel people can't really come out, after 2000 odd years of marriage being a certain way, and just change their minds.
So it's more about tradition than anything else?
Well, recently Mum and I were talking about why—if the Pope was so progressive—he couldn't just allow women to be priests. But I think it's more difficult than that. You can't just come out and completely flip the beliefs of the church, no matter who you are. There are a lot of people in the world who have their faith, and then it's been effectively wrong the whole time.
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