New Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse outside St Christopher's Cathedral in Manuka. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Canberra and Goulburn's incoming Catholic Archbishop wants a moratorium called to stop the passage of any new laws on same-sex marriage.
Christopher Prowse, currently Bishop of the Sale diocese in Victoria, will take up the role of Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn in late November, and said he thought debate around equal marriage legislation took a narrow view.
He had not seen the proposed ACT bill, due to be introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday, but said generally speaking laws should not be rushed through.
"This debate is happening at a time when married life -
heterosexual married life - and family life are at a very fragile moment,'' he said.
''I think we've got to look at this particular rising topic in a calm way which is not being pressurised for time or rushed into legislation before a good, philosophical and reasoned debate can be had. I have a feeling myself that Australian society needs a lot more time to consider implications of legislation in this regard.
''I would be calling for more of a moratorium to suspend pending legislation so that we, over the next period of time, can discuss this in a more reasoned way, where both subjective and objective arguments can be put forward and discussed in an atmosphere of calm and reason, particularly holding forward the importance of traditional marriage and its role in society.''
Bishop Prowse said he believed traditional, heterosexual marriage needed protection, and while he would hear people's views, he would not be swayed by statistics showing high levels of support for same-sex marriage legislation in Canberra.
''I'm a person who is open to listening to people but I've also got plenty of opinions of my own and I think the Catholic Church's opinion on such matters - we represent a reflection on humanity going over 2000 years … I think that gives us a certain confidence to have our opinions heard and, in a reasoned way, debate with people,'' he said.
''The Catholic Church's teaching on the matter is that homosexual acts are never approved of, but persons who are of homosexual orientation, that a great deal of compassion and understanding should be shown to them.''
The stance is in contrast to his predecessor in Canberra and Goulburn, former auxiliary bishop Pat Power, who, while opposed to same-sex marriage, was ambivalent towards homosexuality.
''I think it is really important to honour homosexual people and to understand that if that is their orientation, that is the way God has made them,'' Bishop Power said at his retirement last year.
''If they are expressing their sexuality in a particular way, I don't know I would want to be too judgmental about that. I think God is often kinder in any judgments that would be made than sometimes other Christians are.''
The Australian Christian Lobby said at the weekend the ACT's proposed legislation on same-sex marriage was inappropriate and should be overridden by the federal government should it pass in the territory. But the group fell short of committing to a High Court challenge.
On a separate issue, Bishop Prowse had high praise for the work of the royal commission into institutional abuse, which began public hearings in Sydney this week. He hailed the bravery of victims who spoke out against abuse, and said the Church would support the commission and any victims in every way possible.
Bishop Prowse will be installed in a ceremony at St Christopher's Cathedral on November 19. Before then he will be on Church business in Rome and India.