26. Sep, 2017

The rights of parents to have the school of their choice remain faithful to their identity

Important Correction

23 September 2017

The Archdiocese of Perth submits that the headline in Saturday’s edition of The West Australian Newspaper dated 23 September 2017 on page 7, was potentially misleading in reporting Archbishop Costelloe's comments on religious freedom.

Archbishop Costelloe did not say "agree or leave" as stated within the headline. This implies some kind of threat. While the article quotes the Archbishop, it takes these quotes out of their full context. 

The context is not in any way about threats to parents, but rather the rights of parents to have the school of their choice remain faithful to the identity which led the parents to choose the school in the first place. 

Parents who object to the school's religious identity can still leave their children there. What they cannot expect or demand is that Catholic schools repudiate or misrepresent Catholic teaching in the classroom or in the wider school context.

Below is the (1) article from the West, followed by (2) Archbishop Costelloe’s comments on religious freedom

1.     Agree or leave: Perth archbishop

  • The West Australian, 23 Sep 2017, Phoebe Wearne Canberra

Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe says parents who do not agree with the Church’s teachings on samesex marriage can send their children to another school.

“No one is obliged to send their children to a Catholic school, and no one is obliged to work in a Catholic school,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

Stressing the need for religious safeguards if Australians vote Yes in the postal survey, Archbishop Costelloe said his concerns went beyond the clergy’s right to decline to celebrate same-sex marriages.

He said Catholic institutions should not be prevented from maintaining, defending or promoting the Church’s longstanding beliefs on “the institution of marriage, its importance in providing a stable environment in which children can ideally be raised by their natural mother and father (and) the deepest meaning of human sexuality”.

Catholic schools existed to provide the best option for parents who wanted their children to get a Catholic education, so those who chose them presumably did so “fully informed of the nature of the institution” they were entering, he said.

Parents who did not want their children to learn in such a context had other options, such as government schools.

“The obligation and capacity of the school to be faithful to the implied contract it enters into with parents as regards to the nature of the education being offered to their children is the real issue to be considered in this matter,” he said.

Perth LGBTQI advocate Brian Greig said the Archbishop’s fears were unfounded.

He said just because something was legal did not mean that schools would have to teach it or would be prevented from opposing it.

“Abortion, adultery, prostitution and gambling are all legal and clearly this doesn’t impact on any Church’s longstanding beliefs or teachings within schools,” he said. “It will be no different once samesex marriage becomes law.”

 2. ARCHBISHOP COSTELLOE COMMENTS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Download the full text in PDF

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, in responding to requests for comment on the question of protection for freedom of religion in relation to the possibility of a “yes” vote in the same sex-marriage postal survey, indicated that the question of freedom of religion, which many believe may be imperiled to a greater or lesser degree by a “yes” vote and a subsequent change to the marriage act to allow for same-sex marriage, goes beyond the question of the freedom of clergy to decline to celebrate same-sex marriages.

Speaking specifically in relation to the Catholic Church, the Archbishop noted that the Church, especially in its schools, but also in other Church-sponsored institutions and agencies, should not be prevented from maintaining, promoting and defending its deeply-held, long-standing beliefs about the following matters: the institution of marriage; its importance in providing a stable environment in which children can ideally be raised by their natural mother and father; the deepest meaning of human sexuality; and the importance of people, and the institutions of which they seek to be a part, being free to express their religious beliefs and follow their conscientious convictions without fear of legal or other negative consequences.

In relation to Catholic education in particular, Archbishop Costelloe noted that Catholic schools exist to provide the best education possible to all children whose parents chose a Catholic education for their children. Parents freely make such a choice knowing the religious basis and identity of the school. They can rightly expect that their children will be educated in a context which supports a Catholic ethos. Parents who do not wish to have their children educated in such a context have other educational options available to them, most notably of course Government schools. This is also true of teachers and others who seek employment in a Catholic school. Should they feel unable or unwilling to support the Catholic ethos of the school, they have other employment options open to them. No one is obliged to send their children to a Catholic school, and no one is obliged to work in a Catholic school. Presumably those who do make these choices do so fully informed of the nature of the institution they are entering. The obligation and the capacity of the school to be faithful to the implied contract it enters into with parents as regards the nature of the education being offered to their children is the real issue to be considered in this matter.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB
Catholic Archbishop of Perth