Passing Bull 39 – Corporations and churches


A church has been heavying business about gay marriage.  The Business Manager of the Archdiocese of Sydney wrote to various corporations on the subject of ‘marriage equality’.  The church is politically opposed to changes in the law favoured by those who seek to promote what they call marriage equality.

The letter says that the Archdiocese is ‘a significant user of goods and services from many corporations.’  It refers to a ‘Catholic population of 600,000 within the Archdiocese accounting for 26.7% of the total population’.  The author says: ‘I only mention this to indicate the diverse and expansive demographic we serve’.  Really?

It would be interesting to know the definition of ‘Catholic’ that gets the writer over 25%.  But why is the writer so coy about saying that the church is in a position to punish people commercially unless they toe the church line on this political issue?  Does the author deny that the church is seeking to use its market power to bring political pressure to bear on people?  Does the writer believe that the rest of us just came down with the last shower?

The author wonders if it is ‘the role of a corporation such as yours’ – the letter I have was not addressed to a corporation –‘to be participating in such an important matter that impacts all of Australian society now and in the future.’  The author thinks that the conduct of this corporation on behalf of stakeholders ‘is indeed over stepping their purpose and is to be strongly resisted.’

The language is glutinous, but why does a corporation not have as much right as a church to speak on a political issue such as this?  And was the writer expressing the views of more than a quarter of the population?

Then there is a curious remark.  ‘Many people who support the traditional definition of marriage have loved ones with same-sex attraction and of course strongly object to them being discriminated against.’  Do those standing behind the author only have loved ones who are gay?  Are not some of the communicant members of the church themselves gay?  Or is that a consummation devoutly to be avoided?

The author takes objection to redefining marriage to fit ‘an ideological agenda’ that is against beliefs and faiths that have been held for ages.  Popes said much the same to Galileo, and Anglican divines said much the same to Darwin, although their menaces were not commercial.  The church’s Business Manager refers to a ‘cashed-up activist-driven media campaign.’

You wonder why a church would engage in name-calling about applying pressure when it is seeking to do precisely that.  And what’s wrong with cash?

For that matter, you wonder why the writer thought it was a good idea to make these threats – and I concede that the author would not concede that he is uttering threats – to someone like the Chairman of Partners of Maurice Blackburn.

For that matter, you wonder why if you are losing a war you do not just seek to go out with some dignity rather than stooping to the perceived vulgarity of your enemy.

But what really elevates this letter into bullshit par excellence is its unstated premise – that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is a discrete legal entity, a significant consumer, and a body that can and does engage commercially and politically – and, presumably, one that could sue and be sued.

Unless of course someone wanted to sue it for a breach of trust committed by one of its priests.


Poet of the Month W H Auden


Lullaby – extract


Lay your sleeping head, my love,

Human on my faithless arm;

Time and fevers burn away

Individual beauty from

Thoughtful children, and the grave

Proves the child ephemeral:

But in my arms till break of day

Let the living creature lie,

Mortal, guilty, but to me

The entirely beautiful.


Soul and body have no bounds:

To lovers as they lie upon

Her tolerant enchanted slope

In their ordinary swoon,

Grave the vision Venus sends

Of supernatural sympathy,

Universal love and hope;

While an abstract insight wakes

Among the glaciers and the rocks

The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

2 thoughts on “Passing Bull 39 – Corporations and churches

  1. If the roles had been reversed and Telstra had threatened to withdraw its services unless the Catholic Church withdrew its public opposition to same-sex marriage, our ears would be ringing with howls of discrimination and our heads would be spinning with the rush to the Human Rights Commission or the courts. But as usual, the Catholic Church (and organised religion more generally) continues to use and abuse its protected status in our society.

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