Did St Paul breach Australian Law in 1 Timothy 3:1-7?

Dear Mr Paul (St),

It has come to our attention that your “requirements for a bishop” may violate this country’s anti-discrimination laws.

We refer to your letter to Timothy (St) of March 11, 62AD. We understand that your “questionnaire” has been designed to be used to assess candidates for the position of bishop in your denomination.

In your letter you tell ecclesiastical employers that:

“A bishop must be:

  • above reproach,
  • married only once,
  • temperate,
  • sensible,
  • respectable,
  • hospitable,
  • an apt teacher,
  • not given to strong drink,
  • not violent but gentle,
  • not quarrelsome, and
  • not a lover of money.
  • He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
  • He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
  • Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.”

We are concerned about the questions to do with marital status, family life, “respectability” and the implied “religious test”. It’s hard to see how that could be relevant to doing the job. Discrimination on these levels could be breaking the law in Australia.

The private family life of a potential candidate should be irrelevant when considering employment. It is also inappropriate to ask about a potential candidate’s alcohol usage, if the only usage is in private and does not directly affect his work. It is certainly illegal to discriminate on the basis of marital status.

As for the requirement that the prospective candidate not be “quarrelsome”, is this intended to ensure that only conformists are chosen for the job?

Australian States have different laws regarding discrimination, but if the reference to “respectability” is to be interpreted as including such matters as personal appearance and grooming, you should know that in Victoria it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of appearance.

We are also concerned that the requirement regarding that the candidate “not be a recent convert”. This could be construed as a religious test, which the majority of Australians believe to be discriminatory in every instance. Some “exceptions” to allow religious tests are granted by the States to religious organisations, but you should be aware that such privileges are not to be taken for granted.

In the same vein, we further note that your “questionnaire” implies that female candidates will not be considered for appointment. Discrimination on the basis of sex is also against Australian law. Again, Australian States do provide for “exceptions” for particular religious positions, but as above, we warn you that you should not take such privileges for granted.

With this letter, we are placing you on notice. We expect to receive a copy of your revised “questionnaire”, in full harmony with modern social expectations and Australian anti-discrimination laws, within 21 days if you wish to avoid further action.

Yours sincerely,

(name and address withheld, sub secreto bloggero)

Further reference:
On “Catholics for Ministry” website: “Vatican Secrets – Selection of Bishops” by Dr Paul Collins (link not provided because to do so would break the requirement for Pontifical Secrecy of the document published there)
Vatican survey to select bishops ‘could be illegal’
Hating the Church in Australia

Further information: In his commentary on the Catholics for Ministry website “Vatican Secrets” (link not provided because to do so would be to break the Pontifical Secrecy of the document published there), Dr Paul Collins writes (with my emphasis):

Under the heading it [the ‘Questionnaire for Episcopal Candidates’] is marked in block letters ‘SUB SECRETO PONTIFICIO’ which means ‘subject to pontifical secrecy’. This attempts to suggest [it does not “attempt to suggest” – it actually DOES mean] that the recipient is bound to maintain an extremely high level of confidentiality about the contents of the document and their comments about the proposed candidate. According to one canonist [actually, according to Canon Law] it binds recipients to maintain the secrecy ‘under pain of mortal sin’. However, in fact the threat is meaningless and no one takes a great deal of notice of it [does Dr Collins suggest that the “threat” is meaningless because HE and Catholics for Ministry don’t take “a great deal of notice of it”?]. The questionnaire itself says that it ‘must be returned to the Apostolic Nunciature with your answer.’

Instead, someone sent it to Catholics for Ministry and they/Dr Collins decided to publish it on the internet…

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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6 Responses to Did St Paul breach Australian Law in 1 Timothy 3:1-7?

  1. Matthias says:

    I think the reply of the Donatists suits best here.
    “What has the Emperor to do with the Church”. Perhaps Schutz if Barney Zwartz is a friend of yours you could point him over to Fr Z’s blog for a very nice precise of his article. I also wonder from what perspective Zwartz holds?
    Is he a Christian?
    if he is why do his articles tend to leave me wondering as to his Christian faith.
    If he is aChristian why does he work for the Fairfax press with it’s hostility to all things Judeao -Christian??

    Talking of Fr Z i liked his comment :
    “I don’t know if I have more contempt for

    a) the writer
    b) Collins
    c) the nasty grass who violated the Pontifical Secret”

    someone in response wrote “all of the above”.

  2. Alexander says:

    I don’t know about in any other state, but in Victoria the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 is very clear:

    (1) Nothing in Part 3 applies to—
    (a) the ordination or appointment of priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order[.]
    […]
    (2) Nothing in Part 3 applies to anything done by a body established for religious purposes that—
    (a) conforms with the doctrines of the religion; or
    (b) is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of people of the religion.

    Part 3 is the entire anti-discrimination portion. The Catholic Church can discriminate against anyone for any reason whatsoever as long as it conforms with its doctrines or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensititivies of Catholics.

    • Schütz says:

      I know this, Alexander. However, the current contention in the State of Victoria is just how far those exemptions apply. Clearly we are supposed to understand that these “exemptions” are positively “granted” by the State, rather than a recognition of the fundamental human right for religious freedom both of individuals and religious communities as a whole.

  3. Dan says:

    I was shocked when I saw this. Truly, the greatest enemies of the church are with in it. It really scares me that there are “followers” of Christ who can do this, who can go to the anti-catholic age newspaper, and feel they are doing the right thing!

    I think for the first time in my life I realize the full force of Jesus’ words and just how accurate they are: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves” Mat 10:16 and “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Mat 7:15.

    “Christian disciples who claimed to speak in the name of God are called prophets (Matthew 7:15) in Matthew 10:41; Matthew 23:34. They were presumably an important group within the church. As in the case of the Old Testament prophets, there were both true and false ones, and for Matthew the difference could be recognized by the quality of their deeds, the fruits (Matthew 7:16). The mention of fruits leads to the comparison with trees, some producing good fruit, others bad.” USCCB NAB

    People like Collins really are like cunning and vicious wolves. That is not an exaggeration, because what he did was a vicious (because it was so public) attack on the Church. God have mercy on him and on His Church.

    • Matthias says:

      Well put Dan. what does the Bible say ” a man’s enemies are those of his own household”. My friends wonder why I often talk about the catholic hcurch in a positive light- now currently i am baptist and am looking at going Tiberwards via the Eastern door-. Today it stands up for the Gospel and Christian doctrine, whilst my own church dilly dallies aorund the edges.

  4. Bear says:

    It’s good the lay faithful ignored St Paul’s selection criteria from time to time. Consider St Augustine:

    * not reputable,
    * he was married once, but had several mistresses, and
    * a recent convert.

    But, yes, we hear the yelps of “separation of Church and state”, and the usual nonsense about secular governments. In the same breath, these people demand control over the Church!! But I guess that is the point – they want control over all things.

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