Archbishop Porteous was installed as the 11th Archbishop of Tasmania last night and already he is meeting opposition. It is hard to know why a question on whether it was appropriate to use middle aged women as altar servers came up in an ABC interview, but it did, and Archbishop Porteous responded in a perfectly reasonable manner. That lead to this response:
But Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner is suggesting the Archbishop’s position on women as alter [sic] servers may not comply with the Act.
Robin Banks says there is an exception to the Act that allows religious institutions to discriminate based on gender but it may not apply in this case.
“There’s a defence that says a religious institution can discriminate on the basis of gender if it’s required by the doctrines of the religion,” Ms Banks said.
“It gets down to the question of is it consistent with the doctrines of the religion to exclude people on the basis of gender. If it’s not then the exception wouldn’t apply.”
In the full video report, even the Premier of Tasmania weighs in with her opinion! And another women says that the Archbishop is new to Tasmania and will take some time to get used to the way they do things there.
Well, it might be that they will take some time to get used to the way Archbishop Porteous intends to do things. I was listening to Archbishop Porteous speak on Cradio a few days ago about his appointment to Hobart. He candidly admitted that one of the difficulties he would have to face early on is the shortage of priests in Tasmania. The belief that preserving altar service as a role for boys and young men works positively towards increasing vocations is widespread among many Catholic priests and bishops, and anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that they are correct in this belief. In other words, this is step one in Archbishop Porteous’s plan for increasing vocations to the priesthood in the Tasmanian diocese.
It seems ludicrous that State powers should interfere – or even threaten to interfere – in this important project.