| Compiled By GayToday
Melbourne, Australia-- In the wake of vicious attacks on the gay community made Sunday by Melbourne Catholic Archbishop, George Pell, the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group wrote to Paul Stevens, State Director o f Catholic Education, requesting that Roman Catholic schools eliminate anti-gay violence and prejudice.
Archbishop Pell had vowed to fight anti-bias policies instituted on behalf of gay and lesbian students in Australia's schools.
After his Sunday outburst received negative reviews in the Australian media, the Archbishop made lame attempts on the following day to deflect growing public perceptions of him as an unembarrassed ignoramus.
"I am aware that many more people die of smoking-related illnesses than those who die from AIDS each year," the Archbishop told reporters, defending what he'd said previously.
"But for the number of individuals concerned," he insisted, " it's a moot point, which is worse."
David Penington, former vice-chancellor of Melbourne University and an official known best for guiding public health responses to AIDS, described the Archbishop's comments as "regrettable". Penington continued:
"The greatest health hazard (to the homosexual community) is that which comes from antipathy towards them on the part of community leaders who accept the heterosexual norm as the only way."
In the face of this criticism the Roman Catholic prelate continued to maintain that homosexuality is, nevertheless, a major health hazard. He also defended Roman Catholicism's death-dealing opposition to condoms, saying the security of "safe sex" practices had often been "significantly overstated".
In Australia's Catholic schools, where gay and lesbian students become schoolyard victims of anti-gay messages perpetrated by the clergy, Archbishop Pell's vow to fight gay protections in those schools clearly riled members of the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group.
Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said blame for high levels of gay youth suicide can often be laid at the door of intolerant and unsupportive schools such as those the Archbishop appears to prefer.
"Bad experiences at school and a lack of support from teachers and counselors is often the reason young gay and lesbian people consider suicide", Croome said.
"The Tasmanian State school system has recognized this and has responded with a new anti-discrimination policy which protects young homosexual people."
"We urge the Catholic system to do the same."
Croome said the new State Anti-discrimination Act obliges major institutions including schools to protect everyone from sexuality-based harassment.
"It is in the interests of the Catholic Education system to respond positively to this issue before students consider the kind of legal action that will inevitably result from a continuation of current levels of harassment and discrimination."