Archbishop of Sydney: being gay more hazardous than smoking

The Rt Rev. Peter Jensen supports his anti-gay stance while appearing on the Australian TV program Q and A and as reported in The Age, Jensen says:


THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has backed controversial comments by the Australian Christian Lobby head, Jim Wallace, that suggested a homosexual ”lifestyle” was more hazardous to health than smoking.

Dr Jensen said while he did not agree with everything ACL leaders said, Mr Wallace had ”given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risk”.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, pulled out of speaking at the Christian lobby’s national conference in response to Mr Wallace’s comments last week, which she described as ”offensive” and ”heartless”.

But Dr Jensen said: ”It’s very hard to get to the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it, and in this country censorship is alive and well.

”As far as I can see … the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man … what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.”

Watch the entire program here. Also include Jensen and submission by women in marriage, immigration, Islam and other topics in the 60 minute program.

See transcript of the “gay” part of the program below:

ANNA KRIEN: I’m just thinking about the market thing. If you do want to sort of attract a market and broaden the Anglican Church’s sort of bringing more people in, there’s a huge market out there busting to get married. It’s called the pink market.

CATHERINE DEVENY: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the same-sex people.

ANNA KRIEN: They’re busting for it.

CATHERINE DEVENY: They would love to come along.

ANNA KRIEN: Yeah. You should leave us out of it.

TONY JONES: Perhaps, well, you might as well respond to that. I mean why is marriage okay for men and women but not men and men or women and women if you have the same ideas of respect and love built into them? Perhaps even Christianity?

PETER JENSEN: Yeah. Yeah. And again there’s an argument for this and it’s one that we ought to conduct in the right spirit, I believe, and with give and take and listening to the whole matter. I do…

TONY JONES: So you have an open mind about gay marriage?

PETER JENSEN: Well, I have the same open mind most people have about most things. Namely, with a good argument you may change your mind but for the moment you keep going down one track.

CATHERINE DEVENY: Really? That’s interesting. For me rights are rights. It doesn’t need an argument. People are people and nobody should be able to stand in the way of how people want to celebrate their love. You know, I said I’m against marriage but I believe that same-sex couples have the right to be married and I can’t wait until it happens because it’s not a matter of if but when. This is happening all over the world. I mean Iceland even has a lesbian Prime Minister with a wife. So I can’t wait until I can be at the weddings of my and the divorces of my same-sex couples and, you know, and hold their babies and be able to explain to my children – my sons just always ask, “Why would anyone care if someone was gay? Why can’t they get married?” I don’t have an answer for them.

TONY JONES: Okay. I’m going to keep going on because we’ve got quite a lot of questions in the audience. This is Q&A. It’s live and interactive. Our next question comes from Peter Keegan.


PETER KEEGAN: The Australian Christian Lobby has again made the headlines for offensive remarks made by its director, Jim Wallace. As a Christian, I continually find that the ACL does not speak for me and does not represent the kind of faith that I see reflected in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Archbishop, will you publically say that contributions like those we heard from the ACL pose a greater risk to the health of our public discourse and the integrity of our faith than the presence of lifestyles or beliefs that may differ from our own?

PETER JENSEN: Again, thanks for the question. No, I won’t say that. I am generally supportive of ACL, I have to say. I don’t support everything that’s said by its leaders.

TONY JONES: What about this very specific statement where Jim Wallace suggests that homosexuality poses the same kind of health risk to the community as smoking does?

PETER JENSEN: It needs to be observed that he has been somewhat quoted out of context in some reports. I’m not sure about that one but in some reports he’s been somewhat quoted out of context. But what he has done for us, rightly or wrongly, what he has done is given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risks. Now, I think it is true to say – I think it is true to say – it’s very hard to get all the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it and in this country censorship is alive and well, believe me. So what I’m about to say, I don’t want to say because I know I’m going to be hit over the head for the next 100 years about it so – and it’s a virulent censorship. Now, I will still go ahead. What I want to say is that as far as I can see by trying to get to the facts, the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary, so called, heterosexual man. I think that seems to be the case. Now what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way. Some people say it’s because of the things I say and the position I take and that creates, for example, a spate of suicides. That may be true but how can we get at the facts if we’re never willing to talk about it? Now, there may be other things as well.

TONY JONES: I’ll just bring you up there because we actually do have a video question along these lines and it’s from Alistair…

PETER JENSEN: Well, I would like to finish when the moment arrives because it’s so important.

TONY JONES: But you’ll be able to finish because it’s very specifically on that.

PETER JENSEN: Okay. Thank you.

TONY JONES: And we’ll come back to it. It’s from Alistair Cornell in Payneham, South Australia.


ALISTAIR CORNELL: My question is for Peter Jensen. I was born and bred Anglican but at the age of 15 I tried to take my own life. What advice would he give to a 15 year old suffering almost to the point of death from the rejection of his community about being gay?

PETER JENSEN: Thank you and thank you for the courage of coming on and telling us that story. You see, one of the difficulties is to get that story, to get it to someone like me and to give me the chance to assess it for what it is, to offer whatever pastoral advice I may be able to offer, to listen to what’s being said, but to recognise that we’re dealing with very, very complex issues here. It may be that the things I say are having such an effect but it may be something quite different all together and…

TONY JONES: Such as what, for example?

PETER JENSEN: Well a 15 year old sorry, I need to be careful here. We don’t want to talk about this particular young man with his courage. But clearly a teenager is going through a period in their lives, exciting as it is, in which they’re seeking to find themselves. A person who feels in themselves same-sex attraction and I might add, a lot of such folk have talked to me over the years, is seeking, I think, to find themselves, to find an identity and in our sort of society, with its emphasis on sexual activity as an identity finding activity, there is therefore the opportunity to think that that is the way to do things and yet here you have this frowned upon same-sex feeling.

TONY JONES: Okay, I’ve just to interrupt because we do need to hear other panellists on this subject but put simply are you saying or repeating, in a way, or making, you know, a sort of more complex argument about what Jim Wallace said, which is homosexuality is bad for your health? Are you seriously trying to make that argument tonight?

PETER JENSEN: I would like to know see, people tell me that it is and they produce literature on the subject. I can’t get a discussion going on this because it’s a forbidden subject. Now, I’m open on this. I hope it’s not true, Tony. I don’t want to see my friends dying and I’ve seen my friends dying. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear stories like that. But, dear friends, sorry, when do we get to the point where we can talk about this without shouting at each other and hurting each other?

TONY JONES: All right. Okay.

PETER JENSEN: That’s what I want to know.

TONY JONES: All right. Let’s go across the panel. Catherine Deveny, keep it brief?

CATHERINE DEVENY: No one needs to be explained to them, do they, homosexuality is not a health risk? Homophobia is a health risk. Hate kills. Hate causes suicide. Hate causes self-harm and hate causes depression. It’s not homosexuality, it’s homophobia.

TONY JONES: Chris Evans.

CHRIS EVANS: Well I thought the comments were very uncalled for and wrong. I think the evidence some of these groups rely on that claim statistics are bogus and I don’t think there’s any great link that I’ve seen between homosexuality and life outcomes and I think, quite frankly, it was pretty poor taste.

TONY JONES: Do you want to respond to what the Archbishop is saying, because he’s raising it as a debate tonight?

CHRIS EVANS: Well, it’s a debate some people want to have. I would like to see that based on fact but I don’t think it was raised for the purpose of having an intelligent debate. I don’t think that was the purpose at all.

TONY JONES: Anna Krien.

ANNA KRIEN: I just think that, in response to your comments, I think that you have great influence and your words do have power and I think if you do make a certain community feel ostracised and not on par with the heterosexual community then you’re bound to be creating a situation where people feel worthless and lonely and, you know, subject to self-destruction. So I think, in answer to the conversation that you want to have, I think you do have a lot of power and a lot of influence and you could choose to wield that however you want.

TONY JONES: Concetta Fierravanti-Wells?


TONY JONES: I mean, well, bear in mind here that you’re the Shadow Spokesperson for Mental Health.


TONY JONES: And that young man clearly says he tried to take his own life.


TONY JONES: We’ve seen many other cases where this has happened.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: And I think on World Suicide Prevention Day it was a very timely question. I mean 1 in 40 people take their lives every day. There’s the statistics in relation to people who attempt suicide and in particular youth suicide. I mean we’re talking about 23% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24, the main cause of death is suicide.

TONY JONES: And would you accept that certainly that was raised in the question, but is homophobia one of the issues for young people in Australia?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Can I just make a couple of points in relation to it? Look, I don’t want to and I’m not here to defend Jim Wallace. As a former SAS officer I think he can defend himself but what I do want to say is that in the literature, and there is literature when you look at some of the medical journals and there is a comparison with life expectancy of people who are HIV positive as opposed to people who are not HIV positive and I think that’s probably, if we put it on that health basis and we look at it from that health perspective, look at the health complications that people that do have HIV that are HIV positive as opposed to those who aren’t and I think that’s really where…

TONY JONES: There’s someone with their hand just sort of jumped up in the air there.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: …where, perhaps, Jim was coming from and perhaps has been misquoted.

TONY JONES: All right. I’m sorry to interrupt you but someone just raised their hand very smartly there.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s so much going on here that I don’t even quite know where to start. For starters the rates of HIV among the heterosexual community is actually raising faster than the rates of HIV within the homosexual community. Also, your statements about the death rates among the homosexual community that we have a lower life expectancy of some I just don’t even comprehend. Our Indigenous population, unfortunately, also has a lower life expectancy so is then a correlation there that perhaps there’s something wrong with them and not non-Indigenous people? And just a final I just – my mind is absolutely blown. I’m really sorry about that but I’m also a youth worker that works with tremendous same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people and if you would like to have a conversation with me, I’m more than happy to sit down with you and have a beer and give you the research and give you the quotes and give you the comments of the pain and suffering that does occur because of things like what you and what the ACL say. I can say it from the bottom of my heart: really, are you serious?

TONY JONES: Peter Jensen.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: Beer, if you’d like to.

PETER JENSEN: Sorry. Yes, I am really serious but I would like to know in a dispassionate way, in an objective way, what the facts are. I think it’s very, very…

CATHERINE DEVENY: I think she’s got the facts for you.

PETER JENSEN: I think she says she has the facts.


TONY JONES: Well, hang on. Sorry, we’re not going to make a giant debate within the audience.

PETER JENSEN: But these are very complex matters and it’s all very well to say what I say causes this. That, to my mind, is already facile.

TONY JONES: Well, can I just ask, presumably you’ve looked at some of the science around the health statistics, have you actually looked at the science about the gay gene which suggests that it is intrinsic in a person their sexuality and if you’ve looked at that, I would ask you this: if God actually created homosexuals, would you not then have to turn around and change your mind on all of these issues?

PETER JENSEN: Thank you, Tony. God did create homosexuals. I don’t need the gene to tell me that. God created homosexuals. God created every person and loves every person, without doubt.

TONY JONES: No, I mean he created if there is a gay gene, would you say the creator was responsible for creating that?

PETER JENSEN: Well, I would say that that that may be the case but we’re not talking about same-sex attraction, we’re talking about the acting out of same-sex attraction. We’re talking about well, I realise that we’re living in a very, very different world from the one I’m talking about but I’m living in a world where a number of my friends have life long committed themselves to no sexual relations.

TONY JONES: All right, I’m just going to interrupt because there are several people with their hands up. We’ll take this gentleman here.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, Peter, I’m 100% gay and I’m HIV negative and I’m not going to die any time sooner than anybody else.

PETER JENSEN: I’m glad to hear it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: If we’re going to talk about the facts, we’re going to talk about something in between homosexuality and illness which is basically condom use. If you’re looking at the rates of HIV necessarily with the whole gay physiology thing, it’s that if you’re going to talk blatantly about it, the anus is much more a problem area with HIV than the vagina, okay? So really we’re talking about condom use and people not using condoms when they should. So really you can condemn an HIV positive man for not using a condom as much as you can condemn a teenage mother and really one gets life and the other gets death in a way so there appears to be a greater condemnation of gay men (indistinct)…

TONY JONES: Okay, I’m sorry. I’m going to – we’ve got a few people with their hands up so I’m going to take yours as a comment. I’ll just go to that young woman down there.

PETER JENSEN: But can I say that is the sort of…

TONY JONES: Yep, you can.

PETER JENSEN: You’re speaking to me as though you respect me and I respect you, well I hope you do. Let’s have a respectful discussion on these matters not (AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOWN SNEERING). OK, I’m sorry.

TONY JONES: The young lady down the front.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’d like to know whether Peter thinks that his comments on gay marriage as well as the submission of women in marriages might contribute might have contributed to the rise of atheism within our society?

TONY JONES: Go ahead.

PETER JENSEN: No, I don’t think so. These things, I think, are disconnected in actual fact. Do you want to talk about atheism?

TONY JONES: Well you have said your ideas are unfashionable, let’s put it that way. So if they’re unfashionable will there be a fashion leading a lot of people away from the church?

PETER JENSEN: Not on atheism. No, I think these things will become – I think they clarify where people stand and I think there’s been a lot of clarification in the last decade about atheism and about religion. I’m not sure the number of atheists has grown an inch in the last decade.

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