There are three gay marriage private member’s bills before Federal Parliament at the moment, aimed at changing the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

But Catholic bishops in Victoria are to circulate 80,000 letters this weekend encouraging parishioners to ‘protect traditional marriage’.

The Bishop of Sale, Christopher Prowse, said: “We have asked Catholics to seriously reflect and pray about the ramifications for current and future generations of legislation which completely redefines marriage.”

Marriage equality supporters refuted the church’s claim that gay marriage would threaten the future of society.

National convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said: “Families and societies are only strengthened when couples are allowed to commit to each other through marriage.

“So to hear Archbishop Hart discouraging any recognition of this commitment is extraordinary and heartless.”

Meanwhile, former New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally, herself a devout Catholic, has said she supports gay marriage.

“I’ve come to a position, with a fully-formed conscience, that I support gay marriage,” she said in an interview with ABC Television.

“I would encourage all Catholics to apply critical thinking to this issue.”

Picture: Getty