In January 2014, Bishop Christopher Saunders, as Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, issued a media release asserting that the only purpose of government policy on asylum seekers is to condemn desperate people to persecution and danger. The inference is that our elected representatives (and by extension, the people who elected them) are essentially evil.
The release goes on to criticise the entry of Royal Australian Navy vessels into Indonesian waters and the forcing of boats carrying asylum seekers back into the territory whence they came. Perhaps it didn't occur to the authors that a likely reason for the territorial incursions may have been the intention to leave the boats as close as possible to land, for the safety of passengers and crew.
The whole tenor of the release is offensive. Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, but Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and most Arab countries are not. We have given sanctuary to more refugees per capita than almost all other nations and our generosity is likely to continue. However, we do resent being taken advantage of by illegal economic migrants who destroy their identity documents to frustrate proper processing of their claims for asylum. The sight on television of well fed, well groomed people disembarking at Christmas Island does not excite compassion.
The ACSJC charter requires it to promote Catholic social teaching based upon each person's innate dignity which emanates from belief in the sanctity of human life. Every year the Council issues a Social Justice Statement on important subjects such as the environment, racism, justice for aborigines, world poverty, etc. Yet in the 14 years since 1999 there has not been one Statement on those most fundamental breaches of the sanctity of human life: abortion and euthanasia.
Our asylum seeker policy denies people an automatic right to live in Australia but abortion and euthanasia deny them the very right to live. ACSJC's priorities would seem to be rather askew.