A torrent of verbal abuse has descended on Cardinal George Pell, following his statement at a news conference that there would be unspecified 'consequences' if Catholic politicians voted in favour of a NSW bill to legalise destructive human cloning and embryo experimentation.
Despite intense media pressure, Cardinal Pell was careful not to spell out what the consequences might be. 'I don't believe', he said, 'in crossing bridges before you get to them and I am hoping all the Catholic politicians here in New South Wales will do the right thing.' The media hysteria was a 'beat-up'.
In the event, he was denounced not only by editorial writers, but by a number of Catholic state and federal Parliamentarians.
The controversy distracted attention from the position of all 10 Catholic bishops in New South Wales on the issue.
'A matter of such dramatic ethical and social import should not be rushed through Parliament in a week,' Cardinal Pell said. 'The general public and our parliamentary representatives have been given little or no information or warning about this legislation. We should not blindly follow the lead of other parliaments in passing such unethical legislation.'
The NSW bishops pointed out that the Church, through grants and through its hospitals and research institutes, is a promoter of ethical research on adult, including umbilical cord, stem cells. 'But allowing scientists open slather on human embryos for unethical research is not the best way forward.'
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, and the head of the NSW Council of Churches, David Crawford, also reaffirmed their opposition to the legislation. The Council of Churches represents the Anglican Church, the Baptist Union of NSW, the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (NSW), the Churches of Christ in NSW, the Fellowship of Congregational Churches, NSW, the Presbyterian Church of Australia (NSW), and the Salvation Army (Eastern Territory).
Our church leaders deserve our support and gratitude for their efforts to protect human life at its most vulnerable point.
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.