The Australian Government's approval on 10 March of funding for overseas foreign aid programs that include the provision of abortions will appal all who respect human life and want development programs to improve pre-natal and post-natal care for mothers.
The Australian decision echoed that of US President Barack Obama when he abolished the Mexico City Policy prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for providing or promoting abortions abroad.
The provision of abortion will do nothing for the health of mothers and children in the developing world.
Disturbingly, a majority of Catholic voters (admittedly among the non- practising ones) supported Barack Obama in the presidential election, despite his well-known pro-abortion stance.
The inexorable moves in Western countries towards removal of all legal barriers to abortion on demand, as well as recognising homosexual marriage and adoption, indicate the extent to which secularist ideas have penetrated key areas of opinion-shaping and policy-making.
One explanation for this phenomenon is evident in the just-released findings of a comprehensive survey of Americans' religious beliefs. It shows the number of non-believers has almost doubled to 15 percent over the past 18 years while the number calling themselves Christians has fallen by 11 percent over the same period. Australian statistics show similar trends.
Of further significance is the fact that non-believers appear to be disproportionately represented in the mass media and in areas of government.
The challenge facing Christians in Australia and the US in light of these negative developments - and how they should respond - is set out in articles by Bishop Elliott and Archbishop Chaput (see pages 8, 9).
More than ever, active Christians will need to demonstrate the courage of their convictions if they hope to bring the Gospel message to an increasingly secularised public square.
Michael Gilchrist, Editor (email address available on request)