The Catholic Church and the Greens: why?

The Catholic Church and the Greens: why?

Tony Kearney

Irish-born Tony Kearney has had a long career in university administration, including 14 years as Registrar of the University of Tasmania. He was a co-founder of the Federation of Parents and Friends of the Catholic Schools of Tasmania in 1959 and its President until 1964, and a member of several educational bodies in the Hobart Archdiocese. He has also written extensively on educational issues.

An unhealthy - indeed unholy - association between the Catholic Church and the Greens has prevailed in Australia for the past few years.

An early indication of this association emerged in September 2002 when the Catholic hierarchy made the extraordinary decision that the theme for 2002 Social Justice Sunday, 29 September, should be the Australian environment. Its statement was titled: A New Earth: The Environmental Challenge.

At the Mass which my wife and I attended in our parish church on Social Justice Sunday, the congregation was subjected to a lengthy dissertation on the environment by a Dr Nick Cooling, who commended Senator Brown, national leader of the Greens, Ms Peg Putt, its current leader in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, and Ms Christine Milne (about whom more below).

It is clear that the environment the Australian hierarchy had in mind was the physical one, not the moral or social. However, it is extremely difficult to see any meaningful connection between social justice and Australia's physical environment.

That environment is already being very well looked after. Billions of dollars are being spent on it, governments at all levels are aware of the need to nurture it and there is a myriad of bodies (including the Greens and Greenpeace) whose professed aim is to protect our animals (excluding, of course, the human variety), birds and plants.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia, instead of jumping on an already popular and well-supported bandwagon, should have been attacking and publicly denouncing the many moral and social evils which are slowly but surely destroying our society.

These include the constant erosion by sections of the media of family values, the obscenely high payments made to leaders in business and sport, and the facilitating of the killing of Australia's most valuable yet most endangered species, voiceless and defenceless unborn babies.

They include also the insidious and successful campaign to make moral and sexual perversities not only normal but, indeed, worthy practices in our society, as well as the widespread greed and irregularities in many of our major financial institutions.

Pope John Paul II, some time ago, had requested that Catholics generally become more environmentally active. The Australian Hierarchy, ostensibly as a response to this request, created Catholic Earthcare Australia (CEA) in June 2002.

Although this body has been in existence for only about two years, it is clear from its website that a substantial amount of the Church's meagre resources, human and financial, are being devoted to its activities.

Greens candidate

A study of the website shows that CEA's activities are Australia-wide and include a mix of conferences, workshops, annual meetings and dinners. One of CEA's responsibilities is to advise the hierarchy on environmental matters. Three persons were originally appointed to CEA's Advisory Council: Archbishop Adrian Doyle of Hobart, Dr Cooling and Christine Milne.

Ms Milne has been an environmental activist since 1980 and a Greens representative in the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 1990 to 1999, including four years as its leader. She then became an adviser to Senator Brown and is also Oceania representative on the World Conservation Union.

In late May, it was announced she would be the Greens Senate candidate for Tasmania.

As the Greens one-time Parliamentary leader, then a member of Dr Brown's staff and now an endorsed Senate candidate, it is reasonable to assume that Ms Milne is fully conversant with and in support of the Greens' policies not just on the environment but also on moral and social issues.

It is reasonable also to assume that members of the Hierarchy were aware of her political affiliation and views when they appointed her a member of CEA's Advisory Council and have since countenanced the prominent role she has continued to play in CEA's activities.

They owe the Catholic community an explanation for this extraordinary display of ill-judgment.

The recent concentration of the Church on politically correct environmental matters and seeming reluctance to be equally eloquent on moral and social issues has not escaped the notice of the secular press.

Miranda Devine, a regular columnist for the Sydney Sun-Herald, in March this year quoted Tony Abbott, Minister for Health: "Why isn't the fact that 100,000 women chose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy?" Ms Devine went on to comment that "the most puzzling reaction to Mr Abbott's speech" was the silence from the Catholic establishment - "not a peep from the Australian Bishops' Conference."

It was further noted that in the past year our Church leaders have issued 30 media releases, including six on asylum seekers, but none on abortion. However, at least Melbourne and Sydney have Respect Life Offices which regularly criticise abortion.

With a Federal election looming, it is imperative the Hierarchy immediately and publicly disassociate itself from the Greens.

To make abundantly clear what the Church's top priority is, the hierarchy should declare that the theme of Social Justice Sunday 2004 will be "The Sanctity of Human Life: From the Womb To The Grave".

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