Monday, March 19, 2007

What our religion teaches IS "in the best interests of our community" Mr Bracks!

According to today's edition of The Age the Victorian Premier, Mr Bracks (who calls himself a Catholic) said that
the separation of church and state in Australia should be respected by the Pope.

"We are in a secular state and we make decisions based on what we believe is in the best interests of our community. That's how I have always operated," he said.
And that is exactly how the Pope and all faithful Catholic politicians operate also, Mr Bracks. So there is no opposition between you and the Pope on that score.

As I have pointed out in other posts, the Pope, and Archbishop Hart, and other Catholic hierarchs who speak out on human rights and social justice are not trying to force their "religious ideas" on politicians. All their arguments in the sphere of political life are based on natural law philosophy, not upon religious ideas.

But they are:

1) Calling those who wish to call themselves Catholic to actually practice what the Catholic faith teaches (nota bene, Mr Bracks);
2) Convinced that embryonic stem cell research and cloning is not "in the best interests of our community."

4 Comments:

At Monday, March 19, 2007 7:24:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Serious issue here, though:

Whether or not Mr Bracks is a Catholic (or, perhaps better, the extent to which Mr Bracks is a Catholic) is primarily a matter between Mr Bracks and his bishop. Yes, the Catholic church is a community, and it Mr Bracks’s catholicity affects all of us. But it’s not normally something that gets, or needs to get, or should get, thrashed out before the entire church; still less before the entire nation. Same goes for whether Peregrinus is a Catholic. Or David Schutz.

Any attempt to make a public issue of this looks awfully like an attempt to use Mr Brack’s personal Catholicity as a lever for the church to exercise political power. Nearly fifty years ago in the US, John Kennedy spent a lot of time trying to refute the widespread prejudice that voting for a Catholic candidate was dangerous because the church would do precisely this, and it gives a substantial hostage to fortune, as well as occasioning some scandal, to behave in a way which feeds this prejudice. In the Australian context, I really think the church needs to go out of its way to avoid even the possiblity of its statements being interpreted in this way.

Mr Bracks should not oppose cloning for therapeutic or research purposes because his church condemns it. He should oppose it for the same reason as any premier should - because it is wrong. The church should certainly publicly remind him that it is wrong, but it has no business publicly reminding him that he is a Catholic.

I am not suggesting, incidentally, that the Archbishop of Melbourne, or any other “official” agent of the church, is doing this. I don’t follow Victorian politics or current affairs closely enough to know whether this is so. My comments are directed more that those who urge bishops to behave in this way towards politicians generally, e.g. demanding public communion bans for politiciians over their voting record on abortion.

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 10:09:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Dear Peregrinus,

You are reading this in entirely the wrong light, I think. Archbishop Hart's statement opposing research using human embryos said nothing Mr Bracks' self-identification with the Catholic Church. The Church in Melbourne has never attempted or even dreamed of attempting "to use Mr Brack’s personal Catholicity as a lever for the church to exercise political power". In his statement, Archbishop Hart simply used natural law arguments to say what he (and the Church) regard as "in the best interests of the community".

It was Mr Bracks himself who brought up the issue of the recent papal reminder (in Sacramentum Caritatis) to those who self-identify as Catholics and who are
also politicians that their self-identification brings with it a responsibility to act in a way befitting that self-identification. If they do not, they are being hypocritical (that's my judgement, not the Pope's).

Terry Lane yesterday pontificated that the public has the "right to know" if a candidate for public office is Catholic or not on a sort of "consumer rights" basis. Mr Bracks has let it be publically known that he is a Catholic. Yet he is publically disparaging the Pope's reminder that a personal who calls themselves Catholic cannot simply park their Catholicism when it doesn't suit them.

Archbishop Hart has acted (as always) in an exemplary manner. He has not in any way even approached the fact that (strictly speaking) the Premier comes under his episcopal authority. Nor would we want him to. The Archbishop is doing his job as a prophetic speaker of the Truth in this situation. The Archbishop is observing the proper "separation of church and state". Mr Bracks, but telling the Pope to "butt out" of what is clearly the Pope's business (namely, to offer pastoral advice to those who self-identify with his flock) is the one who is failing to observe due decorum here.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 1:40:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I’m not expressing myself well here. I’m not intending to disagree with your post, or to suggest that Archbishop Hart is not handling this as he should. I’m just pointing to a danger which I think is implicit in these church-state confrontations that we would always do well to keep in mind.

It’s really a two-fold danger. One problem is those within the church – not including you or Dr Hart – who do think that the church should wield its authority over its members to secure political results. The “communion ban” brigade would be a good example. The other is that sector of society outside the church,who are predisposed (perhaps from ignorance or prejudice) to perceive the church to be doing precisely that, even if it isn’t.

If in fact it is Bracks who has raised his personal Catholic identification in this discussion, it may be that he is playing to that particular gallery, acknowledging and indeed reinforcing their prejudice, while trying to get political credit for showing that he, at least, is not the spineless type who will give in to such pressure. If so, that is reprehensible.

I think my point remains valid, though. In a post below you refer to a call by Terry Lane to oblige candidates to declare if they are Catholics, and you respond by asking whether we are not equally entitled to know if they hold some other worldview. I suspect Lane would respond to that by pointing out that Catholicism is more than just a philosophical position. It is a commitment not only to belief but to action, and furthermore to communal action, the community concerned being not the (democratic, pluralist) nation, but the (hierarchical, sectarian) church.

We know how often, and how seriously, the role of Catholics in public life has been misunderstood and misrepresented in the past, and Lane (and apparently Bracks) show that this still goes on. We need to be conscious of both the reality and the seriousness of this particular form of anti-Catholicism, and be careful about doing or saying anything which could be used to feed it.

 
At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 2:56:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Righto, I've got you now.

Actually I don't think it was Mr Bracks who raised the issue of his Catholicism (rather I think it was the newspaper). What Mr Bracks asserted was that the Pope, by advising Catholic politicians that they had a responsibility to live according to the Catholic faith in all aspects of their daily lives (including the exercise of their political office), was overstepping the boundaries established by the unwritten code of "separation of church and state".

I realise that care is necessary here, and I held up Archbishop Hart's statement as a model of that care.

The fact is that Catholics belong to both the religious community and the political community simultaneously. This should not surprise us, because all of us belong to numerous communities and our identity is largely made up of this belonging.

It is impossible and nonsensical for the political community to expect that we cease to be members of and responsible to the other communities to which we belong in our exercise of our political responsibilities-- whether as voters or as political officers. To say that politicians do not have the right to exercise their religious convictions, or that leaders of religious communities do not have the right to advise those who belong to their community with regard to their moral conduct, is to completely distort the rules of democratic politics.

It is just as important that the leaders of religious communities (communities which are a fully a part of the political community), are granted a political voice.

This was all made pretty clear in the Pope's encyclical:

"Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere. ...The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.
...This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just." (paragraph 28)

 

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