"That's sooooo 20th Century."
Have you heard that one yet? It's becoming the latest put down. It's "like, get with it, man" for the 21st Century. CD's are 20th Century. Blackberrys are 20th Century. Being opposed to physician assisted suicide is 20th Century...
Well, at least according to Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens. In an article in today's edition of The Age ("Brown attacks Catholic Church election stance"), Mr Brown says:
''I welcome the Catholic Church or the Presbyterian Church or the Buddhists or anyone having a say in that [euthanasia] - we are a free and open democracy - but it really opens up to public attention the fact that the Greens are a 21st-century party trying to drag the other parties out of their last-century thinking on so many issues.''
Ah. "Last-century thinking". There's nothing like pumping up the relentless tide of "progress" to make a political party look as if it has a future. Actually, Mr Brown's rhetoric sounds rather 20th Century itself. Anyone who knows any social history will recall that in the first decade of the 20th Century, "Victorian values" were condemned as "so last century", and the newly minted 20th Century was proclaimed to be the "Century of Progress" and "the Brotherhood of Man"…
The Great War broke out in 1914, and the idea of "the progress of man" got a bit of a reality check. We're only 10 years into this new century, Mr Brown. Let's wait and see how the 21st Century turns out before we start using it as a positive adjective for our political ideals.
In any case, it is rather telling that Mr Brown has pulled off his gloves and openly attacked Archbishop Hart and the Catholic Church for its opposition to policies which the Greens espouse. By contrast, in Your Vote, Your Values, the Catholic bishops were very careful to make it quite clear that "as bishops we are not advocating any political party. That is not our role." But according to Mr Brown, the Church is trying to "dictate to people" and "trying to tell parishioners how to vote". Good try, Mr Brown. In fact, what the Church is doing is what she has always done: guiding and shepherding the flock, speaking the truth of faith and morals, suggesting a "better way", a path of life and of hope. This is, in fact, what Catholics belong to a Church for. They expect their bishops to educate them in what is right and wrong, and to encourage them to live a morally upright life in society.
Mr Brown retorts that "the Greens embraced Christian ethics and Catholic voters could think for themselves." Another nice try. For a start it would be interesting to see how Mr Brown defines "Christian ethics". Are the Greens now claiming a more infallible charism to teach Christian ethics than the Church herself? And yes, Catholics who can think for themselves are precisely what we want, with an emphasis on the word "think". The Greens are far too complacent in their ability to pass off ideas as "progressive" and therefore "good" for our society. We want a Catholic laity who can think beyond the slogans of Greens policies.
One is not, however, optimistic. In the Letters section of today's Age, there were nine (9) letters on the subject of the Bishops' statement. ALL NINE WERE ANTI-CATHOLIC. That's balance for you. Perhaps – just maybe perhaps – The Age received no positive letters about the bishops' initiative at all. Perhaps.
A quick review of the letters gives us:
"WHILE Catholic bishops are perfectly entitled to advise their flocks on moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, they are not entitled to impose those views on the broader society…[I]f every Catholic followed the advice, all members of our society would be affected." (Dr Peter Evans, Hawthorn)
Thanks, Doc. That's how democratic politics works. Everyone gets a say in how their society is run. One could turn the tables and say that while the Greens are "perfectly entitled" to their silly ideas about what makes a "progressive" society, "they are not entitled to impose those views on the broader society" – which is exactly what will happen if they gain any real political power. Doc Evans goes on to say "Catholics make up only one in four of our community" – and at last count Greens made up less than one in six. So what's your point, Doc?
Jean Jordan of Eltham asks why "The Catholic Church's election guide urges parishioners to ''quiz'' candidates on their attitudes to voluntary euthanasia and abortion" but doesn't mention the war in Afghanistan. Easy one, Jean. This is a State election, and the State government has no powers to commit our armed forces to any engagement.
Then there are two letters, one from Peter O'Keefe and another from John Mosig, which take the predictable line that since the sexual abuse scandal, the "Catholic Church is hardly in a position to lecture us on morality." As I say, the argument is predictable. And it too could be turned on its head: Does a society that murders its unborn children at a rate of 80,000 a year and a political party that wants us to help sick people kill themselves have a right to lecture us on morality?
Then there is Jason Ball of South Yarra who reckons that "someone should inform Archbishop Denis Hart that three in four Catholics actually support euthanasia." Is it that high? If so, it is my guess that those "Catholics" that "actually support euthanasia" would be those with whom Steve Clark of Bukoba in Tanzania (they read The Age in Tanzania???) self identifies when he cites those who are only counted as Catholics "because they were baptised as infants but are in no sense now part of the church (like me)".
To cap it all off, Bob Greaves gives us just the sort of non-sequitur which makes brings us back to the "soooo last century" jibe. In his opinion, "the reactionary opinions of the Catholic Church hierarchy have no place in secular Australian politics". So, let me get that right, Bob. Are you saying that people who have opinions different to yours shouldn't get to vote? Or just that religious people shouldn't be allowed to vote? Or that religious people should forget about their most deeply held convictions and vote like hypocrites?