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Christians have a right to speak out   

Cardinal George Pell

Recently, I was interviewed on radio about the role of religion in public life. The suggestion seemed to be that if you were irreligious, that was okay, that being secular meant you were fair and reasonable, but religious principles should not intrude into public affairs.

Cardinal George Pell

The federal election has come and gone, and life goes on. The election was a bit unusual because religion played a small part in the electioneering and one of the successful minor parties, Family First, is clearly inspired by Christianity.

The old rule in Australian social life that you don't discuss politics or religion with strangers still holds in many ways.

Should Christians be allowed to form political parties? Is this prudent, and is it good for Australian life?

As a priest, and certainly as a bishop, I have never endorsed any political party. I have, however, commented on political issues such as the war in Iraq, the treatment of refugees, stem cell research and education.

Every Australian has a right to speak publicly on any issue, and sometimes a bishop has a moral duty to speak.

Although I do not favour church parties, and prefer serious Christians to work in all the major parties where they are welcome, it's not surprising that some would organize to protect values and institutions under attack.

They have every right to do so.

Recently, I was interviewed on radio about the role of religion in public life. The suggestion seemed to be that if you were irreligious, that was okay, that being secular meant you were fair and reasonable, but religious principles should not intrude into public affairs.

I pointed out that Christians had the same rights as anyone else in our democracy and could propose whatever policies they chose. If people didn't like their policies, they could vote for another party.

The interviewer professed to be scared of the prospect of Christian political parties, although he didn't say why. He then moved on to George W. Bush who, he claimed, not only set out to do God's will, but claimed to be given special godly instructions or revelations.

I do not claim that all President Bush's policies are prudent and right. They may or may not be. But he must not be condemned simply because he's a serious Christian.

The interviewer conceded there was no evidence that Bush was claiming to hear voices, and lapsed into silence when I explained that for me, it was a consolation if a world leader was trying to do God's will rather than setting out to do whatever he could get away with.

Isn't it better, I asked, to have a leader who believes that in the next life, he will have to answer for the decisions he makes in the here and now?

Christians should co-operate together, and with others, to promote prosperity and freedom, to work for social and educational justice, and to protect life, marriage and family. How they do so is their democratic choice, and the verdict remains with the voters.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Cardinal George Pell. "Christians have a right to speak out." The Sunday Telegraph (October 24, 2004).

This article reprinted with permission from The Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia on behalf of Cardinal Pell.

THE AUTHOR

Cardinal Pell is archbishop of Sydney, Australia. He holds a Licentiate in Theology from Urban University, Rome (1967), a Masters Degree in Education from Monash University, Melbourne (1982), a Doctorate of Philosophy in Church History from the University of Oxford (1971) and is a Fellow of the Australian College of Education. He was Visiting Scholar at Campion Hall, Oxford University, in 1979 and at St Edmund's College, Cambridge University, in 1983.

In September, 1996, Oxford University Press published Issues of Faith and Morals, written by Cardinal Pell for senior secondary classes and parish groups. Other publications include The Sisters of St Joseph in Swan Hill 1922-72 (1972), Catholicism in Australia (1988), Rerum Novarum One Hundred Years Later (1992) and Catholicism and the Architecture of Freedom (1999). Since 2001, he has been a weekly columnist for Sydney's Sunday Telegraph.

Copyright 2004 The Sunday Telegraph

 

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