Whatever way the vote on the Abortion Law Reform Bill goes on Tuesday, when Archbishop Hart comes to looking back on his time of service as the pastor of the Catholic Church in Melbourne, he will be justified in regarding his stand against this bill as one of his most courageous actions. In his quiet but firm manner – he absolutely eschews any hint of political activism or roudiness – he has clearly stated the demands of justice and human dignity and called his people and indeed all Christian people and people of goodwill to prayer that this bill be defeated.
Yesterday, some 2500 people – Catholics mostly, but many others (I was in a pew entirely filled with Lutherans) – gathered together with Archbishop Hart, the auxiliary bishops of Melbourne, and Christian ministers of other denominations (see photo below) to lift their voices in prayer to our heavenly “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit (the Gospel for the day was John 14).
This event had a powerful effect on all who attended. When before has the Church ever gathered together like this in reaction to a law that had been proposed and passed by the Lower Chamber of our House of Parliament? What representative of the people in their wildest dreams would consider pushing through a bill about which members in the community held such deep reservations?
But if God was listening (and we are confident that he was), the media seemed rather more cool. While mentioned on the commercial TV news programs last night, the ABC carried not a mention of it. Again, a small mention at the end of an article in the Herald, and just this one sentence on the very bottom of a much longer article (admittedly front page) in The Age:
Earlier, 2500 packed St Patrick’s Cathedral for a service, led by Archbishop Denis Hart, urging the bill’s defeat.
The populist political rabble rouser in me is, admittedly, disappointed, but I think perhaps Archbishop Denis would be happy. He didn’t call us together yesterday to make a political point, but to plead our cause at the bench of a much, much more powerful tribunal than that of the Victorian Parliament.
(Archbishop Hart with the ministers of other Christian communities present at the Hour of Prayer. From Left to Right: Rev. Dr. Max Champion (Chairperson of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church of Australia), Rev. Dr. Ross Carter (Uniting Church), Rev. David Palmer (David Palmer is the Convener of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria Church and Nation Committee), Rev. Fr. James Grant (Anglican Church), Rev. John Hudson. Rev. Greg Pietsch, of the Lutheran Church, was unable to be present due to another event, but was represented by Marlene Pietsch)