Greens-Catholic Dialogue Postponed

Sadly, my meeting today with Greens candidate Jo Tenner was cancelled, as Jo is unwell. We will have to make another time.

Thanks for all the responses members of the Commentators Table made to my question about what I should talk to Jo about. I took most seriously the suggestion that a topic for discussion would be why the Greens agenda is such an odd mixture of positive environmental policies and radical (often anti-religious) social policies.

With that in mind, I spent a bit of time studying the Greens response to “Your Vote, Your Values” (you can download it in PDF form from here (it’s big, 6MB)).

About 50% of their response to the Bishops’ questions were positive. On Housing, Mental Health, Care for Children and those with disabilities, Aged Care, Criminal Justice, Drugs and Alcohol (in the main – there was no mention in the document of a policy to legalise marijuana) the Greens were able to give positive reassurances in response to the Church’s concerns.

However, on Abortion, Euthanasia, Education (support for Catholic schooling), and Religious Freedom, there are serious concerns.

Here are some eg.s [with my comments]

On Euthanasia: The Greens support the right of people in sound mind, dying from an incurable disease, when pain relief is not working for them, to be able to seek assistance to die. The Greens would support any attempt to bring in a conscience vote on euthanasia. [Aside from the actual question of the morality of “assisting someone to die”, there are surely too many “conditionals” in that policy to make a workable and socially safe piece of legislation.]

On Abortion: The Victorian Greens support a women’s right to self determination regarding her body and health. [Except we all know that a baby is not a part of a woman’s body.]We also support the removal of abortion from the Crimes Act.

On funding for Catholic Education: It is the prime responsibility of state governments to fund government schools to a level of excellence such that they set the standard for all schools. [Is that statement open to challenge? The provision of education per se is a prime responsibility of state governments, but funding government schools over against non-Government schools can only be considered a “prime responsibility” in the sense that the “prime funders” of government schools is the government.]A key education priority for the Victorian Greens is the increase of funding for government schools in Victoria. Funding for non-government schools is largely a Commonwealth issue. The Greens support an immediate review of the existing Commonwealth funding arrangements for non-government schools and its replacement with a model that achieves greater equity.

On Religious Freedom: The Greens support the right of individuals to express their faith [what does “express” mean?]in accordance with their religious doctrines, beliefs and principles. The Greens also strongly support human rights laws [The Church on the other hand supports “human rights” per se, not necessarily the positivist laws that claim to establish “human rights”.]. Giving absolute primacy to freedom of religion over the entire range of other rights [such as?]would not be necessary for the ordinary operations of such organisations [the life of a school community, for eg. is more than just its “operations”], and would serve to undermine the very basis of the human rights system itself [“human rights” is a “system”? I thought the basis of human rights were the inherant dignity of the human person, not any “system”.]. The example of the medical practitioner in your document’s ‘religious freedom’ statement is pertinent. In this case, the apparent right of the practitioner to not provide particular medical advice to a patient must be balanced with the patient’s right to receive competent and comprehensive advice on the full range of medical options [such as euthanasia? what exactly is a “medical option”?]regardless of the practitioner’s personal views[What do they mean by “personal views”? Is this a dismissive way of speaking of an individual’s ethics? Of their conscience? A person’s religious beliefs are not just “personal opinions”].

I am sorry that I didn’t get to ask Jo those questions today. I had intended to give her a copy of Pope Benedict’s Message for the World Day of Peace (Jan 1st) 2010, as I thought it might be a good example of a positive Catholic approach to a wholistic ecology, which held together as one concern both environmental ecology and an authentic “human ecology”. It is a mystery to me that the Greens can be so tuned in to the inherent balances and sensitivities of human manipulation of the natural environment and yet so oblivious to the dangers that may result from messing about with the human ecology.

I earnestly hope that Jo and I finally get an opportunity to discuss these issues.

For now, I have to pack this in, and head over to the Pumphouse Hotel where I am participating in the Theology at the Pub session tonight (I can pretend I am under 35!).

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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