I’m going to make an off-the-cuff, barely-thought-out statement here, just to get some of you excited about the upcoming election. Sorry, I should rephrase that, I hope to get some of you excited over the statement I am about to make, not over the election next Saturday. There is nothing that could get anyone excited about the election itself…
There are a number of “how to vote” guidelines appearing from church sources. One of them is from the Sisters of Charity and is called “Voting for our Values”. My wife was fairly impressed by this. In fact, I think that what is impressive is the way in which Catholics are able to talk about social doctrine as something that is a core part of the Church. Pope Benedict, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, in which he pointed to three (rather than two) marks of the Church: Word, Sacrament, and Charity. There is also a rather impressive little volume just out from Connor Court Publishing called “Life to the Full”. If you are looking for wishy, washy unionist left-wing social gospel stuff, you won’t find it here. “Life to the Full” shows how hard hitting Catholic Social teaching can be.
But back to the subject of “how to vote” guidelines. My wife also then expressed the regret that she had not had time to canvas all our candidates on their values. I note that Peter Holmes is busy doing just that, and he points to another “how to vote” guideline from the Life Office of the Sydney Archdiocese.
It is interesting to compare the Sisters of Charity guidelines to the Life Office guidelines. There is no overlap at all. Yes, folks, the good Sisters completely omitted any issues to do with abortion, RU486, euthanasia, stem cells, cloning, marriage, same-sex “marriage”, family, drugs, or religious education in schools… Oh well. They hit on some other important topics like “Democracy and Dissent”, “Climate Change and Development” and “Trade Justice”, which for some reason the Life Office overlooked…
The one good thing that the Life Office gives us is Papa Benny’s “Three Non-Negotiables Common to All Humanity”. On 30th of March 2006 he told the European People’s Party:
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously
drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable:
• protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
• recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union;
• the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
These principles are not truths of faith, even though they receive further light and confirmation from faith; they are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity.
I think we do have a duty to ask ourselves whether the people we are voting for, and the party to which they belong, support these non-negotiable pillars of Catholic social doctrine.
You need to do this for the sake of your own ethical integrity.
BUT (and I can’t put that BUT in big enough letters to make my point) your vote will still probably have diddlysquat effect on the social/ethical direction of this country’s elected government. I’m sorry if that sounds cynical, but there it is.
If there is one thing I have learned in my short 23 years of political involvement, it is that politicians will say anything to get elected, and governments will do anything to remain in power. As Janette Howard said recently of her husband (and I deeply admire her realism and honesty):
You talk about a whole lot of things when you’re trying to convince people to do things. But you don’t go back and honour every single one of those unless you have made a firm commitment about it and John wasn’t into making firm commitments.
And even if they ARE being honest, the chances are that the party you support will have values that are 50% in line with Catholic values and 50% not. Or even 95% in line with Catholic values and 5% not–especially in the case of the Greens where their policies seem to shape up pretty well against the Sisters of Charity guidelines (the 95%) but fail miserably on the Life Office’s guidelines (the crucial non-negotiable 5%).
How about this conversation with Green’s Senator Christine Milne on a recent episode of the Stephen Crittenden Show:
Christine Milne: Well, on the contrary, the Greens don’t have obvious disdain for Christian values. …there are many Christians who are members of the Greens and by our actions in the parliament… And they recognise just how strongly Greens adhere to principles of social justice, human dignity, respect for life…
Stephen Crittenden: Nonetheless, Christine Milne, isn’t it also true that there are certain elements that go to making up the Green party — and I’m thinking of the hard left types on one hand, perhaps the tree-hugging libertarian dope-smoking types on the other — who are always going to prevent the greens from appealing to the Australian mainstream? Groups which have always been anti-religious? I’m even thinking of Senator Kerry Nettle and her ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries’ T-shirt that offended so many people a year or so back.
Christine Milne: Well, I certainly wouldn’t have used that language myself, but what Kerry was trying to express was a strong position on a woman’s right to control their own reproduction and access to legal, safe and affordable and confidential reproductive health services, including where appropriate, termination of pregnancy. I mean, basically, providing access to unbiased counselling is really very important in Australia. We do not want to go back to the old days of backyard abortions. But the critical thing is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
Any way, you get my point. I’ve gone on long enough. By this time next week, it will almost all be over any way.
Here’s my election prediction: Contrary to Peter Garrett’s “leak”, nothing, I repeat, nothing, will change–no matter whether those Kevin07 T-shirts turn out to be real value for money this summer or next weeks bargain at the op-shop.