"Progressive, rational, independent"… and wrong

Tony Smith (who “holds a PhD in political science. He has taught at several universities including the University of Sydney”), in the October 15 edition of Eureka Street writes a piece about the religious beliefs of New South Wales Premier, Kristina Keneally. I wouldn’t know Ms Keneally from Eve, so what I say here is no reflection on her. It is a reflection, rather of Dr Smith’s praise for a kind of “Catholicism” which has one main fault: it isn’t Catholic.

Dr Smith says that “Keneally’s faith makes an interesting study”. He contrasts her “Catholicism” with Tony Abbott’s “great enthusiasm for Catholic orthodoxy” (although, it should be said, for all that “enthusiasm”, Mr Abbot is no less of a politician than Ms Keneally). He writes that “by contrast Premier Keneally represents a growingly assertive Catholicism which might be described as progressive, rational and independent”.

So, what are these “progressive, rational and independant” beliefs? Let’s look at them (please note, I am commenting on Dr Smith’s assessment of what comprises “progressive, rational and independant” beliefs – I am not judging Ms Keneally’s faith):

1) “Keneally has stated plainly her belief that Catholic women should not be excluded from ordination.” Progressive? Depends what you mean by “progress”, I guess. Rational? Depends what your premises are. Independant? Independant of the Catholic Magisterium, that’s for sure.

2) “In explaining her decision to support a bill to remove anomalies from the Adoption Act so that same sex couples would be eligible to adopt, Keneally noted the importance of allowing all MPs a ‘conscience vote’. She described how her conscience was informed by Catholic teaching about the ‘primacy’ of conscience and the importance of actively developing the conscience.” Is the example here her ideas about “same sex adoption” or her ideas about what “primacy of conscience” might mean? If in regard to “same sex-adoption”, again it depends on what you call “progress” and what your premises are. In regard to “primacy of conscience” this isn’t an accurate application of the doctrine.

Dr Smith says that “Keneally has not compromised her religious faith”. Fair enough. But if what Dr Smith says is true, her witness to her faith cannot be held up as a shining example for Catholics to follow. (Not that I am saying that Mr Abbott’s example can be). It is possible to be “progressive, rational and independant” AND wrong at the same time.

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