"That's sooooo 20th Century."

Have you heard that one yet? It’s becoming the latest put down. It’s “like, get with it, man” for the 21st Century. CD’s are 20th Century. Blackberrys are 20th Century. Being opposed to physician assisted suicide is 20th Century…

Well, at least according to Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens. In an article in today’s edition of The Age (“Brown attacks Catholic Church election stance”), Mr Brown says:

”I welcome the Catholic Church or the Presbyterian Church or the Buddhists or anyone having a say in that [euthanasia] – we are a free and open democracy – but it really opens up to public attention the fact that the Greens are a 21st-century party trying to drag the other parties out of their last-century thinking on so many issues.”

Ah. “Last-century thinking”. There’s nothing like pumping up the relentless tide of “progress” to make a political party look as if it has a future. Actually, Mr Brown’s rhetoric sounds rather 20th Century itself. Anyone who knows any social history will recall that in the first decade of the 20th Century, “Victorian values” were condemned as “so last century”, and the newly minted 20th Century was proclaimed to be the “Century of Progress” and “the Brotherhood of Man”…

The Great War broke out in 1914, and the idea of “the progress of man” got a bit of a reality check. We’re only 10 years into this new century, Mr Brown. Let’s wait and see how the 21st Century turns out before we start using it as a positive adjective for our political ideals.

In any case, it is rather telling that Mr Brown has pulled off his gloves and openly attacked Archbishop Hart and the Catholic Church for its opposition to policies which the Greens espouse. By contrast, in Your Vote, Your Values, the Catholic bishops were very careful to make it quite clear that “as bishops we are not advocating any political party. That is not our role.” But according to Mr Brown, the Church is trying to “dictate to people” and “trying to tell parishioners how to vote”. Good try, Mr Brown. In fact, what the Church is doing is what she has always done: guiding and shepherding the flock, speaking the truth of faith and morals, suggesting a “better way”, a path of life and of hope. This is, in fact, what Catholics belong to a Church for. They expect their bishops to educate them in what is right and wrong, and to encourage them to live a morally upright life in society.

Mr Brown retorts that “the Greens embraced Christian ethics and Catholic voters could think for themselves.” Another nice try. For a start it would be interesting to see how Mr Brown defines “Christian ethics”. Are the Greens now claiming a more infallible charism to teach Christian ethics than the Church herself? And yes, Catholics who can think for themselves are precisely what we want, with an emphasis on the word “think”. The Greens are far too complacent in their ability to pass off ideas as “progressive” and therefore “good” for our society. We want a Catholic laity who can think beyond the slogans of Greens policies.

One is not, however, optimistic. In the Letters section of today’s Age, there were nine (9) letters on the subject of the Bishops’ statement. ALL NINE WERE ANTI-CATHOLIC. That’s balance for you. Perhaps – just maybe perhaps – The Age received no positive letters about the bishops’ initiative at all. Perhaps.

A quick review of the letters gives us:

“WHILE Catholic bishops are perfectly entitled to advise their flocks on moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, they are not entitled to impose those views on the broader society…[I]f every Catholic followed the advice, all members of our society would be affected.” (Dr Peter Evans, Hawthorn)

Thanks, Doc. That’s how democratic politics works. Everyone gets a say in how their society is run. One could turn the tables and say that while the Greens are “perfectly entitled” to their silly ideas about what makes a “progressive” society, “they are not entitled to impose those views on the broader society” – which is exactly what will happen if they gain any real political power. Doc Evans goes on to say “Catholics make up only one in four of our community” – and at last count Greens made up less than one in six. So what’s your point, Doc?

Jean Jordan of Eltham asks why “The Catholic Church’s election guide urges parishioners to ”quiz” candidates on their attitudes to voluntary euthanasia and abortion” but doesn’t mention the war in Afghanistan. Easy one, Jean. This is a State election, and the State government has no powers to commit our armed forces to any engagement.

Then there are two letters, one from Peter O’Keefe and another from John Mosig, which take the predictable line that since the sexual abuse scandal, the “Catholic Church is hardly in a position to lecture us on morality.” As I say, the argument is predictable. And it too could be turned on its head: Does a society that murders its unborn children at a rate of 80,000 a year and a political party that wants us to help sick people kill themselves have a right to lecture us on morality?

Then there is Jason Ball of South Yarra who reckons that “someone should inform Archbishop Denis Hart that three in four Catholics actually support euthanasia.” Is it that high? If so, it is my guess that those “Catholics” that “actually support euthanasia” would be those with whom Steve Clark of Bukoba in Tanzania (they read The Age in Tanzania???) self identifies when he cites those who are only counted as Catholics “because they were baptised as infants but are in no sense now part of the church (like me)”.

To cap it all off, Bob Greaves gives us just the sort of non-sequitur which makes brings us back to the “soooo last century” jibe. In his opinion, “the reactionary opinions of the Catholic Church hierarchy have no place in secular Australian politics”. So, let me get that right, Bob. Are you saying that people who have opinions different to yours shouldn’t get to vote? Or just that religious people shouldn’t be allowed to vote? Or that religious people should forget about their most deeply held convictions and vote like hypocrites?

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17 Responses to "That's sooooo 20th Century."

  1. Fr John Fleming says:

    Excellent piece David!

  2. Mostly good, Mr. Schütz. Your letters page link didn’t work, though. Here’s a link to the text-only version:


    Those anti-Catholic letters really are pathetic.

  3. Bear says:

    I must say, the first letter complaining that Catholics may have an influence in how society is run was truly outstanding.

    It is a step up from the usual line about how Catholic politicians should vote for these things because the majority of their constituents support them. Now Catholic voters themselves must support them because the majority of their fellow voters support them.

  4. Paul G says:

    I think what distinguishes humanists, especially in the 21st Century, is that they are ruthlessly practical in making their heaven on earth. “Last century ideas” will eventually have to be removed to facilitate this happy place.
    An interesting reflection on last century ideas is a recent discussion between Peter and Christopher Hitchens, described in Peter’s blog at:

    In his attack on religion, Christopher has many times posed the question:

    ‘Can you name any moral action or ethical statement that could be made or performed by a believer but could not be made or performed by an unbeliever?’

    Typically, Christopher Hitchens is the most intellectually honest of the New Atheists, so he has had a go at answering his own question, which is described in the article above. His answer was Lech Walesa, who stood up to the Soviet dictatorship in Poland when all seemed hopeless because, he said, “I’m not frightened of anything but God or anyone but God.”

    For what it is worth, my answer would be a Christian who “loves the least of my bretheren”, no matter how unlovable that person appears to be. Examples are the Cana communities, Jean Vanier’s L’Arche communities, and Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity.

    I was trying to think of a humanist equivalent to these, and the only thing I have come up with so far are the “Doctors without borders” who volunteer to work in disaster areas and war zones. However, even they are fundamentally trying to be practical and cure some of the victims so they can become “normal” again. The 3 examples of Christian action never pretend that the people they live with or care for will ever be “normal”, but they say they are still valuable because they are made in the image of God.

  5. Matthias says:

    sCHUTZ you need to write to THE GAE and to Bob Brown with these comments,they are worthy to be shared.

    • I agree, especially about him writing to Dr. Brown. As Mr. Schütz says, “it would be interesting to see how Mr Brown [who says that “the Greens embraced Christian ethics”] defines “Christian ethics”.” I thought that The Greens’ ethics was Preference Utilitarianism, hence Dr. Brown’s and Prof. Singer’s co-authorship of that book, simply entitled The Greens, on The Greens’ philosophy.

  6. mark lachal says:

    A great article by you David:). May I suggest that your readers write to The Age, ie the editor and let him know that they have observed his bias and are no longer going to purchase the paper. That is exactly what I am going to do.

    here is another interesting news story that you might like to write about David
    ps David, do you have any political ambitions? I think you would be a great politician and you would get my vote.

  7. John Madigan Senator Elect DLP says:

    David you are to be congratulated for your blog and
    for exposing the Greens and their agenda.

    Yours faithfully
    John Madigan
    Senator Elect Victoria
    Democratic Labor Party

  8. Nicodemus says:

    David: “Your Vote Your Values”, esp. euthanasia. I don’t intend to vote Greens, but have few illusions about Labor or Liberals either. But the argument against the Church’s position is often that Greens support “Death with Dignity”. They say “Who could possibly be against that?” They assert that the Church wants terminally ill people to die writhing in agony. I have no experience in medical ethics, but am aware that the Church has a strong presence in palliative care. Is it possible to provide a brief list of the essentials of the Greens position and that of the Church, and where they differ, e.g. with pain management and the Principle of Double Effect, etc. [There are many things here that I don’t know that I don’t know.] That is, to what extent does the Church already support the concept of “Death with Dignity”, and what specific parts of the Green’s agenda conflict with that? Yours in Christ. N

  9. matthias says:

    Good on you Senator elect- I voted for you and hope that at the State election Peter Kavanagh is returned and the Greens Uppperhouse member Colleen hartland is defeated- but probably not.
    Schutz i sent a email to Senator Brown ,under my real name,saying that what he was talking about showed ignorance of history ,citing the Roman practice of euthanasia ( also infanticide was practised),and the fact that some fo teh ancient rulers eg alexander the great and nero had male lovers. I ended by quoting Solomon in that there was nothign new under the sun ,and all he was doing was just ensuring that they have SPF on hand

  10. Louise says:

    I’m yawning at Sen. Brown, not you, David!

  11. Louise says:


    “but it really opens up to public attention the fact that the Greens are a 21st-century party trying to drag the other parties over the edge of the cliff into the abyss of insanity.”

    It just depends on your perspective.

  12. Matthias says:

    i have consistently emailed Brown;s office making the point that the issue of euthanasia he is pushing is a reflection of his own practice as a medical practitioner,and who will protect the rights of the frail aged,the disabled and others who cannot speak for themselves in this issue. His response ? still waiting.

  13. Henrietta says:

    This is such a fantastic piece….David I think you should email it to the papers – especially ‘The Age’ – I know they probably wouldn’t publish it, but you never know!

  14. matthias says:

    i should have said that the fact that brown is pushing euthanasia is perhaps a reflection of his own poor perceptions and possible practices of palliative care as a doctor. However before any lawyers get happy,i should state that Brown is not on his own. My dear old Mum who had Alzhiemers and perhaps carcinoma,was denied effective pain relief by her treating doctor,despite protestations ffrom nurses,myself -being a nurse -and my doctor ,and she only got morphine six and a half hours before she passed into THAT BETTER PLACE. Thus professionaly and personally i am acquainted with the Principle of double effect

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