Articles are reproduced with thanks from the Archdiocesan website, unless otherwise stated.


15 October 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Democracy and religious freedom was put under the microscope when Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP delivered the Annual Acton Lecture on Religion and Freedom to a sold-out audience at the Centre for Independent Studies.

The Archbishop's lecture was titled: Should Bakers be Required to Bake Gay Wedding Cakes? The State of Our Democracy and of Religious Liberty in Contemporary Australia.

Democracies ignore religions at their peril the Archbishop said saying true democracies acknowledge moral and religious convictions while at the same time allowing the expression of differences. The Archbishop used the issue of same-sex "marriage" in the US adding Australia would be wise to avoid such "secular tyranny".

After briefly transporting the audience to a hypothetical 2025 when all discussions of marriage being a heterosexual union are either prohibited by law or polite society, the Archbishop spoke about Pope Francis' call to a visionary, practical and principled statecraft for our contemporary democracies, and a politics which is person-centred.

9 October 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Trials of the Cashless Welfare Card are set to begin in Ceduna, SA and other regional, remote and city communities from March next year. Under the Federal Government plan and based on a suggestion of WA mining billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, 80 percent of welfare payments will be cashless and only available via an electronic debit card that cannot be used for alcohol or gambling.

Unlike the income management Basics Card where up to 50% of welfare payments are restricted, the Cashless Welfare Card would limit cash to just 20% of welfare payments and would affect all Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women across Australia who are currently receiving welfare benefits, including single parents, the unemployed, carers and people with a disability, with the exception of veterans and those on the aged pension.

The Government claims that by quarantining payments to welfare recipients, the abuse of alcohol, gambling and drugs would be reduced, which in turn would help improve health, prevent many episodes of domestic violence and help encourage family stability and wellbeing.

Although the start of the trial in Ceduna is more than five months away, with further trials planned in SA, the Kimberley, Cape York as well as disadvantaged urban areas such as Bankstown in Sydney, Rockhampton and Logan in Qld, Greater Shepparton in Victoria and suburbs of Perth, there is already deep concern and consternation.

7 October 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

The importance of being able to balance the pressures of work and the fast pace of modern society with the joys and challenges of raising a family will be the focus of the Labour Day Mass to be held tomorrow evening at the Haymarket's St Peter's Julian Church.

"The Labour Day Mass was a long-standing tradition in the Archdiocese and we wanted to revive this tradition and stand in solidarity with unions and workers who are as concerned as the Church at the erosion of family time. In the rush for profits driven by retailers, corporations and other market forces, the human element is being left behind," says Father Peter Smith, Promoter of Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Retailers, business owners, clubs and restaurants are currently lobbying the Federal Government to reduce double time penalty rates on a Sunday to bring them into line with Saturday's lower time and a half penalty rates, claiming small businesses, cafes and clubs will not have such a battle to cover costs on a Sunday which in turn would create more jobs.

Many doubt such claims and Fr Peter believes we should all be concerned that the hours, wages and the hard won rights of workers are being over taken by a 21st Century economic model which with its focus profitability and productivity rather than on people or the quality of life.

6 October 2015

Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart has today urged the Victorian parliament to protect the Catholic Adoption Service of 80 years, CatholicCare, as it prepares to deal with a Bill changing the Adoption Act of 1984 to permit the adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Archbishop Hart says he is hopeful that if the proposed changes are accepted as law, protection will be provided to CatholicCare to continue its valuable work, as has occurred in New South Wales.

The Catholic position on marriage and family holds that the well-being of the community and children are best served when they experience the love of both a mother and father in a safe, secure and stable relationship.

The archbishop says he completely understands that some people will disagree with the Catholic position, but has appealed for ‘fair play’ to ensure that the many children (Catholic and non-Catholic) who continue to benefit from the outstanding work of CatholicCare are not unnecessarily disadvantaged.

1 October 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Leading Australian social scientist, biologist and women's health researcher, Dr Renate Klein has slammed a new service that allows Australian women to order the "abortion pill" RU486 by phone and without a face-to-face medical or psychological consultation.

"Abortion by phone is an abomination. It is also unsafe and dangerous, particularly for women in regional areas," she told Catholic Communications this morning.

Earlier this week a group calling itself The Tabbat Foundation launched a telephone service to allow Australian women to access abortions over the phone. Costing around $250, the abortion drug RU486 and its companion drug PD (prostaglandins) are posted to the women after they are given a medical assessment by phone.

In Australia to obtain RU486/PD it is necessary to have approval from a doctor. However assessing someone's medical condition by phone is alarming, Dr Klein says.

Family Planning groups and Pro Choice advocates are hailing the abortion-by-phone service as a breakthrough for women especially for those in rural and regional areas who currently have to travel long distances or even interstate to terminate an unwanted pregnancy at clinics in the city.

But it is women who live in the country and towns across regional Australia who will be most at risk, Dr Klein warns.

1 October 2015

The following statement was given by Archbishop Denis Hart and published in today's issue of The Australian, page 12. Addressing the latest wave of protests against the distribution of the booklet 'Don't Mess with Marriage', particularly in Tasmania, Archbishop Hart points out that the basic rights of religious freedom and freedom of speech should apply to all, including Catholics.

'Freedom of choice. It’s a universally accepted, fundamental rule of civilised society.

But which freedom has command over another in the hierarchy of rights? Does freedom of speech outrank freedom of opinion, and are they both junior to freedom of information anyway?

And what of religious freedom, the right of individuals and organisations to follow the dictates and teachings of their faith without unfair and unjustified interference? Where does that fall in the freedom pecking order?

I ask this in response to another anti-choice offensive from the Greens, this time in Tasmania, questioning the Catholic Church’s ability to reinforce its religious beliefs to families that have made a deliberate choice to educate their children in a Catholic school.

29 September 2015 

Julian Burnside, published in The Age

Just as a person's character is judged by their conduct, so a country's character is judged by its conduct. Australia is now judged overseas by its behaviour as cruel and selfish. We treat frightened, innocent people as criminals. It is a profound injustice.

It was with some surprise that I found myself engaged in such a hotly political issue as refugee policy. I had never been involved in politics, nor was I interested in it.

My best explanation of how this happened lies in a story I heard a long time ago. It involves a family whose 10-year-old son had never spoken a word. The parents had passed from anxiety to despair to resignation: there was no organic reason for his silence. One morning, as a novelty, the mother decided to serve porridge at breakfast. She had never served it before. The 10-year-old took a spoonful of porridge, looked up sharply and said, "I think porridge is revolting."

His parents were astonished. "It's a miracle! You can speak! Why haven't you spoken before this?"

"Everything has been satisfactory until now" he said.

The arrival of the Tampa in Australian waters in 2001 was misrepresented to the public as a threat to our national sovereignty. The people on Tampa were rescued at the request of the Australian government.

They comprised for the most part terrified Hazaras from Afghanistan, fleeing the Taliban. The Taliban regime was universally recognised as one of the most brutal and repressive in recent times. The notion that a handful of terrified, persecuted men, women and children fleeing such a regime could constitute a threat to our national sovereignty is so bizarre that it defies discussion.

28 September 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

The Most Rev Julian Porteous, Archbishop of Hobart and former Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Sydney believes some in society are increasingly seeking to manipulate anti-discrimination legislation to silence the Church on same-sex marriage and other important issues.

This morning a Tasmanian transgender activist lodged an official complaint against the Australian Catholic Bishops' booklet, "Don't Mess with Marriage". Martine Delaney claims the 16-page Pastoral Letter distributed to parishes and parents across Australia in July this year breaches Tasmania's Anti Discrimination legislation.

Delaney, who began life as a male and is now in a same-sex relationship with another woman, insists the booklet is "humiliating and insulting" to same-sex attracted couples and the children of same-sex partners.

In response to such charges, Archbishop Porteous points out that the Pastoral Letter on Marriage affirms the dignity of all human beings regardless of their physical characteristics, gender or the orientation of their sexual attraction.

"There should not be threats or intimidation against anyone who expresses a view in favour of traditional marriage," he says and calls for any debate leading up to a plebiscite on same sex marriage to be conducted in an atmosphere of respect and where all arguments can be presented and exposed to rigorous scrutiny.

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