What does the Catholic Church in Australia have against secularism, liberal democracy and the Enlightenment? Quite a lot, it seems, because in the last 24 hours no less than two high-ranking clergy have warned Australian Catholic politicians that if they vote in favour of expanded stem-cell research, they risk being kicked out of Benedict’s gang. By now you would have heard about Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell’s heavying of Catholic parliamentarians in NSW who are considering voting in support of a therapeutic cloning bill currently being debated in the Lower House:
Cardinal George Pell has warned Catholic politicians they face “consequences” in the life of the church should they vote for an “immoral” bill before the NSW Parliament to expand stem cell research.
[. . .]
“These possibilities are quite grotesque and I’d be very surprised if they had approval throughout the population,” he said.
“To create a human embryo for the express purpose of using it and destroying, that’s the way we treat lab rats. It’s totally inappropriate for human beings. It’s a perverse new direction in human experimentation.
“I don’t think Catholic politicians, Christian politicians or pro-life politicians who has properly informed their conscience should vote for these changes.”
“Cloning is not quite the same as abortion and the legislation for such a thing as cloning is different from actually performing cloning,” Dr Pell told reporters.
“But it is a serious moral matter and Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the church.”
As Bruce points out, Pell seems to be taking his Escriva-esque contribution to political science, what he calls “normative democracy”–“simply a case of “norms” (coincidentally parallel to church doctrine) that the state was not allowed to breach (in other words if the Church dictates against it Australia doesn’t get a say)”–to a new level. But one wonders whether Pell’s acting entirely off his own bat, or in response to a memo from head office, given that this morning Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey issued his own fatwa against stemcell research. Hickey has form, of course: early last month, in response to a similar call from Pope Benedict, he declared that any doctor performing an abortion would be excluded from communion and would potentially face excommunication. Declaring that Catholics who vote for therapeutic cloning are acting against the Church’s teaching, Hickey said:
“I had to speak about conscience and I would call on Catholic politicians to examine their conscience before taking communion if they supported stemcell research.”
I don’t want politicians Catholic or otherwise to “examine their conscience” on this issue (or any other) if it means that they stay up nights worrying about whether their sky-daddy will cast them into a lake of unquenchable fire for eternity if they disobey the orders of the Archbishop. Because, let’s face it, that’s insane. I want them to use one of the few opportunities they get in party political life to actually use their brains–and in the process, to tell the likes of Pell and Hickey to go fuck themselves. Fortunately, that’s what they seem to be doing.
Let us hope, then, that Catholic school principals show as much backbone. As Mikey blogged a few days ago, earlier in the week Pell proclaimed that school principals in his archdiocese would have to take an “oath of fidelity” regarding Church teaching on homosexuality, birth control, and the ordination of women:
In a first for the Australian church, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, is set to extend the oath of fidelity and profession of faith, a requirement of church law for bishops, priests and heads of seminaries, to all senior educational leaders.
The oath demands “religious submission of intellect and will” on questions of faith and morals – even if these are inferred but not defined by the pope and his bishops – and an acceptance that everything solemnly taught by church tradition is divinely inspired.
It suggests they would be bound not only to impart these teachings but to live by them. [Emphasis added]
Religious submission of intellect and will? Can I just suggest, to any principal who is seriously considering “submitting his or her intellect and will” to the sky-daddy’s representatives on Earth, that you don’t deserve to be at the helm of an educational institution in the 21st century? Perhaps management training at McDonalds is more your speed, because schools (real schools, that is) are supposed to develop in students the ability to think and to reason for themselves, not to transform them into mindless religious automatons.
Indeed, Pell seems to be taking cue from Jerry Falwell. Just look at what he has in store for those poor students whose parents are fool enough to believe that five to twelve in the Catholic education system will magically transform their little darlings into model citizens:
Among its other new measures are marriage preparation classes for senior secondary school students, twice-yearly reviews of its educational bodies, and forums so Catholic politicians can be updated on church teachings.
There will also be renewed efforts to teach youth about “sexuality and life issues” through formal courses and seminars, and measures to bring in to the fold young people inspired by next year’s World Youth Day.
Cardinal Pell has taken an intense interest in Catholic education, ordering the rewriting of the religious education curriculum, and aiming to turn around Catholic thinking that faith is caught, not taught.
Sorry: that’s not a school, it’s a madrassa. All this talk about getting values back into the classroom . . . when did education stop being a value?
In the end, though, you have to laugh at these gentlemen who have been so cloistered from reality that they appear to think this is the eleventh century, there’s still a Great Chain of Being and the secular powers still defer to religious authority unquestioningly. Unfortunately for them, most Australians, and indeed many Catholics, have voted with their feet on abortion, birth control, women’s rights, gay rights and stem cell research. Pell and Hickey and cult leaders without a cult.
See also Ninglun’s post