Leave Pell alone!

The papers are reporting that Cardinal Pell is considering denying the Eucharist to politicians who vote for the stem cell bill currently before the NSW Parliament.

The use by Catholic bishops of this particular sanction has caused a lot of acrimonious debate in the US, mostly in the context of abortion. The nub of the controversy is apparently the interpretation of Canon 915, according to which

Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

This can’t be invoked against furtive sinners whose transgressions aren’t publicly known, as this would breach the confidentiality of the confessional. But proponents of the communion ban argue that politicians who vote to legalise abortion or stem cell research are obviously being quite manifest in their defiance of Church directives.

Opponents
, on the other hand, think that

voting for legislation that protects a person’s right to choose an abortion is not equal to directly cooperating in the procuring of an abortion.

I can’t find any direct statement from Pell threatening to ban miscreants from communion. It all started with a press releaseyesterday condemning the bill and invoking Christian morality in general:

No Catholic politician — indeed, no Christian or person with respect for human life — who has properly informed his conscience about the facts and ethics in this area should vote in favour of this immoral legislation.

He doesn’t invoke the authority of the authority of the Church, but on the contrary invites the legislators to consult their conciences.

Then yesterday on PM we heard this:

SIMON LAUDER: For Catholic politicians who may be wondering how their position in the church will change if they support the bill, Cardinal Pell isn’t being specific.

He’s not suggesting politicians will be excommunicated, but is leaving open the option of denying communion.

GEORGE PELL: I don’t believe in crossing bridges before you get to them and I am hoping all the Catholic politicians here in New South Wales will do the right thing.

So we have to take Lauder’s word for it that Pell is threatening to invoke Canon 915. By this morning he had gathered some juicy indignant reactions to ‘Pell’s tactics’ from ex-Father Paul Collins and from two politicians, Labor’s John Watkins and the Nationals’ Adrian Piccoli, who said:

I think in Australia, if Sheikh Al Hilali had made that same kind of declaration to Members of Parliament of the Muslim faith, telling them how to vote, I think there’d be outrage.

If this interpretation of Pell’s statements is accurate, it is indeed a pathetic spectacle. I don’t mean that Pell shouldn’t defend the doctrines he is sworn to defend. That’s only reasonable. But what on earth would he hope to achieve by attempting to threaten politicians? If the likes of Iemma, Watkins and Piccoli are bound in their hearts by Church authority in itself, then it’s enough for the Archbishop just to clarify the doctrine for them.

If, on the other hand, they are prepared to defy Church authority — either for political expediency or because they actually think Catholic teaching is wrong — then they are hardly going to buckle to Pell’s threats. Does he really imagine that someone like Watkins will say to himself: ‘Well, I was all ready to vote for that bill, sinful as it might have been to do so, but now I’d better not sign it because otherwise I’ll never be able to queue for communion again, which means I’ll be committing a mortal sin. Not to mention the humiliation — I’ll never be able to look old Mrs Santini in the eye again.’

Pell must know that, directed at educated people in twenty-first century Australia, such threats have a probable efficacy of zero. The only possible motivation is to drive marginally committed people out of the Church or to enhance his standing with the Vatican.

But the bigger question is why the broader, i.e. non-Catholic, population, should take any interest in this. He is not inciting anyone to violence as arguably Hilali is. And it’s not as if Pell has kidnapped Iemma, Waltkins and Piccoli, and is demanding at gunpoint that they vote against the stem cell bill. He and his colleagues may have been instrumental in infecting them with a virus of the mind, but this happened long before they entered parliament, and it was well known to voters that they had the virus.

There must be no double standard here. If we are to insist that bigots like Pell get out of people’s bedrooms and reproductive decisions, we should keep out of the theological disputes he gets into with his flock. They are consenting adults.

The media’s voyeuristic fascination with the tactics adopted by the Archbishop parallels their obsession with internal tactical debates in political parties. Instead of asking the Minister to explain the merits of policy X, Jim Middleton or Michael Brissenden are more likely to ask, ‘how are you going to sell policy X to the Cabinet room?’

Who cares? It’s their problem; let them sort it out. Explain the issues, and demand that politicians justify their positions on the basis of public reason.

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whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

A lot of what James is saying makes sense.  It is a matter for catholics, between catholics and for catholics alone to settle.  If you want to be a catholic there is a price to pay – you have to believe in and obey church dogma.  It is one reason why I, brought up as a catholic, am a former catholic.  However he spoili his argument by the pejorative denigration of Pell as a bigot. In Pell's defence he is just saying to people whom he assumes to be part of his flock (of course the assumption may well be wrong-Iemma may simply not be a practising catholic, just says he is for political purposes) what the church's position and teaching is.  If Iemma wants to receive communion while disregarding the church's dogma, well that's his business.  If I were to use the sort of personal denigration that James practices I would call him a hypocrite.  but I shall refrain from that temptation just as James should have refrained from calling Pell a bigot.  Not helpful, James.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

But what on earth would he hope to achieve by attempting to threaten politicians?

Hopefully a charge of contempt of Parliament.
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/glossary/?gl=95

Any action taken by either a member of parliament or a stranger which obstructs or impedes either Parliament in the performance of its functions, or its Members or staff in the performance of their duties, is a contempt of Parliament.

Examples of contempt include… threatening a member of parliament.

Contempt of Court and contempt of parliament are for practical purposes, identical in operation and principle. With that is mind, consider how a Catholic judge would react to being told by the Uncompelling Pell how he’d rot in hell unless his judicial decision in a stem cell case followed the official Catholic line?

Pell may indeed try to persuade in a democratic state, but when he slides into the explicit threat to politicians, he’s on very slippery ground.

Pell is, IMHO contemptible, beyond belief.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
14 years ago

I've not heard of His Eminence refusing communion to the vast majority of Catholic couples unable to present more than about 2.2 kids between them. Either the rhythm method has been unfairly denigrated as a contraceptive method or Pell's perception of "sinning" is as flexible as a double-jointed
gymnast.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

Although James omitted to quote it, Pell also said:

"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," he said.

That sounds rather more like an overt if carefully non-specific threat than anything James quoted, especially when followed by this (which you can bet the journalist didn't just invent):

For Catholic politicians who may be wondering how their position in the Church will change if they support the Bill, Cardinal Pell is not being specific. He is not suggesting politicians will be excommunicated but is leaving open the option of denying communion.

"I don't believe in crossing bridges before you get to them and I am hoping all the Catholic politicians here in New South Wales will do the right thing," he said.

That is, Pell was apparently responding to a specific question as to whether he would deny communion to politicians who voted for the bill, and deliberately left that option open for the purpose of conveying threat.

Would you think it was perfectly OK if (say) a football coach, who coached a junior team that Iemma's son was about to play, were to suggest that his team might well beat Iemma's son to a pulp if Iemma didn't vote the way the coach wanted in Parliament?  Or if a landlord, owning a block of apartments next door to Iemma's home, threatened to move a loud, violent group of Hell's Angels into a vacant apartment if Iemma didn't behave to his liking?

I accept that neither is a perfect analogy, but they're close enough to expose the iniquitous double standard inherent in James' argument.

BTW I agree with Peter Kemp that there is a respectable argument that Pell's behaviour constitutes a contempt of Parliament, although it's extremely unlikely that Parliament would ever choose to provoke such a confrontation by punishing him for it.  Hopefully, however, the majority WILL feel free to treat Pell with the contempt he deserves on this issue.

In a secular, democratic society like Australia (both democracy and secularism being constitutionally enshrined, at least at federal level), it may well be proper for a religious leader to demand particular standards of personal moral behaviour from members of his "flock", but it isn't appropriate (and shouldn't be legally permissible) for such a leader to use threats or other coercive means (other than threats to campaign democratically against the politician) in an attempt to force a member of the flock who happens to be a politician to exercise political power so as to impose particular moral/religious values on the community at large, most of whose members do not subscribe to those values. 

Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
14 years ago

Examples of contempt include… threatening a member of parliament.

I wonder to what extent this has been tested, Peter. Would it embrace a threat to drop a politician as patron of some institution or from a speaking engagement? A threat to cancel a dinner invitation?

…consider how a Catholic judge would react to being told by the Uncompelling Pell how he'd rot in hell…

Isn't there a big difference between applying the law and making it?

Andrew
Andrew
14 years ago

"If we are to insist that bigots like Pell get out of people’s bedrooms and reproductive decisions, we should keep out of the theological disputes he gets into with his flock."

These are not comparable. People's bedroom and reproductive decisions affect no-one but themselves. That cannot be said of the voting decisions of elected representatives. When the theological disputes affect the latter then we the represented have a dog in the fight, so to speak.

I can't see this turning out anything other than badly for Pell. If the votes of Catholic pollies go against him and 
he does nothing he is exposed as a bluffer. If they go against him and he acts
then I would expect he would incur considerable resentment in the Catholic community. If the votes do go his way then one can imagine Catholicism becoming a stumbling block on the way to elected office due to vulnerability to the old "taking orders from Rome" line, and he would have only himself to blame for that.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

James, why do you call Cardinal Pell a bigot? What evidence do you have to back this claim up? Is anyone whose moral position you disagree with a bigot? Has Cardinal Pell ever suggested that people who do not hold his values should be hated? On the contreary, I suspect that he would emphasise that they should be loved and treated with respect. All he is doing is stating what he believes to be the moral position according to Catholic doctroine. As a Cardinal in the Catholic church, this is exactly what he should be expected to do. I am essentially a lapsed Catholic. I suspect that I would disagree with Cardinal Pell on some issues. I see no problem with women becoming Priests for example. In my view, people's sexual orietation should not result in them being treated differently by the Church. On the other hand, I probably agree with him on some issues. For example, I am opposed to abortion unless the mother's health is in danger. I am not sure where the line should be drawn on the issues of cloning and embryonic stem cells. Despite the fact that my views are not aligned with Cardinal Pells in all areas, I find your attempt to impune the character of Cardinal Pell offensive.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

With respect to my previous comment (number six in this thread), the claim that it is offensive is too harsh. I apologise for that. However, I do think that your descriuption of Cardinal Pell as a bigot is unwarranted.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

James, NSW hasn't codified contempt laws so it's back to the common law in that jurisdiction. Your example would be outside parliamentary duties, but a Parliament can cite for contempt even where there is no precedent ie at many levels there are indeed big differences between "the law" and its application,
Our Federal government codified Privilege (and contempt) in 1988:


Conduct (including the use of words)…[which] amounts, or is intended
or likely to amount,toan improper interference with the free exercise
by a House or committee of its authority or functions, or with the free
performance by a member of the member's duties as a member.

This is a list found to be contempts from the House of Commons:

misconduct in the presence of the House or its committees;interrupting or disturbing the proceedings of the House or a committee;a witness persistently misleading a committee;acting in a riotous, tumultuous or disorderly manner in order to hinder or promote legislation;disobedience to rules or orders of the House or committees
(including refusal to attend as a witness, be sworn, answer questions
or produce evidence);destruction of evidence;refusing an order to withdraw from the House;presenting a forged or falsified document to the House or a committee;abusing the right to petition by submitting a petition which
contains false, scandalous or groundless allegations or inducing
persons by fraud to sign a petition;deliberately misleading the House;corruption by offering bribes to Members, and Members by receiving bribes;advocacy by Members of matters in which they have been concerned in a professional manner for a fee;the acceptance of a fee by Members for services connected with their parliamentary duties;wilful misrepresentation of debates;premature disclosure of committee proceedings or evidence;other indignities such as fighting in the lobby, using the badge of
the House on an unofficial publication, and serving a writ on a Member
in the precincts without the leave of the Speaker;obstructing Members in the discharge of their duties;molesting or insulting Members attending, coming to, or going from the House;attempted or actual intimidation of Members, including publishing
threatening posters regarding Members voting in a forthcoming debate;molesting Members on account of their conduct in Parliament, for
example by inciting newspaper readers to telephone a Member to complain
of a question a Member had tabled;obstructing officers of the House while in the execution of their duty; andobstructing witnesses or punishing witnesses for evidence given by them to a committeeTrust that answers your question.


whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

"All he is doing is stating what he believes to be the moral position according to Catholic doctroine. As a Cardinal in the Catholic church, this is exactly what he should be expected to do."I totally agree with Damien on this.  The term bigot IS grossly offensive (disagree with you there Damien). As a former catholic (I dislike the term lapsed which suggests that I retain catholic doctrinal beliefs but simply do not practise them), I really don't think it's my place or Damien's to set out to determine what should or should not be catholic beliefs.Pell was NOT threatening anyone.  He was simply reminding catholic members of parliament what he (Pell) considers to be catholic teaching in moral matters. If they want to disregard this advice they have religious consequences to face.  Catholicism is a pretty heirarchical religion.  A "good" catholic has to conform to catholic beliefs and is not free to simply follow his own (sometimes convenient) conscience.  This is one of the many matters I personally refuse to subscribe to and so I AM NOT a catholic.  Mine is an ethical position in some ways, but a self-serving one in others because my original reason for leaving the Church was that I was not willing to follow the Church's teaching on birth control. The only honest position for Iemma and co is to do what I did, ie leave the Church.The comments of Peter Kemp and Ken Parish are hysterical and contemptible.  Geoff Honnor, usually a reasoned commentator, has in comment #3, presumably let his own personal emotions get in the way of reasoned commentary.     

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

I am constantly amazed hoe many educated catholics do not understnd the doctrine of their denomination and constantly criticize their clergy because they wish to behave like protestants.It is the denomination that interprets the bible not the individual. Either buck up and understnd the denomination you are in or leave. Pell is right of course no Catholic could vote for the legislation. What we have seen is merely more evidence that politicians are usually nominal Christians.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

Whysitso, I agree with you that suggesting that Cardinell Pell is a bigot is offensive. However, I think I was more irritated by the comment in James' post than offended by it. As far as I know, Cardinell Pell is a very decent man. The mere fact that not everyone agrees with his views on everything does not make him a bigot.

Ken Lovell
14 years ago

James I don't agree that it's entirely a matter for the church. The issue concerns a proposed law that affects the whole community, so it's self-evidently more than a 'theological dispute'.

Surely we have a legitimate interest in knowing what factors our MPs regard as relevant to their role as legislators. If they demonstrate that they are not influenced by Pell's advice that's the end of the matter as far as I'm concerned, but I think we have a right to know.

I don't want to stretch the analogy but it's a bit like the allegations that Labor is in thrall to the unions … people have a right to know the extent to which MPs are influenced by institutions other than their parties.

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

Whysisto's right, Peter is being hysterical, and Ken silly. I would bet a fortune that there would be no contempt of either court or parliament in such a statement. It'd be like trying your son or spouse or parent for contempt because they told you they'd be disappointed if you voted X. Or, more pertinently, what about similar hysterics who claim that X is ruining the country with his legislation, etc? Indeed one would even have a very respectable argument that this comes within our preciously narrow freedom of electorally related speech.Ken is, of course, nowhere near so hysterical, although Catholics are a weak spot with him. But his football analogy is stupid. The whole point of being a Catholic is your beliefs, it is not a f**ken book club despite what people seem to think. If you don't think abortion is inherently an evil thing (even if you think it sometimes a lesser evil) then you aren't a Catholic. Whysitso is right on this, too. You almost all seem to think that this distinguishes itself from the whingeing greeny and the whining Amnestyier and the sooking unionist because this a matter of 'conscience'. Leaving aside the degree to which that really distinguishes it from some of those areas, that actually is the point. It is all about the conscience of someone elected to Parliament.If you are elected to parliament and are a Catholic, then you would vote against any but the mildest of abortion bills (ie emergency and life-threatening only), or, perhaps, on a bill that you thought would help lower general community acceptance of abortion and save some lives by restricting it more than was presently the case. No question arises of your 'duty' to anyone else or the 'polity' or any such thing, they have elected you and not anyone else (which is where the electoral speech argument comes in). They can always not vote for you if they aren't happy. They may or may not consider your adherence to your professed beliefs relevant to their satisfaction with you. But they should have the right to choose that for themselves.  

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

Why do all my paragraphs disappear these days?

trackback

[…] alternative perspective is here at Club Troppo, where James Farrell argues that what a religious leaders says to his flock is none […]

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

Patrick

The furore is not about abortion but about stem cell research legislation that already exists in most other States in my understanding.

James Farrell
James Farrell
14 years ago

I just spent half an hour writing a detailed response to several comments above, but it disappeared into the void when I hit submit. More infuriating is that, before sending, I tried to make a backup copy, but the 'copy' option in this editor isn't working.Thanks for the comments, anyway.

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

My deepest sympathies, sincerely. I have learnt to select and 'ctrl-c' before submitting, and indeed before anything! Btw, I kinda get paragraphs back by doing my html manually.Ken, please feel free to substitute stem-cell research as appropriate in the above. For example :

If you don't think abortionfarming nascent human beings for research, especially when by all accounts the adult stem cells yield better results with lower complications is inherently an evil thing (even if you think it sometimes a lesser evil) then you aren't a Catholic.

That said, I admit I assumed it was about abortion, which makes me look silly, and I admit that stem-cell research is intuitively more 'problematic' or 'ambiguous' than abortion. None of which is to imply that it is fundamentally different as a matter of Catholic doctrine.

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

Well, I get blockquotes back at least.

C.L.
14 years ago

Ken, excommunication is not something the Archbishop would actually perform or announce. I really wish ignorant people would not comment on ecclesiastical matters beyond their understanding as they invariably embarrass themselves. To support and encourage this form of research might – the Archbishops of Sydney and Perth are saying – incur excommunication “latae sententiae”. Or it may simply constitute an obvious grave sin, excommunication or no. That is to say, the subject excommunicates (or excludes) himself by his action. Having done so, he is excluded from communion until he repents, according to canon law. A Catholic who, say, assisted with an abortion would also incur “latae sententiae” excommunication. That person may subsequently present for communion but is not supposed to do so. His or her action would probably be unknown to the faithful, however, and so the matter would remain private. In the case of Catholic politicians, their actions in the cases being discussed are not private but extremely public. Because they may confess their sin without anyone knowing about it, excommunication cannot be assumed to be in effect. Persistent or professedly unrepentent backing of therapeutic cloning or abortion, however, may indicate that the subject must still be excommunicated, of his own volition.

There have been no threats from Pell or Hickey. There has been a reminder to Catholic politicians of all parties that they may end up sentencing themselves and, as such, may end up excluding themselves from the eucharist.

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

You’ve expressed the situation very well, C.L. The trouble is Ken et al just can’t get see anything other than through a narrow legal prism. This matter has nothing to do with the law. Pell was simply explaining to members of his flock what their obligations are in matters relating to their faith. The politicians involved may disregard it if they wish and even receive communion without repentence. But they are being dishonest with themselves. The archbishop has simply made clear that the actions he’s talking about are mortal sins (if my memory of catholic doctrine is correct).

Unfortunately many catholics observe their religious practices without subscribing to the church’s beliefs.

I attended a 50-year reunion of my Christian Brothers school class two years ago. It began with mass. Everyone (there were 27 of us) received communion except myself. I simply didn’t go forward as I considered it would have been hypocritical of me as a former catholic to do so. The other 26 received the host. They were all spiritually eligible to do so? Who knows? I was surprised in one sense but not surprised in another.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

No-one has suggested that excommunication is a possibility. However Pell quite deliberately left open the possibility of refusing communion to Catholic politicians who voted for the bill. On any reasonable view that is a threat.

Cardinal Pell has previously denied communion to openly gay worshippers. I don’t have a major problem with that, similarly with denying communion to divorced persons (including myself). The Church’s doctrine lays down certain moral requirements in relation to the personal behaviour of Catholics, and if you openly flout those requirements you can reasonably expect to be denied communion. However, I think a distinction needs to be drawn between personal behaviour and the public democratic representational duties of politicians. I would have no problem with Cardinal Pell denying communion to a politician who was divorced, who himself performed or procured abortions or who himself performed embryonic stem cell research. But a politician exercising his or her public duties in voting for or against legislation is in a quite different position. They owe public duties to the wider community, and should not inflict their own personal moral standards on that wider community where those standards are not broadly agreed.

Even in a conscience vote situation, politicians should in my view not only interrogate their own conscience but exercise their vote in accordance with their evaluation of the overall public will and public good. If that evaluation results in a decision to vote against the legislation, fair enough. Moreover, interested community members including Pell have every right to make their views known and urge politicians to see an issue their way. That includes reminding politicians what Catholic teaching says about the issue. What they don’t have a right to do IMO is to seek to persuade politicians to exercise their vote in a particular way by making threats.

James Farrell
James Farrell
14 years ago

Damien and Whyisitso: By Wikipedia’s definition, a bigot is ‘a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false.’ At least as far as his pronouncements on homosexuality go, Pell fits this description perfectly. It makes no difference if he’s following Church teaching.

Ken P: In some matters of morality Catholics are left to their own conscience; on others they are obliged to accept the authority of the Pope. To know which side of the line voting on stem cell research falls, one would need a good knowledge of Church teaching. I don’t see how non-Catholics can adjudicate, or why they would be inclined to. Inciting someone to beat up Iemma’s son is against the law and would obviously offend the broader community.

Peter: Thanks for the extra information. It remains the case that politicians face more or less explicit sanctions all the time when some ally feels betrayed by a vote or decision. The most obvious and explicit would be the threat to expel a parliamentarian from his party if he crosses the floor. Individuals may threaten personal sanctions — for example Phillip Ruddock’s daughter might refuse to speak to him again if he introduces legislation to excise parts of Australia for the purpose of treaties. The Pell case seems more like these examples than any of the behaviour in your catalogue, or Ken’s Hell’s Angels example for that matter.

Ken L: I agree. Politicians should make it quite clear that they are beholden to some authority other than their constituents or general community standards.

Patrick: Whether the Catholic church is a book club is not really point. Some members of the congregation might think it is. But if there are some who feel they must blindly obey, those who are affected by their decisions should challenge the decisions on their merits rather than challenge the authority of the Church. If a religious fanatic is on trial for assassinating staff at an abortion clinic, the defence doesn’t have to establish that he in fact misinterpreted such and such a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

James Farrell
James Farrell
14 years ago

Ken’s last comment about excommunication is one I was going to make. We don’t need to discuss the ins and outs of excommunication here at all. Pell has a track record of refusing communion to people he deems unworthy, so it is a reasonable interpretation — that this is what he’s contemplating in the case of errant polticians.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

Should the NSW Bar Association threaten its MP members with expulsion from the Bar if they vote in favour of (say) legislation to remove barristers’ immunity from suit? Would that sort of threat be regarded as contempt of Parliament? How does it relevantly differ from Pell’s conduct?

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

James’ observation about political parties (especially the ALP) which threaten their MPs with expulsion from the Party if they don’t vote the Party line is an interesting one. Historically such threats have not been viewed as contempt of parliament or breach of privilege: parliamentary privilege grew up alongside evolving notions of party discipline. Moreover, it’s reasonable to argue that parties, politics and parliament couldn’t function without at least some degree of party discipline and some level of sanction for “ratting”. But there’s a very real question about where (if anywhere short of threats of illegal violence etc) legitimate maintenance of party solidarity might become improper threats.

Many Americans and British find the extent of our political culture’s acceptance of rigid party discipline (backed by heavy sanctions) quite surprising. For example, in US elections the parliamentary voting record of local members of Congress is publicly scruntinised so voters can assess whether they have stood up for the interests of the local electorate/state. That sort of exercise would be completely meaningless in Australia, because almost no politician ever puts the interest of his local electorate ahead of the dictates of his party. Why do we see such practices as normal and acceptable, I wonder? Perhaps the fact that we do also partly explains why many here seem to think it’s perfectly OK for a church leader to overtly threaten politicians with retribution.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

James, According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Thumbnail Version of the revised eleventh edition), a bigot is someone who is prejudiced in their views and intolerant in their opinions of others. You have not provided any evidence that Cardinal Pell is either prejudiced or intollerant in his opinion of others. The fact that he enforces Church doctrine on homosexuality does not mean that he he is intollerant of homosexuals. I suspect that he loves and respects them as individuals every bit as much as he does other people, even if he doesn’t approve of their behaviour. He also respects their right to choose how to live their lives. He denies them communion because that is what the Catholic church’s moral code requires. (As I indicated earlier, this is one of a number of areas in which I disagree with the teachings of the Catholic church. I am a somewhat lapsed Catholic.) Are public servants and members of parliament bigoted because they don’t allow me to collect the baby bonus despite the fact that I have no children? If anything, your own condemnation of Cardinal Pell’s views suggests that you are intollerant of the traditional Catholics. Perhaps it is you who are bigoted?

C.L.
14 years ago

Ken, you still don’t understand this issue. Archbishop Pell would not be required to excommunicate anyone. There is no ceremony or statement of excommunication. Do you understand this? The person excommunicates himself by his action. As I wrote above:

To support and encourage this form of research might – the Archbishops of Sydney and Perth are saying – incur excommunication latae sententiae. Or it may simply constitute an obvious grave sin, excommunication or no. That is to say, the subject excommunicates (or excludes) himself by his action. Having done so, he is excluded from communion until he repents…

As Matthew Mehan wrote in the context of the John Kerry situation in the US:

The bishop only recognizes the already established reality that the person has excommunicated himself, latae sententiae, or automatically (CCL 1398). The bishop is merely recognizing the truth, not excommunicating the already excommunicated sinner in question. American bishops often use an even gentler tool of canon law: Canon 915, which simply states that anyone who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion because, excommunication or no, grave sin renders one unfit for intimacy with God in the Host prior to repentance. When the bishop denies the sinner Communion he does it to a) protect the Host from sacrilege; b) point out the seriousness of the situation of the sinner’s soul, in the form of a rebuke, to wake the sinner from his self-destructive pattern of isolation from the flock; c) hopefully stop him from continuing his pattern of destruction of the innocent unborn; and d) propagate the truth of all this to the faithful, thereby teaching everyone the true nature of communion with Christ and His Church.

There is no “threat” from Pell. Capiche?

The gay people refused communion by Pell were NOT refused because they were gay but because they approached the sanctuary while believing, and publicly professing, that they were actively homosexual and/or that actively homosexual people were – and should be regarded as being – in a state of grace. Moreoever, they treated the sacrament with contempt by turning it into a protest activity. A straight man who approached Pell with a sash known to represent his belief in the spiritual freedom to masturbate would also be refused communion.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

Ken, it is no more a threat than saying that if you are caught drink driving, then you may have to pay a fine and lose points from your licence. Perhaps you should be condemning the State government for advertising the existence of such penalties.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

whyisitso, re
“A “good” catholic has to conform to catholic beliefs and is not free to simply follow his own (sometimes convenient) conscience.”

As a general observation conscience is something peculiar to each individual. To let any theist orthodoxy assume the right to dictate the “conscience” of individuals is repugnant at the very least. How many Catholics obey their Church in the matter of contraception? This is an illustration of my point. CL may correct me but my understanding of that was that it was an ex-cathedra statement binding on all Catholics. Now, if the Vatican insists that in matters of faith and dogma, such ex-cathedra utterings are infalliable (what you bind on earth etc) and found to be unacceptable to arguably a vast swathe of adherents, it stands to reason or probability that, in time, another vast swathe will not agree with a ban (ex-cathedra or otherwise)on stem cell research. So called Catholic beliefs are man made, have historically been found to be wanting, particularly where science is involved, (in spades).

It’s taken 500 odd years to separate state from religion, but Pell is to my mind a classical example of a theist who still operates with a middle ages mentality. Issuing threats explicitly or otherwise is the name of the game, always has, always will be for religion, until secularism and people like Dawkins move humanity onwards to put these dinosaurs in the same cage as PNG witch doctors, which is what they are, charlatans who make the spurious claim to have a monopoly on morality. (I’m an atheist, if you hadn’t already guessed)

As for your statement:
“The comments of Peter Kemp and Ken Parish are hysterical and contemptible.”
I am simply pointing out the law of contempt of parliament as someone whose vocation (as with Ken) IS law. Personally I think it’s hysterically funny and obvious that you have no legal arguments to counter mine, but perhaps like Pell, you approve a return to the middle ages?

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

Its funny how the people who want to condemn Cardinal Pell and the Catholic church are the ones who are reduced to name calling. First James calls Cardinal Pell a bigot. Now Peter accuses both Cardinal Pell and CL of wanting to return to the middle ages. These arguments are emotive rather than logical. They also suggest a lack of tolerance for alternative views.

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

“Im an atheist, if you hadnt already guessed”

I used to consider myself an atheist (for a long time after I’d abandoned catholism) but now consider myself an agnostic. Peter Kemp’s declaration shows that he is as much a dogmatist as he accuses Pell of being. What a bloody hypocrite! Human knowledge simply hasn’t advanced so much that it is able to declare (despite Dawkins) that there cannot be a god. There may be or maybe not. I wonder where Peter Kemp gets his faith from. It can’t be science, because there ain’t no science that proves that god cannot exist. At least we should be thankful he declares the source of his own bigotry and intolerance.

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

“They owe public duties to the wider community, and should not inflict their own personal moral standards on that wider community where those standards are not broadly agreed.”

This is complete rubbish. Politicians have always voted according to what their own moral or ethical agendas dictate. A unionist will not vote against union interests, a greenie will not vote against for what he considers environmentally damaging, a libertarian will vote accordingly and so on. Politicians cross the floor quite regularly to do this. Petro Georgiou is an example on the coalition side, and Ruddock crossed the floor many years ago on conscience issues. Tony Abbott is well known as a catholic and it’s most unlikely he would vote against his conscience.

The last clause of the quote I’ve used is even greater bullshit. What is a standard that is broadly agreed? Most of these so-called standards are debateable – broad agreement is rare. Majority agreement yes, but I interpret broad agreement as something that’s almost unanimous. Abortion is a long way from that despite the hysterical screams of the so-called pro-choicers.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

With respect to one of my earlier comments (number 32 on this thread), it was Whyisitso to whom Peter was referring, rather than CL. Peter’s comments are still emotive and intolerant.

The idea that Cardinal Pelkl should be condemned for giving guidance to his flock is ridiculous. He is a cardinal in the Catholic church. That is his job!!! His comments were clearly directed at Catholic politicians. Furthermore, his position is hardly an extreme one. It certainly could not be classified as either abhorrent or immoral. People need to realise that there are some issues on which decent people can legitimately disagree.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

Damien, where have I explicitly stated I think CL wants to return to the dark ages?

Whyisitso, by definition A-theism is a NON belief, not a “faith” or “dogma”. You are way out of the ball park there.

Re: “Human knowledge simply hasnt advanced so much that it is able to declare (despite Dawkins) that there cannot be a god.”

The mathematical science of probability speaks here. The onus of proof of a deity rests with its proponents, not with its opponents. Scientific proof of non existence is entirely a different question,(and irrelevant) and you have clearly missed the “celestial teapot” argument. For example prove to me that fairies don’t exist at the bottom of your garden? It’s a nonsense position and question to ask that someone has to disprove another’s delusions, and then implicitly bag science for not disproving it.

Many avid atheists, including myself, concede that it is possibly possible that a deity exists, but its probability is so remote as to be inconsequential and therefore it is almost, but not quite certain, that a deity does not exist, but no more than the existential certainty of an undetected celestial teapot (undetectable by scientific means) which orbits between the earth and the sun.

The fact remains that a “devil dodger” with his mind rooted (in all meanings of that word) in the medieval past, is using that medieval tactic of threats and putting the fear of a non existent entity and eternal damnation into the minds of certain politicians. It’s despicable and prima facie a contempt of parliament.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

“People need to realise that there are some issues on which decent people can legitimately disagree.”

So Damien, if I say (and I do) that it IS abhorrent and arguably flouts the law of the land, are you implying that atheists in general (and myself in particular), don’t qualify as members of your “decent people.” ???

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

Oh go to bed Peter. You’ve had far too many chardonnays tonight. You’re obviously well past the point of rationality.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

Peter, as I noted in comment 35 on this thread, your comment was referring to Whysitso, not CL. Not that that matters. As to your query, you make the following statement in comment number 31 on this thread:

“I am simply pointing out the law of contempt of parliament as someone whose vocation (as with Ken) IS law. Personally I think its hysterically funny and obvious that you have no legal arguments to counter mine, but perhaps like Pell, you approve a return to the middle ages?”

If you think that Catholic beliefs are abhorrent, then I suspect that you are incredibly intollerent. You seem to think that people views should be required to concur with your own. As fopr whether Cardinal Pell’s violastes the law of the land, I will take that statement under advisement until I hear it confirmed by a lawyer who is able to argue logically rather than emotionally. If it is illegal for Cardinal Pell to provide guidance to his flock that in no way adocates violence against others, then I suggest that it is the relevant law that is unethical, not Cardinal Pell’s position.

James Farrell
James Farrell
14 years ago

Damien, I think the distinction between what gays do and who they are is phony. In condemning one you condemn the other, and help sustain a superstitious and irrational prejudice that causes completely unnecessary suffering to innocent people. An insistence that homosexuality is unnatural or harmful is obstinate because it runs against all the information we have gathered in the last few decades. Catholics were able to abandon geocentrism and creationism on this basis.

Perhaps you agree with the above, but don’t want to call it bigotry. Suppose, then, for argument’s sake, that Pell happened to condemn inter-racial sex and marriage. Would you call that bigotry, or would you just shrug and say, ‘come on, give the guy a break, he’s only practising what he believes’. Would you tell the affected couples, ‘don’t take it personally, he respects and indeed loves you as individuals, but just disagrees with your choices.’

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

James, I do not condemn either. But I do not think that you can claim that views aboout hopmosexual practices (which I do not hold) are the same as views about homosexual tendencies for want of a better term. The church condems adultery despite the fact that the vast majority of married men have probably felt attracted to women other than their wives. It is the action that matters, not the inclination. Let me emphasise again that I do not agree with th Catholic church’s position on homosexual behaviour. Nonetheless, I do not think that it is appropriate to label other people as bigots because they hold different values to your own. The term bigot suggests something stronger than this, even if its literal definition is sufficuiently broad to include this. Do homosexual individuals have clubs that exclude heterosexual individuals? Are people who continue to frewquent such clubs bigots? Do womemn have clubs that exclude men? Are members of fernwood gym bigots? Cleartly, they are not. In the same fashion, Cardinal Pell is not a bigot either.

Bannerman
14 years ago

Pell’s issues may well be catholic issues to be considered by catholics, however, as Ken points out, what Pell is doing crosses quite a few lines which in a democratic society where religion and politics do not mix, ought not be crossed under any circumstances.

Australia’s political climate is already coloured religiously to a disturbing degree from the perspective of an atheist as myself. It doesn’t need any deeper colouring. In fact, a damn good whitewashing wouldn’t go astray.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
14 years ago

“If you think that Catholic beliefs are abhorrent, then I suspect that you are incredibly intollerent [sic].”

Just try one out on you Damien. Refusal to provide advice, assistance and support for use of condoms in Africa to prevent AIDS. How’s that for a disgusting example of Catholicism’s official (NOT rank and file agreement I must point out) love of humanity???

“until I hear it confirmed by a lawyer who is able to argue logically rather than emotionally.”

No emotion in stating the law, see above where I quoted general principles, Commonwealth law and from the House of Commons. No emotion in stating I think it applies to Pell. Calling him contemptible and medieval is barely emotional, but notice how I have refrained from being “emotional” in not responding in kind to those on this thread doing their “emotional” ad hominems towards myself?

“You seem to think that people views should be required to concur with your own.”

Not at all. People should keep their delusions to themselves and not try to perpetuate or regurgitate medieval fear tactics on gullible people. Morality I repeat is not the exclusive domain of institutions like the Catholic church nor any other religion for that matter.

“in no way adocates violence”

Crime has a much wider field than violence, but seeing as you brought up violence, another example of me being “nasty and mean”, “emotional” and “intolerant”. Perhaps those altar boys consented to being sodomised by Catholic priests, regarded by some as “one of the perks of the job” and hushed up for decades, by the hierarchy?

Whether I’m pissed or not whyisitso, that last comment of yours is the clearest sign you’ve run out of answers to my points, legal or otherwise.

James Farrell
James Farrell
14 years ago

Actually, Damien, the inclination does matter, if you recall the Ninth Commandment.

Adultery is not an orientation, it’s a just an action pure and simple, and almost by definition a harmful one. There is a good reason to frown on people for breaking their marriage vows, and in many cases the adulterer will rightly feel guilty about it himself. Homosexuality is an orientation, an important part of what you are, and an inclination which ought to be explored and relished like any other healthy drive or appetite. A bigot is someone who condemns a whole class people on the basis of some inherent characteristic without a rational basis.

There are all kinds of discrimination that don’t involve intolerance or prejudice. The gay clubs and women’s gyms you refer to have particular, mostly practical, reasons for excluding members of the other orientation/gender, which imply no judgement on the moral worthiness of the excluded, and don’t interfere with their self-realisation.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

The Speaker of the WA lower house has referred comments by Perth’s Catholic Archbishop Hickey to the Parliament’s Privileges Committee:

A WEST Australian parliamentary committee will investigate Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey for saying Catholic politicians supporting stem cell research should not take holy communion and may face excommunication.

The Archbishop denies his comments were meant to threaten MPs and Prime Minister John Howard says he does not think they were meant to direct politicians.

But Fred Riebeling, Speaker in Western Australia’s parliament, says the words “were threatening” to MPs and would be investigated by the state parliamentary privileges committee.

He said the rules surrounding parliament needed to be maintained.

“He has said he didn’t make a threat,” Mr Riebeling said. “I think he’s the only person in Australia that doesn’t think that.”

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,21865856-5003402,00.html

C.L.
14 years ago

Nonsense, Bannerman. Both Kevin Rudd and Kim Beazley have addressed evangelical Christian mass rallies. Why didn’t Parliament pass a motion condemning their crossing of the church/state “line”? Why was the politician who favours a Republic (Pell, as it happens) allowed a seat at the Constitutional Convention?

And where were Ken and Peter on this?

Labor and the unions have a new ally in their battle to overturn the government’s industrial laws – Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell.

The Catholic leader has come out against the Work Choices laws, saying he is afraid they could be used to force down minimum wages.

Cardinal Pell’s comments are likely to be used by Labor when parliament resumes today ahead of a six-week winter break.

Hypocrisy, thy name is the secular left.

C.L.
14 years ago

I welcome that, Mark. I hope the Archbishop refuses to cooperate. The resulting furore will give Australians a good insight into what a Labor-only Commonwealth would look like. Beattie will sool the police on you for having an electric hot water system, Bracks will continue his war on evangelical Pastors, Rudd will be forcing union neanderthals on your workplace and Carpenter and Iemma will be rounding up Catholic Metropolitans. Watch as Holy Kevin backs slowly away from the WA Star Chamber investigation.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

James, in my view there is a difference between coveting something and at some point in time finding some woman attractive. Besides which, she might have been a single woman. Adulterty is not an orientation, but being heterosexual (and hence having the occassional lustful thoughts about women if you are a man) is an orientation. Acting on those thoughts if you are married is what constitutes adultery. Thus there is a difference between orintation and action in both cases. I don’t think there is a significant difference between the examples of religion and exclusive clubs. The exclusion of people from thos clubs is every bit as intolerant as the exclusion of people from communion in some circumstances. In my view, neither of them constitute bigotry. I fully accept that it is harsh on the people who are excluded. But the fact that something is harsh and maybe even unfair does not mean that people who support it are bigoted.

If it was up to me, I would not exclude people from communion for things like sexual orientation or pre-marital sex or using contraception. I suspect that I am a lapsed Catholic in part because I am too lazy to attend Church regularly and in part because I disagree with some Catholic beliefs.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

For what it is worth, if it was up to me, I would not deny communion to people who have had an abortion, even though I oppose abortion unless the mother’s health is at risk. In fact, I do not think I would ever deny communion to anyone. In my view, that goes against my view of the possibility of redemption. But I do not determine Catholic doctrine. Cardinal Pell is not forcing anone to abide by Catholic doctrine. He is simply informing people of that doctrine. The politicians are still free to choose whether to abide by the Catholic doctrine or not. You may not agree with parts of Catholic doctrine, but that does not mean that people who do are bigots.

When it comes to embryonic stem cells and cloning, I am not sure what is appropriate. I do not think that it is obvious that the Catholic church is wrong. The difference between issues like the use of embryonic stem cells and issues like creationism is that one is an ethical issue and one is a factual issue. While it is reasonable to reject the biblical account of creation as the literal truth on factual grounds, it is perfectly reasonable for decent people to come to different conclusions on some ethical questions.

saint
14 years ago

I have no problem with what Pell said (and I suspect he was set up on a couple of questions in the aftermath of a statement, given the media attention to this issue in the U.S. MSM). Those who know me know I am neither a Pell fan nor a Catholic, but I think CL summarised the issue well 21 (as I was expecting him to)

In fact, much the same would be said at my church as far as taking communion not having repented and confessed of sin.

To equate Pell with Hilaly was also a nonsense, and to equate this with Sharia as as Maryam did at Dervish did is also a nonsense.