Archive for the ‘Political Life’ Category

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

GENEVA, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Intelligent use of the economy, market and culture is needed to attain objectives coinciding with our values as Christians and members of the human family, says a Holy See representative.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, spoke of the necessary avenues to help developing nations escape poverty.

Q: What tools does Vatican diplomacy use to evaluate the most underprivileged in the world?

Archbishop Tomasi: The Holy See works within the international sphere, with the United Nations and in the U.N.-related agencies, as an “observer” state; this gives the Holy See the right to intervene and take part in non-voting activities, thus allowing the Holy See to act more freely than other states.

Furthermore, the Holy See endeavors to promote a line of discourse to support and aid the least developed countries, particularly those suffering in conditions of extreme poverty.

Specifically, the Holy See tries to generate a public culture, a world opinion within the international sphere, by declaring that developed countries are not only in a position to choose to support poorer populations, but that they bear the ethical responsibility to do so.

Then, the Holy See tries to offer actual help to these populations, not only in the form of financial support, which sometimes contributes to corruption, but, above all, through technical training, the exchange of information and licenses, all to help facilitate production.

And, with the aid of existing international structures and U.N.-related entities, such as the U.N. Conference for Trade and Development, we try to equip less wealthy countries with the ability to take part in trade, keeping in mind that participation is one of the most important concepts in the Church’s social doctrine.

According to this concept, everyone is entitled to take part in international life, to have access to common goods in a fair, proportionate and justified manner.

Q: What is your position in the debate about debt forgiveness for poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: For years, particularly since the Jubilee of the year 2000, several private organizations, the Church, and the Holy Father himself, have issued exhortations on the subject of debt forgiveness for poor countries because even payment of the interest is so burdensome that it obstructs development.

Therefore, I am in favor of debt forgiveness for the poorest countries as soon as possible, so that some of the resources that thus become available can be channeled toward social development, health care, children’s education, drinking water systems, all for a gradual improvement of living standards.

Q: Do you consider the developed world to be adequately informed and involved in the problems of poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: Public opinion is often distracted by many things that are not so essential. Occasionally, great tragedies or humanitarian campaigns draw attention for a while.

Some time back, we had the tsunami in Southeast Asia, which brought about people’s very constructive, positive and generous response. But we have other “tsunamis.” We have thousands of people dying of hunger, malaria or AIDS every day while nothing is said about these silent tragedies.

The media sometimes reports on these, issuing information, but it is then lost because the news items are not dramatized, and public attention wanders.

The fact that there are wars going on, people dead as the result of conflicts in Africa, Asia or the Middle East, is viewed with a certain degree of indifference. It is almost as if we have grown accustomed to the normalcy of these tragedies.

In my opinion, for people to see on the news that 100 people have been assassinated in Baghdad, another 20 in Mogadishu, and 50 refugees have died in a tragedy in Africa, is sometimes not very different from watching an entertainment movie after the news bulletin.

Therefore, it is important for Christians to sensitize people through the network of parishes, groups and movements, about the need for solidarity toward the most disenfranchised, to work together toward peace, for a bit of progress and for a better standard of living for these distant people.

Q: What are your thoughts on multilateral diplomacy versus bilateral dialogue in the international community?

Archbishop Tomasi: I would say, above all, that there is still a strong desire to struggle and negotiate in order to continue on a multilateral level, to seek solutions to current problems, particularly in the field of trade.

For example, the director general of the World Trade Organization insists on the fact that we must definitely continue to grow together in the same direction in order to be truly effective in the long term, even in the case of developed countries.

However, at the moment, there is the temptation in Europe and in other states to try to bypass common action through bilateral negotiations. This tendency can have very dangerous consequences because the stronger party tends to impose its terms on the weaker one, so that the negotiation is not really equitable.

In the long term, this can just lead to the maintenance of the status quo, in other words, the coexistence of rich and poor countries, which, in fact, does not succeed in combating poverty.

Q: As permanent observer of the Holy See in Geneva, do you consider international organizations in the field of economics, especially the World Trade Organization, as directing their course of action toward the sustained development of Third World nations?

Archbishop Tomasi: I attended the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference at the end of 2005, when the WTO tried to evaluate the “Doha Development Round” [from November 2001].

On that occasion, it became clear that, despite the extremely tough bargaining, it is possible to reach agreements that are beneficial to all concerned. Therefore, these international structures, which are necessary to achieve the globalization of the economy, the market, and culture, must be used intelligently.

We have to make an intelligent use of these structures in order to attain objectives that are truly in line with our fundamental values as Christians and as members of the human family.



The Influence of Religion on American Politics

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The volatile mix of religion and politics is heating up as the 2008 presidential election in the United States draws closer. Candidates are being quizzed about what will be the consequences of their beliefs, while the media and pressure groups are anxiously scrutinizing politicians and voters alike.

A book published earlier this year gives a useful background study of the relationship between faith and politics. “The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections” (Praeger), was written by John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Religion had a big impact in the 2004 presidential elections, argues Green. Members of conservative religious groups voted strongly for President George Bush. He adds, however, that the pejorative labeling of these groups as “fundamentalist” by some in the media is an unjustified oversimplification.

A 2004 survey showed that just 10.8% of the American adult population identified themselves as Protestant fundamentalists. Moreover, Green adds that a good number of these do not exhibit fundamentalist characteristics such as biblical literalism. Therefore, he puts at only 4.5% of the adult population those who could accurately be termed as fundamentalists.

Media attention tended to focus on just a few conservative Christian groups, without taking into account the full range of voters for whom religion and moral values played a part in determining how they voted.

Religion, in fact, has a long history of influencing politics in the United States. In the past, it was often linked to ethnic groups, such as the Irish Catholic involvement in big-city politics. In more recent times, many of the ethnic groups have assimilated into society, but membership of a religious denomination continues to play an important role in determining beliefs, values and voting patterns.

Active or passive?

There are also, however, divisions within religious groups, so they should not be regarded as monolithic blocs when it comes to voting, Green explained. One important factor in determining to what extent religion will influence voting patterns is the degree to which an individual is an active member of a religious group.

Thus, in terms of electoral behavior, a Catholic who is a regular Mass attendee has more in common with regular worship attendees in other religions than with less observant Catholics.

Another factor that has a strong influence in determining the extent to which religion will influence political behavior is the degree to which someone actively supports, by donating either money or time, a religious group. Whether an individual has an active prayer life is another important consideration.

Nonetheless, Green notes that religion is only one of many factors that help explain how someone votes. In reply to exit polls in the 2004 presidential elections, just under a quarter of voters did indicate that moral values were a priority for them in deciding which candidate to support. This category, however, comes only in third place, after foreign and economic policy, which people identified as priorities.

Religion will continue to be an important factor in coming years, Green predicts. Divisions over abortion, marriage and other moral values show no sign of diminishing. Moreover, political operators in both major parties are well aware of the need to mobilize religiously-oriented voters and will continue in their efforts to activate the faith vote.

Communion controversy

Within the Catholic world, a divisive issue in the religion and politics debate is how to treat Catholic politicians who are manifestly pro-abortion. A recent contribution to the question came from Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, in an essay published in Volume 96 of the canon-law journal Periodica de Re Canonica.

The article, titled “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin,” noted the differences in opinion, including among bishops themselves, over whether support for anti-life legislation should disqualify a politician from receiving Communion.

After a detailed analysis of Church teaching on the question of Communion and those in grave sin, Archbishop Burke concludes that “a person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.”

A consistent public support of policies that are in grave violation of moral law, he pointed out, can indeed be classified as “gravely sinful.”

The archbishop clarified, however, that denying Communion in these circumstances should not be interpreted as a penal sanction against the person, but rather it is concerned with respect for the Eucharist.

The United States, Archbishop Burke commented, is a society that “canonizes” radical individualism and relativism, thus making it very difficult to apply sanctions such as denying Communion.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, if a bishop or priest preaches Church teaching on life matters, but does nothing when a Catholic who publicly supports anti-life legislation comes to receive Communion, “then his teaching rings hollow,” Archbishop Burke judged.

Too many Christians

Conflicts over religion and politics occur in many other countries, of course. In Australia, where national elections will shortly take place, Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kevin Rudd recently addressed, via an Internet hookup, 770 churches across the country.

After their debate, Senator Lyn Allison, the leader of the Democrats, complained that there were too many Christians active in politics, reported The Australian newspaper on Aug. 10.

On Aug. 7, the Australian bishops published a brief statement to help guide Catholics in the national elections. The document focused on a number of issues that the bishops argued are of vital concern. Subjects such as respect for life, support for the family, education, health and the environment were among those raised.

“We encourage Catholics to look beyond their own individual needs and apply a different test at the ballot box — the test of the common good,” the bishops urged.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, another country preparing for national elections, on Aug. 23 the bishops reaffirmed the validity of a statement they had issued in April. Our Catholic faith, they stated, calls us to grow in our commitments as citizens. Christians should discover their vocation in favor of the common good, they recommended.

The document called for human life and the family to be protected. Poverty and inequality, along with a need to avoid excessive divisions within society, were other points mentioned.

Our faith in the risen Christ, the bishops stated, should motivate us to renew our lives and live them according to the principles of truth, liberty, justice and solidarity.

True justice

Benedict XVI also recently addressed these matters in a speech made Sept. 21 to participants of a meeting of Centrist Democrat International.

Justice is truly human, the Pontiff affirmed, “only when the ethical and moral vision grounding it is centered on the human person and his inalienable dignity.”

After referring to issues of the economy, safeguarding life and the family, the Pope warned that when truth or the family is undermined, then “peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.”

Religious liberty is another vital issue to defend, he continued. “Openness to transcendence is an indispensable guarantee of human dignity since within every human heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfillment in God alone,” said the Pope.

The Church’s social teaching, Benedict XVI explained, is motivated by love for humanity and a desire to contribute to a world which respects the dignity and rights of all people. An objective all can share, even though they may not agree about the best way to achieve it.



“I Enjoy the Right to Comment on Proposed Laws”
SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement written by Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, in which he welcomes a report clearing him of contempt of Parliament.

Cardinal Pell was referred to the Privileges Committee of the New South Wales Legislative Council for comments he made during the debate on the Human Cloning Bill earlier this year.

Answering questions at a press conference June 5, Cardinal Pell pointed out that “Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realize that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church.”

Cardinal Pell’s comments were referred to the Privileges Committee on June 6.

In its report to the state’s upper house, the Privileges Committee has found there is no contempt of Parliament in Cardinal Pell’s remarks, and has recommended that no further action be taken.

* * *

Introduction

This response is written at the invitation of the Privileges Committee of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of New South Wales. 

I understand that the Privileges Committee is to inquire and report on whether public comments made by me constitute a contempt of Parliament. The terms of reference of the Committee refer to comments by me contained in:

1. A written media statement issued by the Bishops of New South Wales on June 4, 2007 to which I was a signatory, and 

2. Comments attributed to me in articles published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph on June 6, 2007.

It is important to note at the outset that I issued the Bishops’ statement and participated in the press conference as a part of a public debate on the Human Cloning Bill then before the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Along with other citizens I enjoy the right to comment on proposed laws on my own behalf and on behalf of the community I represent. That is the essence of democracy. Therefore it seems to me to be an extraordinary step for the Legislative Council to require a citizen to justify his contribution to the debate or risk a finding of contempt. Before returning to this point however, a brief comment on the public debate which took place on the Human Cloning Bill may be useful.

Public debate on legislation before Parliament

On 6 June 2007 by the Honourable Richard Torbay MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, referred to my comments in the following terms:

High profile and eminent people often make comments on legislation before Parliament. That is the nature of a democratic society, which enables people of all persuasions to voice their views.

Public debate about legislation before the Parliament does not necessarily insult the House or its Members. Comments directed at Members could be construed as reflecting on the character or conduct of Members in Parliament. However, for such comments to be a breach of privilege they must have dire consequences for Members, such as impeding Members in their duties in the House.

I consider in this case that the comments made about the legislation before the House have been made as part of the public debate on a controversial issue and have not affected the rights of Members to express their views and vote as they deem appropriate.

The Speaker’s words would be equally applicable to comments attributed to the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical ResearchAustralia also contained in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 June 2007:

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia said there would be electoral consequences for politicians who did not vote in support of research that could offer potential therapy for spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, and juvenile diabetes.

‘There are patients and their families who are also constituency members and will not vote for them when the next election comes along’, said the advocacy group’s convenor, Joanna Knott.

As I understand it no allegation of contempt has been made, nor is being contemplated, in relation to the comments by the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia.

Both my comments and those of the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia are properly seen as, adopting the words of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, “part of the public debate on a controversial issue [which do not affect] the rights of Members to express their views and vote as they deem appropriate”.

I need hardly remind Members of the Committee that votes in the Parliament are almost always subject to party discipline. If a Member of Parliament votes against party policy, that Member is subject to sanctions which may be imposed by party officials outside the Parliament, including expulsion from the party itself.

Similarly, by way of example, a parliamentarian who supported a bill for capital punishment could hardly complain were his or her membership of anti-capital punishment organisations to be forfeited.

I am not aware that the customs and conventions of the Legislative Council have ever deemed such conduct by party officials or outside bodies to be contempt of Parliament.

On the much lesser “offence” of making a bona fide contribution to public debate, I do not believe that a citizen of this State has ever been charged with contempt for views he has expressed on a controversial bill. Nevertheless I will give Members of the Committee an account of my views so that they may better understand why I regard your requirements of me as both undesirable and unprecedented. 

My comments on the Human Cloning Bill

My comments on the Human Cloning Bill were derived from the conviction that Parliamentarians who legislate for the destruction of human life (in any circumstances and especially in this case where no cures from human embryos have been effected during many years of research) are acting in a way that departs from the principles of both the natural law known through human reason alone and Christian teaching. The natural law principles and the teaching in question are that human life should be accorded the full protection of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of dependency or stage of development.[1]

I put forward this moral argument as a contribution to the public debate because it is rational, an argument open to acceptance by all people of no religion and any religion. I was not asserting some supernatural dogma beyond human reason and seeking to impose it on the general community. It would be a sad day for Australia if only members of the Christian majority accepted the unique dignity of the human person. But this is not the case. Defenders of human life — from conception to natural birth — come from every section of the Australian population.

As a Catholic archbishop I am also charged with ensuring that Catholics know the moral teaching of the Church. The Church’s teaching on cloning states that the cloning of a human being is wrong and cannot be justified by any known or imagined effects. The Church also teaches that destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings — cloned or otherwise — is an intrinsically evil act, because experimentation involves their dismemberment and therefore mutilation and death.

In asking Catholic politicians — and other Members of Parliament who are Christian or who respect human life — to vote against this legislation, the New South Wales bishops were not calling for the “enforcement” of Catholic beliefs, but reminding legislators to fulfil the demands of justice and the common good that follow from the inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family.[2] This is exactly the basis on which the Church also calls on legislators to protect the poor or to oppose racial discrimination.

In the press conference on June 5, after reading the joint statement of the New South Wales Bishops, I faced repeated questions about the consequences for Catholic politicians who did not follow the natural law teaching of the Church on these matters, after being reminded in a written question that on May 9, Pope Benedict XVI had spoken about abortion in these terms: “It simply states in Canon Law that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with going to Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ”.

In response, I pointed out factually that “Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church”, while also pointing out that legislating for abortion is not the same act as performing an abortion, and supporting legislation for human cloning is somewhat different again.

The phrase “consequences for their place in the life of the Church” refers to the effect a seriously wrong decision has on the personal relationship between that individual and God, and that individual and the Church community to which he belongs. These consequences need not be imposed from outside by a third party such as a bishop or priest, but are intrinsic to the infraction itself and loosen the person’s bonds to the Church.

No one is compelled to be or remain a Catholic. Obviously outsiders are not liable to Catholic discipline, and Catholics are able in our situation of religious freedom to ignore or reject any Church sanction.

My task as a Catholic Archbishop is to point out that God judges human conduct, as well as pointing out the importance of Catholics following Church teaching on matters of faith and morals. The vast majority of political matters are for the prudential judgment of each individual Catholic, but the Church is unambiguous that there are certain choices which are intrinsically evil and cannot in good conscience be condoned or promoted by faithful Catholics — the evil being known through right reason itself, as well as through Catholic faith.

It is possible that some Catholic politicians have been misled by the theory of “primacy of conscience”, allegedly an invention of the Second VaticanCouncil, although the phrase can be found nowhere in the documents of the Council.

It is difficult to know what this theory means, as everyone is obliged to act as he thinks proper. Unfortunately, as the Jesuit theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles writes, “the idea of conscience has been deformed by some modern thinkers . . . [who] often depict conscience as a supreme and infallible tribunal that dispenses us from considerations of law and truth, putting in their place purely subjective . . . criteria such as sincerity, authenticity and being at peace with oneself”.[3] From this mistaken view some conclude that Church authorities, and by implication God himself, must accept every conscientious decision even when such a decision violates natural law, the Ten Commandments, and important Church moral teaching.

Jurisdiction to commit and punish for contempt

I will now turn to the question of the Legislative Council’s jurisdiction with regard to contempt. I have taken legal advice which is reflected in what follows.

I note that the letter of 27 June 2007 from the Chair of the Privileges Committee of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Kayee Griffin MLC, identifies my public comments concerning the Human Cloning Bill as constituting the basis of an alleged contempt. I assume that the reference to the Committee is to enquire whether those public remarks come within the following description in Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (23rd ed., 2004 at 128):

Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its function, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results, may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.

However Erskine May does not deal with the law of contempt of Parliament as it applies to New South Wales. That statement of law is to be found in the judgements of the High Court and the Privy Council.

A recent High Court discussion of the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Parliament on contempt is to be found in Egan v Willis.[4] The history of the Parliament’s powers was discussed at length by Justice McHugh who reviewed the various authoritative statements of the Privy Council and the High Court as to the limits of those powers. These authorities show that (leaving aside any statute that the Parliament itself might enact) the common law does allow the Parliament to do what is reasonably necessary for the proper exercise of its functions. What is “reasonably necessary” is to be understood “by reference to what, at the time in question, have come to be the conventional practices” of the Parliament.[5]

However the authorities reject any notion that the common law empowers either House to proceed against a citizen for statements made in the past and outside the House. Justice McHugh quotes Mr Baron Parke in the Privy Council who said: “The whole question is reduced to this — whether by law, the power of committing for contempt, not in the presence of the Assembly, is incident to every local legislature.”[6] In answer, the existence of such an “extraordinary power” was emphatically rejected by the Privy Council, and there is no reason to think that it has ever been a part of the practices of either House of the New South Wales Parliament. This conclusion is reinforced by other cases referred to by Justice McHugh.[7]

The reasoning which supports this conclusion depends upon the distinction between the powers of the Parliament at Westminster and the powers of colonial parliaments, including that of the colony of New South Wales from its establishment.

The power to commit and punish for contempt is a power of the Parliament at Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments. This power had its origins in that Parliament’s prior status as a court, the High Court of Parliament. But it has been long established that other parliaments created elsewhere in the British Commonwealth do not automatically possess this same power, simply by virtue of being a parliament.

Parliaments established under British law outside the United Kingdom were established not as courts in any sense, but purely as legislative bodies, typically with circumscribed powers. The New South Wales Parliament had its origins as a colonial assembly and in these circumstances Australian law confines the privileges of a parliament to those expressly conferred by statute, or “necessarily incidental” to its status, existence, and “the reasonable and proper exercise of [its] functions.”[8]

In Australia the parliaments in every state except New South Wales have enacted legislation to identify their powers and privileges, often equating them to those possessed by the Parliament at Westminster. Because the New South Wales Parliament has never enacted this sort of statute, its privileges are confined to those “necessarily incidental” to its status, existence, and “the reasonable and proper exercise of [its] functions”. The power to commit and punish for contempt only accrues to the New South Wales Parliament if it meets this criterion.

In considering the powers of parliaments in relation to contempt the courts have repeatedly held that there is a distinction between the removal of an impediment to the performance of parliamentary functions, and the punishment of past actions alleged to have had such an effect. The former is a power the possession of which is “really necessary . . . to secure the free exercise of [a Parliament’s] legislative functions”, but the same is not true of the latter.[9] The distinction between defensive and punitive action has been applied in relation to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.[10]

In other words, the power to investigate, judge and punish alleged past misconduct is an “extraordinary” rather than a “necessarily incidental” power, and it is properly a judicial power belonging to a judicial body.[11] Because the Parliament of New South Wales was not established as a court (as was the Parliament of Westminster), and has not enacted legislation to grant itself the privileges of Westminster, this power does not fall within its competence.

The courts have thus defined the kind of obstruction which would constitute a contempt of Parliament as limited to an attempt made to impede Members of Parliament from carrying out their duties freely. But there is no evidence that any Member of the Parliament was impeded from performing their duties or was in any way intimidated by my public remarks about the duties of Catholic politicians in considering this legislation. Quite the contrary.

It is also clear that the Legislative Council believed there was no need to take “defensive” action against any of the participants outside the Parliament, myself included, at the time of the debate to prevent obstruction and to ensure a free and open vote on the legislation. Certainly the Legislative Assembly, through its Speaker, did not perceive the remarks as obstruction but rather as part of a vigorous public debate as befits a democracy.

Religious Freedom

In a democracy such as Australia any citizen should be free to argue publicly for certain policies on religious grounds; these arguments to be accepted or rejected by legislators or electors as they see fit.

It is my submission that it is essential that religious leaders, including myself, are free to express the position taken by their Church or religion on matters of public interest and debate. To prevent religious leaders from doing so has the effect of stifling religious freedom and hampers effective and open debate on matters of public interest.

One of Christianity’s most important public services is to preserve and strengthen Australia as a decent, prosperous and stable democracy. It does this through its many works of practical service and care, but also from time to time by regular participation in public debate, usually by lay people, but sometimes through Church leaders. 

So too legislators are free to use religious considerations in deciding their position on legislation. I might add that the same principle allows atheists, be they legislators or electors, to act on the basis of their atheistic convictions when it comes to the formation of legislation and public policy. If the right of legislators and electors who are religious believers to do the same were to be denied, then we would have informally mandated atheism as the unofficial state religion. This is hardly compatible with the principle and practice of religious liberty.

Freedom of religion is not to be reduced merely to the freedom to perform ceremonies on private property. As Professor James Hitchcock, the distinguished American historian of the United States Supreme Court, has observed, “if freedom of religion means anything, it surely includes the right of every church to determine who is a member in good standing”. To deny that Christian churches and other faiths have the authority to make such a judgement “is to deny religious freedom in a fundamental way.”[12]

This implies that for good reasons a Christian church, somewhat like a political party or even a sporting club, has the right to exclude a person or persons from membership, and to recommend that they abstain from receiving Holy Communion or even, in some instances, to refuse to give them Holy Communion.

One good reason for the high respect given to Parliaments in Australia is that parliamentarians do not regard themselves as being above the law of the land. For the same reason it would be incongruous for Catholic parliamentarians to declare that they are above basic Christian moral teachings, while still asserting their good standing in the Church.

Conclusion

In a democracy, any person can offer himself for public office. He may be affected or unaffected by religion, sympathetic or hostile to it. Our constitution imposes no religious test and excludes no candidate by reason of his attitude to religion. Public office is open to all. Things are no different when it comes to participation in public debate. Every citizen is entitled to take part. No one is excluded, including those who hold office within a religious community.

Although Australian life has been marred by sectarianism in the past, Catholics here never suffered the centuries of persecution that befell Catholics inBritain and Ireland, and nor have they been victims of the mob-violence and church-burning that anti-Catholicism occasionally produced in the United States. The idea that religion is irrational and must be excluded from public affairs is not a native Australian plant, and it would be regrettable if American or European frames of reference were imposed on the very different situation of religious life and public culture here in Australia.

Christians in Australia have long played an important part in ensuring that fundamental human rights are respected and will strive to continue this important work. My contribution to this public discussion on human cloning was made in this spirit and tradition. 

ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY
20 August 2007 

[1] Robert P. George, “Political Obligations, Moral Conscience, and Human Life”, Voices 22:2 (Pentecost 2007), 15.
[2] Ibid. 16.

[3] Avery Dulles, S.J., “Truth as the Ground of Freedom: A Theme from John Paul II” (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 1995), 5.
[4] [1998] HCA 71.

[5] Ibid. at [50], per Gaudron, Gummow and Hayne JJ. 
[6] Ibid. at [72]. 

[7] Ibid. at [76] & [77]. 
[8] Namoi Shire Council v Attorney-General of New South Wales [1980] 2NSWLR 639 at 643 (per McClelland J). 

[9] Kielly v Carson (1842) 4 Moo PC 63 at 88-90; 13 ER 225 at 234-35. 
[ 0] See Barton v Taylor 11 AC 197; Willis & Christie v Perry (1912) 13 CLR 592; Armstrong v Budd [1969] 1 NSWLR 649; and Gripps v McElhone (1881) 2 (LR) NSW 18.

[1 ] Kielly v Carson loc. cit.
[12] James Hitchcock, “Freedom of Religion at Political Crossroad”, Women for Faith and Freedom, 10 June 2007.



“The Church Must Feel Concerned Regarding Immigrants”

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address given by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, at the annual meeting of European national directors for the pastoral care of migrants, held in Sibiu, Romania, from Sept. 3 to 4.

* * *

Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Annual Meeting of European National Directors for the Pastoral Care of Migrants
(Sibiu, Sept. 3-4, 2007)

Migration, an opportunity for the ecumene

Cardinal Renato Raffaele MARTINO
President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Recently, a book entitled “Globus. Per una teoria storico-universale dello spazio” (Globus. Toward a historical-universal theory of space), a translation from German, was published in Italy. In this volume, the author, Franz Rosenzweig, makes a rapid but well-studied, original and significant reconstruction of the whole world history. The first part of the publication is entitled “Ecumene,” seen from the point of view of relationships between earthly forces that push toward the unification of the world.

“If millennia were needed for us to acquire theoretical awareness of the spherical form of the earth,” the author affirms, “we cannot be surprised by how slow world history walks toward unity of the globe. Yet, God created only one sky and one earth. Ecumenism is the final goal of humankind’s journey,” a sign of which is migration, indeed an opportunity for the ecumene.

Today, in fact, migration is one of the most important and most complex challenges of our modern world. Consequently, social transformation, caused by welcoming immigrants, is discussed in public hearings, such that the question of “migration” appears as one of the top issues in the international agenda.

The migration phenomenon is therefore analyzed in relation to development. Migrants’ contribution to the labor market is studied, leading to the conclusion that they are important for world economy. A witness to this is the First Global Forum on Migration and Development, recently held in Brussels, last July 9-11.

In spite of this, however, many governments are adopting more restrictive measures to counter immigration, especially if irregular. Researchers on the migration phenomenon, on their part, are for the opening of frontiers, not simply to solve contingent problems, but to situate the process in a global scenario. Migration has indeed become a structural phenomenon. This does not mean, however, that a vision of a “total” and “indiscriminate” freedom to immigrate is being adopted. It is rather the task of governments to regulate the magnitude and the form of migration flows. They should, however, take common good into consideration, so that immigrants would be worthily welcomed, and the population of the receiving countries would not be put in a condition that would lead them to reject the newcomers. This would have unfavorable consequences both for immigrants and the local population, as well as for relations between peoples. Naturally national common good must be considered in the context of universal common good. This brings us back to that vision of the “ecumene” that I mentioned at the beginning of my talk.

Our task, however, is that of identifying facts and aspects of migration that would help us understand the value of the phenomenon itself. This will enable us to interpret this “sign of the times”[1] from a Christian perspective, and to offer our pastoral service to the world of human mobility in its totality, in its universality. And for you, this is true for Europe.

There has always been solicitude on the part of the Church for migration — we have to take note of this.[2] Involvement in various forms confirms its ability to interpret this rapidly changing reality. Active ecclesial commitment, especially at a pastoral level, naturally includes socio-humanitarian action so that the foreigner would be accepted and integrated in society, through an itinerary leading to authentic communion, where there is due respect for diversity. It is however necessary to remember that rights and duties come together, also for migrants.

Regarding respect for the fundamental rights of the human person, hence also of those who are involved in human mobility, the Church is continuously dedicated to this at various levels and in different areas. Specific initiatives, messages of the Holy Father, action to build awareness among international entities and governments of migrants’ countries of origin, transit and destination, define the Church’s “strategy.” This is based on the central position and “sacredness” of the human person[3], to be upheld particularly when he/she is unprotected or marginalized. This “brings to light certain important theological and pastoral findings that have been acquired. These are: […] the defense of the rights of migrants, both men and women, and their children; [the question of the migrant family]; the ecclesial and missionary dimension of migration; the reappraisal of the apostolate of the laity; the value of cultures in the work of evangelization; the protection and appreciation of minority groups in the Church; the importance of dialogue both inside and outside the Church; and the specific contribution of emigration to world peace” (EMCC No. 27). In all this, we can clearly see a basis for an ecumenical commitment.

Indeed the recent position of the Holy See regarding migration shows that attention is given to the continuous transformation of the phenomenon of human mobility and to the current exigencies of people in contemporary society. This is because it wants “to respond to the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants” bearing in mind “the ecumenical aspect of the phenomenon, owing to the presence among migrants of Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and also the interreligious aspect, owing to the increasing number of migrants of other religions, in particular Muslims” (EMCC No. 3)[4]. We cannot ignore the fact that “recent times have witnessed a growing increase in the presence of immigrants of other religions in traditionally Christian countries” (EMCC No. 59). The great diversity of immigrants’ cultural and religious origin poses new challenges and leads toward new goals, putting dialogue at the heart of pastoral care in the world of migration. After all, it certainly is part of the mission of the Church.

The instruction “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi” carefully proposes programs that are appropriate for the various phases in the life of the migrant. It distinguishes “between assistance in a general sense (a first, short-term welcome), true welcome in the full sense (longer-term projects) and integration (an aim to be pursued constantly over a long period and in the true sense of the word)” (No. 42). In this case, it is important to give a sensible direction to an issue of great significance. I am referring to the difficult concept of integration, and its even more difficult application, keeping in mind also its ecumenical and interreligious aspects, particularly in societies hosting migrants. This concept is being seriously analyzed. We refuse to see it as a process of assimilation, but stress the aspect of cultural meeting and legitimate exchange. We are practically insisting on a concept of intercultural societies, meaning those that are capable of interacting and producing mutual enrichment, going beyond multiculturalism, that can be contented with a mere juxtaposition of cultures[5].

This gradual itinerary — as I was saying — provides, first of all, for “assistance or ‘first welcome’” (EMCC No. 43), but this is not enough to express the authentic vocation to Christian agape, also because it might be confused with philanthropy.

As a result, our instruction offers a wider horizon, providing for “acts of welcome in its full sense, which aim at the progressive integration and self-sufficiency of the immigrant” (ibid.). Here, too, we cannot fail to consider the ecumenical and interreligious dimensions.

In his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year, Benedict XVI stated that the Church, through its various institutions and associations, “has opened centers where migrants are listened to, houses where they are welcomed, offices for services offered to persons and families, with other initiatives set up to respond to the growing needs in this field”.[6]

Also through these services in the context of human mobility, the Church offers its assistance to everyone, without distinction of religion or nationality, respecting everyone’s inalienable dignity as a human person, created in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of Christ.

In assisting migrants, therefore, it is possible to deepen ecumenical dialogue since contact with those among them who belong to other Churches or ecclesial communities gives “new possibilities of living ecumenical fraternity in practical day-to-day life and of achieving greater reciprocal understanding between Churches and ecclesial communities, something far from facile irenicism or proselytism” (EMCC No. 56). In fact, when migrants arrive in a place with a Catholic majority, the first meeting point should be hospitality and solidarity, within the context of “an authentic culture of welcome (cf. EEu 101 and 103) capable of accepting the truly human values of the immigrants over and above any difficulties caused by living together with persons who are different (cf. EEu 85, 112 and PaG 65)” (EMCC No. 39).

Therefore “the entire Church in the host country must feel concerned and engaged regarding immigrants. This means that local Churches must rethink pastoral care, programming it [ … appropriately for] today’s new multicultural and plurireligious context. With the help of social and pastoral workers, the local population should be made aware of the complex problems of migration and the need to oppose baseless suspicions and offensive prejudices against foreigners” (EMCC No. 41).

However, ecumenical dialogue does not stop there. It could also take the form of a specifically ecumenical cooperation, whereby resources are pooled and a common Christian witness is given (cf. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, No. 162). Indeed the different Churches and ecclesial communities are particularly intent on welcoming and accompanying all migrants, in the pastoral sense, especially when alongside the flow of regular migrants, there are irregular migrants who are a cause for concern and are usually and unjustly blamed for crimes. Also, there are unscrupulous evildoers, who speculate on the tragic situation of people and promote the trafficking of human beings. Their presence increases xenophobia and at times provokes manifestations of racism (cf. EMCC nos. 29 e 41). All this can make the ecumenical commitment in favor of migrants more difficult.

The Church is called upon to open a dialogue with everyone, but this “dialogue should be conducted and implemented in the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation” (EMCC 59). At the same time, migrants of other religions “should be helped insofar as possible to preserve a transcendent view of life” (ibid.).

There are surely some values in common between the Christian faith and other beliefs, but it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that “beside these points of agreement there are, however, also divergences, some of which have to do with legitimate acquisitions of modern life and thought” (EMCC No. 66). On the part of the migrant, therefore, the first step to take toward the host society is to respect the laws and the values on which that society is founded, including religious ones. If this is not done, then integration would just be an empty word.

The Church is also called to live fully its own identity, without renouncing to give witness to its own faith, also in view of respectfully proclaiming it (cf. EMCC No. 9). Thus, dialogue with others “requires Catholic communities receiving immigrants to appreciate their own identity even more, prove their loyalty to Christ, know the contents of the faith well, rediscover their missionary calling and thus commit themselves to bear witness for Jesus the Lord and his gospel. This is the necessary prerequisite for the correct attitude of sincere dialogue, open and respectful of all but at the same time neither naïve nor ill-equipped” (EMCC No. 60).[7]

Finally, it is necessary to take into account the important principle of reciprocity[8], “understood not merely as an attitude for making claims but as a relationship based on mutual respect and on justice in juridical and religious matters. Reciprocity is also an attitude of heart and spirit that enables us to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties. Healthy reciprocity will urge each one to become an ‘advocate’ for the rights of minorities when his or her own religious community is in the majority. In this respect we should also recall the numerous Christian migrants in lands where the majority of the population is not Christian and where the right to religious freedom is severely restricted or repressed” (EMCC No. 64).

It remains true, however, that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the goods of the earth show the need to operate also in ecumenical communion, or rather, with a vision of “ecumene” in the broad sense of the term. This has to be done in depth and forcefully, especially in the areas where migration flows originate, so that the inequalities that induce people, individually or collectively, to leave their own natural and cultural environment would be overcome (cf. EMCC nos. 4; 8-9; 39-43). On its part, the Church will not stop encouraging everyone, but particularly the members of Christian communities, to be authentically available and open to others, including migrants, as it affirms that “notwithstanding the repeated failures of human projects, noble as they may have been, Christians, roused by the phenomenon of mobility, [should] become aware of their call to be always and repeatedly a sign of fraternity and communion in the world, by respecting differences and practicing solidarity, in their ethics of meeting others” (EMCC No. 102).

To conclude, we have to acknowledge that migration is a process in constant evolution. It will continue to be present in the development of societies and will bring us more and more into an intercultural world, where legitimate diversity will be lived also in the context of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

— — —

[1] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2006: http://www.vaticaNo.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/migration/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_200510 18_world-migrants-day_eNo.html; A. Marchetto, “Le migrazioni: segno dei tempi”, in Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), La sollecitudine della Chiesa verso i migranti, (Quaderni Universitari, Comments to the First Part of Erga Migrantes Caritas Christ — henceforth EMCC), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2005, pp. 28-40.

[2] Pius XII’s prophetic intuition regarding the pastoral care of migrants is present in the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (AAS XLIV [1952] 649-704), considered the magna carta of the Church’s teaching on migration. Paul VI, in continuity with and as an application of the teaching of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, later issued the “motu proprio” Pastoralis migratorum cura (AAS LXI [1969] 601-603), promulgating the Instruction of the Congregation for Bishops De Pastorali migratorum cura (AAS LXI [1969] 614-643). In 1978, the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migration and Tourism published a Circular Letter addressed to the Episcopal Conferences, entitled Church and Human Mobility (AAS LXX [1978] 357-378): see EMCC nos. 19-33 and Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), La sollecitudine della Chiesa verso i migranti, op. cit. Cf. also A. Marchetto, “Chiesa conciliare e pastorale di accoglienza”: People on the Move XXXVIII (102, 2006), pp. 131-145.

[3] See the Pontifical Message for the World Day of Peace 2007, “The human person, the heart of peace”: http://www.vaticaNo.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20061208_xl-world-day-peace_en.html.

[4] In 2004, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People published the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi: AAS XCVI (2004), 762-822 (see also People on the Move XXXVI, 95, 2004, and website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/migrants/documents/rc_pc_ migrants_doc_20040514_erga-migrantes-caritas-christi_eNo.html). Cf. comments on this Instruction by highly competent authors in People on the Move XXXVII (98, 2005), pp. 23-125, particularly on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue: pp. 45-63.

[5] Issues related to this important chapter of the pastoral care of human mobility were studied more in-depth and then published in Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), Migranti e pastorale d’accoglienza (Quaderni Universitari, Comments to the Second Part of EMCC), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2006.

[6] Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2007: http://www.vaticaNo.va/ holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20061208_xl-world-day-peace_en.html.

[7] Cf. Proceedings of the XVII Plenary Session of our Pontifical Council, held from May 15 to 17, 2006, on the theme “Migration and Itinerancy from and toward Islamic majority countries”: People on the Move XXXVIII (101 Suppl., 2006). Specifically regarding interreligious dialogue, see pp. 187-224. Particularly important is No. 11 of the conclusions and recommendations: “It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions (see EMCC 65 and 66), and to have the possibility of giving indications in this regard also to policymakers, toward a proper formulation of civil legislation, with due respect for each one’s competence”: ibid., p. 74.

[8] Also Benedict XVI mentioned this in his address to the participants in the aforementioned XVII Plenary Session: loc. cit., p. 5.



Religion’s Role in International Society

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Amid the clatter of popular books attacking religion, one of the more frequent accusations made is that faith is guilty of fomenting political conflict. Clearly, it can’t be denied that religion is sometimes a factor in provoking dissension. On the other hand, it can also be powerful force for good both in national and international politics. 

A study published in July by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), provides an interesting overview of the interplay between faith-related factors and the foreign policy of the United States. 

The report is titled, “Mixed Blessings: U.S. Government Engagement With Religion in Conflict-Prone Settings.” It starts by observing that faith-based groups have played a major role in determining U.S. foreign policy in countries such as Sudan and China. In addition, religiously motivated terrorists have threatened security, and the United States is also involved in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where religion is a critical factor. 

In spite of religion’s importance, in general there has been a failure to understand its role — a failing that has hampered U.S. policy, the CSIS comments — even to the point of harming the country’s national security. 

These inadequacies stem from a variety of causes, according to the report. 

— Government officials are often reluctant to address the issue of religion. Many in the government see religion as a dangerous or divisive issue best left out of analysis. 

— Official frameworks for approaching religion are narrow, often approaching religions as problematic or monolithic forces, overemphasizing a terrorism-focused analysis of Islam and sometimes marginalizing religion as a peripheral humanitarian or cultural issue. 

— Institutional capacity to understand and approach religion is limited due to legal limitations, lack of religious expertise or training, and a lack of structures able to deal with religious groups and leaders. 

Peace and conflict 

The bulk of the report is dedicated to analyzing how the U.S. government deals with religion in its foreign relations. Nevertheless, it also deals with questions related to religion as a source of, or a solution to, strife. 

Religion, the report points out, can be an aggravating factor in conflicts in a number of ways. These include provoking strife between different faith communities, repressing minority religious groups, and conflict between the government and religious groups over control of the state. 

On the positive side, the CSIS argues that religious groups and leaders can often be effective diplomats due to their credibility with local communities. This can give them what the report terms a “unique leverage for promoting reconciliation among conflicting parties.” A case in point cited by the study is the faith-based Community of Sant’Egidio, which played an effective part in resolving conflict in Mozambique. 

In addition, religion can help to heal persons and communities after conflicts are over and provide a place where both grievances and discussions on how to achieve greater tolerance can be held. 

Another way in which religion contributes to communities is through helping the poor. The charitable works carried out by many faith communities often play a vital role in developing nations. The report noted, for example that more than half of the hospitals operating in Africa are run by faith-based organizations. 

In some countries U.S. government agencies provide aid in partnership with religious groups. A further example of working together comes from Burundi, where a U.S. agency worked with Catholic Relief Services to encourage the establishment of a peace and reconciliation commission comprising members of various ethnic and religious orientations. 

So far almost all the government aid has been channeled through Christian groups. Of the $1.7 billion identified going to faith-based organizations from 2001 to 2005, 98% went to Christian organizations. 

Spiritual perspective 

Another look at the relationship between religion and U.S. foreign policy came in an article published in the May 14 issue of the Weekly Standard magazine. John J. Dilulio Jr., who for a period in 2001 was the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, titled his essay “Spiritualpolitique.” 

From Brazil to Belize and Beirut to Boston, he commented, “religion in over a hundred forms and in a thousand different ways has outlived ‘modernity’ and ‘postmodernity.'” 

Dilulio explained that by the term “spiritualpolitique,” he means a view of religion that takes into account its significant power to shape politics within and among nations. It also means understanding religion not as something portrayed as being in conflict with modernity, but as something preached and practiced by many people. 

Even in stable democracies we need to realize, Dilulio commented, that religious differences play an important role. In countries where democracy and constitutional rule are still in the process of formation, religion can be a complicating factor in achieving national unity. 

Therefore, he recommended that government officials should wake up and pay a lot more attention to the role of religion and its impact on global politics. 

Religion in action 

A broader consideration of religion’s impact on conflicts came in a book published earlier this year titled: “Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution.” The book, a series of essays edited by David Little, is dedicated to a number of case studies of religious figures who have helped to promote peace. 

A useful concluding chapter by Little draws together some conclusions that can be deduced from the book’s profiles. He urges readers to avoid two oversimplifications. The first is that religion can best be seen as violence, or clashes of civilization. The second is that “good” religion always brings peace. 

A number of the testimonies in the book give eloquent testimony that contradicts the first oversimplification, Little points out. Moreover, religion is only one among a whole series of factors that are present in causing violent conflicts. 

The second affirmation is also unsustainable, Little adds. The experience in situations such as the warfare following the break-up of Yugoslavia demonstrate that religion, and even the clergy themselves, can inflame hostilities. 

Little then lists a series of lessons that can be drawn from the book’s case studies, some of which are: 

— Religion neither causes violence by itself, nor, by contrast, is it without influence, particularly in its extremist form, on the course and character of violence. 

— Religion is not just a source of violent conflict, but also a source of peace. 

— Proper religion exhibits a preference for pursuing peace by non-violent means and for combining the promotion of peace with the promotion of justice. 

— Religion dedicated to promoting justice and peace by peaceful means often prompts a hostile and violent response, at least in the short run. 

Faith and peace 

Looking at the religious figures presented in the book, Little comments that their beliefs provided an important foundation for the task they took on of promoting peace. They drew vision, motivation and perseverance from the theological traditions of their faith. 

Religion can also play a part in helping build institutions that will increase and sustain social harmony and civil unity. As well, nongovernmental groups and individuals can foment an environment conducive to peace and to negotiations for resolving conflicts. 

Benedict XVI addressed the relationship between religious belief and peace in his message for this year’s World Day of Peace, celebrated by the Church in Jan. 1. He termed as “unacceptable” those conceptions of God that encourage intolerance and violence (No. 10). War in God’s name is never acceptable, the Pontiff warned. 

“Let every Christian be committed to tireless peace-making and strenuous defense of the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights,” he urged in the conclusion of his message. An appeal that should find an answer in the hearts of all believers.