Catholics are vital to Australia’s democratic future

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald (October 30,2007) there is an article by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.

It is an edited extract from an address given at the Sydney Institute last night to mark the launch of his book God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics and Society

I think that whoever edited the address and extracted what was printed, either had a profound sense of humour or in a great hurry – perhaps both. (Please note: I’m not anti-Catholic, but some things are too important to be presented to the public in such an odd way.)

The strangest part of this story is perhaps its heading “Christianity vital to democracy’s future”, well Cardinal Pell I don’t think God worries a lot about whether a government is democratic or a roman republic or a theocracy – can you correct me, and demonstrate from Scripture the error of my thinking?

First Cardinal Pell talks about the enduring nature of Christian belief – and, the anger of some well-known atheists because belief in God has lasted so long. In this introductory part of the discussion, while he dwells on these atheists – he says: “It is, after all, not unheard of for children to grow up angry at a father who is remote, absent, or unknown.” I though, was that a large, red herring that just swam past?

He then jumps into the fire of ‘how did we get here’: He goes on to say: “And the alternatives are creative intelligence – that is, God – or blind chance. It would be infuriating to concede that Christ, the Buddha, Aristotle, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Newton, Beethoven and Einstein are pointless froth in a heartless universe.” Well, Cardinal Pell, colourful language but what are you trying to say? Is it, that atheists find it infuriating to concede that various creative minds are pointless froth in a heartless universe? Perhaps they would have used different words to your frothy universe but in essence – yes, they do say intelligent people are the result of specific evolutionary processes! I don’t agree with their view but perhaps you meant something else; and, as I’m not in the same ball-bark as Shakespeare or Einstein. I’m really not sure what the point is, that you are trying to make, which will eventually tie in democracy and Christianity. One additional issue that I have with this last statement – is that including Christ in that list was, in one sense, a very poor inclusion – was it not?

So, I’m reading along holding the three key words; ‘Christianity’, ‘vital’, ‘democracy’; and waiting patiently for the various threads of the article to be drawn together so that I can go onto the next news item – and perhaps, being all the better – having learned something.

Cardinal Pell then launches out with the key statement: “Catholics remain the largest religious minority in the country.” Does that mean the Cardinal is really saying that Catholics are vital to democracy’s future?

He makes a number of statements which have no supporting evidence: one, ‘that Australians are pragmatic rather than ideological about the relationship between religion and democracy’; two, ‘the idea that religion is irrational and must be excluded from public affairs is not a native Australian plant’; and three, ‘it is important to have a critical mass of active religious believers in the community, partly because of the so-called social usefulness of religion, particularly in picking up the pieces of social and personal dysfunction.’

I’m starting to approach the end of the article but where’s the case for Catholics being vital for our future democracy.

Well here’s the┬ástart of it: “But more deeply than this, I also think many Australians appreciate that having a goodly number of active believers is essential to ensure that the values of a fair go and respect for others are promoted and passed on to the next generation. ” and ; “most Australians expect the churches to help pass on to young people the (essential) values.”

The core case for this view presented by the Cardinal is that most Australians expect the Catholic Church to help pass on our essential values to the next generation.

The problem is: “the fertility rates of every Western country are below replacement level“; and the solution is “Catholicism’s role in (democratic) Australia, is to help turn this situation around.” but the extracts in this article do not explicitly say what is meant here, which is, Catholics should have more kids, and that aligns well with Catholic tradition!

Now, don’t you feel enlightened – Christianity is vital to democracy’s future because of our higher birth rate. Which may mean that those atheist will soon become extinct because they don’t breed as much – this has its humous side, don’t you think?

Hidden in the last part of the article is this dangerous statement: “The key public task facing all Christians today is to make the case for Western civilisation and to replenish the sources from which it takes life and strength.”

Cardinal Pell – there is a whole lot wrong with our current Western civilisation – and I, for one, will not be making a case for it! There is nothing inherently Christian about any particular brand of civilisation – what makes any government entity, Christian, is the way they follow Jesus!