Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cardinal Pell & The Separation of State

Sydney's Catholic George, Cardinal Pell's most recent foray into politics has been his most damaging and ill-conceived.

Cardinal Pell attempted to pressure Catholic MP's into voting against a bill to reverse the ban on therapeutic cloning. Indeed, some have construed his comments as a threat (to ban from communion) to politicians. A threat, of course, would be illegal.

The issue, here, is really about the separation of Church and State. For centuries the Catholic Church, and other Churches when their members became political leaders, exerted considerable influence and political power. Pope Pius XI, in 1933, wrote in his Papal Encyclical Dilectissima Nobis of his "great sorrow" that the new Spanish Constitution had affirmed the "separation of Church from State."

However, biographical notes, released by The Holy See, on Japanese Archbishop (now Cardinal) Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi note that:

In 1989 on the occasion of the death of Emperor Hirohito, Archbishop Shirayanagi spoke on behalf of the Japanese Catholic Bishops, asking the Government to observe strictly the separation of State and religion in Japan.

cardinali_biografie/cardinali_bio_shirayanagi_ps_en.html )

While Cardinal Pell has the same rights to lobby politicians as all of us, the inclusion of religious interference in the secular, "separated-from-Church" running of our democracy, and his application of religious pressure and judgemental consequences is unreasonable. Some have likened it to the intrusive and intolerant outbursts of (Islamic) Sheik al-Hilaly.

Our democracy does not need such behaviours ... from any religious leader. We do need our politicians to take all issues seriously, and vote well, to satisfy, as well as possible, the sometimes conflicting secular desires and religious conscience.

The Analyst