Whenever I see a headline about Cardinal George Pell, I always read on with eager anticipation of some wondrous new assault on political correctness. Last week, he came well up to his usual standard, with his advice to young voters in the forthcoming Australian general election.
First, of course, he said that it wasn’t for him to tell them who to vote for, urging them nevertheless “to examine the policies of the Greens on their website and judge for themselves how thoroughly anti-Christian they are”.
The leader of the Australian Greens, a Senator Bob Brown, replied that Catholics in Australia were closer to him than to Cardinal Pell, who had, he claimed, “taken up the rhetoric of the extreme right in Australia”, by becoming “very politically active against the compassion and the environmental common sense of the Greens’ policies”.
Well, on the face of it, you might think that there is nothing inconsistent in being both a Christian and a Green. Consider, for instance, a website called the Christian Ecology link, which offers “Resources, Encouragement and Prayer re Environment for your Church”. Some of the blameless activities it announces this month are a two-day conference on Christianity and vegetarianism; the opening of seven low-carbon homes; in Bradford Cathedral, there will be a presentation on photovoltaic cells, and the talk will be preceded by the presentation of the cathedral’s eco-congregation award. And in September, across the nation, there will be Anglican “bell-ringing for biodiversity”.
For Catholics who may want something a little theologically meatier (ie less vegetarian) there is a link to a Catholic page, from which you can go to the following by the carnivorous Pope John Paul II: “If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations. Man, especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth’s habitat, made the air unbreathable … and turned luxuriant areas into deserts … We must therefore encourage and support the ‘ecological conversion’ which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading”.
So, what’s Cardinal Pell on about? The fact is that campaigning, political Greens are often intensely anti-Catholic. In 1996, says Cardinal Pell, the Australian Green leader Bob Brown co-authored a book called The Greens with the notorious philosopher Peter Singer who rejects the unique status of humans and supports infanticide, as well as abortion and euthanasia: this Green ethic, says the cardinal, is designed to replace Judaeo-Christianity.
“One wing of the Greens,” he says, “are like water melons, green outside and red inside. A number were Stalinists, supporting Soviet oppression” [in Australia, this is apparently the case]. The Greens are opposed to religious schools; they have in the past attempted to have religion excluded from parliamentary debate; and so on.
This anti-Catholic bias is evident among English Greens too. George Monbiot, for instance, has accused the Pope of crimes against humanity for being against condoms, which he says has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths from Aids in Africa (there is, of course, LESS Aids in Africa wherever the Church has any influence, because of Catholic teaching about chastity – the real solution to the Aids crisis).
So, let’s do what we reasonably can about the environment: but watch the Greens like a hawk. There is a lot more to them than meets the eye when that attractive and persuasive candidate comes knocking on your door.
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