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Australian bishops warn Catholics against voting for Greens

Cardinal Pell distributes ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass in Sydney (CNS photo/Kerry Myers, Catholic Weekly)

Nine bishops from the state of New South Wales have joined Sydney Cardinal George Pell to warn Catholics about voting in the state election for the Greens, who have gained “significant” influence.

In a statement last week, the bishops said the Greens’ plans to “attack” freedom of religion and conscience and promote abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage “give rise to grave concerns for the protection of human rights and human dignity”.

The Greens could exercise “significant power over governments with only a few seats”, the bishops said in the statement called “The Green Agenda”.

Two New South Wales bishops, Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay and Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst, refused to sign the letter.

Bishop Walker told The Record, Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth: “The bishops need to take great care regarding intervention in the political process”. He said he supported the highlighting of key issues of concern, but added: “I do not believe … that attacking a particular political party serves to highlight these issues in the most effective way.”

Lismore Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, one of the letter’s signatories, said the prelates were not telling people how to vote, but doing “what people expect of us” – being “watchmen on the tower”.

“We’re just saying that we’re pastors of the flock and we see danger, and we want to raise concern to anybody who will listen, especially in our own Catholic community and for wider society as well,” Bishop Jarrett said.

The Greens are applying pressure on the federal government to amend the Marriage Act to allow homosexual marriage. If they fail at the federal level to address this “unfair discrimination”, the Greens will introduce a bill into the New South Wales Parliament to allow same-sex marriage.

In the statement, the bishops said it was “not ‘unfair’ to recognise that marriage is the union of a man and a woman who bind themselves to each other for the well-being of their children”.

“Changing the law on marriage would expose churches and schools to coercive pressures from the state to cease teaching their beliefs about marriage and family.

“Same-sex relationships and the relationship between a man and a woman are different realities, and it helps no one to call different relationships by the same name,” the bishops said.

The Greens will pursue the removal of abortion as an offence under the Crimes Act and support Victoria state’s successful 2009 legislation that denies doctors the right of conscientious objection to participate in or be associated with the practice of abortion.

“It is remarkable that such offensive laws could be passed in an Australian parliament, denying individuals the fundamental freedom of belief, conscience and religion,” the bishops said.

Though the Greens tried unsuccessfully to introduce euthanasia legislation into the New South Wales Parliament last year, the bishops warned of an “ongoing concern”.

“For all the talk about choice, freedom and dignity, the reality is that euthanasia is the killing of another human being. Evidence from countries like the Netherlands and Belgium shows that many of those euthanised are involuntary victims. They did not choose to be killed,” the bishops said.

“You cannot write into law absolute safeguards and protections to prevent this here. Abuses and exploitation of the vulnerable will occur,” they added.