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Why a conscientious Christian could vote for the Greens


GreensCardinal George Pell and the Australian Christian Lobby led by Jim Wallace have once again joined forces in the public square — this time to advocate that Christians not vote in the forthcoming election for the 'anti-Christian' Greens who the Cardinal describes as 'sweet camouflaged poison'.

Jim Wallace launched the initial salvo in The Australian describing the Greens as 'a party whose philosophical father, Peter Singer, clearly places the rights of animals above the rights of children, but at the same time endorses sex with animals, which presumably are robbed of any right of consent'.

On Sunday His Eminence took up the call in his regular Sunday Telegraph column stating: 'In 1996 the Green leader Bob Brown coauthored a short book The Greens with the notorious philosopher Peter Singer (now at Princeton University in USA), who rejects the unique status of humans and supports infanticide, as well as abortion and euthanasia.'

The Cardinal has urged his listeners and readers 'to examine the policies of the Greens on their website and judge for themselves how thoroughly anti-Christian they are'.

Clearly the Greens will not be gaining the votes or preferences of Pell and Wallace. But was it principled and prudent for them to make this public declaration? Could not a conscientious Christian still vote for the Greens? And are their policies more anti-Christian than those of the major parties?

Let's be clear: the Greens are not in the contest for government and they are very unlikely to have much, if any, say in the House of Representatives. Their political purchase after the election will be in the Senate where they will most probably have the balance of power.

Some Christians, myself included, think that it is never a good thing for the government of the day to control the Senate. You just have to look at what happened to the Howard Government in its last term when it controlled the Senate. Hubris set in; the usual rational debate about the limits on Workchoices was abandoned because the Government was assured passage of its overbroad, ideological legislation. When the Government does not control the Senate, it needs to garner support for legislation by putting coherent arguments in order to attract a handful of Senators on the cross benches.

In days past, those cross benches were occupied by the Democratic Labor Party, which boasted Catholic credentials, and then the Democrats, who were just as secular as the Greens.

A thoughtful Christian is entitled to consider the workings of the Senate when deciding where to allocate preferences in their voting. A thoughtful Christian could give their first or second party preference to a minor party like the Greens confident that this minor party would hold to account whichever party is in power on contested legislative proposals.

Some Christians, myself included, think that the Greens are not classifiable as straight out anti-Christian. While some of their members may be (much like Mark Latham was in the Labor Party), others like Lin Hatfield Dodds have given distinguished public service in their churches for decades.

On some policy issues, I daresay the Greens have a more Christian message than the major parties.

Consider their stand on overseas aid, refugees, stewardship of creation and the environment, public housing, human rights protection, and income management. On all these issues, the Greens are far more in synch with the periodic utterances of most Church leaders than either of the major political parties. The Greens have been the only party to hold back the tide against the race to the bottom in the asylum seeker debate since Kevin Rudd was replaced as Prime Minister.

Admittedly the Greens can afford to be more idealistic on some of these issues because they will never occupy the treasury benches. This idealism appeals to some voters, especially the young. Even some of us hardened older voters see a place for some idealism expressed by minor political parties.

Like Cardinal Pell and Jim Wallace, I part company with the Greens on issues like abortion, stem cell research, same sex marriage and funding for church schools. But on none of these issues will the Greens carry the day given that policy changes in these areas will occur only if they are supported by a majority from both major political parties.

Cardinal Pell says: 'The Greens are opposed to religious schools and would destroy the rights of those schools to hire staff and control enrolments. Funding for non-government schools would be returned to the levels of 2003–04.' It is a complete furphy to suggest that the election of Greens in the Senate would threaten the funding of church schools. The funding formula for schools will be altered by law only if the Government of the day wins support from the Opposition, given that the Opposition and Government will be much closer on such a formula than will be the Greens with either major political party.

The Greens position on funding of Church schools will be an irrelevance. Even if the Greens were to try to use reduced funding of Church schools as a bargaining chip for some other policy concession, they would be most unlikely to succeed, provided the church school lobby maintains its good standing with both major political parties.

If all the Greens' policies were truly classifiable as 'anti-Christian', I would have no problem with church leaders urging people to vote for another party. But given that some of their policies, and on issues which will be legislated in the next three years, are arguably more Christian than those of the major parties, I think it best that Church leaders maintain a discreet reticence about urging a vote for or against any particular political party.

This is especially the case given that Green preferences are more likely to favour the major party headed by an atheist rather than the one headed by a professed Christian. It would be very regrettable if an attack by Pell and the Christian Lobby on the Greens could be construed as an indirect shot across the bows of the atheist Prime Minister.

Though the Christian Lobby thought its influence significant when the major parties were both headed by professed Christians, there is a need for special sensitivity, judging politicians and parties by their fruits in this pluralistic democratic Australia where quite a number of its thinking voters as well as some of its leading politicians happen to be atheist.

I thought the language of our Cardinal on this occasion unbecoming and unhelpful in the cause of church credibility in the public square. If the Australian Christian Lobby wants to mount such rhetorical election campaigns, all our bishops should maintain a dignified distance and reticence.

A vote for the Greens is a vote against Catholic education - Stephen Elder replies to Frank Brennan

Frank Brennan

Fr Frank Brennan SJ is Professor of Law at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University, and Adjunct Professor at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University.

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, George Pell, Jim Wallace, Australian Christian Lobby, Greens, balance of power



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Existing comments

Fr Brennan may be able to fool some people but he does not fool me. The Greens support the aims of the Earth Charter which is in favour of abortion and population control. Voting for the Greens would be supporting policies which are against the moral principles of the Catholic church. I am anti pollution and love trees. But my conscience, informed by the teachings of the Catholic church [not a 'preference'] says it is morally wrong to vote for them.

Can someone tell me how they think Jesus could justify voting for a party which supports unlimited access to abortion and population control?

SKYE | 09 August 2010  

Just to clarify what the Greens are about


- ensure all women have access to legal, free and safe pregnancy termination services
- legislate to remove discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI) people in federal legislation.
- require governments and their agencies to consult with LGBTI communities and representative groups on the development of policies and programs that affect LGBTI people.
- legislate to allow marriage regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
- support nationally consistent age of consent laws.
- remove convictions for consensual homosexual acts from legal records.
- establish intersex as a gender recognised by the legal system.
- support gender assignment for people born with an intersex condition being made only when they are able to express personal sexual identity.
- end the criminalisation of consensual adult sex work.
So the Greens might like trees, but they don’t like morality much. Be careful how you vote, and be careful where you put your preferences.
From the Home page of the Greens http://greens.org.au

They are truly against Judeo-Christian principles of morality.

Skye | 09 August 2010  

Once again a logically well put argument demolishing the public stand taken by Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hickey.

It is vital that there is a group like the Greens or the Australian Democrats (in the past) to have the balance of power in the Senate to ensure that neither of the major political parties get away with exterem ideologically motivated legislation.

nick agocs | 09 August 2010  

As usual Frank Brennan puts things into perspective so maybe BB's crowd are entitled to support just to 'keep the bastards honest '!

Love joy and peace to you dear Gael


Denis O'Leary | 09 August 2010  

Thank you Frank. Traditionally I have lived with the Labour philosophy, but to me the Labour Party I have supported for many years is no longer one I can trust.
I voted last Friday and I am supporting the Greens. They are being more open about the issues they support or reject and are stating things clearly. Neither of the other parties are doing any of that - they consistently weave words and do not make an honest open statement. I just wait and see now and hope for the best

margaret o'reilly | 09 August 2010  

Implied in Fr. Brennan's article is the commonsense belief that each of the political parties has a mixture of aims and attitudes.

It would be surprising if any one voter entirely agrees with every item in any one party's policies, but we must choose.
As for Gillard's so-called 'atheism' I feel we should distinguish between those who blatantly decare that there is no God and those who are uncertain.

As a 'Don't Knower' myself, but not an atheist, I hope there is a benevolent God and an afterlife when I can once again be with departed friends and loved ones.

Bob Corcoran | 09 August 2010  

I think Skye's slur on many people that "Greens don't like morality much" is both unfair and unconsidered. At any rate it is pretty much a nonsense. The positions underpinning the Greens' policies may be based on a different weighing of moral criteria than Skye's but they are coherent moral positions. The tendency to dismiss people as immoral rather than explain why one disagrees with their different views is all too common a temptation - with all of us.

Looking over Skye's list of policy warnings, I can only see one - the support of access to abortion service - which one might expect an orthodox Catholic to baulk at - but even there, it is hardly a policy to make abortion compulsory and I think it would require a very hard-line response to others' moral choices to want to criminalise everybody who disagrees or who finds themselves in isolated and unsupported distress, as many who make the choice to have an abortion find themselves in. Some moderation and considered thought please.

Stephen | 09 August 2010  

Frank Brennan's comments on this issue are welcome, and certainly more balanced and considered than other comments I have read. But the concerns of Christians on these issues are also relevant.

Part of the concern is about what the Greens might achieve if placed in a balance of power, as opposed to full gamut of issues that they stand for. Their policies on social justice and environment issues are admirable, but we've seen in Victoria that the Greens have a much better chance of getting policies on moral social issues like abortion on the agenda than their more admirable ones. As Frank said, they need support from major parties to make these policies possible, but in fact what has happened in Victoria is that these issues have come down to 'conscience votes', meaning that party lines play no part. The real fear for Christians is that by placing people in power who are up front with views that are not in synch with our own beliefs, we risk giving indirect support for policies that we don't believe in.

As someone concerned for the plight of asylum seekers, for fairer treatment of people on the margins, and for a more sustainable use of our environmental resources, I would very much like to support the Greens. But, like many Christians, I fear what else my support for them might unleash.

Joseph Vine | 09 August 2010  

We are truly caught between the devil and the deep blue sea! Frank Brennan's stance makes a lot of sense, and I think the Bishops should stop meddling in politics, especially in this coutry with its crazy Westminster system! I am sick and tired of hearing about abortion which is undoubtedly evil, but surely education is the solution!What Jesus would have done? A good question - he may have stood for Parliament!

Peter M Budgewoi NSW | 09 August 2010  

Thanks Father Frank for a clear, sensible and charitable contribution to the vexed issue as I go to the pre poll centre wondering whether to opt for Tweedledum or Tweedledumber !

Denis O'Leary | 09 August 2010  

So who are you going to vote for Skye? The point is, is there a party which is undeniably Christian on all issues? Are you going to vote for one of the two major parties who don't respect the dignity of the human person in their asylum seeker policies or who have failed on the stewardship of creation with the ETS? Jesus wouldn't approve.

Jane | 09 August 2010  

Thanks Frank. As you clearly point out, those policies of the Greens to which some Catholics take exception will not be implemented because it would take a majority in each house to do so and the Greens will not (at least for a long time) get such a majority. For George Pell to suggest that they will be implemented is misleading at best.

On the other hand, a Greens minority in the Senate could be very effective in blocking the excesses of whichever major party gains government. That alone will be sufficient reason for me to vote Green.

Trevor | 09 August 2010  

Frank, thanks for that, I had started to wonder if as a Christian I might vote Green.

David Wall | 09 August 2010  

So it's wrong wrong wrong for the Cardinal to point out the blatantly anti-life policies of the Greens, but it's OK for Fr Brennan to pontificate that you're less of a Christian if your preferred solutions to problems of refugees, world poverty and the environment don't line up with theirs (and his)?

Help me out here.

HH | 09 August 2010  

Thank God for someone in the commentariat who is engaging in nuanced debate. How depressing has this campaign been with its focus on campaign power-play rather than substantive issues. Thank you, meddlesome priest. All power to your elbow.

Frances | 09 August 2010  

Fr Frank Brennan would mean much more to me if he ceased having a go at Cardinal Pell at every opportunity. I keep seeing a bias in everything he writes. I thought Jesuits have the same need to show loyalty as everyone else. Sometimes I wonder whether they are truly Catholic.

John B | 09 August 2010  

Thank you Frank!

Please keep giving a balanced Christian approach rather than a myopic, extreme attack which simply grabs headlines to the detriment of the Church.

leo kanel | 09 August 2010  

I completely agree with Frank Brennan's article. The Greens are not without their faults but anti-christian is not one of them. At least they advocate saving the planet! The Churches are at their worst defending their own interests.

Harry Herbert | 09 August 2010  

Fr Brennan's piece sensibly argues that a reasonable person might vote for the Greens in the same way they might vote for any party - not because they agree 100% with all the policy positions, but simply because the practical outcomes (not the rhetoric) would be worth achieving.

If one assigns primacy of place to a single issue, such as abortion, then none of the major parties would appear to offer an acceptable path forward. Even Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic, has pledged not to remove Medicare funding for abortions or put other new restrictions in place.

In the US, politicians have been barred from receiving communion for less. I fervently hope that we don't arrive at that situation in Australia.

Jason | 09 August 2010  

I just can't believe that an Australian Jesuit priest, would suggest that thoughtful Christians could give their first or second preferences to the Greens. Does Fr Brennan really know or understand the policies of the various political parties in NSW. I suggest Fr Brennan reads the submitted comments from SKYE. Fr Brennan does not fool some of us but it is scary, he might fool many Christians who are politically ignorant. All we can do is to pray that our beloved Cardinal George Pell will continue to have the strength to defend our Holy Catholic Church.

Ron Cini | 09 August 2010  

It seems to me that Archbishop Pell and Jim Wallace have a very restrictive view of conscience. Frank Brennan's view is more generous. A person must always obey the certain judgment of his/her conscience. To do this he/she strives to interpret the data of their experience. People who pay close attention to how the political process works in Australia could reasonably draw radically different conclusions on how to vote in an election. One may feel that he/she cannot support the local candidate in a by-election because he runs the local brothel and yet if he loses, the other candidate's party which will abolish trade unions will gain a majority in the parliament. Democratic politics is not a simple binary system. If Christian leaders are going to pontificate on political matters let them show some competency in understanding the way politics works in a free pluralistic society. But then maybe they do and their mealy-mouthing of moral principles is intended to guide their obedient flock and so curry favour in certain polital quarters.

I guess that's politics.

Uncle Pat | 09 August 2010  

Wow ... a commentator who knows the difference between the parliament and the government. A rare treat.

Austin | 09 August 2010  

I agree with Frank Brennan, who runs an ethical and theological argument. Pell, as usual, runs a doctrinaire, authoritarian line that kicks my mind back to the sectarian animosities of my youth.

endee | 09 August 2010  

Well done, Frank!!

Nathalie | 09 August 2010  

OK, I can vote Green in the Senate. But what about the House of Reps? If I can't, in conscience, vote for Labor or Liberal (because of asylum-seeker policies and various other things) surely I should just not vote, because I've got to put one of them ahead of the other and in the absence of anyone else who has a chance of winning, that's a vote for that one. What will happen if I turn up at the polling booth and accept a voting paper for the Senate but refuse to accept one for the House?

Gavan | 09 August 2010  

Fr Brennan, your comments don't take any account for the fact that the Greens are essentially 'anti-human'. On issues basic to Christian tenets they are decidedly anti-christian. Christian voters must make a moral judgement about their vote and the Greens simply don't measure up.

Furthermore, giving the balance of power to the Greens will give them leverage with an ALP government on their broader agenda. Anyone who thinks that this won't mean distinct pressure on the ALP to support (or allow) a vote on same-sex marriage is living in gaga land.

Paul Russell | 09 August 2010  

I've been having a lot of trouble with this one - I am aware of Green policies and I know several of them don't line up at all with Christian principles. Could I vote for them? But who else - there's just no-one whose policies line up with what I regard as true Christian principles (i.e. my own.......). I think now the Greens are the way to go this time. My reasons - Frank's clarification, and the terrible suffering occurring at the moment in Pakistan. We can't keep ignoring this suffering, which is undoubtedly primarily caused by climate change. We have to take some responsibility, and I do mean Christian responsibility.

Joan Seymour Albion, Vic. | 09 August 2010  

Thank you Fr Frank Brennan. Your considered, balanced viewpoint is always so welcome. How sensible to point out that being in favour of saving the planet, assisting asylum seekers,focusing on increased funding for public schools and TAFE is somehow meaning that they (the Greens) are "not liking morality much". Bless this meddlesome priest.

Mary Maraz | 09 August 2010  

Thanks Frank! Refreshing to have such a balanced and thought provoking paper, keep up the good work! We need to keep the perspective of the Greens in the Senate, your clarity is most helpful.

Judith Hose | 09 August 2010  

Some Christians, myself included, find Cardinal Pell's views on women (including abortion rights), discrimination, human rights, the rights of lesbians and gays etc etc distinctly lacking in 'Christian' charity.

For the record, every national and state survey conducted in this country about women's abortion rights over many decades, has found an overwhelming 65% - over 80% of the adult population in support of women's right to decide. Most Christians, including Catholics, support women's right to choose. The men who constitute the 'leadership' of the Catholic Church don't speak for the people. No one, whether it be Cardinal Pell or Frank Brennan, should deny women their autonomy.

Anna McCormack | 09 August 2010  

Thank you, thank you, for giving us an 'other' view - a balanced view - that gives me a leg to stand on when deciding how I will vote or discussing why I vote the way I will - in the face of some pretty vehement opposition at times.

Glen Avard | 09 August 2010  

A very good and sophisticated article. As reflected in the response to it...if only the banalities which are passing for election discourse were anywhere near it. I am a natural Labor voter but need to protest against the terrible performance of the Labor government and their lack of current policy/vision, though I hope they will do better next time; but also against the frightful scare-mongering of the opposition.So I will probably vote Green tactically to give a message to `my party`, though I actually believe that they are the next wave of political barbarianism :after Fascists, Communists and now them!

Eugene | 09 August 2010  

On March 23rd 1933 the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act with the bipartisanship of the Catholic Centre Party and Hitler's minority Nazi Party.
This Act transferred overriding powers to the cabinet, of which Hitler was a member, and ended dependence on the parliament. Within weeks Hitler, the supposed "prisoner"of von Papen's cabinet had been appointed chancellor.The rest is history.
I have no doubt that the Catholic Centre Party, at that time, upheld all the Catholic moral principles, including fierce rejection of anti-Semitism.

While the gentle Bob Brown can hardly be equated to Adolf Hitler, there is a constitutional possibility that while the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, embryonic stem cell research, for example could become legalized under a revised Health Care Act.

Never having "occupied the Treasury benches" may not preclude the Greens from achieving success in some areas of their more radical agenda, like embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage.

Claude Rigney | 09 August 2010  

I think the language of Frank Brennan on this issue is unbecoming and unhelpful in the cause of his credibility in the public square. His argument that the Greens can be a positive in the Senate is shown to be an absurdity just by replacing "The Greens" in his piece by "The Communist Party of Australia" or "The Nazi Party". Both had some policies which Catholics would agree with but the rottenness at their cores would make them unacceptable under any circumstances. The same applies to The Greens with their pro-abortion and anti-Christian policies. Just because Mussolini made the trains run on time did not make him someone a Catholic should vote for!

John of Canberra | 09 August 2010  

Thanks Frank. Once again you have demonstrated your keen intellect and ability to make fine distinctions. You almost had me convinced. However, after some reflection I managed to discern the critical flaw in your argument (and you even alluded to it in your article).

You (rightly) referred to the fact that the Greens are ideologues. The problem with the Greens is that at their heart, their ideology is fundamentally flawed. For the Greens, the environment is given primacy of place (as opposed to the dignity of the human person). At the deepest level, the Greens are therefore anti-Christian.

Yes, thankfully the Greens do ‘get it right’ on some issues. However, their very foundation is anti-Christian, and authentic Catholics cannot therefore, in good conscience, vote for them.
With the greatest respect, I hereby call on you Frank, as an intelligent person, is to take your article down, as it only serves to cause disunity amongst a Holy People who should have human dignity as their first political principle.

Dominic Byrne | 09 August 2010  

If we don't vote Green, we are effectively leaving all God's Creation to the tender mercies of those who would destroy all, including the only life support system that their own children will ever have, for the sake of a few (billion) dollars more.

Don't forget, even if the Greens do make abortion available, it is individual people who choose to abort their children.

Don't forget, the Greens' social justice strategy is all about helping people so that they don't feel compelled to make such a decision.

David Arthur | 09 August 2010  

Thank you again, Frank, for a thoughtful article, and for once again standing up to institutionalised bullying.

Peter Downie | 09 August 2010  

Thank you! My husband is the Greens candidate for Bennelong and it is his Catholicism which has largely shaped his approach to social justice. He is also the son of a refugee. Others in his local Greens group also have been active in various churches. Advocating for sustainable use of our environment, strong public education (even the Catholic schools admit it is hard to get low income Catholics into our school system), public housing and a strong peace message are all pro-life policies. While I personally do not like abortion, termination of pregnancy is available on demand and neither major party will alter current legislation. My work as a doctor has also helped me understand the difficulties faced by some women faced with a difficult choice. I have found few make this choice lightly.

For a healthy society (and church) we need to be able to debate what is moral and ethical amidst complex issues as we choose how to cast our votes. We can do this conscientiously while still arriving at different conclusions about which party is the lucky one to receive our individual vote.

Kathy Peters | 09 August 2010  

I joined the Catholic Church in 1938 and I joined the Labor Party in 1963. The relaxed and comfortable attitude of most Church leaders, most of the time, to asylum seeker attitudes is incomprehensible to me; they sleep with their conscience and I sleep with mine. Considering all things, I'll be voting Green and preferencing Labor - mainly because of asylum seekers and secondly because of climate change.

Jim Jones | 09 August 2010  

A couple of respondents question my loyalty to the Church. I hope and pray that my motivation in publishing such a piece is to help place the Church in its appropriate place in the public square so that our proclamation of the Gospel might be more profound and so that Christians (especially Catholics) might enjoy to the full the opportunity to act and vote according to their formed and informed consciences. Yes, Cardinal Pell and I have our differences – this time over the way he has labeled one Australian political party as “thoroughly anti-Christian” and as “sweetly camouflaged poison”. The Australian Greens are not the equivalent of the Nazi Party. They do have some saving graces! (and that does not mean that I will vote for them).

I think the way the overwhelming majority of the Australian bishops have conducted themselves during the election campaign is exemplary. The statement published by the Bishops’ Conference for the election was measured and respectful to all political parties (including the Greens). If I were out of sympathy with the way most Australian bishops were conducting themselves during the election campaign, there might be cause to question my loyalty to the Church. But even then there would be a need to consider the bishops’ and my statements on their merits. A loyal Jesuit should not simply stand silent when one church leader (even a Cardinal) makes statements which place at risk not just the good standing of the Church in the public square during election time, but also the freedom of conscientious Christians to vote as they choose.

Frank Brennan SJ | 09 August 2010  

The Greens are quasi-religious anyway. Just substitute Gaia for God. As for their supposedly better policy on refugees, this is a huge myth. Like the two main parties, the Greens support the detention and deportation of asylum seekers who are found not to be genuine refugees. But worse than the two main parties, the Greens want a much smaller intake of immigrants, which suggests a smaller intake of refugees.

Oh for a left-wing alternative that would support a truly BIG Australia - big in intake and big in heart (open borders, save for quarantine and security considerations).

Barry the Red | 10 August 2010  

Please ignore the Greens policies on matters such as abortion or gay marriages, that is not why they exist. The issue of fundamental importance to our generation is how we care for this beautiful planet god gave us. The Greens can help sway the government of the day, hold them accountable, provide the expertise and focus that the two major parties just don’t have. This is a preferential system, let’s utilise it and give the planet a voice!

Kirsty Allen | 10 August 2010  

Some of us would consider it commendable to fire "an indirect shot across the bows of the atheist Prime Minister",who recently stabbed her leader in the back.

Maintaining a dignified distance and reticence in politics has resulted in many disasters in the past,including invasions and revolutions.

Bill Barry | 10 August 2010  

As a Protestant, I'm curious how Catholics presume to deal with human overpopulation? I can see a method where they can't. It is simple: is the earth infinite or finite? Can exponential population growth continue forever on a finite planet?

Consider exponential growth!

For example, if Sydney’s population were to grow by just 2% per year, how many Sydney’s would we need at the end of one human lifetime (of 70 years)? The answer is four Sydney’s! That means 4 times everything a major city consumes: 4 times the electricity, 4 times the oil, 4 times the public transport, 4 times the fresh water, and 4 times the groceries.

Now cop this: 3% annual growth for 70 years would produce 8 Sydney’s, and everything 8 Sydney’s would require.

4% growth every year for 70 years would require 16 Sydney’s! That is the sheer speed of exponential growth.

So tell me: once the scientists pronounce the earth 'full', whenever that is, WHAT IS UNCHRISTIAN ABOUT PREVENTING STARVATION AND DIEOFF THROUGH THE USE OF CONTRACEPTION!

I see NOTHING about it in the bible, and EVERYTHING for it from a sustainability point of view.

Eclipse Now | 10 August 2010  

Is Father Brennan serious? The Greens are the most aggressively and systematically anti-life party in Australian politics. Some of their policies might have some merit, but from the perspective of right reason the Green political push is fatally ruined by its anti-humanism. The National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s achieved some good things - hauled the country out of economic chaos, solved unemployment, restored a sense of national dignity (after the blame game of the Versailles Treaty), reunited German communities (in, for example, the Rhineland) with the homeland, built an autobahn network, etc., etc. It does not follow that it was a wise and prudent course of action for Germans to vote Nazi - which many did, including Lutherans and Catholics, because they could not see the horrors that lay in the future. Issues of life and truth are a precious, seamless garment not to be dissected and weighed in political calculation as the Brennan counter-magisterium does.

Sylvester | 10 August 2010  

Frank Brennan seems to be suggesting that churchmen like Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hickey should not get embroiled in controversial arguments in the 'public square' ... they should 'maintain a dignified distance and reticence'. Am I the only one who sees more than a touch of hypocrisy in this advice? Fr Brennan is famous for his own involvement in 'public square' debates and controversies, why is it o.k. when he does it? I believe our Christian leaders should take the risk and enter the fray with regard to political battles that can threaten human life. The Greens - if they were given what they wanted - would create a world very different to the Christian way of life. I'm glad that our Catholic leaders are speaking up. I would be impressed if Fr Brennan also was a little more upfront with his concerns about the Greens policies. Is he trying to be friends with everyone?

Cath Ransom | 10 August 2010  

This is quite a thought provoking argument by Frank. Unfortunately I live in Tasmania where despite two negative reports on euthanasia and defeats in parliament, with the backing of the Greens a minority government minister with time on her hands is pushing a private members bill.

Ross Nicholson | 10 August 2010  

Thank you for the very interesting and valuable contribution Fr Brennan. I read a media release from the Archdiocese this morning regarding Bob Brown which I found quite nasty and 'unChristian'. So I was pleased to see you addressing the issue of voting Green.

Reading the blog has been interesting too. It's amazing how often people think themselves qualified to speak on behalf of others. Conclusions about what Jesus would do or say (were he here in the flesh) are a good example. How do any of you know? It always jars with me when I hear people label something or one "unchristian".

I must take umbrage at Skye's implication that removing discrimination in federal law against homosexuals is a moral wrong. That stance is in my view wrong (putting aside changes to the Marriage Act). You see, thoughtful Christians can differ on these issues. Vehement opposition to a particular group in society might in fact disclose a lack of thoughtfulness.

George | 10 August 2010  

Evidently my objection to the killing of unborn children has upset some people. Deceivers may be generous and kind but they still deceive. I prefer HONEST, generous, kind people. The Greens are deceivers and are as close as I can conceive to 'totalitarian' in their mindset apart from the Socialist Party of Australia. Their anti Judeo-Christian stance offends me as a Catholic. But it saddens me that Catholics can be duped by them. I think Cardinal Pell is a most reasonable man. And no, he did not ask me to say this, nor does he even know I am saying this as I do not know him personally. He is a good man I think, and I have heard, very kind and generous in ways that never reach the media, and a loyal son of the church. Christ did say after all that those who followed Him would be suffer and be hated. Every time Pell utters a Catholic belief, the jackals come out and fill the air. By jackals I mean the commentariat, who are under the impression they know something.

Skye | 10 August 2010  

I couldn't agree more with Frank Brennan. The Cardinal should refrain from public comments about any political party.I'm surprised he doesn't realize this.

Maureen Keady | 10 August 2010  

Can Skye be serious? Serious, I mean, about the impregnability of his own virtue? He says he prefers generous people. His dismissal of all Greens as "deceivers" and "totalitarian" is not only ungenerous, but breathtakingly presumptuous.

It is not Skye's objection to abortion that people object to, it's his failure to entertain that people may coherently and genuinely think differently, and that he might be wrong. If anything sounds totalitarian, that sort of stance does.

Stephen | 10 August 2010  

Abortion is a human rights issue - if one does not have respect for the right to life, what is the point of other human rights, such as the right ot free association, free speech? It is the absolute disqualifying issue for my vote, I cannot vote for a person who would authorise killing of unborn children,just as i could not vote for a person who would authorise kiiling of babies or children, or other classes of human beings.

Katrina Haller | 10 August 2010  

Thank you Fr Brennan for your article. In 56 years as a Catholic I have experienced the best of Catholicism in my education and friendships with Marists, MSCs, friends and social action groups. I joined the Greens in 2001 when the Coalition and Labor turned away the Tampa refugees. For the second time, I am the Greens candidate for Bennelong.

My experience is that the Greens principles of social and economic justice, environmental sustainability, grass-roots democracy, and peace and non-violence permeate their policies and politics.

To say the Greens are in favour of abortion is misleading - we are not. Both Labor and the Coalition have a sensible but unstated abortion on demand stance which was necessary to stop backyard abortions and police corruption. The Greens are just more honest about their stance.

It's true the Greens do not focus on our personal relationship with God. Rather, they focus on our relationship within families, between communities, between nations, between species, and between past and future generations.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the Iraq bombing. Millions will die or become refugees because of catastrophic climate change. What party cares enough about life to try and avert this?

Lindsay Peters | 10 August 2010  

Once again, the argument about faith puts us in the same baggage as Lot's wife, we'd put our own interest first rather than the overall good of humankind. I am constantly amazed how such an eminent person as Cardinal Pell could mouth those words. He sounds more like a fanatic rather than a leader of a Christian sect. I agree with Fr Brennan's final remarks, the Cardinal is "unbecoming and unhelpful in the cause of church credibility in the public square".

If we regard Australia as a Christian country, what does it say to the rest of the world that an atheist can be democratically elected to hold the highest office in the land? It says that Christianity with all its past sins believes in its own strength, values and principles. If I were a believer, I'd be be shouting from the rooftops. As an agnostic, unlike Cardinal Pell, I put my faith on humankind's ability to muddle its way through the passing of all our lives.

Alex Njoo | 10 August 2010  

A difference between George Pell and Frank Brennan is that George Pell exaggerates his hierarchical authority to presume to tell Catholics how to vote. Frank presents sophisticated informed argument about the issues and invites us to form our own views.

George Pell discourages Catholics from acting on the basis of their own informed consciences and being personally accountable for their decisons. Unfortunately, too many Catholics are comfortable with taking directions in a feudal Church, a Church at times more concerned with the exercise of authority than Christ's message of social justice.

Perhaps we should all reread the sermon on the mount, particularly those with leadership positions in the Church so that they can focus more on Christ-like leadership rather than seeking to exert authority that they don't have.

Responsible voting in this election requires a lot more than listening to the views of people who presume to direct rather than discuss.

Peter Johnstone | 10 August 2010  

"A loyal Jesuit" ... who exactly is a Jesuit loyal to? loyal to his "Jesuit-ness", to his Catholic roots, to Christ? ... and what, pray tell, makes a Jesuit different to the rest of us 'garden variety' Catholics? "A loyal Jesuit should not simply stand silent when one church leader (even a Cardinal) ..." I'm all for challenging our leaders, but how and where and with whom watching is important to consider. Brennan vs Pell has been going on for a while now... I wonder whether Fr Brennan's hubris over this issue may well be pouring fuel on a fairly small, uninteresting event ... Brennan vs Pell will give this issue legs for a few more days, than it would otherwise have had. By taking this disagreement to the 'public square' is Fr Brennan doing the very thing he accuses the Cardinal of doing. All seems rather circular to me!

not-a-Jesuit. | 10 August 2010  

I joined the Catholic Church in 1938 and I joined the Labor Party in 1963. The relaxed and comfortable attitude of most Church leaders, most of the time, to asylum seeker attitudes is incomprehensible to me; they sleep with their conscience and I sleep with mine. Considering all things, I'll be voting Green and preferencing Labor - mainly because of asylum seekers and secondly because of climate change.

Jim Jones | 10 August 2010  

It is instructive to observe Frank Brennan joining forces with Bob Brown who, in response to Cardinal Pell's newspaper article on the weekend, condescends to give the Archbishop of Sydney lessons in basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of Christian conscience, education and marriage.

Sylvester | 10 August 2010  

"Should" not "Could".

Seems to me the main objections some Christians and Church leaders have to voting for the Greens are 1, Support for access to abortion and birth control and 2, equality for LGBTI people.

I don't understand why Christians are still so fixated on this two issues.

To put in proper perspective, we humans are the most wildly successful animal species in the world - by a very long chalk - so successful that our current population already poses a serious threat to the rest of the earth. No rational, moral person can continue to insist we don't voluntarily limit human reproduction in the most effective way we can, unless they don't care about the future of humanity and the planet.

Or unless they have a super-inflated view of the place of human beings in the universe. This is the same view that allows them to let the survival of a single celled human embryo trump the rights of a fully grown woman.

What did Jesus say about sex? NOTHING. Seems to me He had a lot of more important things to say than bother about sexual relations between consenting adults. Like compassion, justice, social equity and forgiveness. So why are some Churches and Christians so intransigent about a handful of verses out of the entire Bible, while being quite accommodating of gross violations of what Jesus actually preached?

To my mind, any thinking Christian should (rather than could) vote for the Greens. But if you would rather have your conscience 'informed' solely by the teachings of your church, then you do not deserve the right to vote (though the Greens would never take that away from you).

Jason Koh | 10 August 2010  

stop the boats

Eric Spud | 10 August 2010  

The Greens are pro abortion as part of their platform, all of their members in Victoria voted for the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008. They introduced a Euthanasia Bill in one state. They cannot be compared to the Democratic Labor Party which used to hold the balance of power in the Senate and which still is 100% pro life and running Senate candidates in this election.

Patricia Madigan | 10 August 2010  

To quote Archbishop Chaput left-leaning Catholics "seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.""

"This is a great sadness. As Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said recently, too many people have 'no recognition of the fact that children continue to be killed [by abortion], and we live therefore, in a country drenched in blood. This can't be something you start playing off pragmatically against other issues.'"

Archbishop Chaput has stated, because "the abortion issue has never been a comfortable cause," and is "embarrassing" to some Catholics, these citizens refuse to alter their political alliances simply because the homicides of abortion are ''little murders'' - a hidden evil that is easily "wordsmithed away" as a crime the law is helpless to stop.

Greens are pro abortion. Abortion kills babies.

Catherine | 10 August 2010  

Thank you for a very thoughtful article. I do have one story that I saw this week about a little boy who was born with a deformed wind-pipe or eosophagus [can't remember which]. Very gifted surgeons grew him a new one from his own stem cells and who could argue with that.

P. Oliver | 10 August 2010  

If I'm not mistaken, New Testament scripture repeatedly details the criticism that Yeshua had for dogma, the High Priests and the Pharisees. He spoke of 'the spirit' repeatedly.

Cardinal Pell's entering into political preferencing, on purported moral grounds, is regrettable.

Shane | 10 August 2010  

Nick if you believe "It is vital that there is a group ... to have the balance of power in the Senate to ensure that neither of the major political parties get away with extreme ideologically motivated legislation" you do not have to vote Green (pro abortion, pro euthanasia). You could choose to vote for the Democratic Labor Party who are Pro Life!

Mark | 10 August 2010  

Thank you Frank for your article which has generated such good discussion around the complexity of the political policy issues of our time. I believe that we would be a more dynamic community of "people of faith" if we took up our responsibility of being "critical friends" yet "friendly critics" for each other. Hopefully we would grow in wisdom and knowledge as Jesus did throughout his life and be able to listen to and draw on our own inner wisdom to make important life decisions - like casting our vote for the leadership of our country. Thanks for your article which challenged me and the evidence suggests many others, to look more closely at the total spectrum of a party's policies and the ways these are likely to unfold within the power balance of the next Parliament. We certainly don't get this analysis in the daily media.

Patty Andrew - Quakers Hill, Sydney | 10 August 2010  

I, personally, cannot comprehend how any christian, let alone a catholic, in all conscience can vote for the Greens.

John Tobin | 10 August 2010  

Frank Brennan asks us to consider the Greens' stand on a variety of issues such as Overseas Aid, refugees, stewardship of creation, public housing, human rights et al.

He's right, that's where they stand and that's all they or their followers do and hopefully that's all they will ever be able to do politically.

Who has more refugee Support Services, the Greens or Church Organisations? How many homeless people do they actually help? Where is their SVdP? What actual human rights do they stand for apart from actively pursuing same sex marriage, abortion stem cell research and other activities inimical to Christian beliefs.

The Greens are irresponsible, hysterical and openly anti-Christian.

Peter S | 10 August 2010  

Unfortunately Cardinal Pell's voice is heard more loudly and more often than Fr Brennan's. Australian voters would do well to stick to their usual practice of ensuring the government of the day does not control the Senate. As Fr Brennan points out, there are some policies of the Greens that Christians would not agree with but these will not be issues of concern if they hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised at Cardinal Pell's attitude which focuses on a narrow range of issues and ignores the compassionate stance of the Greens on a wide range of others issues. Yes, in many ways the Greens show a more compassionate, thus Christian, stance than either of the major parties.

As a Christian, I am appalled at the similarity between the policies proposed by both Labor and Liberal. These policies are not value driven but appeal to selfishness.

The values Kevin Rudd endeavoured to advance as Prime Minister were based on trying to make Australia more fair. Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott merely want to win office.

Maureen Strazzari | 10 August 2010  

I have looked at the policies of all 3 parties and find I can support about half those of the Libs, over half of Labor's, and almost all of the Greens, so guess what I will be voting in both houses? Of course we Christians are a diverse bunch and will never all agree but the group with the most godly policies wins me!

Jan | 10 August 2010  

The local Greens candidate hopes the cost of energy services goes very high to force people to turn off lights etc. Spare a thought for pensioners and normal working class people - in our climate they will forced to suffer from the cold rather than run up enormous power bills they can ill afford to pay. Father Brennan would not have that problem. But the trees will be safe.

Bernadette | 10 August 2010  

Thank you Father Frank for the balance of your article. I know that Jesuits, both the wonderful priests and brothers of the order and those they have educated are "men for others" carrying through their lives commitment to social justice and focusing on giving support for those in need.

The opportunity to bring some balance to the debate about whether a Christian believer can vote for the Greens has been a long time coming. Cardinal Pell has opened the door for this to be discussed more openly.
Many Australians are deeply disturbed about the rejection of clear and immediate action to prevent further damage to our existence on this beautiful planet.

Voting Green in the Senate at this election gives a better opportunity for balance in the composition of senate members and protection from the party in government having control of the Senate.

Voting Green in the House of Representatives gives voters the opportunity as an example to express their concern for the lack of clear direction and commitment from the major parties in the management of climate change and environmental degradation. Both parties need to be held accountable for the appalling lack of immediate action proposed. The voter then proceeds to vote in their second preference and so on for whomever they wish.

Gavan (9 Aug 10) asked about what to do with voting papers. Sadly but basically it is possible at any election for a voter to have their name marked off and then to place the voting papers straight into the voting box without any marked vote recorded. I certainly do not recommend this action but the voter has complied with all legal requirements and is recorded as attending to vote.

Voting is a precious gift in a democratic society. We need to treasure it. So many in the world never have the opportunity to express their view of how their country should be governed.

Anne Finnane | 10 August 2010  

Interesting article and interesting comments but none of this persuades me that I have to vote at all. The only reason we are being sent to the polls at this time is to "legitimise" a political assassination masterminded by an overweaningly ambitious ex-Xaverian, Bill Shorten. I refuse to participate in such venal processes. A pox on all their houses.

Judith Taylor | 10 August 2010  

I couldn't agree more!

Thank you for being a voice of reason.

Anna | 10 August 2010  

Progressive Christians do not have many options...


I urge you all to watch this as a supplement to this article.

haylee stuart | 10 August 2010  

Thank you for your comments Skye - you are spot on.

A good reference is here: http://australiavotes.org.au/?post_id=2053

Catherine | 10 August 2010  

I agree with Fr Frank Brennan - he is a meddling priest...

Jane | 10 August 2010  

Thanks for a more balanced response, it really makes me sad to see some of the views publicised as 'Christian' go around that turn the rest of the nation even further from religion.

One thing people often seem to neglect when looking at policies is whether those policies FORCE them into action.

The Greens policies typically opt for more choice, and good Christians can (and WILL) choose to act in the way they think is best.
Forcing others to act according to Christian beliefs when they're not Christian is surely not a very positive attitude.

What ever happened to letting people choose God, and choose to act in a moral way?
The Greens are not be perfect, but they will not stop any of us from choosing to do the right thing.

Prue | 11 August 2010  

As leader of the Church in Australia, Cardinal Pell has every right to give advice and direction to his flock. It is up to the individual to accept or reject that advice. As far as voting for the Greens is concerned, I would consider their stand on abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia a negative reason for Christians to vote for them.

PAT | 11 August 2010  

As usual Frank, a well thought out and considered comment.Neither of the major parties can see the dangers of the unbridled economic development at all costs which will, if not curtailed, turn our lovely green planet into an uninhabitable hell- maybe within two generations. The major parties need a wake up call.Many of us fear climate change and its consequences. I will vote 'Green' , particularly for the Senate as the Greens will "keep the bastards honest"! I learnt what happens when one Party has both Houses in its grip! Never again!!

Gavin | 11 August 2010  

I would have thought a 'meddling priest' would approve of a 'meddling Bishop'. Am I the only one who sees the irony?

Cathy | 11 August 2010  

It is pretty obvious that the Cardinal got his nose bent out of joint when the Greens refused to answer all of his questions. Taking offence at what he has taken as a snub and a lack of respect for his religious station, the Cardinal has allowed his temperament to get the better of him. Rather than tackling any particular issue or querying why particular questions weren't answered, the Cardinal has launched into a religious crusade using his position to launch a religious inquisition of the Green party, rather than taking a more mature and sound position of discussing particular policies.

Robert | 11 August 2010  

Good call, Father - Greens will never hold the balance of power on issues of most concern to Catholics, yet they can act in an oversight capacity to the Government of the day, and many of their humanitarian policies are aligned with Jesus' message. Plus the two main parties need a good kick in the seat for only playing to the marginals. On top of that, I believe we need an ETS sooner than later for certainty.

Trevor Woodward | 11 August 2010  

"A loyal Jesuit should not simply stand silent when one church leader (even a Cardinal) makes statements which place at risk not just the good standing of the Church in the public square during election time, but also the freedom of conscientious Christians to vote as they choose."

Go the Jesuits!!!

Trevor Woodward | 11 August 2010  

As a traditional Labor voter I must say I also share opinion with Margaret O'Reilly of 9 Aug but not sure yet whether I will vote Greens, though I may very well put them in the Senate.
I feel strongly about the political assassination of Kevin Rudd who is indeed a good man, and I think that this rage should be maintained

John Whitehead | 11 August 2010  

For the record: only the pontiff can pontificate.

My advice to any voters is to read the policy document of every political party, then match them up with your own morals and values.

Once the smoke clears and the dust settles, it is these documents that remain.

man of faith | 11 August 2010  

Going slightly off topic but just want to point out -

Anna McCormack, the fact a majority of people support something doesn’t make it “right”. The majority of Romans supported infanticide, presumably.

So the fact 65-85% of Australia’s support the right to “choose” doesn’t say anything about the rightness or wrongness of the act.

Truth is, there are fewer and fewer voices that consistently stand up for the most defenceless members of our community - those too small to be heard, who don’t get to “choose”.

There's an awful inconsistency in the agenda of parties like the Greens, who champion the rights of the downtrodden in society (the refugees, the poor, the homeless) while failing to protect the most powerless members of it (the unborn babies).

And not just failing to protect them, actually sanctioning their deaths.

So no, I don't see how any Christian could in good conscience vote for the Greens, no matter how appealing some of their ideas are.

Meg | 11 August 2010  

Fr Brennan’s article has two basic points:
1. It’s OK to vote for the Greens because “NOT ALL” of their policies are anti-Christian and some are similar to Christian policies.

2. It’s OK to vote for a party whose policies are immoral, if you think it won’t win a majority of seats in the election and so won’t be able to implement them in the next parliamentary term. Because anything is preferable to one party, however good its policies, having a majority in both houses.

Both premises are illogical.

There has never been a party whose polices were all anti-Christian. Even the Marxists and Nazis had some good policies. Some Greens policies are similar to Christian policies, but purely by coincidence, as they derive from a fundamentally anti-Christian and anti-human basis.

All of the “major parties” were once minor parties. Major parties become minor or vice-versa with little warning. The Greens say they want to form government. If enough people vote for them, they will.

When the Howard government’s two-house majority hubris produced WorkChoices, the electorate promptly voted it out. In the unlikely event of one party winning a double majority again, it would certainly remember this. The real danger is that the Greens seem likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate.

And surely Fr Brennan knows better than to regurgitate the silly old myth that “the Democratic Labor Party boasted Catholic credentials”. The DLP was and is as secular as any of the major parties.

Peter G | 12 August 2010  

I have read Fr. Frank Brennan's article and I am entirely unpersuaded. The Greens are pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia; and support a secular Left agenda. There is no other, kind, fluffy policy that Greens can propose that can make up for being pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia. These are not options for serious Catholics. There is no moral equivalence between an unborn child's life and a tree or an ETS. It is beyond me why this should even need to be said. As for Fr. Brennan's argument that a Christian can support the Greens because they are only in the Senate ... this is ridiculous. One cannot support the Greens at any stage for the same reason that one cannot support fascists or communists: it is wrong! Seriously some nominal Catholics here should ask themselves why they are Catholics, when the Uniting Church offers them left politics and a permissive agenda in respect of sex, gays and trees.

Godfrey Saint | 12 August 2010  

There's a reason why Mr Pell is a Cardinal & opposes the social justice rank & file below him.

St. Thomas Aquinas never had forced financial redistribution in mind when jesuits first coined this term, but it has turned & evolved into all manner of things, with some unlikley support. Eg AUS Greens

Scripture is the final authority & their are priorities like the right to life which are deal breakers.

Voting for the Greens just so we can maintain a vigorous senate is wholely unwise when there are still other minor parties like Family First to consider.

The fuzzy bear green party today will quickly become the secular demon of tommorow when their policy deepens & widens.



Bill | 12 August 2010  

I would hazard a guess that the Catholics Godfrey characterises as "nominal" (i.e. self-identifying as one - is he not one also?) have indeed asked themselves why they continue to so self-identify. There would be many individual answers. What may be less certain is whether those asserting that only those who adopt a conformingly absolutist approach to moral issues are Catholics or Christians, really think they have the right or moral standing to exclude everyone else.

Thank goodness none of us have a private pipeline to God! Can you imagine how unbearable that would be, to the rest of us poor people? It's bad enough that there are people who imagine they do have one!

Stephen | 12 August 2010  

Thank you Father Brennan SJ and also David Arthur. I live in a fragile remote area. It is continually threatend by big developers with no respect for the environment and no concern for future generations. I will continue to hand out "how to vote" literature on the big day. The social policies of both major parties are in themselves alarming. We must care for this planet or there will be nothing left.

Bernadette | 12 August 2010  

Agree with Catherine and Skye,on ALL pro-life issues. This is what we should be standing firm on at all times.Reality then shows us the greed, abuse,neglect and basic inequality of human beings at the root of all evil.

Cardinal Pell has shown little insight and compassion in the past,and would do well to a stand up or communicate his LOVE of people.Negative,fearful,derisive authority has no life-saving power,it merely attacks the 'enemy'.

Christ was friendly and truly LOVING with all outsiders and jewish 'sinners'.
Pell stands only for institutional WALLS and carries a fortress mentality from the dark ages.
If abortion is to be stopped,where is the support for women?

I feel women are not high on the church agenda even today.Women and children bear the biggest burden today with poverty,lack of good health and education services.Womens' unique role in social health and well being is NOT ACKNOWLEDGED.

Contraception is still a taboo subject.

What solution does Cardinal Pell have to offer Africa,and where's his answer to over population?

catherine | 12 August 2010  

What Fr Frank Brennan is highlighting here is the fundamentals to the Christian faith: dignity, equality and respect for all people, especially the poor and oppressed!

The Greens are not perfect, but they are not fostering a campaign based on racism and fear. While Cardinal Pell is holding the hands of Tweedledee and Tweedledum (while they fill his back pockets), he has not once scrutinise their policies or place pressure on them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ or Mary MacKillop in helping the mariginise and the oppressed. Yes, the Indigenous people have been completely forgotten once again by Abbott, Gillard AND Pell.

Maybe Pell would like Bob Brown more if he wore a white suit with a pink shirt, have a dirty history, be constantly under fire from anyone who had credibility for his prejudice and racist remark, and were making a documentary with him?

Michael | 12 August 2010  

When I mentioned Africa I mean all impoverished people and indigenous people are the main victims of economic, ENVIRONMENTAL and social burdens.

LIFE - is at the heart of all issues.

To be PRO- LIFE means to be PRO-ENVIRONMENT, not just anti-abortion.

We need better contraceptive solutions and 'greener' attitudes. The church must lead this action if it is sincere about protecting innocent children and promoting social justice, and our environment is AS important as people. Indigenous people know this - are connected to nature and GOD and live SIMPLY.

Over population is now the BIG problem. What are Cardianl Pell's thoughts on this?

Students in Catholic education see the reality and hypocracy and want true christian leadership,not a grab for political power.They will need to pick up the pieces of what is left of the environment.

This is the most urgent issue of the election.

catherine | 12 August 2010  

I'm with you Frank. Are we being asked to choose the lesser of two evils or in this case three: compassion for asylum seekers, a sustainable planet or catholic schools. catholic education has always found a way through. The church is not threatened only the way we choose to educate youth in faith and catholic values.

Kay | 13 August 2010  

This is my first time voting :). On an ethical principle, I won't vote for the greens because I don't agree on their stances on abortion. Yet let me add, I won't be listening to a man who treats Gay people like second classes citizens on where to put my card into the ballot box.

I'm voting Labor, simple as that. As a Catholic. As a Christian. As an Australian. As a Left-wing Pinko.

I'm voting Labor.

Joe | 13 August 2010  

I strongly disagree with Cardinal Pell having voiced his opinion on this matter, but I also disagree with this article. Religious leaders should be wary of engaging in political analysis. The Greens are a party who want to introduce a carbon tax which will effectively have the marginalised pay society's bill for environmental vandalism, as it is not indexed to income and will represent a far larger proportion of a low income earner's income.

They have always pretended to take the moral high ground while blindly pursuing policies which have only led to the entrenchment of wealth at the expense of society's most marginalised. Somebody always pays at the end of the day, and just because the loss is spread and that person does not have a face does not mean they don't suffer.

Any real Christian would know that a party which promises to replace the Church as having a monopoly on what is moral (only without the 2000 years of functioning tradition to back it up), is a farcical and short sighted party. St Ignatius taught me to look inside myself if I wanted to find the source of inequity; I have never looked back.

John Watson | 13 August 2010  

I do not intend to cast a Christian vote. Rather, I hope to make a responsible decision about the party which I believe will work with most integrity for all Australians. Pork-barreling might end if all of the interest groups, Christians included, ignored the "What's in it for us" question and looked to the bigger picture, whether the pork is a new sports stadium or aid to particular schools.I do not ask any government to legislate my beliefs, but rather to ensure the freedom for me to uphold them, and for all others to uphold theirs.

Anna Summerfield | 13 August 2010  

Sarah Hanson-Young was raised in a good christian family in a small Victorian town, she and the Greens get my vote since the demise of the Democrats for whom I worked when Janine was their leader.

The Greens are committed to social justice and anti-war.

I marvel at those who can whine about abortion and not worry a jot about the 9 million real, living children who die of hunger and preventable disease every year.

Marilyn Shepherd | 13 August 2010  

Of course Frank is in the position of knowing some very excellent atheists like me who work for nothing to help those with nothing.

Marilyn Shepherd | 13 August 2010  

There is a succinct summary of the divergent approaches of our bishops on this issue at p.31 of The Tablet, 14 August 2010.

Frank Brennan SJ | 14 August 2010  

I might have been more inclined to consider Brennan's article had he also dealt with the Singerian part of the Green's background:

So, are the current Greens still under the influence of Singer as their philosophical founder? I love all the other aspects of the Greens - such a 'forward' thinking party in regards to the 'bigger picture' of the environment and compassion but when I read this stuff (above) well, can you blame me for giving into fears of being seduced? And it's not just about abortion - there is obviously a great deal more to their underlying beliefs about 'sexual morality/freedom/rights'.

So, why did Brennan avoid discussing these issues and concentrate on the nice Green ones only? I am not coming form a narrow conservative stance but I would like to know where will the Greens will draw the line, if at all.

Stephen | 14 August 2010  

I don't know if they do, but the Greens could do much worse than derive the philososphical basis for their positions from Peter Singer. He is a considered and coherent philosopher. It is true some (not all) of his conclusions may appear startling if one has not followed his reasoning closely. So it pays to actually read and follow and reflect open-mindedly on his argument. One doesn't have to desist from criticising intelligently any of his premises or conclusions, but it doesn't do any good to simply demonise someone who does not simply resort to questionable arguments from authority or a purported natural "law".

Stephen | 15 August 2010  

Good on you. Having a Dad who was in the DLP whilst I was our demonstrating against the Vietnam war shows how confusing we Catholics can be.

The Greens have their nut cases, as do all political parties, what's more important is that we don't give to 40% of the community the unfettered ability to provide "answers for everything"

John Fitzgerald | 19 August 2010  

Clean water and dirty water can't come out of the same pipe! In conscience, I could not vote for a party whose platform is tainted by their policies on abortion and euthanasia. You can't tell me that the Greens won't demand their pound of flesh from the Labor Party, when their Bills promoting such causes are tabled in Parliament!

Jennifer Guinane | 20 August 2010  

Thankyou,Frank! And as for the question posed "How would Jesus vote?"He would not,I would think, be wanting to vote wholeheartedly for any of the parties. But I imagine he would cast a vote for humane treatment of refugees,for striving to save God's irreplaceable creatures from extinction,for supporting the World Millennium Development goals. Abortion is bad news-but a government giving more than mere lip support to the 3rd component of the WMD goals would also help save the lives of 6 million children.

Christine Walsh | 20 August 2010  

I agree wholeheartedly with His Eminence Cardinal Pell in relation to the Greens. The Labour Party as a Socialist Party is also anti Catholic.I have had a lifetime hatred of Socialism which is only tarted up Communism.The Church should stand up more for the Church followers and stop being diplomatic.

Tell the would be traitors that we stand for God and Country.

Raymond Benjamin Meppem | 20 August 2010  

Raymond Meppem's facile vituperation in calling a whole cross-section of vague targets - including I think, Labor, Socialists, Communists - as "traitors" is hardly worth commenting on. (Though in any case he is quite out-of-touch: these days not even the left wing of Labor proclaims itself as socialist!)

But his readiness to appropriate God in so self-assuredly characterising whatever he thinks as "standing up for God and country" is exactly the same attitude that terrorists, witch-hunters and the Ku Klux Klan share and express, not to mention some traditionalist Catholics.

Stephen Kellett | 20 August 2010  

Frank, thank you for your defence of the values of idealistic Greens and your courage to write the truth about Dr. George Pell's wrong judgment in my opinion on this and on so many other issues of the church and public life. We should return to the appointment of our bishops by the direct choice of the faithful.

Ewa K.

Ewa Komorowska | 23 August 2010  

The greens are nice! HIGH FIVE!!!

Jesus | 24 August 2010  

How can you, Father, side with a Party like the GREENS when Bob Brown And Singer established in their manifesto that Man was no different from animals and you could have sex with the animals as long as it didn't impinge on the animals rights?

Are you going to make it a policy to correct the CARDINAL on all his statements

I think about the Popes' answer to the HANS KUNG letter and in essence he stated that this document displayed fully THE ARROGANCE OF REASON

Michael Wagner | 27 August 2010  

Reality is that most churches are in decline and clearly the Greens prefer this. Lets face it, Leftist, humanist ideals have dominated media debate for several decades and any dissenting public comment from church representatives is soundly demonized. How are voters supposed to make balanced reasoned conclusions when public debate is so one-sided?

Frank Brennan gives misguided credability to to a humanist world view that seeks to make Christianity totally irrelevant by dominating public debate and thereby controlling public opinion. Is it any wonder that so many churches are in decline?

Harold | 28 August 2010  

Writing again in the Sunday Telegraph on 29 August 2010, His Eminence has said, “That any Christian with aspirations to be considered a serious political commentator should endorse the Greens demonstrates a moral disorientation and an ignorance of Christian fundamentals which is breathtaking, even in our confused age. One searches desperately in history for a comparable folly. Perhaps the renegade Christian who guided the invading Turkish army to enter and capture Constantinople in 1453 is the most recent parallel.”

Frank Brennan SJ | 05 September 2010  

Maybe the Jesuits are not "truly Catholic", but they are "truly Christians"

Chris P | 06 September 2010  

How's the memory?

Let's recall that some sixteen days ago Frank Brennan SJ posted, with a clear implication of scorn, these words from H.E. Cardinal Pell,: “That any Christian with aspirations to be considered a serious political commentator should endorse the Greens demonstrates a moral disorientation and an ignorance of Christian fundamentals which is breathtaking, even in our confused age. One searches desperately in history for a comparable folly. ..."

Given Fr Brennan's comments in the article above, I have the distinct impression that, in a contest His Eminence would have been sad to be proven victorious, it's game, set and match to Cardinal Pell.

And - only slightly less sadly - if there had been a book on this at Centrebet, I (and others) would have cleaned up.

P.S. The only supporters of Fr Brennan's position on his previous post who are not licking wounds now are those pseudo or non-Catholics who actually supported anti-life positions. Hmmmm ...

HH | 21 September 2010  

HH asks: how is my memory? I think it’s fine – as far as I can recall! I did not endorse the Greens. I said a conscientious Christian could vote for them. Just as I think a conscientious Christian could vote for the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. I did say that the Greens “do have some saving graces! (and that does not mean that I will vote for them)”. I remain of the view that Cardinal Pell’s intervention in tone and substance was unhelpful and unbecoming.

In light of the election result his intervention may also have been counter-productive – but I leave that for political scientists to assess. If we do get a euthanasia law, it will only be after a majority of politicians from all political parties vote for it. I am not one of those Christians who believes you can maintain your moral purity by voting for no one. But I respect the conscience of those who think that way.

Frank Brennan SJ | 21 September 2010  

Suppose a Catholic in the electorate of Melbourne in the recent election, were to think:

“The Greens certainly will not occupy the Treasury benches. But they are likely to form part of a minority government. In that situation, they are, on their track record, very likely to agitate for the bringing forward of anti-life legislation (which I oppose) which would not otherwise have been on the legislative agenda of the major parties for the next parliament. This legislation might very well pass on a conscience vote. On the other hand I support their position on asylum seekers.”

May this Catholic vote for the Greens? Why or why not?

HH | 22 September 2010  

If George Pell and Jim Wallace are telling people how to vote, isn't it implied (to some extremists) that that must not vote for the Greens or they will go to hell because it is immoral. If so, isn't this worse than the dictators who tell their people to vote for them unless they want to be killed? Also I'm not sure how anyone (even a Christian) can suggest in this day and age that gay people don't deserve equal rights to straight people.

Emily | 18 October 2010  

Today the NSW Bishops have issued a statement on the Greens and their policies in the upcoming State election. The statement is similar in tone and content to the one issued by the Victorian bishops at the time of their State election. It is good to see that our bishops are engaging in argument and teaching about particular policies of the Greens which they find objectionable, as well as conceding that the Greens' concern for the environment is quite consistent with policies informed by Catholic social teaching.

Frank Brennan SJ | 16 March 2011  

The most important commandment according to Jesus is to honour the Lord your God and love your neighbour like yourself. In a secular society the love of God is optional and personal. Therefore the love of others must be the dominant value. And it is the predominant value in the Greens philosophy, expressed in their policies. That is not the case for the 2 major parties whose treatment of others is often unloving, intolerant and unjustly discriminatory. Furthermore the big parties are funded by and support destructive business interests, which sometimes supports corrupt behaviour.

The catholic church accepts and promotes the primacy of personal conscience to deal with the moral issues: abortion, gay relationships and euthanasia. Jesus did not specifically comment on these. I reject 2 of those for myself. I might try to convince others to share my point of view but in the name of neighbourly love I have no right to force my opinion on others through legislation. That is the exact position of the Greens. So how did we come to this paradoxical situation that the Greens appear often anti Christian while their policies are closest to Jesus' teaching.

Antoine | 21 March 2011  

I wonder whether you opinion has changed 18 months into the Brown/Gillard Govt.

Peter Pilt | 10 February 2012  

Well I reckon time has come to re-run this debate. Reckon answer is clear.

Michael cuddihy | 05 June 2017  

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