The CathBlogs of Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning DD.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 07/12/10
Is there such a thing as the Catholic vote? I don’t mean a slavish adherence to a particular political party but an understanding among Catholics that there is a body of Catholic Social Teaching that helps them to make informed choices on the myriad of issues. These include unemployment, euthanasia, homelessness, homosexual marriage, access to basic resources.
Take the economy. There are differing views on the best approach to running the economy, and bishops have no particular expertise in economic matters! What can be said is that there is a set of principles in Catholic Social Teaching, which we can apply to particular issues.
The first principle is the dignity of the human person. Catholics believe that every human person is created in the image of God. Skin colour, place of origin, intellect, family wealth – none of these matter because none confers greater dignity than the dignity with which we are born.
This conviction allows us to scrutinise all policies and proposals from the fundamental perspective: do they recognise and promote the dignity of the human person?
Another principle is that of the common good. A society at the service of every human person at every level is a society that has the common good. A government that has the good of all people and of the whole person as its primary goal is a government at the service of the common good.
It may come as a surprise to you, and even more of a surprise to some governments, that Catholic Social Teaching sees their purpose as the promotion of the common good! It is the role of governments to structure society and the economy on the basis of justice for all.
Now we have two questions with which to critique policies: Do they recognise and promote human dignity? Do they promote the common good?
It is not only governments that are responsible for the common good; every person has a role to play. The flip side is participation and the common good calls for every person to participate in our common life. Why? Because, as Pope John Paul II said, “we are all really responsible for all”.
There is a great deal more to be found in Catholic Social Teaching but where do Catholics find out about it? Yes, at school, but we cannot expect the Catholic school system to teach us everything we need to know as adults.
It is to be regretted that when moral issues are in the forefront of public debate, many Catholic voices have been subdued, muted or absent. Have we forgotten or conveniently ignored the Gospel imperative?
Thus Social Teaching, based on Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, needs to become part and parcel of our adult faith formation in parishes, Lenten discussion groups, social justice groups, and, dare I say, homilies!
It too is part of the New Evangelisation. In fact, it is a great entry point to evangelisation because it proclaims that we, the followers of Christ, are interested in the wellbeing of every human person. It proclaims that we care about people and their lives.
Want to read up on Catholic social teaching? Try the Compendium for the Social Doctrine of the Church complied by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace and published by St Paul’s Publications. It’s not exactly bedtime reading but it is revealing and rewarding.
So the Advent challenge is: are we ready to welcome Christ by ‘incarnating’ Him into our world? Are we prepared to act for the common good and the dignity of the human person locally, nationally and globally? If we are, the ‘Catholic vote’ will make a difference.
Tags: Most Rev Kevin Manning DD Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta CathBlog
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 24/11/10
“Openness to life is at the centre of all true development” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate (28.)
I ask where is Australia headed on life issues? Where do the majority of Christians stand? Where do members of parliament stand?
Policy makers and commentators continue to hammer away at the belief of Christians, and many of other religions, that all human life is a precious gift from God, and that all human life has inviolable dignity from the moment of conception till the moment of natural death.
The Greens, and allied policy formators, are threatening human life today in many ways.
In addition to the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion, we also face proposals and policies in favour of assisted suicide, euthanasia, human cloning, the eugenic programming of births, and even the denial that marriage is, and can only be, the permanent faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman.
There are still some who would deny that the child in the womb is a human being. Most Christians would oppose public funding of abortion, but while the word of life has spread, there are still many who choose to remain obdurate and refuse to hear the voice of life.
Christians must insist that human embryonic stem cell research is unjust. No one should ever exploit and attack the embryonic human being for any reason, even if it may ease suffering. One does not attack the next generation to try to heal the pain of this generation. Instead, one should place firm hope in the promise of adult stem cell research.
Given the evidence that the prevalent secularism can easily shift all moral questions to the category of a private life-style issue, it is all the more incumbent on us as Christians to preach the word of life, the word of Jesus, to encourage discussion of such issues in the realm of the common good of society and to be well informed about Catholic moral teaching so that we can put our case with conviction and always with respect for those who put a contrary view.
The dignity of the human person is a constant in Catholic teaching. It is based on a vision of life which comes from Jesus the Word Who is Life. When we choose life, we choose Jesus.
This voice, which has developed in the Church down through the ages, is one which has always spoken up for the voiceless and testifies on behalf of the defenseless.
In the midst of pain and hardship, in the midst of the suffering of the Cross, Jesus made a promise. He took on the burden of the neglected and the oppressed. This is also the mission and the vocation of all baptised Catholics.
Now is the time for a concerted effort to convince politicians of the sacredness of life, which God has given to us. One might well begin by objecting to the Greens setting the life agenda by opposing gay marriage, medical assisted suicide, and euthanasia in all its forms.
We can also consider how we can lobby for increased facilities for palliative care, especially in regional and rural Australia, for improvements in the quality of our aged-care facilities, for better training for carers in such facilities, and for more generous provision of funded respite care.
Humbled Church still has moral authority - 10/11/10
In recent times, principally before and during the papal visit to England and Scotland and then prior to the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross in Rome, sections of the media targeted the Catholic Church, rejoicing in her discomfort as her influence diminished because of the failures of some of her adherents.
The attacks, in the main, were fuelled by the clergy sex abuse scandals. The media message was that sex abuse by clergy and subsequent covering up by some bishops meant that the Church had forfeited her right to comment on any topic of morality or, for that matter, any topic concerning the common good.
Of course, the sexual abuse of minors is a criminal act and it, and other forms of abuse of persons, is rightly abhorred. We know that some bishops and other authorities in the Church have let down victims by their failure to take effective action.
All this has left some lay Catholics, religious, priests, and I’m sure a few bishops, confused and wondering what to do. Should the Church tough it out, or should she refrain from public comment, adopt a low profile and go underground?
I suggest that it is none of those things. It cannot be business as usual because in addition to the pain of the victims, other Catholics feel that their trust has been betrayed and many priests who strive daily to lead lives worthy of their vocation also feel betrayed by priest perpetrators. The Church is shamed and humbled. But a humble Church can preach the Gospel more convincingly than one in whose halls abuse has been overlooked.
Should the Church react to this climate by adopting a lower profile and refraining from comment on matters touching morality? Well, of course, if she is to remain true to herself, she can’t!
The Church is charged with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is why she cannot keep silent. She has a duty to teach doctrine to Catholics and to nurture their sacramental and liturgical life. The Gospel does not permit silence in the face of global injustice nor ‘no comment’ in the beginning and end of life issues where the sanctity of human life is under threat.
She must continue to contribute to the ethical framework of a society so that abortion and, now, euthanasia are not treated as purely private matters. As humble servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all Catholics must take courage, speak up and witness to the true message of Jesus.
Above all, the Church has the duty, in love, to serve to the vast majority of Catholics and the vast majority of priests who have not been caught up in the sex abuse scandals and who continue to look to the Church for their spiritual nourishment, welfare and for guidance in setting their moral compass.
And what about the great numbers of adults who are becoming Catholics? In dioceses throughout the world, adults are embracing the Catholic faith. They cannot be dong this in ignorance of the sex abuse scandals.
Our duty is to welcome them into a Church that is humble, yes, but confident in the authenticity and attraction of its message: God so loved the world that He sent us Jesus Who has saved us and through whom eternal life is made available to us.
The gravity of the clerical sex abuse scandals must be humbly acknowledged by the Church; she must learn from them and, with the help of lay people and professional experts, be ever vigilant lest her structures and those responsible for operating them allow such a cancer to thrive again.
But she cannot shrink from her mission: to proclaim the truth of Christ, the One who came to serve and Who guaranteed to be with us until the end of time.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 26/10/10
Jesus’ reply (Lk 8:19-21) to those seeking access to Him on behalf of His mother: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” continues to disconcert, and mystify, those who do not understand, or accept, that family ties are secondary to fidelity to the Word of God.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation was issued by the Second Vatican Council as a summons to salvation, so that through hearing the Word of God, people might believe, through belief might hope, and through hope come to love. (DV, 1)
Quoting 1 John: 1:2-3, the Constitution states: “We proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard. We proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (DV, 1)
It was clearly the Lord’s desire to ensure that all Revelation should remain in its entirety, firstly, through Christ, His Son, in whom the entire Revelation is summed up, then through the apostles and their associates by their preaching and example, which they learnt from Christ at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which message they committed to writing.
Church Tradition, and the sacred Scripture of both Old and New Testaments, is like a mirror in which the Church, during its pilgrim journey here on earth, contemplates God from Whom she receives all things.
What the apostles handed on embraces everything that helps us live our lives in holiness, and increases our faith under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Who gives us insight into the realities and words that are passed on by study, contemplation, preaching, and prayer.
In effect, sacred Scripture is ‘the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.’
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has repeatedly stressed how essential to Christian life is this encounter with the Word. The Church’s public prayer is built around two central points: Eucharist and written Word. We have to make that equally true of our personal lives, enlivened both in the Eucharist and “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.
In each, we encounter the Living Word that remains forever, Jesus Christ Himself.
It follows that the preaching of the Church and the entire Christian religion should be nourished and ruled by the sacred Scriptures. In these sacred books the Father meets, and talks, with us. And the power of the Word serves the Church as her support and the strength of her faith, the fount of her spiritual life.
It follows that the Scriptures should be read, and read frequently, and the Church has made available, through Scripture scholars many beautiful, suitable and correct translations, easily readable. And she has encouraged her priests and ministers to study and gain expertise in order to nourish her people with the Word of God.
Pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction should be nourished by the Word of Scripture.
I have often wondered how informed, dedicated and accepting Christians might be if the brain-numbing efforts of the world of commercial advertising were applied to the selling of the Word of God.
Priests, deacons and catechists, especially, should immerse themselves in the Scripture by constant sacred reading and diligent study. Likewise, the Christian faithful should not neglect frequent reading of the Scriptures. As St Jerome has said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
All this calls for the encouragement and guidance of the pastors.
We must also remember that prayer should accompany the reading of the Scriptures so that every reading becomes a dialogue between God and ourselves. As St Ambrose says: “We speak to Him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.”
Major obstacles to hearing God’s Word readily emerge: inability to sit and dedicate time to the sacred Scriptures; lack of preparation on the part of preachers; not least, in this technical age, the ‘impossibility’ of finding a technician who can tame crackling, inaudible and frustrating audio systems.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 15/10/10
Like you, I am near saturation point with all pageants, concerts, musicals and opinion pieces endeavouring to capture the personality of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop: near saturation point because they so frequently miss the point!
Pope John Paul II hit the spot when he came to Sydney for Mary’s beatification in 1986, “it is through her witness that the truth of God’s love and the value of the Kingdom have been made visible in this land”.
And don’t we need the kind of commitment seen in St Mary’s life and work, for she is a wonderful example of how God uses people to change things for the better, to bring light and hope to the human heart.
Mary MacKillop became a saint not because she was a great horsewoman, or a rebel against the bishops, but because of the holiness of her life, a holiness which is possible for each of us. Her life challenges all of us to a radical personal and social renewal.
At the time of her beatification, Mary was promoted as a ‘traditional Aussie battler’ rebelling against authority. Such typecasting did not serve her well because it did not reflect the truth, Mary’s letters do not show her feeling victimised, or badly done by, but reflect her serenity, her confidence, courage and determination that she was right in what she was doing because God wanted her to do so.
This is clear in the way she approached God and her fellow human beings, especially the alienated and marginalised, at a time when there was little security or solicitude about personal comfort, and when financial backing was virtually unknown.
Mary’s virtue lay in her love for God and the people she helped, the uneducated and the unwanted, not in her typecast ‘Australianness.’ Her virtue was not generated by adopting the role of matriarch of radical feminist values but in her deep trust in, and her love for, God.
St Mary was single minded in her mission, with no desire to possess goods, or to be successful for herself, but totally motivated by what God wanted of her. In other words, her life was lived totally for God and His presence was not a fearful one – but rather the consciousness of His goodness and love.
She wrote: “I can never think of God but as a Father whose goodness and love I am always abusing, but His tenderness is such that He cannot cast me off.”
Of course, it was not always easy. Sister Mary felt the tension of balancing her fidelity to God with the demands for her own will. She coped with opposition from the hierarchy, priests and people, disagreements, the break with the founder, Fr Woods, and the change of the property rule which went contrary to her ideals of poverty.
Because these setbacks and suffering were seen as the Will of God she became stronger in her faith in God, and without bitterness towards her fellow human beings.
She went to the poor and marginalised and shared their lives without thought of her own needs and comforts. But she did not idealise poverty, she saw it as an evil needing to be alleviated. For her personally, it was the means to an end and especially because it enabled her to go freely and unimpeded to the needy, to show them the living face of a loving and concerned God.
And, so, her canonisation confirms for us her holiness, and her example of love and concern for others. May we do likewise!
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 07/10/10
Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, stated recently that 'one of the most tragic failings that the Church suffered in the second half of the 20th century was to have neglected the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Penance … amongst priests this has caused tremendous loss of spiritual profile'.
He goes on to say that when the priest is no longer a confessor he becomes a social worker of a religious kind.
From this remark, I was left wondering about parish noticeboards and Parish Bulletin which advertise: 'Confessions – by appointment'. It is becoming rare to see the traditional notice: 'Confessions 4.00pm – 6.00pm Saturday afternoon before the Vigil Mass.' Fifteen and twenty minute slots appear to suffice.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a wonderful reflection on the Sacrament of Penance when the young prodigal wakes up to himself, leaves his sins behind, and goes to his father confessing: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.' The father welcomed him with open arms and a great celebration followed. This scene reflects beautifully the return of the sinner to God and the welcoming forgiveness which awaits him.
The Sacrament of Penance is a natural outcome of the overwhelming mercy of God, for it enables us to encounter the mercy of God dispensed through the ministry of a priest as communicated by Jesus Himself: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. For whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain they are retained.' (Jn. 20:22-23) But one needs to be aware of the need for conversion, to awaken one's consciousness of sin, to develop an understanding which includes the social dimensions of sin, together with the realization, given by St Paul, that 'however great the number of sins committed, grace is even greater' (Rom. 5:21).
The Holy Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler disposing the human heart to be open to the grace of repentance and conversion. We cannot turn our world around on our own strength, we need Christian hope to help us desire the Kingdom of God and eternal life. This by placing our trust in Christ's promises, not in our own strength but in the help and the grace of the Holy Spirit.' (CCC 18:17)
An incisive way to prepare for a good Confession is to remember that the Holy Spirit came to convict the world of sin, to convict, not condemn. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we still cannot but feel ashamed of what we have done, but, at the same time, we feel so loved by God that we desire God's mercy immediately.
So, my purpose in writing is to encourage you to call sin what it really is, take ownership for your actions as they really are. No matter if it has been ten, twenty or even forty years don't be afraid to go to Confession for you are going to meet One who has waited lovingly for you to come to experience his mercy.
My final words are an expression of gratitude to brother priests who zealously and lovingly dispense the mercy of God by making available frequent opportunities for the faithful to access the sacrament of penance in the spirit of St John Vianney, a true model of a confessor.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 27/09/10
In the lead up to, and the aftermath of, the recent federal election, any real issues of Christian morality were studiously avoided, or so it seems. And one can only wonder if reference was made to such values in the subsequent negotiations over who should govern the country. No clarion call was issued, for example, for the defence of Christian marriage, a key issue, and what flows from it.
The hallmark of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy has been his unwavering consistency and crystal clear teaching on Christian morality. At no time has he sidestepped major challenges of contemporary culture, namely the erosion of the family and marriage.
One of his major concerns has been the attempts at radical redefinition of marriage, and the consequences for the health of society. It would not be revealing secrets to say that in Australia marriage is being seriously threatened, and the situation is not much better in other countries.
Pope John Paul II in the last book he had published, Memory and Identity, discusses the notion of destructive modern ideology. One of his targets was the European Parliament’s agenda to recognise homosexual marriage as legal and normal. He questioned whether it was not a part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious than hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.
Pope Benedict has not been slow to draw similar conclusions when he describes de facto unions, homosexual unions, trial marriages, and so-called homosexual marriages as forms of ‘pseudo marriage’, which degrade not only the human personality and human sexuality, but also God’s love for the human family.
He states: ‘The mystery of God’s love for men takes its linguistic form from the vocabulary of marriage and the family … God’s approach to His people is presented in the language of conjugal love,’ the marital covenant that is the symbol in Christianity of the history of salvation.
The Church herself has always taught that some of the redefinitions of marriage and sexual love are a grave misuse of human freedom. Pope Benedict says that freedom has come to mean a kind of relativistic libertinism, which says that society and individuals can redefine marriage based on personal, legislative or judicial fiat while rejecting human history, human experience and, of course, revelation. A case in point is obviously the issue of homosexuality, which is attracting much attention nowadays.
While the Church acknowledges the need for sensitive and compassionate ministry to homosexuals and support for their basic human rights, it must be emphasised that ‘homosexual activity, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong’. The moral obligation for such persons, which arises from this fact, is a corollary obligation for all of us to respond to their need for pastoral care.
A similarly sensitive response is also required for separated and divorced Catholics, both in deeds as well as in words. In fidelity to Christ, the Church teaches that sacramental marriages are indissoluble. The staggering rate of the number of divorces in Australia, many of them involving Catholics, reflects the tragedy of marriage failure in a society that shows little appreciation of the sanctity of marriage.
In light of this situation the Church has a two-fold responsibility: it must proclaim more strongly, not less, the indissolubility of Christian marriage; it must also extend special pastoral care to separated and divorced Catholics so that even as they experience the heartache of marital failure, they may also experience Christ’s loving concern and understanding mediated through their Church.
We should pray that the day will come when governments will acknowledge that the Church has something to offer in her teaching on marriage.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 10/09/10
With the distraction of the federal election behind us, Catholics will turn their minds to the introduction of the New English Translation of the Mass, which, according to present indications, will not be without some controversy.
The introduction of this translation, and a growing proliferation of ‘do-it-yourself’ liturgies where, in many cases, services in the absence of the priest have been entrusted to ill-prepared laity, it is time to have a good look at our Eucharistic worship. One of the clear indicators of its state will always be our attitude towards the Real Presence.
One might well ask: 'Has the reality of Christ’s Presence nowadays been downgraded or lost because of disputes about words, Church politics, marketplace Churches, or the uninformed role of the laity?
It would be absolutely contradictory if the Eucharist, which symbolises the unity of the Church, served as a catalyst for disunity.
The Church’s faith in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine dates to Jesus’ discourse after the multiplication of the loaves addressed in St John’s Gospel (6:22-71):
'I am the bread of life … I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world'. (Jn 6:48, 51)
St John tells us that the reaction of the crowd was so strong that many disciples went away. The loyal disciples, although the teaching was something beyond their personal experience, gave their assent to Christ’s words because they recognised Jesus to be the Holy One of God.
There are many presences of Christ in His Church, but His Eucharistic Presence is unique. He is present with the Church in a special way as she believes, prays, and does works of mercy. He is with His ministers who preach God’s Word, teach His people and administer His other sacraments.
But the presence of Jesus, which is brought about in the Mass, has special claim to the description ‘Real Presence’ not because the other types of presence are not real, but because it is ‘Presence’ in the ‘fullest sense’. (MF n. 39)
The other six sacraments are rites in which the faithful encounter Christ in His action and power, only the Eucharist is Jesus Christ.
We are dealing with a supernatural mystery here, for the person who becomes fully present in the Mass is the same Risen Saviour Who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
In becoming the ‘Presence’ on the altar Christ’s condition does not change. He does not have to leave heaven to become present on earth. Jesus is here, present not merely spiritually, but in a unique way, whole and entire, God and man, substantially and permanently.
After the change of substance or nature of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ nothing remains of the bread and wine but the appearances under which Christ, whole and entire, in His physical reality is bodily present.
There is no doubt that we should show this most Holy Sacrament the worship that is due to the true God as has always been the custom in the Catholic Church.
Nor is the Presence to be adored any the less because it was instituted by Christ to be eaten, for even in the Reserved Sacrament He is to be adored because He is substantially present there through the conversion of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood, which is most aptly named Transubstantiation.
Therefore, the message of the Eucharist should be considered in all its fullness, not only in the celebration of Mass, but also in devotion to the Sacred Species, which remain after Mass and are ‘reserved’ to extend the grace of the sacrifice.
Hence, the need to be always aware of Christ present in the tabernacle, which demands proper respect for, and consciousness of, God in our midst – liturgical minutiae should always be secondary.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 27/08/10
As someone who has recently retired, it was with newfound sympathy that I watched presentations appearing on the TV seeking a better deal for the aged. In an increasingly technological age elderly people find themselves isolated from their families and communities, unwanted, and out of touch.
The Fourth Commandment, “Honour your father and your mother”, is always a reminder that the family ought to be a place of love, respect, and caring for the ageing members of society who have a right to a life beyond material survival, a right to be educated, a right to spiritual care and comfort.
Many older people live with a silent, crippling fear. The cost of food, medical care, electricity and housing are a constant worry to them and in many cases social security payments remain inadequate to sustain a decent standard of living. Self-funded retirees are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the market on their superannuation funds.
The residents, and families of those in nursing homes, can be plagued by the fear of what might happen. In most nursing homes, care is excellent but too often we read of cases where patient care is sacrificed while operators amass huge profits. And those who continue to live at home find their resources stretched, property maintenance becomes expensive, personal care and nutrition suffer, isolation follows.
So where does the Church fit into all this? Elderly Catholics look to the Church for support and assistance. They expect the Church to be a community, where they can experience the comfort of a loving God, and share the hope given by the Risen Christ.
And our response? Families have the primary responsibility for the love, care and attention that the elderly need, for it is within the family circle that the elderly feel most accepted.
That said, some older people are distanced from their families and there is much the Catholic community can do to support them: identify the hidden elderly in our suburbs and invite them into the parish community life; offer opportunities for day care, home visits, car pools, recreation, etc; sponsor low-income housing programs for the elderly.
Sometimes, the point is reached where the family can no longer offer the most appropriate care for the older person and as the Catholic community we must ensure that our Catholic institutions provide professional care for the elderly. Families and parishes have an obligation to maintain regular visiting.
Older people don’t forfeit their basic human rights simply because they age. The right to life of the elderly is being attacked directly and indirectly by the proponents of euthanasia. The elderly can become targets of a mentality that disposes of the unwanted, and which would place end-of-life decisions solely in the hands of physicians or the State.
Our advocacy for the elderly must be firm and unrelenting. Governments will not act, and political parties will not promise, unless we make them listen and, of course, hold them to the promises they make.
Our program for action could include: reform of the pension system so that the payment enables older people to live in dignity and without fear; more low-income housing; higher priority of mental care for the elderly; more intensive inspection of nursing homes and real follow-up action.
The rupture between society and its elderly members requires a major effort to change attitudes, as well as social structures. This requires us to accept that we are the People of God and each person, no matter how young or how old, is an integral member.
Tags: Emeritus Bishop Kevin Manning CathBlog Catholic Diocese of Parramatta
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 17/08/10
I was initially taken aback, some years ago, when an elderly Catholic unionist in Lithgow stated: “I learnt my practical Christianity through the union, for the union cared more for the poor and vulnerable than many Church organisations.”
And there was truth in what he said, for initially unions saw themselves as protecting the poor and vulnerable workers, those seeking work, immigrants and those suffering because of war and disorder in their own countries.
Because workers’ rights, like all rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity, the Catholic Church was never reticent to list these rights in the hope they would be recognised in juridical systems.
In so doing, the Church recognised the fundamental role played by labour unions which “grew up from the struggle of the workers – workers in general but especially the industrial workers – to protect their just rights vis-a-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production.” (Laborem Exercens, 20)
In her teaching the Church insists that unions are not a reflection of the “class” structure of society but should be promoters of the struggle for social justice, for the rights of workers.
In addition, unions must act as representatives working for “the proper arrangement of economic life and of educating the social consciences of workers so that they will feel that they have an active role in the whole task of economic and social development and in the attainment of the universal common good.” (Gaudium et Spes, 68)
The Church contends that unions have a duty to exercise influence in the political arena, making it sensitive to labour problems and demanding respect for workers’ rights.
However, unions should not have the character of ‘political parties’ struggling for power and they should not be forced to submit to the decisions of political parties nor be too closely linked to them and used as an instrument for other purposes.
In view of the aforesaid, and this month’s federal election, we might well put some of our more prominent unions under the microscope. After all, the goal of all organised labour is to contribute to the common good of all Australians.
No doubt any such efforts would be challenged and questioned. But workers are entitled to unions which are being treated fairly. In turn, unionists’ rights can be placed at risk because of a lack of freedom of speech in assembly or coercion by union leaders.
And there are many issues to fight for: some legislators still believe that health care is a privilege, not a human right; that the right to life is an option; that the rights of the poor are subject to the choice of the rich.
Union membership can also offer great opportunities for self-sacrifice, helping people, like Jesus, to be a ‘servant of all’, laying down one’s wishes, needs and desires for the sake of others is our measure for living the Gospel.
The unions might well have a second look at the plight of immigrants; after all, Australia was built on immigrant labour. And they still come to Australia to seek a better life for their families; and don’t unions have a right to affirm their right to work?
That is precisely why we need the leadership of organised labour: for the poor and the vulnerable; for those who seek to organise in the name of human rights; families who have been deprived of both dignity and justice.
In some cities each year there is a Labor Day Mass – something we could think about. It provides the opportunity for members to show their commitment also to their faith, where they can come to join together on this day to show that they participate in projects which are good for the community – not just good for their jobs.
They can take the opportunity to praise God for giving work and ask for God’s help in finding and keeping good jobs. They could pray, on this occasion, for union members who have lost their lives, an opportunity to say we haven’t forgotten about those who have fallen on the job.
Bishop Manning's CathBlog - 05/08/10
What a bonanza – an election campaign for a first-time blogger!
I have the impression that many of my fellow citizens view the election process with some distrust and indifference. People suffering poverty and injustice cannot be blamed for losing their faith in our political institutions when the government is not accountable and politicians are ineffective in dealing with critical issues which touch their lives.
However, turning our backs on involvement in politics is not an effective or responsible approach for Christians. We need committed, informed citizens to demand accountability from our political leaders and government institutions in order to achieve the common good.
The electorate needs politicians to demonstrate personal integrity and to present their policies clearly so that they contribute truthfully to a campaign based on vital issues for the community.
In this context, the role of the Church in the political order is important. Christ’s command to love one’s neighbour has to extend to the transformation of all human relations ranging from the family to the entire human community for Jesus came “to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and set the downtrodden free.” (Lk 4:18)
These are not empty words. They require reflection and action on poverty, hunger and injustice which involve structures of economy, society and politics. Action on behalf of justice is the key dimension in the Church’s ministry and the Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national, and international level.
And, so, the Church’s rightful role includes:
The Church’s participation should not be a threat to the political process, but an affirmation of their importance. She must recognise the legitimate autonomy of government and the right of all to be heard in the formulation of public policy.
She does not seek a specific religious voting block, nor to instruct persons how they should vote. Rather, the voters should examine the position of the candidates and the full range of issues as well as the person’s integrity, philosophy, and performance. Christians should promote a greater understanding of the important link between faith and politics, especially the belief that our nation is enriched when its citizens and social groups approach public affairs from positions grounded in moral conviction and religious belief such as: the affirmation of life at its beginning and end by opposing abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and assisted suicide; the just funding of government and non-government education; promotion of the social welfare system to care for the vulnerable, sick and aged; retention of the concept of marriage as a union of a man and a woman; the rejection of WorkChoices; and justice for asylum seekers.
So, it comes down to this: all citizens are called to become informed, active and responsible participants in the political process and the pursuit of the common good.
It is a particular responsibility for the Catholic laity, drawing on their experience and exercising their distinctive roles within the Christian community.
For published version of this blog (including comments) visit CathBlog
Tags: Most Rev Kevin Manning DD CathBlog Catholic Diocese of Parramatta
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