awareness in the days following the violence inflicted on a US Congresswoman
and several others and the deaths of a Federal Judge and several others leads
to ask what is transpiring in civil discourse. These issues are not merely a US
thing but the Australians are also dealing with the same. The Australian
Premier Kristina Keneally -a woman similar in style and content as our own
Nancy Pelosi, spoke against George Cardinal Pell, the ranking churchman of the
Catholic Church in Australia, saying she was saddened by the Cardinal’s
statements on Catholic faith and belief. So what’s been ignited by Premier
Keneally is also applicable around the world. Keneally becomes the lens to view
the issues.

Kristina Keneally’s sadness over Cardinal Pell’s clear, consistent teaching of the faith is rooted in her inability to truly understand the beauty of the faith given by Jesus Christ versus seeing Catholicism as contrived, archaic teachings. She obviously thinks what he says about Catholic faith is his interpretation and subject to change. I dare think that she would rather demonize the Pell as “Cardinal denouncing ‘Catholic’ politicians” who do not adhere to the church teaching than to intellectually and affectively know the radical beauty of freedom in Christ.

On the surface one of Ms Keneally’s comments seem reasonable. She said, “Almost every Catholic politician I know takes their responsibility as an elected representative and their faith very seriously. Many have really struggled, as have I, when moral issues require us to vote – and particularly when it is a conscience vote.” Good to hear. We need to wrestle with the issues but we always side with what is true, good and beautiful. If you are like me, I am not always sure what a ‘Catholic’ politician thinks and what one looks like. What are the criteria by which to judge? I can, however, relate to the fact that a politician would be responsible and a person of faith who lives in an abiding way the tenets of faith; and no reasonable person would deny the orientation of seriously weighing the challenges of voting according to conscience. But how does Keneally, or any other Catholic, understand the goal of one’s formation in light of responsibility, faith and conscience? Would Keneally realize, moreover, that when she and other politicians who identify themselves as Catholics fail to see the beauty in the Gospel and the truth of Church teaching by casting a vote in favor of abortion and other legislation contrary to Catholic teaching, they set themselves outside embrace of Christ and the sacramentality of the Church? The common good is always in conformity with the Law of Christ. How and in what ways is conscience and faith formed according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Magisterium of the Church?

What is the Church’s role in civil society? The answer for me is found in Pope Benedict’s address “Witnesses to Christ in the political community” a theme explored at the twenty-fourth plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on Friday, 21 May 2010.

From the Pope’s perspective -and from ours too, the Church is not and should never claim to be involved in the “technical formation of politicians” because it is not in the Church’s competence to technically train political leadership. The Church’s mission, rooted in sacred Scripture, does “pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls require it. It is up to the lay faithful to show – in their personal and family life, in social cultural and political life – that the faith enables them to read reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it.”

Benedict also said, “It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church, bringing their well-founded reasoning and great ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among everyone who cares about the defense of life and freedom, the protection of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy, and the vital search for the common good.”

To me, Ms Keneally is another of those Catholics of poor formation in the faith but who sincerely want to serve the common good of her constituents. But she has no real desire to have her faith conform to the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. And here’s the real point. Keneally’s disagreement with Cardinal Pell is not really over crucial moral and social teachings but over the reality that Christ can offer a gift that is so terrific, so manifestly beautiful as heaven and freedom.  Christ wants full communion with us not some half-hearted acceptance of Him. Catholics know that Christ’s offer us the possibility of life in heaven, life everlasting; it is a gift and that it ought to impact all facets of life, informing all behavior, voting or otherwise.

The fact that Keneally and many US politicians, disagree with the Catholic Church on some very key points of her social teachings, including the Church’s teaching that abortion is immoral is indicative that moral teachings are red herrings and that fundamental disagreement is with God.

So it is no wonder that Keneally would fail to understand Benedict’s exhortation that “The Church says life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift.” I would hope that Keneally see that it is entirely reasonable not to claim to be a woman of Catholic faith. She may be a good person, but holding views that are contrary to the historic Catholic faith she sets herself -she walks away from–the Lord’s promise of the hun

It would be fair to say that the Premier wants the Cardinal to be “relevant” and espouse her perspective than to adhere to the truth claims proposed by God -not man–so as to make “life easier.” Could one posit that the Premier is more Protestant, i.e., individualist, than communal and hence Catholic. You can’t have Christ and not the Church. No such authentic thing exists. She wants to control the faith and frame the faith according to her way of thinking. She claims, “Trying to get politicians to vote in accordance to the Catholic Church is really to the detriment of what parliamentary representation is all about in Australia.”