Australian bishops warn about New South Wales Greens’ political positions

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Cardinal George Pell

The Greens political party of New South Wales takes policy positions on abortion, marriage and Catholic school funding which directly conflict with Catholics’ views on fundamental points, the Australian state’s Catholic bishops have warned ahead of elections.

“The Greens’ position on a number of fundamental points of human and social policy areas conflicts directly with the beliefs and values of virtually all religious people, and the beliefs of many other people as well,” the bishops’ March 18 statement said. “The conflicts are not superficial or inconsequential. They go to fundamental issues such as respect for all human life from conception to natural death.”

Ten bishops including Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, signed the statement titled “The Green Agenda.”

While the Greens’ concern for the environment shows they recognize an important responsibility, the bishops explained that the “full offering of the party” has to be taken into account.

The party intends to decriminalize abortion, “the deliberate killing of an innocent unborn child.” Current NSW law offers some limited protection to mothers and their unborn children, but the Greens support the law in the state of Victoria which denied doctors and other health professionals the right of conscientious objection to participation in abortion.

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

The Greens’ euthanasia legislation almost succeeded in passing the parliament, another cause for concern.

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

The Greens’ commitment to remove “exemptions” from the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act would force non-government schools to employ teachers whose views and lifestyle are contrary to the religious traditions of these schools and the parents whose children are educated there. This issue is not about “exemptions,” but rather religious freedom, the bishops contended.

School funding policy is also a difficulty. The Greens want to reduce state grants to most non-government schools, including all Catholic systems and some independent Catholic schools, to their 2003 levels.

“That means that NSW Catholic system schools alone would immediately lose more than $318 million a year, which would be a reduction from the current 2011 amount of 85% for primary schools and 65% for secondary schools,” they said. This could mean an increase in fees of as much as $1,550.

While a Greens spokesperson has rejected these figures, the Catholic Education Commission has defended them.

The Greens are also pressuring Australia’s federal government to amend the Marriage Act to enable two men or two women to marry. The bishops criticized this proposal, saying it is not unfair discrimination to recognize that marriage is a union of a man and a woman who are bound to each other for the well-being of their children.

The party’s permissive position on personal drug use is also problematic, the bishops said.

They also warned that some legislators in all major parties supported “bad legislation” on same-sex adoption, surrogacy and the cloning and destruction of human embryos.

“Every vote in this election counts,” the bishops said, encouraging voters to ask candidates where they stand on important issues and to talk to family, friends and coworkers. Voters should ensure that those elected in the March 26 poll are “truly concerned for the rights of every person in this state, rich or poor, young or old, the dying or the unborn.”

The statement does not tell people how to vote, but tells them to “vote responsibly,” the Archdiocese of Sydney said in a separate release. The Greens are a “relatively new phenomenon” in Australia and some of their positions give rise to “significant concerns.”

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