Saturday, June 09, 2007


A Tale of Two Polities

John Wilkins recently noted that the Fatal Shore's Catholic prelate had picked up a tactic, used by some American bishops, of threatening politicians who are Catholics with exclusion from communion if they voted in favor of public policy that the Church disapproves of. In America the attempted coercion was over abortion. In Australia, George Cardinal Pell is twisting arms to try to derail stem cell research.

The difference is in the reaction of the politicians. In the U.S. there was generally quiet defiance with, at most, a rebuttal from the politician to the religious diktat with an almost equally pious statement about duty to all voters and individual conscience.

Not so the Aussies:

It sounded like a threat and that's how many Catholic MPs — Labor and Liberal, state and federal — treated it.

They resented the intrusion of religion into politics, one saying he would prefer to burn in hell and another comparing Cardinal Pell to the widely denounced Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali.
To get a flavor of what aspersions were being cast, the Sheik has accused Jews of "causing all wars," described the September 11 terrorist attacks as "God's work against oppressors," denied the holocaust as a "Zionist lie," likened immodestly dressed women to "uncovered meat" tempting cats, criticized as "excessive" prison sentences handed out to Lebanese-Australian Muslim rapists, claimed Muslims have more right to Australia than Anglo-Saxon "convicts" and has denounced Australian gay rights legislation as "freedom to the point of insanity."

That's way more than any American pol would dare, as can be seen in the fawning the presidential contenders of both parties have been giving religious voters here of late, but the following would be unthinkable:

Labor MP Tony Stewart said he would go to hell rather than vote against a bill which stands to benefit thousands of victims of spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease and juvenile diabetes.

"Maybe I'll go to hell but if I go to hell I'm going to do so by saving a lot of lives, because that's what this bill is about," said Mr Stewart, a Catholic.

"We don't need a religious leader telling members of parliament what should be done."

Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees accused Cardinal Pell of "emotional blackmail" and said his statement was "a clear and arguably contemptuous incursion" into the deliberations of MPs.

"I think he's got three options — he can apologise, he can run for Parliament or he can invite further comparisons with that serial boofhead, Sheik Alhilali."

Premier Morris Iemma bridled at any suggestion that Cardinal Pell could refuse him communion.

"He won't be dissuading me from doing what I believe is the right thing," he said.

"This is no time to stand in the way of science and thus stand in the way of hope."
I particularly liked "serial boofhead." Do you suppose we could import some Oznian politicians? They might not be any better but they'd sure be more entertaining.

Actually, there was a lot more vocal criticism of those American bishops and their political statements than you realize. But that criticism was featured only in venues and in publications that you probably don't look at, and it was ignored by the main-stream media. So I'm not surprised that you aren't aware of it.

Apparently, the Australian media play by better rules.

One of the failures of the American media is that they present a biased view of religion. That assesment comes not from some religious group, but from the definitely non-religious Media Matters . Their report can be found here, if you are interested:

LEFT BEHIND: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media

This is just one example among many.
Well, as I said, I was talking about the politicians themselves not others. If you have specific instances of any who were as vociferous as those Aussies, let me know. I'd like to vote for them if I could.

While you're at it, let me know what those venues and publications are. I might be interested after all.

And as that article notes, neither conservatives nor progressives are surprised that the American media distorts the facts. But by all means feel free to continue your conversation with your imaginary protagonist here.
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