Questions from Life
- Explore the Catholic response and action to many of the issues affecting our world today.
The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time,
especially of those who are poor or afflicted,
are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.
Gaudium et Spes, Vatican Council II in 1965.
Explore the Catholic response and action to many of the issues affecting our world today.
In Australia, one in four pregnancies ends in abortion - somewhere around 90,000 a year. Research shows that nearly three quarters of Australians think that this rate is far too high. (Source: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 2005 statement on RU486)
Catholics are pro-women and pro-life, seeking positive strategies to help women continue with their pregnancies and respecting the dignity of all human life, life which begins at conception.
Support services such as counselling, financial assistance and accommodation for pregnant women include those offered through CatholicCare and St Vincent de Paul Society. See more on pregnancy support services.
Support for women coping with the physical, emotional and psychological affects of abortion can be found through services such as CatholicCare and Project Rachel.
Catholics follow Jesus Christ's teaching to 'love one another' and 'love your enemy'. See our views on war and peace. As the quotes below indicate, Catholics believe that more nuclear weapons create more potential for dire consequences. At the same time, the growth of such weapons is at the detriment of the poorest. This creates a culture of fear, resentment and conflict.
'The alarming increase of arms, together with the halting progress of commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, runs the risk of feeding and expanding a culture of competition and conflict, a culture involving not only States but also non-institutional entities, such as paramilitary groups and terrorist organizations.' Pope John Paul II, 1 January 2001.
'The arms race is a threat to man's highest good, which is life; it makes poor peoples and individuals yet more miserable, while making richer those already powerful; it creates a continuous danger of conflagration, and in the case of nuclear arms, it threatens to destroy all life from the face of the earth.' Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World (1971) 9.
Capital Punishment & Death Penalty
We are fortunate that the death penalty is abolished throughout Australia . However, calls are still being made for its reinstitution. Of course, internationally, thousands of people are executed annually. Local Churches in the Asia-Pacific seek support to end the death penalty in their regions. Bishop Christopher Saunders, head of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, stated in 2006:
'The death penalty is an offence against the dignity and sanctity of all human life which must be respected, even in those who have done great evil. Nothing is gained through capital punishment. Indeed, use of the death penalty undermines respect for life and contributes to a culture of revenge. Such thoughts of revenge exist in contradistinction to our belief in life as a gift from God.'
Jesus said: 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' Mark 10:25
This famous saying of Jesus seems to preclude any rich person a place in heaven. Yet the Bible and Church history point to many saints who supported great causes with their wealth.
If capitalism has as its end the accumulation of wealth for one's personal benefit, then in many ways it has become our god. We look to money to save us. This is why Jesus mentions the difficulty that rich people face.
What is important is careful stewardship of our time, talent and treasures. We recognise that all wealth is from God, are grateful for what we receive and seek to share with our community.
Our Church has reflected extensively on the justice issues surrounding work and wealth. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Common Wealth for the Common Good, (Collins Dove, Blackburn, 1992) summarises the Church's teaching in Australia.
Not only should our riches be shared, but the way we accumulate riches needs to be scrutinised. Do we disadvantage others - both nationally and internationally in the way we live and gather wealth?
And finally, would we be willing to give it all away if we needed to, for the love of God and others?
Child Protection and Support
The Church recognises the personal dignity and rights of children, towards whom it has a special responsibility and a duty of care. The Church, and individual members of it, undertake to do all in their power to create a safe environment for children and to prevent their physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The Church authorities liaise closely with statutory agencies to ensure that any allegations of abuse are promptly and properly dealt with, victims supported and perpetrators held to account. Our Catholic Education Office is one place you will find our policies on child protection.
The Catholic Church offers support for children in many spheres. Through education, our schools offer quality learning environments and a strong grounding in our faith. Many of our parishes offer children's liturgy (child friendly prayer and readings in Mass) and child care. CatholicCare offers some great parenting skills.
Pope John Paul (2000) has condemned the cloning of human embryos and called on scientists to respect the dignity of human beings.
But, speaking at an international scientific meeting in Rome, he has encouraged organ transplants and organ donation, providing there is no commercialisation of human body parts. But he warned that any attempt to commercialise human organs or consider them as items of barter or trade must be considered morally unacceptable. He went on to condemn all experiments in the cloning of human embryos, even with a view to obtaining new organs for transplant.
These techniques, the Pope said, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself. He pointed scientists toward adult stem cells as the acceptable route for research in this field.
Catholics are generally not allowed to use artificial means of contraception. This is sometimes not well understood, especially in the context of the spread of HIV/AIDS and sex before marriage.
Catholics recognise that sexual intercourse always offers the potential for a new human life. The best opportunity for this new life to flourish is in the context of an exclusive, loving, committed, permanent relationship, in other words, within the sacrament of marriage. The sexual love of the married couple can be an act of celebration, reconciliation or support but within every act there is the possibility of new life. While planning for one's family is encouraged, such planning should not place an articifical barrier between the love of the couple, or interfere with the healthy working of the body to make the act infertile. These actions undermine the full human meaning of sexuality. Contraceptives can have harmful side effects, and some actually act to abort an already viable embryo, thus destroying a new human life.
Natural Family Planning provides a way of planning pregnancies in a responsible manner. While not perfect (and neither is any form of artificial contraception) it does allow the couple to share responsibility for the sexual act and enables each act to be open to the gift of life.
Of course, as with many church laws, Catholics with serious reason, and with an informed conscience, may choose to vary from this teaching. However, this is not done without a period of prayer accompanied by an informed reflection on what is at the heart of these teachings.
Should contraception teaching be relaxed for nations experiencing an HIV/AIDS epidemic? We reflect that at the heart of this teaching is the understanding that it is directed to a faithful married couple. Anyone that would embrace this teaching on avoiding articifial contraception would naturally be expected to be following the teaching of no sex outside of marriage. Of course, the Catholic Church has no means to enforce such a teaching, and can only continue to remind people of the dignity of all human life and to try to honour the wonderful responsibility humans have been given to beable to create new life.
Related links: Natural family planning: CatholicCare; Wollongong Natural Family Planning Services; Billings Family Life Centre Carey Cottage, Campbelltown; Pregnancy support services.
Disability, People Living with
Office of Disabilities
The Office of Disability is an initiative of the Bishop of Wollongong to provide information and support to people with a disability, their families and carers in parishes and the community.
Who can use the service?
- People with a Disability
Anyone from birth to 65 years of age who has a disability.
- Families and Carers of a person with a disability
Anyone who provides care and/or support to a person who has a disability.
- Diocesan Staff
Anyone who works with the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong.
One of the projects the Office of Disability is undertaking is to compile a service directory for use by people with disabilities, their families and carers. If you, your organisation/group wish to have details regarding the service you provide included in the directory please complete the service information form at CatholicCare's website.
CatholicCare's Disability Flexible Options are to provide:
Assistance to people with a long term disability who are ageing and/or may be dependent on an aging carer or other HACC eligible client.
To people living in the Wollongong Local Government Area.
A flexible package of services including personal care, domestic assistance, social support and transport.
Contact CatholicCare for more information.
Diocesan Council for People with Disabilities and their Families
Faith and Light Southern Highlands Community
Good News Community Macarthur
Mater Dei Special School, Camden
Catholics believe that marriage is the intimate union of life and love between a man and a woman which is permanent, faithful and open to new life.
The Catholic Church also believes that when two baptised people marry, free according to law, then no human power can dissolve their union. For this reason, the Catholic Church does not recognise that civil divorce alone frees the parties to enter another marriage in the Catholic Church. This would first require the Church annulment of the previous union.
The breakdown of a marriage is often a very painful and traumatic experience for all those concerned. Naturally, separated and divorced people can feel very vulnerable at this time and wonder about their status within the Church.
At the heart of the Catholic response is a God who loves us at every stage of our journey, and invites us into fullness of life, new life. As such, the Church reaches out in support of those whose marriage has broken down, while upholding the permanence of a true Christian marriage. These two aspects of the Church's position are especially evident in the sensitive work of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church.
People sometimes shake their head at the different 'flavours' of Christianity and perhaps wonder at what the fuss is all about. Certainly as Christians we are called to be 'one Body in Christ' and our current differences weaken the sign we seek to be of Christ in our world. On the other hand, pretending such differences don't exist can similarly water down our faith.
'The starting point for ecumenism, the search for full visible unity among Christians, is the communion that we already share.
The ecumenical task is to deepen a communion that already exists in varying degrees among the Churches and to arrive at full communion with each other.
We are not beginning the search for unity from a baseline of zero.
As a first step along the way to full communion it is good to acknowledge what we already share in common in the Church which all Christians profess as 'one, holy catholic and apostolic'.
Christ calls all people into union with him through the Holy Spirit into communion with the life of the Trinity and each other.'
Source: Catholic Australia - Anthony Gooley
Catholic schools have a unique character because as well as being places where learning is highly valued, they are places where priority is given to a value-based education in the Catholic Faith. This involves all staff and students in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. Staff identify strongly with their school and take pride in their work and the school's achievements.
The Catholic School brings faith, culture and life into harmony through the integrated activity of educating the whole person academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Find out more about our Catholic schools and our Catholic Education Office.
There are many myths surrounding Catholic education. One is that they take Government funds away from Government schools or receive a higher level of funding than Government schools. Discover the facts about the funding of Catholic schools at the Catholic Education Commission, NSW.
Catechists in State Schools
A large proportion of Catholic students attend State Government schools. Volunteers from our Catholic communities generously give of their time to offer catechism (education in faith) to these students. The umbrella organisation for these catechists - which is always looking for new members - is the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
Adult Faith Education
Catholic education in faith does not end when we finish schooling. In some ways we can compare it with an adult relationship with another person. If we only applied the way we interacted with other students at school to our adult relationships, we may be considered immature. We are called to continue to mature in our faith, just as we mature emotionally and intellectually.
The Church has repeatedly called for humans to exercise proper stewardship and care of the earth:
'There is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflict, and continued injustice among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature. The ecological crisis is a moral issue.' John Paul II, World Day of Peace Message, 1990.
On 17 January 2001 during a general audience at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, commenting on the environmental health of the earth, lamented that, 'we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God's expectations ... degrading that 'flowerbed' which is the earth, our dwelling-place'.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings salvation not only to humankind, but also, in a different way, to the whole of creation. In the letter to the Colossians we see that not only are all things created in Christ, but all things are reconciled in him:
'He is the image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible... Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity'. (Col. 1:15 - 17)
A New Earth - The Environmental Challenge is The Social Justice Sunday Statement on the Environment prepared by the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC), the national social justice and human rights agency of the Catholic Church in Australia.
'The Gospel of Life' (Evangelium vitae) is a document by Pope John Paul II that articulates our position on the dignity of human life. The summary below draws from 'The Gospel of Life' for our response to euthanasia:
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves 'the creative action of God', and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human life. (The Gospel of Life n. 53)
The Church teaches that euthanasia is a 'grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person'. (The Gospel of Life, n 65) Even if someone requests to be killed, or the killing is undertaken because it is thought to be the kindest and most compassionate thing to do, euthanasia can never be a morally good act. The same judgment applies to assisted suicide. True 'compassion' leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. (The Gospel of Life, n. 66)
Does this mean that we should always do everything, by every available means to prolong human life?
No. Life is a gift of God, yet death is unavoidable. While we should never seek to hasten the hour of death, when it approaches we should accept it with humility and hope. Church teaching distinguishes euthanasia and assisted suicide from decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining or life-saving medical treatment where:
- The treatment is unlikely to work or is no longer working (the treatment is futile);
- The treatment is likely to be, or has become excessively burdensome to the patient.
What about pain killers?
Christian ethics also recognises that where the intention is to relieve suffering and not to hasten death, the provision of pain and other symptom relieving treatment is an important way of caring for the dying, even if it is foreseen that this treatment may have the effect of shortening life. (The Gospel of Life, n. 65)
Statement on Euthanasia
Bishop Peter Ingham (10 Oct 2010)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2288 - 91) offers the following Catholic views on health issues:
Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.
Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.
If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolise physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships.
The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.
The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.
The Catholic Church has a longstanding commitment to the ministry of healing. Explore two of our well known services: CatholicCare; St Vincent de Paul Society. Or view our healing and support services listing. Many Catholic hospitals, hospices and aged care facilities operate across Australia. Catholic Health Australia gives many of these listings.
On 1 December each year we mark World AIDS Day, a day when the entire community recognises the impact of HIV and AIDS and its effects on the global family. World AIDS Day is also a day when the world joins hands and hearts to address the pain, the stigma, and the great loss of so many lives. World AIDS Day is a time for us to unite with the international community in addressing AIDS. It is a time for us to witness, by words and action, the compassion of Jesus as we pray as a people of faith and hope for the healing of HIV and AIDS.
See Health Issues for more information.
The Church utterly condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against people who are homosexual. Consequently, the Church teaches that homosexual people 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity' (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358). In so far as the homosexual orientation can lead to sexual activity which excludes openness to the generation of new human life and the essential sexual complementarity of man and woman, it is, in this particular and precise sense only, objectively disordered. However, it must be quite clear that a homosexual orientation must never be considered sinful or evil in itself.
The late Cardinal Hume emphasised the message of the Gospel that all love is from God and that each person is precious in the eyes of God. 'The love which one person can have for and receive from another is a gift of God' (A Note Concerning the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People, 1997, paragraph 17). The Church recognises the value of friendship between homosexual people when it is lived chastely in accordance with her moral teaching. What the Church does not countenance is any attempt to express this love in a sexual way.
Attempting to create a legal category of 'same-sex marriage' threatens to undermine the meaning and status of marriage. Nonetheless, it may be necessary, as many have argued, to remedy by law unjust situations in which the bonds of friendship are improperly disregarded (for instance, being excluded from appropriate consultation regarding medical care or from funeral arrangements). In such cases the right to justice is founded on the dignity of every human being and citizenship and not on sexual activity or orientation.
Jesus identifies with the homeless: 'When I was a stranger you invited me in.' Homelessness is a symptom of many social issues: People suffering from mental illness, in a crisis situation, an increasing number of young, and those suffering from drug abuse.
- Allambie Housing, Campbelltown
- Eddy's Annexe, Towradgi
- John Purcell House, Nowra
- Kalon House of Welcome, Claymore
- Maryfields Day Recovery Centre
- Nagle Centre, Campbelltown
- St Vincent de Paul House, Coniston
- Villa Maria Centre, Unanderra
- Wingecarribee, Mittagong
Recently a coalition of 24 Catholic religious congregations in Australia presented a report to a United Nations committee reviewing Australia 's response as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The CEDAW Committee was particularly concerned Australia lacked a comprehensive approach to combating trafficking, and effective strategies and programs to prevent women from entering into prostitution, or support for those who wished to discontinue in the industry.
The Committee was also concerned by the low rates of prosecution and conviction, and the lack of support and protection offered to victims. CEDAW recommended:
That Australia should look to 'best practices' elsewhere to develop prevention strategies and rehabilitation programs, that funding be extended to non-government organisations already working in the area of victim support; and that protection visas and support programs should be available to all victims of trafficking irrespective of their value as a prosecution witness.
The Australian Catholic Bishops have also lent their voice to the cause by sending a letter directly to the Prime Minister asking 'the Government to ensure that policy and legislation are focused on the individual human rights of the trafficked people rather than on what they might contribute to our legal and administrative processes in bringing traffickers to justice'.
As a CEDAW signatory, Australia has a responsibility to victims of human rights violations that have occurred here in this country.
Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders
'I want to tell you right away how much the Church esteems and loves you, and how much she wishes to assist you in your spiritual and material needs.'
It was twenty years ago in Alice Springs that Pope John Paul II addressed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia as brothers and sisters with these words. The Australian Catholic Bishops' Social Justice Sunday Statement: 'The Heart of Our Country, Dignity and justice for our Indigenous sisters and brothers' draws on the historic address to deal with an issue of great importance for Australian society: dignity and justice for Indigenous people.
Pope John Paul raised four important issues when he spoke in Blatherskite Park at Alice Springs. He challenged all Australians to ensure the preservation of Indigenous cultures. He called on us to seek and explore the points of agreement between Indigenous traditions and those of Jesus and all of his people. The Holy Father praised the way the Indigenous peoples had cared for the land. And, by naming past hurts and continuing injustices endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, he confronted the national community of Australia with the need to move towards true reconciliation.
To the Indigenous peoples of Australia he said: 'You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received.'
As Catholics, how have we supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to keep strong those elements of culture and history that they seek to preserve? Are we prepared to joyfully receive the contributions of Indigenous culture and tradition in our lives? The full impact of Pope John Paul II's address in Alice Springs is still being realised as we continue to explore the path to reconciliation. In their Social Justice Sunday Statement, the Bishops consider many of the great achievements since these words were spoken in 1986, and what is still left to be done in taking up the challenges before us all.
As far as working conditions are concerned, arrangements should provide as extensive protection as is possible for the dignity, safety and health of workers, rather than being geared only towards the realisation of profits. These conditions of work should not be left to individual negotiation between worker and employer. Governments have a clear responsibility to pass laws which provide for adequate and just working conditions. Against those who would argue that the State should leave these questions to individual negotiation in the marketplace, Pope John Paul II wrote:
Yet the workers' rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing which must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers' rights within each country and all through the world's economy. (Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, 1981, n. 17)
The Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (ACCER) includes networks within each of the major sectors of Church activity - diocesan and parish administration, health and aged care, welfare and education. The networks enable the ACCER to elicit information about key employment relations issues and needs of Church organisations within each of the sectors and facilitate the sharing of information.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself. (Nostra Aetate, Second Vatican Council)
There can be no peace among nations without peace among religions.
In 1986, and again in 2002, Pope John Paul II invited leaders within Christianity and the major world religions to Assisi, the home of St Francis, where he joined them in a special meeting of prayer for peace. That meeting demonstrated a bond of solidarity among believers that dramatically challenged those who try to pit adherents of one religion against another in violent conflict.
To pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God's power to renew all things. With the life-giving force of his grace, God can create openings for peace where only obstacles and closures are apparent; he can strengthen and enlarge the solidarity of the human family in spite of our endless history of division and conflict. To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right-ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples.
The Catholic Church in Australia is committed to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and prayer. This fosters relations between Catholics, other Christians and other faiths in a way that breaks down many ancient enmities that, over the centuries, have led to violence. Once again, initiatives taken at the local level bring about understanding and respect.
'As we forgive those who have trespassed against us.'
At the international level, few problems are more urgent or more deep-seated than that of debt. Fourteen years ago the problem was already serious enough for the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace to publish a statement outlining the responsibilities of all concerned and the ethical principles to be followed in seeking a solution. Today the problem is considerably more serious. The total amount of debt amount owed by the world's developing nations has more than quadrupled since the early 1980s.
The effort made by poor countries to repay these debts has been phenomenal, and the cost has been more than just money. Whether on their own initiative or under so-called 'structural adjustment programs' imposed from outside, many countries have drastically cut their spending, reducing money for sectors such as health, education and housing, cutting subsidies on essential items like food and fuel and cutting basic wages. The poor of these countries have borne the brunt of these changes, and UNICEF has estimated that hundreds of thousands of people die each year as a result of efforts made to repay foreign debt.
International Aid and Development
Jesus identifies with those in need: 'I was thirsty and you gave me a drink...I was a stranger and you invited me in.'
The Catholic approach to international aid and development is reflected in the life of Jesus Christ and shaped by Catholic Social Teaching principles. In particular, the Catholic Church has a preferential option for the poor. We work with individuals and communities who experience poverty, injustice, hunger and oppression regardless of their religious, political or cultural beliefs. Furthermore, we seek to work in solidarity with communities in ways that respect, enhance and build their human dignity, empowering them to be authentic agents of change in their own lives, families, communities and societies.
Caritas Australia belongs to an international network called Caritas Internationalis. Caritas Internationalis is one of the largest aid and development agencies in the world comprising a network of 162 Catholic relief aid, development and social service organisations working to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed, in over 200 countries and territories. Reflecting the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, Caritas Australia works with the local people of a particular country in all of its programs. Catholics support Caritas in a special way each Lent through Project Compassion, and Caritas welcomes our support all year round.
Catholic Mission, sharing in the mission of the church in the world, enthusiastically commits itself to carrying on the unfinished mission of Jesus as its own mission. As did Jesus, Catholic Mission is sent to:
* bring good news to the poor,
* proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
* let the oppressed go free,
* proclaim the year of the Lord's favour (Cf. Lk 4: 18) .
Catholic social teaching commits Catholics to solidarity with those most in need thoughout our world and to respect their dignity in all circumstances.
'Trade can contribute to economic growth and development, just as globalisation of communications can contribute to cultural exchange and enrich lives. But over the last decade international trade agreements have been strengthened in ways that can also have negative impacts on the daily lives of people all over the world. Firstly, trade agreements have been expanded in scope, and have moved from dealing mainly with trade in goods and reduction of tariffs (taxes on imports) to include areas such as trade in services and rules about intellectual property rights. This means that trade law now reaches into many areas of health, cultural and other social policy. Secondly, trade agreements have developed much stronger dispute processes through which governments can challenge the law or policy of other governments, on the grounds that they are barriers to trade. The dispute findings are enforced by strong penalties in the form of trade sanctions. This strengthening of trade law has made it far stronger than international human rights law, which has no enforcement process other than naming and shaming. This broadening and strengthening means that aspects of international trade agreements can undermine social justice goals and human rights as defined in United Nations Conventions which many governments, including the Australian government, have adopted.'
IVF and Reproductive Technology
No matter how a human being comes into existence, he or she is always a person to be loved. We should always try, however, to act in ways which respect human dignity from the very first moment of a human being's existence. The Church teaches that ethically acceptable forms of reproductive technology respect:
1. The dignity of newly conceived human life. The human being is to be respected and cared for as a person from the first moment of his or her existence. Forms of Reproducive Technology which involve a willingness to expend or harm human life by discarding, freezing or subjecting embryos to excessive risk are morally unacceptable.
2. The dignity of human life in its transmission (procreation.) Because of the inestimable value of the human person, technology should never dominate over our origin. The conception of a child should be the result of a marital act of self-giving love. Every human being must be accepted as a gift and blessing and not as a product of direct human control and the third party intervention of doctors and technicians. Forms of Reproductive Technology which replace or substitute for the role of the marital act (e.g. artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation), even if the sperm and egg have come from a husband and wife, fail to show proper respect for the dignity of procreation and human life. However forms of Reproductive Technology which assist or help an act of intercourse to achieve its purpose may be morally permissible (e.g. treatment of underlying causes of infertility; low tubal ovum transfer; and possibly GIFT).
People Living with Mental Illness
The Catholic Church seeks to promote the dignity of all people, especially those in most need. In Australia today, one in five people are said to experience a form of mental illness sometime in their life. This can be both frightening and unfamiliar territory and may bring suffering both from the person experiencing the mental illness and those who love and support them.
One of St Vincent de Paul Society's key roles is its work with homeless people. This area is under enormous strain as the Society tries to provide the necessary support and resources to the increased numbers of people with a mental illness who are using its facilities.
Compeer is another St Vincent de Paul Society initiative. The Compeer Program matches appropriate volunteers from the community with people who are receiving treatment for mental illness. The word 'Compeer' is made from 'companion' and 'peer' to mean a friendship of equals. Friendship is a powerful medicine. It heals through the knowledge that someone cares about us and our wellbeing without expecting anything in return. Simply, a friend believes in us. Find out more: St Vincent de Paul Society.
'The Church's social teaching supports the dignity and rights of people on the move and demands that adequate solutions be found for the suffering that forces people to flee their homes. It also demands that governments protect and care for foreigners in their nations.
For Jesus, the stranger who asks for hospitality, or the immigrant who asks for acceptance, is a member of the same family. To accept the other means to make space for him in one's city, in one's laws, in one's time, and in one's circle of friends'.
Pope John Paul II, Plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People - October 21, 1993.
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, dedicates their efforts towards the acceptance and settlement of Refugees and Migrants into Australia. They do this especially by efforts to influence Government policies in this area. They also seek to form Catholic Church policy in Australia for the Pastoral Care of Refugees and Migrants.
Refugees and asylum seekers merit our special consideration. The Church undertakes this special service in their regard, irrespective of their creed or origin. This work reflects the Church's universal compassion for those in need.
Our ethnic chaplaincies
Diocesan Council for People Culturally & Linguistically Diverse
During the 42nd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, Mons. Mario Zenari, the Holy See's representative to the Agency, signed the Additional Safeguards Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1 August 1972. The new protocol is meant to strengthen the Agency's verification system in order to prevent the illegal military use of peaceful nuclear developments. He made this speech, in part:
'Both specific international organization meetings (such as the June 1997 Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the implementation of Agenda 21), and political meetings of Presidents and Heads of States (such as the Birmingham G-8, the Second Summit of the Americas, etc.) have expressed their concerns about environment degradation and the need for development in ways which are truly sustainable.
No doubt many applications of nuclear techniques for peaceful purposes can help, especially in developing countries, to facilitate or promote sustainable development: research programmes, nutritional projects, soil fertility preservation, pest control, safe water access, etc.
In the case of commercial energy services, an impartial and objective judgement is still needed in order to achieve a fair balance between the long-term risks and the potential contribution of nuclear energy to a rapid and consistent diminution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Mr President, the Holy See does not feel competent to propose or to judge particular technical solutions but would like to support the aim that scientific and technological progress should be at the service of all people and of each country, especially the less privileged. 'If the world's regions are moving closer together economically, this must not involve a globalization of poverty and misery, but priority must be given to a globalization in solidarity' (Pope John Paul II, Address to the Austrian Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Vienna, 20 June 1998, n. 8)
Occult - Astrology, Tarot, Clairvoyancy
One the great gifts we have received from God is free will. Certain practices surrender our free will to the dominion of another agency, or allow us to be influenced by a foriegn power - real or imagined. Accordingly, our free will is diminished and our ability to freely respond to the Holy Spirit in our life.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2117) states:
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
Politicians often accuse Christians of interfering in politics rather than staying in the spiritual realm. However, a even a brief view of Jesus' life leaves us in no doubt that to be Christian is to be political, in the broad meaning of the word. That is, Jesus was involved in the plight of his people, Jesus was political.
There is a broad and narrow understanding of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). In its broad meaning it encompasses all the ideas and theories that have developed over the entire history of the Church on matters of social life. More commonly and over the past 115 years it refers to a clear body of official Church teaching on the social order in its cultural, political, economic and environmental dimensions. This teaching is an interpretation of reality in the light of the Gospel, the Church's tradition and human wisdom. It deals with central, not peripheral or optional aspects of the Catholic faith.
Social Justice, Peace & Ecology, Diocesan Committee
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
The Australian Political Ministry Network Ltd (PolMin)
This section deals with poverty in Australia. For the Catholic Church's international response, see International Aid and Development.
The Australian Senate conducted an extensive inquiry into poverty inAustralia which was published in early 2004. This was the first time that the government had enquired into this issue for 30 years. The fact that there are over a million people by the most conservative estimate, living in poverty in Australia is to say the least, a shock. After all, we are living in one of the richest countries in the world and yet 21% of households (3.6 million people) bring in less than $400 dollars per week. The report of the Senate committee was discussed for a week or so and then seemingly forgotten. There was no plan of action, no sense of crisis, despite the countless stories of marginalised people living a precarious existence. It was left to organisations like the
Who are the poor in Australia?
The unemployed do not receive an income and must therefore depend on welfare payments. Unfortunately this payment is set at a level that is even lower than a pension and is set below the poverty line.
The chronically ill and the disabled are often excluded from participating in the paid workforce and so must also rely on welfare payments. Illness and disability are barriers to participation. Mental illness is particularly problematic.
Indigenous people experience greater levels of illness, living on average 20 years less than other Australians. They have fewer educational opportunities especially if they live in regional and remote parts of Australia.
Single parents also have fewer opportunities to participate in the paid workforce.
All these people need support so as to break free from the cycle of poverty. Education, training, a fairer taxation system, better health care (including mental health services) and a welfare system which gives a hand up, rather than a hand out are all essential elements of a compassionate response to poverty, whether in Australia or elsewhere in the world. The struggle to 'make poverty history' needs to continue wherever poverty is to be found. Australia often talks of 'mateship' and the 'fair go'. As someone once asked: Who is my Neighbour? Should we not ask in today's Australia: Who is my mate? Are our mates only those that don't need our help?
'Social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as contrary to God's design.' Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, n 29.
Visit Australian Catholic Social Justice Council for an excellent treatment of this topic with teaching resources and links.
'Clearly' stated Archbishop Francis Carroll on behalf of Asutralia's bishops, 'we need to be more sensitive to the plight of these people, many of whom have experienced hardship and pain most of us would find difficult to comprehend. There needs to be a more determined effort to recognise the human dignity and rights of our sisters and brothers from other countries and enable them to live with dignity and in safety as valued members of the human family'.
In July 2001 the Bishops issued a Statement on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees. This present Statement (May 2004) gives further attention to the problems and challenges that still face Australia in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers. This Statement calls on the Australian Government to reconsider some of its policies, such as arbitrary and long detention and the abandonment of the 'Pacific Solution', and renew its efforts to bring relief for refugees and asylum seekers. Archbishop Carroll went on to point out that 'the challenge, however, is not only for the Government but for the whole Australian Community. As part of that Community, the Catholic Church pledges its continuing support for these suffering people'.
Jesus offered special attention to the widow and the orphan. In his day, these were people discarded by his society. In Australia we are fortunate that the Government does try to support single parent families. Nevertheless, there is a great need for emotional, community and financial support.
Single parents also have fewer opportunities to participate in the paid workforce. In the case of family breakdown, assets that have been accumulated often need to be sold off. It is difficult to begin again. Single parents often are unable to work more than part-time. This means that they are caught in the same poverty trap as others dependent on welfare. The Catholic Church seeks to provide care and support for solo parents and their families.
An excellent service offering support to those who are widowed, separated, divorced, single parents and the children of these families can be found at Ministry to Solo Parents & Their Families, Parramatta Diocese, phone (02) 9890 2968.
Stem Cell Research
Terrorism is to be condemned in the most absolute terms. It shows complete contempt for human life and can never be justified, since the human person is always an end and never a means.
Acts of terrorism strike at the heart of human dignity and are an offence against all humanity; 'there exists, therefore, a right to defend oneself from terrorism'. However, this right cannot be exercised in the absence of moral and legal norms, because the struggle against terrorists must be carried out with respect for human rights and for the principles of a State ruled by law.
The identification of the guilty party must be duly proven, because criminal responsibility is always personal, and therefore cannot be extended to the religions, nations or ethnic groups to which the terrorists belong. International cooperation in the fight against terrorist activity 'cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations. It is essential that the use of force, even when necessary, be accompanied by a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks.'
Also needed is a particular commitment on the 'political and educational levels' in order to resolve, with courage and determination, the problems that in certain dramatic circumstances can foster terrorism: 'the recruitment of terrorists in fact is easier in situations where rights are trampled and injustices are tolerated over a long period of time'.
Work is the key to building a just society. This is why teachings about work and the rights and duties of workers and employers have been central to the teaching of the Church about social justice.
Pope John Paul II's 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens, or On Human Labour, is the most comprehensive Papal teaching document on work issues. The text can be accessed at
Catholic Welfare Australia is the peak body that represents the social welfare apostolate of the Catholic Church at the national level. It is a national Federation of Catholic social service organisations that operate in local communities. From July 2001 Catholic Welfare Australia replaced Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission and CatholicCare Australia .
War and Peace
There are two strands historically running through the Catholic Church's responses to questions on the use of force: what we would call today a 'pacifist' or non-violent tradition, and the 'just war' tradition.
Based on Gospel values and the experience of national and global violence, pacifism regards war as being unthinkable and not to be justified. The just war tradition, on the other hand, opposes the use of force for similar reasons, but concedes that engagement in war may be justified in certain circumstances, under strict moral conditions and only as a last resort, in order to protect the innocent or to restore justice. The case of East Timor is a perfect example.
It is also important to understand that the Church's teachings on war and peace have changed greatly over time and will continue to do so in response to new situations. The just war theory, which was formalised in the 5th Century by St Augustine, has continued to evolve as a moral framework for considering the changing nature and circumstances of conflict and, when it is acceptable, to engage in war as a response to aggression.
Today, questions have been raised about the adequacy of the 'just war' theory in responding to emerging forms of aggression which include ethnic cleansing and global terrorism. Would the suspected possession of weapons of mass destruction by so-called 'rogue' states constitute a certain threat or even an actual aggression that would justify the use of force? Could pre-emptive military action be justified?
Recent terrorist acts and the ensuing 'war on terror' may present challenges for aspects of this theory. But the strict moral requirements of this tradition continue to emphasise that war must remain a last resort and that peaceful and diplomatic means must be used to avoid it. In the Persian Gulf, the Church has called for the peaceful resolution of differences and stated that notions of 'preventive war' and 'pre-emptive strikes' do not belong to a definition of a just war and would not constitute a legitimate use of force.
Over the centuries the views of Christians on issues of war and peace have diverged widely. In the face of current world events, people hold many different opinions and views on circumstances surrounding the crisis in Iraq. We must respect the right of others to form their own conscientious views on this matter. As Christians and as Catholics, however, it is important that our views and our judgements on these world events are informed by Church teaching and the voice of Church leaders at this time.