Australian Greens seem to be a pretty hairy bunch. Cardinal George Pell has had a go at them before this, and now he is joined by nine other Australian bishops in the context of elections in New South Wales. Together, they have issued a document called The Green Agenda, the main purpose of which is to discourage Catholics from voting for the local Green party: two bishops have declined to sign the document, on the grounds that, in the words of one of them, “The bishops need to take great care regarding intervention in the political process”. It was OK to highlight “key issues of concern”, he thought; but said that he didn’t believe that “attacking a particular political party serves to highlight these issues in the most effective way”.
Well, I’m not so sure about that: if a party’s programme is so obviously anti-Catholic in its tendency (and one policy is to withdraw state funding from Catholic schools) why shouldn’t bishops say, or imply, that Catholics shouldn’t vote for them? Some Catholics, of course, think that Catholic schools, once they accept money from a government, are handing over some of their independence (I’m not entirely convinced they’re wrong): but Australian Greens also want to force religious schools, in the words of the bishops’ statement, “to employ teachers whose views, values and lifestyle are contrary to the religious traditions of these schools, and the hundreds of thousands of parents who send their children to them”. The real issue here, say the bishops, is religious freedom, “which in addition to private prayer and worship also means the right to live out our faith in the community”.
Australian Greens also want the decriminalisation of “personal drug use”; the bishops comment that “the use of non-therapeutic drugs damages health, life and communities and is an offence against human dignity”. The Australian Greens are also in favour of gay marriage; they want to deny medical practitioners the right of conscientious objection to participating in or being associated with the practice of abortion; and they want to introduce legislation to legalise euthanasia.
The bishops’ conclusion is that “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 conflicts are not superficial or inconsequential. They go to fundamental issues such as respect for all human life from conception to natural death. They attack religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Greens who are elected will bring a whole set of policies. You cannot pick and choose. They are not only concerned for the environment.”
In other words, don’t vote Green.
Should bishops “interfere” in this way? Well, I don’t myself see why not, when a party’s policies are so openly antipathetic to Catholic beliefs. That raises a question: what about our own Greens? Are they quite so upfront on such issues? And if they are, what do they actually say about them? If you look at the outline of English Green Party policies on their website, there’s nothing at all about any of this stuff: they’re against “botched privatisation schemes” in the NHS and in favour of “implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland”. They want to abolish prescription charges, re-introduce free eye tests and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available (if they mean podiatry, actually it is); they’re in favour of higher pensions and a fair deal for older people. They want a fair housing deal for all, to make it easier for people to get on the property ladder, to protect home-owners and to eradicate homelessness for good.
All perfectly defensible stuff, though possibly some of it is a bit impractical in straitened times: but certainly, there’s nothing there a Catholic voter need be deterred by. Have a look at this, too; it gives their publicly declared policies in more detail.
But is that sort of thing really all there is? Well, actually, no. Have a look at this, which emerged after a bit more digging; this is not on their main website (why not?): :
The Green Party is backing calls for an end to the ban on same-sex marriage in the UK and in other EU member states.
Britain’s two current Green MEPs – Caroline Lucas (South-East England) and Jean Lambert (London) – have said there should be marriage equality across the European Union.
Lucas said: “The Green Party is the only British political party that opposes the ban on same-sex civil marriage. We want marriage equality for LGBT couples.”
She added: “It is time same-sex marriage was agreed and recognised by all EU member states. Lesbian and gay married couples should be able to move freely around Europe and have their marriages recognised on exactly the same basis as heterosexual married couples.”
Or how about this?
Greens are concerned that women seeking an abortion who can afford to “go private” can receive a swifter, and hence medically safer, procedure. The Greens want to abolish the current law that requires the consent of two doctors for an abortion. The Greens believe appropriately qualified midwives and nurses should be able to perform abortions, with the aim of improving access to NHS facilities. Currently women seeking an abortion face waits of up to seven weeks, and nearly 10% of abortions are carried out privately.
So, is it possible to be a Green and also against abortion and gay marriage? Is it possible to be a Green and also a Catholic? Not in our politics, maybe: but Catholics are hardly against a clean and non-toxic environment. So, why are political greens so extremely (as they would claim) “progressive” over policies which aren’t, really, anything to do with the environment at all? As the Australian bishops say, in giving their advice on whether to vote for these people, “Greens who are elected will bring a whole set of policies. You cannot pick and choose. They are not only concerned with the environment.”
So, why is that? Has anyone any ideas? I’m stumped. And now our own English bishops know (anyone reading this might tell them, just in case they don’t read this column) exactly what you get if you vote Green in this country, will they say anything about it, before the next elections (local or national)? I’m sure they will. Surely. What do you think?