Archbishop warns priests warned not to become pawns

Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart has refused to give his support to a charter protecting Melbourne's Catholic teachers from the federal industrial relations changes, despite the church's strong public criticism of the proposed laws.

The Age reports today that Archbishop Hart has written to the Catholic parish priests who run Melbourne's 300 Catholic schools with his "strong advice" not to sign the charter.

The Victorian Independent Education Union has asked schools to sign a charter that would guarantee they will not use the industrial changes to reduce wages and conditions, and force teachers on to individual contracts.

But in a memo sent to priests on 21 September, Archbishop Hart says that teachers are already protected by an industrial agreement. He urges priests to wait until the legislation is tabled, and there is an official church response.

"Advocates have been publicly seeking the support of churches and community groups for their position," he says in the memo seen by The Age. "We need to ensure we are not used as a pawn in this debate."

Archbishop Hart said yesterday it was "better to wait and see what was proposed, rather than to react too hastily when things are not quite clear".

"We're not wanting to rush into a hasty reaction, because that may be unfair to all parties concerned," he said.

Archbishop Hart said Catholic schools had a good track record as employers. "We value people and we are going to continue to do that," he said.

Tony Keenan, the head of the independent teachers union, said he could not understand Archbishop Hart's position. "It just seems unnecessarily nervous, and will create an enormous amount of anxiety in Catholic schools," Mr Keenan said.

He said many country Victorian Catholic schools outside the Melbourne archdiocese had signed the charter, while a handful had done so in Melbourne in defiance of the Archbishop's position.

Priests warned not to become pawns (The Age 14/10/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Melbourne
Victorian Independent Education Union

Papal twist in Parliament work debate (CathNews 12/10/05)
Govt IR detail fails to ease Commission's concern (CathNews 11/10/05)
Church body open to national industrial relations system (CathNews 12/9/05)
Church body slams IR policy proposals (CathNews 9/9/05)
Bishop urges Govt to tread softly on IR (CathNews 2/9/05)
Minister says full employment is Catholic "first principle" (CathNews 19/8/05)
Remote area voice sees PM 'off target' on IR (CathNews 12/8/05)
Commission answers PM's denial of existence of Catholic position (CathNews 10/8/05)
PM dismisses voice of Church (CathNews 8/8/05)
Melbourne Archbishop coordinating IR response (CathNews 3/8/05)
Minister tells churches to stay out of IR fight (CathNews 11/7/05)
Pell voices wages concerns (CathNews 4/7/05)
Canberra bishop speaks out on job insecurity fears (CathNews 1/7/04)
Church leaders worried about Howard IR changes (CathNews 29/6/05)
Bishop hits back at Minister's claims on IR reforms 1/6/05)
Catholic body seeks meeting with Minister over workplace laws (CathNews 30/5/05)

Anglican, Catholic clergy echo concerns for low-paid workers (Canberra Times 12/10/05)

14 Oct 2005