Bishop explains why Australians loathe politicians
Melbourne auxiliary Bishop Mark Coleridge has suggested that politicians are held in contempt because Australians feel increasingly excluded from the political process despite being more dependent on it than ever.
"Politics is not just treated with a healthy dose of Aussie suspicion of authority. There is something new in the quality of contempt with which many people regard politics and politicians," Catholic bishop Mark Coleridge told Victorian members of parliament yesterday.
"Our democracy grows thinner as the cleavage between people and politics grows wider."
The Australian's religious writer Jill Rowbotham reports that Christian politicians have a responsibility to show that politics was both "limited and necessary", he told a meeting of the Victorian Parliamentary Christian Fellowship.
Bishop Coleridge, 57, worked in the Vatican's Secretariat of State under the late pope John Paul II for five years, and is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which studies the interaction between faith and culture.
He said there seems to be a special kind of personal loathing some people reserved for leaders such as Prime Minister John Howard, US President George W. Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
He argued that one cause was professional electioneering, characterised by polls, focus groups and spin-doctoring.
"It is as if people hear from politicians only what they themselves have told the pollsters."
This leads to frustration and anger in people who wanted to hear "a plain speaking of the truth".
Bishop Coleridge said that it is a hopeless oversimplification to attempt to convey a political message in a seven-second sound bite, making it harder for people to engage with politics and aggravating a sense of alienation. He added that politicians are also placed at a disadvantage by many voters with unrealistic expectations of them, of politics and of the state, expecting them to do "more and more", and being disappointed and angry when they cannot.
Political double-talk breeds 'contempt' (The Australian 18/11/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Melbourne: Bishop Mark Coleridge
French bishops blame riots on politicians and economists (CathNews 14/11/05)
Bishops' task force to meet with Catholic politicians (Catholic News Service 16/11/05)
Bishops' Task Force to Meet With Lawmakers (Zenit 16/11/05)
18 Nov 2005