Melbourne Archbishop dumps pro-abortion speaker
Archbishop Denis Hart has cancelled Friday's Rerum Novarum lecture after Right to Life activists pointed out an oversight in an Archdiocesan agency's engagement of ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope, who holds pro-abortion views.
Stanhope was to give the annual Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace lecture, on the issue of a national Bill of Rights.
The author of the blog Credibility - an unnamed religious education teacher at a Melbourne Catholic secondary school - says that the Commission was "unaware of Stanhope's position on abortion and that they are geniunely shocked at the oversight".
"It looks like a legitimate stuff-up," he claims. "There is no reason to suspect any foul play on behalf of the CCJDP."
He said that the Archbishp was "justifiably furious" when he learned of Stanhope's invitation, and decided not to attend the event, which he subsequently cancelled.
"Several well-known Melbourne pro-lifers ... asked that Stanhope's invitation be recanted or - instead - have Stanhope debate Catholic ethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini."
The Herald-Sun reports today that Archbishop Hart said the issue of a Bill of Rights is worthy of public discussion, but it was clear Mr Stanhope's publicly expressed position on abortion would have been raised at the meeting.
"The church's teachings on sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn in particular are not matters for debate in a church sponsored lecture," he said. "I am obliged to ensure that there is no ambiguity or confusion in respect to the church's teachings on these matters.
"Rights cannot be seen as something that apply only from the point of birth and abortions cannot be justified by the notion of a right to make reproductive decisions without limitations or sanctions.
"I regret the late notice and any inconvenience that this may cause Mr Stanhope or those who had planned to be in attendance."
Mr Stanhope first attracted the opposition of Right to Life protesters in 2001 when he moved to overturn ACT laws that forced women considering an abortion to view pictures of foetuses before undergoing the procedure.
The Catholic News Agency has reported that many members of Australia's pro-life community think Mr Stanhope was an inappropriate choice for a speaker at a Catholic event due to his vocally pro-abortion stance.
ACT Right to Life Association executive director Jeremy Stuparich told the agency that Mr Stanhope's government had removed almost all restrictions on abortion from the statute books in the Australian Capital Territory and established a Bill of Rights that specifically excludes unborn children.
Previous speakers at the Rerum Novarum lecture on social justice have included former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and Former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Gerard Brennan.
'Pro choice' minister's speech cut (The Herald-Sun/Australian Associated Press 6/12/05)
Archdiocese won't abandon abortion speaker (Credibililty 3/12/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Melbourne Catholic Commission for Jursice, Development and Peace
Protestors target Melbourne Rerum Novarum lecture (CathNews 7/12/05)
Abortion is crime against society, says Pope Benedict (Catholic News Service 5/12/05)
Pope to Bishops: Make Everyone Understand the "Evil of the Crime of Abortion" (Lifesite News 5/12/05)
Conscience vote on abortion drug (The Age 6/12/05)
Australian pro-life groups protest pro-abortion speaker at Catholic justice event (Catholic News Agency 5/12/05)
Study shows each abortion may take the life of the child and mother (Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Perth 30/11/05)
7 Dec 2005