Chief Minister cries foul over axing by Archbishop

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has described a decision to withdraw his invitation to deliver tonight's cancelled Rerum Novarum lecture in Melbourne as an "attack on free speech".

CLICK HEREThe Herald-Sun reports that Archbishop Denis Hart cancelled the planned lecture to be given by Mr Stanhope on anti-terror laws and a bill of rights. The lecture had been organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for Justice, Development and Peace.

The axing followed complaints from pro-life activists, who objected to the engagement of a speaker who favours abortion. CathNews reported on Wednesday that the engagement of Mr Stanhope was considered an oversight.

Three years ago Mr Stanhope's Government decriminalised abortion. He recently said same-sex unions would be legalised in the territory.

Archbishop Hart initially revealed he would not be attending the lecture, but after further complaints he issued a ban on Tuesday.

"I am obliged to ensure that there is no ambiguity or confusion in respect to the Church's teachings on these matters," he stressed.

"The issue of the desirability otherwise of a Bill of Rights is a matter worthy of public discussion, as it is important that all in the community have a good understanding of the issues," he said. "However, it is clear from press reports that the Church's teachings on abortion and other life matters and Mr. Stanhope's publicly expressed opposition to them would have been raised at this meeting."

A spokeswoman for Mr Stanhope said that the Chief Minister was "very disappointed".

"He was speaking on anti-terrorism and a bill of rights, and would have been aware of the sensitivities of the audience," she said.

Commission for Justice Development and Peace chairman Peter Whiting did not return calls from the Herald-Sun, but the Archbishop Hart's media release on its website emphasised that the view that he 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".

"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 limitation or sanctions. I regret the late notice and any convenience that this may cause Mr. Stanhope or those who had planned to be in attendance."

Church bans MP's lecture (Herald-Sun 9/12/05)
Press Release: Most Reverend Denis J Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne (Word)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace

Melbourne Archbishop dumps pro-abortion speaker (CathNews 7/12/05)
Protestors target Melbourne Rerum Novarum lecture (CathNews 7/12/05)

Cancellation of the 2005 Rerum Novarum Lecture (Archdiocese of Melbourne 6/12/05)
Archbishop cancels speech by pro-abortion minister (Catholic News Agency 8/12/05)
Archbishop dumps pro-abortion Chief Minister (ABC Radio PM 7/12/05)
Archbishop cancels speech by pro-abortion minister (Catholic News Agency 7/12/05)

9 Dec 2005