MP apologises to 'harlot' church leaders

A senior South Australian state MP has apologised for calling Adelaide Archbishop Phillip Wilson and Vicar General Monsignor David Cappo "political harlots and goons".

The Australian reports that he maintains that the church is compromised by its close ties with the state Government.

Retiring Liberal MP Julian Stefani (pictured), a Catholic, also said the church leadership was naive and entrapped by the Rann Government for accepting its sponsorship and hospitality five weeks out from a state election.

"But if I've offended anybody by my comments, I apologise," Mr Stefani said yesterday.

Last year, Premier Mike Rann appointed Monsignor Cappo as Australia's first non-government, non-elected member of the executive committee of a state government cabinet, along with mining tycoon Robert Champion de Crespigny.

Mr Stefani's outburst was triggered after he learned the church accepted $10,000 in sponsorship from Mental Health Minister Carmel Zollo for next week's World Day of the Sick international three-day Catholic conference in Adelaide.

The archbishop also issued a joint invitation with Ms Zollo and Health Minister John Hill for a lavish civic reception for international Catholic dignitaries at a five-star hotel.

The Government will pay the $5000 tab.

Deputy Premier Kevin Foley dismissed suggestions that the Government was too close to the Catholic church.

"There is not a close association, other than what is appropriate and normal, between the Christian churches and this Government," Mr Foley said.

"I'm a Catholic and I'm offended."

Mr Foley also defended Monsignor Cappo's role on the cabinet executive committee and as head of the Government's Social Inclusion Board.

"One person has been asked to do voluntary work for this Government and for that he somehow becomes the subject of political debate," Mr Foley said.

A spokeswoman for the Adelaide Archdiocese said the archbishop and the vicar-general would not comment on the matter.

Opposition Leader Rob Kerin, who is also a Catholic, said the Liberal Party did not share or endorse Mr Stefani's views. But he said the Liberal Party's policy was to scrap Monsignor Cappo's position on the executive committee, along with that of Mr deCrespigny.

'Harlot' church chiefs get apology (The Australian 2/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Day of the Sick
Julian Stefani

Church "drawn into politics" by accepting Govt hospitality (CathNews 1/2/06)
Wollongong priest to link mental health with human dignity (CathNews 24/1/06)
Personalities aid World Day of Sick mental illness focus (CathNews 9/1/06)
Pope announces mental health focus for Adelaide World Day of Sick (CathNews 9/12/05)
Adelaide to host World Day of the Sick (CathNews 30/9/05)
Cameroon hosting today's World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/05)
Lourdes celebrates World Day of the Sick (CathNews 10/2/04)
Call for better community care for aged on World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/03)

Church-State links in SA questioned (ABC Radio The World Today 1/2/06)
Stefani sorry for church 'insult' (The Advertiser 2/2/06)

2 Feb 2006