WA parliament may reprimand Hickey

The Western Australian parliament's privileges committee is to examine comments by Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey for allegedly threatening Catholic politicians if they vote in favour of stem cell legislation.

The Australian reports that Archbishop Hickey can expect a formal reprimand but is unlikely to be dragged before a privileges committee for allegedly threatening Catholic politicians if they voted for new stem cell legislation.

West Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty said it was "fundamental that you cannot threaten or intimidate a member of parliament as to the way in which they'll vote on a particular issue".

"I don't know whether His Grace intended it as a threat but to a Catholic, to be faced with the stated prospect of being denied the sacrament or excommunication is a very significant, heavy issue," Mr McGinty said.

Archbishop Hickey was reported this week saying politicians who supported the proposed law should not receive holy communion and excommunication was possible.

A spokesman for the Archbishop yesterday denied there was a threat. He said politicians had been "reminded" that the cloning of embryos for experimentation and destruction was not consistent with church teachings.

"Catholic MPs who voted for the bill would need to examine their conscience deeply about their relationship with the church and its teaching before subsequently presenting themselves for holy communion," the spokesman said.

"But if they presented, they would be presumed to be in good faith."

Legislative Assembly Speaker Fred Riebeling, who chairs the privileges committee, said yesterday's comments had helped to diffuse the issue. But he said it would still be referred to the committee when it meets on 20 June.

"That doesn't mean (the Archbishop) gets dragged before the committee," Mr Riebeling said.

"I would expect the response will be a letter to Archbishop Hickey saying that in this particular case he shouldn't have said what he said."

The Courier-Mail says that Archbishop Hickey came under fire after he reportedly said Catholics who did not condemn the cloning of human embryos for medical research were acting against the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Archbishop Hickey said such people should not go to communion and he may consider excommunication, but he would rather the issue be resolved voluntarily by the politicians themselves.

Archbishop faces rap over the knuckles (The Australian, 8/6/07)
Catholic archbishop's comments probed (Courier-Mail, 7/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney
Archdiocese of Perth
Cloning (Wikipedia)
Barry Hickey (Wikipedia)

Coast to coast controversy over stem cell vote (CathNews, 7/6/07)
Catholic pols defy stem cell communion threat (CathNews, 6/6/07)
Pell slams "open slather" for stem cell research (CathNews, 5/6/07)
Life office slams human "sub-class" Vic cloning law (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Hart confronts Bracks over cloning legislation (CathNews, 12/4/07)
Bracks defies Pope on cloning (CathNews, 19/3/07)
Archbishop Hart condemns cloning laws (CathNews, 14/3/07)
Christianity not driver in cloning vote: Garrett (CathNews, 19/12/06)
Christian opposition fails to stop cloning bill passage (CathNews, 7/12/06)
Late amendment puts cloning bill passage in doubt (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)
Don't lift ban on cloning, says Brennan (CathNews, 23/6/06)

8 Jun 2007