WA speaker raps Hickey

In a letter to Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey, WA Parliament Speaker Fred Riebeling says he accepts that there was no intention to threaten MPs over their cloning vote but warns that "improper interference" cannot be allowed.

The West Australian reports that the speaker of the West Australian parliament has strongly rebuked Archbishop Barry Hickey for suggesting there could be consequences for Catholic politicians who voted for stem cell research.

Archbishop Hickey was reported last week as saying WA's Catholic politicians supporting stem cell research should not take holy communion and may face excommunication.

The Archbishop later denied his comments were meant to threaten MPs.

WA's parliamentary speaker Fred Riebeling today tabled in parliament a letter he sent to Archbishop Hickey as chairman of the state parliamentary privileges committee.

Mr Riebeling notes that comments which threaten MPs may be considered contempt of parliament and punished by the committee.

"It is plain that improper interference with the performance of the duties of Members of Parliament cannot be allowed the occur," Mr Riebeling said.

"The committee considers that irrespective of whether the facts establish that a threat was indeed made, in this instance at least that impression was created."

But Mr Riebeling adds the committee accepts the Archbishop did not intend to threaten MPs and will not take further action.

He warns Archbishop Hickey any future remarks should not avoid suggestions of personal consequences for MPs.

Brennan defends Pell

Meanwhile, The Australian reports that ACU and Notre Dame lecturer Fr Frank Brennan has defended the interventions of clergy including Sydney Cardinal George Pell in debates such as the one over embryonic stem cell research.

Fr Brennan also singled out Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd and Health Minister Tony Abbott as exemplary Christian politicians.

In a paper to be delivered at the Uniting Church's Centre for Theology and Ministry, Fr Brennan reasserted "a rightly circumscribed place at the table for religion" in public deliberation about law and policy, and endorsed Cardinal Pell's right to speak out.

"When people like me agitate for native title or refugees, politicians tend to treat us as if we are trendy lefties, spared the need to be elected," Fr Brennan says.

"But when I, hoping to apply a consistent ethic for the protection of the vulnerable, raise ethical quandaries about legislation on things like embryonic stem cell research, I am labelled a conservative Catholic.

"Religion is one of the social and cultural foundations which can correct too ready a recourse to short-term, popular consequences whether the issue be war and peace, indigenous rights, refugee rights, stem cell research or the right to life of the vulnerable at either end of the life cycle."

Fr Brennan also praises Kevin Rudd as "a politician who takes religion seriously in the political process".

"We need more politicians like Rudd and Abbott who are prepared to enunciate a coherent political philosophy for a pluralist society while being inspired and held accountable by their religious understanding of the world," he says.

Jesuit priest raps cardinal's critics (The Australian, 15/6/07)
Perth Archbishop rebuked by parliamentary speaker (The West Australian, 15/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Barry Hickey (Wikipedia)
Cloning (Wikipedia)
George Pell (Wikipedia)
John Buggy, Threats do Church no favours, say reformists (The West Australian, 11/6/07)
Watershed week for church/state relations in Australia (ABC Religion Report, 13/6/07)

Pell sticks to stem cell guns (CathNews, 12/6/07)
WA parliament may reprimand Hickey (CathNews, 8/6/07)
Anglicans, Baptists back Pell (CathNews, 8/6/07)
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)

15 Jun 2007