Cardinal Pell’s day in court

Cardinal Pell says he looks forward to his day in court. He believes he’s innocent and considers truth will prevail. He expects a speedy resolution and acquittal. Naive.

This naivety and the belief that truth will set him free is typical of some of his dealings with the Royal Commission. In those cases, his adherence to truth actually did him no favours. While lesser men would have embellished their evidence with feigned regret; embroidered their feelings or motivations in the past, Pell was brutally honest about himself, e.g. “It (stories of priests molesting children) was not something that attracted my attention.” Commentators never gave him credit for his utter devotion to the truth despite it making him appear aloof, callous, cold and lacking empathy.

But again, Pell thinks that his devotion to the truth will spare him. It’s not that simple!

The forces that have been chasing the Church (with good justification, one might add) for many years, are not interested in truth anymore, though they may feign sympathy for victims. In fact, the causes of the victims are part of a much bigger agenda.

Pell seems to be assuming that the reason that these charges have been raised are because the victims are mistaken or they are lying. In either case he seems to think that it is just a matter for him to refute the accusations, speak the truth and all will be settled; case closed!

Are those behind these accusations – not the victims but those who are promoting them – going to settle for Pell’s truth? Establishing truth after twenty, forty, fifty years is far from simple and they know that. They don’t need to find the truth, just undermine trust in Pell’s testimony. They don’t even need to challenge the content of Pell’s testimony, just the way he presents it. They really only need to show Pell’s indifference to the victims and they will have won. Besides that, they will be happy for the truth to be obscured, to be tainted with ambiguity, insinuation, to be muddied by subtle half-truths and inferences. They haven’t come thus far to fail. They will have plenty of cards to play and a few aces up their sleeves. They don’t intend to lose now.


Margaret Court’s comments provoke predictable responses

I don’t think much of what Margaret Court has been saying lately, but my earlier blog predicted the reaction to it (21/9/2016.) You can’t express an opinion on some subjects without invoking a fury of indignation and reprisals. Her opinions are out of the mainstream now but they were well inside the mainstream when she was a champion tennis player. I applaud her for sticking her neck out.

In this world, people have beliefs based on what they have been taught or grown up with. Other people have newer, more fashionable ideas. Who’s right? Are we making progress or going around in circles? Once we took half-caste children from their mothers and took children from their unmarried mothers. We thought it right then, but we think it wrong now no matter how unsuitable the parents prove to be.

It’s a very strange world today in many ways. In recent times you have seen the anguish of victims of molestation at the hands of Catholic clergy and other institutional abuse – young people put into harms way by the institutions that were supposed to protect them. But if someone would now question the right of gay couples to adopt children they would be hounded down as homophobic! They would be the worst kind of bigoted, narrow minded, reactionary troglodytes.

Recently my employer’s homepage was actively promoting a gay male couple who were raising a pair of boys. Of course, a pair of loving gay men can raise two boys without harming them, but then we once thought that priests were beyond reproach, too.

Today, people have the right to live their lives fairly freely without the law interfering. Consenting adults can do anything, which is the way it should be. But children, who gives consent for them? Why is it always children that we choose to experiment with?


The Evolution of Australian Democracy to a higher level

So, here’s the plan thus far. We want to be a republic, but we don’t want to risk getting some Donald Trump or political hack as our president. The current system has served us well because the Queen is not elected, is perfectly respectable and represents a form of ideal, while the Governor-General is above politics and has to live up to this ideal. So, if we take the Queen out of the equation what can we insert that achieves this ideal state? My answer is to retain the ideals but remove the actual, real person. This virtual president would be a new section of the constitution and would retain all of the good features of the Queen while giving Australia a bridge to a republic. I see it as the evolution of democracy to a higher level.

What then would be the ideals and principles of the virtual president? Here are my suggestions.

  1. To uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia
  2. To be dedicated to truth
  3. To uphold the equality of all people, regardless of their background or circumstances
  4. To respect the unique value of the original inhabitants of our continent and of their descendants
  5. To preserve the environment that we share and attribute to it its true value
  6. To move toward perfecting a harmonious society through laws that respect the rights and freedoms of individuals
  7. Uphold the freedom of the press to report in the best interests of the people
  8. Uphold people’s basic right to freedom of thought and belief
  9. Uphold people’s basic right to freedom of truthful expression
  10. Uphold people’s right to assemble and express their views whether in public or private.
  11. Ensure that people under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth are free from torture, cruelty and punishments incompatible with humanity
  12. Ensure the rights of all the people of the nation to the basics of life: food, clothing and shelter.

Something missing in the Islam debate

Forty-nine percent of Australians may support a ban on Muslim immigration (Essential poll). Several responses from Muslim writers have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Mariam Veiszadeh (SMH, 22/9/2016) “felt sick in the gut” when she read about it. She has established an Islamophobia register to track anti-Muslim sentiment. She blames Pauline Hanson. Husnia Underabi also points to Pauline Hanson. Keysar Trad blames Hanson and some other politicians, like Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Jacqui Lambie for fanning Islamophobia. Yusra Metwally (SMH, 23/9/2016) also points to Hanson, John Howard, Peter Dutton, Sonia Kruger and the poll itself.

So what’s missing? It seems that Islamophobia (whatever that is) is a creation of non-Muslim politicians. If this “irrational” fear of Muslims is created by all of these people it would be a terrible shame.

It obviously has nothing to do with the Lindt Cafe siege, the death of  Curtis Cheng, the stabbing of police in Victoria, the arrests of numerous young Muslim men planning terrorist activity and the hundreds of young Australian Muslims fighting with the abhorrent Islamic State?

It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Muslim clerics own hate-speeches in various mosques over the last fifteen years. It couldn’t have anything to do with the years of watching the Islamic world tearing itself apart and creating millions of Muslim refugees.

After all, there is no way that any Muslim could possibly have done anything to create the shift in public opinion. It must be someone else’s fault. It always is.

Unwarranted pressure

I feel pressured by those promoting marriage equality. I find their arguments are fallacious and their attitudes condescending, intolerant and judgmental. One argument is the government should change the law to allow people to live with the person they love. That is not the issue. In Australia today people are free to be with and live with whoever they want. There is no law against it.

I am getting the feeling that those proposing “marriage equality” are merely trying to divide the country. They seem intent on labelling those who would not immediately jump on the bandwagon, changing thousands of years of tradition, as being homophobic and bigoted. Even starting a discussion is enough to get one attacked by the head-shakers.

So I have come to the conclusion that the only reason there are so many people pushing this issue is not actual concern for gay people in relationships but rather a way to get in the face of religious leaders and conservative politicians. This issue-of-the-day will one day be replaced by some other issue that serves the same purpose when it suits them. Their aim is to undermine the establishment by whatever means they can find.

Let’s just revisit the matter of marriage laws. Marriage laws were enacted only within the past 500 years or so, to regularise practices that had existed in tradition and religious observance for thousands of years. Those traditions and ceremonies were exclusively related to man-woman relationships. Any exceptions are so rare and short-term as to be irrelevant.

Civil marriage laws became necessary because of several things, mainly the inequality of wealth and power of men and women, legitimacy of offspring, succession and inheritance of titles and wealth and the division of wealth at the time of divorce. Little of this, aside from divorce, is relevant to same-sex relationships.

Those arguing for same-sex marriage are therefore saying that we should overturn thousands of years of traditions, to change what was exclusively man-woman to include man-man and woman-woman relationships under the label of “marriage equality.” I’m all for equality, but we must always acknowledge that while we may wish for equality some things can never be “the same.” A homosexual relationship is not the same as a heterosexual relationship. There is no pretending that they are the same. Heterosexual relationships result in babies in most cases. Babies come from heterosexual relationships in all cases. Without wanting to sound elitist that is a big difference.

So, if not the same, where does “equality” come in? One argument I heard concerned the wish to use the term “next of kin” after a long-term relationship. If so, we can change whatever law concerns “next of kin.” In recent years, many laws have been changed to ensure that partners in same-sex de-facto relationships have equal rights to hetero relationships, whether or not de-facto or official.

Some heterosexual relationships never proceed to marriage. The partners choose not to go through the bother of a ceremony. They live together, have children and continue their lives. What is different to a traditional marriage? Not much.

So my unfortunate opinion is that we are all being taken for a ride by those who seek to undermine society as we know it and that those gay couples who impose on their relationships the rules of marriage are wasting their time.

Pauline Hanson’s views

The facts

Let’s get some facts as context around what Pauline Hanson has said.

  • Firstly, there are terrorists, intended terrorists, terrorist financers and recruiters of terrorists in Australia.
  • Secondly, they are Muslims.
  • Thirdly, people have died in Australia because of these Muslim extremists.
  • Fourthly, the recruiting of Jihadists has happened in Australia in Muslim institutions and mosques.
  • Lastly, most of those Muslims came to Australia within the last generation fleeing trouble created by other Muslims.

These are facts and they point to a need to deal with this growing problem.

The response

We do have measures trying to deal with it. We do have intelligence services monitoring individuals and groups and police arresting and prosecuting individuals who attempt to get involved in terrorist activities. And we do have policies to counter radicalisation. In spite of such elaborate measures there are still deaths each year and attacks, planned attacks and thwarted attacks.

Ms Hanson

In light of these facts, Pauline Hanson has advocated a halt to Muslim migration, monitoring of Mosques and a ban on new Mosques. She wants to have a Royal Commission.

These policies seem like very targeted responses to counter the causes of this rising problem afflicting the whole world. They have been widely derided by most people and provoked a chorus of hateful vindictiveness by some.

Suppose it weren’t terrorism we were talking about. Suppose we were talking about an infectious  disease. Public health authorities would suggest restricting movement of people from the source countries of the infection, monitoring those who have already arrived and quarantining and treating any outbreaks. Sound familiar?

Support for Muslims

So why do people dismiss out of hand someone voicing what, based on facts, might seem legitimate concerns?

Most of us have Muslim neighbours, workmates, friends or associates. We like these people and we don’t like them to be picked on. Most of us also know that Ms Hanson’s comments have the potential to stir up hatred and that bad things can happen when hatred is given licence to be vented. Her opponents want to suppress the voice of the people who voted for her; they want to deny those people a voice because they don’t like what they say.

The irony

However, there is an irony in the response. The irony is that the Muslim apologists always point out that it is a small minority of Muslims who get involved in terrorist activities so we should pay no attention to them. Why can’t the rest of Australia respond by saying, well it’s just a small minority who support Hanson; don’t pay any attention to them. Another irony is that many people see the very basis of Islam (the Koran) is what gives Muslims licence to use violence. Here is the third irony, the reason we (including those atheist left socialists) revolt against Ms Hanson’s statements, is Christianity.   The atheist left socialists who defend Islam are expressing the key principles of Christianity (based on love, sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation) instilled in our society for two millennia and yet they despise Christianity. The other irony is that the right-wing conservatives who often attach Christian principles to their policies are acting more like the Pharisees.

The labels

Ms Hanson is labelled an Islamophobic racist. For many, that is the end of the story. But does racism apply to disliking a belief system? Is Islamophobia (unreasonable fear of Islam) a correct label when there are daily examples in Australia and around the world where the fear is justified and not unreasonable. Terror is a synonym of fear so we should be careful  to put cause and effect in the right order. Fear of terror is not unreasonable. While the vast majority of Australian Muslims are peace-loving is there still not a big question over whether to expand the size of that minority? Most of the Muslims in Australia fled conflict in their Muslim homelands. Doesn’t that say something? Why does the ‘religion of peace’ perpetually breed conflict? Aren’t the small minority of radicals actually justifying their actions on the basis of what is written in the Koran? Have those who defend Muslims ever read the Koran?

The Pope’s call to war

To digress, consider this scenario. The Pope has just issued a new encyclical to be followed by all Catholics under pain of death.

  • In it he addresses Catholic men (referring to women only in the third person) and states that Catholics should not associate with non-Catholics. God does not love non-Catholics. The father Abraham was a Catholic.
  • All Catholic women are to be the possessions of their Catholic husbands who can have many wives and can beat them if they try to leave.
  • The Pope exhorts Catholics to fight. Catholics fight for God while everyone else fights for the Devil. Catholics shouldn’t fight other Catholics but if they kill another then they must release one of their slaves.
  • Thieves are to have their hands cut off. Non-Catholics can have their heads and fingertips cut off. They will be allowed a few months to convert to being Catholics but after that they are fair game.
  • The Pope particularly picks on Muslims, quoting (with some minor changes) parts of the Koran to justify the fact that God is particularly disgusted by Muslims. He retells the story of Mohammed but changes the facts so that Mohammed appears quite a trivial, inconsequential person and besides, he was actually a Catholic anyway.
  • In addition, all Catholic women must wear leotards or jumpsuits and have their hair teased, something the Pope saw on Italian TV and admired.
  • The Pope also states that Catholics cannot eat vegetables that are brown or yellow and the meat of animals that eat brown or yellow is also against the faith. To avoid accidentally consuming such food all Catholics must eat only certified food, and the funds from certification are to be paid back to the Pope.
  • The rest of the encyclical is some poetry the Pope has composed that has to be read in Latin to be truly appreciated.
  • All Catholics schools must teach the encyclical and Catholics must recite it over and over.

Oops, … it’s actually the Koran!

Looks like the Pope picked up the wrong book! Such an absurd encyclical will never happen, but the Koran and Muslim law say all these types of things!  Some will retort, “What about the Crusades? What about the Inquisition?”

But this is today. Just consider the furore, the uproar, around the world by all non-Catholics if the Pope released such a hateful doctrine.

We often hear people claiming that, just because the vast majority of Muslims are lovely, wonderful people, that any criticism of Islam is just Islamophobia, but while ever the Koran exists as the basis of Islam there will be those who will take it (not twisting it in any way) and use it to radicalise the young. And there will always be trouble as a result. The first violent spread of Islam in the 7th Century AD is testament to what can happen when religious zeal and militarism combine. The second spread of violent Islam is just beginning and it doesn’t deserve to be assisted by well meaning do-gooders.

Same-sex marriage

No one wants to be seen to be against same-sex marriage. That’s the main reason why I say I’m in favour of it. But, in fact, I can see only two good reasons why we should introduce same-sex marriage – because it will make people happy and it will stop all this nonsense about it. To give those people whose preferred partner in life is of the same sex a feeling of acceptance and legitimacy is surely worthwhile.  This is the sentimental argument.

But does it really warrant a change in the law? The only argument about gay marriage that stands up to scrutiny is basically the sentimental one, because if you get away from the emotional argument there is no real justification for the government to pass laws that extend marriage laws to encompass same-sex unions.

The first thing a lawmaker would want to be sure of when passing a law is whether it is necessary, and you can easily argue that there is no need for a government to have laws about how people live their lives in their own homes and with people they love. This is one area in which we have very few laws for good reason.

Laws restrict what we can do.

Try to think of any law that permits behaviour or gives freedom. Any spring to mind? Come on. there must be one! Actually, no. Normally we start with freedom and then we pass laws to restrict it. Today, people have the right to live their lives freely with whoever they like precisely because we removed discriminatory laws. There were laws about gay relationships fifty years ago, and they were not very nice. Thankfully they have been removed. The justification for removing those laws was that the law should not interfere in people’s private lives. The same applies today. People can live their lives freely without any laws, what purpose do the laws play?

But we do have laws for heterosexual marriage. If there is no need for laws about gay marriage why do we have marriage laws at all? Good question, and in fact, many young couples eschew actual marriage and just live and have children with their sexual partner. That choice has become possible  because the original factors that led governments to make marriage laws are often no longer relevant.

I was reading about marriage laws and they have been around for a few hundred years. Before that, people did not have legally enforcing state laws about marriage but they did have traditional ceremonies to celebrate unions and people were expected to abide by their choice and generally stay with their chosen partner. In those days, women had little power, and went from being dependent on their families to being dependent on their husband. With no power of their own, women were given by their family to another family and their original family wanted some assurance that their daughter was to be looked after. It was the inequality of power that made traditional marriage such an important ceremony. Marriages were a key part of maintaining social coherence by the continuation of family lines through legitimate children and subsequent inheritance of wealth and titles.

Every ancient society had marriage ceremonies but there were never any gay marriage ceremonies. They would have been pointless. The fairly recent laws about marriage merely codified what society had been doing for years. But the laws don’t mention anything about love – far from it.

The main reasons for laws around marriage were because of the inequality of power  between the sexes,  the legitimacy of offspring and the inheritance of wealth and titles and divorce.

So the basis for supporting gay marriage laws is very tenuous. The first two reasons are completely irrelevant. If the sexes are the same then the sexes are equal; if the sexes are the same then there are no offspring; if there are no offspring then legitimacy is not a question and the inheritance of wealth and titles is likewise redundant. Of course, there is divorce. You can see that serves a purpose for the division of community property. So the only non-sentimental reason for gay marriage laws is divorce. Is that what people are fighting for? Ask Stephen Fry whether his recent marriage had a prenuptial agreement and you will see how the last surviving valid reason also falls.

One argument is that marriage laws that exclude gay marriage are unfair and discriminatory. This argument is also fallacious. I may have a licence for my dog but I can’t have a licence for my cat . Is this discriminating against cats? Since no one is stopping gay people living together, is a law that binds them together legally relevant?

So my unfortunate opinion is that gay marriage legislation is pointless and an unnecessary restriction on the lives of gay people who choose to undertake it. In ten or twenty years from now there will be no gay marriages because those undertaking them will realise that they are really taking on the burden of regulating their lives according to a set of rules designed for other people in other circumstances with no relevance for their own lives.