Karl du Fresne on Catholicism and New Zealand politics

via Wikimedia

…while we in New Zealand might view lingering religious prejudices [against Catholics] in other countries as rather quaint, there have been periods of religious tension in politics here too – especially in the early 20th century, when the Catholic Church in this country was led by bishops of Irish descent whose republican sympathies were at odds with staunchly pro-British governments.

Archbishop Francis Redwood and Dunedin’s Irish-born Bishop Patrick Moran were both outspoken supporters of Irish home rule – a cause energetically taken up by the Catholic newspaper The Tablet, which Moran founded.

The Irish issue famously caused political ructions when a priest named James Liston, later to become the long-serving and politically influential bishop of Auckland, was tried in 1922 on the rare charge of sedition. Liston had offended the government of William Massey, a Northern Ireland-born Protestant, by making a St Patrick’s Day speech in which he praised the IRA rebels behind the ill-fated Easter Rising of 1916. Ironically, he was acquitted by an all-Protestant jury.

None of that radical stuff is happening now, is it?   

And so we come to the present day, and the New Zealand Catholic bishops’ 2017 election statement, which was distributed to Mass attendees recently.

Dear me. What a wishy-washy, touchy-feely, hand-wringing document it is.

Under section headings such as “Fair Tax Structure”, “Affordable Housing” and “Caring for our planet” it largely parrots the position of the centre-Left parties. But it conspicuously stops short of any rigorous critical analysis, preferring to take refuge in facile generalisations and cosy platitudes.

It doesn’t come straight out and urge Catholics to vote for Labour or the Greens, but it might as well. In fact I would have more respect for the Catholic bishops if it did. At least they would then be nailing their colours to the mast openly and unequivocally, rather than disguising their soft-Left leanings behind coded signals.

That the statement was issued at all is telling. If I were a practising Catholic, I wouldn’t be impressed by the presumption that I relied on the bishops for guidance on how to vote – least of all when they appear to take the lazy option of suggesting Big Government can solve all our problems.

Will the bishops’ statement do anything to restore the flagging moral authority of the Church? I doubt it. But then I don’t think it will revive fears about Catholic leaders exerting too much influence either. Those days are long gone.

Do you need your religious leader to guide you on how to vote?  Have you ever voted because your religious leader told you to do so?


Karl du Fresne

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.