In the entire history of American politics there has only been one Catholic president and that was John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy arose to become the Democrat nominee for presidential office, he came under immense suspicion from Protestant America, and was forced to make a public speech supporting the separation of church and state. The fear was that Kennedy would be little more than a Vatican puppet and America would come to be ruled by the Pope. Here is Kennedy’s famous Houston speech:
The great oddity is that in the case of Australia, no such questions have ever been asked of Tony Abbott, who was not merely born into Catholicism like Kennedy, but went so far as to actively train for the Roman Catholic priesthood. It is doubtful that anyone who had trained for Catholic priesthood would ever get elected as president in the US. To quote the Sydney Morning Herald:
Tony Abbott was recently quoted as saying that Pell was “a person of significance and influence” in his life. “Occasionally, he will ring me with a thought,” the politician continued. “Occasionally, I will ring him to ask if we could catch up. Once or twice I’ve sought his counsel on important matters where I thought he would have insight and wisdom I didn’t think others would likely have.” Pell tells me he and Abbott have been friends for years. “I admire him as a very decent and competent fellow,” the cardinal says…. Pell and Abbott have a special bond. Both were close to the late anti-communist Catholic political activist B. A. Santamaria…[A]nother Pell-watcher, author Thomas Keneally, says, “I rather fear the alliance between [Pell] and Abbott, who is in a way the disciple.”
Never has anyone demanded of Abbott to publicly profess his support for the separation of church and state, to ensure that the capital of Australia has not been surreptitiously transferred to the Vatican. It is clear that this is important unless Australia is to become a theocracy, since already, the climate change policy of the Liberal Party, which under John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull supported carbon pricing, has taken on an astonishingly similarity to those of Cardinal Pell, unofficial head of the Catholic Church in Australia:
I quote from Pell:
Recently Robert Manne, following fashionable opinion, wrote that “the science is truly settled” on the fundamental theory of climate change: global warming is happening; it is primarily caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and it is certain to have profound effects in the future.
These fundamentals are distinct, he acknowledges, from scores of other different questions. The author is secure in these fundamentals, dismayed and embarrassed by those who cannot make these distinctions especially as “the future of the Earth and of humanity are at stake.” Opponents are accused of “ideological prejudice and intellectual muddle.”
His appeal is to the “consensual view among qualified scientists.” This is a category error, scientifically and philosophically. In fact, it is also a cop-out, a way of avoiding the basic issues.
What is important and what needs to be examined by lay people as well as scientists is the evidence and argumentation which are adduced to back any consensus. The basic issue is not whether the science is settled but whether the evidence and explanations are adequate in that paradigm.
The complacent appeal to scientific consensus is simply one more appeal to authority, quite inappropriate in science or philosophy. Thomas Aquinas pointed this out long ago explaining that “the argument from authority based on human reason” is the weakest form of argument, always liable to logical refutation.
Pell sums his position up by stating the anthropogenic climate change is the “mythology” (sic) of the Godless:
The immense financial costs true-believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences. Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots. … To the religionless and spiritually rootless, mythology – whether comforting or discomforting – can be magnetically, even pathologically, attractive.
In other words, climate change is the Faith of the Godless and only the Godless could believe in such heretical “mythology”. True Catholic Faithful must believe in God and the Pope instead of climate change scientists. Little wonder the Catholics in the Liberal Party today are trying so hard to save their souls by eliminating carbon pricing. They are understandably more worried about exposure to excessive “heat” in the eternal afterlife:
‘An Angel Leading a Soul into Hell’ by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, 16th century
This raises the simple question as to whether the climate change policy of Australia is being dictated by the Catholic Church rather than by either science or democracy. Cardinal Pell clearly has direct access to the prime ministerial ear, and it is Pell and the Catholic Church—not the people of Australia—who influences Abbott first and foremost. To add to the suspicion, the current cabinet is loaded with private school Catholics:
Whereas only 25% of Australians identify as Catholic, a dramatic 47% of members of cabinet are Catholic. That is a simply extraordinary statistic—one impossible to dismiss as mere coincidence.
This is not the first time in history that a politicised version of reactionary Catholicism has driven the agenda of the political extreme right. Indeed, Hitler himself was Catholic, as were Mussolini, Franco and the Croatian fascist Ustaše. I quote from The Oxford Handbook of Fascism:
The first fascist movement to come to power, Italian fascism, did so in a country that was 99 per cent Catholic and the seat of the papacy, and ‘clerical fascist’ movements came to power in another two overwhelmingly Catholic countries, the first Slovak Republic and the Croatian Independent State. Fascist movements and regimes in other European countries also entered into relations with the Roman Catholic Church, and in broader terms, many Catholics, individually and collectively, were closely involved with fascist movements and regimes in the inter-war years.
Adolf Hitler to General Gerhard Engel, 1941: “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.”
This is not to suggest anything so hysterical to the effect that the Liberal Party is now the Australian Nazi Party or that Tony Abbott is Hitler—that would be nothing more than childish mudslinging. Nor am I suggesting that the Catholic Church is necessarily a fascist institute. The catastrophe that the NSDAP engendered was the structural product of a whole series of historical events that coincided, including WWI, the Great Depression, the Treaty of Versailles, a series of catastrophic defeats on the Eastern front etc. Without the supportive set of structural circumstances, ideology alone is probably insufficient to precipitate such an extreme phenomenon. In any case, nearly all but a tiny minority of far-right parties staunchly dissociate themselves from National Socialism, which they almost universally vehemently denounce.
However, the Australian Liberal Party today have lurched far to the right of other mainstream centre-right parties around the world e.g. the British Conservative Party, the National Party of New Zealand, the German Christian Democrats, the French UMP, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, and arguably even the Republican Party in the US. The immigration policy of the Liberal Party more resembles that of the far-right British National Party than that of the British Conservatives. Likewise, the ultra right French Front National’s policies echo those of the Australian Liberals. The sort of immigration policies pushed by the Liberal government earned them the rightful admiration of Anders Breivik.
The criticism of the Liberals for having swung far to the right, to a position even more right-wing than even that of John Howard, is something that even former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, finds extremely objectionable. The Liberal Party of Australia was never meant to be a far right Catholic reactionary movement, but today it finds itself straying away from classical moderate liberal conservatism towards the enactment of an irrational ideologically driven reactionary agenda reminiscent of the New Guard. Indeed, the Liberal Party today finds itself hardly more “liberal” than the National Socialists were “socialist”.