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The Most Reverend
by the Mercy of God
Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand
to the Priests and Deacons, my Fellow Ministers at the Altar,
to the Subdeacons, Religious, and to All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy,
A Pastoral Letter on the upcoming Federal Election 2016
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mat 22:21)
To cast a vote in a community election – local, state or federal – is both a right and a duty. It offers us, as Christians, an opportunity to shape the moral character of the society in which we live.
Today, we take voting almost for granted. Keep in mind that there are millions of people who not only do not have the right to vote, but have no say in the way in which they are governed.
The expression the separation of church and state is to be first found in the writings of English philosophers of the seventeenth century. These early commentators were concerned with protecting minority religious communities from the imposition of state religions, and creedal coercion by rulers with absolute power.
However, it was our Lord, Jesus Christ, who far earlier presented the most sensible arrangement when He answered the Pharisees, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt 22:21, Mk 12:17) In saying this, Jesus was reminding us that as members of a society, we have a mission to become involved in civic life and to contribute to the building up of that society in which we live. In the second century, Tertullian reminded the Christian Community that they are citizens of this world as well as the world to come.
There are probably few election issues that do not involve moral or ethical issues; and several matters that are being discussed for the forthcoming July 2 federal election deserve particular attention.
It is being proposed that, once the new parliament is in session, legislation would be introduced that, if passed, would revise the description of marriage as it appears in the 1961 Marriage Act. In this Act, marriage is defined as being “the union of a man to a woman to the exclusion of all others.”
This is the definition to which both the Catholic and Orthodox Apostolic Churches have adhered since their Institution on the first Pentecost Day.
Based upon the teachings of the Holy Scriptures (Cf. Gen 2:24; Mark 10:7: Matthew 19:15; Ephesians 5:31), the Apostolic Churches, the two lungs of the One Universal Church, as St. John Paul II described them, share the common faith and conviction that marriage between a man and a woman is a Sacrament – Holy Mystery – instituted by Christ. It mirrors the mystical union between Christ and the Church. (Eph 5:32)
Once marriage is re-defined as involving persons of the same sex, other possibilities immediately emerge - polygamy, as either polygyny or polyandry, is one immediate prospect. These possibilities, and more, are being seriously discussed and put forward in various places throughout the world. We can dismiss any or all of these proposals as the fantasizing of fringe individuals or lunatic pressure groups, but the simple truth is that once a definition is changed, it is soon opened up to anything and everything.
The One, Holy, Apostolic Church teaches and emphasizes the fact that the dignity of every person should be respected, and that we should dialogue with those who differ from us in their opinions and beliefs. Unlike some other ideologies and religions, Christians hold to the words of St John Chrysostom, “Christians above all people are forbidden to correct the stumblings of others by force.”
Yet, the Christian Community in Australia is beginning to face serious challenges. There is an open hostility towards religious education in schools, even those conducted by the Catholic Community. So called “faith schools” are seen as an obstacle in the way of those who seek to establish a single program, for ethics and values education, such as the “Safe School Coalition Program”. There is the distinct possibility that your child’s current education in Catholic Schools will be increasingly difficult to finance if government funding of schools becomes dependant on “co-operation” with non-Christian values education programs.
There is a thin edge of the wedge feel about this federal election. We have been put on notice. Re-definition of the Marriage Act of 1961 is only the surface issue, there is much more to come. It is highly probable that we will see considerable government pressure on the freedom to voice one’s opinion and to proclaim one’s personal religious belief.
We need to educate ourselves as to the particular ethical stance taken by all candidates for whom we are considering voting. In parliament, how would they deal with issues such as, same sex marriage, defense of the unborn, euthanasia and bio-ethical questions, measures to deal with domestic violence, school ethics programs, the legitimate rights of minorities, especially those persecuted throughout the world, preservation of the environment and infra-human life.
No one is telling you, or even advising you, on the party or politician for whom you should vote. What is being urged is prudence – the virtue of being careful. Before the election draws much closer, we should ask ourselves: what sort of society do I want for my children and grandchildren, and vote accordingly, keeping in mind the words of our Lord: “you cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)
We should keep in mind that some of the darkest periods in world history during the last one hundred years began with good, decent citizens of civilized, cultured nations, assuring each other, “Oh, it could never happen here.”
When we are teaching children to cross the road, we tell them, stop, look, listen, walk, do not run. There can be no better advice for us as we discern the path to take as voting citizens of this great Commonwealth.
With my paternal blessing, and with prayers assured,
Robert Rabbat, DD
From our Eparchy at Greenacre, NSW
9 June 2016
St Cyril of Alexandria