Weekend Wrap for 17 May 2020

The military takes a small step towards secularising its pastoral services. Check out the new edition of the Weekend Wrap for that and a lot more secular news and views from across the country!

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of the latest news on current issues, is also published on our Facebook page!

At the National Level

The Navy is introducing secular ‘Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officers’ to better meet the pastoral care needs of non-religious service personnel, although officers in these roles will still have to wear a rank insignia that says ‘For God and country’ (Navy News).

A church that promoted a solution containing bleach as a cure for COVID-19 has been fined more than $150,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which ruled that the product presented a “serious health risks” (The New Daily).

The National Catholic Education Commission, headed by former Labor Senator Jacinta Collins, has welcomed the federal government’s announcement of an extra $10 million for non-government schools to spend on COVID-19 hygiene measures, such as the provision of soap and hand sanitiser (CathNews).

A new political party calling itself ‘The New Liberals’ and branding itself as socially progressive does not mention support for secularism on its website.

[One that we missed last week] With the Catholic Church already facing hundreds of civil claims by victims of clerical sex abuse, the royal commission's findings on what Cardinal Pell knew of the church's practices of shifting paedophiles to different parishes is likely to bolster the cases (SMH).

A petition started by a survivor of clergy abuse has received tens of thousands of signatures supporting his call for Cardinal George Pell to be defrocked (ABC).

Around the Country

WA: An expert committee tasked with overseeing the implementation of the state’s voluntary assisted dying (VAD) scheme says it is continuing to work via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic and maintains that a mid-2021 starting date for VAD is achievable (Yahoo).

QLD: With parliament scheduled to return, among the issues waiting to be debated are the banning of gay conversion therapy, the introduction of voluntary assisted dying and requirements for priests to report child abuse to state authorities (Brisbane Times).

QLD: Brisbane’s Catholic churches are opening to private prayer for up to 10 people following the new guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic, although the celebration of Mass continues to be suspended (Catholic Leader).

NSW: Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher has welcomed the opening of limited Masses under phase one of the easing of restrictions in New South Wales, adding that he hoped it “won’t be too long before we can celebrate Masses with larger congregations” (Catholic Weekly).

VIC: Notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale will spend at least another three years in jail after pleading guilty to 14 new offences committed against young boys, sometimes during Confession or while reading Bible passages, in the 1970s (ABC).

VIC: A Marist Brother who was a notorious abuser at high school where he was headmaster in the 1970s has been handed a seven-month sentence for assaults against five students (SMH).

WA: A Broome bishop who is the subject of separate investigations by police and the Vatican, including for alleged sexual misconduct, has bowed out of attending the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ABC).

Commentary and Analysis

Jane Lee takes a look at the history of federal government funding for religious schools in Australia and the 1980s High Court challenge to that arrangement on the grounds of the need for separation of church and state (ABC).

[One that we missed last week] In a scathing reply to a column by LGBTIQ rights advocate Rodney Croome, Senator Eric Abetz writes that religious freedom is vital to all Australians and denying it is “akin to denying freedom of thought and conscience” (The Advocate).

Farrah Tomazin charts the rise of Peter Comensoli to the position of Archbishop of Melbourne, where he remains “an elusive figure to many Catholics and a study in contrasts to the wider public" (SMH).

John Warhurst writes that the Catholic Church’s leadership in Australia needs to seize a “great moment of opportunity” to embark on internal reforms to change the institution's culture and increase transparency and accountability (John Menadue blog).

Richard Ackland notes how Cardinal George Pell’s media choir has fallen silent since the redacted sections of the royal commission’s report were released (The Saturday Paper).

A key reason George Pell is unlikely to face charges over royal commission findings is that mandatory reporting laws covering religious ministers didn’t exist in Victoria prior to 2014, writes Jessica Longbottom (ABC).

[One that we missed last week] Barney Zwartz argues that the royal commission’s finding will now define George Pell’s legacy as a sad one of shame and failure (SMH).

Dr Peter Beahan and Dr Richard Lugg identify why terminal sedation, often suggested as an alternative to voluntary assisted dying, is an inferior option for patients who are able to choose.

John Sandeman writes that progressive publications such as The Monthly need to start getting their facts right in the growing number of articles that are critical of Hillsong Church (Eternity News).

Warning that Christianity is in “very significant statistical decline in the West”, journalist at The Australian and author of ‘God is Good for You’ Greg Sheridan argues that Australian churches need to embrace their “weirdness” and accept their message as being “radical” (Eternity News).

Dr Enqi Weng and Dr John Harrison discuss the way the media reports on religion and presents religious voices in television shows such as Q&A (ABC).

Monica Doumit urges Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to focus on economic, health and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic instead of pursuing “radical social changes” such as voluntary assisted dying and the banning of gay conversion therapy (Catholic Weekly).

That's it for another week!

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