September 9th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: A way out of the debt trap

COVER STORY: Inside the World Economic Forum

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Petrol prices puncture GST optimism

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Radical groups organised for Forum protests

Straws in the Wind

LABOR PARTY: New book, old view of ALP



DOCUMENTATION: “I’ve always felt like an IVF guinea pig”

MODERN ART: “Anything goes”: gallery

Milk: will wheat be next?

EAST TIMOR: Rebuilding East Timor

'Kursk' disaster timely reminder to next US President

As the World Turns

LITERATURE: The magic of Harry Potter

BOOKS: The triumph of spin over substance

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Straws in the Wind

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, September 9, 2000
Putting the Catholics back in their place

“Catholic dogs jump like frogs, etc.” was one of those unbelievably witty chants that State School boys used to trot out, when especially bored. Little did we know that a few streets away, other bored boys, from the Catholic School, might be heard intoning the same, except that it was we Proddies who were the dogs or the frogs.

Fact was, both groups of children lived in total ignorance of what each other believed, or why — or what the other did that was supposed to make the vital difference between us.


Just one of dear old England’s gifts to the new colony — their conflicts; as well as some other parts of their history. It should have been double-Dutch to us, with we Australians bent upon creating a new society and a national ethic — with none of the shabby, spiteful disputes of Britain or Europe as part of our dowry. But we found ourselves lumbered with a slowly dying religious sectarianism; happily on the way to extinction by the end of World War II.

The Cold War, the accompanying ructions in the Labor Party, and Vietnam, stirred the sectarian possum again, for some, but it was soon over. And when new migrants would try to reproduce religious or ethnic quarrels here, they found their new country disapproving. We wanted none of it.

Which is why most Australians are flummoxed, to say the least, by the reappearance of religious sectarianism, among some politicians, large parts of the media and the odd cleric. Some of this sectarianism is by innuendo, but a lot of it is pretty direct. And, not coming from the ignorant workers and redneck farmers so beloved of The Age and the ABC; for this is New Class stuff.

That is, the people who seek out and denounce racism, anti-Semitism, sexism in all their forms and, what is more, get legislation enacted and punitive bodies established to help them in their ceaseless efforts to stamp out prejudice. But now they have reintroduced religious and, in some cases, anti-religious prejudice into our social milieu. Principally, anti-Catholicism.

For example, in the ongoing debate as to whether IVF facilities should be extended to lesbians and single women, our ever-vulgar media has been searching the lists of MPs, and relevant senior union leaders, to discover how they are likely to vote and whether they are Catholics.

If they signal that they are likely to support Mr Howard’s Bill to allow the states to regain legislative control over this area (a control lost under a recent Federal Court judgement) or that they just favour this Bill, while not necessarily intending to vote for it, and they are non-Liberal MPs, or union leaders, then they must be Catholics. And ... not sotto voce, we know what Catholics are like. They think as the Pope tells them, do as the Pope orders them. Priest-ridden. Authoritarian.

I don’t think I’m misrepresenting the subliminal messages of our media, especially the ABC, and the fanatically anti-Howard papers. What are the messages?

Firstly, anyone who opposes giving access to IVF to single women and lesbians is wrong: wrong in fact, wrong in morals.

These unfortunates constitute a problem which can only be dealt with by constant work in the media, the schools and with clerics who are on side. In this way politicians will be forced into line or replaced, by one means or another.

Question: who said they are wrong? Answer: we did — the yuppie élites; gate-keepers in all discussions; authorities in all matters that arise. And you, who ask that question. You wouldn’t be a Catholic would you?

Secondly, the reason for asking whether someone is a Catholic is to be able to dismiss anything he says. For on matters such as IVF, and many others, Catholics don’t think for themselves (otherwise they’d agree with us).

No — they follow whatever the Church says — without question. This, by the way, is profoundly insulting to the person who has expressed the opposite opinion. And easily refuted; by listening to “them” arguing amongst themselves.

A few reminders: at least as far back as Aquinas, that Church has held that although its religious and social doctrines enjoy divine approval, very often to be found in revelation — observations upon man and society, and how best people should live, can be supported, independently, by reason.

Indeed must be, if they are to be given universal, or even widespread, understanding; and, hopefully agreement. There is nothing mystic about Catholic social philosophy, in my experience (en passant, I agree with much but not all of it).

The case against extensions to IVF have been made through logical, moral, psychological and factual channels, and very effectively. Not a whiff of Hellfire, nary a smell of incense anywhere. And, of course, opponents to IVF extensions come from all the parts of our society — religious, non-religious.

Whereas the arguments for IVF extensions, up to date, have been pitiful — very little reasoning, much bathos, and a heavy dependence on the beautiful people’s old friend, argument ad hominem. Don’t tackle the arguments; attack the person offering it. Plus, ignoratio elenchi: attacking arguments not even put. And McCarthyism, viz guilt by association. “But Catholics (Communists) believe that, support that, do you want to be seen with them?” “With Santamaria, with Pacelli?” or “Stalin and Mao?” All those kinds of arguments demonstrate intellectual incompetence; or extreme prejudice.

And we are seeing them trotted out whenever we attempt to discuss abortion, drugs, divorce, euthanasia, the family, sexuality, education, pornography, or the Rights of Children. An overtly intimidatory barrage of implicit McCarthyism and religious sectarianism. And a permanently running smear type campaign against one of our major Churches. The fact is, if our public media and the Left-press dared to slander the Salvos as well, they would. But too widely supported.

I suggest the media, and the parties — both of them — expunge all religious prejudice and sectarianism from their public utterances: and the latter from their backstage power struggles.

Otherwise ... New Class dogs jump like frogs.

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