Public First Program


Shane Elson


email Shane

+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

June 2007 # 1

(Right Click here to download Audio - MP3)

Back to Editorials 2007

Aquaman Meets Pell

I guess it depends which side of the debate you stand on but “I for one believe the comments by George Pell were repugnant and would be rejected by fair minded Australians”. If John Howard said that I guess, again, that a furore would have broken out but John remains silent.  

George Pell and Perth Catholic Bishop Barry Hickey’s latest foray into politics are not really surprising and it must have been a slow news day in order for them to get such wide coverage. 

They, like Tony Abbott and I would presume John Howard, Peter Costello and many other fundamentalists, believe that when god created the universe he set it in motion like a huge galactic clock. It ticks away with minute precision, is slowly winding down to an ‘end time’ and there is nothing humans can do to alter the movements of the hands. 

This giant galactic clock theory serves the fundamentalists well. It allows them to claim some sort of ‘divine’ knowledge that they, and they alone, are privy to. Having this knowledge allows them insights into the ‘mind’ of god. These insights mean that, should they speak them, they will be ridiculed and persecuted thus confirming their ‘special’ place in the great cosmic plan. 

When it comes to the issue of stem cells and the comments by Pell and Hickey, that men and women of faith would be denied by their church the right to take part fully in that faith community’s practices, should they choose to vote in favour of this type of medicine, demonstrates, as NSW parliamentarian, Nathan Rees said, that Pell and Hickey are in the same league as that other religious ‘crazy’ Sheikh Hilali. 

The comments by the defenders of the Catholic faith are reminiscent of the types of claims made during the period of the Inquisitions. During these times men and women were killed by the church because they chose to dissent. The motivating factor that drove the zealots to unspeakable cruelties was that they wanted to hold on to power so badly they were able to justify the most atrocious evil by claiming they were doing ‘god’s’ work. No doubt Pell and Hickey feel the same. 

On Tuesday night in one of the news services I saw, one person interviewed was claiming that if stem cell research was given the go ahead, then humans would be cross bred with fish. That’s old news for us DC comic fans. Aquaman has been around since 1940s. But this is not the issue. 

The real issue here is one in which big business and the church are competing for the same territory. That is, both want our exclusive allegiance and at present, the church, or more precisely, some parts of the church, don’t want to share us. 

On the church side is the argument that the universe is a scary place made bad by ‘original sin’ and that there are wonders that only god and a few ‘select’ wise and knowledgeable men can comprehend. These wonders were set in place at the start of time and there is nothing human’s can do to change them. So, if you are healthy, wealthy and powerful then that is what god has ordained for you. If you are poor, disabled, sick or deformed, then that too, is as god wanted it to be. 

In defence of their extreme views men like Pell, Hickey, Howard, Abbott and Costello would argue that the reason they are in positions of power is because that is what ‘god’ wanted. In order to ensure ‘god’s’ will is done they would rather see people suffer than admit their own sins. 

On the business side the multinational biomedical companies such as BioE, Aruna Biomedical, Kamiya and Scottish Biomedical are set to make billions out of stem cell derivatives. The business of unravelling the way the human body works has been big business for hundreds of years and this where the collision between the church and the state takes place. 

In order to the churchmen to hold on to power they must mystify and obscure the truth. As ‘high priests’ of the ‘mind of god’ they believe they and they alone have the power to decree who should live or die, suffer or rejoice, be ‘in’ or be ‘out’. Anything that challenges this is seen as the ‘devil’s’ work. Their prime strategy when they feel threatened is to turn to our base emotions and the main target is our fears. 

Rather than allow mammon to flow to the multinationals than into their own coffers, these men of ‘faith’ will use any tactic they think will set fear in the hearts of those they rule over. In the case of Pell and Hickey, the threat of loss of communion is the highest threat they could utter. This punishment is, within the Catholic faith, the outcome of some “grievously offensive act.”

For a Catholic, the loss of the ability to partake in the ‘blood and body’ of Christ is akin to being cut off from your being and the promise of life after death so Pell and Hickey’s threat is not an idle one. Furthermore, you may recall that Pell refuses to give communion to those who identify as gay. Can you imagine an upstanding man or woman in politics wanting to be equated with the gay community? A quick look at the few who have demonstrates my point. 

No, this battle is not about stem cells although our blinkered media choose to portray it this way. The real battle is over power, influence and the billions of dollars involved in either keeping people in ignorance or helping them get better. 

The religious fundamentalists, no matter what label they wear – Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim or Hindu – are all basically the same. They believe they have a pre-ordained position in the cosmic clock and any threat to their own self important image is to be resisted with ‘holy’ vigour. 

The fact that Pell said what he said should not come as any shock. Nor should the reaction by his great defender in the federal parliament, Tony Abbott. The silence of John Howard on the issue should not surprise us either. What is surprising is the response by so many other politicians who identify with the Catholic faith. There have been strong condemnations across the country as politicians of the Catholic faith condemn Pell and Hickey’s foray into their territory. 

I guess it depends on which side of the debate you are on how you respond to the outrageous claims by Pell and Hickey. However, as a secular society, one in which our leaders continually remind us that we do not live in a country ruled by Mullah’s, we are bound to reject Pell and Hickey’s claims to ‘divine’ insight. As fair minded Australians we should stand with our Catholic brothers and sisters who also reject the imposition of the ego of a few over the potential for the many. We should, with them, condemn the rantings of the madmen who believe they and they alone, know what is best for us.

Recent Editorials


The Reigning Rein(MP3)


Johnny GM Seed (MP3)


When Generals Talk (MP3)


Madam Economy (MP3)


Hitchin' a Ride



ANZAC for Whom?



Jones, Race and Class Interests (MP3)


Bombay Nights



The Politics of Convenience and Liability (MP3)


Tears, Perks and People (MP3)


Technically Speaking(MP3)


Hicks, Burke and Howard (MP3)


The Free Market on a Lazy Sunday (MP3)


You Lose Power (MP3)


Rearranging the Deckchairs (MP3)


Educated Ignorance (MP3)


Young Liberals

go to Town (MP3)


In a Funk - A 2006 Reflection (MP3)


Our Legacy (MP3)


Away in a Manger (MP3)


The Devil and the Peso (MP3)


Charades (MP3)


Sands (MP3)


Hillbilly Dreams (MP3)

Rumsfeld's Henny Penny Excuse (MP3)

The Mufti and the Dog Whistle (MP3)

Colonialism, Palm Oil & the Solomons (MP3)

On A Mission from God (MP3)

Howard's Quadrant Memory Hole (MP3)

Greenwashing, Astroturfing and Gippsland's A-Team (MP3)

Wag The Dog (MP3)

Aussie Values the Howard Nelson Way (MP3)

Nothing Changes (MP3)

Howard's Brutal Language (MP3)