At the beginning of this new year, it is a good idea to look ahead to the big issues and challenges which we will be facing.
In this piece, I’d like to briefly mention five key debates or events which will happen in 2017, and about which Catholics in Australia need to be informed and active.
Royal Commission Catholic “wrap up”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will conclude this year, with its final report due to Parliament by no later than 15 December 2017. As mentioned previously on catholicTalk, there will be a Catholic “wrap up” hearing occurring in February.
This hearing will not focus on a particular diocese, school, perpetrator or victim, but rather will look at Catholic theology and doctrine, the structure and governance of the Church, the role of the Vatican, canon law, celibacy, confession and more.
Essentially, it will be three weeks of hearings into the issues that everyone has an opinion about when it comes to the Catholic Church.
During this time (6-24 February), catholicTalk will continue our coverage of the Commission and importantly, provide some clarity on the issues being discussed.
At the end of last year, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that his government would introduce a bill to legalise euthanasia in that state. While euthanasia legislation has been introduced and defeated scores of times in Australia, this time will be slightly different because the bill will be government-sponsored.
All members of Parliament will be given a conscience vote, and so we can expect the lead up to a vote to be characterised by significant debate. During and in the lead up to this time, it will be essential that all Catholics, and all people on the side of life, are vocal about the need to protect it at all stages.
Again, catholicTalk will be here to point you to opportunities in which that might be done.
Same-sex marriage debate
With the Senate rejecting a peoples’ vote on marriage last year, there is no clear way forward for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in this country. What is clear, however, is that those who advocate for a redefinition of marriage will not let the issue go. We cannot afford to be complacent.
We do not know what form the debate will take at this point, but we can be certain that the debate will continue, and with renewed intensity (and even desperation.)
Once again, stay tuned to catholicTalk for more on this throughout the year.
The debate about abortion, and the right of people to object to abortion, will occur in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory this year.
In the Northern Territory, abortions are only legal if they take place in a hospital. It is proposed that this law will be changed, increasing the availability of abortion throughout the territory (even in remote areas where other medical assistance for the mother might not be available.)
In Queensland and New South Wales, the only remaining states where abortion is technically a crime (although with exceptions so wide that the law against it is ignored by law enforcement officials), there will be renewed campaigns to have abortion decriminalised.
In all three of these places, abortion advocates will also seek to create exclusion zones around abortion clinics, prohibiting those who object to come within 150 metres of a clinic, even if it is to offer assistance or prayers. As mentioned numerous times before, these laws are not seeking to punish behaviour, but opinions.
Again, there will be opportunities for you to be heard on these issues, and we will let you know about them as they happen.
Religious freedom inquiries
There are currently two inquiries occurring into the freedom of religion in Australia and other places.
The first, submissions for which close this Friday, is looking at religious freedom specifically in relation to the same-sex marriage debate. You can easily make your views heard here.
The second is looking more broadly at issues of religious freedom both here and around the world. In the coming weeks, we will let you know how to make a submission.
Undoubtedly, other issues of religious freedom will arise throughout the year, and we will let you know about them as they come up.
Even from the issues we know are coming up, 2017 is shaping up to be an important and a busy one for people who seek to defend truth, life, family and freedoms. And we have all of the issues we have not yet predicted to look forward to as well!
Stay with us on catholicTalk throughout 2017 for more.
Monica Doumit, catholicTalk contributor