Concerning our nations reception of refugees and asylum seekers,
Australian soil who come without visas will be sent offshore, children
included. They will be detained there for processing, far from mental
health care and the supervision of the Commonwealth Immigration Ombudsman.
This is hardly a humanitarian reception, with due monitoring.
Pope Benedict next turned his attention to the plight of the Aboriginal
people, stating that there is still much to be achievedTheir
social situation is cause for much pain. He encouraged the Ambassador
and her Government to continue to address the deep underlying
causes of their plight, saying:
In a word, the Government needs to say Sorry! Then everyone
will be able to move on in the process of healing and reconciliation.
If the pope is more directive here, it is because hurt, healing and reconciliation
are special areas of the Churchs ministry. On such realities we
should be the experts, and we have a right to speak with authority.
The pope also spoke of World Youth Day and his scheduled visit for the
occasion, especially of the impact the event can have on the young of
a nation like Australia where the process of secularisation is much
advanced. He spoke of marriage, of the way Australians have reacted
against pseudo-forms of marriage, recognising the fundamental
importance for society of marriage and stable domestic life, and he reviewed
the efforts of the Catholic Church in Australia to support family life
and the formation of the young.
There is a deeper theme in the popes reflections on World Youth
Day, marriage and family life: his concern about our need to meet the
challenge of relativismphilosophical, spiritual, ethical and moral
relativism. Pope Benedict notes the failure of many of our contemporaries
to recognise a transcendent order, so that for them nothing is ultimately
true or false, right or wrong: all is relative. Unity, coherence and meaning
are no more. All is fragmented, incoherent and ultimately without meaning
This might sound like stuff for high-flyers of philosophy and art, but
in factand this is the reason why we need to be concernedthese
views on reality and life translate themselves into very recognisable
dislocatedness at the level of everyday human living.
While there is a new openness to spirituality in some quarters, it is
marked by a strong aversion from anything like Church, clarity about beliefs
or forms of religious practice. Meditation, for instance, is respectable
in our area of inner-city Sydney but the numbers of church-goers remains
small despite quite energetic endeavours to attract people.
Traditionally Catholicism has insisted that there is an intellectual
component in the act of faith, as well as a fiducial (trust) and an action-directed
component: we believe what God reveals of himself and his plans for us,
as well as trusting and obeying Him. With no belief in anything as reliable
and true, people are left vulnerable in a crisis, if they are not already
prone to self-destructive behaviour such as substance abuse.
In his address to Mrs Plunkett Pope Benedict referred to moral
relativism which, by recognising nothing as definitive, traps people with
a futile and insatiable bid for novelty. He sees this as a challenge
for the Church and society in Australia as it is elsewhere in the First
The early articles in this issue of Compass examine at some length the
culture of postmodernism and the challenge it presents to the Church in
our mission of evangelisation. Moral relativism is a central feature of
postmodernism. I am sure that what you read in these articles will make
a lot of sense for you.
At times of crisis, as in illness or the loss of a loved one, every person
does some soul-searching to re-discover what we ultimately rely upon,
if we rely upon anyone or anything. It is appropriate that our reading
on the postmodern challenge should be followed by articles concerning
health care and hospital ministry. Our final article returns to the ever-burning
question of our welcome of the stranger.
Thank you to all our contributors.