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All responsible for morality, not just Church


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The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Rev. John Henderson, this week called for national, corporate and community leaders to engage in a "balanced, considered dialogue" on moral issues that confront Australian society.

The National Council of Churches leader was speaking in response to remarks made by Treasurer Peter Costello in Melbourne last Saturday for the National Day of Thanksgiving commemoration. The Treasurer claimed that the 'Judeo-Christian-Western tradition upon which Australia was founded' was 'fraying all around us' and that it was up to Church leaders to lead Australian back to faith if further moral decay was to be prevented.

Speaking exclusively to Online Catholics, Mr Henderson said that churches alone are not responsible for morality. "It is not a balanced view to say that Churches alone are the moral guardians of society," Mr Henderson said. "No one, including governments, may abrogate their responsibility for the moral choices they make."

While emphasizing that the National Day of Thanksgiving offered Australian Christians an opportunity to re-connect with the history of Christianity in Australia, Mr Henderson expressed concern that the event could be used to transfer exclusive responsibility for the condition of society onto individuals. While individuals bear responsibility for moral choices, these choices can be determined by the conditions and structures within which the individual makes those choices. "It is not a question of either/or, but 'both/and'. Morality is up to individuals strengthened by the institutions in which they work." Mr Henderson said.

"The role of government is to support a proper level of debate about the ways in which we ought to go," Mr Henderson said. "It worries me that Mr Costello uses the language of economics - the Christian tradition is "the capital deposit which has been drawn down for such regular maintenance that the capital is running out". Governments could contribute to the debate on moral questions by speaking out against the "24/7" corporate culture that is so debilitating to human beings and so destructive of family life."

Morality is not something that can be coerced, according to Henderson, and we should have more faith and trust in young people to arrive at life-giving moral choices. "Assuming young people can't make good moral decisions only shows that we've lost the plot ," Mr Henderson said, remarking that every generation assumes the next lacks morals, has poor decision making skills, and scandalous music.

The National Day of Thanksgiving was the initiative of the Australian Prayer Network. Its patron is Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, who is a committed evangelical Christian. The Day was strongly supported in government circles by the Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffrey. The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, also gave support to the initiative, which was attended by the Cardinal. The Australian Prayer Network estimates that 1000 activities were held nation-wide, with between 300 and 400 Federal, State and local government officials participating.

The Uniting Church's Board for Social Responsibility's Rev. Harry Herbert wanted to know how a Day of Thanksgiving contributed to a national discussion of morality. "If the Treasurer is interested in morality, perhaps we could have a "Why were we in Iraq?" Day or a "Why do we keep asylum seekers in detention?" Day. There are numerous moral issues that face Australians today and we didn't talk about any of them on the National Day of Thanksgiving. That's the hypocrisy of it," Mr Herbert said - online catholics

Online Catholics made contact with a number of organisations which had no formal comment to make on this story. These included the Australian Catholic Bishops' Social Justice Council, the Australian Bishops Conference, and the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney.

See websites for more:
www.ausprayernet.org.au
www.thanksgiving.org.au
www.thanksgiving.org.au/pm_release







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