Archbishop Mark Coleridge says the Catholic Church is ready to join a community response to COVID-19, claiming Australia’s response cannot be left solely to political leaders.
Archbishop Coleridge said the Catholic Church, with its reach through schools, social services and parishes, was uniquely placed to provide insights into the immediate direction for Australia as coronavirus infection rates fall.
“When you’ve been around for a couple of millennia, you learn a bit about adjusting to changing times. That’s the Catholic Church: our two thousand years as a global religion have brought memories and insights from the most dramatic changes the world has known,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“The governments of Australia have done well in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since they, like the rest of us, had entered new territory and have had to make big decisions in a strange, fast-moving environment.
“Our Australian response can take many different forms, but our priorities need to be clear. And there is one priority above all others – the human being must be the focus of any response. Of course the economy matters, but only if it puts the human being at its heart. The economy was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the economy.
“We now have a chance to shape society in ways that weren’t possible before this crisis. But that can’t be left just to our political leaders. The whole community has to be creative in new ways, building on the kind of creativity we’ve shown through the crisis.
“The Church wants to be part of this process, and it has a unique contribution to make – not as politicians or economists but as people of faith who have forgotten little and learnt plenty, especially about the human being and what makes for a flourishing human society.”
Archbishop Coleridge said a famous open letter from Pope Leo XIII in 1891 was relevant in many ways to the current environment.
Rerum Novarum or the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour is seen by many as a significant moment for a Church that began to move into the changing modern world.
“Along came Leo XIII to offer a genuinely Gospel response to a dramatically changed world, a voice that wasn’t ideological or political but evangelical in the best sense,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“This was new, and it began the tradition of Catholic social teaching which has found voice in every Pope from Leo to Francis.
“We’re in a situation now where the world has changed, perhaps forever, and the principle duties and responsibilities of employers, employees and governments are as much in focus today as they were when Rerum Novarum was issued.”
Archbishop Coleridge has met with heads of Queensland churches to continue to discuss COVID-19 and its impact on church communities and beyond.
“If you put all of the Churches together, we have an extraordinary reach into the community.
We’re in the small rural towns. We’re in the regions. We’re in the cities. We have tens of thousands of workers in schools, hospitals and at the frontline of social services. We’re everywhere,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“The path ahead will require some tax reform, but not necessarily tax cuts. It will require industrial relations reform, but not reduced working conditions and job security under the guise of increased flexibility.
“It will certainly require leadership that can imagine an Australia where we have full employment and a standard of living that matches the dignity of the human being.”
Archbishop Mark’s full written piece is found here archbne.org/dptt