By Chris Hook
“May this be the crowning mission of Australia’s Commonwealth: to pull down the barriers that irreligious discord and racial strife would raise, and to erect on their
ruins a glorious temple of abiding concord and long enduring peace.”
So prayed Cardinal Moran a hundred years ago in a prayer written especially for the occasion of the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
Australia’s Catholic Bishops revisited the prayer in a recent statement released to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the first sitting of Australia’s parliament.
Although noting unsavoury policies of
the first Australian parliament – the white Australia policy and the treatment of Indigenous peoples – Australia’s Bishops said little was to be gained by being judgmental about mistakes made by those in our past.
“It is more appropriate in this year to salute their achievements and to give thanks for the founding and century long survival of one of the world’s more enlightened democracies, where the parliamentary
process has been used to bring about social reform in the interests of greater justice and a more equitable distribution of wealth.”
However, the statement also notes the Church’s ongoing support to
Australian democracy, stressing that the Church has been “attempting to make its own contribution to a just society and exercising from time to time the right to question particular polices and initiatives of
governments and political parties”.
There were injustices in income distribution, the effects of the drug culture on the young, the criminal justice system and a lack of respect for the right to life.
But the Bishops are optimistic.
“We are confident that, under God, Australians, who have so many fine qualities, will address these issues successfully in our second century as a nation,” they said.