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Julian Leeser MP: Catholic Church can be ‘great intermediary’ of Australian life

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Julian Leeser MP addresses the PM Glynn Institute. Photo: ACU

Liberal MP Julian Leeser has urged Australia’s Catholics to be a stronger voice in public life and not underestimate their influence for good, in a lecture on 11 October.

Delivering the 2023 Greg Craven Lecture on Ethics and Politics at the Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne campus, the Federal MP for Berowra, who is of the Jewish religion, said that “as a sympathetic outsider” he had noticed that the church seemed reluctant at times to engage in public debate and discourse.

“Australia needs Catholic voices,” he said.

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“The Catholic Church is one of the few institutions in our national life that has adherents from every ethnic background, every socio-economic group, every point on the political spectrum. It has the potential to be the great intermediary in our national life.

“The church is an institution which changes lives for the better, bringing the light of faith and hope into the lives of millions. 

“And it impacts Australians of every faith and none through its missions—in health, ageing, education, disability and across so many fields.

“Sometimes I think the church underrates its own strength and doesn’t see the unique contribution it can make to Australia and that Australia is better for it making.”

Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli and former Archbishop Denis Hart attended the lecture at ACU’s Melbourne campus along with ACU Chancellor Martin Daubney, Pro-Chancellor Virginia Bourke, Vice Chancellor Professor Zlatko Skrbis, Emeritus Professor Greg Craven and Anne Craven.

In his speech, which concluded with a plea in favour of a Voice to Parliament, Mr Leeser paid tribute to ACU’s former vice-chancellor and president as one of the great influences on his life and a model of “principled decision-making.”

Questions Pope Francis is asking the church to reflect on in the Synod on Synodality about how to stay in community despite differences and interact with others with whom it seems at odds, are questions “Greg has been grappling with for many years,” he said.

Mr Leeser gave the ACT’s proposed extreme assisted dying laws as an example where the church has a “calling” to keep pressure on governments not to expand their remit and to make strong intellectual cases for the repeal of such laws against human dignity.

Constant attacks on religious freedom and challenges to the dignity of life, as well as the church’s own past mistakes, make it “not easy” to speak up with confidence and optimism but “nor were the teachings of the founder of your church always welcome in his own day,” Mr Leeser said.

“Part of the role of the church in our national life is to stand for the sanctity of life, the dignity of the human person and the freedom of conscience.”

ACU’s PM Glynn Institute established the Craven Lecture in 2022 to honour the contribution Emeritus Professor Greg Craven made both to ACU as Vice-Chancellor and President (2008-21), and to public intellectual life as a prominent contributor to public debate.

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