Order of Malta takes on big challenges

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Knights of Malta
Knights gather at St Benedict’s Church in Broadway for the investiture of new members last weekend. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Ancient order considers pressing social issues during assembly

Former NSW attorney general Greg Smith SC has issued an urgent warning that euthanasia and assisted suicide which comes into effect in Victoria this month will see a “domino effect” in legislation throughout the country.

“Australia is facing the most concerted campaign to allow voluntary assisted dying it has ever seen in lifting the criminal law sanctions against euthanasia and assisted suicide in each state and territory,” said Mr Smith at a national assembly for the Order of Malta held in Sydney’s Hilton Hotel last week.

“This is a very urgent warning, that this is happening before our very eyes.”

“There doesn’t seem to be enough people fighting against it,” he added. Victoria will become the first state in the country to operate euthanasia when it comes into effect on 19 June; the pro-euthanasia lobby has a powerful public face in popular media personality Andrew Denton, Mr Smith said.

“This comes at a time when religious freedom has been battered in the aftermath of almost universal liberalism of state and territory abortion laws and subsequent restrictions on pro life protests and prayer vigils in safe access zones today, the plebiscite on same sex marriage and subsequent amendments to the Marriage Act,” he said.

However, as concerns about religious freedom have come to the fore following the recent Federal election campaign, he believed there is now an opportunity to press for improved palliative care services. “There should be a palliative care in every parliament in the country, to greatly increase the numbers of staff, specialists and money spent on palliative care to really show a loving respect and offer real dignity for the dying,” he said.

Attacks on basic human freedoms a theme of the conference

Titled Embracing the Challenge, the three-day conference brought together almost 122 members of the hospitaller order with former prime minister John Howard giving an address on the state of religious freedom in Australia at the formal dinner.

It was a strong theme throughout, with fellow keynote speaker Queensland Liberal senator Amanda Stoker urging the assembly to be “cultural shapers” challenging attacks on basic human freedoms such as freedom of conscience, association and speech. “We need to fight for them because without them we are not fully human beings,” she said.

Order of Malta
Order of Malta members before Mass at St Benedict’s Broadway during their annual assembly. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“History tells us that without them, tyranny will follow, and if you take them away we will have none of the relative wealth in this country we have come to expect without having to fight for these major freedoms.”

Other speakers included Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Justice Dyson Heydon, Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta, Sydney archdiocese’s director of public affairs and engagement Monica Doumit and marriage educators Francine and Byron Pirola.

Order of Malta
Amanda Stoker addresses the Order of Malta assembly. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Fifteen new members of the lay religious order were invested during a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Order of Malta Australia president Ian Marshall said its work is as relevant today as when it was founded 900 years ago to defend the faith and serve the sick and poor.

“We are facing multiple challenges on multiple fronts such as abortion and euthanasia legislation and threats to religious freedom,” he said. “It’s good to have these highly accredited speakers help us to identify the problems and ways in which we can do our bit to help.”

Regional hospitaller Mark Boffa said the conference was “a tremendous opportunity for us to be energised and inspired. “We were especially touched by the great support of bishops and clergy,” he said.

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