No benchwarmers in fight for life

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(L-R) Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Tony Farley, Greg Donnelly MP, Australian Conservative’s Sophie York and Director of religious education and evangelisation at Sydney Catholic Schools Anthony Cleary. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
From left, executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools Tony Farley, Greg Donnelly MP, Australian Conservative’s Sophie York and director of religious education and evangelisation at Sydney Catholic Schools Anthony Cleary. PHOTO: G Portelli

As attacks on the dignity of human life escalate in NSW and across the country, serious Catholics must “step up to the plate” as there is “no room for benchwarmers” a state MP has warned.

An outspoken opponent of the abortion bill currently before parliament, Greg Donnelly MP gave the rallying cry to hundreds of Sydney Catholic students and educators gathered at a function held in the Strangers Room of NSW Parliament House on 29 August.

The event was hosted by Mr Donnelly and Sydney Catholic Schools as part of Life Week running from 28 August to 4 September, and also featured the Australian Conservative’s Sophie York as a guest speaker.

It was attended by Sydney’s Bishop Terry Brady, Bishop Richard Umbers and Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay.

Director of religious education and evangelisation at Sydney Catholic Schools Anthony Cleary said that Life Week, an initiative begun by Sydney Catholic Schools in 2014, has explored various themes including euthanasia, abortion, poverty and anti-slavery, all of which focus on the inherent dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God.

But never had it coincided so providentially in the midst of the biggest parliamentary debate on abortion for decades, Mr Donnelly noted.

“With respect to what is playing out currently in this state and into other states and territories in Australia in the Commonwealth of parliament, there are some very profound and existential matters playing out which go to the very heart and question of what our humanity is, what it means to be a human being and what does it mean to respect human life,” he said.

“It’s playing out in a way which is quite grotesque.”

“At the end of the day, we Catholics and Christians cannot direct and control what other people do in a totalitarian sense. But we must play a very direct, strategic and critical role in stepping up to the plate, entering the public space and arguing these matters of importance.

Greg Donnelly MLC addresses students from Catholic schools during lunch at Parliament House on 29 August for Life Week, organised by Sydney Catholic Schools. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Greg Donnelly MLC addresses students from Catholic schools during lunch at Parliament House on 29 August for Life Week, organised by Sydney Catholic Schools. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“Quite frankly, if you’re not prepared to do that you are just benchwarmers, and there’s no room for benchwarmers in the face of what is playing out in our society today. Serious Catholics get onto the field, fight to win and secure the outcome, not just for self-glorification but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr Donnelly encouraged the student leaders to be engaged in society on “the big issues when they come up”.

“We need to think about the profound issues of life and what we are going to do about them.”

Jake Jeong, 16, a Year 11 student at Marist College North Shore, said he was glad to have attended the event. “It was a good opportunity as a legal studies student and a Catholic to learn from the people working on the legislating side of things what their perspective is on this issue,” he said.

Emily Borzycki, a Year 10 student at Mount St Joseph’s College at Milperra, also found it thought-provoking. “A lot of my perspective on this issue as a 16-year-old comes from social media and I talk about it with my friends, but to get a purely Catholic view on it has kind of changed my way of thinking a little bit,” she said.

Jake Jeong, 16, a Year 11 student at Marist College North Shore and Emily Borzycki, a Year 10 student at Mount St Joseph’s College at Milperra attended the function held at Parliament House. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Student leaders Jake Jeong and Emily Borzycki attended the function held at Parliament House. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“Obviously as Catholics we can’t impose our view 100 per cent for everyone. I don’t agree with the bill entirely and think that there should definitely be restrictions regarding the bill, but each individual case is different and I think that God always forgives and understands difficult situations like this.”

Life Week had the theme ‘Life to the Full’ and opened with a Mass for the unborn at St Mary’s Cathedral on 28 August.

It also included a wine and cheese night for mothers with SmartLoving’s Francine Pirola, and an evening for fathers with US evangelist Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. Next week it concludes with a student conference and expo for Year 12 students at the University of Sydney featuring guest speakers Jonathan Doyle, Melinda Tankard Reist and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers.

Mr Cleary said the annual event has continued to grow, diversify and strengthen each year along with increasing interest from the wider community.

“We’re tapping into an environment today where people are increasingly concerned about living better and more fulfilling lives, and concerned about the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.”

“People do see there is a culture of death creep within our broader society, and they have a repulsion against things such as sex selection in abortion legislation and cases of euthanasia becoming reality in Australia.”

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