Catholic social teaching: debunking the myths at CatholicCare's staff conference

"Spread a culture of tolerance and learn to engage respectfully with people who passionately disagree with you". This was the dominant theme of Jesuit priest Father Frank Brennan’s presentation at Catholic Care’s, Towards Practice Excellence, two day staff conference at Hunter Stadium from 27-28 February.

Close to 100 employees attended the 30 minute talk, titled Catholic Social Teaching – Debunking the Myths, given by one of the most progressive members of the Catholic clergy in Australia. Fr Brennan is also a human rights lawyer and academic, who angered some of his fellow Catholic priests when he supported the Yes campaign during the same-sex marriage debate in 2017. He was recently a member of the Religious Freedom Review, chaired by Philip Ruddock, established to examine whether Australian law adequately protects freedom of religion.

Fr Brennan began his presentation by answering questions on the impact on the Australian Catholic Church of George Pell’s recent conviction for child sexual abuse offences. He went on to identify six key topics relevant to CatholicCare’s mission to assist the most vulnerable members of society.

The topics included: Australia’s humanitarian responsibilities internationally and domestically as one of the wealthiest society’s in history; the current lack of trust in institutions and authority and the consequences; the Catholic position on the ‘Uluru Statement’ and the call for an independent Indigenous voice in the Australian Parliament; refugee support and the moral failing of offshore detention; the environmental degradation of our country and the planet; the same-sex marriage campaign and the Church’s approach to homosexuality; and lastly the widespread concern that Australian society is becoming increasingly unfair and inequitable.

While the challenges in these areas differ greatly, Fr Brennan’s response held the same fundamental message - a message he asked staff to always keep in mind.

“How do we accord dignity to all and debate and disagree in a rationale and respectful manner,” he said. “It’s very simple - if you are a Catholic you believe in Jesus of Nazareth and therefore you believe everyone is your brother and sister and that we all have a commitment to assisting the poor and the marginalised.”

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