Guilford Young College - Ceremony of Commendation 2014

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Guilford Young College
Ceremony of Commendation 2014

Promoting a Culture of Life

Today we are on the eve of the State elections. It is an important moment for the State. Tomorrow Tasmanians vote in the government who will lead this State in the coming years. The outcome of the election will set up the direction that the State takes for the immediate future. Politicians are important leaders. They make a significant contribution to the society they serve.

Soon you will be active players in the democratic process. It is a privilege to live in a country where there are elections and elections which are free and fair. We benefit from a country where the processes of change of government are done without bloodshed and violence. I encourage you to take your democratic responsibilities seriously. Some of you may, in fact, enter politics (and I encourage you to do so).
When we vote what should motivate our voting decision? Is it simply my political orientation? Is it for candidates who will carry out policies that are advantageous to me?

Indeed, what is the purpose of government? The social teaching of the Church answers this by saying that government is there to promote the common good. The common good concerns the conditions necessary for all in society to flourish as human persons, and this involves all dimensions of life: physical life, moral life and spiritual life. Thus the responsibility of a government is to ensure the best conditions for human flourishing.

Thinking about elections and governments reminds us that we all live in a society. We are not just isolates living our separated lives. We belong to a particular society. Society is not just a static thing. It is not just a context in which we pursue our own objectives. It is not just a convenient backdrop to our lives. A society is by its nature a dynamic, evolving reality, and it is influenced by the people who make it up. Each member a society in some small or great way contributes to the direction that the culture takes. We are not just passive sharers in the life of a society. We are contributors to its direction – either its advancement or its decline.

Pope John Paul II, who will be canonised next month, spoke about modern society in terms of the struggle between a culture of life and a culture of death. He spoke about this to young people on a number of occasions urging them to embrace a culture of life and be contributors to the advancement of the quality of life in a society.

This culture of life that he spoke of includes seeing every human life as God-given, and worthy of protection from the moment of its conception to the time of its natural end. Pope Francis has inspired us in this regard in the way he has reached out to the poor and suffering: the way he embraced a grossly disfigured man in St Peter’s Square. A Christian sees the inherent dignity of every human being and sets out to enhance the quality of their life. A Christian is one who seeks to foster a culture of life.

In comparison, a culture of death sees people, in the words of Pope John Paul II, as “products of blind, mechanical, and amoral forces, one in which human life has only a kind of quantitative, economic value ... as units of production (or consumption)”. In other words a culture of death holds that human beings to be mere individuals who, if they cannot prove their value in terms of usefulness - such as the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled - are increasingly subject to removal by procedures such as abortion and euthanasia. We see these tendencies in Tasmanian society as there are efforts to place such practices under the protection of the law. Many voices have risen up to say no to this approach. These voices see it as the promotion of a culture of death. They are aware that human life is being diminished and society is being impoverished.

As Christians believing in a God who is love we are committed to advancing a culture of life. The closer we come to God the more we come to know love – love in its purest form. The more we seek Jesus Christ the more his way of living inspires the way we choose to live.

The way in which we live today, the attitudes we hold in our hearts, are already contributing to a culture of life. As this year, 2014, commences I invite each of you to affirm in your heart the desire to be a contributor to the culture of life.


Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday, 12 March 2014