Monday, 24 August 2009

Traditionalist takeover of the DLP and Right to Life?

The Age yesterday had a piece on factional warfare in the DLP and Right to Life in Victoria:

"THEY are both on the far right of Australian religion and politics. But anti-abortion lobby group Right to Life Australia and the Democratic Labor Party are now fighting for the souls of their organisations against the same well-organised people from the even further right-wing fringe of the Catholic faith.

In the DLP's Victorian branch, so entrenched has the ideological battle become that the party's first parliamentary representative in a generation, Peter Kavanagh, has told The Sunday Age he would seriously reconsider his relationship with the party if a takeover attempt by his enemies succeeded.

Margaret Tighe, the hardline and long-serving former Right to Life president, has labelled the interlopers ''religious zealots'' and, late last night, the organisation endured a rowdy annual general meeting as Mrs Tighe and the traditionalists tried to oust the newcomers.

The same two men are at the centre of both power grabs. Marcel White is a Catholic convert who is the current president of Right to Life and, until he relinquished it earlier this month, was a preselected DLP candidate for the state upper house. The second is theological student Peter McBroom, a current DLP candidate.

By assiduous recruitment (their enemies call it branch stacking) among Catholic hardliners, Mr White and Mr McBroom have gained significant grassroots power in each organisation, and are trying to introduce a new Catholic purity.

It is said they talk of visitations from the Virgin Mary, accuse their enemies of not being good enough Catholics, of not reciting the rosary passionately enough and of marital infidelity. The tactics have split the DLP's Victorian branch and prompted a crisis for the organisation's constitution. They have changed the locks at Right to Life headquarters, tried to sack staff and have been accused of incurring ''extraordinary expenses''.

''There is a group there who want to re-establish the Inquisition,'' said one observer.

''Meanwhile, babies are being killed. These bloody lunatics who seem to think they will use this as their personal meal ticket to heaven.''

Both organisations have, until now, been predominantly Catholic but have also allowed Protestant members, even non-believers, in their ranks.

Mr White is Mrs Tighe's former protege and she helped him become president last year. Now she accuses him of trying to ''hijack our organisation''.

Mrs Tighe has enlisted Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart to her campaign, quoting him from an August 13 meeting saying he believed Right to Life ''should be a secular organisation in order to attract support from the wider community''.

But another observer says Mr White and Mr McBroom believe community support will come from religious purity: ''They think the more Catholic they are, the more votes they'll win.''

Mr White's proposed amendments to the Right to Life constitution would see it campaigning against contraception as well as abortion.

Now was the time, he wrote to members this month, to ''strike at the root of the rotten anti-life tree''.

''Artificial contraception is the underlying problem … you cannot be 100 per cent pro-life unless you oppose contraception.''

But this is a can of worms for the organisation. Deputy president John James agrees with Mr White about the dangers of contraception, but says the organisation should focus its resources on ''attacks on human life from conception onwards''.

Another Right to Lifer said: ''We are about saving unborn babies … What people do with pills, condoms, diaphragms is up to them.''

Mr White's other proposed amendments include introducing Catholic prayer at meetings, and making Our Lady of Guadalupe the organisation's patron.

In a letter to potential members recently, Mr White complained that those who opposed him were ''secularists, Protestants and modernist Catholics''.

Mr White boasts of signing up 500 new members to Right to Life. Dr James said many had been drawn from the ranks of those who prefer their Mass said in Latin, or from the Lebanese Maronite community.

The Right to Life executive has refused to accept the new members, heightening the controversy.

Last night's meeting was prompted by a vote of no confidence in Mr White at the previous meeting, and has been followed by vigorous proxy campaigns by both him and the alternative presidential candidate, Veronica Andrews. Neither would comment to The Sunday Age.

On Mr White's team are the wives of two DLP members, prompting concerns that they sought Right to Life's considerable asset base to use for political purposes.

''These are two organisations hungry for members and funding, and our concern is that Right to Life's assets could be vulnerable … it has enough to be attractive,'' Dr James said.

Mr Kavanagh said in a statement his concern was that the DLP traditions were under threat. These traditions included ''opposing all forms of extremism, welcoming and working for all Australians of all religions, and of no religion'' as well as ''being committed to truth as an ideal and an objective and maintaining a culture of peaceful and ordered debate''.

''I doubt if I could remain in and continue to work for the DLP if the party does not retain its great, long-held traditions,'' he said.

Mr Kavanagh would not comment further but said, if necessary, he would go into more detail in Parliament.

Mrs Tighe was happy to make her views known: ''It seems to me they're like religious zealots … it's crazy stuff, and I just hope that people wake up to it.''

Given that Victoria now has the most draconian pro-abortion laws on the books, clearly old approaches have failed. So a catholic revamp is surely worth a try?


Peter said...

So what do you make of it Terra?

If they really did want to campaign against contraception then that is hardly being a 'religious zealot'. Maybe RTL could do with a little more steel in their approach anyway? But then the bishops don't have any either, so there you go...


Terra said...

Well given that Victoria now has the country's worst abortion laws on the books, clearly something needs to change strategy and tactics wise!

Is this the best way to go? Hard to say, but probably worth a try.

Arnold Reeves said...

Shock horror outrage! Catholics who actually believe in Catholicism, instead of appeasing the condom culture and instead of maintaining the let's-be-nice-to-Freemasons-atheists-Jews-and-Muslims attitude which has made the present-day RTL and DLP a combined laughing-stock!

Anonymous said...

RTL should remain a secular organization to facilitate the most diverse support-base as possible. It also clearly demonstrates to the community the rationality and universality of their beliefs. Catholics do NOT have a monopoly on issues such as abortion - many other groups are opposed to it and anything that alienates them is unwise. Archbishop Hart has it right on this one.

Louise said...

Why do I get the impression that The Age is having a good laugh about all this?

Terra said...

Anon - Please give yourself a moniker of some kind.

Is there any evidence that Right to Life is viewed as anything other than a catholic front now? As Louise has pointed out, the Age views anyone who is anti-abortion as 'hardline'.

More importantly perhaps the broadbased approach seems to have clearly failed. So why not draw on the resourtces of the treasury of the Church and see if that proves more effective?

Tobal said...

If the RTL which is predominantly Catholic (as you say) has "clearly failed", how on earth could a revamp with 100% Catholics succeed? That defies logic and plain common sense. Even the Archbishop in Melbourne (hence the Archdiocese) doesn't support such a move, so I'm not entirely sure what extra "resources" from the Church you claim it could drawn upon in its revamped form?

A united front (from all groups) against these evils is needed, not a fragmented one. That it has not worked well has less to do with its composition but more with the capabilities and skills of those inside it.

Arnold Reeves said...

Whatever "Anon" (and indeed Archbishop Hart) might imagine, the broad-based approach is a disaster. Pius XI specifically warned against the consequences of it in his encyclical Mortalium Animos, which almost no Catholics today have ever read or heard of.

Catholics are the biggest religious group in this country now (Anglicans used to be). So why do we not act from a position of strength, and, instead of conveying an endless "excuse me for breathing" attitude towards those outside the Church, why do we not tell The Age and its tame liars to go and be - literally - damned until they start showing us some respect?

(another) Louise said...

"...Deputy president John James agrees with Mr White about the dangers of contraception, but says the organisation should focus its resources on ''attacks on human life from conception onwards''.

Another Right to Lifer said: ''We are about saving unborn babies … What people do with pills, condoms, diaphragms is up to them.''"

Focusing on "attacks on humal life from conception onwards", of necessity must include fighting against the use of contraceptives, since many contraceptives are abortifacient.

Terra said...

Firstly, is it really the case that the AB has come out against this direction? All I've seen is an indirect claim in a fairly sus media report.

Secondly, I don't really know enough about RTL Vic to have a strong view on this subject, but on the face of it the broad based approach hasn't been particularly effective. Giving it a catholic identity - and being able to invoke the patronage of Our Lady therefore sounds like a reasonable strategy to consider.

I'm sure there are some other approaches that could be debated as well. What does seem clear is that a shakeup is required.

pm said...

Yes, Terra, but doesn't the Chruch itself teach, following St Paul and St Thomas, that the natural law isn't just the property of belivers to be taken on faith, but the universal property of mankind to be apprehended by reason, and that postive law in turn is a dictamen practicae rationis to apply the natural law in particular circumstances? This tradition of thought is great asset in a pluralistic society.
And a retreat into exclusive fideism is not just imprudent but un-Catholic.

chris s said...

Perharps RTL could continue as a "secular" pro-life lobby group while a seperate "Catholic" pro-life group could be formed to advance the pro-life cause drawing on explicitly Catholic perspectives. There's no reason why the two groups could not cooperate when appropriate(and people could be members of both groups).

Terra said...

The fact that the natural law is proper to all doesn't mean you can't have religious-based groups advocating it! For that matter, belief in God is proper to all.

The problem is that the ability to apprehend the natural law is all but lost - truths are no longer self-evident in this pluralist society.

Nor does the adoption of a catholic dimension to pro-life issues necessarily imply a rejection of reason and retreat to fideism - even if the members of the group are catholic, presumably they are still trying to persuade a wider public.

This is a question of strategy and tactics in the end. For most of the last forty years catholics have been reluctant to draw on an explicitly catholic culture to advance their cause lest it scare off protestants and others. But this watered down version of the faith hasn't been enough to persuade most nominal catholics, let alone anyone else.

Thus the argument being advanced by the Pope and others is that what is needed is to build a truly catholic culture and use it to attract others to the true good and beautiful.

Louise said...

AFter giving this some proper thought, I'm inclined to think that the organisations appealing to the natural law, should continue to do so. Thus, the DLP and the RTL should continue in much the same vein, because that is what they were set up to do.

There would be nothing wrong with RTL to educate people regarding the evils of contraception, because it too is a natural law issue and not a strictly religious one.

The reason these are so difficult to fight is because of the selfishness of fallen human beings.

Nothing less than The Gospel itself (and people's conversion to it) can possibly enable the majority of the populace to forego the alleged benefits of contraception.

Hence, we must preach The Gospel in season and out of season.

The DLP and RTL have their place as they are in the great scheme of things.

I think it was uncommonly foolish however, of people to describe their fellow Catholics as "religious zealots"!

Come on, people, we are dealing with the MSM here. Anyone going to Mass on Sunday is seen by The Age et al as a "religious zealot."

This kind of rhetoric is just playing into the MSM's hands.

The reality is that any two Catholics of identical theology and liuturgical practice and even spirituality (in the properly Catholic sense of the word) will still often disagree about which methods should be employed to achieve any given goal.

Airing dirty washing in The Age is not likely to yield much good, IMO. Let's not forget who The Age works for.

Louise said...

I should have said that I do think it would be perfectly valid and even good to have rosary-praying, Latin Massing, in-your-face-Catholic organisations in the mix.

People wanting to change established organisations would be better off forming their own.

I'll even join one if you can promise me a crusader's outfit and sword etc.

Louise said...

THEY are both on the far right of Australian religion and politics. But anti-abortion lobby group Right to Life Australia and the Democratic Labor Party are now fighting for the souls of their organisations against the same well-organised people from the even further right-wing fringe of the Catholic faith.

See, I mean, how do you even begin to reason with people who right such tosh?!

even further right-wing fringe of the Catholic faith


Felix said...

There was a previous stoush between pro-life activists who tried to build a common cause with protestants, and those who adopted an explicitly Catholic approach and who also targeted contraception.

At the time, a friend of mine asked why not have both approaches (in two different organisations). I think he's right.

I also suggest that, if pro-life organisations are explicitly Catholic, then they will create the impression that opposition to abortion rests on Catholic dogma (not on natural law arguments). And that's a recipe for certain and accelerated defeat.

Louise said...

At the time, a friend of mine asked why not have both approaches (in two different organisations). I think he's right.

I agree.

Kiran said...

I think this sort of stuff makes me a little less likely to join either organization. It seems like there is a great deal of self-righteousness going around, which together with imprudence makes a dangerous cocktail.

Terra said...

The issue at this point is surely how to regroup to become more effective after a disaster (viz the passing of Victoria's draconian legislation which prohibits even the exercize of conscience by health workers).

On the face of it, we have an organisation that has proved ineffective. The issue is how to fix it.

Considerations of past history or the desire to appear broadbased (even if it isn't really) seem to be a recipe for the status quo.

For those who believe it shouldn't become more overtly catholic, how can it be fixed?

prolife said...

Lots of good points here. The Age never helps anyone. And there is nothing inherently wrong with having either a secular organisation or a Catholic one.

In terms of what strategy will work best, remember that some very Catholic pro-life organisations certainly exist already, (eg FLI, The Helpers of God's Precious Infants) and they have not turned back the tide of abortion either. It's not like it's a new idea.

Louise is right: "People wanting to change established organisations would be better off forming their own.". Or, at least, any change should be done in the context of a canvassing of the opinions of the members, and not through a hurried takeover strategy designed by a small group. And that is the main point. This was not *at all* about Traditionalism vs Modernism.

Louise said...

We need to know what we're up against, here. The reality is that in spite of some great campaigns over the years, the pro-life groups have not succeeded. IS it necessarily their fault? Let's put it this way, if the media were behind us, the pro-life civil rights movement would have won years ago. Indeed the pro-choicers would never have got off the ground. Add to this the sexual revolution and The Great Heresy of our time (secularism) and it is no wonder we have not won yet. I don't think it's helpful to point the finger, really. Some gains have been made through the very latest Ultra-sound imagery and some pro-life movies. I don't think we can necessarily blame ordinary pro-lifers for not inventing new machinery and not being able to make movies!

The pro-choicers are scumbags (I mean the leaders) who are happy to lie to achieve their ends. They routinely make things up as they go. Add human selfishness into the mix and there's a recipe for a culture of death if ever I saw one.

Only The Gospel can save this situation. We must make disciples and become saints. There is no other way.

Pray, fast, give alms - you know the drill!

One bishop said that abortion can probably only be driven out (like certain demons) through fasting.

That's worth thinking about.

Our approach to the whole mess must be multi-pronged and embrace everything from politics to liturgy.

Mary Lou said...

Reality check.

When we all rolled up our sleeves and went in to 'rescue' Right to Life Australia from the 'Marcel's pro-full truth' (his words) hijack attempt we actually believed we were battling with 'religious zealots'. We actually believed and I fear some still do that these very enthusiastic holy folk wanted to change the constitution of Right to Life from a secular organisation, devoted to acquiring civil rights for human beings from conception to natural death, to a totally Traditional Catholic organisation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
These clowns had bigger fish to fry and used a Traditional Catholic front to woo some exiled Traditional Catholics and passionate Marianites into complimentary paid membership thereby stacking their side by about 500 votes.
By the grace of God this attempt was thwarted at a committee meeting and an early AGM was held to sort the mess out.

The master plan was to amalgamate Right to Life Australia with another federal pro-life, pro-family organisation thereby freeing up the all important personnel and assets of Right to Life for a campaign to win DLP seats.

Common sense prevailed, Right to Life Australia survived, battered and scarred but never as severely as the unborn children they strive to save.

One more point - it is grossly unfair to target Right to Life Australia and it's past activities as the cause for the horrendous legislation passed in Victoria and about to be introduced in NSW.
Right to Life Australia has always and will continue to bust it'self for the rights of the unborn - however, we learn from out opposition and we now must embark on a national wide campaign to overturn the pro-death dominance in the state parliaments by working at a grass roots political level, as the feminists and Emily Listers did twenty years ago.

Michael Webb said...

The over the top behaviours of unbalanced fellow Catholics who have annointed themselves as being more orthodox than others actually shouldn't be blaming the media. They brought THE AGE articel upon themselves.
The alleged pre-selected candidates for the DLP actually are not pre-selected at all. The 'Executive' they adhere to is highly disputed and I do not accept their assertions.
RTLA has nothing to do with the DLP except for those few noisy people who wear their religion on their cuff links. I agree with them that contraception is inked to the abortion issue but this should be settled quiely with a vote at RTLA, not with all this dummy-spitting.
Is there something in the air or the water in Victoria that causes some people to behave this way?
I look to our grandparents generation. They only had the Old Rite back then but they never behaved like these Generation Y alleged 'trads'. I prefer the warm, happy and balanced oldies anyday to these kids who do the Latin Mass. The sociology is vastly different.

Michael Webb said...

Well said Mary Lou.

These Generation Y kids and also their backers are simply not prepared to find convincing natural law and researched arguments on issues; not only one pro life but on other issues that any self resepcting political party could use to actually win many people over.
The fanatics( yes that is what they are) and zealots ( yes, THE AGE had that right ) will only scream, shout and hold up Roary beads in parliament but get voted down harder.
Let us all pray the Rosary in our quiet room as Our Lord advised and put an end to this public dsplay of being show offs. Our Lord doesn't approve of show offs especially when they use the One True Catholic Faith to scandalise those both of the Faith and those who are not but who are of good will who we interact with daily.
As a member of the DLP I will have nothing to do with Peter McBroom or those whom he advises.
The air and water are different in NSW and I will keep it that way.

Mary Lou said...

Nothing in the air, nothing in the water and the behavior of these clowns is not reflective of Victorians, young or old who love and cling to the Latin Mass.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are totally opposed to abortion in all circumstances, and are members of RTL Australia. We are, however, "fundamentalist" or conservative, Bible-believing Protestants, not Catholics. The move by Marcel White and his colleagues would have excluded us from the organization on religious grounds, and we are certainly not alone in this. There are already a number of specifically Catholic prolife groups in Australia, and they have not succeeded in stopping abortion any better than anyone else. Saying RTL has failed to stop abortion, so if we make it purely Catholic, then it will succeed, is like me saying that my favourite football team did not win last week, so this proves that if they only put me on the team, then they will. It is blatant and cynical opportunism, which would have massively harmed the prolife cause. While RTL has not succeeded in making abortion illegal, it has been very important as a public voice for the unborn, and at least keeping the issue in the public mind, as a testimony against those who do evil. It also runs pregnancy counselling services etc. So it is hardly useless. A non-sectarian, broad-based coalition on this issue remains the best way to have a public impact, and fracturing that coalition to make RTL a purely Catholic organization, when such organizations already exist, was highly destructive.

I have heard nothing from RTL since the AGM, but it seems from comments on this board that Marcel lost the vote. I thank God for this, a disaster has been averted, and we can remain members of the organization in good conscience without violation of our religious believes.

Anonymous said...


You are correct that Marcel lost, and the proposed changes to the organisation were also overwhelmingly voted against. Please be assured that you will hear from RTL soon. I do not work there, but I do know that there has been much to "clean up" and recover in the office since the AGM and all its strangeness, but they are starting to get on top of it all now.