CAIRNS Bishop James Foley – a Labor supporter all his life – says he’s disenfranchised by the party’s stand on abortion and euthanasia – and has doubts about how he will cast his vote in the Queensland election.
A moral voice for Catholics in the state’s far north, Bishop Foley has written a letter to the Cairns Post and featured on the paper’s front page with his reservations directed squarely at Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
“To quote an unlikely figure from the other side of politics, Malcolm Fraser, ‘I have not left the party – the (Liberal) Party has left me’,” Bishop Foley wrote.
“I read with deep concern in your policy launch that a re-elected ALP government would fast-track the independent review and its draft legislation and give Labor MPs a conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying.”
In 47 years as a priest, Bishop Foley said he had been privileged to sit at the bedside of countless dying people.
“In almost every case death came gently and peacefully,” he wrote.
Citing the death of his own younger brother from a brain tumour, Bishop Foley acknowledged that some rare conditions were not responsive to palliative care and some deaths were intensely painful and profoundly stressful.
“All that one can offer in these circumstances is that unique Christian faith perspective that one’s intense suffering is added to, shares, the Lord’s own terrible death,” he wrote.
Bishop Foley, from a staunch Labor family said he considered the party had “best represented Catholic social teaching”.
His grandfather, solicitor Edward Pender, was concerned for the rights of injured coal miners and railway workers and helped draft worker’s compensation legislation.
His brother Michael stood for Labor in the federal seat of Ryan.
“However, the increasing influence of the progressive and secular factions in the party is leaving more traditional supporters, like myself, disenfranchised,” Bishop Foley wrote.
“I do have the duty to advise others of my own voting dilemma, which is that no party or person standing represents anything approximating my own convictions. In this position I am sure that I am not alone.
“When abortion legislation was before the Queensland parliament Labor members were left in no doubt that their voting on this issue would be a factor considered in their future preselection.
“Then there were those bizarre scenes of jubilant celebration, from both the floor of the House and its gallery, when this legislation was passed.
“This put paid to any argument that this legislation was to provide relief in circumstances where terminations were a last resort or at best considered to be the lesser of the two evils.”
Bishop Foley told the Cairns Post he had ruled out “extreme” parties such as the Greens and One Nation and had even been “tempted” to cast an informal vote in protest of Labor policy.
“That’s a wasted vote but I am not sure who else I would vote for,” he said.