Something quite controversial is taking place in Australia. As reported by The Telegraph, some of the country’s Catholic leaders are claiming that the new laws intended to tackle down espionage could actually force Australian Catholics to register as foreign agents in their own nation.
Naturally, we’re talking about a very delicate situation considering not only the fact that Catholicism is one of the top religions in this country, but also the fact that this situation could easily get unpredictable consequences. Recently, the Vatican expressed its concern on this delicate issue.
Back in December, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the anti-espionage measure in the wake of several scandals involving agents from China that were meddling in the Australian politics.
This situation became one of the main controversies in the country, considering the good relationships that Australian governments have had with China over the last few decades.
Of course, given the fact that Chinese agents were compromising the political landscape of this nation, analysts believe that the Prime Minister was forced to take these measures not only to solve the problem but also to provide a strong image among his base.
However, even when almost everyone agrees that the measures could be quite effective, Catholics are claiming that one of the collateral damages of these measures is that it targets them. The reason? because of the fact that the language of these new laws would label them as agents of a foreign state.
Regarding this bitter controversy, Bishop Robert McGuckin told the Australian parliament that far from being agents of a foreign government, Catholics in Australia are nothing more than “followers of Jesus Christ.”
In addition, Bishop McGuckin pointed out that the Catholic Church in that country is made up of millions of Australian citizens who are not “beholden to a foreign power” and just practice their faith.
Also, Bishop McGuckin claimed that the new measures are forcing every single Australian Catholic involved in advocacy to register and report. Finally, he said that considering how Catholics make up more than 20 percent of the Australian population, he believes “that’s a lot of registrations.”
As reported by The Telegraph, the proposed measures would mandate that every single agent working for the interests of a foreign state must reveal themselves and register with the government of Australia. Otherwise, these people will face prosecution.
Naturally, while some analysts believe these laws represent an effective method to protect the country from foreign intelligence agencies, many believe that some other measures must be taken in order to prevent the targeting of innocent groups, such as the Catholic.
According to local media, the Australian Prime Minister decided to introduce the measures as a reaction to an Australian congressman who was forced to resign for providing a pro-China speech in the parliament.
Naturally, the most scandalous detail of this case was the fact that the congressman made this move after receiving a very substantial donation from a wealthy Chinese businessman. Basically, this man was playing in favor of Chinese interests in the most blatant way.
While many Australian Catholics agree that the government must take the proper measures to prevent these kinds of incidents, they believe that Turnbull’s measures are quite flawed in their approach to members of the Catholic church. In addition, they claimed that more safeguards are needed in order to protect Australian faithful in an effective way.
According to Crux Now, the Australian Bishop’s Conference said that the exemption for religion proposed in the clause 27 was basically drafted based on the erroneous assumption that the Catholic Church in Australia acts on behalf of a foreign power, i.e. the Vatican City State.
Additionally, the Australian Bishop’s Conference pointed out that since the Catholic Church in this country doesn’t act on behalf of any foreign state or government, the clause would confer no kind of exemption on members of the Australian Catholic Church.
Regarding this whole controversy, a liberal congressman named Andrew Hastie claimed that no more safeguards were needed in the measures to protect the Catholics and any other religious Australian.
This man argued that Australian Catholics have nothing to worry about as long as they promote the interests of the country and have nothing to hide. Otherwise, Hastie said they would face the proper consequences.
According to legal analysts, these comments represent a very dangerous situation, considering that “Australian interests” represent a very ambiguous term that many could interpret in different ways.
Bishop McGuckin claimed that the bill not only represents a threat to Australian Catholics but also to any other religious institution in the country that has any kind of international tie.