“Crime and punishment” is over for the time being for our action of removing a brass sword form a cross at a war memorial. No jail for the moment, though refusal to pay restitution of $8000 each for Tim and me may change that in the future. Franz received a $1000 fine for the heinous crime of singing the “Vine and Fig Tree” song, and Andy Paine a $1500 for the crime of recording the action.
In our secular society war making has become the most sacred religion, Anzac Day its most sacred feast day. Soon after our action the Lord Mayor promised to have the sword returned to the cross by Anzac Day, a feat accomplished with a week or two to spare. All was well. The Lord of Death was back on the Cross.
The early Christians subverted the symbols of Rome, declaring Jesus Lord and Saviour, not Caesar. (For instance, Caesar had also been called “The Son of God”). Now at Toowong cemetery history has turned full circle. Jesus is gone from the cross, and the sword of Rome/Empire is in His place.
It is amazing to live in a time where this has happened. Anzac Day is without a doubt our nation’s most sacred day. Christmas and Easter have become (exciting perhaps) holidays for most people. Only Anzac Day demands true reverence by the media, state, and increasingly the church.
Those who would make any stand against this state of affairs, as we did, are quickly labelled religious fanatics, zealots, or extremists; compared to ISIS even. Even the Archbishop denounced us without even enquiring into the matter. Not surprising coming from a man who allows guns into the Cathedral on Anzac Day. (Interestingly he had a different response when Cardinal George Pell was charged with Sexual assault a few months later. The Archbishop’s response was, “He is entitled to a fair trial”).
Well our trial is over. The Archbishop was vindicated. We are guilty, and the sword is back on the cross.
On the world scene the church is still blessing our wars. Chaplains are still providing succour to fight Australia’s wars in the middle east where our air force are bombing Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, our SAS are still assassinating people, and others are still training Afghanis and Iraqis how to do it all themselves. Our help in the liberation of Mosul has reportedly claimed 40,000 civilian lives.
If the church had taken a real stand against war years ago, perhaps the invasion of Iraq could have been stopped. Iraq would not be the living hell it is today. ISIS would not exist, and we would not have helped kill 40,000 innocent people in Mosul fighting the monster we helped create.
In 2003 Australian Catholic Bishops supported a report written by Fr. Bruce Duncan declaring in no uncertain terms that the planned invasion of Iraq was an unjust war. The Pope and church leaders around the world had done the same. We have been fighting that unjust war for a decade and a half. But the silence from the church after the invasion has been deafening. So much for the “Just War Theory”. When it comes to war, we have “no King but Caesar”.
This is further evidenced by the fact that the leader of the Australians in this unjust war, General Peter Cosgrove, was made Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University. Brisbane’s Fr Morgan Batt was a chaplain in Iraq for a number of years. He spoke at my children’s Catholic high school. He started by bragging about all the different weapons he learnt to fire, and joking about how he could kill them (the students) . After returning from Iraq he had been made Brisbane vocations director. I guess they thought his great sense of humour and faith in the religion of the sword would appeal to our youth.
But all is not lost. The support for our action was much more than I expected. Dozens of Veterans and families signed a statement of support including Nobel Prize winner Mairead McGuire, veterans from WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. 30-40 supporters packed the court room for both days of our trial, necessitating a move to a bigger room. As well as personal support, a number of stories have come back about people inspired by our action, My own family has received a few abusive calls (no death threats!), and Anne’s work was contacted demanding she be sacked. But considering the media demonization at the start, this was only to be expected. The media itself mellowed through the process, finding it difficult to portray us as the insane religious cult they had hoped for. (Our bare feet still remain the only real giveaway).
Friends and family came from New Zealand, Melbourne and Alice Springs to support. Dominican Fr Peter Murnane, came up form Melbourne and testified in court to the incompatibility of a sword on a cross, comparing it to a Nazi swastika on the Star of David.
Hopefully we have opened up discussion and thinking around the use of religion to justify war. It was great to get Pope Francis’s recent message out there, as we did in court and to the media, “Religion can never be used to justify war. Peace alone is holy! Peace alone is holy!”
May that Peace be with you,
Some media reports:
Brisbane Times article:
Russia Today article: