The Most Reverend Max Davis has stood aside as the Catholic Bishop of the Australian Defence Force.
Bishop Davis has been charged by Western Australian police with an offence dating back to 1969, prior to his ordination. The allegation is that Bishop Davis abused a student at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia.
Bishop Davis has released a statement emphatically denying the allegation. He will defend himself against the charge.
I can only hope for all involved that this allegation is untrue. And Bishop Davis is certainly entitled to the presumption of innocence that is a hallmark of our justice system while this matter is dealt with. He also continues to have my prayers. Our Catholic hierarchy need them every day.
However, it is time for the Most Reverend Max Davis to stand aside permanently.
It gives me no pleasure to write this. I would like nothing more than for Bishop Davis to be a good, strong Catholic leader. But he has not lived up to his responsibilities.
In fact, he has let Catholic serving members in the Australian Defence Force down. I have refrained from writing about this until now because I have been holding out hope that things might change.
Unfortunately, given the current circumstances, this is no longer a possibility.
First a little history of what Bishop Davis has done well. And this history should highlight exactly why Catholic service members need a bishop who is unafraid of battle. One who is in the mould of the great Archbishop Mannix, who held this post through two world wars from 1917 until 1963.
In 2010, The Australian revealed that the Australian Defence Force was not providing a Catholic chaplain for Catholic soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.
As a result, Catholic soldiers died without the sacraments and were even buried without the support of Catholic military chaplains.
Bishop Davis was brave enough to speak out. And I back him for that.
He made it clear that priests were willing to deploy to Afghanistan, but the former Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, was not allowing it. Bishop Davis told The Australian:
“I have one or two priests who would go there now, actually.
But I do not have the authority or influence to post them. Legally that authority belongs with the Chief of the Army.”
Bishop Davis stated that the military viewed all Christian chaplains as just the same thing. I can tell you, as a Catholic, that they are not. Furthermore, the very fact that this thought even exists highlights an arrogant contempt on behalf of the military for the other Christian denominations as well.
Bishop Davis also indicated that ‘truculent secularism’ meant Catholic seminarians were hesitant to serve in the military.
That’s the recent history. It’s a history that highlights that the Australian Defence Force’s attack on Catholicism hasn’t happened overnight, but has well and truly been in train for some time.
Fast forward four years and the situation has only worsened.
The Chief of the Defence Force writes to Catholics that the expression of their faith undermines the values of the Australian Army – even when they are not in uniform or on duty. Uniformed military personnel march in a parade that vilifies Jesus Christ. The Australian Defence Force even acknowledges this occurs in writing. And Catholic service members are forced to support this decision.
And this is where I lost all confidence in Bishop Davis.
I spoke to him about this issue on three occasions and wrote to him as well.
I also outlined how the political lobby group, the Defence LGBTI Information Service (DEFGLIS), was actively seeking to have me removed from the military.
I told Bishop Davis in mid-2013 that I was going to fight hard. And I asked him for his support.
His response shocked me.
Bishop Davis told me that he would provide no public support. I wasn’t surprised so much at that, but he also said that he would not even assist privately. In fact, Bishop Davis told me that he had not even thought to register Catholic unhappiness with unlawful uniformed participation in an event that denigrates Jesus Christ.
And now that I had brought it up, Bishop Davis went on to say that he still would not do anything. It was not his role to tell the military what to do, Bishop Davis said. In stark contrast, the DEFGLIS Chairman believes he has every right to tell the military what to do. And it is clear which person the military has been paying attention to.
If there is one person who has the role, duty and responsibility to protect Catholics in the Australian Defence Force it is the Catholic Military Bishop. And Bishop Davis has been wearing that hat.
There are no ifs, buts or maybes about facts of the situation facing Catholics (and all Christians in general) in the military:
- Commonwealth law forbids the Australian Defence Force from engaging in political discrimination. That means the military’s policy on political activity must not give one group a benefit over any other.
- The military’s policy forbids uniformed attendance at political events.
- The constitution of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras makes it clear that the parade is a political activity that supports anti-Catholic policies, in particular homosexual marriage and the removal of religious freedom.
- Uniformed service members marched in this parade.
- The military has refused permission for other service members to march in parades that support Catholic policies because they are political in nature.
Military involvement in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an untenable case of political discrimination. And that’s without even delving into the moral aspects of this issue.
But our nation and its military also have laws that deal with issues of morality as well:
- Defence policy, based on Commonwealth laws, states that any place where Defence members are on duty or in uniform is a Defence workplace.
- This policy forbids religious vilification and activity of a sexual nature in Defence workplaces.
- The military acknowledges that Christianity is vilified at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
- This event is also filled with numerous people who engage in lewd sexual activity in public.
- The military marched in this event.
I sent Bishop Davis this evidence in late 2013.
And Bishop Davis responded by stating that Catholics were protected and that we are not entitled to impose our views on others – as if my efforts to uphold the law were nothing more than this.
One can only wonder why Bishop Davis would not act against the Australian Defence Force’s support of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. But it certainly has not helped the other Catholics in the military.
The precedent has now been set that Catholics can be removed from service for actually upholding the law and defending their Catholic beliefs – without any opposition from the Catholic Bishop.
It only undermines Bishop Davis’ brave efforts in 2010.
The military, like the rest of our society, is heading down a path of militant secularism. And if one cannot see this, then they are blind.
It will not get easier for Christians to freely practice their faith tomorrow if we do not stand up and fight against the attacks underway today. These attacks start by equating truth with error and reducing Christian influence by providing support and respect to all other religious ideas, regardless of their merit. And they end in the imposition of laws that remove all rights to religious freedom.
The military has supported those attacks without any rebuke from the Catholic hierarchy.
That is why Bishop Davis must go for good.
Catholics need a bishop who will demand that the Australian Defence Force does not turn a blind eye to transgressions of the law and Defence policy when it comes to denigration of Christianity. And they need a bishop who will ensure that the military hierarchy includes Catholics when they talk about respect. Because today, right now, the senior leadership have utter contempt for Catholicism and Christianity in general.
And in the not too distant future, the battle won’t be about uniformed participation in the Mardi Gras. It will be about whether we even need Catholic chaplains in the military at all. That’s what happens when you make yourself irrelevant.