Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saints and Prime Ministers

Mary MacKillop

(This article was originally published at

Prime Ministers and saints are not usually coupled together. Which is why I was quite surprised to find that Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had told some nuns that he would speak to Pope Benedict XVI about the canonisation of Mary MacKillop.

Actually, I was more than surprised. I was annoyed.

Now I am definitely not the kind of person that thinks politicians should never speak on issues related to faith. In fact, the last time I was this annoyed with Kevin Rudd was when he said that he was just a garden variety type of Christian, and his faith would not be influencing his politics in anyway. If you’re a committed Christian, your faith should influence every aspect of your life. Politics included. That’s not to say you rule the country as a theocracy. But you can’t just set aside faith when you go to work for the day.

Anyway, back to Mary MacKillop.

The reason I was so annoyed was because I don’t see why the Prime Minister should have anything to do with Mary MacKillop’s canonisation. Yes, it would be nice to have an Australian saint. And I can understand him hoping that she is made a saint. But hoping that something happens is different to speaking to the Pope about it.

He’s a lapsed Catholic who now attends an Anglican church. He’s definitely not what you would call an expert on saints. He is the prime minister of the country where Mary MacKillop happened to live. That’s all. And Mary MacKillop’s canonisation should have nothing to do with him.

Now Pope Benedict XVI did tell Sister Anne Derwin that Mary MacKillop would be canonised, they were just waiting for the miracle. At least he didn’t say that all they were waiting on was Kevin Rudd to tell them what to do.

And I do think that Kevin Rudd saying he would raise the matter shows either a complete lack of knowledge of the actual canonisation process or a simple desire to win political points. It wouldn’t matter who spoke to the Pope about making Mary MacKillop a saint. Pope Benedict XVI is not waiting for people to tell him what to do. He is, as he said, waiting for the miracle. It has already been accepted that Mary MacKillop performed one miracle. And a second miracle has been put forward. The Catholic Church now needs to confirm that this second miracle has taken place. There is an investigation process underway and it must be completed before Mary MacKillop is canonised.

In other words, canonising someone is not just a matter of saying ‘Hey, I think this person should be a saint? What do you reckon?’ There is a formal process that must be gone through first.

I presume that Kevin Rudd knew that. So why say he would speak to the Pope? Just to show he cares about religion? To try and act more important than what he is? Or maybe just because the nuns asked him to and he didn’t want to say no?

But whatever his reasons, the fact remains that prime ministers should not be involved in the making of saints. And I honestly believe they’d be better off staying out of the process altogether. Especially when they’re not even Catholic. Nothing Kevin Rudd says to the Pope about Mary MacKillop’s canonisation is going to make one scrap of difference. And that’s the way it should be.

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