In a staggeringly arrogant move, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has threatened to close Catholic-run hospitals if proposed changes to abortion laws in Victoria are passed.
His position is that Catholic employees would be required to perform abortions and they couldn't possibly do that in good conscience and maintain their religious freedom and blah blah blah.
I'll leave aside the rightness-or-otherwise of the proposed changes, and I won't dwell on the fact that not all employees of Catholic hospitals are necessarily Catholic, and just say that this beautifully illustrates the danger of allowing essential services to be hijacked by religious interests.
Churches have long made a habit of attaching themselves to charitable enterprises. This is partly out of a genuine desire to do good works, and partly out of a genuine desire to promote their brand . . . much like a Hollywood celebrity being photographed holding a starving African child.
But like the child being unceremoniously dropped when the next $20m pay packet comes up, the charity will always come second to maintaining the Church's perceived moral authority.
So good works are done and people are helped. It's all well and good until they start believing their own publicity.
Case in point: Mr. Hart seems to think that if he makes good on his threat, medical services will suffer because surely nobody other than Catholics would have the social conscience needed to run a hospital.
Doesn't he realise there'll be a huge line of providers ready and willing to immediately step into the breach? There's lots of money in medicine.
But of course he knows that.
After all, that's the other reason the Church got into it in the first place.