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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1533


Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (11:46): I rise to speak today with a sense of duty as a Catholic. I suggest that I owe an enormous amount to the Catholic church, which I will share with you later, and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that. If my mum found out that I had not said some kind words about the Pope, she would have me. So, mum, I am here.

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI, is 85 years old. What a life this man has led. When reading his biography, who would have thought that this guy would end up being the Pope after being a deserter from the army and a member of Hitler's Nazi youth camps? It is phenomenal to understand the parallels of this man's life and his contribution later on to Christian values right across the world.

Pope Benedict XVI was born in Germany and grew up under the war conditions of a world war and the Nazi regime in power. In his early teens, he was briefly a member of Hitler youth, after membership became mandatory. That was in 1941. It was not of his own accord. He turned to theological studies after the war and helped to found and influence journals such as the Communique. He was elevated to the papacy in 2005.

He had a military background. In that era I do not think a lot of people had too many options. In 1943 he and fellow seminarians were drafted into an anti-aircraft corps. He said his unit was attacked by allied forces that year but he did not take part in any of the battles, because his finger was infected, which kept him from learning how to shoot. I am sure that there were ways and means that people protected these guys who were studying religion from being asked to go out and commit acts against their will.

After about nine years in the anti-aircraft unit, Ratzinger was drafted into the regular military. He told Time magazine in 1993 that, while stationed in Hungary, he saw Hungarian jews being sent to the death camps. Ratzinger was sent home but was later called up. He deserted in late April 1945. He was captured by American soldiers and held as a prisoner of war for several months. Ratzinger returned to the seminary at the University of Munich in the fall of 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1951. He had a rapid promotion through the church and at the Second Vatican Council, from 1962 to 1965, Ratzinger served as the chief theological expert to Cardinal Josef Frings, also from Germany. Frings was viewed as a reformer during his time. In 1972, Ratzinger helped found the theological journal Communio, which became one of the most important journals of Catholic thought. In May 1977, he was named Archbishop of Munich and, three months later, was named Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

In 1981, Pope John Paul named Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 1998, he became Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals and was elected dean in 2002. Ratzinger defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine, including teachings on topics such as birth control, homosexuality and interreligious dialogue. Later on, he attended and spoke at a three-day seminar for Catholics and for Muslims. Ratzinger was elevated to the papacy on 19 April 2005. Upon the death of Pope John Paul II, he was elevated to Pope and, five days later, celebrated his inaugural mass.

Known for his rigid views on Catholicism, Pope Benedict sought a more inclusive image as pope. On his recent resignation this month, at the age of 85, he said that he would be calling it quits because of his age and ailing health. According to several media reports, Pope Benedict's discussions centred on his old age and physical and mental weakness. In one statement, the Pope explained:

I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

He went on to state:

However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter,

What a brave and respected decision this guy has made in breaking with tradition. If you understand the Catholic Church you know that it is cloaked in, and enshrined by, centuries and centuries of tradition. One can only try to understand the deliberations of this man as he pondered making this decision. It would not have been made lightly. He has my ultimate respect for the decision he has made.

Close to home, the work of the Catholic Church is evident not only throughout the world but also in my electorate of Wright, with investment in schools and hospitals. Its Christian values underpins our nation. My linkage to the Catholic Church started at a very young age. I lost my father when I was eight years old. I am one of four kids. Mum was a devout Catholic; she was devoted. As a result of her commitment to the church, we would be dragged to every mass, every novena, every benediction, every stations of the cross—for everything that was going in the church, we were there. It was great.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr BUCHHOLZ: That is it. I was educated at the local convent. My whole education was supplied and provided by the Catholic system. I went to Christian Brothers College and then on to St Brendan's College at Yeppoon. It is only when you have your own children and you start getting the $35,000 and $45,000 a year school fees that you start to think. I asked: 'How did you ever as a mother pay for our school fees, get us through and educate us?' She said, 'Darling, I could never afford to pay for your and your brothers' and sisters' school fees so I used to work at the church. I would polish the brass. That is why I used to work at the tuckshop. It was my way of trying to give back because the church provided a blanket of security for our family.' Later on in life, in an understanding that we had a successful transport business, the boarding school I went to used to have an annual fundraiser; it was the St Brendan's Rodeo. We were the major sponsor of that event and it was a privilege and honour to be involved in that, both from a college perspective as an old boy, and to be able to reconnect financially. We sponsored that for about 10 years, and my marketing department would come to me every year and say: 'Boss, we have really got to revisit the money we are spending at St Brendan. We get absolutely no return, and we have had no business out of it.' Without going on and sharing the whole story with them, my comments were that, as long as I am writing the cheques, we will continue to pay my debt back to that college, which helped get me to where I am today, without doubt. By no stretch of the imagination was I a model student.

I still hold the generosity and values that were shared with me as a man, and in addition not only to me, to my entire family. I think that is the ethos of Christianity. One can be a practising Catholic, or a practising Christian by attending mass, but I think it is how you live your life. How are you judged in the eyes of your god if you attend mass and then fail to live the rest of the week with less of a Christian value? For example, driving past the guy on the side of the road who may have a flat tyre and you know who is struggling. I suggest living by one's deeds is also meritorious.

The Catholic church's tentacles throughout our communities have helped shape us as a nation. I pray that the remainder of our Pope's life is healthy. His illusion to his illness and his frailty will be something that he will have to suffer with and I hope that he lives the rest of his life in comfort. For our next Pope—it will be soon made known to the world who this person is—there are some enormous challenges that face the Christian values here in Australia with reference to a royal commission. I trust that Cardinal Pell—the leader of our Church here—assists in that process so that the healing of those people who have been affected during that process—and who will give evidence during that—will find comfort in the process ahead.

Mum, when you are reading this speech, I have done my duty to the priests of my electorate to whom I will send a copy of this speech. Thank you for the work that you do. To the administrators, to the high schools, to the teachers of the Catholic faith: thank you so much for what you do. To the volunteers that work within the parishes across the whole electorate of Wright—there are many parishes, too numerous to mention—thank you for the contribution you make to our community, as without you our community would be poorer.