A petition to stop the ACT forcibly acquiring Canberra’s Christian-run Calvary Hospital has received more than 25,000 signatures.
The territory’s Labor-Greens government plans to seize control from the Catholic operators by July 3 and build a billion dollar replacement on the site.
Canberra-Goulburn priest Father Tony Percy is leading the archdiocesan taskforce behind the petition.
He explains that 44-years into a 120-year lease the government plans to “compulsorily acquire the land, the buildings and rip up the service contract.”
The Catholic Leader reports Father Percy conceded it had the right to do so, but added the real issue was that the law that governed such forced acquisitions was going to be suspended in order to achieve the Calvary acquisition.
“This sets a terrible precedent, not only for other groups in the ACT, but right around the country if they get away with it,” he said.
“No Australian likes to be dispossessed of their land and property. No Australian likes their contract ripped up unilaterally. One of the most significant reasons why Australia is a free and fair nation is because of our property rights, which ensure stability,” he wrote in The Australian.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) reports that on Monday night (May 22) hundreds of opponents attended an emergency “Town Hall” meeting at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra to object to the hospital’s seizure.
Acting ACL Managing Director Wendy Francis noted: “The proposed takeover of Calvary creates a clear precedent for other governments to seize faith-based services like education and aged care.”
John Steenhof, Managing Director of the Human Rights Law Alliance observed: “The ACT government will soon introduce some of the most extreme euthanasia laws in the world. One of the key barriers to the compelled universal roll-out of euthanasia on both the willing and unwilling is Calvary.”
Ms. Francis added: “Calvary Hospital is life affirming from conception to natural death. Its failure to provide elective abortions and euthanasia is an affront to the ACT Labor-Greens government which is now attempting to crush dissent with its rushed compulsory acquisition.”
ACL Deputy Director Dan Flynn told Vision Radio the motive is obvious.
“They’re clearly moving in on an ideological basis. We know this because there was a report tabled in April saying that the medical services offered by Calvary ‘have too much of a religious overtone.’ What the government is trying to do in the ACT is to make abortion after 16-weeks available at all hospitals which would be resisted by Calvary.”
Mr. Flynn said it’s a direct attack on the Christian faith.
“The idea that religion is just expressed in church on Sunday hasn’t been the Western or Australian experience. Hospitals have been started from this Christian sense of devotion and goodwill. You’ve got the nuns who have run this hospital. It’s a not-for-profit. They’re not in it for money. It’s the outworking of the Christian faith. So what’s offensive to the Labor-Greens government is seeing that ethos being expressed,” he observed.
“People love Calvary Hospital. People love the presence of the nuns, the pastoral side of it. It’s a well-run hospital. A 97-year-old Calvary patient said Calvary should, in fact, be taking over the Canberra Hospital, which is not so well run. There have been scathing reports about that.”
“What often happens here is people don’t put up a fight. If this happens, could there be takeovers of Christian schools once this mould is broken? If this goes through without a whimper then we have a new frontier in the battle: Government versus Church,” Mr. Flynn concluded.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says many long-term Calvary Hospital doctors are shocked, dismayed and angry at not being consulted about the takeover.
“There’s a general feeling that senior medical staff have been disrespected in this whole process so far,” AMA ACT President Professor Walter Abhayaratna told Canberra’s City News.
An editorial in The Australian wrote: “Lack of meaningful consultation and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s failure to answer properly the key question – Why? – is unsettling .. the takeover has heightened suspicions of ideological motivation.”