I know this will make me even more unpopular on The Standard and The Daily Blog. Being Catholic will probably be seen as another reason to question my right to represent the Left; which is odd, given that there is a proud tradition of social justice in the Catholic church.

There’s a lot wrong with the church, but the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and compassion make it not dissimilate to the principles that built the Labour party over a hundred years ago (apologies to National party Catholics, Bill English and Jim Bolger!)

It is the original broad church. When it fails at that (and it has failed spectacularly in recent years) it must stop and take stock  -  ask why the pews are empty, and why it is failing to deliver on its founding principles.

So here’s what Father Michael McCabe said at mass today at St Patrick's church in Kapiti; he quoted a pastoral letter from Pope Paul VI written in 1975, where the Pope called for the leaders of the church to avoid distractions (excommunicating divorced parishioners for example) and return to the true purpose of the church. 

Read this and think of the Labour party today.

‘This is how the Lord wanted his Church to be: universal, a great tree whose branches shelter the birds of the air, a net which catches fish of every kind…A universal church without boundaries or frontiers…I long for a church where the only boundaries are grace.”

Pope Paul VI December 1975

Comments (18)

by Connie Mist on September 29, 2014
Connie Mist

I seem to be missing the point of this post...not sure a Broadchurch analogy is the right one to draw.


by Ross on September 29, 2014



I think Josie is saying we should have more compassion for beneficiaries. This suggests there is room for a tax credit for all...

by Liam Hehir on September 29, 2014
Liam Hehir

I'm sorry Josie but this couldn't be more wrong.

The original "broad church" is the Church of England. That religion takes a latitudinarian of ritual, emphasis and opinion - with the clear divide between low church envangelicals and high church Anglo-Catholics being bridged by their willingness to be in communion with one another.

The Catholic Church has since earliest times reserved the right to define orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Its universalism refers to a belief in the objective nature of religious truth - and latitudinarianism has been disapproved in Quanta Cura, among other documents.

On the other hand, I do agree that latitudinarianism does work well for secular political parties. But that's because temporal politics is different from religion - however much some people substitute one for the other. 

by Mark Murphy on September 29, 2014
Mark Murphy

Most people think that religion (and politics) is about 'what you believe'. For me, the great beauty of the catholic spirit is that you can completely disagree with the sermon and the doctrine, yet still participate in the mystery of life together, the mystery of communion, and that there is a grace and warmth about how we hold each other in this process.  

This sort of energy is needed in the coming months for the Labour Party, as we begin our 'battle of ideas'. 

Ideas are important, but there's something much more important. Call it presence, shelter, grace. It's also what voters sense - or not sense - in the 'personality' of the parties and leaders. Labour needs to rebuild/choose a party that Broad New Zealand "can warm to".   


by Liam Hehir on September 29, 2014
Liam Hehir

See, I think that the nature of democratic politics is that it is a substitute for violence as the means of getting what we want. If you see it instead as a substitute for religion as the source of truth and orthodoxy you are simply going to get the sectarianism and none of the transcendence.

 A better way for the left to think about it is this: there are actually limits to what can be achieved through the political life - and that is on the whole a good thing.

by Richard on September 29, 2014

Nice one Josie: it's a pity that the original Broad Church is a liberal strand within Anglicanism, not the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is the original Universal Church. Or at least it was until those Greek splitters.


by barry on September 29, 2014

The Labour party should follow the Roman Catholic church? excommunicate the heretics? Burn the apostates? Cut out the tongues of the blasphemers?

by Peggy Klimenko on September 29, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@barry: "Burn the apostates? Cut out the tongues of the blasphemers?"

Ha! I don't think that there's been a great deal of that in recent times....

To be sure, the church has traditionally had a strong emphasis on charity; in fact, it may well take a dim view of the flinty-eyed attitude toward beneficiaries which has taken root here in New Zealand, even among some sectors of the Labour party. But nevertheless, it's still an undemocratic patriarchy, with decidedly unreconstructed views of gays and lesbians, and of women.

Not exactly the model for a modern political party which desires to be a "broad church", I'd have thought.

by Josie Pagani on September 29, 2014
Josie Pagani

Liam/Richard - I not suggesting the Anglican church isn't also a broad church. The last thing I need is a religious war! And I take your point Liam about 'latitudinism' - I've never argued the Catholic church isn't hierarchical. But Mark puts it perfectly; it's the possibly to disagree in the Catholic churh, to let yourself down, to be different  - and still line up together to take communion - which isn't a reward for good behaviour, but a mark of inclusiveness. 

I also agree Liam, that politics shouldn't be a substitute for religion. But religious beliefs can lead to a political life. 

by Richard on September 30, 2014

Josie, you need to get a dictionary and a clue about what the words you use actually mean.

You are just factually wrong. The Catholic church is not the original broad church.

On the other hand, fair enough if you want to draw an analogy between the Catholic church and the Labour party. They are both atavistic bureaucracies that have lost relevance and purpose.


by Mark Murphy on September 30, 2014
Mark Murphy

I want to surf with your Broad Church metaphor, Josie. Today I'm hearing some in the Cunliffe and/or South Auckland Pacific Island community begin to openly express their opposition to Grant, based on his sexuality. I love Pope Paul's words: his longing for a body where the only boundaries are grace. It strikes me that that is a most beautiful description of the body of God, the body of the kingdom of heaven. It is a homecoming possibility for all our hearts. And in politics we also need to work with the reality that the boundaries of the community are not always grace - that they are also identity, circumstance, loyalty, instinct. 

Leadership is an issue for Labour. It's not the only issue, of course. Who is capable of leading, embodying, communicating 'Broad Church Labour'? Cunliffe does seem to unite the union base and parts of the member base, especially South Auckland. But he clearly hasn't the caucus (which all of NZ can plainly see), and he has failed to reach out to middle NZ.  Humanly, he leaves me cold. Grant is much, much warmer. He seems to have the resepct of his colleagues, and whoever works with him. He may unite both the left and the liberal wing, while reaching out afresh to NZers who want to find someone to "warm to". But will he be spurned by Labour's social conservative 'base'? Who could lead/embody Broad Church Labour?


by Liam Hehir on September 30, 2014
Liam Hehir

I agree with your approach regarding political parties Josie - just not your approach to Catholicism!

by Peggy Klimenko on October 01, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@Richard: "fair enough if you want to draw an analogy between the Catholic church and the Labour party. They are both atavistic bureaucracies that have lost relevance and purpose."

The church is an undemocratic patriarchy: these aren't charges which would stick in regard to the modern Labour party, nor would members tolerate a party with such characteristics, I'm guessing. So: the assertion of atavism is challengeable, even if that of bureaucracy isn't .

by Liam Hehir on October 01, 2014
Liam Hehir

Religion is about man's search for the truth - something not determined by a majority vote. Political parties are concerned with political power - something that in a liberal democracy does flow from a majority vote.

by Rex Ahdar on October 02, 2014
Rex Ahdar

The passage Josie quotes is from Evanelii Nuntiandi (Dec 8, 1975) at para 61:

"This is how the Lord wanted His Church to be: universal, a great tree whose branches shelter the birds of the air,[88] a net which catches fish of every kind [89] or which Peter drew in filled with one hundred and fifty-three big fish, [90] a flock which a single shepherd pastures.[91] A universal Church without boundaries or frontiers except, alas, those of the heart and mind of sinful man."

Unfortunately, she omits the final clause: "except, alas, those of the heart and mind of sinful man". The minds and hearts of sinful men and women is a frontier that may prevent those persons from entering into the Church universal. Preaching Grace without the Cross, without emphasizing the regeneration of heart, without stressing the necessary and radical change in the inner man, is a dangerous half truth. Read the entire Letter and you will see that is what the Bishop of Rome was on about. If I may, here is para 10:

"10. This kingdom and this salvation, which are the key words of Jesus Christ's evangelization, are available to every human being as grace and mercy, and yet at the same time each individual must gain them by force - they belong to the violent, says the Lord,[24] through toil and suffering, through a life lived according to the Gospel, through abnegation and the cross, through the spirit of the beatitudes. But above all each individual gains them through a total interior renewal which the Gospel calls metanoia; it is a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart."




by Mark Murphy on October 03, 2014
Mark Murphy

Oh jeepers guys, you've well and truly stamped on this creative moment (from Josie) with all this epistle waving. This is how to killeth the spirit, and completely miss the point.

by Rex Ahdar on October 03, 2014
Rex Ahdar

And the point is...?


by Mark Murphy on October 03, 2014
Mark Murphy

Community. Communion. The common good.

 Josie's original point was about a political party, the NZ Labour Party. It was founded as a home for all people, to represent all in society, especially those not included by the property owning class in early modern NZ.

There are parallels with the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified because he challenged a religious system based on purity and exclusion. He invited the most socially, politically excluded into imemdiate, direct relationship with the power and presence at the heart fo the universe. 

We have such a loss of community in NZ society, a loss of the common good. Under Key, it is death (of community) by a thousand cuts. For me, Labour represent the best practical hope of all current parties to bring in policies that put people first, that rebuild our social capital, our sense of connectedness, generosity and grace for each other. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is the same as religion. I'm under no pretence that politics can offer the sense of transcendence, mystery, and deep communion that religion, at its best, supports.

I read Joasie's point, too, as being that Labour as a community has become extremely fractured, it's lost sight of its broader spirit of inclusiveness, its concern to help out the majority of ordinary NZers, rather than just be a home for the advancement of political careers, hobby-horse activists, and special interest group concerns.The parellels with the catholic church are obvious.

How can Labour offer some degree of support and healing to the broader NZ community, when it's own being is so fractured? 

Like being part of the church. We experience hypocrisy, failure, and disppointment, and yet hope for more.  Like Pope's Paul's longing.

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