Seminars in Political and Religious Life

About SPRL

Seminars in Political and Religious Life is a new travelling seminar series operating in conjunction with the Centre for the Study of the Western Tradition in Campion College. held in association with different institutions that have generously offered to host seminars on this topic area. SPRL aims to provide an avenue to nurture further work in the interface between politics and theology particularly, not exclusively, in Political Theology.

The concept has attracted a lot of interest from scholars from a diversity denominational persuasions, hailing from institutions like the University of Wollongong, Alphacrucis College, The Australian Catholic University, Ridley College, The United Theological College, the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Monash University, Macquarie Univeristy, La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne.

We continue to find ways to grow the base of support, and we would appreciate your support by spreading the word about SPRL through your various networks.


Stephen McInerney: Newman & Liberalism

In his Apologia, John Henry Newman claimed to dedicate his life to defending dogmatic religion against liberalism. As an Anglican, Newman opposed liberal parliamentary reforms and shaped the Tractarians as an anti-liberal movement. Yet, in his Catholic years, Newman was suspected of being a liberal due to his views on the politics informing the Syllabus of Errors, and his circumspection regarding the question of papal infallibility. Since his death, conservative and liberal Catholics have sought to claim Newman as one of their own. This paper suggests that while Newman can be described as a liberal by the standards of nineteenth-century ultramontanist Catholicism, this did not make him an advocate of either the liberalism or conservativism of his modern disciples.

Robert Tilley: A Catholic Critique of Contemporary Engagements with Scripture – Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Giorgio Agamben

Many on the Left lament that the Marxist critique of capitalism since the 1960s has run out of steam. Indeed, some say Marxist critique that has been appropriated and subsumed by the very consumer culture it affects to take issue with. Some Marxist theorists have responded by trying to appropriate the voice of religion to revivify the revolutionary zeal of the Left. Theorists such as Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, and Giorgio Agamben, have done so via Scripture. This paper argues that they ultimately fail and end up being as congenial to our hyper-consumer world as anything that went before. This paper explores why this is so and what our authors must do if they are to rectify this failure.

SPRL Opening Session

To kick start the series, an opening session has been organised for Tuesday, 10th July 2012 at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, and will consist of two presentations.

Where: The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family
278 Victoria Parade East Melbourne
Time: 12:00 to 1:30pm
Date: Tue, 10th July 2012


“The Ecclesiology of the American Health and Human Services Mandate”

Dr. Matthew Tan, Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy, Campion College Australia

Abstract: The most recent mandate issued by the American Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which required all employers to provide the full range of reproductive health measures including contraception and abortion, attracted fierce criticism from religiously affiliated employers, in particular those associated with the Catholic Church. To date, most if not all of the strategies of opposition to the mandate by such religiously affiliated employers have been grounded on a defense of religious liberty as protected by the Constitution. Whilst understandable, a question that persists is whether such a strategy is an adequate one for the defence of the freedom of the Church. This paper argues that such a strategy provides only minimal protection from the onslaught by state authority, for the HHS mandate is not merely an administrative measure, but an exercise in ecclesial redefinement, an attempt to redefine what the Church is. Indeed, the defense strategy itself is inadequate precisely because it proceeds on the the premise of the Church accepting the state’s redefinement of what constitutes the Body of Christ. The solution then lies in an ecclesial, not a legal, mode of action.


“Australian Political Branding in an Age of Ideological Pygmies – A Theological Analysis and Response”

Dr. Paul Tyson, Lecturer in Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Abstract: In the final decades of last century, post-ideological neo-liberalism was embraced by both main party blocks in Australian politics. Since then, Australian politics has become increasingly ideologically banal. Intelligent and meaningful normative visions, political ideals shaped by coherent and genuinely civic political philosophies, collective belief commitments bigger than interest rates and invasion phobias, transcendently referenced notion of the common good and notions of universal human dignity – such ideals have no place in our politics now. Now elections are little more than mass media branding festivals where competing celebrity representatives of slightly different flavours of ‘rational economic management’ attempt to project an attractive corporate image to the public.

The seismic swing against the ALP in Queensland’s 2012 state election provides an interesting case study in contemporary ideological banality, for no significant policy differentiation separated the incoming LNP form the outgoing ALP. Beginning from Tony Abbott’s comments that this landslide electoral swing indicates simply that the ALP is now “a toxic brand”, this paper seeks to understand the nature of the ideological banality which characterises both main party political power blocks in Australian politics. From there, a theologically nuanced analysis and response to this banality is attempted.


If you would like to be included in our email list to be update on future events, or if you would like to get copies of this flyer to spread among your networks, please contact Dr. Matthew Tan at or at 02 9896 9331

Alternatively, you could find us on the Campion College Website at

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