AUSTRALIA'S senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has denounced Catholic politicians who defy church teachings on controversial issues.
With debate over euthanasia and gay marriage looming in 2011, Cardinal Pell used an interview with the Sunday Herald Sun to rebuke MPs who "fly under the Christian or Captain Catholic flag" but "blithely disregard Christian perspectives" when they vote in parliament on moral issues.
"If a person says, 'Look, I'm not a Christian, I've a different set of perspectives', I disagree but I understand," the Archbishop of Sydney said.
"If a person says to me, 'Look, I'm nominally a Christian but it sits lightly with me', I understand that.
"But it's incongruous for somebody to be a Captain Catholic one minute, saying they're as good a Catholic as the Pope, then regularly voting against the established Christian traditions."
He said citing primacy of conscience in support of views was "OK, but if you're espousing something that's not a Christian position, don't claim Christian backing for that".
He said: "To the extent that on a significant number of issues you depart from Christian teachings you know it's incongruous to be billing yourself as a champion of Christian rights. And the Catholic Church doesn't teach the primacy of conscience. You know if somebody said apartheid was all right, nobody would say, 'Yes you can say that because of the primacy of conscience'."
Cardinal Pell also hit out at Greens leader Bob Brown, who claimed the church was out of step with mainstream Catholics on gay marriage and other issues.
He said he was confident the Greens' move to get Federal Parliament to pass a pro-euthanasia Bill would not succeed.
"I'm not telling people how to vote," he said. "I'm telling people how I think they should vote. I'm an Australian citizen and I have as much right to do that as any other citizen."