Emboldening lay Catholics

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In this fiftieth anniversary year of the opening of Vatican II, a number of interviews on Eureka Street TV have featured critical reflections from prominent Catholic thinkers and activists on various aspects of the Council.

This interview is with British journalist, author and broadcaster, Clifford Longley, who is one of the UK’s leading lay Catholics. He was invited to Australia by the progressive Catholic organisation, Catalyst for Renewal, and he delivered a series of lectures in May this year on the legacy of Vatican II.

In the interview he focuses on the issues and challenges in developing a mature Catholic laity in the light of the teachings of the Council, and the video also features excerpts from the inaugural Rosemary Goldie Lecture he gave on this topic.

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It’s fitting that his talk was delivered in this context, as Rosemary Goldie was one of Australia’s leading lay Catholics. She was a theologian and lay activist, and one of the first women to be named an official observer of Vatican II. She died in Sydney in 2010 at the age of 94. 

After the Council for several years she was Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, one of the first women and lay people to serve as a bureaucrat in the Curia. In this capacity, in the 60s and 70s she helped organise a number of major international lay congresses in Rome.

After this she was appointed a Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Lateran University in Rome. While large in intellect and influence, she was tiny in physical stature, and Pope John XXIII referred to her affectionately as ‘la piccinina’ which translates from the Italian as something like ‘a little slip of a thing.’

Clifford Longley was born in the UK in 1940, and has had a distinguished career mainly as a print journalist. He worked as a general reporter on a number of newspapers before specialising from 1972 onwards in the coverage of British and international religious affairs.

He wrote a weekly column on religion for The Times from 1972 till 1992, and from 1992 to 2000 for the Daily Telegraph. This made him the longest continuously appearing columnist in British national papers, and in 1986 he was honoured with an award for ‘Specialist Writer of the Year’ in the British Press Awards.

During this time, as well as his work as a columnist, he was leader writer and religious affairs editor for these newspapers. Since 1994 he has been a columnist, contributing editor and leader writer for the prestigious weekly Catholic journal, The Tablet.

In more recent times he has also made regular appearances on radio. Since 2002 he’s been a contributor to Thought for the Day, and since 2004 he’s been a panelist on The Moral Maze, both on BBC Radio 4.

Longley has also been a consultant to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and has been on the advisory council of the Three Faiths Forum. In 1998 he was made an honorary fellow of St Mary’s College at the University of Surrey.

As well as his prolific writing for newspapers and journals, his books include The Times Book of Clifford Longley, The Worlock Archive and Chosen People.


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Clifford Longley, Peter Kirkwood, Vatican II, Catalyst for Renewal, Catholic laity



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Aurelius, if your evaluation of Chile saga is as competent, as your most sketchy take on Marcos,then your Chile appraisal is highly unbalanced. I lived in a nerve centre of the Marcos revolution at Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University[a fellow class atendee was later President Cory Aquino-then recently widowed. Whatever your post revolution 'accretions', this was a people's revolution with the clergy and hierarchs and religious rock solid with the people[not to mention sundry testified sightings of Our Blessed Mother 'your philippino and Chilean biased reductionist oversimplifications are redolent of many other views of yours elsewhere. My Philippine experience wasn't merely at nerve centre levels but among the barrios and poor fishermen; among farmers and city slums; add meetings in east coast Infanta watched closely by marcos police in a coffee shop opposite-your reductionisms miss the rising people epicentre of the downfall The Chilean liturgies were clearly occurrences where graces of conversion were a possibility though rejected-just as the Philippines hero cardinal Sin celebrated Mass at Malacayang Palace[having kept Marcos sweating it out on kneelers with Sin purposely arriving an hour late [tothe delightof milions of philippinos gluedtotv sets awaiting sins subtle 'slights' In those heady years Pope John Paul provided a well circularized famous pic of himself sitting behind madam marcos[butterfly] as she spoke endlessly to crowds; the pope with finger positioned on nostril with far away look[hierarchs know how "to sup with satan but with a long long spoon"[john xxiii]
Father John Michael George | 11 July 2012


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