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Why I'm still a Catholic


Geraldine DoogueWhy am I still a Catholic? How should I answer this important question? In truth, sometimes I'm not sure why.

Yet I know the Church frames my identity, as basic as that. It's the source of consolation without peer. I can't slough it off: it's too embedded in the way I see the world and myself. I take it for granted in some respects, one of the products of being formed in post-WW2 Australian Catholicism, with its strong Irish inheritance.

It has been one of the most rewarding venues of growth and stimulation of any in my life. I believe that if you do hang in there, Christ's great offering from St Matthew's gospel comes true, in ways impossible to imagine: 'I have come to give you life and give it in abundance.' Abundant life: such a precious booty, not available at will.

So no, I'm not about to step aside from this easily.

But the unfolding headlines of late, together with what I've forced myself to look at square in the face, have tested these verities.

Maybe I've been through something of an epiphany, that wonderful biblical word from catechism classes which I once barely grasped. I think that deep down, I've come to believe that the world beyond the institutional church is kinder, gentler, full of more conscientious ethics, values and care for others, than the institutional Church.

That is, the much-criticised secular world in which lay people explicitly live is probably more functional and more ready to conscience-examine than the institutional Church. What an extraordinary thing! This was something of an epic realisation for me which again prompted further reflection: why then am I still a Catholic?

I suspect Vatican II's central idea of a Pilgrim Church definitely influenced my thinking as a young 20-something believer. It raised my expectations. It stretched my idea of faith. But it was a slow-burn, nothing hasty. Only gradually did my Catholic identity shift.

Despite remaining a pretty faithful adherent overall, I've sought out broader Church experiences via groups like Catalyst For Renewal, by the occasional retreat, by good reading including The London Tablet and by participating in Ignatian reading groups, up to the present day.

So, without the sense that the ordained officials of the Church had so powerfully lost their way, would I be speaking to you like this today, with any ambivalence? If I hadn't drawn the awful conclusion that key parts of the institutional Church essentially ditched the role of Good Shepherd; if they hadn't decided that the priestly caste had to be protected above all, rather than the most vulnerable, would I be feeling like this?

I doubt it. I would much prefer not to be suffering any collateral shame, as I do feel with these constantly emerging stories.

But even a pretty compliant person like me would feel foolish at best and cowardly at worst if I didn't have the guts to look this crisis in the eye and see devastating dysfunction at a systemic not individual level, in an institution so close to my own values-centre. It demands my own self-audit. I must say, surely: what next? Or do I simply retreat into something small and extremely private, in the comfort of people who feel exactly as I do?

Until now, I've seen my duty and vocation as pursuing my personal journey, always guided by the wonders of our great tradition, knowing how much it could both humble and stretch me. I have tried to introduce my children to a Pilgrim Church's offerings (though I am not sure how successful I've been ... as one Eureka Street correspondent replied to an Andrew Hamilton article recently 'they don't want our Catholicity').

And I would have been alive to requests from ordained ministers and religious to serve the Church. I would have happily left the bulk of it to them: the job of ritual, of teaching and administration and I would have respected them for fulfilling that role.

Whereas now I feel naïve and, yes, angry. I am struck by some unpalatable truths about some key Church officials' priorities ... amid them warning about the perils of the secular world!

So why do I still bother? Partly because I'd feel so much poorer without my faith. It anchors me. It introduces me to the whole notion of a journey in life, such an inviting metaphor.

It brings a great capacity for rapture, beauty, sensuality, joy, alongside the capacity for acute vices because emotion is not mortgaged in the scheme of offerings made to us, that's the majesty of it all. Risks are invited within our faith. 'Ours is a faith of possibilities' was a wonderful phrase included in a Redemptorist pamphlet distributed in my home parish in South Perth back in the 1970s. It influenced me to my core, then and now.

So, I treasure the sheer tradition of our faith. I seek it out. It helps me fulfil the natural human urge to make meaning; as the British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks insists: 'We are meaning-seeking animals.'

My conviction is that our children and grandchildren will be immensely the poorer for not growing up with a Catholic sensibility, without access to the rich armoury of belief, consolation, glimpse of the divine, the whole notion of commitments, of artistry, of abundant life.

So somehow, we, lay people especially, have to ask ourselves some big questions. How much are we prepared to commit ourselves to refreshing this Church of ours? How much do we value it in our lives? How much have we sought to replace it with other elements (because meaning is offered in various parts of our society — it's a more contested space than before)?

How much have we dodged evaluating its impact on ours and on community lives? How much have we left it to the officials; abandoned them and left them unreformed, when all about us we're experiencing considerable institutional reform in our daily working lives? I've been through about three big restructures in my media life and more could be coming. This rarely proceeds at a pace that we choose. It dislocates, often profoundly.

Did we seriously delude ourselves that the Church could escape all that? One can rarely prophecy the exact manner of acute challenge. Otherwise it wouldn't be a crisis, just a big problem. But truly to see the Church 'crucified' on the cross of something as awful as sexual abuse and cover-up, is very hard to bear. Who would have thought this would be the vector? But it is.

In the words of respected Vatican reporter John Allen, from his book The Future Church: 'The real question ... is not whether the bishops are up to the challenges of the 21st century. The question is whether the rest of us are?'

Again, why do I bother? Because somehow I can't just stand back from it all. I'm not sure what is asked of us individually. I don't even know my talents for any new roles.

But then again, I am haunted by a bold statement from St Edmund Campion, before returning from safe France to England in Elizabethan times, and to almost certain martyrdom: 'The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun, it is of God, it cannot be withstood: so the faith was planted; so it must be restored.'

The setting may be different. But some of his courage and surrender rings a bell. How many of us are up to it?

Geraldine DoogueGeraldine Doogue is an Australian journalist and radio and television host who has been the host of Compass on ABC TV since 1998. She presented the above reflections for
Q&A in the Crypt on Sunday 29 July, part of Catalyst for Renewal's year of events marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II . 

Topic tags: Geraldine Doogue, Catholic Church, Vatican II



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Existing comments

Thank you Geraldine. You articulate my own concerns and dilemma.

Tony W | 02 August 2012  

I couldn't have said it better myself. The community respects authenticity, so long as it's not preaching, the faith can be as explicit as one likes to make it and people don't take offence. Even the kids (mine, 6, 25+) will go the whole hog if I can relax the etiquette. Growing up in small church in rural Qld they have experienced great pastors whome they admire deeply. Thanks you blokes.

Nev Hunt | 02 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine for expressing to & for all of us the Catholic 'problem' we all face. For many of us older Catholics to stay and not be deflected from the gospel message is difficult but not impossible despite what others see as provocation by the official Church. Perhaps we can hope for a mea culpa as an example of humility rather than the prominent hubris.

Brian Larsson | 02 August 2012  

Geraldine, I sense you have written in the voice of many Catholics in Australia today. I have often asked myself if I am 'flogging a dead horse'. I believe that for many years I have been. Like many in our society, my faith in God was in some way captured by the institutional church, much like patriotism glens the energy and goodness of a nation. For most of my life I was fearful of being criticised by the 'powers that were' and held back and in some ways, was satisfied by my indolence.
But this period has well passed. Gone are the holders of mysteries. Gone are the rites of ritual that had a fluffy feel. These have been replaced by a new understanding that we are all required to experience the mystery in ways that apprehend us and shake us to our core. Each of us has a birthright to engage in rituals that take our breath away and refresh us with insights that have the capacity to both shock us down and lift beyond what we thought we were capable of.
The horror has been revealed slowly. The shock is deep. The incredulity is slowly being replaced by a stark reality that we have relied on the institution to carry us, to cushion us, to be the adult for us.
How can we change it? I do not know. I have s growing sense that this is the wrong question.

Vic O'Callaghan | 02 August 2012  

Thank you for a very thought provoking article and for expressing what a lot of us feel.

Catherine | 02 August 2012  

Many thanks, Geraldine. While I see serious shortcomings in the contemporary Church (not a synonym for the clergy), I see no future at all in freelance monotheism. I agree with the theologian Paul Tillich who once said, 'There is no life of faith, even in mystical solitude, which is not life in the community of faith.' When Jesus asked the Twelve at a moment of crisis, 'Do you also want to leave?', Peter replied on their behalf (and mine too), ' Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'

Br Brian Grenier | 02 August 2012  

Thank you, Geraldine, for expressing so well what so many people are experiencing in these extremely difficult times when the institutional church is so dysfunctional.

Frank O'Dea | 02 August 2012  

Well articulated and so heartfelt Geraldine ... summing up exactly how many of us are experiencing the church and our own struggles to come to terms with the behaviour of the Institutional Church over recent decades.

anne ross | 02 August 2012  

I was first asked this question by a very close friend who was neither Catholic nor Christian. Very young at the time, I didn't have an answer. Over 40 years on, I can at least answer for myself. Like Geraldine, I grew up in the pre-Vatican II Irish tradition, believing the priest knows best and the Church is the voice of God in the world. Leaving the Church was turning your back on God. Now with a firm awareness of the traditions, teachings and practice of the world's religions from east and west, I recognise that God speaks to His people at all times in all cultures. Then why, with a strong faith in the religious validity of Mahayana Buddhism and the undiminished significance of modern Judaism for all of us in the Abrahamic traditions,why remain a Catholic? Because that is part of my self identity. Being Catholic is as much a part of me as being an Australian of mixed Anglo-Celtic & Continental descent. For me to seek conversion to Buddhism or to Judaism would feel like role-play - hardly a sign of respect for those two great religious traditions. A black & white absolutist faith caused the rupture of the Reformation and all preceding alternative perspectives that arose within the Church. While I believe in the validity of all peoples' attempts to relate to God, my own tradition remains part of me.

Ian Fraser | 02 August 2012  

I work in a school owned by a congregation founded by the 16th Century English woman, Mary Ward. As I read Geraldine's words they reminded me of the writings of Mary Ward who loved the Church, personally experienced and suffered from its authoritarian failings but set about reforming it from the perspective of her love of Jesus. She had an extraordinary impact and I suspect we are called to do the same hard thing. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. Thanks Geraldine for the insights.

Kieran Donnelly | 02 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine, if only the institutional church was as reflective. I too am grounded and framed by Faith and the Church. Sometimes the latter gets in the way of the former, for I feel we as a church fail too often fail to live the message. Leadership does not always come from the top and despite the inclination of the Vatican to remain too inwardly looking, I agree that change must be lead from individuals within the faith community, to challenge the current dysfunctionality and bring us back to Christ’s values in the way church business is conducted. Looking around, we can see many religious, clerics and lay people doing just that, but the overwhelming failures of the formal leadership is overshadowing. As to how we as a church can get the formal leadership to move with haste to retake the mantle of the good shepherd, you are right, this is up to each of us. I pray that each of us be open to the Holy Spirit to take on that responsibility to the best of our capacity. Don’t wait as we may have been inclined in the past for the formal leadership to make things right.

Peter Hudson | 02 August 2012  

Geraldine, I rarely respond to pieces as I usually feel my comments are unnecessary. However, this time, I feel compelled to speak up with you and echo as strongly as I can your call for integrity and humility in seeking our identity as Catholics. Along with Fr Peter Day your piece cuts through the compliance and silence that is corroding our institutional presence. These times are demoralising and cut deeply. The sense a lot of us have is that openness, not guile, must be our light and faithfulness to the Gospel, not the organisation our imperative. Even writing these words makes me shudder to think they need to be said! I recognise the mess of the past, with its cocktail of evil and good intentions. But we need a more open process to let truth do the healing. Francis Sullivan

Francis Sullivan | 02 August 2012  

Honest and positive thanks Geraldine

Liz Hepburn IBVM | 02 August 2012  

"Why am I still a Catholic?" raises the question: "How did I become a Catholic in the first place?" I was gifted to be born of a young Irish Catholic couple for whom the practice of their religion was as natural as breathing the sea mist that drifted up Belfast Lough or singing Faith of Our Fathers at the top of their voices while the thumping of the Lambeg drums of the local Orange Lodge shook the stain-glass windows of their humble parish church. Whatever it was my parents passed on to me I have never been tempted to disavow. The Protestant Plantation of Ulster in 1609 as as real to me as if it had happened only a generation ago. I absorbed the history of the Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland from my family, my catholic education by Irish Christian brothers and from the pulpit. From Judas among the Twelve and from conflict between Peter and Paul and from the early schisms/heresies up to the present day I am only too aware that while the catholic church is a divine institution it is composed of flawed human beings, such as myself. And I feel at home.

Uncle Pat | 02 August 2012  

We can thank God for the continual influence of the Ecumenical movement. All Truth does not lie in one Church or Tradition. In Australia as elsewhere we are exposed to the riches of Orthodox and Coptic Traditions as well as the various Reformed Churches and their understanding of the Gospel.In our coming to terms with the pressures of modern secular and consumer culture, we have to share the positive values of our various traditions as well as admit the faults of the past.

john ozanne | 02 August 2012  

I especially like the bit about 'meaning-seeking', Geraldine. I think the teaching sector of our church, at Sunday-to-Sunday and Catholic school level, has for too long failed the general membership's thirst for meaning in Christianity with 21st century relevance.

Ask the average Catholic what is the meaning of redemption; the fullness of life of which Jesus spoke; the Mass and other sacraments; 'good news'; prayer; holiness; and so on, and meanings revert to pre-Vat II stereotypes, if not to blank looks. We Catholics need to stop setting the clergy as our benchmark. Let's identify as followers of Jesus first, members of an organised religion second. There are untapped precedents in the long tradition. Let's seek them out. There is a grace-filled life to be found in the secular world.

John O'Donnell | 02 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine for your thoughts I also ask my self the same question, why am I still a Catholic? I so identify with your summation, and have taken great strength from people like Bishop Geoffrey Robinson Bishop Pat Power Bishop Bill Morris and now the brave priest Father Peter Day. If only our Bishops would act on his suggestions. We need more "humility justice and mercy" to quote Father Peter day and less pomp and clericalism. I am a much more enlightened Catholic and sadly very disullisioned by the leadership of our church. The tragedy of world wide clerical sexual abuse and the response of our church leaves me shocked and saddened.I try to cling to the message of Jesus. Margaret M.Coffey

Margaret M. Coffey | 02 August 2012  

Geraldine, you have expressed so well the question facing us Catholics as we recognise a disconnect between our commitment to Christ’s teachings and the un-Christlike behaviour of the institution we rely on to live those teachings.
Could it be that we Catholics are growing up at last and recognising our responsibility for the grave defects in our Church? Is there any other organisation in which we would tolerate a feudal system of autocracy, controlled by males who are predominantly aged and lack the benefit of a close social partner and advisor, and whose authority is based on a system of
rigid obedience that punishes dissent?

This patently dysfunctional nature of the institution perhaps explains the immoral response to the evil of child rape by some of its own priests, a response of concealment and self-protection at the cost of the very lives of innocent children.
Unsurprisingly, our Church now distances itself from the seminal learnings of Vatican II such as collegiality, subsidiarity, and the importance of synods as a means of promoting the co-responsibility of the People of God.
Canon law asserts that "Christ's faithful have the right, indeed at times the duty . . . to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the church." (Canon 212, par 3). Clearly most of the postings on Geraldine’s article are doing just that, but we have a long way to go to reclaim our Church for the real teachings of Christ. We must reject the serf status assigned to us by the Church’s autocrats and accept responsibility for our Church.

Peter Johnstone | 02 August 2012  

Geraldine,I am 75, a real Vatican II catholic. I stay because I need the Eucharist.Jesus is certainly present in my small Catholic community of less than 200 people, mostly over 70. We love and care for one another, and appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit among us.I work voluntarily for my parish about 20 hours a week, and I do so gladly and joyfully.

You are right. We cannot ignore how some members of the Hierarchy have failed us,but where can I go. I do believe we alone have the true Eucharist, and I would be so poor if I didn't have access to that wonderful gift of the trinity to the Church.It's simple, really. We stay because we really do love this old cranky girl, our Mother Church.

Veronica Box | 02 August 2012  

Thanks Geraldine,
All this, needed to be said and read.

D. Nebauer rsj | 02 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine! The apparent "ditching of the role of Good Shepherd" and the stance that "the priestly caste had to be protected above all", has lead me to believe that the leaders of the institutional church will not be able to revert back to true Christianity. Then, if the reform comes from the "laity", Rome will slam us down to protect, not truth, but their power.

Kevin Langley | 02 August 2012  

So much to think about in what you say Geraldine. It is just so hard to take the Church forward from within when so much power is contained within hierarchical structures that can create fear in their demand for uniformity.

Narelle Mullins | 02 August 2012  

Good on you, Geraldine! It is the fire within to spread knowledge of the LOVING, FORGIVING God that keeps us going in spite of all that is going on around us. Christ was crucified for us and the Church, too, also suffers crucifixion in its likeness to Him. It is only through suffering that evil will be overcome. The Holy Spirit has been with the present Church for 2000 years. Abraham was 2000 before that and the belief of the Australian Aboriginal and Islander Peoples in the Creator Spirit extends 60,000+ before that. The Higher Being, whatever he/she/it is called, is with us for all time. Faith is a most wonderful gift which it is up to us to nurture and develop into the future.

Helen-Mary Langlands | 02 August 2012  

It is consoling to know how many unshakeable Catholic Australians share one's views. An attitude of entitlement is one part of dangerous clerical irritants; disdain of women is another.Is it time for mothers and even fathers to find out what they should be doing to hand on Christ centred practice? Surely our school systems have not encouraged abdication?

Thank you for thoughtful stimulus to our ponderings, Geraldine. Suggestion box time may be at hand. Many Church lovers have fruitful ideas and the Liturgy seems to be at the heart of most of them.

Molly Moran | 02 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine.

Marie | 02 August 2012  

Geraldine, wonderful thoughts. As a 30 something female who still makes it to the pew each week I ask myself your lead question often. Many of my generation are not there or are linked only for the sake of offsprings education. My thinking is I can't change the church from the outside. As a Mercy sister taught me while attending Santa Maria "if it is going to be, it is up to me" with God's Love within arms reach anything is possible.

Liz R | 03 August 2012  

Molly Moran, you observe that "Suggestion box time may be at hand". Here's a suggestion that Catholics for Renewal www.catholicsforrenewal.org has made to the Australian bishops: 'A PLENARY/NATIONAL SYNOD in 2015 (the 50th anniversary of the closure of Vatican II), preceded by diocesan synods throughout Australia, the establishment of diocesan pastoral councils, and the development of diocesan pastoral plans as essential preparatory steps'. Vatican II, in its 1965 Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus) stated that ‘this sacred ecumenical synod earnestly desires that the venerable institution of synods and councils flourish with fresh vigour. In such a way faith will be deepened and discipline preserved more fittingly and efficaciously in the various churches, as the needs of the times require’ (36). Canon law and all the popes since VII have supported synods but no plenary or provincial councils or synods have been held in Australia since Vatican II, and only five Australian bishops have convened just six diocesan synods. A national plenary synod would offer the Church in Australia the opportunity to reflect on a range of reforms having regard to ‘the signs of the times' discussed above.

Peter Johnstone | 03 August 2012  

With Europe, the US and once formidable Japan all in decline, Australia has been given a pivotal position by the Lord. I do not share GD's pessimism, in fact, I believe the Church shines brighter than ever. This is our time, and it is pivotal to honor the Church. David, via New York

David Thomson | 03 August 2012  

Once more, Geraldine, said with the precision and passion that can only find nodding agreement. Thanks. I've been thinking lately why I bother to remain a priest such a dysfunctional and self-defeating community called the Church where the engagement between believers' lives and what passes for official policy becomes more and more remote as the years pass by. I think that's exactly what the Cross in the Church today is - knowing you're part of something that isn't able to and won't allow the articulation of just what that gap is. Comforting thing is it can't go on for ever. The leadership that has its own language and has shut down wider engagement won't be there forever. But what will follow? Perhaps the intensification of the mess till the Spirit creates something entirely new. Well done and, as a clerical friend of mine likes to say "Look around, don't look up."

Michael Kelly | 03 August 2012  

It was reassuring to read of someone who holds reverence for what has played a major part in shaping her expansive attitudes.

ken mckay | 03 August 2012  

Geraldine, the longer I live the more I feel we should follow our own well informed conscience, be we inside or outside the Church. Vatican II reinforced this view. Even before the recent unfortunate revelations and the way the Church handled them, I felt those outside the Church, with good will, were just as precious in God’s eyes as were Catholics. Church history is littered, not only with good deeds and teachings, but also with unconscionable behaviour in such actions as the execution of the Crusade compaigns and the Inquisition. I now feel no compulsion to live solely within the Church.

Gerard | 03 August 2012  

Ah, Geraldine I'm so glad I don't believe. I'm a free man without god, and without institutions and faith. Your words of rapture, beauty, sensuality and joy apply to how I feel in my world without God. And yes, I was once a Catholic. And like you it has shaped me. I escaped its clutches, and a few of its predatory clergy, when I was a teen in the sixties and early seventies. Guess I must be a product of my time, just like you. Only our experiences appear to have become quite divergent. And please out there, don't feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for you. I am really and truly free from all that I have been told. Meanwhile you all grapple with it. Maybe that is what religion really is all about, grappling. I don't want it. I don't want to be part of a disaster.

Bede Moloney | 03 August 2012  

The old translation of the Missal invites us in today's Mass to pray "for the faith to recognise God's presence in our world". It concludes "Touched by your hand our world is holy. Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us, to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters, and to experience the joy of life in your presence."

Everything I have seen, read and heard of Geraldine Doogue has been a living out of that prayer as a faith-filled member of the pilgrim Church. Today's piece is another expression of that and as the previous comments suggest, it gives heart to us all in these challenging times.

(Bishop) Pat Power | 03 August 2012  

The old translation of the Missal invites us in today's Mass to pray "for the faith to recognise God's presence in our world". It concludes "Touched by your hand our world is holy. Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us, to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters, and to experience the joy of life in your presence."
Everything I have seen, read and heard of Geraldine Doogue has been a living out of that prayer as a faith-filled member of the pilgrim Church. Today's piece is another expression of that and as the previous comments suggest, it gives heart to us all in these challenging times.

(Bishop) Pat Power | 03 August 2012  

A brief comment on the comments, a number of which referred to Irish heritage. A similar article in the Irish papers or one which might even in passing refer to the Catholic church would attract responses which were negative, virulent, full of joy at the church's problems.

Even granted that readership demographics for popular Irish newspapers is probably quite different to ES, that is a matter of great sadness.

Thanks for the article and thanks too for the comments.

Frank | 03 August 2012  

What does it mean "to be a Catholic"? Some may see it taking to heart the two Great Commandments, which Jesus said summed up the whole of the Law and the Prophets. Others may see it as "toeing the line" drawn by the Hierarchy. This, of course, has had many variations over the history of 'Christianity'. Others again may see it as being a member of a particular group of people who were brought up within a system of common belief and religious rituals, within which we feel comfortable and secure. This is a form of 'bonding', and is not a religious, or even a spiritual phenomenom. Many animals, and even insects, show similar behaviour. Many 'believers' of many religions feel the same 'bonding', because it was through their religion they received the inspiring ideals that seemed to light their way towards God. All human institutions, should be used in so far as they help us towards communion with God, while realising that they are not the only way to find God, though perhaps they are the only one that suits our cultural and personal needs.

Robert Liddy | 03 August 2012  

Thanks, Geraldine. I am certain of one thing – there must be change. We need more leaders like you to effect that change. I believe that your reflections resonate with everyone posting here – I don’t think there is any real disagreement. We are all horrified and shamed by the awful conduct of too many of those in positions of power over vulnerable people. But I also have sympathy for the overwhelming numbers of priests and religious who are faithful to the teachings of Christ, that they (like the Laity) may be tainted by association with these abusers and those who protect them. I certainly resonate with many of the comments posted. The hierarchy does not trust us Lay Catholics to have a “well-informed conscience” and seeks to place heavy burdens on us (wasn’t that what Jesus said?) Meanwhile we have repeated instances of the hierarchy demonstrably failing the Laity, so that Lay Catholics are distrustful of those who exercise power in the Church. I went to Masses presided over by a now-ex-Roman Catholic priest for years. One of his convictions was that the Church needed to die in order to be reborn. I am beginning to believe that. But that new church must have devolved some or possibly most power, or else it too will be doomed. Remember, the Holy Spirit will be with us (the People of God; the church) always, but that need not mean the “Roman Catholic Church”.

Frank S. | 03 August 2012  

At St Canice's in Kings Cross we started a journey of Parish renewal the week of the latest 4 Corners chronicle of grief and betrayal. We nearly didn't get going that day at all. We couldn't get past our shared and profound sense of sadness. I wonder now if that disquiet had any impact outside of the church hall. Thanks for being a catalyst here Geraldine. Renewal has to be personal and systemic. Ordinary people have to work for extraordinary change.

Sue Wittenoom | 03 August 2012  

Oh I so remember the formality and the complusion of ritual as a child. Second row Sunday catholics( our public face), we five kids were each given a coin to pop in the plate. Years later one sister admitted popping the plate money in her purse! Then the second collection, tithing envelopes. 'Money to fuel the mercedes benz the PP drove', dad always said. So my childhood memories of the church were filled with cynicism and a deep sense of betrayal that the christian message didnt have much bearing on how we lived our lives, beyond Sunday. Yet deep within me a seed was planted. Nurtured by special people in my life: a grandmother, an aunt. A free spirit, I sought refuge in nature and here a wonder of my world, a sense of the divine grew. Now today, I have a strong belief that sits more comfortably with question and conversation around my faith. I rarely have been compliant, but believe that that seed within me, the god seed, nourishes and fuels me as i continue to live as a pilgrim on my journey. I will continue to question and challenge the discrimination and inequities within my world. I walk with many good people who also together look for ways to meet the challenges of the 21century. Those blokes in frocks could well get left behind. Maybe a good samaritan will pass by.

jo dallimore | 03 August 2012  

For me, life as a journey is more than just an "inviting metaphor". I'm a Catholic because I want my journey to end in Heaven, not Hell.

HH | 03 August 2012  

exactly! Thank you

Helena Sweeney | 03 August 2012  

Great article! The Churches failings in dealing with sexual abuse, is caused by the weaknesses inherent in any human institution. Hopefully there are enough leaders of strong faith inside the Church who can make changes to ensure that it doesnt happen again. The Church under the leadership of the Pope, still has largely stayed true to the Gospel teachings and the Bible. Those who pick and choose their own dogma along the lines of secular morality and the spirit of the age frequently fall way from the teachings of Christ and rationalise it with false interpretations of ignatious spiritual discernment.

Alex | 03 August 2012  

But truly to see the Church 'crucified' on the cross of something as awful as sexual abuse and cover-up, is very hard to bear. Who would have thought this would be the vector?...What a strange affirmation... We the baptized ARE the body of Christ- We the baptized, are not 'outside' the Church. All the baptized ARE the Church. Yes crucified 'also' for something as awful as sexual abuse and cover up. To make a distinction between the -The Clerical Hierarchy, emphasizing this distinction between the Clergy and Laity, seems absurd to me. As sexual abuse and cover up also happens amongst the laity.The Cross indeed, is foolishness to some.Christ's Death ( His Cross- Our Cross) Burial, and Resurrection , is the gospel that saves, but what does this truly mean? It also means we are not called to throw stones at one another- ( in this case to throw stones at the Clerical Hierarchy ) or consider ourselves better then 'he the sinner', as the Pharisee ( in this case the secular world ) did...' To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people himself—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted'...No, it means, in this case as in many other cases, we are called to help all victims of sexual abuse heal their wounds. Just as Christ helped all in need heal theirs , during His ministry, prior His death on the Cross... And only by doing so, WE the Church , the Body of Christ, will experience the Resurrection or Renewal, as some are calling it..

Myra | 03 August 2012  

I'm still a Catholic because I love the baby and know that bathwater is to be thrown out.

Michael O'Connor | 03 August 2012  

Lord, to whom would we go? I find myself apologising for 'my' Church - and yet I stay loyal to my local faith community. . . that's where I see the REAL Church at work. I want my family and others to have the opportunity to belong to what has so shaped my own life and values.

glen avard | 03 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine for this insightful and honest comment. I certainly resonate with your reflections and I know many others who do also. In JOhn's Gospel ..."I've come that they may have life..." and in Blake's poem..." The sheep look up and they are not fed!..." Both challenge us today. Also Chesterton's comment "We want a church that moves the world, not a world that moves the Church..." If only!

helen | 03 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine for continuing to inspire me and many others in these turbulent times for both church and state

Denis Allen | 04 August 2012  

The most important reason for continuing to be a Catholic is to identify with a community of people. This community has a shared philosophy of the meaning of life and includes the freedom to question and to not have blind faith in the church hierarchy.

Mark Doyle | 04 August 2012  

Look around don't look up. Yep Michael Kelly, this simple philosophy of life works a wonder. Around for me is the wheel with god in the middle and the of us the spokes. Thanks for reminding me.

Jo dallimore | 05 August 2012  

We had been somewhat spoilt by 50 years of relative order and calm in the church of early 20th century. But the previous centuries saw the church facing widespread social unrest and anti clerical Godless secularism on a grand scale from French Revolution to endemic revolutions of mid 19th century onwards with virulent antipapalism and anti clericalism[the latter Italian version later tried to topple the late night coffin procession of Pius IX into the Tiber]. Secularist Political forces engineered the papal Suppression of the mighty Society of Jesus! The papacy was embroiled in constant humiliating conflict with Napoleon. Earlier with the wide growth of godless Rationalism, Pius Vi was called 'Pius the last' yet in this near total devastation there suddenly blossomed forth new religious congregations to face down the prevailing false godless philosophies and doctrines with a New Evangelisation that went even beyond Europe to distant dark lands to establish new and vigorous churches[drenched in the blood of martyrs yes![Pius Vii lifted the calamitous Jesuit Suppression in 1814 to facilitate a refounding of this glorious Society by Father General Roothan[himself a product of a tiny Jesuit remnant permitted in Russia under queen Catherine who would not promulgate papal suppression] All underlining G.K.Chesterton's quip: "5 times in church history, the Church had, to all intents and purposes, 'gone to the dogs',yet on each occasion the Church returned resplendent, and the dogs died!" Today the dogs do bark and maul again!

Father John Michael George | 05 August 2012  

The Apostle Paul wasn't joking when he said, "knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." And anyone who is ever been there will tell you, knowledge for the wrong reasons (i.e. personal glory) ''will' lead to a proud heart and enmity against God .Anyone in a position of power, therefore, because of his knowledge, must constantly be remained never to look down on others. As humility is an abomination to the proud. Likewise, the wounded- the homeless, the poor, the sexually abused , refugees and the list goes on and on, are an abomination to the rich, the proud of heart the knowledgeable and powerful. Unless we actively help these wounded, our so called 'faith' or that which you also describe, Geraldine, ( for some obscure reason ) as 'that which brings the capacity for acute vices', is yes, a worthless fruit, and as distasteful as the vice of pride itself.

Bernstein | 05 August 2012  

Like you Geraldine I am a child of Vatican II. The winds of change promised so much hope. My teachers were Jesuits, men like Peter Quinn and Stan Lim, who brought so much life to what they taught. They encouraged questions and not just acceptance of the teaching. Those years really underpin my whole value system and allow me to still engage on the edge with the medieval structure that is the institutional church. Your words encourage me to write. My childhood home was frequented by many nuns brothers and priests and bishops who held an exhaulted place. Having the J's in my classroom day to day as teachers, Ijust saw them as more human. What mattered then and now was the person not the robe or the title. When many years after leaving school a friend dropped on me a the name of an abusing priest, so many things fell apart and into place. The priest had been a frequent visitor, my fathers childhood friend. I remember the moment so well and the maelstrom that erupted in me. My struggles really began. So often I have been left feeling disalusioned and betrayed by the institutional church. Yet at the same time those values gifted to me through childhood and adolescence have given me a sense of purpose and hope. For over 15 years now, my friend and I have journeyed together. At first we did it alone with our shared and different stories. We have raged and cursed a cathedral that protected a pedophile priest. So often we threatened to go to Bunbury and throw the money changers from the temple. And then one day we decided it was time and the next day we saw the Cathedral blown down. The Cathedral is rebuilt. Many lives remain broken. We have despaired as vast resources were poured into buildings as victims of abuse suffered remained unknown and unwelcomed on the outskirts. It has been so hard to watch the fear in the priest, men who would be pastors and then there are too the ones who bring hope, the brave priests, men who truly are pastors. As we journeyed we uncovered more and more pieces of the interconnected stories and with the stories of more and more victims of abuse. Access to the internet and modern media just shows how common and shared our experience has been. The modern world has broken forever the seal of secrecy that covered up betrayals that left so many isolated and abandoned in the name of protecting the church. Yet our story is one of hope. We have been setback at times by fear and incompetence. And in the process our sense of justice and belief and hope in healing has taken us forward. Slowly we found priests who could be like Jesus, brave men who are prepared to be vulnerable, not know the answers and sit and listen and struggle with us in this murky place. There are priests who really have stood out for us. One of the most profound healing spaces was created when Steve Curtin the current Jesuit provincial said mass in my friends mothers home. Our two families were there and a healing ritual was incorporated into the mass. That day was profoundly important as our struggles were witnessed and shared and we were each acknowledged and supported. Importantly the taboo and silence was broken as we were supported in our shared and individual pain. I have come to realise how important it is for the good priest to go and sit in the victims home and say I am sorry for what has been done to you and your family and just sit there with vulnerability and compassion. I have now sat through this experience with a number of priests and survivors and each time witnessed what i can only describe as miracles. The priests can't tell the healing stories because they will seem self serving . I can though. They are the good stories, the ones that need to be told as well to show there is a way through the ugliness and tragedy. Its really easy to get lost in the ugliness. I personally believe its time to find ways of acknowledging through ritual the failure of the Church. One way is to use the season of Easter. This unfolding story has been the Church's experience of crucifixion. Each victim knows well their own crucifixion. The Stations of the Cross provide the perfect vehicle to tell and accept the whole story of pain and suffering brought about by the countless stories of betrayal. To do this will require many acts of courage. What I believe would be demonstrated is a faith in the belief of that core teaching of the Church and all Christians. The action would express belief in the promise and hope of new life and Resurrection. For me to do nothing is not an option....I am constantly reminded of the words, no longer in the mass.... " for what I have done and what I have failed to do" So for now I remain at the edge, nudging from the outside with knowledge of the inside.

john dallimore | 06 August 2012  

John Dallimore, what you have written is very profound and wonderfully helpful. Though, I can't understand why none of the Jesuits , those who are known to write articles here on Eurekastreet.Fr Frank, Fr Andy or Fr Aloysious just to mention a few, haven't taken an opportunity , right here right now - to apologize on the behalf of those Jesuits who have have caused such unnecessary, unthinkable and unmentionable suffering to others. As a sincere, 'We Are Sorry', would help the healing process....And, yes, the Stations of the Cross, though it is The Cross, ( but we preach Christ crucified ) I would like to bring your attention to. Why was His Virgin mother, John the beloved and a few of the women, the only ones at the foot of the His Cross? Where were His disciples? Yes, what we really need, today, are very courageous acts of faith from all of His true and faithful disciples , just as John the beloved was true and faithful towards Him to the very end - Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam ... Before His Glorious Resurrection.

Myra | 06 August 2012  

Thanks Geraldine for providing a stable and faithful platform for this topic. There are many reasons I could give for stop being a Catholic - witnessing sexual abuse of my school colleagues first hand and the subsequent disinterest and eerie silence for years after. So many of my retired-Catholic, non-Catholic and non-Christian friends ask why I still persist in being Catholic - and it's because I will not allow someone, through human failure even to the point of malice, separate me from my faith. Even though I cannot say I physically belong to a church community and may not even attend Mass, I still believe that I am Catholic and as part of my healing journey I will one day hopefully soon be able to participate more fully.

AURELIUS | 06 August 2012  

Geraldine, it seems you speak for so many! The Catholic Church might not go for women priests; but we've got a good Catholic Bishop in you!! You have used your voice and forum to perfection - filled with humility and truth. May we unite behind your voice as you express the gospel for today!

Peter Hardiman | 06 August 2012  

Myra, I do not accept royal apologies on behalf of another. It's cheap, meaningless and shows a lack of empathy to the sufferer for the deeply personal nature of this issue. The only apology that matters needs to come from the heart of the perpetrator and collaborators. Anything else stinks of a royal wave of the hand.

AURELIUS | 06 August 2012  

I respect Geraldine's openness on all of this, but an underlying assumption of this writing is that Catholic means Roman Catholic, and that Catholic means the real deal, the main Christians. The conversation, I feel, is not between all Christians but is simply Roman Catholics talking to other Roman Catholics. It's no wonder she feels frustrated, because for Geraldine the Church can only mean the Roman Church. The Greek word 'catholic' in the creeds has nothing to do with the power of Rome or the authority of popes. For me, the most revealing thing about this article is the complete absence of the word 'Christian'. Until Christian enters the vocabulary Geraldine is talking about something that is some distance from my understanding of the word 'catholic'.

THE CLUB | 07 August 2012  

The USA apologized for bombing Hiroshima- The Germans apologized for the the Holocaust.. ....Apology is one of the toughest but most productive habits we need to adopt. We all need to sharpen up our apology sense .There was, and still is, an Australian Prime Minister who refused to say 'Sorry', to the Native Australian people for crimes against them in the past, but it appears the main reason that he wouldn't publicly apologize on behalf of the country was that he was afraid of the backlash. He feared an apology would mean admitting guilt and that this would fuel the disturbance rather than remedy it.This sort of attitude needs to stop in our society. We need to learn to trust each other again.We need to find commune ground regardless of our religious and political beliefs . We have to get past the paranoia that makes us think- if we apologize and admit our guilt, it will be used against us. A genuine apology will always be well received and will always go a long way towards any healing process. Pope John Paul II , was the very first pope to be welcomed into the Great Synagogue of Rome - Why, because he was the first Pope to have had the courage to say 'Sorry', for the Catholic Church having, for 2000 years, shamelessly, persecuted the Jews people.And not stopping the Holocaust!As hard and as painful as it is, to comprehend God's ways as it seems, He seldomly intervenes to stop evil from occurring in the world.He would never permit any evil to exist if in His omnipotence He could turn an evil into a 'gradual unfolding of a greater good'. Such as some like the ex Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by saying , ' I am Sorry' and' We Are Sorry', to Native Australians, have contributed to. Whereby,the profounder the repentance = the profounder the forgiveness = the profounder the peace ( Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you - John ) for all whom have suffered and have caused unthinkable suffering.Otherwise Christ's- life- death on the Croos and Resurrection was meaningless.And we all know it was not!

Myra | 07 August 2012  

Myra, what do you mean by 'He would never permit any evil to exist if in His omnipotence He could turn an evil into a gradual unfolding of a greater good'????

Monica | 08 August 2012  

Monica, I meant to write- 'He would never permit any evil to exist if in His Omnipotence He could 'not' turn an evil into a gradual unfolding of a greater good'.I also meant to write,'the Jewish people' and not'the Jews people', and rather than 'the Croos'- 'The Cross'.

Myra | 08 August 2012  

The Club decreed infallibly: "The Greek word 'catholic' in the creeds has nothing to do with the power of Rome or the authority of popes"! ON THE CONTRARY each creed was approved and empowered either by bishops in union with papacy at Councils or by the popes themselves from apostolic times to Paul vi "credo of the people of god[1968] FURTHERMORE;Though, for example, 'catholic' appeared in the coronation creed of Elizabeth 2-The meaning of credal 'catholic' is well understood exegeted by 2000 years of tradition and magisterium Thus CCC sums up credal exegesis of word 'catholic' in detail [versus Greek etymological reductionism] "167. Is the particular Church catholic? 832-835 Every particular Church (that is, a diocese or eparchy) is catholic. It is formed by a community of Christians who are in communion of faith and of the sacraments both with their Bishop, who is ordained in apostolic succession, and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch).

Father John Michael George | 09 August 2012  

Myra, all the apologies you mentioned refer to atrocities undertaken through official state policies - injustices perpetrated by collectives who through their democratic institutions are all somehow responsible, even in their silence. In the apology to our Aboriginal people - I as an Australian am part of that - the house I live in is built on land stolen from Aboriginal people.
But sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is not the same - it is not a sanctioned policy of the church to abuse and rape people. These atrocities were carried out by individuals who were in contra to the teachings of the church, and in my thinking should not have been there in the first place.
An apology on behalf of the Church of Satan might be acceptable, but not on my behalf as a Catholic.

AURELIUS | 09 August 2012  

I could never even dream of aquiring the immense historical knowledge of Father John M G ,but it seems to me that he has totally missed the point that all those past secular attacks on our Church were because it upheld the Christian message (well seriously attempted to do so ) .Today ,the institutional Church is under attack more from its lay members( & some clergy ) who can no longer tolerate it's Godless, unChristian ethic .

john kersh | 09 August 2012  

And thus we see that every lesser creature is much too small a vessel to hold the Good that has no end; Itself is It's one measure. (Dante)

Bernstein | 11 August 2012  

Father John Michael George would say that, wouldn’t he? It is flattering to think that I speak infallibly, but only delusionals are into being infallible. JMG’s summary is sound Roman Catholic teaching, maybe, but he misunderstands what was said: "The Greek word 'catholic' in the creeds has nothing to do with the power of Rome or the authority of popes" The bishops at Nicea were not investing the Bishop of Rome with supreme power, and this is not what Catholic means. But it is what Catholic means, if you want it to. A remearkbale phrase in JMG’s blog is “bishops in union with papacy at Councils” or just “in union with papacy”. I can hear the word ‘catholic’ making audible noises to the effect, it is not just about the papacy. In my view, anyone who says they believe in the catholic church is in a position to say they are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We are all catholic who say this. Rome is incidental. The word Rome does not appear in the creed.

THE CLUB | 14 August 2012  

One wonders what sort of Christianity would have evolved if the fledgling Jesus movement took greater roots eastwards rather than west - like up in the highlands of Tibet. I've never heard a group of Buddhist argue about who belongs to the true Buddhism or follows the Dalai Lama, etc. They seem to have integrated their spiritual doctrines into their organizational structures and customs, whereas many of the Catholic Church's leadership structures seem to have taken on a life of their own, regardless of Christ's example of humility.

AURELIUS | 15 August 2012  

Well said, Aurelius.

Myra | 15 August 2012  

The Club you cant be a Catholic, in the Catholic church established by Christ, and reject the Christ given authority of the Pope. The Papacy is integral to being an authentic Catholic. The reality behind the word 'Catholic' includes 'inter alia' the role of Peter commissioned by christ [Mt 16:17-19].

Father John Michael George | 15 August 2012  

Father John MG, the authenticity of the Pope's authority is only as strong as he follows his mandate - to be a humble shepherd of his flock - as Bishop of Rome. This whole royal dictatorship system we are seeing the unintended consequences of now is a relatively new phenomenon in church history. His role as Bishop of Rome is a bit like Prince Charles' relationship with Wales, or Queen Elizabeth to Hannover.

AURELIUS | 20 August 2012  


There's no problem in always loving, including the parts of ourselves and others, catholic or not, not liked or feared etc. The question for more and more worldwide is, whilst not feeling safe any longer in mad and abusive religious contexts, how to be safe ourselves and from there to offer listening, co-discover wisdom and experience expertise as to how we all can again be reunited and healed. This is the explicit witness of Jesus, Mary MacKillop and more(though you see how impossible it is to be totally safe!)

Unless the paid independent professional expertise of the church, upon which much of official church is dependent to function, offers honest and critical appraisal,and is willing to even resign en masse with all its consequences, in the light of structured and sometimes structured covert abuses, then unnecessary sufferings, abuse and exclusions will continue and even grow against the wisdom of the Spirit, as we all co-learn from the especially the victims and all in sexual and other abuses.

This very journey process of listening to the divine within our joys, sorrows, hopes and fears, is exactly what Jesus, Vatican II and the Church officially always proclaim yet which is now so avoided, denied, angrily opposed from even on high, such that the voices of the little ones will still prevail in only true love.

This healing journey will release systemised depression and anxiety and open new vistas of joy and creative energy to awaken the church to the huge calls for its/our witness in all God's world.

Veni Sancti Spiritus

Sam | 22 August 2012  

Aurelius,Vatican a royal dictatorship? Swiss guards with halberds is hardly 3rd Reich waffen weaponry let alone WMD. Even dictator supremo Stalin guffawed "And how many tanks has the Vatican?"

Father John Michael George | 22 August 2012  

Peter has nothing to do with papacy as it has been practised over these centuries. There was no single bishop of Rome until the second century. I cannot see that the way the Church is structured today is what Jesus ever intended. He did intend that we be a community of servant disciples who are like him.

Francis | 23 August 2012  

Francis there are many dioceses today with no single bishop but one chief bishop[ordinarius] and other auxiliary bishops.

Father John Michael George | 23 August 2012  

I think you are one of a diminishing proportion of those in your age group who have stayed with the Catholic Church through life, Geraldine. Therein lies a problem. The Church was not founded to be an institution, nor a support group for its members, though it does both, but to transform the world according to Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, one of the most perceptive spiritual writers of the last century. I think the old Irish-Australian "ethnic" Catholicism is changing into something quite different and I think that a thoroughly good thing. The "problem" for the Catholic Church in this country is, I believe, to bring back its lost sheep and to witness to the whole nation. To do these I think it needs to rediscover its own deep spiritual roots and to move beyond the paedophilia scandals. I'm actually sick of hearing about paedophilia and how to deal with it in this country as I believe the recently retired Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby and his colleague in Toowoomba, Archbishop Bill Morris, both showed quite clearly how to deal with the matter. If other prelates in this country can't deal with it, perhaps they should either retire or be removed. The deep spirituality of Christ, echoed in various ways by the great saints of the Church: Ignatius of Loyola; Francis of Assisi; Theresa of Avila and Catherine of Sienna; alive, well but slightly undercover is a spirituality which both values and elevates the person, and, like Christ and his witness, is completely at odds with paedophilia and other forms of exploitation. I think there was much in the old Irish-Australian ethos of the 50s and 60s, possibly similar to what existed in Ireland and other parts of the Irish diaspora then, which was terribly formal and clericalist and devalued the laity and spiritual life in the world as against the cloister. Michel Quoist, one of the most insightful French Catholic writers of the last century, wrote about the need to develop a valid, authentic spirituality for lay people. Spirituality, I think, goes a bit beyond phrases like "the Pilgrim Church" or earnest middle class discussion groups in Parkville or Newtown. Enabling someone's own personal spirituality - which must respect the individual - is an incredibly difficult task. I think it is a rare gift. Someone like the Cure D'Ars would embody that as far as the Catholic tradition goes. Sometimes the written word, in books or articles in journals such as this, can substitute if no individual is available. We desperately need more mentors of this sort. It's not holding the line with those who stay, Geraldine, but winning back the lost and bringing in new people that matters for the future of the Catholic Church in this country. Talking about lay spirituality, effective witness and conversion, I was fascinated by this article from the Catholic Herald of an intelligent young woman, once interested in Wicca, who became a Catholic through the example of and interaction with a school friend's family and the instruction of an effective priest. She went on to study Theology at Cambridge and wrote the excellent recent CTS pamphlet on Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Danger. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/2011/02/16/how-a-%E2%80%98teen-witch%E2%80%99-found-the-church/ I think the sort of effective, long term, caring witness that Elizabeth Dodd experienced is the stuff we need more of, Geraldine. We need to open up the Church.

Edward F | 25 August 2012  

A wonderful article Geraldine.

Paul Donnelly | 27 August 2012  

With all the sacredness attached to the continuity of lineage in the papacy, let's not forget the controversy surrounding Papa Luciani - Pope John Paul I - the murdered and forgotten pope was rumoured to have been homosexual and was a martyr to reform. This holy pope has been long forgotten by history in the wake of John Paul II's reign, which swept his memory away like a pebble on the shore. His coffin, in the underground crypt of St. Peters, has been placed in the ignominious central aisle, reserved for the 'insignificants,' a few meters away from the spectacular niche reserved for his successor, JPII, with it's permanent guard and eternal flame.

AURELIUS | 27 August 2012  

Thank you Geraldine for your probing self examination, Yes "to see the Church crucified on the cross" is a powerful emblematic statement that comprises in its reality, those of us who have been unable to personally dodge "evaluating its impact" on our lives. This impact has been both powerfully positive but also powerfully negative. Indeed the knowledge that "I have come to give you life and give it in abundance" has indeed been often quite thwarted not only in "the sense" but the personal experience of "the ordained officials of the Church" who have "so powerfully lost their way, ... that key parts of the institutional Church essentially [have] ditched the role of Good Shepherd; ... that the priestly caste ha[s] to be protected above all, rather than the most vulnerable." For those who have and do live this experiential reality, there lies the conflict in their lives of your question, "How much do we value it [Church] in our lives?" For those who have thus endured it is not a matter of "suffering any collateral shame" but rather suffering their own personal shame inflicted by "devastating dysfunction", systemic yes, but individually inflicted and endured. Geraldine, the question and answer resides somewhere in this currently lived, systemic state. As Michael Kelly has aptly remarked "The leadership that has its own language and has shut down wider engagement won't be there forever. But what will follow?" and well may we ask in that, But who will follow? and Who will lead? and Who will survive?

Jennifer Herrick | 28 August 2012  

No mention of the possibility that the cathol ic church might be the church founded by Jesus Christ and represents the fullness of the truth... If you believe that then its pretty hard to leave...

david | 06 October 2012  

Refreshing, innovative and challenging! Geraldine, thank you.

marie o'connor sgs | 07 October 2012  

It's time for the Catholic Church to humble itself. Admit guilt where wrong decisions and actions have hurt people and nations. To repent is the greatest thing we can do and surrender all to Jesus on the cross. It brings great blessings that are not of man but divinely appointed. If those who have abused children,people and communities are found guilty then there are consequences that must be faced. Sin always has consequences. If abusers are truly followers of Christ they do know what must be done and victims given justice and recompense. It's in God's word. The Catholic Church doesn't need to live in shame or Catholics be ashamed of being who there are in Christ. Guilt is not for anyone to carry. But we have one order or command that we must always obey... To love one another as I have loved you. Repent, forgive, surrender all to Christ and re-submit our hearts and lives back to Jesus Christ... then serve the first part of the body The Catholic church (People not institutions) and if we are trusted and completing God's will and plan he may entrust to us more and gather those who have walked away from God or who have never known God. May Jesus bless our hearts today.

Jane E | 08 October 2012  

Thanks Geraldine for enunciating many of my feelings and also challenging me to be part of a better future for the church.

Jo DeBoer | 09 October 2012  

Geraldine! The Church is the Body of Christ Jesus. The One true Church of the Living God is invisible. The original Church was a Jewish Church not the Roman Catholic Church. You cannot be saved by believing in Roman Catholic doctrine it is an antithesis of biblical teaching regarding salvation. We are saved by faith through grace not works. The RC Church is an apostate organisation and we are told we should come out and be separate.

Sheila Hale | 10 December 2012  

Yes, the Church is the Body of Christ Jesus. The One true Church of the Living God, Sheila Hale, but in regards to the rest of your comment, you are grossly mistaken: The Roman Catholic Church teaches, the sacraments of the Catholic Church are "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions... "Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. [...] Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from his side while he slept. O death, by which the dead come back to life! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing! St. Augustine

Myra | 15 September 2013  

I heard you speak at the CCJ and I watched your series "Why I am still a..." I was born 1937 in Slovakia to a very secular middle class Jewish family. In an effort to escape the Nazi forces my parents & I converted to the Lutheran religion in 1942. It did not help,- we still all finished up in concentration camps.40 members of our family perished. In 1949 we came to Australia and I was put into a C of E boarding school. My mother's view post Holocaust was "Why would anybody want to be a Jew if they did not have to?" - and I tried to live that way for the next 5 years,- I attended C of E church and RI. I was in three school sports teams,average student. None of this helped,- I did not fit in. I was not rejected,- I was just uncomfortable.Finally in 1955 I started again to mix in the Jewish community and that is where" I found my feet" It was not all as simple as that, but the 200 word limit is up and I wanted to share this with you. Peter I have been a fan Pet

Peter Gaspar | 29 November 2013  

It is said that when Napoleon threatened to destroy the Church the Pope said "For 2000 years we've tried to destroy it from within and you think that you can destroy it from without?" Without J.C. there would be no Church!

Rowland McKeon | 10 March 2014  

John Lennon says it all. "IMAGINE' there's no religion no heaven or hell and we all live as one.

Frederick Sheeran | 31 May 2014  

If priests who study the bible and knows it backwards can tell lies, and do all the things we hear of in the media, does that mean that they know God does not exist and they can therefore do what they like because they know they can get away with it? It is hard to believe in God when HE did nothing all these years. If we depended on GOD to do something, the abuse will still be continuing. The victim prayed and prayed for the abuse to stop and nothing happens. It is hard to understand why a good and loving, powerful God let this happen without intervention. Humans intervene not GOD. It is the power of Humanity.

Charles Ong | 04 March 2016  

Bless you lovely woman...your words have helped at this time...

Meg gaffy | 13 March 2016  

Dear Geraldine, thank you for your wonderful, honest and heartfelt discourse about your faith. So much of what you say resonates deeply in me. I hope and pray you receive the inspiration and guidance to find a way to use your gifts and your position to help fellow Catholics and the huge challenges of our 21century church. We seriously need people like you to shine a light and lead the way. God bless you abundantly. Warmest regards Mandy

Mandy Varley | 25 March 2016  

We met @ SIP at the Nott. The full title of the publication I mentioned is ' The Case of the Pope '- Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse by Geoffrey Robertson - A Penguin Special (it is a revealing read)

joe Vella | 13 May 2016  

I have skimmed your article. As a Christian I feel my faith is stronger if I stay away from church and read the bible myself, although I have met many lovely people through church activities. Where did you find those gentle steady hearted encouraging pastors in prisons this week on TV? Through a church I contacted a padre about a friend my daughter was visiting in prison for guidance. The response was dark flat negative and miserable. No hope at all, not even a prayer. I was taken aback, and felt really sorry for people inside if this chaplain was their greatest hope. We have retained our sense of humour though. My daughter folded an origami peace crane and sent it in as a gift. We heard later that a prison warden had carefully unfolded all 22 steps (I believe) and handed the prisoner a flat piece of wrinkled coloured paper because they couldn't fold it back together again! Life is a laugh. I don't think Jesus teaches big sin or little sin, wrong is wrong and even that changes, because I wouldn't leave a sheep down a well or leave anyone in distress on any day including Sunday. Jesus was still teaching that women and children are important. You can't teach a grade one child Senior maths. There is a progression. 2000years of progression. How far have we come?

Moira | 22 May 2016  

Thank you for lifting the blind in my darkened room.

Fred Galea | 03 July 2016  

Wonderful. Thank you Geraldine for articulating what so many Catholics feel. Equally wonderful is the positive comments continue today. Well done Geraldine. well Done Eureka Street

Paul Calleja | 19 November 2017  

I just don’t understand why people believe in the supernatural in the 21st Century. Old superstitions die hard, I guess.

Simon | 02 April 2018  

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