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Advice for the Pope on reforming the Church


'Geraldine and Francis', by Chris Johnston. Geraldine Doogue whispers advice to Pope FrancisThe Church isn't offering many endearing images to its stoic believers of late. But one will stay with me for many years. That wonderful moment in March when Jorge Mario Bergoglio walked out onto the Vatican balcony with his simple but inviting Fratelli e sorelle, buona sera! — Brothers and sisters, good evening! — still sends a thrill up my spine.

Along with the rest of the watching crowd in St Peter's Square, I thought he'd seemed rather stunned, almost overwhelmed just prior to this emergence. Then came this incredibly pastoral moment followed by the next, his appeal to all of us to pray for him. You could have heard a pin drop in the packed square as people delightedly complied, an unforgettable moment.

In the intervening six months, I've wondered: where will he take believers? His recent analogy with the Church as a busy public hospital dispensing vital services was one of the most eloquent for some time from an ecclesiastical leader. Is he re-imagining our Church, amidst its terrible predicaments? I wonder how much he seeks to draw the lay world inside the structure, to tap its wisdom, its experience of these revolutionary times of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Forgive some tilting at windmills. But I wish he'd invite me to be his temporary consultant, to offer him advice for his next 500 days.

The laity has a lot to offer.

Some of us have lived inside big secular institutions that have experienced their own existential crises. Many of their established systems were found wanting, their whole mission seeming in peril.

And various organisations have fought back, their social-licence-to-operate restored after major setbacks. Think BP after various environmental challenges, Westpac in the 1990s, political parties who re-invent themselves to be fit-for-purpose (hopefully). Believe it or not, the US Army post-Vietnam bears close analysis for its rebuilding skills.

The institutional Church must re-earn trust in similar ways. Maybe it should even consult some of the specialist disaster-managers employed at these times, who focus on calamity plus public expectations plus internal ethics, that is, more than mere 'spin'.

Indeed the relationship between these secular organisations and their 'consumers' altered profoundly during their dark nights.

So what would I suggest, as Pope's consultant? Fairly smartly, I'd propose a substantial, largely public, Vatican-led inquiry, into why the Church has been so troubled by sexual abuse across various countries. Was it due to priestly formation, celibacy, parish structure, sexual orientation, lack of ongoing sexual counselling, bad theology or other issues? Answering all of these core questions from within would not only satisfy the public but would genuinely set the Church up better for future service.

Any decent consultant would have to ask herself: does the Church have the capacity to change? Does it have the management, the processes, even the supply chains to deliver new messages to itself, let alone the world? I suspect it has, which gives me hope.

While nothing is directly comparable, the experience of the US military after Vietnam is an epic model of change. Here was an 800,000-strong standing Army representing the mighty USA, humbled and embarrassed after being bundled out of a small developing Asian country. Could this lumbering giant really reform itself, the sceptics of the time wondered, and continue to serve the national interest, militarily and socially?

Under the title 'An Army Transformed' Lieut-Colonel Suzanne Nielsen outlined how it did just that, in a 2010 article for the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College:

During the two decades preceding the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the US Army went through tremendous reform and rejuvenation. First, leaders within military organisations are essential. Second, military reform is about more than changing doctrine ... an organisation must have appropriate training practices, personnel policies, organisations, equipment and leader development programs.

Third, the implementation of comprehensive change requires an organisational entity with broad authority to craft, evaluate and execute an integrated programme of reforms. Fourth, the process of institutionalising complementary reforms can take several decades. The consequences, for good or ill, could be quite significant in terms of resources, lives and the national interest.

Whether or not you approve of US military objectives, the organisation is vastly more relevant than its earlier iteration, widely regarded as the most effective institution in the country and one of the best deliverers of training and dignity to some of the poorest Americans.

Another interesting model is the New York Times, which spent ten tough years recovering from what's known as the Jayson Blair disaster, the young reporter who lied, faked and cheated his way through the venerable paper's news room, trashing the brand mightily when discovered ... by the paper itself eventually.

Provoking agonising self-reflection, it is still clearly a touchy subject. In an interview with the AFR in May, Margaret Sullivan, the Times' public editor, described the climb-back:

After the scandal and a thorough internal analysis, the NY Times management put safeguards in place. One was the role of the public editor — I am the fifth — to give readers a direct place, independent of the Times' editing structure, to take complaints about journalistic integrity. Another was the creation of a full-time standards editor, an internal position within the newsroom hierarchy. Still another was a program to thoroughly and regularly evaluate journalists' work.

According to the current editor-in-chief Jill Abramson, one of the greatest lessons of the Blair scandal was 'how concerned, hurt and angry our readers were, because this was contrary to everything we stand for — the trust and authenticity that people attach to the Times'. Sound familiar?

There are other less dramatic examples. The NSW Police Force embarked five years ago on a significant program of cultural change. Under the leadership of Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn, the force set itself up to abide by a Customer Service Charter, meticulously researched within the community and broadly interpreted.

In a recent Customer Service Association magazine, the two police executives described how they moved beyond merely answering the usual complaints about force personnel to addressing root causes.

'The front-line officer needs to understand that 99 per cent (of work) is about the community, only 1 per cent is law enforcement and interaction with actual criminals,' said Burn. 'Why do I see customer service as being important? Because serving customers means investing in the safety and security of communities. And so I see this whole notion of improving customer service as being the driver for us to deliver the leadership that the community right across this state is seeking today,' said Scipione.

In essence, this amounted to big, pastoral thinking. It arose out of a problem-solving mode, ventured into process matters, but emerged way beyond that, with refreshed core values.

In all these cases, venerable institutions were humbled, experiencing a type of grief, followed by an impressive step-by-step commitment back to offering service. They drew on stamina, perseverance, fidelity and courage among their followers: the Virtues, which ultimately led back to good service.

Finally, to an area where my thoughts are still forming: should core mission for the Church be re-introducing believers and non-believers to the beauties and depths of the culture? In the past, the Church virtually represented culture, they were joined at the hip. The Enlightenment and Reformation ended that and hooray for that.

However with the decline of confident religion generally, and the rise of confident science, a seismic gulf has opened up in modern communities about ritual and symbolism ... even memory of its own cultural inheritance. A range of commentators like Hugh Mackay for years now, have openly yearned for big, new cultural stories to emerge to fill gaps in meaning within modern culture.

Whereas former NSW priest and judge Chris Geraghty believes the contemporary Church has overlooked the sheer power of its back-story. 'We've got a bloody good story, terrific heroes, a wonderful storyline, wonderful metaphors and beautiful narratives. It's a story full of myths and legends. There are lots of bad things — crusades, wars of religion — but the story is an epic one. Atheists and agnostics don't have a story to tell.' (Compass research, April 2013)

I'm not so sure about that any more. But maybe we do need to re-assemble the stories of our past, including the great characters whose stories dovetail so neatly with highly significant cultural developments in art, music and politics. It is not always a pretty story about the Church, but certainly eventful and laden with heritage.

We could use modern communication tools to refresh our cultural inheritance, to re-position the Church back into the familiar territory of handing on a Grand Narrative, even if this trumps the purely theological. It could even be a form of reparation to the wider community for the scandal of sexual abuse.

Lord Rowan Williams has recently said that 'art is sacramental: it uses the material world to arrive at the spiritual world — even ideas are spiritual' (Tablet, 13 June 2013).

As Fr Andrew Hamilton wrote in Eureka Street in May, handing on a tradition, whether a Church or a nation, represents an acute challenge these days. 'In Western societies today communal allegiances are weak. They are not automatically handed on but need to be chosen,' he wrote.

Maybe the Church's mission is to prompt that conscious choice, towards more robust identity in modern communities. It could be healing and redemptive in every way. For me, personally, it is the sort of re-imagining that offers genuine hope of renewal.

Geraldine Doogue headshotGeraldine Doogue hosts Compass on ABC1 and Faithlines on ABC News 24, every Sunday. This is an edited version of her Catalyst for Renewal address titled 'The church re-imagined' (Sydney, 1 September 2013).

Topic tags: Geraldine Doogue, Pope Francis, Catholic Church, Rowan Williams



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Existing comments

A very thoughtful article, Geraldine. We hope you will continue as virtual advisor to examine as big an issue, and that is the role of women in the modern church. The US army rose to that challenge, the Catholic church has yet to do so.

Jilpia Jones &John Thompson | 22 September 2013  

Brava!, Geraldine. I hope that this breath of oxygenated air will blow through the Church, especially to those who should stimulate necessary change. The laity *are* the Church and they have not been served well by the earthly hierarchy.

Patricia R | 23 September 2013  

For me as a priest of twenty years I believe that Pope Francis, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict is using the likes of me, you Geraldine and all the faithful to re-imagine the Church. (Sadly, I will admit that Pope Blessed John Paul II didn't get my attention, not because he wash't captivating, but because I wouldn't allow myself to be 'captured', for I was too captivated by my own vision of 'my' priesthood back then.) I do like what one journalist said of Pope Francis - "he is like the Parish Priest of the World. Now that is being captured. But it is up to us now to re-imagine ourselves as Catholics, not wanting to always tell the Parish Priest what to do, but being in a more than just 'Sunday' relationship with the PP.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 23 September 2013  

Geraldine mentions 'Westpac in the 90's' - I happened to watch Ann Sherry being interviewed on "The Observer Effect" on Sunday night and she spoke about reforming the culture at the bank. What a go-getter she is! So, Geraldine + Ann advising Pope Francis - great idea.

Pam | 23 September 2013  

Perhaps this is one time I can be sexist. Geraldine's acute perception and ability to transpose complex thoughts into simple terms is celebratory. Yes, Geraldine, the Church (men) are obsessed with all kinds of sex and that in itself should open the door for reformation of structures within the church. It is my contention, like yours, priests should do priestly things and the laity should do theirs, that is, tend the physical maintenance "things".

shirley McHugh | 23 September 2013  

Like so often From what you present Geraldine very very good.

Theo Verbeek | 23 September 2013  

Not sure about the US Army model -quote from Wikipedia "According to a 2011 Newsweek report, women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. In 2010, according to the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office there were 3,158 military sexual assaults reported, however the Pentagon’s statistics say that that represents just 13.5 percent of the estimated 19,000 assaults that actually occurred that year.[11] During that period, only 575 of the cases were processed. Of the cases processed, only 96 went to court-martial.[1] Another investigation found that only one in five females and one in 15 males in the United States Air Force would report having been sexually assaulted by service members."

Digby Habel | 23 September 2013  

A very timely address to the Church - especially to this lay member. The key words for me were 'pastoral, healing, redemptive and also (on reflection) robust. Who would have thought that our Pope's election would be so timely and bring such heart and spirit to its open-hearted followers across the world - when perhaps they had despaired of their calls ever being heard. Thank You Geraldine.

Margaret Green | 23 September 2013  

Jesus had revealed to his disciples for the first time the plan: He, was to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised to life. Contrary to their expectations of Him, Geraldine, Jesus explained that he had not come to establish an earthly Messianic kingdom at that time. The disciples were not prepared for this new revelation of the Messiah’s purpose. Though Peter understood his words, he simply could not reconcile his view of the conquering Messiah with the suffering and death Jesus spoke of. Like Jesus’ adversary, Peter was not setting his mind on the things of God—His ways, His plans, and His purposes. Instead, his mind was set on the things of man, the things of the world and its earthly values. Jesus was saying that the way of the cross was God’s will, the plan of redemption for all mankind. Peter’s reaction was most likely shared by the other disciples although, as always, it was Peter who spoke first. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus went on to explain: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” The rejected cornerstone is the Lord's doing." The exalted position of Christ in his church is not the work of man. The church is incomparable to secular institutions and does not depend for its continuation upon any builders, ministers or the US military, CEO's as secular institutions do; God himself has wrought the exaltation of our Lord Jesus. Considering the opposition which comes from the wisdom, the power, and the authority of this world, it is manifest that if the kingdom of Christ be indeed set up and maintained in the world it must be by supernatural power. Indeed, it is so even in the smallest detail. Every grain of true faith in this world is a divine creation, and every hour in which the true church subsists is a prolonged miracle. It is not the goodness of human nature, nor the force of reasoning, which exalts Christ, and builds up the church, but a power from above. This staggers the adversary, for he cannot understand what it is which baffles him: of the Holy Ghost he knows nothing. "It is marvelous in our eyes." We actually see it; it is not in our thoughts and hopes and prayers alone, but the astonishing work is actually before our eyes. Jesus reigns, his power is felt, and we perceive that it is so. Faith sees our great Master, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; she sees and marvels. It never ceases to astonish us, as we see, even here below, God by means of "weakness defeating power", by the simplicity of his word baffling the craft of men, and by the invisible influence of his Spirit exalting his Son in human hearts in the teeth of open and determined opposition. "It is indeed wonderfully done" as all God's works must be if men care to study them. The more we study the history of Christ and his church the more fully shall we agree with this declaration.

Bernstein | 23 September 2013  

Geraldine I and many wish you were there too. There is too much "luggage" being carried by the fellow from Australia who is on the advisory committee set up by the Pope. Maybe you could get another Geraldine (Hawkes) to join you. GH has some great ideas too which could be very helpful. Like you I live in and with "Hope".

Laurie Sheehan | 23 September 2013  

Thanks Geraldine for a very good nail-head-hitting article. The key phrase for me was "trashing the brand". I was so proud of the Catholic brand with John 23 and Vat2; we were going to confidently lead the modern world rather than truculently grumbling behind. BUT then from 1968, for most of my adult life, I have seen the brand systematically eroded: a neurotic obsession with sex/reproduction, conservatism, sourness, re-writing history, manipulation of appointments for yes-men on very limited criteria, hypocracy, back-ward looking conservatism, bullying, and of course emptying churches...surprise-surprise! And then of course the abuse-crisis coming out of this pathological organisation. As the Pope says, we have indeed become a pack of cards ready for complete collapse in countries such as ours. Thank God for Francis and indeed the grace given to those, who in spite of all the above, actually had the wit and inspiration to vote for him. What do we need? honest and balanced leadership, some sort of synodal democracy at least down to diocese level (including lay people:it works for Anglicans and Methodists!), optional priestly celibacy especially for older men, a proper place for women including as Cardinals (even if not as priests ,yet), optimism, openness to the world from which we need to learn as much as influence. And proclamation of the BIG things about Jesus Christ to a world that needs Him. How stupid does the "new" translation of the Mass look now, eh George? How much brand-trashing has that done?

Eugene | 23 September 2013  

The idea of imagination having anything to do with Church is refreshing. This is particularly so when one imagines the idea of Church as comprising , at least in part, a conversation. A conversation which takes place over 2000 years and, in the present, amongst believers and non-believers. This is a conversation worth having. One that is enlivened by imagination. Thank you Geraldine for an article which has drawn me in.

Tony Macklin | 23 September 2013  

Geraldine dont hold your breath. Card. Pell wont ask any Aussie layperson for ideas when he advises Francis; never has never will. I sent my own advice re the proposed overhaul of the Curia; no acknowledgement from Rome. Seems we continue to vote best with our feet

Garry | 23 September 2013  

Great article. Thankyou. I have just returned from a first visit to Berlin and was moved to think along exactly the same lines. How has a country re-invented itself after the deeply shameful events of the Shoah? By not denying it but not being it and by doing everything it can to make sure it never happens again

Catherine Whannell | 23 September 2013  

Dear Geraldine, there is always such hope in what you write. Francis has given me renewed faith in the Holy Spirit's workings within the Church. Like John XXIII, Pope Francis has connected strongly with the people of the world. The secular media seem to love his spontaneity and loving generosity of spirit. I do notice though that Cardinal Pell seems to need to "explain" in the press what the Holy Father actually means each time the media runs with a story. Maybe Geraldine you can counter The Cardinal with press releases which amplify the Popes intentions rather than diminish them.

Martin Loney | 23 September 2013  

Thanks Geraldine for such a balanced article -and for giving yet more hope to the laity that in time we will really feel an important and relevant part of our beloved church- and have a significant role to play in the world.

margaret atchison | 23 September 2013  

Dear Geraldine, there is always such hope in what you write. Francis has given me renewed faith in the Holy Spirit's workings within the Church. Like John XXIII, Pope Francis has connected strongly with the people of the world. The secular media seem to love his spontaneity and loving generosity of spirit. I do notice though that Cardinal Pell seems to need to "explain" in the press what the Holy Father actually means each time the media runs with a story. Maybe Geraldine you can counter The Cardinal with press releases which amplify the Popes intentions rather than diminish them.

Martin Loney | 23 September 2013  

To borrow from a GFC economic image that appeared in one of Eureka St's offerings some time ago, Geraldine speaks from the second floor with its media overview. On the first floor a royal commission open to submissions from the wounded and requiring responses from churches is underway. Meanwhile on the ground (floor), as in the church here in Halls Creek, we gathered for Mass last Sunday with a Kenyan priest (Nairobi atrocity etc), two Indian couples, an Aboriginal matriarch with grannies, a couple of non-Indigenous retirees including me, some late arrivals used to patronage, and a lively, distracting kindergarten on the side. Perspective in talking about the church as a community and the issue of reform needs to be maintained.

Noel McMaster | 23 September 2013  

Forget the bells and whistles of military/police/business/secular tactical reform etc Geraldine, all that is needed essentially is the built in 'fix it' of an Ecumenical Council, in the mode of the Council of Trent to reassert the unfailing teachings of the Catholic Faith [sans popularising gimmicks],and a bevy of anathemas to boot, to rein in, and cauterise the sources of dissent and diabolical confusion. Such dealt effectively with dissenters from St Peters Jerusalem Council onwards[ not perfectly but,sufficient to outlast vibrantly, johnny-come-lately 'has-beens' competition and proclaim authentic Gospel teaching. Despite the excellent Vatican 2,the aftermath has been a epoch-making disaster needing invasive, radical clean up at the roots; it is far too late for anything less than time honoured methods of conciliar radical clean up, backed by proactive local synods, and yes even a phalanx or 2 of 'vigilantes fidei' to ferret out the agents of false teaching or immorality from seminaries,universities and schools[forget images and tinsel imitation of secular tactics,though respecting eg royal commissions and ilk And of course the great church reforms co-opted the perennial outstanding reforming Saints!

Father John George | 23 September 2013  

What great ideas and suggestions Geraldine has put forward. I concur with all her ideas. As a life long committed Catholic I have been on the verge of despair watching our beloved church descend into dark places. I refer to the world wide scandal of sexual abuse by clerics even at the level of Cardinals and Bishops. The very poor management of these problems and for a long time hiding these facts has made me feel a real ambivalence for our Church leadership here in Australia and world wide. There is no forum in our church for women to be heard at an official level. This is insulting to me as a woman, it also seems that respectful letters are also ignored. I have no intention of leaving the Catholic Church or the Gospel message, Pope Francis gives me hope and he excites me with his fresh ideas and straight talking. He walks the talk and loves the poor , his example has given me great courage. May the Holy Spirit sustain him to carry out his mission. Margaret M.Coffey

Margaret MCoffey | 23 September 2013  

Thank you Geraldine...wonderfully put indeed. May the Spirit blow through the many great lay people in our world enabling our Church to be transformed.

Rita Cusack | 23 September 2013  

Congratulations Geraldine on identifying most of the issues, blocks and dilemmas holding back the rejuvenation of the Church. I would though like to propose a need to consider another dimension which relates to the Mission of the Church and it's story, symbols, ritual and tradition. The starting point for change in peoples' commitment is culture. Not just 'the back story' but the identification and articulation of what are the current driving forces which motivate us. In other words we need to make sense of OUR story, symbols etc before we look to reconnect with the richness of the Church. Only in being fearless in examining what is 'in our face' every day, what perhaps frightens us, what resilience we have underestimated in ourselves can we re-inspire, make re-connection with the deep desire for whole ness, harmony and trancendence which is present in our human condition. Let's combine strategic and structural change with an embracing of those realities which make us who we are today. Only then will there be a foundation for re-engaging with, and critiquing, what we have not been permitted to re-examine. The 'signs of the times' will lead us just as John XXIII 'prophesied'.

Anne Fox | 23 September 2013  

Thank you Geraldine for your perceptive article which helps to confirm the hope I have that Pope Francis will begin the task of drawing the Church back to its essential mission. My belief is that this can only be done by encouraging all members, clergy and laity alike, to go back to our story. especially that story which is the source of our existence as a Church, Jesus, the Gospel, revelation, and to abandon the rigid adherence to a concept of clerical authority which inhibits the part that can be played by a spiritually oriented laity.

Tony Santospirito | 24 September 2013  

Good for you, Geraldine. I too share your dreams and wishes. If his Holiness takes you up on the job offer would you find a spot to ad my dream bit to yours: Ask Francis to write a letter to the people of Toowoomba, not just the catholics, all of them and say 'he's sorry, that he can't reinstate Bill Morris, but he's sorry for the way that man(ecce homo) and his people were treated by the so called 'dignity and rights establishment'

p goodland | 24 September 2013  

Well done Geraldine - agree absolutely with your comments I wonder if the pope will get to view it!!!

Helen Gibson | 24 September 2013  

As kings and kingdoms come and go. In 500 years time, I doubt the US military and other secular institutions, Geraldine, will still be around. While Apple, BHP Billinton, Coca- Cola, JP Morgan Chase, Westpac, may very well have Christians as their CEO's and employees. I am yet to meet a CEO or majority shareholder who has received the keys to heaven and earth directly from Christ. So what 'customer service' does the Catholic Church offer it's 'consumers' if there are no medallions, frequent flyer points or 'loyalty cards' to keep them coming back? If it is true the Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world and can trace its history back almost 2000 years. How on earth could it have lasted this long? Surely it must be doing something right. So how is it different to other institutions? Easy, over these 2000 years, to each and every one of it's members, the Catholic Church, has offered something no world institution can or will ever offer: The sharing of the divinity of Christ Jesus, via it's seven holy sacraments, in this life and the life to come.

peter bohm | 24 September 2013  

one of your writers says the Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world.Actually it is the synagogue.

Trevor Green | 24 September 2013  

Actually, Trevor Green, one of the writes said: If it is true the Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world and can trace its history back almost 2000 years.

peter bohm | 24 September 2013  

Mr Green the Ancient synagogues were a rich prefigurement [no mere allegory] of Christian Churches, with powerful theological interplay and continuum with both Passover themes and liturgies, for example!

Father John George | 25 September 2013  

Advice from the Pope to Geraldine,“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Sic transit gloria mundi | 25 September 2013  

Thanks, Geraldine. However, I don't think the Christian Church, even our Catholic one is some kind of isolated bastion of culture in a hostile, scientific world. Even conservative Pope Benedict and progressive theologian James Alison agree that much of the western world's humanitarian culture is derived from and based upon Christianity's values. So let's not languish in the 'back story' that Chris Geraghty so cherishes, but rather move forward, as the secular-humanist world does into a contemporary world, bringing with it only the best of the past, letting the rest fade away by attrition. One such priceless part of our past is the contemplative understanding of a relationship with God - a spiritual culture many moderns crave. Prayer, Jesus showed, is the source of love in a suffering world. It's an authentic prayer life which makes Christians true followers of the Teacher of non-violence, compassion and love. Then are we able to show the relevance in our world of our belief and our faith.

JO'D | 26 September 2013  

"Truly, truly, I say to you, Geraldine, it was not Westpac in the 90's who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God,The Holy Spirit, is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."

William | 27 September 2013  

To take but one of your many tragic statements Ms Geraldine Doogue, that go to your misunderstanding of our Redemption and the fact that God's Church should be the centre of everything. “The Enlightenment and Reformation ended that and hooray for that” What an uninspired statement. To say that it was a good thing for the Christ’s Church to be removed from the centre stage and to be put as secondary to the secular world is to abandon Christ's mission entirely. And what did the “Enlightment“do other than set men against Mother Church. “hooray for that” Indeed!!! The “Reformation”: that began the age of relativism to the point that men could not and cannot tell right from wrong, having lost Christ's message entirely in matters of contraception, abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage, the gift of life and God's part in it “hooray for that” Really Ms Dooge How tragic for you and your readers. You will find Francis far sterner than your secular rubbish.

Peter | 27 September 2013  

Helen Gibson, His Holiness is doing fine with his international G8 advisers[including Cardinal Pell] without 'your ABC'. Frankly, show piecing US military rejuvenation as a paradigm of reform is revolting and macabre [with up to 1 million post war Iraqi orphans roving the villages]

Father John George | 29 September 2013  

Thanks, Geraldine I am late responding, as I have been away. Having just read Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" (put off for many years), I am responding to the quote from Geraghty: "Atheists and agnostics don't have a story to tell." and your remark "I'm not so sure about that any more". Well, I think atheists and agnostics do have a story to tell. Perhaps the way forward is to learn what the stories, Catholic and Atheist-Agnostic, say to each other. Dawkins writes a brilliant chapter about the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, carrying us forward and raising our awareness of slavery, feminism, racism, etc, but as I read it, I hear the action of the Heiliggeist - the Holy Ghost. I think we should be listening to Richard Dawkins and others, and seek to marry our two stories. We can trust Science and reason - to quote Dawkins, "Science works, dammit!".

Peter Horan | 22 October 2013  

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