"One true Church" lessons for John Howard


"One true Church" lessons for John HowardTwo years ago, observers were predicting that the papacy of Benedict XVI would be unremarkable. This was easy to believe when the bar for remarkableness had been raised so far by his predecessor Pope John Paul II. But within the past week, Benedict has grabbed the attention of the headline writers not once, but twice. At the weekend, there was the official announcement of the return of the Latin Mass, and then yesterday the reaffirmation that the Roman Catholic Church is the 'one true Church'.

However, as Paul Collins argues in this issue of Eureka Street, it follows that the bare bones reporting of the past week misses the real story. Bad headlines overlook nuance, and it is in Benedict's nuances that the reality of his positions lies. Those who rushed to judge him as hostile to Islam, after the arcane reference he made during last year's Regensburg lecture, got it wrong. In fact he displays extraordinary sensitivity to other religious faiths and Christian denominations.

Paul Collins suggests that his hesitation before confirming recently that he would come to Australia for next year's World Youth Day was really an demonstration of his empathy with Eastern Orthodox Christians, who are reviled by perceptions engendered by the recent phenomenon of papal "roadshows", that he is the ecclesiastical ruler of the world.

Similarly, the angle of most of yesterday's "one true Church" document reporting leaves the impression that the Vatican has virtually suspended ecumenical dialogue. In fact, the document stresses that the Roman Catholic Church remains seriously committed to dialogue with the other Christian Churches. Further, there is the assertion that it actually advances the ecumenical cause. This is echoed in the immediate response of the World Council of Churches deputy general secretary, who said: "the honest sharing of commonalities, divergences, and differences will help all churches to pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life".

"One true Church" lessons for John HowardIt's all about laying cards on the table. There are lessons for the Federal Government, as it attempts to roll back Aboriginal land rights as part of its strategy to control sexual abuse in communities in the Northern Territory. Jonathan Hill, who writes in this issue of Eureka Street, is not alone in portraying it as a land grab. But he knows more than most white Australians, as he has spent most of the past 12 months working as a school teacher in a remote NT community. He links the "land grab" dimension of the Government's intervention to its plans to use the land as a waste dump for highly toxic radioactive material.

There is an argument to be put that it is in the national interest that the Federal Government should legislate resume these lands to build radioactive waste dumps, and other purposes. Why doesn't the Government lay its cards on the table and put that argument? Such honesty could have the surprising conequence of advancing Aboriginal reconciliation.



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Existing comments

A tad disingenous to suggest the WCC had a positive reaction to the CDF statement (and btw, your link is to the French version off the WCC press release).

The headline of the WCC response was:

"Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches."

A 'gentle rebuke' might be a more apporopriate summary...

Justin | 18 July 2007

Agreed The Roman Catholic church is the mainstream church and the others are merely an ideology of some human being to suit his or her own interest ... Thanks.
Bruce D'rozario | 15 May 2008


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