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A skeleton for the Plenary Council agenda



Continuing the Journey, the working document (or instrumentum laboris), is another stepping stone towards the Plenary Council (PC). How you view this document, provided explicitly both to those few hundred called to be PC participants and to the whole Catholic community, depends very much on your expectations. Few Catholics had any prior idea because the document was mysterious and written behind closed doors. As well as the writing team, presumably the Australian bishops and perhaps the Vatican shaped the final product. 

Main image: The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Mother of God in Sydney (Getty Images/kldlife)

The document describes itself as an initial reference point and as a skeleton for a future PC agenda. The job of putting flesh on the bones will be crucial and must be done as openly as possible. This one was written by a four-person team, including Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, Fr Kevin Lenehan and two other church employees, Daniel Ang and Dr Trudy Dantis, the lone woman. There was no public discussion. 

The document is meant to be widely read. It contains a preface and five chapters, of which the agenda will come largely from the third and the fourth, a distillation of ‘what the People of God have expressed, especially — though not exclusively — in the Listening and Dialogue and Listening and Discernment phases of the Plenary Council journey’. In other words, they are a distillation of the six Listening and Discernment papers. The first chapter is an informative historical introduction, ‘the story so far’. The second chapter is a theological reflection, and the fifth chapter proposes St Mary Mackillop as a model of Australian discipleship and issues an invitation to follow in the footsteps of her ‘practical spirituality’. 

The whole document is not just about possible agenda items but, perhaps more significantly, about the style, approach and process by which topics will be discussed. Ignatian discernment is at the heart of this approach. It is through such discernment by all participants that the Holy Spirit will be revealed. 

The difficult task of producing such a document must be acknowledged. We should appreciate its strengths and recognise its purpose. It discusses most possible agenda items and in doing so offers some bold statements and striking summaries of the situation the church finds itself in. 

But it does contain critical failures in both style and content. Some of these flow from the fact that, as someone described it to me, it is a distillation of a distillation of a distillation of the original 17, 457 submissions received in the Listening and Dialogue phase. They were first distilled into the final report by the National Centre for Pastoral Research then distilled again into the six theme papers before this latest distillation. Much has been lost in the process. Let us hope it is restored in the final agenda. 


'Despite its claim that the PC was planned to be a council with a "uniquely Australian flavour" this document fails to take that opportunity.'


This is a bland document, not enlivened by the passionate stories or urgent voices found in many of the submissions. It is also excessively cautious. We are a broad church, but on too many issues its approach is to report that some Catholics say this, and other Catholics say that rather than to reflect the majority opinion about what matters most to the People of God. It is afraid to say that most Catholics, based on the submissions, say this. 

Despite its claim that the PC was planned to be a council with a ‘uniquely Australian flavour’ this document fails to take that opportunity. Despite many references to the desirable contribution of First Nations people and despite the attempt to make Mary Mackillop a model for action it lacks an Australian face. It is so afraid of the secular character of Australian society that it fails to appreciate the best features of Australian identity, such as participation and egalitarianism. To do so would be to threaten the official church commitment to hierarchy and to admit that the church can learn much from broader society and from alienated Catholics about where it has gone wrong. Instead, like defeated political leaders, the document blames church decline on a failure of communication and/or messaging. 

Despite bowing in the direction of the contribution of women to the church in Australia it is inadequate in its treatment of gender and inclusiveness. Most Catholics want greater equality for women in the church. This document is afraid to move outside the restrictions imposed by the universal church on the ordination of women. 

There is also a lack of self-reflection, especially about church leadership. The sexual abuse discussion is forthright, but still inclined to focus on the evils of the abuse itself rather than the equally criminal cover up by church leaders. 

The danger of such attitudes if they are translated into the PC agenda is that, despite the words of warning, a somewhat rosy view of the church’s dilemmas prevails. The necessary sense of crisis and the failure of business as usual are lost. 

If this critique seems harsh then some of the best parts of the document about turning challenges into opportunities should be quoted (found in paragraph 196). Jesus is always with us. 

It is this assurance that should encourage us and empower us to speak and act with that parrhesia, that boldness and courage, which are a gift of the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit’s prompting, lest we be held back by fear and excessive caution; lest we grow used to keeping within safe bounds. Let us remember that closed spaces grow musty and unhealthy. 

Yet the culture of the church thrives on closed spaces and safe bounds. To fulfil its potential the Plenary Council must be open rather than closed and bold rather than safe. 



John WarhurstJohn Warhurst is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, the Chair of Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn and a delegate to the Plenary Council.

Main image: The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Mother of God in Sydney (Getty Images/kldlife)

Topic tags: John Warhurst, Continuing the Journey, Plenary Council, Australia, church renewal



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There is a joke about a horse designed by a committee. It had no legs. This document seems a bit like that. I have doubts this Plenary Council will walk. There are people in the Vatican, including the current Pope, who are far more empathic and visionary than our current Australian hierarchy. Using Mary MacKillop's name is ironic, because the then hierarchy did everything in its power to crush and silence her for a large part of her lifetime. I think our hierarchy still use the outdated 'Irish' method of repressive governance, which no longer obtains in Ireland itself. They have absolutely no idea of how to treat women. The same goes for their treatment of the laity in general. They also seem to have no idea how to conduct themselves in what is currently a somewhat aggressively secular Australia, where some politicians appear to have a markedly Anti-Christian legislative agenda. Dressing up in medieval robes and holding their episcopal staves whilst making pronouncements from their empty cathedrals adds to the impression they are hopelessly out of touch. I think they need to revamp both their images and their approach. If you run such a tight ship that the Holy Spirit can't get a look in, how can you expect Him to guide you in your discernment? This is the same approach which refused to admit or deal with rampant sexual abuse. Perhaps their guiding spirit is not Mary MacKillop but Ronald Mulkearns? God preserve us from such arrant stupidity!

Edward Fido | 25 March 2021  

John Warhurst prefaces his analysis of "Continuing the Journey" with the usual radical reformist groups' portrayal of Australia's bishops as clandestine, unaccountable manipulators. That's how his commentary ends, with assertions in the interim paragraphs of episcopal pusillanimity and ignorance of an Australian identity based supposedly on "participation and egalitarianism." When it comes to a matter of "self-reflection" and "openness", how open are the reformist groups for which Prof Warhurst speaks and which have a regular, privileged voice in Eureka Street to being critical of their own distinctively secularising agenda? "Jesus", "parhessia" and the "Holy Spirit" must be more than self-legitimising adornment in a Catholic ecclesiology and missiology for our or any place and time.

John RD | 25 March 2021  

A fair assessment, John, of a disappointing document. As you say, "The necessary sense of crisis and the failure of business as usual are lost." The agenda cannot depend on this document if the Plenary Council is "to speak and act with that 'parrhesia', that boldness and courage, which are a gift of the Holy Spirit".

Peter Johnstone | 25 March 2021  

Fine analysis, John. I too believe it lacks the parrhesia, so often urged by Pope Francis. I was hoping that the current theology about engaging, rather than duelling with society might have been evident. While it tries to cover all bases I find the IL sorely lacking in vitality and spirit.

Vivien williams | 25 March 2021  

John why on earth would they call it "instrumentum laboris"? That in itself is typical of the ACBC attempting to mystify and take the agenda out of reach of the laity. Your assessment is mild in my view and no where near harsh enough. The token female in their midst was probably there to make the tea and scones.

Francis Armstrong | 25 March 2021  

I think the very best thing any catholic can do is keep his/her belief the Blessed Sacrament is Very Truly, Jesus' Flesh and Blood. And true food and true drink for our soul and health for our body. And do the best possible to open the eyes of others towards this ( eternal) reality, alongside the teachings in ...Matthew 25:40. Than only good, in our life and in the life of others, will follow. The institution called the Catholic Church? A lasting glory? No this is not possible because: "Sic transit gloria mundi". "Thus passes worldly glory".

AO | 25 March 2021  

Thanks, John Warhurst, for your summation and assessment of the Instrumentum Laboris. I hope, in terms of the leadership you have shown in opening up discussion to what is regarded as a theologically literate ES readership, that the authors of Instrument regard both your essay and the many responses it will undoubtedly evoke, as a sign of the Paraclete participating and indeed that they respond wherever possible to what is said in these columns. My view: although I think the summation of so many responses could have been placed in the hands of a data collecting agency at arms length from the Church, there is no evidence, given the concerns of well-known critics of the hierarchy, of any skulduggery by the bishops. Secondly, since I limit my comments at this stage to the opening chapter of the Instrument, I believe that it strikes the right note, particularly in its copious and deliberate quoting and referencing of 'Lumen Gentium'. On the other hand, John, you haven't addressed an issue that Catholics for Renewal have already raised with the Bishops and which is the selection process for participants. I believe that random selection is critically important to ensure that the Paraclete participates!

Michael Furtado | 26 March 2021  

If only the bishops had listened to the many requests from the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (comprising 19 separate groups seeking church renewal throughout Australia and New Zealand) that the group writing the 'Instrumentum Laboris' be gender balanced and the process transparent - to no avail.

Peter Johnstone | 26 March 2021  

Yes, AO, we have it on good authority that this world and its institutions are not final, but until the "Last Day" comes, we have it on the word of that same authority that He will be with us "even to the ending of the world" (Mtt.28:20); i.e., an abiding presence through his Holy Spirit and the visible signs of its identity and mission as a community. That which we know as his His church.

John RD | 26 March 2021  

well said John, couldn't agree more, when will transparency be seen as a positive rather than something to be feared!

adrian jones | 26 March 2021  

Hello Prof. Warhurst: thank you for the analysis. Am I permitted a question: is the council a gathering in faith or politics? Back in 1950’s brainwashing school we were taught that women could not be priests because Jesus only selected men to be apostles, which according to Scripture, is true. But, Jesus also only selected Jewish men. All theological argumentations against the ordination of women would then equally apply to non-Jews. From my knowledge none of Australia’s bishops are Jews. Most have Anglo-Irish ancestry. Theologically, they are fake priests. Francis is also a fake. He is the son of Italian migrants, like me. The council cannot be a faith (at least not catholic) gathering. There is something of a catastrophic contradiction in Catholicism. Have we been without real priest for nearly two thousand years? Are the Protestants right after all? If the council is a political gathering then the rules of politics apply: those with power will use all means to retain it, and those without power must put up a fight. Apart from those with career vested interests, who would care anyhow? Since 1965, the end of the Vatican Council, the rot seems to have set in on the Church. But that’s a political analysis. Maybe the bad people, the over ninety per cent who have journeyed differently, maybe, they are on the journey in faith.

Fosco | 26 March 2021  

Catholics and Ex-Catholics in Australia are an extremely large and varied crowd, John RD. Some are very involved in church affairs, such as the upcoming Plenary Council, others are less enthused for a variety of reasons. I suspect what most want is some sort of acknowledgement as a vital part of the Church, some genuine respect and the possibility of participating in those parts of church life they are officially able to engage in. They are not necessarily wanting things Rome says it can't grant, such as women priests. Women deacons, who could do much of the overloaded priesthood's work, such as baptisms and marriage ceremonies would, I think, be a very good thing. Married priests - the norm in most Eastern Catholic Churches - would be a good idea, as would decent wages and superannuation for clergy. As far as I am aware, most, if not all, these items are not on the Agenda of the PC and will definitely not be. Catholic bishops are not the only inept ecclesiastics in Australia, as the careers of former Anglican archbishops like Hollingworth and George show. We could do with a few more Justin Symondses and Joseph Greches though.

Edward Fido | 26 March 2021  

Francis Armstrong, I thought the same thing when I saw the title "instrumentum laboris". Latin term just underlining the power of Rome in deciding what goes on in local churches. "Instrumentum laboris" actually sounds like a name for an equipment an Obstetrician might use in a difficult birth! Speaking of Latin, by chance I found this YouTube video about "Why Shakespeare Could Never Have Been French". It explains how a French-speaking poet could not have written something that sounds like Shakespeare. French does not have a feature called lexical stress, and cannot write in "iambic pentameter" (you need to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUnGvH8fUUc ). Anyway, it reminded me of why the Latlish Mass translation of 2010 falls flat.

Bruce Stafford | 26 March 2021  

E Prof Warhurst. You say the document does not "...reflect the majority opinion of what matters to the people of God" without reference to where and how this "majority" was determined. Without such reference the statement means nothing. I would not be surprised if the reformation you seek may in fact represent the views of a minority of baptised Catholics considering that 90% of them no longer participate in the sacramental life that is the signature of Catholicism. Do you suggest that the bishops and those who have produced the document and even perhaps, as implied, the magisterium are not guided by the spirit you assure us is acting exclusively in favour of your and your adherent's views. It is also true that Christ didn't found a church based on national or ethnic characteristics. I have already experienced a couple of typically "Australian" versions, no doubt inspired by the spirit; one a surf-side parish where the crucifix was replaced by a projected early morning photo of a surfer carrying his board under his arm that produced a cruciform silhouette; another, inspired by the spirit the reformers believe speaks only to them, where Christ on the crucifix in the sanctuary was replaced by a dying brush turkey as a sign from the spirit that the Aboriginal people had been badly treated and that this parish was suffering with them.

john frawley | 27 March 2021  

Edward, while I recognise the range of affiliations you identify under the umbrella of "Catholic", I can't say I share the view that reform as conceived by those groups Prof John Warhurst regularly represents in "Eureka Street" is an exercise in desirable or acceptable moderation. Allied to the defiant push for women's ordination to the Catholic priesthood - arguably the common centrepiece of the reform groups' agenda - is the notion that theological commentators and the opinions they disseminate enjoy a higher status and authority in Catholic teaching than that of the Church's magisterium: according to Vatican II, the pope and bishops in communion with him. Australia has imported this heterodox idea and its associated practices of public opposition to official Church teaching mainly from Germany and North America. Ironically, their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, such commentators in effect assume the status of an alternate hierarchy and authority, articulating and setting the radical agenda and arbitrating what constitutes the Church's "sensus fidelium"; with divisive ecclesial results. A re-visiting of some of earlier articles and responses to them in ES on the Plenary Council, where episcopal hierarchy itself - not simply corruptions of it - is denounced as anathema, and singled out for both elimination from the structure of the Catholic Church and replacement by some sort of pseudo-democratic cadre might help explain my scepticism towards the intent and agenda of those who would effect change discontinuous with the Apostolic tradition which maintains and develops the pilgrim Church authentically in every location and age in accordance with the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit.

John RD | 27 March 2021  

Lack of self-reflection re Church leadership is concerning but latent Plenary Council issues reside in competing theologies of conservatives&reformers, disparagingly dismissed as ‘Catholic lite’. Bishops who ignored a dark period of sexual abuse would lose their positions were they company directors but clearly this analogy is irrelevant in Catholic circles, although rhetorically ‘moral responsibility’ retains currency. How, prithee, should one also interpret Rod Page’s current article in ‘The Swag’? It indicates some views of a retired Archbishop on Church reform have been censored in the diocesan publication. Generally, Catholics resisting PC reform, assert propositions such as: the Deposit of Faith on matters of doctrine, Church order and moral life are unalterable, otherwise the Church would fall into schism, the Pope into apostasy; there is a dangerous, creeping clericalisation of the laity, impinging on ordained clergy; renewal of prayer, liturgical worship and cultivation of saints, not changes in governance or transparency, is the key to reform; attempting to change Humane Vitae is a crime against the Church; in relation to abortion, gender, IVF and sexuality, “God does not and cannot bless sin.” Such theological narratives are privileged in some diocesan Catholic media, often without counter-balance.

PeterD | 27 March 2021  

‘We know that God’s Spirit is given to the whole Church, and that the People of God, together, have a deep instinct for the truth (the sensus fidei) which protects us, as a community of faith, from falling into fundamental error in matters of belief. We know that the bishops of the Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, have been given a particular responsibility for ensuring that the Church remains faithful to the truth of the Gospel….’ (Preface, p.3). The bishop is not a delegate of the laity, to do as they instruct, or a representative, to act from his discretion until he is recalled. The requirement for expertise in Scripture, Tradition, church history, and the various religious and secular philosophies of the world, make the specialist position of bishop that of trustee of the Church Militant before God. The sensus fidei therefore cannot be merely the wisdom of the crowd but derives also from the autonomy of the bishops and the pope from the laity, as well as priests, the pool of potential bishops. The laity, being the most populous and the least trained component of the Church Militant, provide a long and porous border to error.

roy chen yee | 28 March 2021  

Hello John RD. I agree with what you are saying here. However:1) “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” “This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”… But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken John 2:20- 22…It seems to me in the preceding, Jesus was Not Only speaking about the temple of His body. But also and specifically about the destruction (the end in dust) of All temples. All fake, illusory, and transit temples. The temporal temples created by 'Worldly Powers' within institutions ( and the Catholic church is also an institution) pursued by men seeking their will rather than God's...This seems to be clear to me, also in the following: 2) And in regard to judgment because the prince ( the prince of deceit the prince of worldly powers) of this world has been condemned. John 16:11. This on going destruction is constantly at work, Via the Holy Spirit, in the 'institution' of the Catholic church. In the hearts and minds of powerful men in powerful positions pursuing worldly powers and worldly desires. The fake temples of of their own making, via deceit.

AO | 28 March 2021  

AO: If you're saying that all human enterprises are tainted by original sin, including institutions, I agree. Nonetheless, institutions wherever social reality exists, are inevitable, including the Church in history; and, because of the imperfect human element of their members, are in need of graced transforming - especially where evil has become embedded in their defining structures, or to use the "mot du jour", systemic. Remedy, it seems to me, must start with the individuals who participate in perpetuate such structures since, without personal metanoia, necessary change will be merely cosmetic.

John RD | 29 March 2021  

Newman, one of the leading influences on Vatican II's ecclesiology and the understanding of the development of doctrine, would, I think, agree strongly, Roy, with the distinction you make between lay and episcopal roles in the Church; and would also insist on the necessary inclusion of the episcopacy in the "sensus fidei fidelium" in any Catholic ecclesiology worthy of the name.

John RD | 29 March 2021  

Yep, John RD. I agree, it's about metanoia and... seeking within. As St Albert the Great says in, On Union with God: The Kingdom of God, that is, Christ is within us.

AO | 29 March 2021  

John RD, what you accuse John Warhurst of namely "portrayal of Australia's bishops as clandestine, unaccountable manipulators" is undoubtedly true of them. They were appointed without consultation of the laity and have covered up the vicious crimes of literally thousands of religious. Why you persist in defending them beggars belief. Back in the day the church had the Inquisition to deal with priests and religious who broke their vows. Mary MacKillop, Australia's first Catholic saint, was excommunicated by the church because she discovered children were being abused by a priest and went public. In 1871 Shiel excommunicated her because she refused to accept the status quo. If this PC is going to have a valid outcome it should include Catholic parents, especially parents whose children have fallen victim to abuse. "Of the 201 Catholic Church authorities surveyed by the royal commission, 92 (46%) reported having received at least one claim of child sexual abuse. Overall, some 4,444 claimants alleged incidents of abuse in 4,756 reported claims over the period 1950–2015 (86% of claims related to pre-1990 incidents). The 3,057 claims resulting in a payment for redress amounted to $268 million between 1980 and 2015. Alleged perpetrators were overwhelmingly male (90%) and religious brothers were disproportionally highly responsible (having the most claimants and some 37% of all alleged perpetrators, despite being numerically inferior to priests and religious sisters). By means of a weighted index, the commission found that at 75 archdioceses/dioceses and religious institutes with priest members examined, some 7 per cent of priests (who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009[were alleged perpetrators (this finding did not represent allegations tested in a court of law). Senior Counsel Gail Furness told the commission that "Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious leaders were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or they were destroyed." Wikipedia. By August 2011, according to Broken Rites, a support and advocacy group for church-related sex abuse victims, there had been over 100 cases in Australia where Catholic priests had been charged for sex offences against minors, as well as others involving non-custodial sentences and inconclusive proceedings."The Bishops who reject compulsory reporting even where its legislated stance is the tension between canon law, and their foolish belief that there is some sort of higher, transcendent church law that overrides common law. Its not up to the State authorities. Its up to the Bishops.

Francis Armstrong | 29 March 2021  

At a recent Catholic requiem mass in Melbourne, the entrance song was "Lord of the Dance", the offertory hymn was "Away in A Manger" and the communion item "Panis Angelicus" was spelt in the booklet as "Parnus Anjelicus". I can forgive the last as a monumental typo. I doubt that furious letters were sent off to the Archbishop. The sad combination smacks of a total ignorance of Catholicism amongst those grass roots "faithful", who are supposedly informing this Plenary Council. And I doubt the bishops as a group will do anything "courageous" - as Sir Humphrey Appleby would have put it - in corrective response. From an opposite point of view, I find myself in rare agreement with Mr Warhurst: the Plenary Council will do zilch to divert Ecclesia Australis from its course ... directly into the banks of the Suez Canal.

HH | 30 March 2021  

Francis Armstrong: I don't share your view that the episcopacy is dispensable in the Catholic Church, based, as Catholics understand it, on Christ's own initiative in calling and appointing of Peter and the other Apostles, and its characteristic place in the Church's tradition. Nor do I view bishops' failings are totalising or irredeemable. Holy Week, I think, is opportune for reflecting on Peter's and the other Apostles' relationship with Christ and, his entrusting of leadership to them (which, as I've argued in previous exchanges with you in ES, I don't regard as a mere accident of anachronistic cultural convention).

John RD | 30 March 2021  

No doubt, Frank, the Catholic Church's credibility and standing in society have been gravely damaged by the clerical pedophile issue and systemic cover-up involved. However, it should also be acknowledged that not all Australian bishops were personally complicit in concealment, and that leaders among them like Cardinal George Pell and the recently deceased Archbishop Philip Wilson made strenuous efforts in introducing public initiatives to ensure the protection of children and the accountability of offenders. Fr Frank Brennan SJ, in recent article entitled "Where has Cardinal Pell's Case Brought Us in the Australian Church?", writes: "In future, church morale will be enhanced if the anti-Pell forces inside and outside the church are willing to concede that bishops like Pell got some things right when it came to the protection of children after 1996, and they were ahead of the curve." ("Studies", vol 110, no.437, p.41). Admittedly, this may do little or nothing to assuage the trauma of clerical pedophilia victims, but it is, I believe, a genuine sign and counsel of hope for addressing the present and future, particularly for constructive Catholic Church interaction with relevant state authorities on this appalling and tragic issue, and more effective prevention.

John RD | 31 March 2021  

Mary MacKillop had guts, determination and God's strength bestowed on her directly from Him to oppose evil via her humility and obedience and... to go Rome...God's Holy Spirt dwells in Catholics who have the drive to not accept No from men who have chiefs, and eat soft and dainty foods... Sainthood is given to those who have endured huge amounts of humiliation, mental, physical and emotional suffering... Unbearable amounts of suffering in the pursuit of doing God's Will. There is no other way... I respect Bishops. However, if Pope Francis chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop's palace, ( before he was elected Pope) gave up his chauffeured limo in favour of taking the bus to work, and cooked his own meals. Why can't All Catholic Bishops do the same? If St Francis ate crusts of bread, with the lepers, he begged for in the streets of Assisi. How hard is it for a Bishop to boil an egg or two for dinner?.. If the Gospel is to be proclaimed by Bishops, it should also be lived by Bishops. Should it not? And the following be a warning: "But Abraham answered, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things. But now he is comforted here, while you are in agony?" The Higher the position in the Catholic Church. The more earnest should the renunciation of any privilege be...And the more earnest the pursuit of the imitation of Christ. What comes from Humility? True Leadership: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" Zachariah 9:9... Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Not in a Limo.

AO | 31 March 2021  

Nice to see HH back in print but puzzled about his position on the hymns sung at his Melbourne Mass. 'Lord of the Dance' is a hymn about the Holy Spirit and its popularity in terms of its widespread appeal suggests that its a handy advert for a much under-worked focus on the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. 'Away in a Manger' is a Christmas Carol and, though somewhat sentimental, a great favourite of children for whom any liturgical celebration of that genre is surely to be encouraged in due Season. As for 'Panis Angelicus', its hackneyed spelling absolutely commends it in HH's context in terms of its bizarre theology for, indeed, the Eucharist is hardly the Bread of Angels but, quite to the contrary, the Bread of Sinners. On the other hand, I find myself for once in rare agreement with John RD in his comments about Archbishop Wilson, who had the grace to resign his episcopal office when it became clear that he had not discharged his responsibility in terms of adequately dealing with at least one notoriously abusive priest at his parish. Would that several other Bishops had done so, as Francis Amrstrong so assiduously explains.

Michael Furtado | 06 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘the Eucharist is hardly the Bread of Angels but, quite to the contrary, the Bread of Sinners.‘ Bread of Repentant Sinners. Otherwise, the sinner eats and drinks to his condemnation. Receiving communion while in knowing defiance of the magisterium must at least be as provocative to God as Scott Morrison was to the women protesters for saying that demonstrations are allowed in Australia.

roy chen yee | 08 April 2021  

MF. Your newfound rare agreement with John RD can only be an Eastereal rebirth!

john frawley | 09 April 2021  

Bejaysus and begorrah, Johnnie Fraws; a miracle indeed, to be sure, to be sure! And to be especially sure, El Roy, repentance WITH forgiveness IS INDEED for ALL, since we can none of us ever be fully 'deserving', otherwise we'd be guilty of a soulless disembodied angelism, as well as invoking a false God whose grace and blessing we've somehow 'earned', and which just about sums up the condition for participation in the Eucharist that you insist upon.

Michael Furtado | 11 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘repentance WITH forgiveness IS INDEED for ALL….and which just about sums up the condition for participation in the Eucharist….’ Not so fast to the usual breezy glossing-over. Forgiveness is extended and must be received by the sinner, but repentance has to be accepted also by the forgiver or, like the man at the wedding party without a proper tunic, the so-called repenter will be bound and expelled. Knowingly defying the Magisterium is, objectively at least, hardly a sign of repentance.

roy chen yee | 12 April 2021  

The Church's requirement of examining one's conscience, confessing, repenting and being absolved of serious sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to Holy Communion are signs of sincere intent, respect and reverence for receiving for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The practice also conveys a visible element that ensures it is not the "disembodied angelism" which Michael Furtado mistakenly alleges Roy promotes.

John RD | 12 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘soulless disembodied angelism….’ Not bad at all. A term, its contradiction and its tautology, all in three words. The only way to better this is to have two words, with one of them being both contradiction and tautology of the other. Angels are not soulless but they are disincarnate. However, the use of soulless works as a pejorative metaphor in order to insinuate that a person in control of fleshly appetites must be soulless. Not so. Fasting, abstinence and ascetism are all traditional testaments to that.

roy chen yee | 12 April 2021  

O Holy Mother of God, Have I touched a sensitive chord! Only my confessor would remember the seriously problematic stuff I unburden on him in the confessional. (Yes; for my seriously offensive sins I still need recourse to the aural rite). Since no obligation of confidentiality applies to my part in it, I have to confess that the most heinous aspect of what I stumble through has to be with the two keepers of my conscience who never fail to remind me of the hellish torments I face in the form of their 'revenge theology' I encountered in these columns on a regular basis and my unseemly attitude of disdain and, I hate to admit, the despair and - dare I say it in the interests of truth-telling - contempt with which I treat their timely warnings about the Dante-esque Inferno that awaits me without repentance. Curiously my confessor tends to dismiss much of this and recommends that I desist from administering the birch to my behind as a form of mortification. Instead he counsels to reject the 'anti-septicism of the Eucharist' model, much in vogue during COVID, and recommends instead the Eucharist as 'Body Broken for a Broken People'.

Michael Furtado | 14 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Instead he counsels to reject the 'anti-septicism of the Eucharist' model…and recommends instead the Eucharist as 'Body Broken for a Broken People'.’ A broken soul cannot be continuously spiritually antiseptic, but unless it aims to be, at least, episodically antiseptic --- and it cannot do this unless it, periodically at least, denounces the sepsis --- it ceases to be broken and becomes derelict. Your confessor is correct. The Eucharist isn’t ‘Body Broken for a Derelict People’. Dereliction can include consistently approving a sin without committing it, and derelicts eat and drink to their own condemnation. Pro-abortion legislators who enact liberalising abortion laws don’t commit abortion but they approve it, but abortion isn't the only intrinsic evil around. The difference between broken souls ‘sinning boldly’ and derelict souls ‘sinning boldly’ is explored here within the Lutheran tradition: https://jpserrano.com/2011/11/16/sin-boldly-did-luther-really-mean-it-the-way-we-use-it-today/

roy chen yee | 16 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Curiously my confessor tends to dismiss much of this and recommends that I desist from administering the birch to my behind as a form of mortification.’ Confessors are very kind. They tell you to go away and say an Our Father and a Hail Mary. They don’t really make you work for forgiveness. Of course, what your Oxford University education in theology under the Dominicans should have told you, no, reminded you, is of what you should have been told in catechism class in primary or early secondary school, that forgiveness and reparation are not the same thing. ‘[D]are I say it in the interests of truth-telling’, it’s somewhat inexplicable that you appear not to know the difference between working for forgiveness (not necessary, because forgiveness is a grace and the couple of prayers afterwards are an invitation to gratitude like that of the one leper who returned to say thank you) and reparation, for which a lot of remediation work, for further marring Creation, will need to be done somewhere, which is why we have the further grace of indulgences for people who treat Purgatory with the wary respect it deserves.

roy chen yee | 16 April 2021  

Mamma mia! Let me not be blamed, splendid John Warhurst, for derailing the crucial conversation prior to the Synod that you got started here recently. In the interests of returning to topic, might I repeat that I am and have ever been Pro-Life, a 'ho-mo-sex-u-al', as the priests at school used to exquisitely pronounce it, and decidedly chaste, though not for the want of trying. I do have a very special Wisconsonian friend (unfortunately called 'Geoffrey' in Australian parlance) who hails from Cornell. The closest we have come to breaching our decorum is at the Sign of Peace, when I suspect that either JohnRD or Lee-Roy has the latest in rogue software trained on us to ensure that, as St Thomas Aquinas would insist, no exchange of bodily fluid takes place, no matter how lovingly aimed. Sometimes, with Geoffers breathing down my neck late at night and over a port or three after reciting the Rosary, we speculate about these two pillars of pre-Vatican II, sidling out at Communion, raincoats with upturned lapels glistening with pin accolades from Opus Dei, the Pius X Society & the Confraternity of Christ the Priest, before leaping fetchingly onto the last milk-train for Wagga-Wagga.

Michael Furtado | 16 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘never fail to remind ‘ It’s a dual ego which produces this scoff: 1. the ego of presuming that someone is paying you the compliment of presuming your moral stance to be significantly disturbing, as opposed to being some low-grade weirdness which still besmirches an image and likeness of God to the extent that it cannot conceptually exist in Heaven or the new Eden. An analogical situation would be that while the public habit of talking to oneself isn’t particularly destabilising of peace and good order in society, a political party wouldn’t preselect someone visibly of that characteristic for the dignity of a legislative chamber. 2. the ego of disregarding the Tradition concerning Purgatory. Being unaware or unafraid of Purgatory is as modernist as not believing in Hell. There are any number of time-periods ending before the Parousia which spell an unpleasant experience of Purgatory which exists, more or less, to scrub up post-death souls, somewhat painfully, into an image and likeness that can conceptually exist in Heaven or the new Eden.

roy chen yee | 17 April 2021  

Roy is indeed correct about the disgraceful badinage with which I treat his earnest tirades; for if I didn't I would surely break down and wipe myself off the face of the earth as many homosexual persons, whether Catholic or otherwise, have done through aeons of time. While that cannot offer an excuse for my belittlement and ridicule, given the lesson taught and the example lived by the Man in whose name both Roy and I have locked horns, it is in Love's name that I speak, as I have come to understand, through Church tutelage, that such was the beginning and end of what Jesus taught, in comparison with which Roy offers me only punishment in this life (for something I was born with and palpably did not choose and, indeed, rejected for fifty of my seventy decades) and eternal damnation in the next. Why would anybody, let alone a fool like me, want to adopt such a policy, which succeeded for many years in forcing me to endorse a theology that privileges self-hatred above all else? Not only that; in so doing I learned to hate and mistrust all others, a straight-jacket imposed by numerous Roys of yesteryear.

Michael Furtado | 17 April 2021  

Reading "Stony" alumnus Michael Furtado's latest imaginative extravagance (16/4) brings to mind the distinguished former student of Stonyhurst College Paul Johnson's comment on resigning in 1970 from the editorship of the New Statesman: "I'm tired of being surrounded all day by people who can't tell fantasy from reality. . . ", an occupation alien to Johnson's early intellectual formation by the Jesuits and studies in history at Magdalen College, Oxford, under Oriel's AJP Taylor. Johnson writes in his 1980 work, The Recovery of Freedom: "The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."

John RD | 18 April 2021  

"Revenge theology"(14/4): perhaps the most egregiously misrepresentative of all the novel journalese terms expressed by Michael Furtado towards those who insist that both justice and forgiveness are intrinsic to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as they are in humans' relationship with God.

John RD | 18 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘rejected for fifty of my seventy….’ I don’t know how many times Eve looked at the fruit wondering whether or not to disobey God but if you wish to accept the principle that the last act that is repentant overcomes all previous acts that were sinful, you must accept that the last act that is disobedient overcomes all previous acts that were obedient. ‘[I]t is in Love's name that I speak, as I have come to understand, through Church tutelage….’: It is an empirical fact, especially in this age of the Internet, that if you wanted to speak to a practising Catholic with same-sex attraction who doesn’t believe that the tutelage of the Church promotes conforming to it, you can, and if you haven’t, it’s because you’ve chosen not to. ‘[A] straight-jacket imposed’: The honest response is to say that this is an excuse from Victimology 101. As for the tedious and repetitive trolleying out of ‘eternal damnation in the next’, cheer up! it may only be Purgatory in the next (although those who are blasé about Purgatory are probably falling into presumption). Speaking of Love, show some love for the child who incurs three parents.

roy chen yee | 18 April 2021  

Paul Johnson is no paragon of Catholic virtue and his Jesuit schooling and eminent early scholarship irrelevant. Johnson defended Nixon during Watergate, finding his cover-up considerably less heinous than Bill Clinton's tawdry infidelity, while also supporting Oliver North's involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. In his Spectator column, Johnson expressed admiration for Pinochet and Franco, spearheading the campaign to prevent Pinochet's extradition to Spain after Pinochet's arrest in London on human rights abuse charges. Johnson's Pauline conversion from the New Statesman to The Spectator, both of them mastheads of the Left and Right establishment respectively, are also not of particular relevance to this conversation. Johnson dismissed the testimony of the Australian nun, Dr Sheila Cassidy, who was incarcerated and tortured for treating a wounded supporter of the democratically-elected President Salvador Allende. Ordinarily people's politics are a matter of taste and don't warrant divisiveness, but the extent to which he employed his political conversion as propaganda backfired: in 1998 it was revealed Johnson had an affair lasting eleven years with the writer Gloria Stewart. Stewart went public with the affair to the newspapers after what she saw as Johnson's hypocrisy over his views on morality, religion and family values. Bad call, Roy!

Michael Furtado | 18 April 2021  

‘I no longer attend Mass, I no longer avail myself of the sacraments, those “outward signs of inward grace” which sustained me in my earlier years. God is to be found outside the Church even more than in it: in nature, in people, in animals, in poetry and in all the wild and wonderful works of the Divine. God is everywhere, in everything shining forth, if we only care to look’: www.audible.com.au/pd/Confessions-of-a-Lapsed-Catholic-Audiobook/B00FOE9KVW Cassidy misses the point that her God found outside the Church is the God that was defined to her by the Church or she would not know what or where to see. She also forgets Jesus’ teaching that the Pharisees, whatever else they might be, do sit in the seat of Moses. Whether or not the Church in some of its manifestations behaves like the Pharisees, the Church is always authoritative because it sits in the seat of Moses. About the sentimentality over homosexuality, it seems that the more ‘complicated’ or ‘Me’ a person is, the more it is because they take themselves too seriously. True the body should not be violated, but that’s because it is not so much your body as that it is God’s. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/seeking-only-resolution-1.171478

roy chen yee | 19 April 2021  

My call, MF, not Roy's. Johnson's words I've repeated bear, I believe, reflection.

John RD | 19 April 2021  

The melding of JohnRD's and Roy's views, in the manner of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, is no excuse for not acknowledging the destructive and counter-productive power they both wield to derail any constructive discussion on the opportunity ES offers to renew our Church at this crucial time. While we should pray for Sheila Cassidy, the horrific physical abuse meted out to her - manifestly without protest from the Chilean hierarchy - regrettably but perfectly explains her decision to exit the Church! Had she not a British passport Pinochet's henchmen would almost certainly have 'liquidated' her. Thus the extent to which the Church collaborated with fascism to suppress human rights and so blind are John and Roy to this that they would employ any furphy to push their view. One further example of this is the extent they have gone elsewhere in ES to co-opt Dr McCarraher of Villanova in their denigration of Herbert McCabe OP and Blackfriars, Oxford. Subsequent to their enlisting him as an ideological ally, I have discovered that Eugene McCarraher has stated: 'I want to examine how capitalism is a new, perverse form of enchantment, a misdirection of our desires for a sacramental way of being the world.'

Michael Furtado | 21 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Paul Johnson is no paragon of Catholic virtue….’ Since nobody is a paragon of virtue, nobody, by this logic, may critique anyone else, the only difference between Johnson and us being that his vices are public while ours are invisible. Either one has no right to critique Johnson unless permitted to cast stone because without sin, or the scripture is intended to be hyperbole and a criticism is warranted if it is true. Either Johnson’s assertion about learning from history is true, in which case there is nothing to criticise, or it is wrong in which case feel free to say how.

roy chen yee | 22 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘manifestly without protest from the Chilean hierarchy - regrettably but perfectly explains her decision to exit the Church!’ Logical flaw. The Church just isn’t the Chilean hierarchy. It’s also the British hierarchy. It’s John Henry Newman. It’s William Wilberforce. It’s Desmond Tutu. It’s ‘even’ Jesus Christ. It would have been regrettable but somewhat understandable if Cassidy had left the Catholic Church to join the Orthodox Church or some Protestant denomination. But having torn up (on paper, at least) her membership of all of the material expression of the Church here on Earth, she does, even for subjective reasons, an objective wrong because you cannot anathematise the Church without anathematising Christ.

roy chen yee | 22 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘destructive and counter-productive power they both wield to derail any constructive discussion’ Crying poor over a furphy. What power? Anyway, if you want to 're-rail' a discussion, talk about the points in it instead of dragging (as you regularly do) whimsies out of the air.

roy chen yee | 22 April 2021  

‘I have discovered that Eugene McCarraher has stated: 'I want to examine how capitalism is a new, perverse form of enchantment, a misdirection of our desires for a sacramental way of being the world.' Really, Michael Furtado? What happened to your Father Charles Couglin-Bob Santamaria trap (April 16, ‘Questions for courage and risk’) for John RD? McCarraher should join the DLP. They would say the same thing. As would Couglin and Santamaria if they were still with us.

roy chen yee | 22 April 2021  

Michael Furtado: I trustt you won't overlook your own not inconsiderable part in any "melding" of the views of Roy and me with your recycled stereotypes of "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" and your repeated insistences - also quite unrepresentative - that the gospel we both adhere to is exclusively one of misery and hell fire, subversive of genuine Catholic Church renewal. I note here, too, that Professor Eugene McCarraher of Villnova University, recently repudiated by you, has risen in your esteem for his criticism of capitalism. I'm pleased to hear it - perhaps now you might be disposed to (re)visit his "Radical, OP" article from "Commonwealth" referred to by me in A. Hamilton's "Questions of Courage and Risk" (ES, 18/3/21) and see that his attitude to Fr Herbert McCabe is actually quite a deal more respectful and sympathetic than the alleged "denigration" of him you attribute to me (be assured and have no fear of clandestine complicity, lest our imagined influence perturb you further, I don't know Roy outside this forum) in your most recent post (21/4)?

John RD | 22 April 2021  

John RD: ‘that the gospel we both adhere to is exclusively one of misery and hell fire’ Hell is a good device for tarring debate opponents with bad faith. Of course, poor faith is the implicit disbelief in Purgatory which is never cited to stigmatise the other side because it’s not much of a cry-poor strategy. In any case, the debate is over whether a position is tenable, not about how a soul will be disposed.

roy chen yee | 26 April 2021  

Given the nature of Roy's and JohnRD's perorations, it shouldn't surprise that my fevered imagination should conjure up images of the two of them swinging thuribles while burning bell, book and candle at both ends, the first for exorcism, the second for condemnation and the third for the hellish and unforgiving cosmos that their personal theologies reveal them to inhabit. Unsurprisingly, at two in the morning when the subconscious kicks in and I can dream only of the pleasures visited upon me by a gay consciousness not of my own choosing, John & Roy sometimes break into these frenzied reveries, garbed in the kind of come-hither, high-camp get-up that true evangelists, intent upon saving me from myself, would willingly go to extremes to in prising me away from the nocturnal fantasies to which I am prone. I might add, in being truthful to our readers - and since we know nothing of these two contributors to our discourse - that in my fetid state they are quite niftily dressed in the kind of ormulu drag outfits worthy only of a Freddie Mercury production of 'Die Walkure' at Bayreuth. Tedious and hectoring? Ach, nein! Rouged and limp-wristedly attractive? Ah, mais oui!

Michael Furtado | 18 May 2021  

I hold hope yet, admittedly with an increasing sense of improbability, that Michael Furtado (18/5) might one day demonstrate some appetency for serious reflection on subjects that demand it, and less curiosity and unwarranted attention to personality profiling. Far better, I believe, that people are known by and held accountable for the real as distinct from caricatured values they espouse rather than for conforming to the unwarranted expectations of a now near-chronic and histrionic disparagement that evades reasoned engagement. Agere sequitur esse. MF.

John RD | 20 May 2021  

The Catholic Church sees many things as ‘mysteries’, ie., truths which can only be divinely revealed. A mystery, perhaps minor, perhaps not, is why a post of 200 words nearly a month after the post or posts which may have served as eliciting factors contains only two words worth pondering, ‘Freddy Mercury’, another mystery where a flame allowed by God to burn chose to put itself out at the peak of its serviceability. It’s as if the sower’s seed chose to jump out of its good soil onto a rocky place.

roy chen yee | 21 May 2021  

JohnRD is at least generous about his own resort to escape from my supposedly flippant and obscene clutches. It helps, as our readers will note, that he explicitly constructs himself in this context as serious - reasonable even! - while evidencing at every conceivable opportunity the implacability of his jaundiced views. Well; three cheers for self-confidence, even if at times it borders on the delusional, for it might help, especially in the wee hours that constitute the setting for my send-up, that a troubling thought should at least cross John's subconcious, in which we are sometimes advised that the contents of a suppressed conscience reside, about the mischief and damage that his brand of theology can inflict on those, like me, who inhabit the periphery of what we call Our Church. And were he to look twice, he might note that his protestations about having no connection outside of these columns with Roy bear no relation to my remarks, for it is in what they post that their association, there in black and white for all to see, is forged. Unsurprisingly, I chose to laugh this off by alluding to a camp nightmare occasioned by the obscenity of their homophobia.

Michael Furtado | 21 May 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘about the mischief and damage that his brand of theology can inflict on those, like me, who inhabit the periphery of what we call Our Church.’ If the magisterial Truth is that the homosexual inclination is an intrinsic disorder, then your misery is subjective. That there is a sensation of misery is an objective fact, of course, but the misery itself is not. The question returns to whether the Magisterium can make a mistake. If it can, then no belief, however venerable, such as that, to the revulsion of Islam, God is a trinity, is permanently true. Your Cross is that you can have the Trinity or your psychology but, regrettably, you can’t have both.

roy chen yee | 22 May 2021  

Spoken like an Argonaut, Sir Roy! I need your kind of relentless sinewy tough-talk everyday as, limp-wristed weakling that I am, I stumble and fall under the weight of the Cross that you and John consistently bend over backwards, in a manner of speaking, to scourge me into carrying. So un-self-consciously provocative; and yet so muscular and Greco-Roman, enkindling the kind of fire in my loins that I attribute to Sparta rather than to Christ, and which I feel for no other men on this site!

Michael Furtado | 25 May 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘….Argonaut….kind of fire….’ To sail for a strong feeling which has the destination of throwing the principle of the Trinity under a bus is a navigational choice which the Barque of Peter is unable to make.

roy chen yee | 27 May 2021  

Since Roy infers that I reject the Trinity, I wish to ask where it is that I say this. I am reasonably in touch with my faith, though, for some like Roy, it is evidently not a Faith acceptable to him. Granted that Roy sees his role as the new Savonarola, how is it that he manages to make of a mystery which we enter into at Baptism, deepen at Confirmation and surrender to as we grow in understanding, a test of orthodoxy. Last Sunday being Trinity Sunday our Parish Priest, Wrex Woolnough, a widely-recognised Scripture scholar and homilist (Campion Hall, 1978) offered the following reflection: 'That mystery reflected in our lives is also the mystery of God. God cannot be a lone solitary figure, not if there is to be anything personal about God. Persons need company: they need to communicate, they need to bounce off each other, they need someone to love. Otherwise, they are self-centred megalomaniacs. So too God can’t be singular but must be multi-personal. When that is revealed in Jesus - that there is a Father he prays to, and a Spirit he sends - it makes eminent sense.' Or is Wrexie also a heretic?

Michael Furtado | 31 May 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘ infers that I reject the Trinity, I wish to ask where it is that I say this.’ It’s not what you say but what you do. To act as if the Magisterium is fallible is to act as if the principle of the Trinity is open to being rescinded. You break one part of the Law, you break all of it.

roy chen yee | 01 June 2021  

What part of the Law have I broken, Roy?

Michael Furtado | 03 June 2021  

The coherence of a system means that to invalidate one part of it is to invalidate the whole. If you invalidate by transgression one part of the Old Testament Law, you invalidate the wholeness of all of it. As a philosophical system which reports on divine, natural and church law, and their relationship with civil law, the Magisterium is analogous to Law and impugning its ability to speak truthfully for one part is to impugn its ability to speak truthfully for any other or for all parts.

roy chen yee | 04 June 2021  

This is just plain propagandising bumph, Roy! Here's an article by Charles Curran that deals with your assertion: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/history-shows-the-church-has-changed-its-moral-teachings-1.437230 Should you wish to deepen your knowledge of this matter, Curran has also devoted an entire book to this topic: 'Tradition and Church Reform: Perspectives on Catholic Moral Teaching' OUP, 2016.

Michael Furtado | 09 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Curran’. The usual lazy brusheroo – ‘read this!’ As you’ve read the book, you can tell us whether it addresses two humans affected by fluid morality: in the case of same-sex marriage, the trophy child with a third (or, really, primary) non-available parent; in the case of standing up for principle, the concept of the martyr (such as the woman with the seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7), being where is martyrdom when no unpopular principle can be guaranteed to persist because all unpopular principles can be guaranteed to be winnowed out of existence in some heterodox’s brain?

roy chen yee | 11 June 2021  

Roy, to answer your question, there are no trophy or designer children in gay marriage: only wanted or adopted children, who, research shows, are as well looked after and cared for as well looked after as any other and, so far as we can now tell, better cared for than the many unwanted children you would visit upon those who do not believe in the use of contraception. While I realise that you are absolutely wedded to the latter view, I would vigorously contest your inference that children, as a matter of Catholic teaching, are visited upon parents only as a matter of sacrifice, martyrdom and suffering, as you take to be the injunction in 2 Maccabees 7.

Michael Furtado | 14 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘ there are no trophy or designer children in gay marriage: only wanted or adopted children, who, research shows, are as well looked after and cared for as any other‘ Slaves and ‘stolen generation’ children can be well cared for too but where they are is not where they should be. Adopted children are orphans and so are irrelevant to the argument except insofar as they become political pawns in stigmatising those fortunate children who take happiness from enjoying the company of a mummy and a daddy. ‘I would vigorously contest your inference that children, as a matter of Catholic teaching, are visited upon parents only as a matter of sacrifice, martyrdom and suffering, as you take to be the injunction in 2 Maccabees 7.’ And this zany inference comes from where?

roy chen yee | 15 June 2021  

The martyrdoms of Eleazar and the seven sons are often referred to as a turning point within the Maccabees narrative. Their deaths catalyzed the subsequent victories of Judas and his men. Interestingly enough, when Judas gives his intercessory prayer with his men, he fails to mention the martyrdoms. He cites the blasphemies committed prior to the martyrdoms, but he is silent regarding any subsequent improprieties on the part of the king. If these events were really the impetus for Judas’s descent from the mountains and return to battle, he seems rather indifferent to them. Additionally, the text seems to treat the intercessory prayer as the catalyst for the return of God’s favor. Immediately following the prayer we are told simply that God’s wrath turned to mercy. A brief look at contemporary exegesis shows intercessory prayers are consistently represented as the event that leads to divine intervention. In 1 Maccabees it is Judas’s intercessory prayer alone that restores the Lord’s mercy. The situation is same in Daniel 9, 1 Enoch 47, and Baruch 2–5. Throughout the Maccabean period the prayers of the righteous serve to appease the wrath of God. Martyrdom is conspicuously absent as such a catalyst. (To be contd.)

Michael Furtado | 16 June 2021  

Thus 2 Maccabees provides its own turning point independent of chapter 7, and the chapter can be excised without handicapping the narrative. The excision of the chapter is further supported by 2 Macc 6:12–17, where the author comforts the reader after having described the brutal improprieties of Antiochus. No explanation or warning accompanies the more grisly deaths of 6:18–7:42, and Judas’s prayer in chapter 8 specifically names only those crimes that precede the author’s interjection. It is also instructive to consider the designation of the deaths of the seven sons as expiation for the nation of Israel. In 2 Macc 7:37–38 the youngest brother states, 'I, like my brothers, give up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, calling upon God to quickly show mercy to our people, and with afflictions and plagues to cause you to confess that he alone is God, while to me and my brothers it remains to bring an end to the wrath of the Almighty, which has justly fallen on our whole nation.' Such a motif is anachronistic in this period and scholarship has been unable to reach a consensus regarding its presence here. (To be continued).

Michael Furtado | 16 June 2021  

Contd. III: We find our earliest Jewish manifestations of martyrdom as expiation in Philo, Taxo, and more clearly in rabbinical Judaism. Prior to the first century CE, willingness to die under the pressure of persecution was generally viewed as a catalyst for divine intervention. Death was actually not the intended outcome, and expiation is naturally precluded. In Dan 3:17, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, facing death, declare, 'Behold, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king.' Although they recognize death as a possibility, the author avoids that conclusion, and they are ultimately delivered. Josephus records a similar expectation: 'and if we fall into misfortunes, we will bear them, in order to preserve our laws, as knowing that those who expose themselves to dangers have good hope of escaping them, because God will stand on our side.' Although Josephus and others record the deaths of numerous people as a result of their fealty to their beliefs, these events are never cast in an efficacious light. 2 Maccabees is devoid of effective death ideology, despite accounts of numerous deaths, and is therefore inconsistent with the ideological context of chapter 7. These are invented compositions introduced at a later date to suit martyrological tastes.

Michael Furtado | 16 June 2021  

Thanks. The relevant citations are: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1137&context=studiaantiqua https://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/about/ He seems like a serious scholar so the fact that he is probably a Mormon shouldn’t be held against him. And the fact that he is a Democrat running for office in Utah makes him, and the sociology of Mormonism, even more interesting. More meaty reading to do ....

roy chen yee | 17 June 2021  

That doesn't diminish the value of McClellan's estimable and highly-regarded work (not cited because of my abbreviations in three indulgently long posts), which, as his copiously well-annotated notes show (Studia Antiqua, 7, no. 1, 2009), has also been contributed to by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars and is widely regarded as the premier Maccabean text of the century until this point of time. And, BTW, I thought that you, with your own qualifications drawn from Bob Jones, were a great admirer of US fundamentalist biblical schools and colleges. After all, wasn't it you who hit me with Maccabees?

Michael Furtado | 18 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘I thought that you, with your own qualifications drawn from Bob Jones, were a great admirer of US fundamentalist biblical schools and colleges. After all, wasn't it you who hit me with Maccabees?’ A ‘Bob Jones’ ‘fundamentalist’ believes there are only 66 books in the Bible. Because his bible doesn’t include the Deuterocanonical books, he would be unable to hit you with 2 Maccabees. If you knew that, misrepresentation is your forte. If you didn’t, well, it’s somewhat past time that you did.

roy chen yee | 19 June 2021  

McClellan is a highly esteemed mainstream scripture scholar and, regardless of his doctoral thesis being published by Brigham Young University, he is, as you now demonstrate, no Bob Jones alumnus. Since you set such store by what is widely regarded as a fake account, I'll have to accordingly rescind your Bob Jones status and simply leave you to sink into the mire of what you increasingly reveal as your Westboro Baptist Church martyrological leanings.

Michael Furtado | 22 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘he is, as you now demonstrate, no Bob Jones alumnus….I'll have to accordingly rescind your Bob Jones status and simply leave you to sink into the mire of what you increasingly reveal as your Westboro Baptist Church martyrological leanings.’ Like Bob Jones, Westboro also believe in a 66 book bible.

roy chen yee | 23 June 2021  

Even so, and unlike you, Roy, I cannot bring myself to say: 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here', as you unfailingly seem to do in your every post.

Michael Furtado | 24 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Even so….’ Which means, in rescinding Jones but not Westboro, you, as in your other posts, perpetuate a contradiction.

roy chen yee | 25 June 2021  

Roy, the precise matter of fitting a cap to your abusive head is surely not the point of this exchange. Opus Dei? Legionaries of Christ? Emanuel Covenant Community? Lefebristes? Latin Mass Society? A dead and thorny rose by any other name would prick as deeply and draw blood to nothing else but pain-inducing avail.

Michael Furtado | 26 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘the precise matter of fitting a cap to your abusive head is surely not the point of this exchange.’ The exchange concerning a cap began on June 18 when you introduced a new cap called Bob Jones. Previously the cap was Westboro. For a while there, I was wearing two of your caps, Westboro presumably under Jones. So to say that the matter of fitting a cap to my abusive head is not the point of the exchange is for your words to contradict your deeds, the doing of which continues a habit of perpetuating a contradiction.

roy chen yee | 27 June 2021  

O Most Wise, Inscrutable & Mandarinesque One, do you yourself not emerge from a fabulous tradition in which one might wear more than one cap or pig-tail at the same time? Were not the esteemed Poo-Bah's simultaneously-held exalted offices First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Lord High Executioner, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Samurai, Lord High Admiral, Archbishop of Titipu, Lord Mayor of Titipu and Lord High Everything Else? Caught again, as it were, between your many stools? Surely not ;)

Michael Furtado | 29 June 2021  

The contradictions continue. Michael Furtado: ‘….Mandarinesque One, do you yourself not emerge from a fabulous tradition….’ It would seem to contradict history that a Mandarin (from Portuguese mandarim) should emerge from a Japanese tradition (where a high official is a kokan, akin to a Chinese kwan, neither of which cultures seem to have the word ‘mandarin’, given that mandarim seems to be a sixteenth century invention) but contradiction of reality seems to be your forte. Also, mandarim seems to be descended from Hindi and Sanskrit mantri, which makes a Luso-Indian like you more likely to be the mandarim. As well, you emerge from a fabulous tradition, the Magisterium, with which you appear to be in contradiction. Perhaps we may now beatify your posts as pronouncements from the Mandarim of Contradiction.

roy chen yee | 30 June 2021  

Hah! A pity, Roy, that your etymological and philological depth-knowledge outstrips both your grasp of comic operetta as well as, by association, a fuller and more critical appreciation of the Western classical school with whose implacably colonial world view you appear to be so culturally, politically and theologically wedded. More than that, and perhaps saddest of all, you lack a sense of humour.

Michael Furtado | 03 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘you lack a sense of humour.’ Comedy is abbreviation. The abbreviation is of something which can be deconstructed later on to see why it was funny. The mind enjoys the abbreviation because the subconscious senses the link to something deeper. Because there was no intrinsic connection between the post and The Mikado, you had to force a connection by “O Most Wise, Inscrutable & Mandarinesque….” But, as they say, humour cannot be forced. It emanates from a situation. Your approach to humour seems to contradict what humour is. Incidentally, the natural mode of sexuality emerges from what its primary purpose is. To force sexuality to take on another mode is akin to forcing humour and expecting the result to be humorous, even if this is the approach to be taken by ‘reformers’ at the synod.

roy chen yee | 05 July 2021  

'(T)he natural mode of sexuality emerges from what its primary purpose is. To force sexuality to take on another mode is akin to forcing humour and expecting the result to be humorous, even if this is the approach to be taken by ‘reformers’ at the synod.'(Roy). What is your view of the primary purpose of sexuality? Please explain.

Michael Furtado | 06 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘view’ Concerning the deep mystery of what is a human, the Magisterium holds that the unitive cannot be separated from the genitive. It seems that the Magisterium may be correct because one of the disorderly outcomes of separation is that a child is burdened with being a trophy child.

roy chen yee | 07 July 2021  

But I agree with the magisterium on this count and steadfastly support its teaching that genitality and unitality are absolutely inseparable. Nor do I advocate same-sex partners resorting to artificial means of bearing children. What on earth are you bleating about!

Michael Furtado | 08 July 2021  

Roy, a homosexual act, while incapable of procreating children, is in logic undoubtedly both genitive as well as unitive for those homosexual persons who commit themselves to exclusive lifelong marriage. Many heterosexual couples in the same situation cannot have children yet you exclude them from the barrage of intemperate gobbledygook that you offer in this forum as justifications for your many phobias. Where homosexual couples adopt a child the empirical evidence is that they make no better or worse parents than heterosexual couples who adopt children. You have covered this territory before and your assertions about this attracted a storm of protest that forced you to retire, mortally wounded, from the field of intellectual battle. I hope you don't intend to visit such opinions upon us again.

Michael Furtado | 08 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Nor do I advocate same-sex partners resorting to artificial means of bearing children.’ How else do they make the child?

roy chen yee | 10 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘a homosexual act, while incapable of procreating children, is in logic undoubtedly both genitive as well as unitive for those homosexual persons who commit themselves to exclusive lifelong marriage. Many heterosexual couples in the same situation cannot have children yet you exclude them from the barrage of intemperate gobbledygook….’ The egg from the wife and the sperm from the husband gives the child the genetics of its biological as well as social parents. The trophy child receives the genetics of the biological parents but not of one of the social parents, hence ‘unitive’ is separated from ‘genitive’.

roy chen yee | 10 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Where homosexual couples adopt a child the empirical evidence is that they make no better or worse parents than heterosexual couples who adopt children.’ Slippery (therefore, deceitful) use of language. The ‘couple’ doesn’t adopt the trophy child biologically descended from one of the couple. A biological parent cannot adopt his or her offspring unless you want to corrupt the dictionary for politically correct reasons. The other social parent does, but only because the other biological parent has renounced the natural tie of flesh and blood.

roy chen yee | 10 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘You have covered this territory before and your assertions about this attracted a storm of protest that forced you to retire, mortally wounded, from the field of intellectual battle.’ I think Arnold Schwarzenegger made a movie about ‘recovered memory’ called Total Recall --- or as it might be called in this case, totalled recall. You haf some evidence for zis assertion, thread names, dates?

roy chen yee | 10 July 2021  

Roy, the fact that not all heterosexual acts are, in terms of your definition, open to procreation, even if intended, makes your reasoning cockeyed. The reason it's cockeyed (i.e. myopic and one-sided) is that is invokes an excessive or extreme definition of human biology that is termed 'biologistic'. Biologism happens when one prefercnces the mechanics of a sexual act over the context in which it occurs, which also invokes humanistic, cultural, circumstantial and other factors applying to the couple making love, such as: how poor or rich are they (economic factors); how much agency, and especially free-will, they exercise; what are the cultural factors, relative to their history, upbringing and tradition, that constrain them, etc. While any good judge would not lose sight of the absolutes, s/he would also consider the circumstances. Bald applications of the natural law offer no more than a measure of the authority of the magisterium than the employment of a slide-rule to determine whether to hang a mass-murderer or not. You really have to get off your argumentative high-horse and find out a bit about people and the mess it means to be human. I admire your scrutiny, but you focus too much on entrapment.

Michael Furtado | 11 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘cockeyed (i.e. myopic and one-sided)…. get off your argumentative high-horse and find out a bit about people and the mess it means to be human. I admire your scrutiny, but you focus too much on entrapment.’ Myopic is being Mr Magoo and thinking that talking to Roy Chen Yee is talking to the Magisterium. RCY and M are distinctly different entities. As to the Magisterium not knowing a bit about people and the mess it means to be human, that’s drawing a long bow. As to RCY not knowing a bit about people and the mess it means to be human, that’s exactly the reason for being prudent and following the M so RCY doesn’t have to relive other people’s messes. After all, when was the last time Michael Furtado’s life became a mess (or his berejiklian nose developed holes) from using crystal meth or sniffing gasoline?

roy chen yee | 11 July 2021  

And your point, Roy, is?

Michael Furtado | 13 July 2021  

‘Authority’ to Michael Furtado is simply whatever Michael wants to follow. The medical authority impresses you so you follow it, the spiritual authority doesn’t so you don’t.

roy chen yee | 14 July 2021  

That's an assertion you've yet to prove, Roy.

Michael Furtado | 18 July 2021  

‘That's an assertion you've yet to prove,’ says the person who, disbelieving Lucifer, must believe that the temptations in the desert are hallucinations.

roy chen yee | 19 July 2021  

Its too easy, Roy, for a fundamentalist to misread Scripture and project their darker side on the person of your 'Lucifer'. It is that kind of thinking that leads to the most puerile of excuses: 'The devil made me do it,' as well as ritual cleansing in the form of scapegoating, the burning of imaginary witches, the torture of the Inquisition and the systematic sado-masochistic self-torture, Roy, that you advocate for everyone in these columns. Not only are you sadly mistaken, you lead vulnerable people to a false conception of Christ and without a capacity to develop, inform and exercise their conscience, as an adult should, as well as to make amends for their transgressions. I'm sorry you have such a dreary stool to be forever miserable upon. This aspect of your paganism is a direct import from the Greco-Roman world in the person of the Trojan priestess, Cassandra. Even the prophet Jonah wasn't that bleak!

Michael Furtado | 20 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘misread Scripture’ So Lucifer doesn’t exist and the desert temptations were hallucinations.

roy chen yee | 22 July 2021  

No; they weren't hallucinations, Roy. They were authentic explanations within the confines of context, revelation and explanation, for the dire evils that befell the chosen people, as well as 'forever lessons' about those who deceived and misled them. They were rich in metaphor and allegory but not in terms of actuality.

Michael Furtado | 25 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘They were authentic explanations within the confines of context, revelation and explanation, for the dire evils that befell the chosen people, as well as 'forever lessons' about those who deceived and misled them. They were rich in metaphor and allegory but not in terms of actuality.’ (46 words.) The other explanation is, ‘All our temptations can be seen in how Jesus was tempted by Lucifer in the desert.’ (16 words.) Occam’s Razor basically states that if you have to go to a whole lot of spin to support your theory, your explanation is probably wrong compared to one that requires no spin. The real question here is why you are straining so hard to prove that the idea of a bad angel is implausible. One would have thought that the idea of one is a non-issue. One would have thought that Fr Sosa would have thought that as well: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/42075/jesuit-superior-general-satan-is-a-symbolic-reality

roy chen yee | 26 July 2021  

If angels exist, you're an angel in my eyes, Roy. Despite Pope St Gregory the Great salivating about 'Non Angli, sed angeli' when he ruffled the blond curls of English children, Gawdelpus, I would fight to the death to have thou et moi included as slightly off-colour but identifiable 'angeli Asiani' in a multicultural depiction of the heavenly hosts, after the style of, say, El Greco: all mannerist with my lustrous olive skin and your dreamy dark eyes. That kind of inclusive version of Heaven is indeed worth fighting for in my cosmological viewpoint.

Michael Furtado | 31 July 2021  

PS. Thank you also, Roy, for sharing Fr Sosa's article with us. As you can see, and since your meaning is unclear, he and I are agreed about what the Irish call the 'divil', both in terms of Sosa's background in theology and political science, which I share with him, as well as in the context of his growing up in a developing country.

Michael Furtado | 31 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘and since your meaning is unclear….’ The meaning of the article is clear, just as it is clear that your opaque defence of Fr. Sosa’s heterodoxy is akin to Giuliani’s opaque defence of Trump’s political heterodoxy.

roy chen yee | 02 August 2021  

While I understand that Fr Sosa's and my 'states of grey' are anathematic to your 'short-back-and-sides', 'take-it-or-leave-it' view of Catholicism, I'm afraid that the allusions you employ to justify your rigid and unavailing views cannot be bettered for the obfuscating language in which you express them. Perchance THAT is the Giulianesque opacity to which you allude. It surprises also that you seem now to have abandoned your support for so many of Trump's policies. My guess here is that, had he employed you as his campaign manager, he'd still be in office, by virtue of the test of consistency - easily associated with rigidity - that you, much more than he, pass in all your posts, in respect of which we can all now see where you parted company with him. I'm glad you held off advising him: it may well presage his conversion to a more just policy modality. I hope and pray that you follow suit.

Michael Furtado | 04 August 2021  

How well you use irony, Roy: a most effective screen for your orthodoxy, but not your obscurantism.

Michael Furtado | 06 August 2021  
Show Responses

Michael Furtado: ’obscurantism,’ an example of which is distraction by misdirection, ‘as well as in the context of his growing up in a developing country’ having nothing to do with why Fr. Sosa has a divil’s belief of the Devil.

roy chen yee | 07 August 2021  

Michael Furtado: ’obscurantism,’ an example of which is distraction by misdirection, ‘as well as in the context of his growing up in a developing country’ having nothing to do with why Fr. Sosa has a divil’s belief of the Devil.

roy chen yee | 10 August 2021  

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