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Conversations Catholics need to have



What does it take to grow in conversation, even and perhaps especially in difficult conversation? Can contemporary Christianity get past the moralism and step into areas of pain?

In this final episode for the second season, Fr Timothy Radcliffe talks to Australian Catholics editor, Michael McVeigh. They discuss questions about Catholic identity, education and democracy.

Timothy Radcliffe is a Dominican friar and theologian. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He was director of Las Casas Institute for Social Justice at Oxford, where he is now on the advisory board.

Timothy is known for his views on things like homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and the authority of women in the Catholic Church — areas in which he has pushed for open conversation and an embrace of difference — something which has earned him the description of being controversial.

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Topic tags: Fatima Measham, Michael McVeigh, Timothy Radcliffe, Uluru Statement



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Existing comments

The laity need and the clergy need to have ongoing conversations about many issues if the Catholic Church is to arrest its decline in participation. To do this, appropriate structures need to be put in place. Right now there are Catholic parishes in Australia that don't even have a Parish Parish Council!

George Allen | 06 September 2018  

Fr Radcliffe was my peer at Downside Benedictine Abbey School, UK. In his comments on education he does not refer to conversations with, by and within families. Reading the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) hearing last December transcript on Downside helps to understand why Fr Radcliffe appears to be turned off families. Oliver Clark, Job's Trust

Oliver Clark | 10 September 2018  

Timothy is controversial but I find the word provocative more appealing because I have had the privilege of listening to his lectures on the occasions of two visits to Australia recently. When I asked questions and was not completely happy with the answers (more my fault than his) I went home and wrestled with whether I would pursue the matter further I found that I was not happy until I had been provoked to compose a further question or find an article to have him read and so conversations were held from which I have learned much about persistence and the art of conversation itself. Thank you Eureka Street and thank you Timothy.

Joan Winter OP | 10 September 2018  

Timothy, your idealism is admirable. I am writing a book as an ex-Catholic who regrets the way young people as well as older, have lost their optimism re Catholicism. Spirituality is what you mention as different from religiosity, and that must be heartening, at least. "Friendship with God." To be able to see God as someone to be befriended instead of feared...that's a new take which hasn't penetrated very far as yet, I'd say.

Carla van Raay | 13 September 2018  

Of Lighted Fools We have grown adept in continually producing new laws and amendments to authenticate realignments to civic interactions. With pride and self-awareness we assert newly-gained ground. Each day pushes the horizon a further step. We can claim to be the masters of our universe. There’s the rub. With each new ground we make we lose another, and with it a piece of permanence that propped our sense of security. The paradox is that we want the new but not at the cost of losing what is an essential building block in our make-up. Our intellectual prowess has outstripped our human weaknesses and our grasp of things predictable (constance). What some call hope. Hitherto this hope, the reassurance that all’s well because a higher power that created all things continues to sustain all that He/She created. It’s the secret power that makes the seed grow overnight while the farmer sleeps. That opiate, that thinking, baby and all, were thrown out the window when we began recreating things in our own image. We are no longer bound by dictums such as “Thou Shalt”, or, “Shalt Not”. No longer slaves to the embellishments that permeated from them. What have we got? A system that needs to legislate to control individual and group behaviour - shifting sand that accommodates both, the fashion of the day and basic civic constraints. It is a vague world, prone to the directions like a weathervane, fickle, and and reliable only for the moment. The situation’s made more complex by the residue of traditional thinking that lingers in the social consciousness. Are we no more than “Walking shadows that strut and fret their hour upon the stage, and then are heard no more?” (sic). The prophets of the new age point to the visible world in all its complexities and assure us that they have it all divined and measured to the last syllable. Having secured vexing questions it remains to marshal behaviour into comforting categories, defending society from the destructive power of baser instincts. Research and discoveries continue to realign established wisdom. The wanton experiments with group behaviour and interactions have transformed what is “contemporary”. Enter the new Priestly Class of politicians and lawyers. One creates, the other interprets, and often demolishes. When a law becomes intransigent, or, discomforting, it is replaced by a new law - we have liberty to do so. Helpless plebs are caught in the crosswinds. One strong blast has washed away the moorings that took centuries to build. Old reassurances have disappeared leaving an ever deepening abyss of uncertainties. While, traditional custodians brood grasping at invaluable pearls that made them rich and powerful. Battle-spent, they withdraw into edifices and splendours of the past. Heroically they speak with tried rhetoric, but no one understands their quaint and foreign tongues. The people though confused and confounded, find the mountain of evidence and information compelling. Still, the daily parade of fashionable facts and altered morality fails to satisfy an unaddressed vocation. Despite the vault of evidence, basic answers to the “Whats, Whys and Hows”, nag the memory. The earthly view negates possibilities of other dimension of existence. Others, raised with a traditional view, see a transcendental existence as paramount, and “despise” the earthly life. Is it not possible to live in both places, co-substantially? Does each place need to be exclusive of the other? Both positions have their pros and cons. Jesus calmed the seas and forlorn spirits by breathing on them peace and the reassuring words, “Do not be afraid”. The echo from within can create stillness, helping us to gently lean into the storm, accepting its reality. We can appease (the earthly) Caesar with tithes and detached discernment. The Universal Lord only asks us to LOVE. It is the password to His many mansions. Through love we learn to believe; faith promises eternal life - the abiding hope we yearn for!

Roy Fanthome | 11 September 2019