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No shortcuts to reform after church abuse crisis



Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual assault, child abuse.

The sentencing of Cardinal George Pell highlighted the dismay and soul-searching among Catholics at sex abuse and its devastation of the lives of victims and their families. It also brought home the depth of the crisis caused by clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Although it still challenges understanding, a historical parallel may help illuminate it.

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon GérômeEmperors Decius in 250 AD and Diocletian in 303 AD persecuted Christians in response to military reverses and perceived decline in Roman values. They called for a return to traditional values and religious practices and saw Christians as a subversive and alien force, much as Muslim people are seen by some in Australia today. They first targeted bishops and clergy, then all Christians, ordering them to hand over their sacred texts and vessels and publicly to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. Those who refused were fined, tortured or killed. Many Christians, including bishops and clergy, had fled or apostasised (denied their faith by publicly offering sacrifice, handing over the sacred books or buying certificates of compliance).

Where the persecution was systematically pursued, it deprived the church of strong leaders and burdened it with the shame of those who sacrificed. The disruption to congregations after the persecution can be imagined. They included members who had been blinded, deafened or crippled while remaining faithful under torture (confessors), others grieving relatives who had been killed, some who had escaped notice, bishops and priests who had returned after flight to safer places and sought to resume their responsibilities, local clergy who had been ordained to serve in their place, and, significantly, many people who had publicly apostasised.

In a church which gloried in the courage of the martyrs as a sign of God's presence, apostasy was a corruption that tore at its heart. The congregations were inevitably riven with anger, resentment, guilt, confusion, and above all disillusion at the gap revealed between their leaders' and members' proud profession of faith and their cowardly repudiation of it.

The standard accounts of the time held that the crisis was overcome by the cooperative work of strong bishops who had resolved disputes and preserved church unity. They had dealt with the corruption of apostasy by establishing common rigorous rules for reconciling people who had betrayed the faith in more or less serious ways. They accomplished this through local and regional synods.

Although this reform of governance was a remarkable achievement, it ignored the depth at which apostasy had shaken the church and to which reconciliation of those who had fallen therefore needed to reach. It also failed to deal with the suspicion that bishops themselves had been the primary channels of corruption in the church.

These weaknesses in the response explain partly why sectarian divisions continued to affect the churches in Rome, Egypt and Africa. In most cases the bishops who led dissident groups demanded a much more restrictive approach to reconciliation and represented themselves as the church of the martyrs. They also commonly accused their rival bishops of flight during persecution or of inheriting a tradition of selling out faith. The divisions were only intensified when the now Christian Emperors penalised the breakaway churches. They could now boast that 'we are the persecuted who do not persecute'. They had inherited the mantle of the confessors.


"A pattern of shameful actions that call into question the basis of the church cuts very deep indeed and, if left unmet at that depth, can work its poison for centuries."


This claim was significant because the traditional account minimised the crucial importance of the living victims of persecution. In the initial stages they were held in high honour, and people who had apostasised sought their patronage in order to return. Their mediating role in reconciliation expressed their moral authority within the church and their favour with God. Their disfigurement by torture both symbolised what was expected of followers of Jesus and highlighted the disgrace in abandoning the faith.

The reforming bishops, however, criticised the arbitrariness and lack of uniformity in the confessors' judgments, and made of them eccentric and marginal figures in their church reform. This neglect contributed to the continuing suspicion that the corruption of apostasy had not been addressed in sufficient depth and that the processes of reconciliation were superficial.

The parallels between these events and the Catholic Church today after sexual abuse are striking. In both cases people who represented the church acted in a way that destroyed lives, destroyed trust in the church and God's presence in it, and broke relationships. In both cases these actions left victims whose physical or mental scars were evident. And in each the institutions involved in the corrupting actions have sought to restore credibility and promote reconciliation by reform.

The experience of the early church suggests that a pattern of shameful actions that call into question the basis of the church cuts very deep indeed and, if left unmet at that depth, can work its poison for centuries. It follows that the first challenge facing any attempted reform is to stay focused on the deep reality and corrupting effects of sexual abuse and to recognise the way in which it can poison even the attempted reform. To believe that you can move on from it after 50 years or so undermined reform in the early church and will do so again if attempted. It is like the belief of people addicted to alcohol that they can move on from their addiction.

The second challenge posed by the experience of the early church is to recognise victims, to respect them as the keepers of conscience, and to involve them as the mediators of reconciliation. To sideline them as unreliable observers who can be acknowledged verbally and ignored as persons, or to believe that they will fade away, opened the way for division in the early church and perpetuated the corruption of apostasy. There is no reason to believe that the effects of similar neglect today would be less pernicious.

In the Catholic Church today the victims are people whose lives have been directly or indirectly marred by sexual abuse. To make them mediators of reconciliation is more difficult today than in the early Church. Then the victims were those who had suffered persecution by the state, and those needing reconciliation with the Church sought them out. Now the victims are those persecuted by representatives of the Church, and the Church that needs to be reconciled to them in order to be reconciled to itself.

To put at the centre of pastoral strategy reconciliation with people whom you have harmed, and will often want only to be shot of you, is a brave commitment. Given that the harm done by sexual abuse has radiated out through generations, the commitment must be for the long term. History suggests that nothing less will do.


For confidential counselling and support call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Main image: The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, clergy sexual abuse, George Pell



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Existing comments

I reckon the English Reformation might have the wood on the Roman Reformation!

john frawley | 01 April 2019  

“No shortcuts to reform after church abuse crisis” 1 of 3: Image lies at the root of many problems within the Church today, as It could be said that ‘Image’ reigns supreme on the ‘Worldly’ plain, as it creates the power to award both honour and shame…Clericalism the vehicle that carried our Christian endeavours throughout the ages, has manged, assisted by a ‘Worldly Faithful,’ to maintain an ‘Image’ of Holiness/goodness, before mankind. This Image of Goodness (Only God is good) has now been shattered. So now how can the leadership and all of us, embrace this shattered Image?... The precursor to understanding Jesus’s mission, is to know, that a humble heart is the one and only state from where the ongoing transforming action of The Holy Spirit can take place, as it marks/creates a necessary separation of the Church/Faithful from ‘The World’... When information was given to the laity in 1998, in regards to the Divine Mercy Image, given to the then Blessed Sister M Faustina Kowalska I wrote this from the heart, and it bears witness to The Truth …“Mother church, I am angry it is true I have many bones to pick with you I read about a Nun, the mirror of her heart shone in the dark. She held the lord in the most perfect way, tender heart, water, and gentle ray. Paint me in such away, that they will know what I want to say, taste the water, feel the gentle ray. The result was stark like a tree without bark, she might as well have painted in the dark, an earthly/'Worldly' hand said this will never do, paint it anew.. Continue

Kevin Walters | 01 April 2019  

2 of 3:.. She drew and drew, but in her heart she knew that for the hand of authority, it would never do. We will have another do it anew, we don’t want them to laugh at you, we will make it in our image perfect in every way, your reflection is failure, take it away. I knew a child I knew him well he tried to draw a picture for you as well, no child was more honest and this is true on First Communion day, you tore his heart in two. 'You cannot read you cannot pray', this is a sin, this is not the perfect way, go away, guilt was the price to pay I did not know the correct words to say. Benediction came can I ring the bell? No! you will not do it well “But I do all you ask”, why are you like an Asp. Puberty came, now this really was sin, I could not win I tried but all you did was chide, in trust I gave you the picture of my heart, you tore it apart, I took you at your word you see, you said. “Be perfect”, just like me,... Continue

Kevin Walters | 01 April 2019  

3 of 3:. You knew that my heart fell at the apple tree but you did not tell, that you fell as well. Now we have a picture on display, perfect in every way. Whose reflection is shown? Why does hers, not hold the higher place, was not she the one with the grace. But for you Mother it will not do, it must be perfect to reflect you. Will love find a way to show the truth, form the way and mould a heart so that it may pray? Let the children come and play, taste the water and feel the gentle ray, so that they might live in day. Venerate the picture of Broken Man, we reflect the Lords heart the best we can. “Father” we only have to turn to you and always you give the morning dew. Your heart is nailed to a tree, so that we dance free when we bend our knee…“Jesus I put my trust in thee”… Destroy the Image and restore credibility... Please consider continuing via the link and comprehend that the True Divine Mercy Image, is an Image of Broken Man, humility is the key but can we ‘all’ bend our knee? kevin your brother In Christ http://www.catholicethos.net/errors-amoris-laetitia/#comment-169

Kevin Walters | 01 April 2019  

Thanks Fr Andrew for a remarkable, neatly-conceived, and thought-provoking comparison. In both situations there are competing world-views. To those who gladly suffered for the testimony of Jesus Christ, their witness to the world is the crux of Christianity; the heart off its capacity to salvage souls. In contrast: the apostate apparatchiks prioritise the establishment and its (eternally vain) vision of renovating the world. To them, martyrdom seems an unnecessary impediment to their program of all working together to conscript the world. Severe persecution effects a binary ethical apocalypsis, distinguishing between the two worldviews. Between the women & men who understand the Apostolic instruction as 'faithful witness to the world, eventuating in salvage'; & many who - one knows not how - read the New Testament as advocating 'progressive renovation of this world'. The martyrs perceive that the end is guaranteed by Jesus' means. In stark contrast, apparatchiks avow that: "the end justifies the means." Not all 'renovationists' are cowards, but all seem to have missed out on radical conversion. In accord with your insights, the present crisis shows the clerical establishment to be too dependent on 'renovationist', theology; perhaps, ignorant of 'salvage' theology. It could be instructive to ask: "Why?"

Dr Marty Rice | 01 April 2019  

Deeply thoughtful and provoking words. Is it any wonder that victims of sexual abuse within a church setting are so deeply wounded, that observers of this catastrophe i.e. the general public are seething with disdain, and that church leaders are floundering with the enormity of what has occurred. A church undergoing such difficulty perhaps should look to what a personal relationship demands. Firstly, our personal relationship with God and then our personal relationship with those who need a healing touch. It won't do to obfuscate and/or hide behind rules and regulations. We can feel when we are not being truly valued.

Pam | 02 April 2019  

Dr Marty Rice “Not all 'renovationists' are cowards, but all seem to have missed out on radical conversion”... But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same. All had witnessed many miracles while Peter James, & John had also witnessed The Transfiguration, while hearing the voice of God. It appears “all seemed to have mist out on radicle conversion”. That is why Jesus teaches us to pray, not to be led/put to the Test but rather deliver us from evil”… As “ The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”… The kingdom of God grows in the heart and is very often unseen, that is why we cannot truly judge our brother, and Jesus warns us not to do so, as we all have to be very, very careful, especially in our assumed relationship with God and our fellow man, because ..“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”…True sincerity of heart before God, transforms our failings, no matter how tragic, into humility, and this can be clearly seen in Peters chosen means of martyrdom. And today as always we must pray for our Brothers/leaders, as should we not want for others, that which we have been given ourselves, that is ‘the faith to live in His Divine Mercy’, in humility, because isn’t that what being a Christian is all about. kevin your brother In Christ

Kevin Walters | 02 April 2019  

Great article Andrew. Looking back helps humility and the awareness that all system and organisations are ultimately prey to the problems of power. And wonderful image, full of symbolism. Worth pondering in silence.

Sande Ramage | 03 April 2019  

Thanks Br Kevin. It was a reference to Fr Andrews: "In a church which gloried in the courage of the martyrs as a sign of God's presence, apostasy was a corruption that tore at its heart. The congregations were inevitably riven with anger, resentment, guilt, confusion, and above all disillusion at the gap revealed between their leaders' and members' proud profession of faith and their cowardly repudiation of it." You note the similarities of that with today's clergy betrayal crisis. Of course, because we are humans this is never just a physical, visceral thing. Binary ethical apocalypsis exposes a person's deepest worldview commitment and spiritual allegiance. Again, as Fr Andrew wrote, the problem is not so much the cowardly betrayal by what I call 'renovationists', but inner, anti-Christian indifferentism: "It wasn't much; lets back to business as usual" - missing the obligation for heartfelt repentance and radical conversion (see John 21:15-19). Last Sunday an eminent cleric wrote in a parish newsletter: "He (God) is not interested in what we have done or not done. He loves us and wants to embrace us and celebrate with us." As if the worldview-converting sorrow and repentance of the prodigal was simply not necessary.

Dr Marty Rice | 03 April 2019  

Thank you Andrew, Your reflection on the Early Church troubles is enlightening. The history of Christianity is full of intrigues, power grabbing and personal ambitions by those in power and or authority. This has led to schisms, revolts, breakaways and the splintering of Christianity into many sects . Clericalism is a curse within the Church and should be eliminated as far as it is practical . Vatican 11 attempted to erase this evil by informing us that the People of God have the insight bestowed through Baptism, to be able to sense the will of the Spirit in the events of the times. Unfortunately, those who retain power and influence in the Church have continued to resist this understanding of the Faithful's role in the mission of the Church. For too long we the laity have assumed that the Clergy have an exulted position and special relationship with Jesus through the conferring of Holy Orders. We must take our rightful place in the journey of discernment. Let our voices be heard.

Gavin O'Brien | 03 April 2019  

"Unfortunately, those who retain power and influence in the Church have continued to resist this understanding of the Faithful's role in the mission of the Church. For too long we the laity have assumed that the Clergy have an exulted position and special relationship with Jesus through the conferring of Holy Orders. We must take our rightful place in the journey of discernment. Let our voices be heard." Gavin. And even that is a denial of the power of the ordinary people who conclusively gave the power to the clergy. These people (Police, doctors, teachers, peers, politicians, nurses etc) ought be acknowledging their collusion and supine lack of civil courage.If you read the article it is like asking the Mafia to reform themselves. Many of those who could have aided reform are also victims who have jumped overboard years ago. There is nothing stopping devout people from following the message of the New Testament and saying their prayers. Reform of an organization is ex professo not the matter for theologians, but for forensic organizational psychologists. Who might ask if Christ ever wanted to form a church.

Michael D. Breen | 03 April 2019  

Gavin O'Brien. Part of your post, in summary, implies that for too long the laity have assumed that the Sacrament of Holy Orders bestows something special on the priest. You imply that this is a falsehood. Does that mean that all of the Sacraments are false? If so, we might as well all go our own ways and consider the whole construct they we call religion a falsehood.

john frawley | 03 April 2019  

Dr John, Michael, Gavin: your comments don't fill me with joy! Whether the popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, religious, priests, deacons, etc. are doing a good job or not we, the baptised and confirmed, are surely perfectly clear in our minds about what our Catholic Christian duty is. If we should be faced with compromised and corrupt clergy, we should be all the more resolute to follow One who promised: "My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:27-8

Dr Marty Rice | 03 April 2019  

The present church needs to look seriously at reform. Clericalism is at the centre of the problems. The male ego permeates through all facets of church life. We as a church must exhibit greater humility in the face of our wounding of our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We have damaged their faith and their lives. We need to be poor again, sell all to help the Redress scheme and trust in our God once again. That has to be our Act of Faith.

terence pestana | 03 April 2019  

Interesting parallel, Andy. My own belief is that those who committed these atrocious crimes against young people and those who covered up for them should be cashiered. There is no place in church ministry for them. I think it will be extremely difficult for anyone to sweep the victims under the carpet: the world outside the Catholic Church will not allow this. It should be a salutary lesson to all those proud and overweening clerics, such as the late Bernard Law and Donald Wuerl, who either covered up or did these atrocious deeds, that it is the news media and public opinion which began their undoing. The Church is no longer seen as something above, outside and not subject to the laws of normal civil society. I think this a very good thing. There are many who look forward to the demise of Christianity in our society. I think they are wide off target here. The Church is going through an intense cleansing as a result of the actions of some of its members, but I believe, once this cleansing is over, it will emerge purged and renewed. I look forward to that day.

Edward Fido | 03 April 2019  

Although I agree with you, Edward, none of this will happen without your ditching your attachment to the ecclesiology that is called 'communio'. It is those who jettisoned Conciliar Theology for this mystical mumbo-jumbo, and who include the two former popes, who are responsible for the clerical abusers in our midst by giving them permission to think of themselves as 'ontologically different' and therefore exempt from the requirements of the most basic of human ethical principles, especially in regard to respecting the inviolability of children. The connection between the two factors - of absurdist 'ontological' claims and clerical abuse - are easy to make and were identified by the Royal Commission. Its high time we Catholics grew up and recognised that, beyond feeling a pang of conscience about putting up with a Church that led to the abuses of Cardinal Pell and others, we got off our esoteric 'communio' pedestal and acknowledged the sins of clerical ascription that we have allowed to fester in various forms since the Reformation. First and foremost among these should be our acknowledgment of our abuse. as a Church, of women, whom we have denied access to Holy Orders while privileging masculine power and control.

Michael Furtado | 03 April 2019  

So do I and so many Catholics, Edward.

John RD | 04 April 2019  

Michael Furtado's labeling of "communio" ecclesiology as "esoteric" is symptomatic of his consistently displayed aversion to metaphysical discourse with its emphasis on a faith that seeks understanding and his concern to replace it with a sociologically and politically inspired "praxis" that can be employed to radically change traditional Catholic Church structures and teaching. While recognising the need for effective practical responses to the clerical abuse crisis, I am yet to be convinced of the theological foundations on which he wishes to conduct his revolution.

John RD | 04 April 2019  

Edward. At a hearing re child sexual abuse at the UN in Geneva in May 2014, Vatican representatives said that 848 priests had indeed been cashiered (defrocked) and 2572 others punished (?how?). This response represented the total number of cases brought to the attention of the Church during the decade 2005 to 2014. The majority of these backdated to the 1960s, 70s and 80's, the decades radically changed in all human relationships by the sexual revolution which happened to coincide with the changing post-Vatican II era. In the decade 2001-2010 the incidence of reported abuse cases fell from a high or 38% at the end of the 80s to 2%. Things have changed dramatically with the heirarchy's approach in the last two decades. We should recognise this and accept that genuine changes are already in place and things are being done.

john frawley | 04 April 2019  

Fr Andrew wrote: "To believe that you can move on from it [gross betrayal by many clergy], after 50 years or so, undermined reform in the early church and will do so again if attempted. It is like the belief of people addicted to alcohol that they can move on from their addiction [without radical conversion]." Could we converse about what could convince thinking Catholics that sincere clerical transformation is commencing. An important sign relates to leadership. Is it not remarkable that Australia's boss clerics have been so reticent to teach, despite the apostolic instruction for them to do so (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:2). Over the last 40 years or so, I can't recall any manifestly Christian episcopic instructions. Apart from their close circles, Australia's Church leaders are cloaked in invisibility. For most of us we just try to guess what their spiritual allegiances and doctrinal positions are. The wonderful articles and lively conversations published by 'Eureka Street' lack input from those incorporated in the apostolic succession and anointed to be our guides. Without courageous apostolic guidance false doctrines abound in parishes, schools, and the ACU. Almost total ignorance of the New Testament and Catechism of the Catholic Church prevails.

Dr Marty Rice | 04 April 2019  

Great article but many comments are out of touch with reality. My daughter chose to send her daughter to a Catholic secondary school. At local netball games she is verbally attacked because her school fees support evil priests and a systematic cover up of evil; the name Pell crops up frequently. Truth is not accepted. The article helps her understand what is happening and what the future holds. Most comments are of no help to her, and reveal that many authors have super-egos and are desperate to show their superiority to other comments.

Mike | 04 April 2019  

While Catholics continue to invert role-gift-procreation as a helper of families and identity-need-union as family members they will have neither of these equal and inseparable aspects of marriage. Cardinal Arlindo Furtado, as one of Pope Francis' delegates to the recent Synod on Youth, Discernment and Vocation contributed by confirming our Job's Trust family members of valid natural marriages judgement on our own aspiration and our own method that the cause and cure of the abuse of vulnerable family members by insurance and tax fraud is within the family. These frauds are evident in both this sexual abuse by purported consecrated celibates and by participants in distributing property estates in using a status inducement to get a family member with identity to think they are only a helper of families exercising a role. Job's Trust are family members of valid natural marriages who by associating together put into action a procreation service provision project within the family. Oliver Clark, Job's Trust

Oliver | 04 April 2019  

I had meant to reply to your post, Michael Furtado, but illness and 'home duties' as a carer prevented me. In the meantime, John RD has answered you far more effectively than I could. Without wishing to be unduly critical (it is Lent after all), may I posit the idea that the difference between your vantage point and mine seems to me to be that you see the Catholic Church as an institution, just like any other institution, which can be adjusted to suit the trend of the times, where I see it as possessing a numinosity given to it by its founder and that this numinosity cannot be adjusted so easily? John Frawley also raised a query I should like to answer. I regard the paedophiles and those who protected them as being very similar to Judas: they betrayed Christ. Since the scandal broke the Church has taken several belated measures to address it. In some ways it could be considered too little, too late. I think it will be a generation or two before we see if the changes initiated by those still remaining in authority and charged with their enforcement bear any real fruit.

Edward Fido | 05 April 2019  

Great Historical analogy Fr Andrew. Peter Steele lectured on the bible when I did my BA, it was never as good as that. The problem that remains today is that Pope Francis has again refused to treat women in the church as equals, by refusing to countenance female ordination. Ergo the hierarchy remains exclusively male and the status quo remains. If George Pell wins his appeal then he will remain Cardinal and Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Abuse victims are like Lazarus at the gate, begging for crumbs that fall from the church's table in a vain attempt to rehabilitate their shattered lives. 54 boys suicides occurred after their treatment at Saint Alipius in Ballarat. No compensation was available for their outraged families. This church needs to bring women into the fold in a completely equal way. Pope Francis refusal to do so smacks of peer pressure from the Cardinals and it also means history will repeat itself as secreta continere will remain to be invoked. NRS capped its payout at $150k less prior payouts indexed at 1.9% for each year. The participants in the NRS, only care about protecting their church property. Hardnosed lawyers curtail the victims.

Francis Armstrong | 05 April 2019  

Many thanks Mike for your important, grass-roots, viewpoint. Great to read your granddaughter was helped by Fr Andrew's article. Could you say what assisted her deal with anti-Catholic comments? Hoping it wasn't an equation of the well-deserved sufferings of rogue priests, bishops and cardinals with the sufferings of our awesome holy martyrs. That would be opposite to the writer's intention. Your criticism of so many people who take the trouble to post comments (which are often like spiritual works of mercy) was a bit unfair. However, claiming they have 'super-egos', Mike, appears OK, because Collins Australian Dictionary defines super-ego: "That part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience . . .". Articles printed by Eureka Street and most comments posted are able to enlarge and inform (even to sanctify) the conscience of a reader. This fulfils a great need in today's society and among today's Church bosses, where the absence of a conscience is on public display for all the world to see. Many Catholics believe our Church's bureaucrats must seek deep and genuine repentance (e.g. as in James 4:7-10). Mike, please join us in asking them to show true evidence of their life-changing repentance. Blessings from Marty.

Dr Marty Rice | 05 April 2019  

John RD correctly adduces my interests as political and sociological, for the social sciences play a well-recognised role in assisting with and benefitting from praxis theology. Indeed, were it not for the industrial unrest of the late C19th, Leo XIII wouldn't have written Rerum Novarum. As to metaphysics, I adore Elizabethan poetry which cannot be fully appreciated without reference to its Catholic affinities. Unfortunately, 'supernaturalism' dualistically designates the realm of the divine above nature, while the 'epistemic experience' argued by ontologists pushes metaphysics into the role of speculation. Such airy persiflage misleads homosexual persons, born 'ontologically-different', like me, in terms of our sexual appetite, to make exaggerated claims about moral and ethical codes of conduct. It follows that, so large is the scale of clergy sexual transgression that firm boundaries need to be placed on the interpretative scope of ontological difference, and Aquinas being a quintessential rationalist, it makes sense that the way to do this is to admit women to ordained ministry as well as to revert to marriage as a choice and not a condition of ordination. In support of this, one oughtn't to forget that Aquinas & Kant, both theists, clearly preferred teleological proofs to ontological speculation.

Michael Furtado | 05 April 2019  

I think the difference between the Christian martyrs of Ancient Rome and the young people more recently sexually assaulted in the Catholic Church, Francis Armstrong, is the latter was an inside job. This, to me, makes it truly diabolic because my experience of the Catholic Church is that it welcomes, educates and nurtures you as a person. These people have experienced the opposite: they have been assaulted, degraded and seemingly cast out of the institution which was supposed to protect them. Apart from all the legal consequences, the perpetrators of these crimes and their protectors face the very real prospect of suffering in Hell for All Eternity unless they truly repent and make restitution. I do not see most of them doing so, they appear to be totally obdurate. Cardinal Pell, whatever the result of the Appeal, appears to me a spent force. He may rise again but I doubt it.

Edward Fido | 05 April 2019  

1 of 3: Thank you Br (Dr) Marty for your comment... “The congregations were inevitably riven with anger, resentment, guilt, confusion, and above all disillusion at the gap revealed between their leaders' and members' proud profession of faith and their cowardly repudiation of it."… Yes! but many of the ‘actual martyrs’ would not have felt indignation rather they would have already, via life experience, comprehended, in humility, that the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” instilling ‘pity’ within their hearts, for they fallen brethren. I believe that many via Clericalism, have gradually been corrupted/ensnared, as initially it is possible to become an unknowing instrument of those who manipulate for their own perverted ends, and it could be said that these manipulators have chose the most suitable men, men who displayed doctrinal and moral weakness, influenced them, conditioned them, and at times even blackmailed them. Now trapped within their own sinfulness/weakness they are to be ‘pitied’…Quote “Even the Golden Rule of “love neighbour as self” fades to a penumbra with the dizzying directive: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He concludes His discourse with the Herculean challenge, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”… for those like myself who take,.. Continue

Kevin Walters | 05 April 2019  

2 of 3: Jesus at His Word, as in 'not one iota', this teaching can only be embraced in humility and from this base, they can be no self-righteous pointing fingers for to do so is to point ones finger at oneself. So how do you separate the Wheat from the Chaff ? You cannot, as the wheat and the weeds must grow together, until harvest time. What are we to do?...Only a new spiritual awakening, one that bears witness to the Truth in humility, can liberate those who have been ensnared within these circles of corruption, which encompass an unfaithful docile priesthood, that turned a blind eye to corruption, with its many different faces, It could be said the Church needs an Amnesty within herself, I believe this can only come about by looking at/embracing the ‘gentle’ cleansing grace of humility publicly, if she did so, the Church would grow rather than stagnate/dissipate. The cleansing that has to take place needs to start at the top, as Our Lord Himself via the true divine Mercy Message/Image one of Broken Man, has exposed the reality of a self-serving elitism embedded in Clericalism, emanating from arrogance before God and mankind…Continue

Kevin Walters | 05 April 2019  

3 of 3: This exposer of hubris by divine intervention, demands a counter response by those who would be faithful before His Inviolate Will (Word). And this can only be done in humility, as a humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its short comings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other…"God will not despise a broken spirit and contrite heart” … and neither will the faithful. The leadership has nothing to fear, no matter how compromised, as the cleansing grace of humility (Full ‘open acknowledgement of past failings/sins) is the communal bond of love that holds His flock together. kevin your brother In Christ

Kevin Walters | 05 April 2019  

Edward, I'm humbled by your putting duty first. However, you have misread all my posts - both in the Warhurst article as well as this one - in suggesting that my Church conceptualisation is institutional. Having invoked Avery Dulles's 'Models of Church' in support of my view, I hold to the exact opposite. As to numinosity, I am well aware of the seminal typology, attributed to Rudolph Otto, that prominently underpins this argument. Its rank opposite is transcendentalism, which is not my view, since I favour the view that Christ is omnipresent and that all Creation relates to Him, a position resoundingly underpinned by the opening paragraphs in both 'Gaudium et Spes' & 'Lumen Gentium'. Before you endorse, yet again, the comments of John RD, consider this. Here we have by common agreement a Church grievously wounded and hurting because of the global sexual violation of its most vulnerable members by several clergymen. Granted that such transgressors must take personal responsibility for their sins, have the rest of us, especially those unbudgingly committed to the tradition of ordaining only celibate males to the priesthood, no responsibility for so structuring the rules as to expose them to temptation, while secluding transgressors?

Michael Furtado | 05 April 2019  

Mike. When I went to school in the 1940s - 50s we coped with anti-Catholic abuse almost daily eg "The priest's yer bloody father , the nun's yer bloody mother" or "States, States ring the bell while the Catholics march to hell". On the rugby field against the Grammar schools and State high schools we were Catholic pigs, mick dicks, nun's bastards and numerous other unsavoury things. The medals and scapulars around our necks were prized souvenirs of our rugby opponents. Up until age of 14 or 15, the journey home (we walked to school in those days) was always in twos or threes because there were frequent fights with the Proddies after school and you could cop a beating if you were alone. In the later years most of us on both sides grew up and realised that there was little difference between us and the sectarian hatreds faded rapidly thereafter. Kids can cope in the main - its the parents who find the difficulty.

old catholic pig | 05 April 2019  

Comments Mike reports made to his daughter that her Catholic "school fees support evil priests and a systematic cover up of evil" are correct as greedy family members practicing familyism obtain cheaper Catholic school fees by tax and insurance fraud. So used those induced by church teaching initiated by these familyists for their economic advantage that celibacy is a higher vocation than marriage to allow themselves to be represented as low risk for insurance cover tax exempt volunteers understandably act out by this and other abuses and cover up. Oliver Clark, Job's Trust

Oliver | 05 April 2019  

I am saddened by the comments made. A lot of opinions have been aired, judgments made and expressed. Personally I quote Miranda Devine March 17,2019 “Catholics are guilty until found innocent.” Referring to legal law Courts and the number of convictions overturned. The Royal Commission uncovered a serious problem of abuse but failed to consult with professionals who studied and published their findings on the sexual activity of juveniles. To have done so would have opened the debate on consensual activity. In our Australian Nation legal responsibility starts from the age of 12 years in the majority of States and Territories. Moralists are stuck in their own superior thoughts always blaming the other person. God knows all and will judge accordingly. That is our Catholic faith. The law of the land punishes not the church. The church has to untie the heavy bundles it has placed on the shoulders of Catholics and society in general.

Edward m | 06 April 2019  

"The second challenge posed by the experience of the early church is to recognise victims, to respect them as the keepers of conscience, and to involve them as the mediators of reconciliation" Andrew Hamilton Beautifully put Andrew. Its brevity belies the size of the challenge. It also raises the question: Do we have among us the moral depth to take on and perdure in this task?

John Edwards | 06 April 2019  

A question has arisen of whether sacramental confession is sufficient to release clergy from the pollution of their immoral acts, sexual-abuses of children, collusive cover-ups, & passive acceptances of such horrid vices in the body cleric. A short summary on Page 903 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2009) instructs that much more is expected: " . . Repentance for sin and confession may restore grace to a soul but the removal of the ingrained disposition to sin or vice requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired." Without a vigorous and persevering reform movement among all Catholic clergy it's improbable we'll see this desirable transformation from-vice-to-virtue. Such a cleric-led reform movement will have little chance of success if senior clerics remain equivocal about their worldview allegiance and their willing submission to the Apostolic instructions of the New Testament & the Catechism. Many thinking Catholics consider the choice set before the body cleric and its leaders is crystal clear.

Dr marty Rice | 06 April 2019  

So many comments by men, nearly all spoken from the head. How can we see to follow the Christ, when so many shepherds have proved false? And why is no-one quoting the gospel words, that it were better for a man to have a millstone round his neck and be drowned, if he damages the children?

Anna Summerfield | 07 April 2019  

I find Michael Furtado's reply to my post confusing in both terminology and argument. It is not "supernaturalism" (or "airy persiflage") that distinguishes the natural from the supernatural, or God from created nature: this distinction arises from common sense, the logic of realism and the religious traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There is a further confusion in Michael's understanding of Aquinas's philosophy of being. Aquinas's idea of the "analogy of being" enables us to recognise and respect both difference and connection in our use of language about God's being and our own, not a total "dualism". This accords with the Scriptural revelation of our being "mad in the image and likeness of God". It should be noted, too, that though "teleology" features in them, the foundation of Aquinas's five "proofs" for the existence of God is the argument from causality, an argument based on the nature of being, the subject of all ontological reflection; and that Aquinas's moral philosophy, quite unlike Kant's, is based on the epistemological premise that human language is capable of grasping what is real and true, not merely what appears to be so. Finally, I think it inaccurate and misleading to claim that women and homosexual persons are born "ontologically different" - were this so, they would be members of another species, a notion negating of their human dignity, and insupportable to common decency and Catholic teaching.

John RD | 07 April 2019  

The default human response to any problem is to talk about it. And talk about yourself talking about it. And talk about yourself talking about talking about yourself about it. A dot-point list covering, say, 2 and a bit A4 pages should cover everything practical that needs doing. Somebody go find that list so the denizens of this thread can have something real to controvert about.

roy chen yee | 07 April 2019  

The question posed by Michael Furtado at the end of his response to Edward Fido ignores the process of lay involvement already initiated by the bishops to address the issues that currently besets the Catholic Church, and also the fact that eligibility of women for the ordained priesthood is not simply a matter of "structuring the rules" - scripture, ecclesial tradition based on the practice of Christ, and definitive teaching are all involved. The Catechism says: "The college of bishops, with whom priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible" (CCC,1577).

John RD | 07 April 2019  

Michael Furtado. In your reply to Edward Fido, you say that the failure to ordain women to priesthood is an abuse [of women] while privileging masculine power and control. Perhaps you also believe that the refusal to accept and ordain all men who aspire to the priesthood is an abuse of those men? Please provide a rational explanation that accords with Catholic teaching.

john frawley | 08 April 2019  

JohnRD, either my philosophy/theology is crazy or it ain't. I've been formed in the notion of a Judeo-Christian God since birth. God was there, in whatever attitudes our tradition and teaching assigned Him. We have either responded by killing Him off, or repudiated by clinging to 'Superman'. Religion is responsible for this two-level theory of the divinity and ourselves. You defend your version of God against wretched heretics who dared to nihilise Him. Reminds me of the prophet who laughed at such an idea by pointing out that such ‘gods’ “have eyes but they cannot see, ears but they cannot hear” and so on. But you still cling to Him. And that idea is what now seems false to me. Religion is human interpretation of a facet of the ultimate reality, a cultural expression of precious values read in context. Your God becomes someone to whom you habitually appeal as the final authority. You have divinized that authority because it enforces surety. There is only one ultimate authority, and that authority is what in our grossly inadequate language we call Love. Love is Love is Love, yours for me, mine for friends, and even enemies. Only the Gospels say that!

Michael Furtado | 08 April 2019  

Edward I agree with you that their actions are diabolic and, it has been an inside job.How do we even know it is still not occurring? Many orders run orphanages in foreign dirt poor countries. In the US, Jesuits who abused children were shipped out to pastor the Inuits and abuses continued. "But a Pennsylvania grand jury this year made very clear that more changes are needed. In a nearly 900-page report released on 14 August, the grand jury alleged that more than 300 Roman Catholic priests had abused at least 1,000 children over the past seven decades in six Pennsylvania dioceses. It also accused senior church officials of systematically covering up complaints." The Guardian 18/12/18. They are obdurate, cold cynical and perhaps as you suggest, many are beyond redemption. On the issue of compensation for victims, the church may spend a fortune on George Pell's appeal so that the NRS set up by him remains intact. Otherwise the floodgates will open and claims wont be capped as the NRS currently decrees. As for John RD point of view on women's ordination, what a fanciful interpretation of scripture. The Church shall embrace women equally one of these years.

Francis Armstrong | 08 April 2019  

Well might love be love be love Michael Furtado. If indeed God is love then God is God is God - that's the bit you don't seem to get! It is not only about us.

john frawley | 08 April 2019  

Michael, I hope and my understanding of God derives from the revelation uniquely embodied in Christ and given to the community of believers he formed and commissioned to make him known in all ages. This revelation and mission proclaims, in faith, Christ as the eternal Word incarnate, "the way, the truth and the life." Contrary to your assertion, I do not "divinize" God's authority: Christ's origin and ministry speak for themselves on this point. And it is no surprise that his truth claims and those of the Church to whom he gave his own authority are taken as offence in a society where, increasingly, relativism and secularism are the order of the day. Yes, God is love (we have that on good authority), but what love is and its demands require elucidation; and this is very much the business of the Church, today as always in history.

John RD | 08 April 2019  

Bravo Michael. If only we could dare to put aside our neat comforting formulae we might actually begin to perceive the Truth. But that would mean taking risks, and letting go... and that's scary... like children growing up. So instead we learn that it's better not to question, safer to conform... to go through the motions,

Ginger Meggs | 08 April 2019  

John RD, apropos my exchange with Edward Fido, the Catechism has been altered by Church Councils in response to contextual changes, rational imperatives, Revelation and political exigencies, e.g. the Nicean Creed. To use it as if it were the unswerving, definitive and literal word of God to hold good for all times would be to bestow upon it an imprimatur, authority and infallibility that texts embraced by fundamentalists proclaim. The ordination of married men and women is a matter of cultural response to ongoing crises that are part of our ongoing entelechy, growth and cosmological understandings. Hence, no theologian or Bishop would dare to arrogate to themselves the right to speak for Christ for all time, in the sense of claiming that the magisterium accompanied by prayer, humble obedience and due conformity is solely what Catholics teach and proclaim. If that were so, the Spirit would be firmly locked out of the Church in all of our deliberations and replaced with a mode of jihadism that would surely run counter to the Gospels of Christ. I suggest again that you refer to Ilia Delio's 'The Emergent Christ' (Orbis Books, Maryknoll NY, 2011. Also available from Basil Blackwell, High St, Oxford).

Michael Furtado | 08 April 2019  

Dr marty Rice 06 April: There will always be hidden men with evil intent within the body cleric, but you cannot equate all of our Shepherds with these evil men, sinners yes, as we all sin. For many it could be said that the present hierarchical structures are self-serving, while facilitating, a breeding ground for deceit and deception, which we call clericalism. The present day Catholic Church is universal as Baptism has been freely given to all, who were presented to receive it, this has created (to my knowledge over the last sixty years) a culture of cultural (Uneducated) Catholics. So Yes, to a ‘gentle’ reform movement, underpinned by a change of culture, to one of humility, as this would encompass the laity also, rather than a Church within a Church, as previously stated in my post to you, under another article. kevin your brother In Christ

Kevin Walters | 08 April 2019  

"No bishop" (or pope, for that matter) "would arrogate to themselves the right to speak for Christ for all time." I think the Church would agree, Michael. However, the authority of bishops and popes is not self-conferred: like faith, it is received; and from the same source, Christ himself, who handed his own authority to Peter and his successors - those who comprise what Newman called the "ecclesia docens", more commonly known today as the Church's magisterium. Entrenched secular scepticism, as Romano Guardini recognized on his liberation from Kantian cognitive theory, betrays a faux humility that fails to accept the real implications of the Incarnation: God knowable (though not completely) and God-with-us, a confronting idea, indeed scandal, to programmatic secular scepticism and its contemporary twin, moral relativism, often couched in the ambiguous language of postmodern sophistry.

John RD | 08 April 2019  

Thank you Anna. This discussion is all head and no heart. The greatest part of this sin is that men who presumed to call themselves “father” were complicit in the abuse of “their” children, whether or not they were actively abusive. By colluding or even just ignoring the transfer of abusive priests to other parishes, they were effectively pimping the children in the next parish. The church will only heal when lay families, including women, are actively part of the leadership of the church.

Beth Rees | 08 April 2019  

"I think it inaccurate and misleading to claim that women and homosexual persons are born "ontologically different" - were this so, they would be members of another species, a notion negating of their human dignity, and insupportable to common decency and Catholic teaching." (JohnRD) Aquinas refers to women as 'misbegotten' and Thomists to homosexual persons as 'disfigured'. In so doing Thomists differentiate both women and gays from straight men. Aquinas's teleology is robustly deontological. I have heard canon lawyers describe homosexuality as an ontological fact and homosexual persons as ontologically 'real'. By this they mean that Aquinas's attachment to the laws of nature can be so unbudging as to fail to recognise that homosexuals exist and, as such, deserve a place in God's Love every bit the equivalent of heterosexual people. For me this does not absolve gay people from abiding by the same tests of human love that apply to all who are truly human - I am a gay man - but infers that we, like women, are in no way different from straight men, especially in terms of Aquinas's odd classifications, but instead simply a variant on a continuum of human diversity that Aquinas knew nothing about.

Michael Furtado | 08 April 2019  

I'm not aware that the Church gave its imprimatur to every thought Aquinas set down, Michael. Nor have I seen in any official Church documentation what the those canonists to whom you refer have said - it is a category error.

John RD | 09 April 2019  

And thankyou Beth. Our leaders have proved dishonest and untrustworthy. Men tasked with care have damaged children. As it is said that 50% of priests have partners, that dishonesty remains. How are we to live in a church like this? And how can you men go on talking about ontological differences and other such theory in the face of this crisis for believers?

Anna Summerfield | 09 April 2019  

John Frawley states: "In your reply to Edward Fido, you say that the failure to ordain women to priesthood is an abuse [of women] while privileging masculine power and control. Perhaps you also believe that the refusal to accept and ordain all men who aspire to the priesthood is an abuse of those men? Please provide a rational explanation that accords with Catholic teaching." No; I don't believe that all are called to ordination, so no non sequiturs on matters of such dire importance, please! However, here's an account of a gay young man, raised in a family that rejected his sexuality and who encouraged him to think of his only option in living as the priesthood. Thrown out of Banyo for his fundamentalism, he was accepted by Wagga Diocese, until they found out he was gay. Rejected by them because of it, he returned home to Toowoomba, and, shortly afterwards, suicided. The overall effect of his family's fundamentalist ecclesiology, coupled with the insuperable pressures he faced as a gay man in a straight world, accustomed him to think of himself at every opportunity as 'disfigured', he took his own life because he could see no way out of it.

Michael Furtado | 09 April 2019  

That is certainly a tragic story as you tell it, Michael - one that evokes anger and pity; but it is a misnomer to call the young man's parents' views "ecclesiology" - they are more akin to skewed folklore than theology.

John RD | 09 April 2019  

Dear Michael, the pain of your position is clear to all and evokes much compassion. Yet, it's good to also recognise the pains experienced by all who faithfully follow Jesus Christ. It's no easy thing for us fleshly creatures who decide to follow the Alpha-&-Omega, the Beginning-&-End, the First-&-Last, the Lamb-Slain-From-&-For-The-Creation-Of-Our-Cosmos, the Righteous-One, the Unique-Offspring-Of-God-&-Of-Humankind, the Judge-Of-All, the Prince-Of-Peace, Jesus-Christ-The-Same-Yesterday-Today-&-Forever. Mercifully, our humble efforts to obediently follow are counselled and comforted by the beloved Holy Spirit of Truth who guides us into all truth, taking from what belongs to Christ so as to declare it to us. To one who has researched biological evolution for six decades it's overly-apparent we've not inherited an evolutionary or emergent spirituality and ecclesiology. Emergent evolution and Christian faith are radically different. On this 64th anniversary of Fr de Chardin's death, we must regretfully insist that he and his followers (like Delio) poetically yet fatally miss the mark. The Holy Spirit is not just any spirit that suits human progressivism but is The One who teaches us everything and reminds us of all that Jesus Christ has commanded us, in perfect coincidence, consonance, and coherence with the apostolic witness of the New Testament and CCC.

Dr Marty Rice | 09 April 2019  

Francis Armstrong, you adjudge "fanciful" my interpretation of scripture on the reservation of the ordained priesthood in the Catholic Church to men. I find no record in the Old or New Testaments of women priests in Judaism and Christianity, though they were a common part of pagan nations' religious practices. Moreover, the scriptures contain no evidence of Jesus ordaining women priests, though in a number of instances in the gospels he demonstrates a unique and sovereign freedom of the legalities and social conventions in relation to women of the Jewish culture in which he was raised. Jesus's appointment of the Twelve was the foundation of the early Church's Petrine and episcopal offices. Paul's teaching (Galatians 3:28), often produced in feminist argument for women's ordination, does not refer to ministries in the faith community that gathered around Jesus, but rather to the universal calling of all the baptized to divine filiation in Christ. As sacred tradition in the Church is intrinsically linked to scripture and what it reveals of Christ, the scriptures inform both Catholic teaching and practice. If my understanding is "fanciful", kindly show me how this is so.

John RD | 09 April 2019  

The boy in question did a theology degree with one of my children. I know what I'm talking about.

Michael Furtado | 09 April 2019  

You’re right, Anna. All the theory in the world, and they can all talk the talk, but not walk the walk. Through the 1970s and 1980s every mass ended with a prayer for more vocations to the priesthood, so when many many women and married men felt the call to priesthood I was awed and overwhelmed that our prayers should be so convincingly answered. But no, it appears God got it wrong, and s/he was only meant to find men, and in particular, men who didn’t marry their sexual partners. Had we not so convincingly thrown God’s gift back in God’s face, the church would not be in the mess it now finds itself, run by whited sepulchres who are afraid to trust the god they pretend to believe in!

Beth Rees | 09 April 2019  

Anna Summerfield : "How are we to live in a Church like this?" - As Christ did, surrounded as he was by the faithful and faithless, the believers and the doubters, the saint and the sinners; and always extending the call to repentance and faith.

John RD | 10 April 2019  

"The Holy Spirit is not just any spirit that suits human progressivism . . ." How true, Dr Marty. These words resonate for me with Jesus's in John 16:8-12. When I read them in the context of the remarkably ironic denial of sin and our need for salvation from it that characterizes secular humanist utopianism and the self-reassuring optimism of its pseudo-religious varieties, I never cease to be amazed at our human capacity for self-deception and self-aggrandisement in believing in our capacity to change the world and build a better future unaided by the God who created and sustains it. Thankfully, the acceptance of original sin, the doctrine which Newman saw as foundational to the Christian world-view, is complemented and completed by the reality of grace. This realism, as distinct from Panglossian optimism, finds profoundly beautiful expression in Augustine's "O happy fault. . ." proclaimed and celebrated in the Easter liturgy. Thank you for the salutary reminder of your insight!

John RD | 10 April 2019  

Thank you, Br Marty, for your words of comfort, but they miss their mark. Mine are words of protest & anger, expressed in love and loss for a young person and former student of mine whose life was destroyed by fundamentalists of the kind who place the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its obtuse ecclesiology on sexuality above the words and actions of Christ. I'm reminded here of Pope Francis's 'Amoris Letitiae': "I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it." (3) This is very important because ever since Vatican II, the issue of collegiality in the Church had largely been addressed ecclesiologically as an issue of participation of the lower level (the bishops) to the upper level (the papacy). But +Francis makes clear that collegiality and synodality in the Church also entails a certain measure of withdrawal of the papacy from the role of primary and unique "maker" of the Catholic tradition.

Michael Furtado | 10 April 2019  

Meanwhile, another bishop is arrested, this time accused of 'multiple rapes of a nun, unlawful detention, unnatural sex and abuse of authority'. That's the 'reality' John RD. It's always about unaccountable power and the abuse of that power. What's your solution, if not fundamental reform? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/10/india-police-charge-catholic-bishop-with-raping-nun

Ginger Meggs | 10 April 2019  

What really saddens me is how carelessly the priests are wrecking the church communities, quite separately from the horror of the child abuse. In rural Tasmania, decreasing numbers of priests means that in many towns mass is only celebrated once or twice a month. Some years ago, nuns with training in pastoral care stepped in to the breach, visiting parishioners, organising support and community gatherings, and leading prayer and Eucharistic services. The parishes blossomed, often attracting Christians of other denominations, and creating warm and supportive communities, as the early Christians purportedly did. In what I can only understand as a jealous clinging to power, the nuns were withdrawn from the work, and the communities collapsed, along with their pastoral care. Once again, our priests are making mock of the title “Father” that they presume to adopt for themselves. Instead, they and most of your correspondents lose themselves in meaningless theory - fiddling while Rome burns. Jesus wept!

Beth Rees | 10 April 2019  

Many thanks for your kind words John RD. From an interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah in last Friday's Catholic Herald there's much that coheres with Fr Andrew's article: "Christians must be missionaries. They cannot keep the treasure of the Faith for themselves. Mission and evangelization remain an urgent spiritual task. And as St. Paul says, every Christian should be able to say “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Further, “God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). How can we do nothing when so many souls do not know the only truth that sets us free: Jesus Christ? The prevailing relativism considers religious pluralism to be a good in itself. No! The plenitude of revealed truth that the Catholic Church has received must be transmitted, proclaimed, and preached. The goal of evangelization is not world domination, but the service of God. Don’t forget that Christ’s victory over the world is…the Cross! It is not our intention to take over the power of the world. Evangelization is done through the Cross. The martyrs are the first missionaries. Before the eyes of men, their life is a failure. The goal of evangelization is not to “keep count” like social media networks that want to “make a buzz.” Our goal is not to be popular in the media. We want that each and every soul be saved by Christ. Evangelization is not a question of success. It is a profoundly interior and supernatural reality."

Dr Marty Rice | 10 April 2019  

JohnRD, apropos the line you take and the number of respondents you draw into the 'Concilium' versus 'Communio' disagreement between us, I would observe that Pope Francis has actively sought to contain the Milanese Archbishop, Cardinal Scola, who is an arch-exponent of the quietist "commmunio" ecclesiology that has tried to replace Concilium's engagement with 'this world' with an 'other-worldly' ecclesiology that privileges anti-abortion over all else. Scola is part of what is known as the “communio” school of theology, which is essentially a conservative response to Vatican II, which installed a series of modernising reforms in the church 50 years ago. This year, the Pope defined his desire for change in the Italian hierarchy. In November, in what was described as a barnstorming speech, Francis offered a critical assessment of the church in front of a conference of Italian bishops in Florence, in which he urged them to stop clinging to conservatism and fundamentalism as a response to the problems the church is facing. “Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives – but is alive, knows about being unsettled and enlivened,” he said (ref. Robert Mickens, Vatican journalist and editor-in-chief of Global Pulse magazine).

Michael Furtado | 11 April 2019  

Hi Beth, you raise an important issue regarding the deprivation of many rural Catholics. Surely, the Church has sufficient resources to install BIG video-conferencing and/or Skype facilities, so that daily or at least Sunday Holy Mass is available everywhere. I'm not sure of the Canon Law regarding consecration of the eucharistic elements: at the altar, priests generally consecrate hosts and wine additional to that which they hold by hand. Maybe those who know more than me can say whether this could extend to the elements on the altars of distant parish communities, who're visually and auditorily participating in the offering of Holy Mass by a priest in a distant parish. It seems wrong if we, well-provided Catholics, continue to neglect the spiritual wellbeing of our sisters and brothers in far-flung locations. Modern technology enables us to incorporate them in our own eucharistic feasts. There is SO much else of deep human significance that we, as the Church, can be doing (e.g. providing low-cost housing for homeless people; training our society in re-cycling waste; sponsoring local organic gardening; etc.) rather that butting our heads against the NT and the CCC. Forcing another split in the Church wouldn't be to our credit.

Dr Marty Rice | 12 April 2019  

Dr Marty Rice... “Evangelization is not a question of success. It is a profoundly interior and supernatural reality.".. Yes, and primarily this reality should reveal itself in humility before mankind, otherwise Christians in our present age, run the risk of been perceived as hypocrites. Jesus tells us that we can do anything if we truly believe (Trust) and I accept this in my heart as a truth. If anyone said to me, “where are your miracles"? Jesus said you would cure the sick etc. "I see none of this" amongst you Christians I would have to bow my head in humility and say 'I do not trust enough'. But I can say with confidence that if we let go of our own desires (expectations) and trust, we will be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The stormy sea of life will cease and in the gentle peace of our hearts we will be confident of a positive outcome to our prayer, sincerely kevin your brother In Christ

Kevin Walters | 12 April 2019  

Beth, I don't think he gets it. A typical example of one more committed to keeping Peter's Barque afloat, along with its catechisms, creedal paraphernalia and other dystopian subfusc, than with an understanding of what you & Ginger mean about being fully human.

Michael Furtado | 12 April 2019  

Thanks Marty. My understanding is that Special Ministers can distribute Eucharist that has been consecrated at a prior mass - they certainly do this in visitation to the sick at home and in hospitals, and the nuns in rural Tasmania had been appointed as Special Ministers. With a visiting priest once or twice a month, the nuns were very capably taking care of the pastoral needs of the parishioners. Many many of us were keenly involved in Renew and Call to Change, and called strongly for more involvement in the life of the parish, drawing on our life training and skills in people and community work, leaving, as we thought, more time for the priests to devote to their sacramental role. The response in Tasmania was a resounding silence, and withdrawal of the nuns from their pastoral role in rural parishes. This withdrawal was devastating, on a personal and community level, and the sense and sustenance of community has slowly died. While video mass may offer something to people who are alone, community is built by the love and companionship of personal and group contact. And what is God if not love? We are hardwired to love, but this church is doing all it can to destroy our natural inclination to express this God-love, if not by abuse and the support of abusers, then by the division and destruction of the natural mechanisms through which God might be expressed, such as family and community. The clerical hierarchy must be humble enough to understand that they are not the only humans with a hot-line to God, and to take advantage of the skills and care that already exist in the community, and will go on independently of the church if the church chooses not to participate!

Beth Rees | 12 April 2019  

Thanks Beth for the courtesy of your helpful response; much appreciated. Actually, I wonder if we are not thinking about the same issue but in different ways. You amply illustrate the good that Church members can do, even when the body cleric is less present. The disappointment you and your co-workers experienced was when this genuinely Christian ministry evoked jealousy in the local clerical hierarchs. That brings to mind the sort of reaction by some Church leaders to the wonderful ministry of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. In that context, let's follow Mary's humble example and never give up. Whenever opposed let's press-in more in our study of the New Testament and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This grows our appreciation of the constant Presence of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, who has ALL the answers to the issues we are facing. The Church (and everything in the whole universe) actually, literally by all rights and justice belongs to Christ; and, Christ is not an absentee effete manager! This approach of getting back to who we really are: a faithful, corporate community with Jesus Christ as our living Head, cooperates well with clerics but is greater than them.

Dr marty Rice | 13 April 2019  

Marty, the New Testament and the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not grow my appreciation of the Presence of Christ. What grows my EXPERIENCE of the presence and the love of God is to sit in quiet contemplation and meditation, and from that direct communication and centred space, to move the love that is fuelled by this practice into relationship with my family and my community. Words are a very limited and clumsy way to understand the presence of God/love, we must experience it with our whole being, of which our language brain is but a tiny part. The power of the mass, and any other shared prayer, is in the shared experience of the presence of love in our midst. It will happen IN SPITE OF the church, but the church would be so much more if it could be humble enough to embrace and incorporate this gift into its so-called leadership.

Beth Rees | 13 April 2019  

Marty, no one is claiming that the Church is ‘just made up of bad fish and weeds’, but your insistence that the Institution is only a little bit bad is like saying it is just a little bit pregnant. Your little bit of badness won’t go away by wishful thinking, or by prayer. It needs to be excised, and then structures of accountability put in place to prevent it returning. Your accounts of the life of Jesus tell of him cleansing the temple (by action, not prayer) and calling out publicly the hypocrisy of the hierarchy. What’s holding you back now ?

Ginger Meggs | 16 April 2019  

Marty, no one is accusing God, but we are accusing the church. To confuse the two, and especially to put the church above God, is idolatry. The church’s role in the recent scandals has driven a wedge between the people and God - it is a kind of spiritual murder. We will find our way to God, and if the church is up to it, it can be part of the ride.

Beth Rees | 16 April 2019  

The Catholic Church is a patriarchal institution and seems incapable of seeing that radical structural reform is needed to prevent further abuses of power and authority. The sexual abuse story is horrendous but there have been many other’ horrendous abuses throughout the centuries. Clerical sexual abuse has occurred through history too. The power and the role of male clergy needs to be reviewed and curtailed but nobody seriously believes this will happen. Some of the Church’s dogma is also seriously flawed. Would Christ really be against female priests? There is no biblical justification for an exclusively male authority structure. This structureis cultural and historical. Some of the Church’s ‘moral’ teachings around such matters as homosexuality, contraception and marriage were determined by old men with little knowledge of real life and humane health practices. I suspect there won’t be any reconciliation with the survivors of clerical sexual abuse until there is structural change. Have Rome and the Australian Catholic hierarchy read the findings of the Royal Commission, talked with survivors and their families? Have they talked with significant lay thinkers and ordinary church members? I doubt it.

Kate Sommerville | 26 April 2019