Plenary Council needs the Catholic community

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The biggest test for the Plenary Council, now less than six months from its first meeting, is to reconnect with the Catholic community. The elongated nature of the lead up and growing apathy have made that difficult, yet it remains essential. It may be asking too much to expect a church-wide buzz of excitement but there should at least be evidence of some increased momentum. There is a danger that the October event may become an isolated and introverted affair.

Main image: Socially distanced parishioners in pews (Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

There has already been extensive community consultation, resulting in 17,500 submissions and the involvement of several hundred thousand Catholics, but that seems long gone now, and unless the community interest is freshly nourished it will wither. There are several possible sources of revitalisation, including the official Plenary Council apparatus, the institutional structures of the church in dioceses, religious institutes and parishes, and the wider Catholic community itself. Successful reinvigoration of the whole process must involve collaboration between the hierarchical church and lay Catholics. 

The 280 members of the Plenary Council have been decided and their official training sessions take place in June-July. Only the experts and observers remain to be named. The working document, Continuing the Journey, which in time will become the agenda, has been issued. The PC Facilitation Team continues to distribute reading material and reflections for consumption, but the talents of the PC members outside an inner circle are being neglected. They are being trained to participate in an event rather than asked for their own views about the shape and dynamics of that event. They have not, for example, been asked for their opinion about anything, including obvious matters such as the working document or the structure of the agenda. An opportunity has been lost by those at the top to energise these PC members and to make them co-responsible for the success of the whole venture. 

The selected members, once known as delegates, were given the impression fifteen months ago that they should prepare themselves to be an active bridge to the wider Catholic community on PC matters. But the basic communication links have not been put in place to enable that to happen. Some members have become more widely known through diocesan commissioning ceremonies but even these have been far from universal. Despite persistent requests the PC Facilitation Team has failed to take the obvious step of issuing the email addresses and other contact details of PC members. 

The regrettable general absence of synods and diocesan pastoral councils also means that these useful building blocks for community consultation on a matter like a Plenary Council are absent in most dioceses. What else can be done? 

Some dioceses are now scheduling opportunities for the general Catholic community to learn more about the working document and/or to express the concerns that they wish the PC to address. The Hobart archdiocese, for example, has scheduled two preparation days, one in Hobart and one in Launceston, featuring keynote speakers and small group discussions. The Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese has planned a public Zoom session in each of its four deaneries, with PC members present, to air local concerns. These are encouraging though limited developments.

 

'To be successful the PC should be a model of co-responsibility and community discernment, outward looking and open to community connections.'

 

On a bigger scale Adelaide archdiocese is holding a diocesan assembly in September and preparing a short video to be shown in Masses with a facility provided for individual responses. 

The Bishops Conference has announced a consultation for women in September and Women and the Australian Church (WATAC) is planning a meeting for all women PC participants later in the year. Religious institutes (orders and congregations of nuns, brothers and priests), whose leaders are members of the PC, should have their own internal consultation mechanisms. 

The most ambitious initiative, a series of three convocations of Catholics via Zoom open to all on the future of Catholicism in Australia, is being presented by the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR), beginning on Sunday 2 May with an address by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister. Her presentation will be titled ‘The Eight Spiritual Mountains of the Future Church’. Participants will be greeted by Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

Further convocations will follow in August and November to advance issues and critique the ongoing process. Firmly in the context of the Plenary Council, they aim to promote a vision informed by the lives of ordinary Catholics, empowering critical thinking and building personal confidence through sharing ideas and perspectives. Attendance in the thousands is expected. ACCCR is partnered by Australian Catholic University, Catholic Religious Australia and Garratt Publishing. This is one promising example of church-wide cooperation. 

To be successful the PC should be a model of co-responsibility and community discernment, outward looking and open to community connections. Only by working together can ordinary lay Catholics and the official church apparatus, including the various arms of PC governance, enlarge such connectedness. More still needs to be done to empower PC participants and to attract wider community attention, involvement and feedback. 

 

 

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: Socially distanced parishioners in pews (Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

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

 

 

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The limited inclusion of the people of the Church in preparing for this Plenary Council suggests 'business as usual' in the control of the Catholic Church - a resistance to change and a failure "to reconnect with the Catholic community". It is of particular concern that the first assembly in October will now take place without a shared physical location - essentially an online meeting of isolated members selected by the bishops. This will effectively exclude informal communication and limit collaborative discernment, both essential to considered reform which comes from relationships informed by conversing, listening, understanding, and discernment truly open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The bishops suggest that COVID means that this is "the only realistic option” - but even a further deferral would be better than an ineffective Council. The lack of physical colocation will effectively prevent delegates participating in the essential informal discussions that enabled the reforms of the Second Vatican Council which would have failed miserably without a shared physical location.
Peter Johnstone | 22 April 2021


John Your insights are accurate and disturbing. I doubt if there is any chance of reengagement with families or individuals. Wives daughters, sisters, are especially despondent.
Laurie | 22 April 2021


So true Peter Johnstone. Another thing: Phil Crotty, recently deceased Jesuit who spent most of his life in India, said once to me that unless a Jesuit has had ‘the village experience’ he has nothing to bring to the dominant culture and will become part of it. Where are the prophetic voices in all this preparation for the PC? Not voices to rearrange the deck chairs but voices that make us sit up and disturb us with their truth? Voices that come from the voiceless.
Steve Sinn | 22 April 2021


Such an important article, John. An effective process would indeed be preferring an active engagement with the materials and amongst members. Interestingly I read this at 7pm - hours after publication. Could the fact that only one other comment is noted attest to the fact that many are disconnected from and possibly disinterested in what is meant to be such a significant event in the local church. It is interesting that ACCCR and its partners are filling the void, modelling a community of encounter and dialogue - for those of us who continue to hope for a renewed local church, in the spirit of Vatican II.
vivien williams | 22 April 2021


Hi John, can the zoom ACCCR meeting on Sunday 2 May with Joan Chittister be recorded, perhaps on YouTube? It is at a time when some of us will be at Mass.
Frank S | 22 April 2021


If as John Warhurst says here the Plenary Council needs the support of the Australasian Catholic community, why has the ACCCR, whose reform agenda for the Catholic Church I regard as framed in secular and protestant thinking, found it necessary to enlist external support in a latest initiative that compromises the local church emphasis of PC participation hitherto called for? Does not this augur for "synodality", the larger context of the PC process, what the recent Amazonian experience displayed - inordinate influence on the agenda by external sociological and theological influence, key proposals of which that subsequently met with negative response from the Pope; e.g., the ordination of women to the priesthood?
John RD | 23 April 2021


Delighted to read this summation by John Warhurst with its positive glimpse of a 'Kindly Light'. Especially valuable to encounter a Jesuit perspective from Fr Sinn. There's another from Louis Lachal, who with his fellow Australian Jesuits bypassed the clunky machinery of the Calcutta/West Bengal Province, then administering to a depleting body of Catholics, to directly serve the poorest of the poor, the Adivasis of Chota Nagpur, Ranchi & Hazaribagh, then at the bottom of every possible rung of the ladder by virtue of their Indigenous and outcaste status. If John RD is truly listening, he would recognise Pope Francis' synodal outreach to Amazonia as no more nor less an important and timely gesture of the Catholic Church in support of Indigenous Amazonian Catholics under immense pressure from external global and Brazilian forces on all sorts of fronts: spiritual, medical, economic, environmental and cultural, all of which form the basis of a renewal based on inculturation, rather than to read it in his 'paganocentric' terms. I especially commend Archbishop Coleridge for 'coming to the opening party', as it were: a great step forward, where none could be detected a few months ago. Mightn't the Holy Spirit act in loving ways!?!
Michael Furtado | 23 April 2021


Peter Johnstone."... the reforms of the Second Vatican Council which would have failed miserably...". Despite the colocation you see as an essential to success of the PC the reforms of Vat II did in fact fail 80% of previously faithful Catholics if the abandonment of practice is taken as a measure. There were indeed reforms which served to secularise and dare I say it Protestantise Catholicism - or in other words destroyed Catholicism. Why is it in your perspective and in that of the reformationists you support and who support you that you lot are the chosen ones "... informed by conversing, listening, understanding and discernment truly open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."? How do you know you are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and those who don't agree with you are not? Why does the Holy Spirit support only those who are hell bent on reforming His church? Are you suggesting He messed it up first time around and that you lot know better? It will be interesting to see if the Holy Spirit turns up for the PC and if he doesn't what then for the great reformers?. A new Protestantism or some entirely different sect claiming to be the one true Church to which Christ has been invited as a parishioner rather than revered as the founder? The hubris makes the likes of Trump and his ilk, for instance, look like amateurs.
john frawley | 23 April 2021


As John has noted, a series of three public online convocations of Catholics on the future of Catholicism in Australia, is being presented by the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR, a coalition of 19 organisations of committed Catholics across Australia and New Zealand), beginning on Sunday 2 May at 9am AEST with an address by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister - her presentation will be titled ‘The Eight Spiritual Mountains of the Future Church’ and will follow a greeting by Archbishop Mark Coleridge as President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The Sunday morning time was necessary having regard to Joan’s time zone in the USA and time differences across Australia, New Zealand and the world, noting also difficulties during the working week and Saturdays for some families. However (Frank S to note), all who register will be sent a link to a recording of the event whether they attend the live event or not. Register via https://garratt1.wufoo.com/forms/s1698nzm1qsjym3/ . All are welcome.
Peter Johnstone | 23 April 2021


Steve Sinn's SJ's life-long "village" service and experience with "the voiceless" in Australia as a priest would make him a very worthy participant and advocate at this stage of the Plenary Council process.
John RD | 23 April 2021


Hello John: thank you for the update. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s dictum is for a “small and correct” church. Isn’t his vision being fulfilled? Doesn’t the latest American statistics (along with your Australian data on empty pews) give us the empirical evidence? Personally, I do not have a problem with the PC achieving nothing. For me the death of the Church is not yet sufficiently profound, it must deepen further. “Catholic”, “Protestant”, “Lutheran” and other sixteenth century Europa geopolitical brand names need to become meaningless and forgotten. Bureaucratic titles, “pope”, “cardinal” etc. should likewise become empty. These desk titles should be more urgently forgotten. They create delusion in the mind of the title holder. Give a person a title and they become a caricature; especially when it comes with power. We are to be our own teacher and our own pupil in the new “Church” which is coming into being. It becomes a personal responsibility to grow in the personal lesson being taught in the circumstances being experienced. Mistakes?? They always happen. Some may say this is humanist nonsense. It’s not! The most powerful experiences are those with a touch of crucifixion. And, there can be a touch of resurrection if a person is open to it.
Fosco | 23 April 2021


Hello, Fosco: The elimination of history by both force and revisionist invention, targeting an international religious institution that has a long experience, and memory of humanity, and, despite failings of its members, significant influence for the good even in these sceptical and amnesiac times; and its replacement with a man-made utopia . . . Where have we heard this before? And where are we hearing it now in 'cancel-culture' form? If my memory serves me correctly, Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, imagined for the immediate future -at least in the West - "a numerically smaller yet still international community of disciples personally committed to Christ's truth and active witnesses to it" - more, I'd hope you recognise, than just "correct", and embracing the Christ's cross and resurrection as realities of everyday life and the means of the world's salvation.
John RD | 24 April 2021


john frawley: I recall your having posed that critical question about assumed enlightenment by the Holy Spirit previously. Perhaps your persistence and the relevance of your question will elicit a response this time?
John RD | 24 April 2021


Steve: If what I hear in the ACCCR's main demands for reform are indicative - revising Catholic Church structures with the 'empowerment' of women's ordination, re-defining marriage, overriding the Church's papal and episcopal magisterium with an organised 'vox populi' that rejects hierarchy and apostolic tradition per se as initiated by Christ in forming and gathering what New Testament scholar Gerhard Lohfink (who takes history very seriously because of the Incarnation) calls God's newly covenanted "eschatological community of faith", then the needs of the "voiceless'' whom Frs Lou Lachal, Phil Crotty, Hans Hendricks, Tony Herbert, Ken McNamara. Peter Doherty and many other Australian Jesuits in India - and you, here, serve -remain unspoken. Your call and mission, and their witness, are unmistakably from and among Christ's poor and powerless, Steve: you are, for most of us, a direct, sustained presence of the Church among our affluent society's 'losers', 'embarrassments', abandoned and outsiders. Your voice, if anyone's, is, I believe, qualified and representative of those you walk with and serve daily - and would be a breath of fresh air from a PC agenda proposals currently dominated here by ecclesial structural reforms I can't hear as even a distant echo of the daily cries of those among whom you live and minister.
John RD | 25 April 2021


John RD I sometimes wonder at your regurgitated defense of the status quo (which has proven to be the protection of Holy mother church at the continued expense of victims rights) - leading to the further question of: are you are a paid shill in the employ of the Vatican?
Francis Armstrong | 25 April 2021


John Frawley, as your provocative post of 23 April was a response to my post of 22 April, I offer just a couple of limited remarks in response. First, I note that you do not offer any arguments against the need for constant renewal of the Church nor any arguments to support the proposed virtual or ‘multi-model’ nature of the Plenary Council in October, and that you choose to condemn not only those seeking renewal and reform of our Church but indeed the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as ‘Protestantising’ and ‘destroying’ Catholicism. Clearly, the views of those seeking renewal are in alignment with Church teaching as determined by Vatican II. Your condemnation of Vatican II indicates your lack of commitment to Church teachings. For the record, I did not state that arguments for renewal are “truly inspired by the Holy Spirit”; I asked for considered reform from “relationships informed by conversing, listening, understanding, and discernment truly open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” I hope that’s what all Catholics want.
Peter Johnstone | 25 April 2021


End your fanciful wondering, Francis - I'm just a Catholic appreciative of the faith of our fathers and mothers; and one who sees good as greater than evil in the Catholic Church's history, has affection and respect for her Apostolic tradition as stronger than disaffection and dismissal, and believes her her authoritative magisterium to be the ultimate source of Christ's light on faith and morals in the world, discernible primarily through personal and ecclesial spiritual reform rather than a structural revolution that I can't recognise as endorsed by Vatican II. I also believe that genuine efforts have been are still are being made to ensure the voices of clerical abuse victims have been and are being heard through episcopally initiated structural reforms and informal outreach, the forgiveness of victims is being sought, and restitution - as far as possible - is being made: evidence of goodwill and reform that deserves, I consider, acknowledgment; as Fr Frank Brennan SJ has recently stated in "Studies" (referred to on another ES thread posting).
John RD | 26 April 2021


Peter Johnstone. Thank you for the courtesy of your reply to my post above. Please accept my apology if I have misinterpreted what I have perceived as the belief amongst the reformers that they are singularly inspired by the Holy Spirit and act wholly through that inspiration. It may surprise you when I claim to be a reformer who believes that significant reform is essential in today's Church. To me, however, that reform is needed in the secular aspects of administration in a rapidly changing world wherein Christ continues to reveal much that he has created in his own time and which demands significant changes in some man made established dogma and/or practice. My dissatisfaction with reform applies to those reforms that demand that the Church must change those incontrovertible truths established by Christ and delegated to his ordained priesthood, not the laity, for safe keeping "until the end or recorded time". The wake of Vat II has not re-settled to calm but has produced ongoing turbulence. Reform - yes! but stick to those man made things that need reform and don't expect that the Holy Spirit is going to speak to those who choose to change the Church he founded in trinity with the Father and the Son; eg, reform the teaching on contraception to conform with the recent revelation of previously unrecognised truths of God's creation through the electron microscope while ,eg, leaving the priesthood and marriage alone rather than conforming to modern fashion rather than Christ's teaching in the name of the Trinity. Fashions change and die away - God is immutable and lives forever. Let's hope the PC settles the turbulence and puts both the divine and the human, the sacred and the profane in their appointed places. However, when we are dealing with the human that might well be a forlorn hope!
john frawley | 26 April 2021


JohnRD demonstrates ways in which a new status quo is legitimised and naturalised by a discourse that excludes alternatives. This is done is through an apparently civil norm, such as posting a message of support for a Steve Sinn, whose opinions are opposed to his own, yet it permits no real debate. While observing all the official niceties of being loyal to Sinn, JohnRD's language then reflects the triumph of this closed discourse. He casts aside the Jesuit authenticity to gospel values in the light of culture (praxis) while insisting on firm rules for all times. His ecclesiology then subtly co-opts several other Jesuits to support his view. John shouldn't get off lightly in parading his openness to differing perspectives by urging us all to participate in his kind of conversation. It's an invitation we can't refuse, and the terms having been set, we must be careful of buying into it without being aware of and exposing its fault-lines. This is the language of public relations masquerading as the language of approbation. It involves the debasement of conversation based upon a subtle usurpation and distortion of Fr Sinn's views and offers us conjuring tricks that put him in his place.
Michael Furtado | 27 April 2021


Continued from my prior post: Thus social justice and evangelisation are held up as the ideal, while roadblocks are placed in their way. John's formulaic posts are signifiers of decorum; but their prime purpose is to exclude unseemly questioning of the essential disfunctionality of the existing system. Now the topic here, remember, is not the behaviour of some latter day anti-Catholic Maria Monk, a person eager to grasp every nettle, tug it up by the roots and lash at the face of the Evil Empire with it. This is Professor Emeritus John Warhurst who has quite properly denounced insupportable conduct by those controlling the Synod process. Courage should have required JohnRD to support Warhurst. Having failed to silence him with a strategy of forthright opposition, JohnRD now chooses to drive a wedge between him and Fr Sinn. In the past John has described Warhurst's behaviour as not only wrong-minded but divisive of the Catholic Church, especially at a time when we require unity and need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems. At a time when conservatism has collapsed and life-giving divisiveness is on top of the Wanted list, the Synod is our only Sign of Hope!
Michael Furtado | 27 April 2021


Thanks again John for keeping us informed about PC progress or lack of it. 17500 might sound like a big response to the listening sessions. For my own parish, it equated to about half of 1 per cent of active Catholics and about one twentieth of 1 per cent of nominal Catholics. The responders were given ten minutes to write their needs on a small post-it note. Nation-wide, the per centage responses appear to be even weaker. If apathy is a reason, I sense it is not mere laziness but an induced apathy resulting from communication failure. I also sense that those out of contact with church are much better Christians, closer to God, than is imagined.
John Casey | 27 April 2021


Thanks for the information Peter Johnstone.
Frank S | 27 April 2021


I have to give Michael Furtado due credit for his fertile imagination, which this time has exceeded all previous exercises of it I've encountered in this forum. Michael, the reality is I'm not nearly as street-smart or fiendishly Machiavellian as you make me out to be. Nor, while I demonstrably disagree with him and the ACCCR he represents on a number of significant matters, do I have the personal disrespect for John Warhurst that you attribute to me. It seems to me from previous postings that it's you who wish to exclude from exchange here ideas contrary to your own. And I wish to make it clear - for the last time, I hope - that it's your opinions and frequent mode of high-handed personal deflection from the issues at hand which I find disagreeable - far more so than John Warhurst's views and their impersonal manner of presentation. In fact, I sometimes find myself wondering if JW ever finds himself wondering, given the extremity of some views expressed: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"
John RD | 28 April 2021


John RD , Protestant thinking in the face of autocratic, immature attempts at brainwashing the laity - meted out by a hierarchy of Bishops who owe their allegiance, loyalty and their postings to the Vatican. is a sign of emerging laity maturity. Interesting to see that Coleridge has back pedaled on Joan Chittister. I hope he (and Commensoli) live to regret it. No doubt he thinks by acting as consigliere, that will endear him to the (silent) masses he hopes will park their bottoms in his comfortable cathedral and fill his weekly collection tins. In the meantime I have to agree with Peter Johnstone that the Bishops are using Covid to their own advantage to avoid being confronted by those who have every right to rock the boat during the plenary storm that will erupt the sea of Galilee. Further, though I'm confounded to admit it, I actually agree with MF here for once that the smooth talking John RD, upholder of the "episcopal magisterium", in contrast to we, the hoi polloi 'vox populi' that reject hierarchy, secularism and apostolic tradition - do require a resurrection of female empowerment from their tomb in this church, including ordination. Further all the roadblocks you throw up in favour of the status quo will not sway said vox populi. And for God's sake, can you stop using latin catch phrases to legitimize the psuedo sermons.
Francis Armstrong | 28 April 2021


Hello Michael: “a new status quo is legitimised and naturalised by a discourse that excludes alternatives”, I agree. About 30% of comments are from John RD (which he has every right to express). But it’s not John manipulating “discourse” it’s Eureka Street. There are two significant exclusions in ES’s “discourse management”: the German Church’s synod, which even conservative American websites report, even if to criticise, and we, the 90% ex- pew sitters. If Harvey Normal were to lose 90% of its customers their market research people would not want to be hearing from just the clients in their shops. There is only the occasional reference about us, but no discussion from us. My comments are constantly censored. John Frawley (speaking on our behalf) insinuates that we have stopped shopping at Harvey Normal because of Vatican II: a totally uninformed comment!
Fosco | 28 April 2021


If the laity is "brainwashed", Francis Armstrong, I'd say it's ourselves we have to blame - along with the creeping dumbing-down of our education system over the past four decades, especially in languages and humanities - the decline is evident when ACCCR reformists think it's merely "rules" I wish to retain and place as roadblocks to necessary and legitimate reform. Here endeth the "sermon" - for now.
John RD | 29 April 2021


Saying ES editorial practice is "manipulative" seems to me a pretty loose and unjustified shot, Fosco. On what do you base your assertion that "90% ex-pew sitters" are excluded? As a self-confessed member of that group, you receive a fair run as a commentator since your relatively recent arrival in the post box, no?
John RD | 29 April 2021


Fosco. I look forward to your informed comment as to why the 90% to whom you refer have abandoned shopping at Harvey Norman. It would be very helpful for ignoramuses like myself who clearly cry out for the ENLIGHTENMENT that was promised by Vat II but clearly failed as far as the 90% is concerned - or should that be the 10% like John RD and me who still foolishly shop at Harvey Norman. This is but a plea to back up the rhetoric in the hope that I might understand and benefit at long last - after some 57 years of progressive confusion, controversy and contraction of Catholicism.
john frawley | 29 April 2021


Is the PC getting bogged down in documents and this is why people are having a problem keeping up with it. Or else waiting until the intellectuals have argued the points? Jesus is still with us, as He promised. Meanwhile other Christians are for instance Praying for Australia. With online events, speaking out against the snares of the evil one. Yes it does exist. And Jesus is the only saving redemption. we need to stop criticising other Christians and take an ecumenical approach like Pope Francis and Prince Philip to be in touch to feed my lambs, feed my sheep that Jesus commanded. Feed them with His teachings, fill minds and hearts to know Him, love Him and serve Him. I abhor the fact that after a one hour Sunday Mass come out and talk for 15 minutes or so and not a peep about the significance of what the way Jesus spoke to them in the beautiful words of liturgy, or the priests homily of teaching, commentary and relevance to our world. So much waste.
Mary Nola | 29 April 2021


John RD: ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies?’ Michael Furtado’s use of some kind of political sociology of psycholinguistics to diagnose a ‘talk and block’ stratagem seems to describe what Bill Burke in the Father Ross Jones thread wants to do, keep talking about a closed magisterial judgement, such as Humanae vitae, to block it from staying closed. A tool doesn’t care who uses it and, unfortunately, Michael’s petard doesn’t care whom it hoists.
roy chen yee | 29 April 2021


John Frawley - your comments are consistently based on a view that Vat II "clearly failed" and introduced "some 57 years of progressive confusion, controversy and contraction of Catholicism." If that's what you think of the highest level of Church decision-making, from where do you get your confidence as to your own very dubious view of Christianity and Catholicism? I'll defend your right to question Church decision-making but the wholesale dismissal of the teachings of the church's most recent ecumenical council seems to indicate you want to start your own Church, and undermines the value of your contribution to any discussion of the Church's urgent need for reform.
Peter Johnstone | 30 April 2021


Roy: I think we're seeing what happens when truth - particularly truth expressed by the Church's magisterium and accessible by reason and faith, developed in accord with Christ's authority and commissioning of the Apostles, is subordinated to the intellectual fashions of the age - in the case of our era, a radical scepticism and a "dictatorship of relativism" (Benedict XVI) that attends it. Nowhere, in my experience, is this more evident than in many western academies and their captive audiences in assocaited bodies.. It's also a phenomenon that parades its 'avant-garde' pretensions in varieties of "post-modern" guise, particularly in Language and Humanities Departments and characteristically refuses to engage in argument when its philosophical and ideological axioms are questioned. Increasingly when confronted by this latter day sophistry, I hear the words of Cato the Elder - though I don't utilise them to commend resistance other than the means approved by the Church today: informedness about the faith, a willingness to share it with those in and outside the Church in word and action, and a close relationship with Christ nourished by regular sacramental life. I also agree that the regurgitation of issues to which the Church has conscientiously responded within her athoritative competence keeps the notion and practice in play that everything she teaches on faith and morals is open to radical revision and opposition.
John RD | 30 April 2021


Hello John Frawley: The mass walk-out experienced by the Catholic Church since about the mid 60’s in Western countries has also happened with the mainstream Protestant Churches which did not have a Vatican II. Buddhism in Japan –an Asian society on par with the West in terms of education, technology, economics etc. – is experiencing much the same crisis as Christianity. While I agree with the changes being called for by progressive Catholics, I do not think they will make much difference. Those changes have already happened in the Uniting Church which, despite very faithful and devout people, remains on the same decline. Cardinal Ratzinger’s solution of fortifying the siege walls in the affluent West is leading to a cult with lots of real estate. When Pope John called the council I think he was right that change was needed – Dietrich Bonhoeffer said much the same. But I do not think John – if I am permitted to question a pope – understood the depth. Vatican II failed because something bigger is happening. Way back then, when I was a young man, I returned to the peasant village of my birth, and stayed for a week in the very house I was born in, in the very same room. I became acquainted with a retired aunt, born over a century ago, whom I did not know. For forty years she had worked as the housekeeper to a cousin priest. She had never married and had not had children. She had become the village favorite aunty to all the teenage girls. “They tell me everything”, she told me. “Everything” did mean everything. The young women where herself, only two generations later; experiencing Italian life two generations later. Comparing her life experience with that of the young women of the same village, “an epoch is over”, she said.
Fosco | 30 April 2021


Hello John RD: thank you for creating the opportunity for me to justify my existence; “your relatively recent arrival in the post box”: really? I was baptized a catholic three days after I was born, I received the sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation (I do not know if they are still called that) by ordained catholic priests, twelve years of catholic schools, grow up in a catholic parish, my mother was a devout catholic went to 6.30am mass every morning. I even did something unheard of and extraordinary for a catholic pew sitter: studied the Bible. What more do I need to make comments in a Catholic Church magazine? But I have even greater authority to vouch for my catholic credentials. Humanist friends call me a catholic. That’s because I tell them that the profound questions on the “meaning of life” are still unanswered, even after 19th century social sciences. As for the 90% ex-pew sitters, if Christianity fails to re-engage it is Dead as a mainstream religion.
Fosco | 30 April 2021


Since ES is a space we hope may employ our minds freely in logical thinking or, failing that, at least become aware of avoidable error, one unavoidable thread here is about why we aren't intrigued enough by why we are so at odds in our judgments and decisions. (For instance, despite the information glut we're hopeless at prediction.) What is it about us that inclines us to instant divisiveness and not a propensity to build friendships that change minds? What is it in our wayward mental processes that fails to bring new life to that branch of faith adherence which we call ‘behavioural’? Why is there so much polarisation and disagreement here? At a time when we lament uncertainty in our country, conflict in our body politic, and divisiveness in our Church, where are the collaborative contributors who show and practice the value of ‘adversarial collaboration’ and can help us diagnose and refine our ‘mental accounting’? Irrational we may be in many of our thoughts and decisions, but in this one prediction: our intuition and our reason are seldom in disagreement! Therefore, if Jesus was a counselor and a rabbi wouldn't he have understood the consequences of what He started?
Michael Furtado | 30 April 2021


Mary Nola: ‘….after a one hour Sunday Mass come out and talk for 15 minutes or so and not a peep about the significance of what the way Jesus spoke to them in the beautiful words of liturgy, or the priests homily of teaching, commentary and relevance to our world. So much waste.’ True. But…. There’s a bit of Scripture about the tongue. I’m always a bit wary of conversation after Mass because you never know what kind of workout someone’s tongue will give itself. It seems a waste that after all that sanctifying effort by the Mass, it’s very easy outside to slip without noticing the irony into being very ordinary.
roy chen yee | 30 April 2021


Peter Johnstone. I am more than open to changing my "very dubious view of Christianity and Catholicism" based in the main on Christ's teachings and promises to his church [followers] recorded in scripture [the word of God] and affirmed through tradition and the magisterium. Clearly I am in need of help to repair the flaws in my thinking. It would be helpful if you could simply outline those reforms of Vat II, other than the reassessment of the relationship of the Church to other Christian denominations, that demand changes to long established practice and teaching. Also could you outline those errors that Christ made in establishing his Church and where your understanding of the need for reform has its origins. I would suggest that the big exodus of practising Catholics had its origins in the disappointments of Vat II, namely, those that altered established practice and beliefs without obvious necessity; and those that failed to provide what certain elements in the Church wanted for their own benefits [eg, a married priesthood, female ordination to priesthood, gender equality in all things]. I would suggest that such things are man made and man serving rather than God serving. Without God's say so, I find it difficult to find a place for them in his Church. Vat II would have found that place had that been God's intent through the Holy Spirit. I doubt the Holy Spirit would have orchestrated the need for reform which would turn so many away from Christ and the Church. If it is the Holy Spirit that drives such matters I reckon he is capable of sorting things out without the help of undelegated human beings.
john frawley | 01 May 2021


john frawley: I think some of the more subversive 'take-away' lessons that many who no longer express active, public affiliation with the Church mistakenly gleaned from Vatican II - partly encouraged by some unusually ambiguous formulations but also largely by media prominence awarded to interpretations of Council documents by celebrity theologians, including notions that the liturgy was a laboratory for experimentation informed by an assumed relevance at on the part of the local PP and/or liturgy committees; that the Eucharist was an instrument for creating ecumenical unity as opposed to an expression of unity already achieved by and in Christ; that pre-Vatican II understanding of ecclesiology, particularly Catholic Church hierarchical structure, was outdated and dispensable; that personal conscience is a more reliable guide than Church moral teaching; and that sacraments such as Reconciliation and the Eucharist are optional extras, expressed often in the mantra: "You don't have to go to Mass to be a good Christian." These, it seems to me, are still with us in the new 'orthodoxies' manifest in a number of Plenary Council proposals - which comes as no surprise as the initiative and momentum of ACCCR comes mainly from that 1960s Conciliar generation. Christ's teaching, while certainly relevant to his times, transcends them, and was not determined by the intellectual currency and convention of his day, including that of his Jewish culture and the pagan world. He taught with truth, wisdom and authority, as the Gospels show, from above. So must his Church, manifesting as St Paul, calling for conversion from self-centredness, exhorts, "that mind which is in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5), the source of a unity grounded in no less than the life of the Blessed Trinity itself.
John RD | 03 May 2021


John RD. You have clearly identified the big problem with Vat II. namely, the belief in some quarters (epitomised by the reformers) that the council intended to hand the ordinance of the Church over to the laity. That of course is manifestly untrue as well documented in Lumen Gentium. The real thing that irks the reformers is that Vat II did not alter those teachings of the Church that didn't serve their own beliefs and desires. But even worse, under the guidance of every Pope since Vat II, the hierarchy [with some notable exceptions amongst the ranks] failed to meet the disappointments by refusing to implement the changes the reformers wanted, changes not to be found or approved in the Vat II documents, particularly not in the four binding Apostolic Constitutions. Faced with fact and truth which goes against the reformist grain, however, it is sad that they refuse to proffer any argument or any sound evidence for the reforms they want. That refusal is no doubt due to the fact that when challenged they cannot come up with valid reasons for the particular reforms they want. So it is highly unlikely that this comment or yours will be addressed.
john frawley | 03 May 2021


MF, consider the second verse of GK Chesterton's "oh God of Earth and Alter" "From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men, from sale and profanation of honour and the sword, from sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!"
Francis Armstrong | 03 May 2021


Thanks, john f. I take take no joy, let alone entertainment, in repeatedly insisting on a citing of and respect for primary sources in matters of Catholic Church teaching and their relevance to proposals for the Plenary Council. In fact, I find it disappointing and anomalous that the ACCCR finds it necessary to turn to external influence in pursuit of theological buttressing of their more radical proposals for the Church in Australia when its emphasis hitherto with regard to the Plenary Council process has been on local initiative and involvement. Further, as I've indicated elsewhere in recent ES posts, I question radically the value of the ACCCR's constructing what is effectively a parallel structure to be staged concurrently with the next stage of the Council.
John RD | 05 May 2021


Yesterday I read the introductory sample chapters of Professor Warhurst's book, Wrestling with the Church Hierarchy, about to be released. It was worthwhile. It is accessible by googling Garrett Publishing - book of the month.
john frawley | 05 May 2021


I do not question John Warhurst's sincerity, academic qualification and organisational competence. However, I do question his understanding of "equality" between men and women as a societal relationship which appears be predicated on role competitiveness rather than complementarity, and to overlook the distinctive value, skills and benefit to society of women as wives, mothers and home-makers, occupied instead with opportunity for females to replicate contemporary workforce and sporting activities of males - a phenomenon more aptly called "homogenisation" than "equality". I differ also from the assertion in the opening paragraph of Chapter 2 of "Wrestling with the Church Hierarchy" that "Church renewal can only be understood and achieved in the context of sociology, government, and politics of the Church in Australia" on the grounds that its stated reference points for renewal are entirely secular - ones that reflect the character of key ACCCR proposals for reform. Not a mention of Catholic faith from which all Church reform proceeds. I question, too, the notion that the "sensus fidelium" is necessarily "revealed in the submissions to the PC" - the "sense of the faithful" applies to the universal Church, not a small self-described "ginger group" (p.2) obviously well-versed and practised in strategies and tactics (e.g., networking, conferences, publishing) instrumental to their cause. Misuse of the term "sensus fidelium" is nowhere more evident in John Warhurst's advocating of the "eliminating" of hierarchy from "events like the Plenary Council assemblies." (p.47). This is more than a "wrestling": it suggests more of a tossing-out of bishops from an arena where they have every right and obligation to be.
John RD | 06 May 2021


Francis, Thanks for the Chestertonian reference but I was alluding to Matt, 10:34. Society and cultural groups maintain a certain superficial order and peace by creating boundaries and identities that 'other' us from outsiders or enemies or arbitrarily excluded individuals or groups. By highlighting difference, we inflate our own superiority and devalue the humanity of others, sometimes violently victimising them. This social peace removes from sight and attention other potentially destabilising problems within the community, and always has a price to pay for its excluded victims. Matthew's passage seems to be saying that peace would result from facing problems and learning to love and to forgive. Unless individuals and societies learn to relate in mutual respect, love and readiness to forgive, our social peace is always unstable. As the death of Jesus gradually sensitises people over the centuries to the truth of the innocent victim, we find it increasingly difficult to maintain stable peace within our ranks unless we also choose to follow the non-violent ways of Jesus. If we do not, we experience ever more frequently the sword that Jesus foresaw, the inevitably escalating chaos that Matthew describes so vividly here and in many of Christ's parables and teachings..
Michael Furtado | 06 May 2021


John RD, John Warhurst is right to suggest their elimination from the PC. The hierarchy talk the talk but don't walk the walk. The PC should firmly concentrate on reform of a cancer of child abuse and suicide in our midst. To address elimination and vengeance against the mongrel clergy wolves. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world for the causes of sin. These stumbling blocks must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!…Matt 18.6. One of the boys raped by Ridsdale was 4 years old. Tell us why Pell is not here running this orchestrated charade? 8 months ago he left to "clean his flat out in Rome!" Why hasn't Francis reinstated Bill Morris? Why is Rome harboring all these hollow men? Why doesn't Pope Francis get on a plane and attend? Why is their a need for secretive selection of candidates and a 2 week intensive indoctrination process? To school their way of thinking? To ensure that the Bishops edicts are blandly swallowed? To weed out any boat rockers that might have slipped though the carefully sewn PC net? "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matt 5:13.
Francis Armstrong | 07 May 2021


For those who may be interested, the conservative American website (National catholic register, google ncregester) has posted an interesting article on the German Synod, where progressive Catholics seem to be controlling the agenda. The article summarizes a letter from the Rev. Alexander Garth, who is pastor of Martin Luther’s parish – “mother of the church of the Reformation”. The letter was published in the German “Vatican Magazin”. The Lutheran pastor counsels AGAINST protestant-like reforms. A summary quote: Such “reformers” in the Catholic Church, Rev. Garth believes, should become Protestant as in the Protestant churches “you will find everything you are fighting for: woman priests, a synodal constitution, married pastors, feminism.” I do read both conservative and progressive voices, although not agreeing with either – one is the voice of the past and the other is not the future – I did find some of Rev Garth observations interesting.
Fosco | 07 May 2021


I think one of the things needful for the Catholic Church in this country is that its hierarchy become a bit more attuned to where the average pew sitter is. This is more a matter of simple psychology than anything doctrinal. Some of their predecessors, such as the late Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat, who was both blind and tone deaf to the most appalling child sexual abuse in his diocese, echo the Bishop in Barchester Towers. Sadly, this autocratic example lives on. There are sane reforms, which I doubt this PC will discuss, such as the introduction of married priests in the Latin Rite and decent reimbursement for them. They must also stop being treated as a servant class by their superiors. The Irish Church became rigid and hierarchical in response to and in imitation of the Ascendancy. Catholics are no longer seen as second class citizens in Australia and do not need to be protected from a putative Protestant Establishment. The Church needs to grow up and move on. Steve Sinn is quite right. You cannot exercise real spiritual authority unless you have pastored to the disadvantaged. Jesuits, who often come from very comfortable backgrounds, do this. The hierarchy, with some rare and praiseworthy exceptions, seem to do the opposite and often live a remote and privileged life. Sad that.
Edward Fido | 08 May 2021


Fosco. The Lutheran pastor seems to have it right!!
john frawley | 08 May 2021


Just one more article on the National Catholic Register on movements in the German church: this one reports on radical support from progressive bishops for blessing of same-sex unions. Although the NCR is conservative –they supported Trump big time – it does report events in Germany, even if to warn of the coming of some dark age. For the institutional Catholic Church it may well be that our German sisters and brothers are heading for something. But, there is a more worldly aspect. Through German’s voluntary charity tax, the German church gets about $10b per year. The problem they are facing is people are opting out of the tax because of the clergy sex abuse scandals. Estimates suggest that about a third of Catholics could leave. A potential drop of a third in revenue could provide some motivation for the bishops to be more relevant to the society they claim to serve. Of course, no such revenue problems exist here. Government funding (as it should for valuable work) just keeps on coming. With the money rolling in we can set the temperature of discussion at a comfortable snooze.
Fosco | 08 May 2021


America Magazine also has articles on same-sex union blessing in the German church and its synod.
Fosco | 08 May 2021


Hello John: I’m following what our German sisters and brothers are doing because over there “there’s movement at the station”. Over here the horses are asleep. Some say that’s what the horses should be doing. But I disagree. St Peter’s is the most guttered, re-guttered, renovated stable in much beloved Europa. “It’s Time”, as the great man said, for at least some renovation. If those with a deeper understanding of than I of Australia’s people of God advise a less frightening of the horses than out German brethren then so be it. The reason why I agree that it’s time for institutional change is because God’s people have already moved there.
Fosco | 09 May 2021


Fosco. Unfortunately God's people, unlike God, make a lot of mistakes.
john frawley | 10 May 2021


As reported in both NCR (conservative) and America Magazine (progressive) but not reported in Eureka Street, German Progressives in over a hundred churches all over the country conducted blessings of same-sex unions, contrary to Vatican ruling. A Jesuit, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, conducted blessings in Berlin. “I am convinced that homosexual orientation is not bad, nor is homosexual love a sin,” is quoted. This is occurring in the context of the German synod which is getting constant coverage in both platforms but not in ES. Nothing in Eureka Street, strange that?
Fosco | 11 May 2021


John Frawley: ‘mistakes’. Mistakes are unintentional errors. Many of God’s people err intentionally, which may be why, to hark to Binoy Kampmark’s most recent article, we don’t have a Charter of Human Rights. Not that the lack of a charter prevents intentional errors from being fossilised into law.
roy chen yee | 12 May 2021


Fosco, same sex blessings have been forbidden by the Vatican even though they have sanctioned same sex civil unions - ostensibly to protect property rights. Vigano says homosexuality and pedophilia are linked. MF denies this but he's only one opinion. Despite the numbers reported to the RC on the latter, (which only addressed institutional abuse) Prof Coyle the most experienced psychologist in this arena in Australia, says the accurate number of child sex abuse cases in Australia is close to 600,000. If the average down to Tykes is 60% (as per institutional abuse) then Catholicism is responsible for roughly 360,000 cases over the past decade. There are seven archdioceses and 32 dioceses, with an estimated 3,000 priests and 9,000 men and women in institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, including six dioceses which cover the whole country. If we are generous and accept that 50% fall off the celibate wagon, then there are approximately 6000 non celibate clergy. What is puzzling is that only 100 clergy have been charged here. And Italy? Which controls the fate of Australian Catholics? The Italian Government has a treaty with the Vatican that guarantees areas of immunity to Vatican officials, including bishops and priests. This has reportedly made it difficult to get accurate figures as to how many priests and other religious officials are alleged to have committed sexual abuse. In October 2018, however, Italian victim rights group Rete l'Abuso asserting that the Italian justice system has treated about 300 cases of predator priests and nuns and netted 150–170 convictions since the year 2000. Wikipedia. Three former students have claimed abuse and 65 former students signed statements saying that they or other students were abused by Catholic priests when attending the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf, a Catholic school for deaf children in Verona, Italy. The abuse is alleged to have occurred from the 1950s to 1980s, and was reportedly conducted by 24 priests, including the late bishop of Verona. If we think about the numbers and that 90% of offenders have not been charged, then we shouldn't get sidetracked about Germany and trivializing the real issues here.
Francis Armstrong | 12 May 2021


Francis Armstrong. In a hearing of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children in Geneva in May 2014 Vatican representatives reported that 848 priests had been defrocked and 2572 others punished [??how??], representing the total number of cases worldwide brought to attention over the decade 2004-2014, many of those dating back to earlier decades, predominantly in the 1960s, 70s and 80s - the decades of enlightenment following Vat II.
john frawley | 13 May 2021


While no one disagrees with Francis Armstrong (not even, on occasion, the objurgating Roy!) about the evils of child abuse, one has to wonder why the sexual abuse issue absorbs so much of his time? What exactly is he trying to achieve and who is he trying to convince when everybody, repeat EVERYBODY, knows about the calamitous inability of so many, supposedly committed to celibacy, from exercising the ordinary everyday disciplines regarding assaulting minors. For Francis's sake, let's gently nudge his gramophone needle onto the rest of the record and what do we hear? That nearly everyone on record and the vast majority of Catholics, including a majority of clergy and many bishops, agree that celibacy should be optional and that priests, both female and male (as they ought to be!) should be allowed to marry. This would enable not only celibacy to be practiced by those who are called to it, but also ensure that the normal and healthy human appetite for sexual intimacy is open to all who seek to marry, including homosexual women and men (like me). As to Francis casting doubt on my assertion of no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, see: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/10/22/no-homosexuality-not-risk-factor-sexual-abuse-children. And also: https://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html
Michael Furtado | 13 May 2021


Hello Francis: My comment was intended to draw attention to German progressives demanding fundamental institutional change via their synod process. It is not about the particular issue of blessing same-sex unions. America Magazine, a Jesuit platform, is giving a lot of coverage to events in Germany. Given that the Australian church is likewise going through a formal process with the PC, it puzzles me that no attention is given to events there. As for the blame game: the Vatican was blaming the 60’s Sexual Revolution even when their records showed that was untrue – as the RC established. Carlo Maria Vigano???? I have nothing whatsoever to say about the archbishop. On the issue you raise, I agree with Michael. With the tragedy of clerical child sex abuse, Suzanne Smith’s “The Altar Boys” speaks for me.
F | 13 May 2021


Notwithstanding my insignificance as a layperson, the lengthy correspondence evinced by John Warhurst's steady and measured fervorino, and in the aftermath of a inspirational address by Sr Chittister, suggests that the Bishops have so far planned to do nothing to alter the landscape of the Synod in ways in which the Holy Spirit can be seen to be forging a way through the stalemate in consultation, participation and topicality that has surfaced as concerns of lay Catholics around Australia. While Archbishop Coleridge's introductory words at the first convocation were highly welcoming and a measure of his personal endorsement of healing the rupture that exists, my view is that he feels that he lacks the authority to carry the majority of the episcopate in his support. (The Congregational Leaders would, I think, be far more flexible but would also join him in declining to divide the bishops). At the heart of this dilemma is the weighing of scales that the bishops must be agonising over in regard to whether any concessions on their part would drive 'no-change' Catholics towards leaving. Please God the Bishops exercise the courage to withstand the power-brokers and choose what is right, rather than succumb to blackmail!
Michael Furtado | 20 May 2021


MF it has absorbed a lot of my time because the Bishops havent sanctioned the offenders and the vast majority are still in situ. As for married priesthood I agree. They ordain married Anglican and Greek Orthodox priests as Catholic priests yet married men who are Catholic are incapable of being ordained. And as Roy has said I've also been "tub thumping" for equal rights for women in this hypocritical organization - including ordination. It irks me that whenever the Vatican want to put a legitimate debate to bed, they smear it with a wafer thin paste of infallibility and expect "the laity" to calmly accept that indigestible tripe. As for the PC, its a rigged game and the sheople that have been carefully chosen will say exactly what the Bishops tell them to. PJ is right. Its business as usual. Power, pomp, lifestyle, control, clericalism and "canon Law" will hold sway over the wind of necessary social change.
Francis Armstrong | 20 May 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘ 'no-change' Catholics towards leaving….’ Repressed wishful thinking? So-called ‘no change’ Catholics would be the last people to leave the institution. To whom would they go? The institution has the keys to eternal life. If need be, Campion colleges, Latin mass chaplaincies and many parishes will provide homes.
roy chen yee | 21 May 2021


Roy Chen Yee's daring recent post below (21/5) tragically confirms for the Bishops their and my worst fears about the reaction that any sign of further renewal within the Church will evoke from die-hard fundamentalists. While hoping and praying for unity, I would condemn Roy's position in absolute terms. For such people to hold a pistol to the heads of the Bishops is akin to threatening schism. While I wish this weren't the case, should there be any truth in Roy's threat, I hope the Bishops take note of it and exercise the courage and wisdom to do what is right rather than to cave into blackmail.
Michael Furtado | 23 May 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘For such people to hold a pistol to the heads of the Bishops is akin to threatening schism.’ Too see fantasies in dreams is one thing, to see them while awake is another. Where in my post is there a threat of schism? When the traditional mass was withdrawn, some absconded but most took it as a Cross to be borne in fealty and discipline to the institution of the One True Church until God permitted sense to return to the temporal authorities of the institution. Michael’s ‘fervorino’ is merely his being feverish.
roy chen yee | 24 May 2021


M.F.: If radical reformers were to have their demands for change met, it would not be your so-called 'no change' Catholics who would be moving away from the Church; rather, it would be a case of the Church in Australia moving away from them. In any event, I think in reality the melodramatic scenario you envisage is, to say the least, highly unlikely.
John RD | 25 May 2021


Roy Chen Yee scoffs at my supposedly alarmist predictions of schism. However his reference to 'Campion colleges' and 'Latin mass chaplaincies' would be enough to enable ES readers as well as some Bishops to decode the schism to which I allude. St Edmund Campion's illustrious name, revered by English Jesuits, is now diminished by the extent to which it is misused to promote a brand of Catholicism that is effectively out of kilter with the Catholicism of Pope Francis as well as, on evidence, held by those Jesuits who publish in these columns. The same has to said of the various Campion and Newman Societies that have arrogated to themselves the exclusive prerogative to promote a particular brand of Catholicism favoured by some anti-modernist bishops to the point of constituting a stranglehold on open discussion and dialogue in Australia's Catholic media. Both St Edmund Campion's name as well as St John Henry Newman's have been tarnished by this nakedly partisan bid by persons like JohnRD and Roy Chen Yee to wedge Australian and global Catholicism. The inclusion of their posts is a compliment to Eureka Street's commitment to the open and unbiased coverage denied to modernist Catholics by contemporary Campionistas.
Michael Furtado | 28 May 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘decode the schism to which I allude.’ Competition within the institution is schism from it? Are most of the writers and correspondents in these columns in schism from the Commonwealth of Australia? The political theory of ‘loyal opposition’ was developed to differentiate between disagreement and separation. Some expressions of disagreement do tip the actor into schism from the main. The New Zealand mosque shooter is, until repentant, in schism from the concepts of ‘Australia’ and ‘New Zealand’ but disagreements within boundaries do not equate to separation. Even most disagreements outside civic behavior, as with most crimes, do not necessarily excommunicate the actor from the main. Is disagreeing with the concept of a conjunctive Magisterium outside the main? Possibly not. What about disobeying it? Possibly yes. Is blessing a same-sex relationship disobeying the Magisterium? Possibly yes. Is chewing the fat in learned theological journals about blessing a same-sex relationship disobeying the Magisterium? Possibly not.
roy chen yee | 30 May 2021


Mere semantics, Roy; and a neat attempt to distract from the faulty foundations upon which your alma mater, Campion, is built. With a rector forced to vacate his seat and a panoply of former politicians like Howard and the likes of John Roskam of the Institute of Public Affairs much in demand and associated with this intellectual backwater, I'm not surprised that it has significantly abandoned the curriculum of an authentically Catholic university, such as Georgetown and Boston College, and trades in that illustrious association for the so-called Western Canon, which is what every Australian university worth its salt has scoffed at. Keep writing, Roy, so that the Bishops can inform themselves about the turgid version of Catholicism that you and Campion provide. Would that both recognised and entered the Catholic mainstream, but with Cardinal Pell now retired and George Weigel living under lockdown, now that his hero, Donald Trump, has been turfed out, I fear you are on a hiding to nothing. Campion's Brag, now that it has been contaminated by those claiming association with the Saint, should be called Roy's Boast, much like all else you publish in these columns. Chen Yee College? A more honest nomenclature, surely?
Michael Furtado | 31 May 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘intellectual backwater, I'm not surprised that it has significantly abandoned the curriculum of an authentically Catholic university, such as Georgetown and Boston College….” Which are located in … have we missed a continent somewhere?
roy chen yee | 01 June 2021


Roy, let our loyal and sometimes inspired as well as slipshod band of followers decide which one of us, or indeed both, is occasionally or permanently in schism with the Church's teachings and practices. To take one example that you introduced, viz. that of your extravagantly stage-stomping Indian tenor, the over-the-top and effulgent Freddie Mercury. Despite borrowing his pizzazz from that excuse for a genius, Jumping Jack Flash, Freddie held a nice tune or two (and memorably his what'sit Bohemian number) whereas baptised Mick is better known for his strangulating 'pantics', both on and off-stage, with women and drugs. Our Freddie was more discreet, not just hiding his gayness (to disastrous, almost 'Catholic' effect) but also his HIV status to the bitter end, poor darl. In my take on Christ, Our Precious Lord and Saviour weeps with Freddie, staying with him till the bitter end and hopefully beyond, unlike his own situation when He hung on the Cross, abandoned, except for a handful of women. So also was our Fred succoured by a handful of nuns from SS Eliizabeth & John's Hospital till he died, whereas your take would have Christ finger-waggingly proclaiming the magisterium and condemning him to hell?
Michael Furtado | 23 June 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘whereas your take would have Christ finger-waggingly proclaiming the magisterium and condemning him to hell?’ You seem to be obsessed with the idea of homosexuals going to hell. The Saviour said ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’ to the high priests by whom Pilate with his sense of Roman justice felt subverted, hence his petty vindictiveness with the INRI. However, Christ also did say that it would have been better if ‘the man of perdition’ had not been born. In the face of a seeming conundrum that an unrepentant Joseph Caiaphas was saved but not an apparently repentant Judas Iscariot, why should anyone expect to understand the mystery of salvation so well as to say who will be saved and who not?
roy chen yee | 24 June 2021


I'd hate to take that as another one of your fine-tuned 'ex-cathedra' judgments, Roy, in case it confuses my Christ - always loving, just, lavish and forgiving of our weaknesses, including your's - with your Christ who dispenses His love by the coffee-spoonful.
Michael Furtado | 25 June 2021


Michael Furtado: ‘confuses my Christ – always…lavish…with your Christ who dispenses His love by the coffee-spoonful.’ What’s to confuse? The loaves and fishes were handed out by the broken morsel. Whether by morsel or by spoon, the leftovers were counted in bushels.
roy chen yee | 26 June 2021


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