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Plenary Council rocket science a matter of trust



Politicians vying for office and churches planning plenary councils sing from the same handbooks. As with rocket launches, where the early stage rockets fall away leaving the manned capsule to go into orbit, political parties put great time and energy into the preparation of policies, running focus groups, and attracting good candidates. When the election campaign begins they drop these activities. Candidates cross the nation offering goodies, shooting down rivals and trying to get the party across the line. The election won, the trimmed ship of state sails on unencumbered.

Rocket paper-cut shape on old wood plank with rustic texture background. Credit: whyframestudio / GettyThis is commonly true also of church synods and councils. In the case of the 2020 Catholic Plenary Council, a facilitation team was empowered to seek submissions, design processes of reflection, encourage individuals and congregations to take part, and analyse the results. At the next stage it has invited interested people to help prepare working papers on the key themes. These papers will inform the agenda of the council and its deliberations.

In both political and church processes, as with launching rockets, the focus of the process is placed on the final goal of winning power or making wise decisions. The preliminary processes are seen and evaluated through this lens. What is valuable at each stage is gathered into the next and the initial processes are then dropped. From the point of view of the executive committees this tightness of focus is both logical and necessary.

From the perspective of rocket riders, lay Catholics or citizens, however, the effectiveness of the process depends on the trust in which government, bishops or management are held. In rocketry, if trust is lacking in the competence or understanding of people working at any level of the project, no one will sign off on or sit in the final stage rocket without revisiting the earlier stages. Similarly, if people do not trust the wisdom, honesty or courage of political leaders or bishops, they will not trust the processes or people managing them unless they are completely transparent.

In current Australian and Catholic public life at the moment that kind of trust appears to be lacking. Disengagement from politics and cynicism about politicians' honesty attend the political environment in many nations. In the Catholic Church, too, the crimes of sexual abuse and its cover up have weakened trust in the governance at a time when it faces challenges from diminished numbers, ageing and institutional arthritis.

In such situations any narrow focus on the final result of the process will dismay those attracted by the initial promises of consultation. The initial stages of consultation must be part of a wider commitment to consult those affected by the decisions finally made. In Australian federal politics few signs of this are evident. In response, state and local government and business groups have taken initiatives of their own to address aspects of climate change and Indigenous neglect.

In the Catholic Church the inclusive and consultative processes in the early stages of preparation for the Plenary Council are a vast improvement on previous practice. They express the desire to involve Catholics in the council. If these processes are simply dropped on completion and not kept alive in the church, however, the trust they have engendered will be lost. Space must be made for groups of Catholics to meet at local levels to continue conversation about the issues raised in the submissions. This demands a commitment by the Catholic Church.


"In a world where trust has been lost, transparency and encouragement of free conversation are necessary for its recovery. That is true both of the federal government and of the Catholic Church."


In the present climate transparency is also essential. At a minimum all the Catholics who were encouraged to take part in the process should be able to read the submissions and have available a broad analysis of the frequency with which particular recommendations are made, particularly those that raise controversial theological questions.

The bureaucratic temptation is always to minimise conflict by using generalised language. Support for the ordination of woman, for example, can be described as support for women to have a stronger place in the church. Such specific issues can then be allowed to disappear in the working documents presented to the delegates to the council. Transparency demands that the working documents be open to comparison with the submissions.

Bishops, priests and church officials will form a large majority of delegates to the council. That is understandable, given the distinctive place of bishops in the Catholic Church, and the international as well as local significance of the council. But the imbalance between lay and clerical, between men and women, has also generated mistrust and disengagement by many Catholics. This makes it all the more important that the Council be seen clearly as a step in a continuing reform of the Catholic Church through encouraging the local initiatives that were part of its preparation.

In a world where trust has been lost, transparency and encouragement of free conversation are necessary for its recovery. That is true both of the federal government and of the Catholic Church.



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Main image credit: whyframestudio / Getty

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Plenary Council



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Existing comments

Not only Trust has been lost in this world, so too has Faith - damningly so in the Catholic Church. It is said that Belief is the fragile child of Trust and Faith, a fickle mistress prone to easy seduction and sudden vaporous loss of substance. In our world it gets harder and harder to embrace Belief and that struggle is yet to be addressed by the Church. The Plenary is likely to be another unproductive talk fest like so many others when its primary aim seems to be to protect the status quo through facilitated dilution of the difficult questions rather than tackling them head on.

john frawley | 05 August 2019  

'Trust', as you make so clear, is the elephant in the room. It seems very difficult for many Catholics to consider, let alone mention. Before 'you' and 'I', both in general and particular, can have anything like a genuine connection, we need to be able to trust each other. Trust is not a simple thing, although it should be. Most times it is like a complex crystal object, beautiful but easily shattered. The ongoing paedophilia scandal and the lack of trust engendered in the Church and its hierarchy because of the scandal is obviously the main trust problem, but it is not the only trust issue. Sometimes, in the discussions which ensue from the articles in ES, I get the distinct impression that some of the commentators are indulging in mental gaming, rather than addressing the issue. Having met several people like this in my life and career that worries me, because that sort of 'gaming' behaviour, done for the person involved's own sadistic pleasure, can have a very bad effect on people who are a wee bit sensitive and trying to get something out. This behaviour is, I think, sadly quite endemic in our society. It is a pathology. I am not sure the lay and possibly non-Catholic editors of ES have the wit to ken when this is happening, or else they might think it legitimate. It can sometimes assume troll like proportions. If these editors can't get it right, how on earth can the Plenary Council? I half expect this post to be rubbished by the prime offender here. That would prove my point.

Edward Fido | 05 August 2019  

"Bishops, priests and church officials will form a large majority of delegates to the council. That is understandable, given the distinctive place of bishops in the Catholic Church..." Fr Hamilton's statement is unassailable from the point of view of the historic. Now we are entering a Church wide council in the 21st Century . The very Trust of which he writes now depends on participation --- of Bishops Priests and Laity. Together. Properly elected lay women and men. Only then can discussion occur frankly and fairly with all affected parties, and decisions have some hope of acceptance. Closed rooms and private discussions have no place in our OPEN church. Please change some basic failed behaviours. I am sure Francis will be sympathetic!

Justin Stanwix | 05 August 2019  

This article made me think: what is the Church? And for most people who sit in the pews, as well as those with Holy Orders, it is the place not of this world where they meet. How deeply personal. Do people come to Church to engage in a political struggle or to seek shelter? It is the people who do not speak, who can not speak without support and encouragement, that the Church must prioritise and give a voice to. Otherwise, it is a place of this world. Too often, trust is lacking: in leadership, in each other. I've said before and I will keep saying: the catalyst for this Plenary Council has been the sexual abuse scandal and the people driven from the pews by this are the lost sheep. John Frawley nailed it in his comment.

Pam | 06 August 2019  

The Plenary Council process does not seem to recognise the importance of the 'sensus fidei fidelium' (sense of faith of the faithful). The submissions lodged should be public in the interests of transparency and, even more importantly, to facilitate informed discussion among the people of God of the issues raised. It is of equal concern that diocesan bishops, with only a few notable exceptions, have failed to consult their people directly about the state of their diocese either before the recent 'ad lumina' visit to Rome or for the Plenary Council; most seem happy to rely on their own perceptions removed from their people. As Vatican II recorded, “the body of the faithful as a whole, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief." [Lumen Gentium, n. 12]. Respect for the sense of faith of the faithful is critical to any discernment process if it is to be truly open to the Spirit. The evidence of that respect is to date not convincing.

Peter Johnstone | 06 August 2019  

The erosion of trust and faith identified by John Frawley and Edward Fido is, I suggest, related to a serious waning of confidence in the ability of mind and language to grasp truth. Kantian epistemology and postmodern theory have contributed significantly to a hypercritical intellectual ethos that encourages an attitude of ironic indifference, often manifest in the schtick of stand-up comedians for many of whom, it seems, nothing is sacred.

John RD | 06 August 2019  

Richard Rohr. Some of the things he has been writing about and saying make a lot of sense. A little bit of fresh air.

AO | 06 August 2019  

I must, with respect, disagree with you John RD. This lack of trust is, in my opinion, not something intellectual, but a gut reaction. To me, especially speaking as an Australian, because the local scene is as bad as anywhere else, it is a question of 'Why did the authorities fail so abysmally to deal with the paedophilia crisis before it got out of hand?' and 'Can we trust the Old Firm (the names have changed but they are, by and large, the same sort of careerist apparatchiks as before) to cleanse the Augean Stables so the Catholic Church is seen as an institution to respect and that people want to join?' The answer to the second question would, sadly, be 'No.'

Edward Fido | 07 August 2019  

Sadly for the Church, the community of St Mary's in Exile in South Brisbane excluded from the Catholilc Church continues to grow in the richness of real community, deep spirituality, honest dialogue and action for justice - a great example of what the whole Church could be.

Narelle M | 07 August 2019  

I've no doubt, Edward, that the questions you pose reflect the real concerns of many Catholics dismayed by the current crisis, and I don't think there's an easy answer to either. However, I do think that an intellectual climate which underestimates our ability to know truth and an attitude that derides religious faith as superstition are potent cultural forces in restricting our vision of human possibility to the secular only. This said, perhaps I should add that I don't think that life's most significant questions can be adequately addressed by the intellect alone - and that I appreciate your ES reminders of the rich mystical tradition of the Church.

John RD | 07 August 2019  

While I am aware that the role of women in the Catholic Church is a global issue, it seems to me that this issue needs a specific focus in the Plenary Council. Just maybe, the Australian Church can could be a prophetic voice for women's equality for the whole church to move from its current male dominated leadership. While we certainly have men who are compassionate, concerned leaders, this is not reflected in the public image of women's inclusion in all Church leadership roles. Maybe the Australian Catholic Church could be a courageous mover in this regard.

Rosemary Grundy | 07 August 2019  

How could anyone possibly trust the Church authorities? They have only partially told the truth about the abuse (child rape) scandal. There is still today an unwillingness to publish the names of known offenders, release survivors from non disclosure agreements and revisit past paltry settlements.

Tim McDermott | 07 August 2019  

This whole process commenced on the wrong foot. From the very start it has been managed. The very first talking should have been at people level ( Parish).Animators were appointed not chosen in consultation with the people so the opportunity for really talking was lost at the very beginning. Once again we are directed from the top down.

Anne | 07 August 2019  

People are too quick to assume others have lost faith. It was a regular claim by JP II – so much easier to say that someone has lost their faith rather than to see the emptying pews as a vote on their lost trust in himself and the Church hierarchy, then and now. __ People might not be putting their “bums on seats” in Catholic churches but they are constantly nurturing their faith in other ways, maybe in other churches, maybe with other groups of Catholics who find those who are supposed to be our leaders, pastors, shepherds not fit to follow. We long for a better Church but can no longer find a place where we can influence that from within.

MargaretMC | 07 August 2019  

It seems abundantly clear to me, certainly from the Report, hopefully NOT the "Final Report", of the Listening and Dialogue Phase of the Council process, that if our bishops really do want our trust, then two crucial actions are needed, namely Transparency and Accountability. Without these the rest will be all just smoke and mirrors. And these can start now, we don't need to wait for the Council itself. Thus we need to be able to see not only all of the submissions, as Andrew has stressed, for if something is hidden it implies that there is something to hide, but also the Council budget. It is our money after all. Unless this cannot be justified.

John R. Sabine | 07 August 2019  

I think, John RD, the crisis of loss of faith in the Church is not so much an epistemological or theological one, but a real perception of failed leadership. It is, in biblical terms, being given a stone rather than bread. Chrissie Foster continues to testify to this failure. The sad thing is that the supposedly 'new' leaders were nurtured in the same institutions and by the old failed leaders. Ecclesiastics seem to have a tin ear as to what Catholics expect. Witness ++ Comensoli of Melbourne purchasing a 'luxury' country retreat, albeit with his own money, whilst Pope Francis lives in the Vatican guesthouse. Who is truly following in Jesus' footsteps? Who is the genuine example? The days of Archbishop Mannix living in Raheen and being driven in a coach and four on St Patrick's day are over.

Edward Fido | 07 August 2019  

I understand that discussion etc at the Plenary Council will be guided by facilitators. This immediately kills any prospect of "unwanted" change when the facilitators are trained to guide the discussion towards a particular end something that I have seen many times since this ploy became part of Church/laity centered debate.

john frawley | 08 August 2019  

Edward Fido, Coomensoli purchasing a luxury retreat in Melbourne is no different in principle to a German bishop the so called 'bishop of bling' being expelled from his diocese amid criticism of his €31m (£26m) residential complex. Francis expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst- Limburg March 2014. What is Commensoli doing about the homeless issue? The problem is that the laity havent seen any redress for the crimes uncovered by the Royal Commission. Of over 2000 male offenders, 100 have been jailed. The tip of the iceberg here in the lucky country. In Italy there is only 1 priest in goal. Hullo? Has everyone forgotten that 53 boys suicided in later life because of the rapes at St Alipius? As the Thais say, "same same but different". More declarations of mealy mouthed sincerity, the same naked ambitions of our noble catholic church leaders, their rivalry, love of splendour. Their denigration of victims (eg the Ellis defence), their denial of equal women's rights by quoting arcane hogwash that would reek in the nostrils of Christ himself. Fr Andrew, trust has not been weakened, it has been destroyed and if the status quo is going to prevail then God help us all.

Francis Armstrong | 08 August 2019  

I have read and heard that addicts and alcoholics must have the desire to quit drugging or drinking alcohol if they are to overcome their addiction. It didn't seem to matter much how they came to acquire that desire but that desire, no matter how faint a spark it might be, could be gradually inflamed into a desire for a way of life that did not involve drugs or alcohol. This clean and sober life was not going to be the old life polished up but a brand new way of life. They needed to face the fact that even though they were a product of their past they need not be prisoners of it. For over two thousand years the Catholic Church in its pastors and theologians and its laity have been involved in the social & intellectual movements of the world. From time to time it has compromised its spiritual aims and character in such a way that splits, both big and small, led to a divided Christendom. From what I have seen and read of the 2020 Pastoral Council so far many Australian Catholics are still prisoners of their past.

Uncle Pat | 08 August 2019  

Yes exactly Andrew, but will the bishops take any notice of what you or anyone else says, if it doesn’t suit them?

Frank S | 08 August 2019  

Andy, a very timely and telling reminder to all of us about the ‘temptation to minimise conflict by using generalised language’ given the recent release of the Phase 1 Final Report and as we head into ‘Listening and Discernment ‘ Phase 2. Sadly I wonder whether ‘some’ have already succumbed to that temptation. Take Snapshot Report 6 ‘ Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform ( Appendix 20, page 294 of The Final Report ) as a prime example. Para 2 says in part: “Some asked for a consideration of alternative approaches to ordained ministry,”. Really! One look at the extensive list of ‘ topics People Talked About’ clearly shows the above to be a woefully inadequate summary statement and not a true reflection of the breadth and depth of the topics on this theme. Has someone already ‘discerned’ for us? I trust not!

Peter Cowan | 08 August 2019  

The Counter Reformation began at the same time or perhaps even slightly before the Reformation: https://www.britannica.com/event/Counter-Reformation. Therefore, Edward Fido’s “The days … are over” isn’t a given. In fact, every diocese should have a Raheen in the same way as every historical epoch of the United States has had a White House, a focal symbol of authority that is more office space than living quarters, and whose daily residents are more numerously the quotidian inhabitants of those work spaces than the ceremonial tenant of the living quarters. And inside every Raheen should be an authoritative Mannix or Fulton Sheen, symbolising, as Christ intended, a prince of the college of apostles. A symbol is what is seen, and the symbol here is what ought to be seen by, and owned as belonging to themselves, the people in the pews. The Plenary Council might style itself a Reformation, but the Counter Reformation will be the hard intellectual work of those who still receive communion on tongue and knee in the Latin Mass communities and those who are raised through the Campion Colleges rather than the mainstream Catholic schools. Now is the time for the margins to become the frontiers.

roy chen yee | 08 August 2019  

I acknowledge the relevance and urgency of the need for reform you raise, Edward, especially the ordeal of the Foster family and your emphasis on servant leadership and priestly formation needed to produce it - as I believe many Australian bishops also recognise. I think, though, that the detail of his daily walk from Raheen along Johnston Street, Collingwood, on his way to St Patrick's should be included in any portrayal of Archbishop Daniel Mannix.

John RD | 08 August 2019  

One of our faults is we do not have inter communion with Anglicans. We have such a shared view of our faith that we can talk about what we share and be comfortable about our shared beliefs. It would be wonderful if this translated into sharing the body of Christ at communion. It demands our attention and it would be so helpful towards our unity and shared committment. I think it is only a lack of will to make it happen that is holding us back. At least we can establish a working party to investigate it.

Kevin Kelly | 08 August 2019  

A terrific critique, Andy, devastatingly comparing our synodal processes with those of the world of politics, except that in many respects media attention would cast the political world in a more charitable light. The response so far in these columns to your's and John Warhurst's pleas has been of overwhelming endorsement and support. The question remains: will our Bishops listen or does their collective and individual silence scream dissent?

Michael Furtado | 08 August 2019  

Vatican II tells us, The Holy Eucharist, is "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324)...And yet, I have found some homilies over these years very misleading and untruthful. I have heard a priest compare the Blessed Sacrament to a 'cake' during his homily prepared for the a group of small catholic children making their First Holy Communion that morning. And instead of a photo or of a drawing of the Blessed Sacrament in the Bulletin that Sunday. There was a photo of a large and fancy cake. And Jesus ' coming to town', was compared during another homily, to Kylie Minogue, coming to town with crowds following her. We need priests to Believe in 'The Real Presence'. Priests who understand what they are saying when they also say, 'The Mystery of Faith', at the Altar Table... The Pew study, issued Aug. 5, showed that 69% of all self-identified Catholics said they believed the bread and wine used at Mass are not Jesus, but instead "symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ." The other 31% believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, known as transubstantiation. "https://www.ncronline.org/news/theology/pew-survey-shows-majority-catholics-dont-believe-real-presence

Mary | 08 August 2019  

Kevin Kelly. Thanks for your post. I totaly agree with you that we should be able to share Communion with our Anglican brothers and sisters. I would go further, and suggest that we can do the same with the other mainstream Trinitarian churches. Afterall, it is Christ's table regardless of the theology of Eucharist and doctrines of transubstantiation/consubstantiation etc. I have attended a number of different denominations over the years with family and friends, and it has always been made clear that 'All' may come to Christ's table regardless of their journey of faith. Bring it on!

Thomas Amory | 08 August 2019  

Mannix was a most complex man, John RD. I well remember him sitting in that coach one St Patrick's Day reviewing the compulsorily attending school children. Grand he looked, very grand. He was very much an Irish cultural warrior taking on the might of the British Empire (rather attenuated) and the Protestant Establishment (the Catholic/Protestant division, so reminiscent of Ascendancy Ireland was alive and well in the Melbourne of the 1960s). Religion and politics were, sadly, very closely intertwined in both Ireland and Australia till very recently. As someone with West Country roots, I was hardly one to take anti-Britishness on board. One of the marks of a really great man or woman IMHO is that they do not live with the ancestral hatreds that have marred so many generations and are a barrier to reconciliation. The late Billy Graham was a shining example of this: he was not inherently anti-Catholic, as so many Southerners of his generation were. I have it on very good authority from a well placed Catholic contact in Melbourne that, in the 1960s, when ecumenism and talking to each other was beginning in Melbourne, the exemplary Anglican ++ Woods was all for it and ++ Mannix wouldn't have a bar of it.

Edward Fido | 09 August 2019  

Michael Furtado, whatever their collective and individual limitations, our bishops aren't usually given to any form of histrionics (which is more, unfortunately, than can be said for some of their critics). Despite the anomalies of the recent Amazon synodal preliminaries, some trust in the the goodwill of participants and those charged with specific roles and decision-making would not, I think, be misplaced.

John RD | 09 August 2019  

Anglicanism is in the midst of its greatest decline since the Reformation with significant numbers of its clergy retreating back to Catholicism through the Ordinariates and many of its churches being closed and the properties sold. Following Mary's post it seems that 69% of today's Australian Catholics are closet Anglicans. Three cheers for Catholic Education !!!!! Welcome to the new Reformation !!!! Bring on the Anglican style Synod !!!! And Jesus wept.

john frawley | 09 August 2019  

Fact check. I noticed that in my sweeping generalisation regarding the history of the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church I referred to "over two thousand years". I of course ought to have written "For almost two thousand years the Catholic Church in its pastors and theologians and its laity has been involved in the social and intellectual movements of the world".

Uncle Pat | 09 August 2019  

Edward, to most Catholics exposed to the injustices of British rule in Ireland and its legacy in our own imperial penal colony, Archbishop Mannix's defensiveness of Catholic rights is quite understandable, indeed admirable; as was his solicitude for the poor; for instance, the children of Collingwood and their parents used to welcome his presence among them not as an exercise of public relations or noblesse oblige, but rather as solidarity and "pennies from heaven." Further, the Anglicanism of his most active days was largely harnessed to the political establishment.

John RD | 11 August 2019  

I can understand and sympathise with Irish and Irish diaspora anti-British nationalism cum religious attachment, John RD, though, with my background, I cannot be part of it. The Church of Ireland (Anglicanism in Ireland) was the Church of the Ascendancy. Catholics were definitely repressed under the Ascendancy. Ancient feuds and hatreds seem endemic to all the Celtic parts of the UK: Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I guess these nations were subjected to repression. I see Mannix as a highly complex figure. He is certainly a major figure in Catholic history in Australia. Some of his contemporary Catholic archbishops in other states were not enamoured with him. John Frawley raises an interesting parallel with the seeming decline of contemporary Anglicanism. It is interesting that this decline has occurred primarily in the wealthier, predominantly white and 'Liberal Christian' parts of the Communion. The more theologically Conservative Evangelical dioceses, which actually subscribe to traditional Christian beliefs and morality, such as Sydney, most of Latin America and Nigeria are growing. Sydney did not have a major paedophilia crisis as it had already established the mechanisms to deal with paedophilia. It works.

Edward Fido | 12 August 2019  

It's always been of interest to me, Edward, how leading figures in the cause of Irish rights were not Catholic - Swift, Emmet, Tone, for example - and how a common thirst for justice transcended sectarian interests. Perhaps this is pointer, together with shared belief in the importance of scripture, for Catholic and Anglican ecumenical relations today.

John RD | 12 August 2019  

Irish History is absolutely fascinating, John RD. Some great Irishmen, such as the Duke of Wellington, always insisted they were English. The Irish rebellion of 1798 had strong Protestant support. Then you have great and tragic figures like Lord Edward Fitzgerald. My 'Irish connections' are loose: an ancestor (Catholic) came from Enniskillen, whilst the Reverend John Fido (English) was, for a time, Organist at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin (Church of Ireland). The ancestor from Enniskillen, at the height of Empire, on marrying in India listed his nationality as 'Irish'. Although in the service of the East India Company's Army, I somehow get the feeling he didn't identify as 'British'. So many Irishmen, like him, joined the British Army to survive. They used to say the backbone of the Army in India was Irish. That is why the Catholic schools for European children there were strongly supported by the government. Several old boys of St Joseph's , North Point, Darjeeling (run by Belgian Jesuits) went on to great success throughout the Empire (as it then was). I believe many of the engineers on the original Snowy Mountains hydro scheme were ex St Joseph's and the engineering college at Roorkee, where my maternal grandfather was educated.

Edward Fido | 12 August 2019  

Yes, Edward, a fascinating land, history and people - even more so when I think of how Yeats, a son of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy and a man both of and ahead of his time, could enter so sympathetically into the folk lore of the Catholic poor, as evidenced in his 1922 poem, "The Ballad of Father Gilligan." How ironic, too, that some of the greats of English literature were Irish. And yes, what benefits missionary monks, "wild geese" and emigrants have contributed in many ways the world over in lands not of their birth.

John RD | 12 August 2019  

A fascinating exchange, John RD and Edward Fido. All Christians should indeed rejoice in the One Lord, though the timely setting in place of child-abuse reporting protocols in Sydney doesn't excuse the conservative evangelical fundamentalism of that Anglican diocese. The Catholic exegesis on evangelisation, based on John 10:10 and Micah 6:8, is considerably more holistically developed, emphasising faith as well as justice. Your reminiscences on Mannix, the Irish and their paradoxes is mirrored in Max Atkinson's article (with comments) on Brexit in ES recently. This alludes to the Irish political philosopher, Edmund Burke. Burke led the prosecution of Warren Hastings after which the East India Company was disbanded for its rapine ways. I have it on good authority that the Irish were sent out to India in order to quarantine them from libertarian insurgencies back home. The fact that many arrived as subalterns meant that they intermarried readily with Indians, which accounts for the origins of the Anglo-Indian community as well as its disproportionate majority of Catholics. Several Rectors of North Point retired to St Xavier's Calcutta, the HQs of Bengal's Jesuits: Frs Fallon, de Gheldere, Vrithoff (PP, St Ignatius', Calcutta), Barre, Tant and Picachy, the last two as Rectors.

Michael Furtado | 13 August 2019  

After a while I think every emigrant to the Emerald Isle, or his or her descendants, became Irish, John RD. Except for the wealthiest absentee English landowners, all the Anglo-Irish, like the Yeats family, were close to the land, its people and culture. The Gore-Booth family (Countess Mankiewicz) were not the only ones to provide relief for their tenants and neighbours during the Irish famine of the 19th Century. Likewise the contemporary C of I Archbishop of Dublin, ++ Trench. Quakers were very active in famine relief. There is a wonderful contemporary Irish short story where the local C of I rector states simply 'I love Ireland'. If Australia vanished Ireland and Canada would be among my top picks. Of course, I could go 'home' to the West Country. I still have Cornish cousins but they've left the county. One is in Kent and one in America. Ah! Celtic emigration...

Edward Fido | 13 August 2019  

As my mother's side of the family hails from Mayo and my father's from Galway, I, too, have a special affection for the West, Edward. Seamus Heaney's brilliant poem "Postscript", which begins: "And sometime make the time to drive out west. . . ", and the bracing lyrics and melody of Thomas Davies's "The West's Awake" (aka "The West's Asleep") add to the appeal.

John RD | 13 August 2019  

The Sydney Anglican archdiocese is not perhaps as uniformly hyper conservative as some would have it, Michael Furtado. There are individual churches which are 'High' or mainstream. St James King Street and Christ Church St Laurence would be the standard bearers of this. The former Archbishop Goodhew, although Evangelical, was a pluralist. I think Moore Theological College and its alumni, particularly since the time of the Jensen brothers, has been pushing in a more extreme way. There is, in effect, a de facto schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion. If the 'Jensen line' were pushed too far the split could become permanent. It was only after the Oxford Movement and the rise of ceremonial, often tagged 'extreme' Anglo-Catholicism that many Anglicans have not considered themselves Protestant. There are Evangelicals, such as Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and renowned biblical scholar, who take the traditional church stance on sexuality, but without foaming at the mouth and pointing the accusatory finger. Sydney is a bit 'dated'. Its tone was set under Bishop Barker, when many C of I clerics, who lost their livings when that Church was disestablished, came to NSW. It is in a bit of a time warp. This needs to change.

Edward Fido | 13 August 2019  

Faith is far better than any word written here.

AO | 14 August 2019  

Your trust in the volatile commodity of Faith is admirable, AO

john frawley | 15 August 2019  

JF. Thank you. Though I disagree. Faith is neither volatile. Nor a commodity. But an Absolute necessity.

AO | 15 August 2019  

@Uncle Pat. "For almost two thousand years the Catholic Church and its pastors and theologians and its laity has been involved in the social and intellectual movements of the world". Well, if the church wishes to take credit of anything good in the world. Will they also take credit for the bad? Theologians and the intellectual laity, haven't always got it right, now have they?

The time is Now | 15 August 2019  

I don't feel the priest standing at the pulpit should broadcast his approval of same sex marriage. Especially when small children, who are very confused about most things, are present. If families with small children are frequenting less and less Mass on Sundays, believe me, it because catholic parents are doing all they can to keep their children from hearing things the priest is delusional to think he has the privilege and right to proclaim. Nor should they speak of their desire to see women ordained. Nor distribute in their churchers, essays written about the consideration of married priests. Such priests, congratulate themselves on being scholars, theologians, intellectuals and academics and have profoundly forgotten they are not Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has already said all he had to say. And he also said that he could not lie. These priests are hiring and have entered through another gate. If they must speak their opinion, fine. But not in the church, and especially not during Holy Mass. Thank God the 60's and 70's are over. And all young men now entering the priesthood, will have all been accurately individually assessed. Because the calling is one for men strong in body, mind, soul and spirit. For those who resist temptation in all its seductive and deceiving forms.

Mary | 16 August 2019  

Mary. I sympathise with your plea for Christlike wisdom and dedication in the priesthood. However, do not forget that even when Christ himself was the high priest of his Church on Earth, preaching and spending every waking hour with his chosen priests (the twelve)who marvelled at his miraculous cures, transformations (water to wine and the multiplication of loaves and fishes) and annulment of death in raising the dead to life, one of priests (Judas) did not believe sufficiently and was seduced by money to bring him down. Unfortunately, we are all human and seriously flawed in various ways, some more seriously than others. There will never be Utopia for Humanity on this planet - that is the greatest mystery of creation. It seems so unnecessary.

john frawley | 16 August 2019  

Catholics are certainly entitled to hear better from the pulpit than a regurgitation a secular zeitgeist that is incompatible with Church teaching, and exposure to a form of clericalism all the more insidious because it disregards the sensus fidei of practising faithful, using liturgical privilege to do so. Hopefully the sort of aberrations identified by Mary will be addressed in future deliberations of the Plenary Council.,

John RD | 17 August 2019  

John Frawley, do you remember reading this at all?... "I hope you will bear with a little of my foolishness, but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I promised you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. I am afraid, however, that just as Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure devotion to Christ.'' (2 Corinthians 11:2) .… And yes, John RD. I am in absolute full agreement, with you here.

Mary | 18 August 2019  

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