The inhumane logic of Australia’s refugee deterrence policy

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Anyone who was touched by the picture of Tharnicaa and Kopika Murugappan on Christmas Island before she was taken to hospital will be delighted that Tharnicaa is now out of hospital and that the family are together in Perth, with parents Nadesalingam Murugappan and Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingam and Kopika being issued three month bridging visas. Many have been less pleased by the minatory tone of government ministers — the reports of Tharnicaa’s illness may have been exaggerated and she will remain in community detention, that the family have no guarantee of returning to their friends in Biloela and must continue to live in uncertainty and anxiety.

Main image: A stall outside Parliament House for Refugee week offers 'Free empathy training for MPs'. A person manning the stall comments, 'We've got 63 no thanks, 89 no ways and 36 go back to where you came froms. Fiona Katauskas cartoon

The contrast between the tenderness of the children and the impersonal power of the government was marked. To me it recalled the story of Perpetua’s third century death at the hands of the Roman authorities. She and other young Christian women were hauled before the crowd, scourged by gladiators, and then set upon by wild animals. Perpetua was gored by a wild cow, and then killed by a gladiator. The contrast between the courage and powerlessness of Perpetua and the grizzled implacability of the Roman justice system is echoed in the case of the Murugappan family.

In both stories an outside observer cannot but ask how it came to this. What made the Roman authorities and Australian ministers see their actions as a normal part of their daily business? What made Perpetua and the Murugappan family endure humiliation, isolation and the threat of death rather than recanting their claims of conscience and of need?

At stake in the difference between the parties were different understandings of humanity. Underlying the claims made by Perpetua and the family is the understanding that each human being is unique, precious, with an inalienable dignity. They command a respect that forbids us from them as means to our other ends. That understanding might make someone be prepared to accept execution rather than violate their conscience. It is also enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to which Australia was a signatory. Behind the story of the Murugappan family is the progressive abandonment of respect for human dignity by Australian governments of both sides in its refugee policy, and the inevitable ethical corruption that has accompanied it. By corruption I mean the lack of empathy and the weakness of will that make bad actions seem unexceptionable.

The original sin in this process was the decision taken by the Labor Government following the arrival by boat of Cambodian people seeking protection. It legislated the mandatory detention of people who arrived by boat without a visa. Although the High Court limited its use to administrative detention, politicians defended it on the grounds that it was needed to deter others from arriving by boat. Deterrence involved punishing an innocent group of people to achieve broader policy ends.

Deterrence has an inner logic that we can see in Australian treatment of people who seek protection. In the first place it tends to become increasingly brutal. Each breach of policy must be met with a more effective deterrent. To deter non-citizens from subversive behaviour the Romans employed increasingly dehumanising forms of torture and killing.

People who seek protection, however, do so because in their own nation they face threats of torture, death and violation of their conscience. They are unlikely are to be deterred by lesser threats. As a result, when crises drove increasing numbers of people to seek protection from Australia they faced successively harsher punishments to deter others. They could be given only temporary protection visas, could be deprived of support for living in the community, denied rights to work, endure decisions on their applications be delayed, returned to detention for minor breaches of rules, their boats be turned back, be sent to Manus Island or Nauru for processing, and be forever denied residence in Australia. In the logic of deterrence the mental illness, suicide and despair of people who were detained were to be welcomed. They provided both testimony to the effectiveness of the deterrent and publicity that would increase its effectiveness.

 

'Yet the logic of deterrence and the untroubled acceptance of its implementation demanded the myth of a threat so serious that even a single case of compassion or one arrival by canoe would fatally undermine the effectiveness of the policy. The real threat was to the self-respect of those responsible for the policy of deterrence.'

 

To win public support for deterrence and to anaesthetise the conscience of those who administer it, the logic of deterrence also requires that the punishment involved must be seen to be merited. The innocent have to be found guilty of personal or collective fault. In the case of people seeking protection from persecution, they were accordingly redescribed as economic immigrants who wore expensive wrist watches, people of Middle Eastern appearance (i.e. Muslims), terrorists, bearers of physical and moral disease, or threats to border and national security. As a result they were no longer seen as persons entitled to respect for their humanity but as representatives of a hostile class. They then deserved the treatment they received. The regime of detention described by Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island have both dehumanised persons and have provided justification for treating them as less than human.

The logic of deterrence inevitably creates a tension between its increasing brutality, the lack of evidence for its effectiveness, and its acceptance by people not responsible for it. Like high pressure gas a regime of deterrence needs to be held in a sealed and leakless container. Otherwise recognition of its inhumanity and lack of logic will seep through. The container is the insistence on its absolute necessity. The threat against which deterrence is deployed must be held to be sufficiently pressing and implacable if it is to be judged as absolutely necessary in the face of all contrary evidence.

In the case of people who sought protection by arriving in Australia, the interdiction of boats and the restrictions on residence evidently removed the risk of large scale influx. Yet the logic of deterrence and the untroubled acceptance of its implementation demanded the myth of a threat so serious that even a single case of compassion or one arrival by canoe would fatally undermine the effectiveness of the policy. The real threat was to the self-respect of those responsible for the policy of deterrence.

The problem with any unethical policy is that it corrupts ethical sensitivity and brutalises society. That was true of the Roman treatment of non-citizens and it is true of Australian policy towards those who seek protection from persecution. The lack of respect for human dignity, the vilification of people who are different, the acceptance of brutality as necessary, and the embarrassed shutting of eyes from corrupt behaviour inevitably corrode the moral sensitivity of those involved. They then naturally spread to other areas of public life: to the collection of debts, to making executive action non-transparent and non-reviewable, and to the demonising of other groups.

Policies of deterrence shape a murky world in which silence envelops the brutal things that are done in the dark. The white dresses of Kopika and Tharnicaa as the elder sister kissed and comforted the younger, were a symbol of respect that revealed and shamed the justifications offered for deterrence as the soiled rags that they are.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Cartoon Fiona Katauskas

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, World Refugee Week, refugee, seeking asylum, Biloela family, Tamil

 

 

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I'm not sure if it falls in the category of irony (because there's no humor here) or paradox but airing public commentary of the severe treatment of the seemingly most vulnerable and innocent is possibly the most powerful deterrent to refugees and smugglers the Australian government could ask for, all gratis. Surely anyone contemplating Australia as a place of refuge must consider, compare themselves and their need before embarking..."jeez, if they'd lock up cute little kids born in Australia for a few years, what chance have I got of getting in?" Parliamentarians need to exercise some verbal restraint arguing either side of the case (or be reminded to withdraw) but Joe-average emotional appeals and accusing slurs like "inhumane" and "corrupt" can filter through in editorial and social commentary moderation...although the FriendlyJordy/Barilaro case might test that publishing flamboyance. I suggest exercise some caution and make an allegation. It's drawing a long bow to equate the Roman administration of Perpetua and Australian immigration policy but perhaps that kind of linked association can serve as an example of what our politicians would like to say to prospective illegal immigrants but could never live it down... who'd have figured border control by the Left?


ray | 24 June 2021  

So much for the country of the 'Fair Go'!


Joe Barr | 24 June 2021  

Thanks Andrew! Such a thoughtful article that deserves to be read by every voting Australian. This includes the former "Right Honourable" Immigration Ministers Morrison and Dutton. The cruelty administered by these two spineless individuals is right up there with the treatment of our indigenous sisters and brothers post British settlement! Just SHAMEFUL!!! AJM


Andrew Mctaggart | 25 June 2021  

If the catholics of Australia really believe what we profess we could blow the politicians' humbuggery out of the water. The first session of the Plenary Council could appoint a commission of 12 or 15 people to visit Manus Island and Nauru and report back to the second session. The government would not refuse our request for this if we seriously want it. The commission should include a wide range of people including at least two grandmothers and two grandfathers and, I would hope, Ita Buttrose. We don't have to allow this to continue. AND I've just come across "Sir Thomas More", the last work Shakespeare contributed to, the only known work in his hand writing. There's a speech made by Thomas More to Londoners protesting about migrants arriving. It's easy to google and higly recommended to admirers of Thomas More and/or Shakespeare.


Jim Jones | 25 June 2021  

There is in Australia an established system of laws and processes that guide and govern all our lives. The immigration system is part of this structure. If we are to change the process we must first elect a government that agrees with our proposed changes. Until then all must follow the rules. We are not governed by the court of advocate opinion, or the rule of minority voice. We can hear the opinion, but must act as the law provides.


Peter | 25 June 2021  

‘The original sin….’ The original sin are the moral dilapidates who run the ramshackle states which expunge some or many of their ties of blood as so much detritus. They are never held accountable. If the UN was incorrupt, the General Council would exact reparation from the dilapidates who produce asylum seekers by restricting their privileges of presence in terms of speaking and voting rights and committee memberships, limiting the glory-hogging state visits which they make, completely unembarrassed, like a Mugabe who knows that the state leader looking them in the eye at a state dinner is seeing their country as a household and his as a sty, and authorising sanctions against elites. The value-neutral state which sanctifies every entrant as free to live among the permanent residents has no defence against this jaunty carelessness of the sty-keepers of Iran, Sri Lanka or wherever. The refugee flood will continue until they are made to account for their obligations to their kin. Perhaps the foyer of the UN building should contain an electroboard which ranks all the countries of the world by the number of asylum seekers they produce, or perhaps the board should be on the street outside.


roy chen yee | 25 June 2021  

While Roy is undoubtedly right about the Sty-keepers of Sri Lanka and Myanmar, his overview of the geopolitics of immigration seems to bypass the reality of his own Asian origins, which suggests a harried past, driven by economic necessity and fed by complex developments relating to our joint colonial experience. By way of illustration, vast numbers of Tamils were forcibly transported to Sri Lanka and the borders of Afghanistan and modern-era Pakistan, Indo-China, and Africa as a whole, interfered with by meddlesome imperialists eager to impose artificial boundaries, settlements and economic arrangements suited to their own exploitative arrangements, and which amply explain the enormous demographic pressures on the world's desperados, driven by poverty into exile, to survive and improve their life-chances by doing anything to claim their share in the largely ill-gotten gains of the so-called but by now discredited 'West.' In the Western Hemisphere, with it more appropriate use of that term, the Monroe Doctrine effectively made Latin America the resource-base of the United States. The only human way ahead to correcting the breaking tragedy of millions of poverty-stricken migrants is first to engage in a language of understanding their plight of desperation, destitution and abandonment (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:11).


Michael Furtado | 26 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘amply explain….doing anything to claim their share in the largely ill-gotten gains of the so-called but by now discredited 'West.' In the Western Hemisphere, with its more appropriate use of that term, the Monroe Doctrine effectively made Latin America the resource-base of the United States.’ ‘The only human way…is first to engage in a language of understanding….’ Indians are expelled from Uganda but not from Fiji and none hail from the Bharat itself. The US border crossers are from as south as the Isthmus of Panama, which leaves most of the Monroe Doctrine resource base non-exporters of people. The ‘language of understanding’ needs more than just to posit 'exploitative arrangements' and ‘artificial boundaries’ as a cause of action unless you’re Gerry Adams still living in 1919.


roy chen yee | 27 June 2021  

Tragically, Roy babe, Gerry Adams still has a job to do, as he did in Derry, Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, lest ye forget!


Michael Furtado | 29 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘still has a job to do’ Not since he retired from sitting in the national parliament of a foreign power, neither the foreign power nor his home country seeming to find value in something like Section 44 of the Australian Constitution. Had he remained in that foreign parliament, he could have done a service for his home country (unless he doesn’t consider his actual home country to be his real country) by pressing for the Calais asylum seekers to be conveyed from Dover to Dublin where they could have lived happily ever after, it being unlikely that they share any affinity with William of Orange.


roy chen yee | 30 June 2021  

A good point - and I like your sharp policy juxtapositioning - but let's not lose sight of Bloody Sunday which got him and fiery Bernadette into Westminster in the first place. A pity that hatreds, like all issues in every hierarchy of good deeds and aspirations, tend to be ranked! You, above all, should know this and, naturally, I agree with you unreservedly about the overall picture, Roy! It happens, however, that the Catholic citizens of N.Ireland, for all their impossibly long list of grievances, regularly register a much more refugee-friendly attitude than their Protestant counterparts. Both the Church's teaching, as well as their own experience of exclusion, seem to have ingrained this in them, to an even greater extent than in their Southern Catholic neighbours. Might there be a point here for you and me to agree upon? Surely it is the Church's Glorious Magisterium AND Christian Praxis that promotes the deeper, more challenging and difficult aspects of change and conversion? In this your courageous, unflinching 'no-holds-barred' approach to the virtuous life holds great sway but also needs accompaniment with a pastoral attitude that understands human foibles without excusing them. Isn't it this that explains Pope Francis's approach?


Michael Furtado | 01 July 2021  

A reminder here about the influence of paradox. Jules Renard, the French sceptic recognised as prescient in his theology, said: 'I fear in the next world that God will just carry on blundering by welcoming the wicked into heaven and booting the virtuous down to hell.' Might this explain Roy's impatience with a milksop faith? What's the point of religion, Renard challenges, unless it fills, directs, stains, sustains and punishes? At Oxford (dare I add?) I encountered a former Jesuit tutor, Peter Levi, who, apart from being a brilliant Greek scholar and poet - he was a polymath who discovered a lost Shakespeare poem - was also a French Revolutionary scholar, specialising in Robespierre, often considered to be the most unpopish of the Church's enemies. Robespierre came to prominence in 1789 with a blistering attack on the luxury and worldliness of the Church. In his famous speech to the Etats Generaux (and presaging Marx!) he urged the priesthood to reacquaint itself with the austerity and virtue of early Christendom by the obvious means of selling its property and distributing the proceeds to the poor. Robespierre ended the Revolution, having commenced by slaughtering priests, by presiding over the slaughter of atheists!


Michael Furtado | 01 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Robespierre’ God is said to be above his sacraments. As such, he must be above the world as well as the sacraments are more direct an expression of God-in-the-world than the rain (or hail) which falls upon just and unjust alike. If you offend against holiness, you can’t stipulate the form of chastisement that holiness may deliver through a wordly instrument or the instrument. Having put yourself outside holiness, you can’t stipulate what holiness may do. Perhaps not all of Robespierre’s priests were justly slaughtered but can it be said all were unjustly slaughtered? If someone impatient with slow processes of justice should lure his paedophile priest or teacher into an alley and break his legs with an iron bar, the perpetrator can’t complain that that was not how he was supposed to be chastised. He can claim that the victim broke human law by becoming a vigilante but he cannot claim that what happened to him was unjust. Law is only a human approximation of divine justice. Sin breaks cause-and-effect and exposes the sinner to randomness, as the Fall shows.


roy chen yee | 03 July 2021  

Roy, I can't see how your resolute and unbudging response has addressed any of the points I raise. All it reminds is of Trollope's biting satire 'He knew he was right'. On the other hand, breaking a priest's legs down a dark alleyway, whether he was a pedophile on not - or anybody else's for that matter, whether friend or foe - once again exposes the vengeful basis of your theology: extreme and over-the-top! One has to ask again: why not join the Islamists - with apologies to mainstream Muslims - and where you appear to categorically belong?


Michael Furtado | 03 July 2021  

Roy, your wintry wisdom doesn't convince and reminds one methodologically of Dawkins in the despair aroused at the thought of your brand of God. Your tough-bikkies, 'if-you-cant-lump-it, take-a-running-jump' response is a mirror image of Dawkins' atheistic pabulum. In this, Robespierre is unerringly your guide. 'The Universe isn't arranged by God for your comfort but His magisterial dictates. You don't like it? Tough! You, unbaptised soul, no 'get-out-of-jail' pass for you! Piss off to Limbo! You, Catholic heterosexual, this way to Heaven! You, apostate transgenderite who fiddled about with non-binary pronouns, that way to Hell!' Naught for your comfort, I'm afraid, darling Roy! Jules Reynard perfectly encapsulates just the kind of parade-ground God you have invented for us. 'For those of you who've finally made it up here, don't celebrate too hard. You aren't exactly here to have fun, you know!' Dogs too (an anagram of your God?) are part of God's creation which explains why you tend to treat your readers as frothing canines. After all, why should a doctor, focused on curing physical ailments, worry about the soul? Why should human inadequacy preclude the possibility of the spiritual? Who exactly is ever unworthy? Where is there room for grace?


Michael Furtado | 03 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘once again exposes the vengeful basis of your theology: extreme and over-the-top!’ ‘understands human foibles without excusing them’ (1 July). You don’t excuse ‘human foibles’: you glorify ‘human foibles’ with your interpretations of ‘Incarnation’ and the Whig or ‘progressive’ belief that cultures always evolve upwards. What Christians ought to realise is that the habit of normalising the ‘human foible’ results in forgetting the conceptual difference between purity and impurity, or where would the justice be of expelling the first humans from the Garden? Humans cannot succeed in becoming as pure as God but they can try with a few, fairly easy, peripheral matters such as avoiding the intrinsic evils, ‘intrinsic’ because it is only the will of one human which makes the difference between impurity and some approximation towards purity. We are so pathetically weak that we can’t make a marriage between two Catholics last? We are so weak that women, as usual, have to,carry water for men by contracepting for them? We are so weak that we cannot ignore some eccentric sexual proclivities within us? We are so weak that we must receive Holy Communion while continuing to rejoice in those modes? Oh, please!


roy chen yee | 04 July 2021  

What's this, Roy! Back to the Fall again? Take a step back and reflect, O Regal One! We were expelled from Paradise because we wanted to become God or Gods! That's the rub, O Robbed-of-Paradise-Roy, including you! Not because we sinned but because of our arrogance and our narcissism. Our Loving Father then opened the Gates and said, while weeping at our ingratitude and naivete: 'I'm desperately sad to see you go, although you were always free to, because it means that my Love for you will forever require that I keep an eye on you. However, with the gift of free will, it means that sometimes you will make mistakes and other times, seeing you are made in my image, you will do great things. Therefore, I will need to be there to guide, protect and - God Forbid I Do It to My Beloved Son - die for you! I love our sparring but where is there in anything you say any semblance of the recognition of suffering and its links with the Love of Our Lord? How come you have made of the De Profundis a Paean of Praise for a narrow, punitive and vengeful Monster god?


Michael Furtado | 05 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Not because we sinned but because of our arrogance and our narcissism....However, with the gift of free will, it means that sometimes you will make mistakes and other times, seeing you are made in my image, you will do great things. Therefore, I will need to be there to guide, protect and - God Forbid I Do It to My Beloved Son - die for you!’ I’m sure the word ‘chastise’ is meant to be in there somewhere (if only for the sake of Anne Frank and a few others but, never mind) but, in this updated picture of God created by you, does he wear those cute, clumpy orthopedic loafers like Francis or is he into Nike or Converse? Maybe a retro T-shirt with the Mambo dog with musical flatulence?


roy chen yee | 06 July 2021  

You've fallen for my silly trick again, Royjee: blasting forth with an out-of-tune foghorn instead of through an understanding and proficiency with the more delicate nuances of the bamboo flute of your forbears. And, what's sadder still, you miss the wood for the trees in not recognising my allusion to Jesus, the Suffering Servant. Anyone can chastise, especially a hurt child or even stern parent and teacher, determined to use the chastising tawse instead of the salve of compassion and forgiveness. I wonder what your Marian 'theology' is like: with a focus on Fatima, no doubt, and an emphasis on crushing Satan's head. You're a hard man, Roy. I wonder what life experience has made you so: something much much darker than a prehensile memory of the horrors of the opium den?


Michael Furtado | 07 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘my allusion to Jesus, the Suffering Servant.’ He hasn’t held that job since Good Friday. These days, he runs the universe. Where have you been? You need to update your LinkedIns.


roy chen yee | 08 July 2021  

Roy, While the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus was indeed a one-off historical event, it was presaged by the prophecy of Isaiah and has eschatological significance for all Creation for all time. Thus, 'He is pierced for our transgression' (Note the present tense) as well as 'stricken for the transgressions of all my people' (Ps.109:22) reflect Isaiah 22:38, which reads:'Posterity will serve him well'. Paul reprises this when he says: 'Those who have never been told will see & those who have never heard will understand' (Rom 15: 20-21). Insofar as we are asked to imitate Christ, as for instance in the work of Thomas a Kempis, the Suffering Servant (i.e. the Messiah) is the protomartyr for all time, for all those martyrs who follow him, such as SS Thomas More, Edith Stein & Oscar Romero, as well as others yet to come. The NT states that we are to 'follow Christ in his humility' (1 Peter 2:21) as in his suffering (Phil: 3-7) with the promise of our own eventual resurrection and vindication. The Messiah was not some fierce warrior come to overthrow the wicked, as you portray him, but a humble servant, who would save the world through his suffering. Thus the Passion narrative is our journey, too. Although we probably won’t be called upon to experience the passion in its extreme and dramatic form, the pain, tears and burdens of humanity challenge each of us to turn our hearts and minds to compassionate and selfless action and not to hatred.


Michael Furtado | 09 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘'He is pierced for our transgression' (Note the present tense)” Apparently not for the transgression of Eve and Adam, that wasn’t a sin, just an arrogance. One wonders when the first transgression that was an actual sin occurred. ‘The Messiah was not some fierce warrior come to overthrow the wicked, as you portray him, but a humble servant, who would save the world through his suffering’: yes, a few Good Fridays ago. Servant is a temporary role. The role’s gone but the model, of being subservient to his Father and to the pharisees in the chair of Moses because no jot or tittle of the Law would be changed, remains for humans to copy. The earthly inheritor of all that is the Magisterium of his Church, and we copy his servantship in relation to that. ‘not some fierce warrior come to overthrow the wicked, as you portray him’: no, but that’s because, for some reason, you’re addicted to purple prose. He came to overthrow the wicked in the next life, after giving them plenty of chances in this. Will he be fierce? Who knows? He might be a laid-back judge on a throne, having seen it all before.


roy chen yee | 12 July 2021  

Ah Roy, what a pity you make of the magisterium a visceral terror, its manifestations the skin-puncturing prod of an electrocuting prong to a blood-curdling imprecation, like a brute alarm going off in the middle of a nightmare to the jar of a klaxon schriek in the small hours of the morning. Now THAT's purple prose, but no less true for the picture you paint. The earliest Dance of Death, painted on the walls of the Cimetiere des Innocents in 1425, reads: 'O creature roysonnable, qui desires vie eternelle' (O rational creature, who wishes for eternal life). No wonder Marx became an atheist! Fr Joris, my French tutor, had a Jesuit term for people like you: 'un etre sans raissonable raison d'etre' (A being without a reasonable reason for being). At best it can be said of you: 'You are deaf in your left ear: you do not hear on the side of the heart.' (Jules Renard, 'Journal', July 25, 1892)


Michael Furtado | 14 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘A being without a reasonable reason for being.’ Sounds like Lucifer, that fellow whom you don’t believe exists. Or homosexuality, a predilection without a reasonable reason for existing. I wonder if the two concepts are related in the idea that something that has no reason to exist exists.


roy chen yee | 15 July 2021  

A good philosophic point, Roy. Where it comes unstuck is that reason, at least until this point of time, doesn't mean that something doesn't exist. And, of course, I acknowledge that the devil exists in everybody, as does homosexuality (and heterosexuality) in some persons. I think what you miss is that philosophy is about the process of philosophising rather than the purpose.While it offers us competing narratives about what the world consists of and how best to live in it, these are naive expectations because no two practitioners are in total agreement about it, which is why we develop languages of explanation and meaning, otherwise discussion about goodness and virtue would disintegrate into squabbles about whether goodness is like redness or sweetness.That's why our human instincts incline us to exchange, attend the cinema, read a novel, stretch the imagination, bask in the wonder of that strange, impossible thing called God, etc, which is why in my dotage I have turned to literature, which did, and still does, tell us how best to live in a world influenced by religion as well as a rejection or lack of it (though it does so most effectively when appearing not to do so).


Michael Furtado | 21 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘I acknowledge that the devil exists in everybody’ The good doctor is as slippery as ever, ‘acknowledging’ something that was never called to be acknowledged: Lucifer is no more in everybody than Gabriel or Michael. ‘A good philosophic point…. philosophy is about the process of philosophising rather than the purpose…. bask in the wonder of that strange, impossible thing called God’: St. Paul was roped into basking philosophically about ‘God’ with the chatterati of Mars Hill until he decided that he had been dudded and should stick to the purpose of preaching Christ crucified.


roy chen yee | 22 July 2021  

Roy, most Christians would disagree with you about Paul. While he did write about Christ Crucified, the major point of his account, since he is regarded as a Gospel commentator (Romans 16:25,26), was to preach Christ Resurrected. Added to that, his friendship with St Luke (who mentions Paul) has led to speculation that parts of Luke's Gospel were written by St Paul; although, of course, St Paul would not have known Jesus while He was alive, whereas St Luke did. Finally, St Jerome, the first accredited scripture scholar, who is widely held responsible for assembling and translating the Bible into Latin (The Vulgate) was of the same opinion: https://aleteia.org/2019/10/18/do-you-know-which-book-in-the-bible-is-called-pauls-gospel/. I have also read Brendan Byrne SJ, the eminent Australian Jesuit Pauline scholar address this attribution in his illustrious D.Phil dissertation. (Our daughter, Camille, is graced to count Brendan as her godfather). While I can see where your line is leading, my belief is that Paul's homophobia may well be a product of his Damascene conversion, as he was given to expressing himself in terms that Jesus never did and in contexts that were unknown to Christ. Hence the anti Greco-Roman reactions attributed to him about all women and some men.


Michael Furtado | 23 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘While I can see where your line is leading, my belief is that Paul's homophobia….” No, you can’t because Paul’s ‘minds were darkened’ utterance had nothing to do with my reference to Mars Hill, the point there being you can get caught up in philosophy for the sake of philosophising or you can use the philosophical tools for the purpose of accessing grace. ‘he was given to expressing himself in terms that Jesus never did and in contexts that were unknown to Christ’: whether or not this is true, he’s in the canon and nothing appears in the canon without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who knew all about Graeco-Roman before there was Graeco-Roman. Your problem seems to be that you don’t believe Scripture is guaranteed by the third person of the Trinity. You want to add a new truth, that Paul was a homo’phobe’. How can this be accommodated as a truth when the Holy Spirit has allowed the homosceptic reference to ‘darkened minds’ to remain in the canon?


roy chen yee | 24 July 2021  

But, last time I looked, Roy, the Holy Spirit allows lots of unexplained mysteries, perhaps as an example of Her inimitable style, which is to colour and mystify lots of scriptural events. Lot's 'insemination' (as you appear to reduced sex with your crude emphasis on genitality) of his daughters being a case in point, unless one reads it with one ear open and the other cocked towards interpretations of the text, (which you reject as undogmatic); otherwise there'd be no need for the exegesis upon which you and I appear perennially to disagree and which provides the life-blood of scripture scholarship. Like you, I enjoy the merry-go-round but isn't it time we got off? This isn't just dizzying; its repetitive and boring. Why not give poetry a try?


Michael Furtado | 25 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Why not give poetry a try?’ Poetry is dandy but prose is quicker. With prose, you read for the facts which are presented, not for allusions which could be anybody’s guess, which is presumably why you prefer poetry to prose. Poetry, or fiction, is what you resort to if the relevant facts are not available for journalistic analysis and extrapolation. Lot’s ‘insemination’? Degradation (or the particular kind of sin which begets it) is equal opportunity to both genders. ‘emphasis on genitality’ I’ve, in another post, disposed of your ‘repetitive and boring’ preoccupation with referring to genitality. Going back to Lucifer’s rebellion, the issue is only about principle. As for your ‘dizzying’ proclivity to refer to ‘Her’, your friend Francis Thompson begs to disagree. To refer to the main article, 'The problem with any unethical policy is that it corrupts ethical sensitivity and brutalises society.' Within the borders of faith, bad poetry does that too.


roy chen yee | 26 July 2021  

While I love these ruminations, Brisbane's entry into lock-down affords the opportunity to reflect that Francis Thompson lived and wrote more than a century ago when the use of the male pronoun was commonly intended to reflect all people; though, in terms of the culture of the day, unrepresentative of women and people of colour. Fortunately, the passing of more than a hundred years has brought to our awareness the necessity to employ a language that is more all-embracing. That some here, despite their evident expertise in the language of assault and nitpicking, as typifies some who read and trespass upon a Jesuit journal, is perhaps the issue at stake. Biological determinists, like Old Dawkie, having managed to dispense with heaven and hell, now reduce some aspects of religious discourse to a similar essentialism that despises women and treats gendered minorities in the same way that Wilde experienced. The greatest tragedy in this is that its eschatological determinism is on death and damnation, two sides, as it were of Dawkie's coin. When religiosity (or Roy for that matter) shows signs of familiarity with a language of spirituality, be it poetic or prosaic, we can fruitfully discuss, but not until then.


Michael Furtado | 31 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘signs of familiarity with a language of spirituality’ There is nothing in the language of (inspired) Scripture which shows women as prophets or angels. If women are never found in (inspired) Scripture to be holding the holy office of prophet, then, presumably, the Holy Spirit which animates the prophetic office cannot be considered to be feminine. Angels, in Scripture, seem to be sent out by the Father rather than by the Spirit, and since they don’t appear to be described by (inspired) Scripture in some identifiably feminine way, perhaps masculine is also how we should see the principle that is the ‘Father’. Anyway, the ‘Father’ is the ‘Father’ because that is what the ‘Son’ (an unambiguously male principle) calls him. When two of the three persons of the Trinity have male attributions, while it is possible that the Spirit is feminine, nothing yet in (inspired) Scripture suggests this is so, and the three visitors to Abraham at Mamre are male.


roy chen yee | 02 August 2021  

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