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Sentire cum Ecclesia

To think with the Church.... In "the Spirit of Benny 16". Catholic Theology, Ecumenism, Interfaith relations, History, Liturgy, Philosophy and whatever topics are hot in the ecclesiastical world! Please comment - with gentleness and reverence! Our motto o

Updated: 2018-03-03T03:30:30.131+11:00


Resurrecting Sentire Cum Ecclesia


Readers who come here looking for my usual blog,, will be glad to hear that I have been able to resurrect (most of) my content in a similar Wordpress platform on my own domain,

Thanks for the suggestion from several readers that I spend a little bit of money for the sake of security. I had started to transfer all my stuff back to this blogger site, but it was very tedious, and I gave up in the end.

Don't leave any comments on this blog, but go to the new domain. Also also, as the Germans say, because it is entirely new, you will have to re-register as a commentator, which will require me to approve your first comment.

Please be patient and we will be back up and running. You will notice I have lost all my links, so if you are a blogger, please be kind enough to email your link suggestions to me.

Welcome news on Catholic School funding


As a parent about to embark upon the costly business of sending my children to a Catholic secondary college, this news is most welcome: Bi-partisan support for Catholic school funding:
Catholic education in Victoria received an early Christmas present on 9 November when the Labor Government announced that funding for Catholic schools would be increased to 25% of the cost of education in a government school if it wins the state election...

The Coalition pledged in 2008 to increase funding to Catholic schools to 25% of the cost of education in a government school if it is elected to government on 27 November.

The almost $200 million funding boost, also includes an additional $5m for teacher professional development

In welcoming the decision, Mr Elder said Labor’s commitment would particularly benefit Catholic families in disadvantaged areas.

...[CEO chief executive officer Mr Stephen Elder said:] “Catholic schools continue to serve families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the state. I have no doubt the decision will be widely welcomed by Catholic school communities.”

...“The personal story of Australia’s first saint – St Mary of the Cross – is a powerful illustration of Catholic education’s mission to serve the most disadvantaged in our community. The announcement will provide funding to Catholic education to continue this legacy,” said Mr Elder.

School fees have been rising steadily, mostly due to a lack of Government funding. My own daughter's fees for next year have risen about %10 from what we were told when we first enrolled her last year. Sending both my daughters to Catholic secondary college will cost me about 20% of my annual income.

If you do the sums you realise that parents who send their children to Catholic Schools are in fact (even under this new funding) saving the government 75% of what it would cost to educate their children in State Schools. I think we need some recognition of that.

All that being said, we are a long way from the days of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. One reason why Catholic schools are costly for parents today (although no where near the cost of other independant schools) is that we no longer have the "cheap labour" force that once supplied teachers for our systems, ie. religious sisters and brothers. What a boost it would be for the Catholic School system if St Mary's vision were to become truly alive again today!

An interesting but all too short interview with a Catholic Luther scholar


HT to Pastor Fraser Pearce for the link to this interview with Fr Jared Wicks. As I say in the title, it is interesting, but I want to know more. I should follow up on Wick's writing on Luther to see what he has to say.

Hypatia in the Athenian Agora



I have just finished watching At The Movies with Margaret and David, and of course they review "Agora" the new film about the legendary Alexandrian female philosopher Hypatia. Her murder by a Christian mob is one of those scandals, like the Galileo affair and the Spanish Inquisition, which the heirs of the Englightenment like to cite against the Church's record.

Anyway, Margaret really liked it and gave it 4 stars, and David gave it 4.5. Both said that it had real substance and an important message. When I hear these two say that kind of thing, I usually find myself wondering if the message they are applauding is truth or ideology.

Ideology, it turns out in this case. I could write a fair bit here, but others have done the job already. Check out: Fr Barron's piece
The Dangerous Silliness of the new movie Agora at the National Catholic Register; Mark Shea's blog at the same place; "History of Violence: Agora, Hypatia and Enlightenment Mythology" at the Decent Films Guide; Sherry's piece at the Catherine of Siena Institute; and Tim O'Neill's "wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, silly, rather arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard" opinion at his blog "Amarium Magnum".

Peter Kreeft on What Christians can learn from Islam


I have written a review of Peter Kreeft's book "Between Allah & Jesus: What Christians Can Learn From Muslims" for the issue of our Kairos magazine coming out this weekend. It is a book I highly recommend. You can read my review to find out what it is about. Unfortunately, I think that Peter Kreeft will probably lose a few admirers because of this book. But that's Kreeft for you. Just like Socrates, he isn't interested in people liking what he writes. He is interested in the search for truth. This book emulates Socrates in another way too: it is in the form of a dialogue, which doesn't give you the answer. You have work it out. Of course, it is pretty obvious which way Kreeft is leaning. The important thing is in the title: this isn't a book of what "Christianity can learn from Islam", but what Christians can learn from a serious dialogue with Muslims, ie. the actual practitioners of the Islamic faith. It is a book all about dialogue. All through the book, Kreeft speaks about the importance listening as much as talking. I can't quote the exact way he puts that, as I have given my copy to a Muslim friend to read and give his opinion on whether Kreeft's Muslim character in the dialogue is a true reflection of what a Muslim would actually say. I thought it was, from my experience, but nothing like asking someone who actually knows. (By the by, I would like to see a similar book of dialogues between a Lutheran, a liberal Catholic and a magisterial Catholic...). In any case, several reviews have misunderstood this point and seem to think that what Kreeft has done in "Between Allah & Jesus" is a part of the Karen-Armstrong-style "industry" that "tries to find common ground with Islam". But that would be entirely out of character for Professor Kreeft, whose only object has ever been to seek for truth, and yes, Truth with a capital T too. I will take as an example of a misreader of Kreeft one reviewer, William Kilpatrick, whose review is called "Christian Misunderstanders of Islam" (note already in the title his mistake in thinking Kreeft's book is about Christianity and Islam, rather than the necessary engagement between Christians and their Muslim neighbours).Here are some selections from Kilpatrick's review with my comments in [bold italics] writes:Unfortunately, considering his wide appeal, Kreeft’s latest book is basically an apology for Islam. [No. It is an apology for the dialogue between Christians and Muslims.] Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians Can Learn from Muslims is devoted to the proposition that the things that we (Muslims and Christians) have in common are more important than the things that separate us. [No again. Kreeft never says this. At the very beginning of the book, he lists the major and essential differences. What he says is that NEVERTHELESS we have to have the dialogue and what we can learn from Muslims is not all negative, in fact there is much that is positive and challenging for Christians.] In fact, writes Kreeft in his Introduction, we have a lot to learn from Islam: “…I also say that Islam has great and deep resources of morality and sanctity that should inspire us and shame us and prod us to admiration and imitation.” [That's just plain Nostra Aetate, ie. the Catholic magisterial position.] Instead of fearing Islam, Kreeft says that Christians should join together with Muslims in an “ecumenical jihad” against our common enemies, sin and secularism....In Between Allah and Jesus, the strongest arguments for traditional morality are made by the Muslim student, Isa (the Arabic name for Jesus.) In fact, throughout the entire dialogue Isa has all the best lines. [The fact that Kilpatrick can say this means that he is in fact acknowledging that a lot of authentic Muslim standpoints have appeal for him too.] Isa is not only a defender of the sanctity of all human life, he is also a strong defender of the Jews (the six million who lost their lives to Hitler were [...]

Summer Retreat for Chant


Okay, this needs highlighing. Thanks to Br. Paul for letting me know about it. Huge grudge against the organisers for limiting it to 18-35 year olds, but hey, let's face it, it is the new generation that really "digs" this stuff, not the old fogies.
Summer Retreat for Chant
27-30 January 2011 - St Dominic's Priory, Camberwell (Victoria)

The Dominican friars in Camberwell Victoria are inviting young people aged 18-35 to an extended weekend retreat to learn a little of the riches of sacred chant. The retreat is being held at St Dominic's Priory Camberwell from 27-30 January 2011. We hope you will come

For full details, see here.

Bishop Silk to Enter Catholic Communion


Well, this is a bit of a surprise. In the latest news that five Church of England Bishops have announced that they will enter the Anglican Ordinariates in full communion with the Catholic Church, there is one surprise: Bishop David Silk is among them. I know Bishop Silk personally from the days when he was Bishop of Ballarat. At that time, he was also the President of the Victorian Council of Churches, when I was the Lutheran member of the executive. We attended a lot of meetings together, and always found we had much in common. I well remember the day when he ordained my friend Tony (who sits at this table sharing the port bottle on occasion) as an Anglican Deacon. I attended the event vested as a Lutheran Pastor. Well, we have all moved on since then, and now it seems that +David is moving on too. (Tony, it's not too late for you, you know!).

Just one observation from the statement from the five resigning bishops: they see Anglicanorum Coetibus as an "ecumenical instrument". Bishop Silk was always ecumenically motivated - that is why he was president of the VCC. The thing is that now they confess that the unity of Christians is only possible "in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter":
This is both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death. It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter.

A Clip of Papa Benny consecrating La Sagrada Familia


Our Archdiocesan website has this clip on it. You may enjoy it. It gives a good view of the interior of the "Minor Basilica" (which is what it is now classed as) of La Sagrada Familia. I thought the Pope's homily had some interesting points too. Especially the bit about Gaudi's confidence that "St Joseph" would complete this church!



The "Second Coming"??


Well, not quite. I will be "coming again" to St Benedict's in Burwood this Saturday to continue the Anima Education course on Eschatology ("The Last Things"). All are welcome. It doesn't matter if you didn't come to the first half, in which we dealt with teachings of the Kingdom of God, body and soul, death, Heaven and Hell. This Saturday, we will be continuing with Purgatory, Resurrection, the Second Coming, the Judgement and the New Creation. So there is still plenty to get out of this one day seminar. We start at 10am (after the 9am mass in the chapel at St Benedict's) in St Benedict House, a few doors down from the Church (at 301 Warrigal Rd. Burwood), and go through to 3:30pm. There is a small fee ($10 I think) to cover expenses. It should be a great day. Full details here.

Can't see this "open letter" having much effect


There is, apparently, an "open letter" to Anglican "dissidents" considering entering the Church through Anglican Ordinariates in the Tablet. The irony is that it is not on-line, so not very "open", eh? Still, thanks to Catholica for posting it. I don't think it will have much effect on those considering entering the Ordinariates, since "the deeply anti-modernist thinking (and pessimism towards modern culture) which has obsessed Pope Benedict XVI" is exactly what is attracting these folk away from the Anglican communion towards communion with the Catholic Church.

What (Who?) they are preaching at "St Mary's in Exile"


It is always a bit of an education to take a squiz at the Catholica Australia website. A link from their discussion board took me here, to the St Mary's Community in Exile South Brisbane website, and a post entitled "Greg Latemore – Homilist October 30- 31 2010". What was Mr Latemore preaching at St Mary's on "Reformation Day"? Or rather "Who" were they preaching? Not Christ, it appears, but Hans Küng. And to make his point, Mr Latemore drew up the following table contrasting Prof. Küng to his archnemesis, Prof. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI. To assist us in the grasping of his point of view, Mr Latemore provides us with the following table (I have reproduced it as it appears on the Catholica website)Not a completely helpful comparison, because it isn't completely accurate, is it? I won't argue about Mr Latemore's description of the positions of Prof. Küng, but I would argue about his characterisation of the Holy Father on a couple of points, viz.:1) "Apparent vision": Mr Latemore describes Hans Küng's vision as a vision for "an ethical world" and Pope Benedict's vision for the world as "A Catholic World". His description of Küng's vision as an "ethical" vision is true enough, but does beg the question of what "ethical" means in this context. Whose ethics? What standard of ethics? Be that as it may, I think it would be more accurate to say that Pope Benedict has "a Catholic vision for the world", rather than "a vision for a Catholic world". I am sure you understand the difference.2) "Apparent time scale of interest as a Christian": Mr Latemore says that while Prof. Küng's interest ranges from "biblical origins and the early church to today", Pope Benedict's interest is limited to "from Augustine & Nicea to today". That seems rather bizarre. Has Mr Latemore not read any of Pope Benedict's works, many particular studies of particular biblical themes and passages, and especially his most recent and continuing study of the Gospels? Has he not been paying attention to the Holy Father's long running series on the saints of the Church, from the apostles right up to the current series of the great women saints? To say that Ratzinger has not always been deeply engaged in biblical and early church studies seems to show a total ignorance of any standard bibliography of Joseph Ratzinger. AND I would say that in fact Prof. Küng's focus actually extends beyond "today" to the next generation and perhaps the generation after that. In just the same way the Holy Father's interest in ecclesial eras goes beyond "today" - even further beyond "today" than Prof. Küng's. The Holy Father's teaching and preaching is always focused upon the Eschaton, the end of days, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life. When you take that into account, I think that you will see how limited is Mr Latemore's appreciation of Pope Benedict's "time scale of interest". 3) "Apparent Focus": Mr Latemore's "homily" declared that Prof. Küng's focus is "Christianity" while the Holy Father's focus is "Christendom". Again, he get's Ratzinger entirely wrong. Ratzinger's real focus is Christ. One need only read the first paragraphs of his first Encyclical to get that. "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." The teaching and preaching of Pope Benedict is entirely focused on the encounter with the person of Christ. It is true that he is also concerned about what might be called "Christian culture", but only because he believes that the encounter with Christ is not just for individuals, nor even for the Church, but God's intention for the whole of society. In this way, society itself undergoes much the same transformation [...]

Wanted: A Priest/Parish to "Sing the Mass"


I recently attended a Hindu-Catholic conversation on chanting. Hindus, of course, have maintained a very ancient form of chant that forms an integral part of their prayer and spirituality. The Catholic who presented on our behalf, a priest, brought along the Liber Usualis (you can download a complete copy here) and beautifully and expertly led us in some of the great variety of chants from this resource. And yet, when I asked him afterwards, he said that he does not believe that the chant can or should be revived. "It's time is past", he said. Is it?Fr Nick Pearce writes about a new book called "Gut Check" by Tarek Saab. He quotes from Saab's book as follows:I attended mass at my local parish like I had every Sunday, but I failed to connect with the promise of mystery in my Catholic belief. Absorbing the mind numbing sappy, guitar hymns, or the fiftieth iteration of the “God loves you” sermon from a happy-go-lucky preacher, was a gut-wrenching experience for any man with an ounce of testosterone.” (p124)...In my local church, like many other, the treasured master pieces of Catholic art were replaced in favour of sandal clad caricatures with all the realism of a Hanna-Babera cartoon. It could have been tolerable if I had sensed any level of reverence from the community, but apathy had found a new home in the cargo shorts and unkempt appearance of communicants, while others claimed to be “on fire” with a form of trendy, secular Christianity.”(p125)This is such an accurate description of the experience many have of modern Catholic liturgy. Some time ago, Jeffrey Tucker wrote a book called "Sing like a Catholic". I disagreed with Tucker about his attitude to hymnody (which I think can have a positive place alongside the use of the chant in mass) but entirely agreed with him that we need to reclaim our treasured heritage of chant if we wish to reclaim the authentic spirit of the Roman Rite. (Just try to imagine for the moment a liturgy in the Byzantine or Syriac Rite spoken, if you want to understand what I mean.) I have my own theory about why chant has been completely lost from the Roman rite, and partly it is because when it was done it was only ever done by the Schola rather than the congregation, and partly because the dominant form of liturgy in parishes before the Council was Low Mass, in which no chant (no music!) was used at all. Others argue that the chant has to be in Latin and cannot be in English. But from my experience of the traditional Lutheran liturgy I KNOW that the chant can be in English and that the ordo of the mass can be sung by a congregation (with the propers done by a Schola). The fact that the new English missal will have the chants for both the celebrant AND the congregation seems a clear enough indication that the Church actually WANTS us to sing the mass (the whole issue of the singing of the propers in English is another thing altogether - see this interesting project by Adam Bartlett and Jeffrey Tucker here). The question is, what are we going to do about it? Where is the Parish or the Priest that will take the bull by the horns and actually schedule a regular weekly mass that puts this vision into action?There are two papers that I can point to that should encourage this attempt. The first is "Towards the Future – Singing the Mass", a keynote-address to the Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium by Msgr Andrew R Wadsworth, Executive Director of The ICEL Secretariat given in Atlanta, Georgia on August 21 this year. The second is a comment on this by Adam Bartlett called "An Experiment in Sacred Music Resource Production: Let’s Lay an Egg!". Again, my question is: is there anyone who can put this into practice? It would take either a parish or at least a priest with the vision to giv[...]

Reading the Junkmail


...can sometimes be like reading Tarot cards or tea leaves. Here are the only two articles to arrive in my post box at home yesterday:


Is that spooky, or what?

I have written to Jo Tenner, and to James Merlino (Labor) and to Matt Mills (Liberal) with my questionnaire based on Your Vote, Your Values. Apparently, James (the currently sitting member, a Catholic in good standing and definitely pro-life), would need a swing against him of 6.8% if he were to lose the seat. That doesn't sound likely, but who knows what havoc the Greens vote might cause in Victoria this year. (BTW, self-disclosure: I am usually a Liberal voter - decision will be more difficult this year).

I do think I need to say one thing about the Greens, though, just in case you might take me for a melon-smasher. I thoroughly get the fact that Greens candidates and supporters are sincere in their beliefs and are committed to doing what they believe to be the "right thing". I was saying to DLP Senator Elect John Madigan on the phone yesterday morning (he rang me) that I believe we do the Greens a discourtesy if we treat them as if they were dishonest in their motives, or as if ethics and morality did not count for them. In fact, I believe they are almost as fanatical and zealous in their moral beliefs as we Catholics are.

Where we differ is not in our moral sincerity and honesty, but in what we believe to be "the right thing". Our argument against the Greens should therefore not be an ad hominum attack, but an argument about issues.

Nor are we opposed on all issues. On the back of Jo's flyer is the statement:
"The Greens stand for funding preventative Healthcare and early intervention in Mental Health services as well as making sure Ambulances, GPs and Hospital Beds are available where and when you need them.
That could be taken as a positive answer to the question in "Your Vote, Your Values" which says:
Will you commit to:
•strengthening preventative and early intervention measures [for mental illness], and committing sufficient resources to enable effective treatment?
So some of their policies are good, and some of their policies are ones that Catholics can support. The problem is with with those other policies, the ones on matters of human life and dignity from conception to natural death, on marriage and family, and on the freedom of religion and Church/State relations.

I have a lot of respect for Greens candidates. They stand for what they believe in. I like that. I also like watermelons. I just don't like the pips.

Fr Lombardi's "Reformation Day" message


Lutheran readers of this blog will be aware that we have not only celebrated All Saints Day this week, but also "Reformation Day", the anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. Somewhat ironically then (although the irony would have been missed on most Catholics) a small group gathered in Rome on Sunday observed a new "Reformation Day" to draw attention to the scandal of child abuse in the Church (as if we needed reminding!). Gathered at Castel Sant’Angelo, a short walk from the Vatican, a victims group called “Survivors Voice” (led by two Boston-area abuse victims from the United States, Gary Bergeron and Bernie McDaid) held a vigil last Sunday to call the Church to greater action in this area.Fr Fredrico Lombardi, the Vatican Press spokesman, met the group and read to them a personal message (not an official statement from the Pope) urging the group to see the Church as an ally in the fight against child abuse, rather than an opponent. Here is his letter (courtesy of John L. Allen Jnr):VATICAN LETTER TO SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIMSOn the occasion of “Reformation Day”, organised by “Survivor’s Voice”By Fr. LombardiThe windows of my office at Vatican Radio are just a few metres away, and therefore it seems fitting to me to listen, and to make a tangible sign of our attention, to your meeting.This intervention of mine is not an official one, but because of my deep insertion and identification with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I believe I can express the feelings shared by many regarding the object of your manifestation.In this, I feel encouraged by the attitude of the Pope, made manifest many times, that is, to listen to the victims, and show the will to do everything necessary, so that the horrible crimes of sexual abuse may never happen again.I must say that, even though I do not share all of your declarations and positions, I find in many of these the elements on which one can develop a pledge, that will bring solidarity and consensus between us.It is true that the Church must be very attentive so that the children and the young, who are entrusted to her educational activities, may grow in a completely secure environment.Yesterday morning, a hundred thousand young people were present in these places for a great celebration of their faith and of their youthfulness, and they are but a small part of the youths who take part with trust and enthusiasm in the life of the Church community. We must absolutely ensure that their growth be healthy and serene, finding all the protection which is rightfully theirs. We all have a great responsibility with regards to the future of the youth of the world.It is true that the procedures of investigation and of intervention must be ever swifter and more effective, whether from the Church or from the civil authorities, and that there must be a good collaboration between these two, in conformity to the laws and situations of the countries concerned.I know, you think that the Church should do more, and in a quicker way. From my point of view – even though one may and should always do more – I am convinced that the Church has done, and is doing a lot. Not only the Pope, with his words and example, but many Church communities in various parts of the world have done and are doing a lot, by way of listening to the victims as well as in the matter of prevention and formation.Personally, I am in contact with many persons who work in this field in many countries, and I am convinced that they are doing a lot. Of course, we must continue to do more. And your cry today is an encouragement to do more. But a large part of the Church is already on the good path. The major part of the crimes belo[...]

"The Priesthood of All Believers"


In the "On the Square" column of the First Things website, Peter Leithard has an article on the Lutheran doctrine of "the Priesthood of All Believers". It is quite a good read, and I think that even Catholic readers will be edified by it, especially the reflections on the Aaronic priesthood, and how that reflects in the priestly character of the Church today.The Second Vatican Council embraced its own version of this classic Reformation doctrine. Essentially, it reclaimed the scriptural teaching that the whole assembly of the faithful are a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9)."Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people . . . who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God"...Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men, made the new people "a kingdom and priests to God the Father". The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God,(103) should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them." Lumen Gentium 9,10However, the Council continued to uphold the distinction between the "ministerial priesthood" and the "common priesthood of the faithful" in the following way:Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.The distinction between the "priesthood of all believers" and the "office of the ministry" can also be found in Lutheran doctrine, with a corresponding teaching that the difference is one of "essence" and not only "degree", yet Lutherans are usually a little less inclined to actually ascribing the categories of "priesthood" to the "office of the ministry". They see the latter purely in ministerial terms, and not (generally) in priestly terms. This is because (again, generally speaking), they see the Aaronic priesthood to have been replaced soley with "the preisthood of all believers", leaving no place for a order of priesthood within the priestly people of God.Catholic doctrine is a little different, as it sees a continuation of the Aaronic priesthood in the "ministerial" (ordained) priesthood. Although many people have things to [...]

"That's sooooo 20th Century."


Have you heard that one yet? It's becoming the latest put down. It's "like, get with it, man" for the 21st Century. CD's are 20th Century. Blackberrys are 20th Century. Being opposed to physician assisted suicide is 20th Century...Well, at least according to Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens. In an article in today's edition of The Age ("Brown attacks Catholic Church election stance"), Mr Brown says:''I welcome the Catholic Church or the Presbyterian Church or the Buddhists or anyone having a say in that [euthanasia] - we are a free and open democracy - but it really opens up to public attention the fact that the Greens are a 21st-century party trying to drag the other parties out of their last-century thinking on so many issues.''Ah. "Last-century thinking". There's nothing like pumping up the relentless tide of "progress" to make a political party look as if it has a future. Actually, Mr Brown's rhetoric sounds rather 20th Century itself. Anyone who knows any social history will recall that in the first decade of the 20th Century, "Victorian values" were condemned as "so last century", and the newly minted 20th Century was proclaimed to be the "Century of Progress" and "the Brotherhood of Man"… The Great War broke out in 1914, and the idea of "the progress of man" got a bit of a reality check. We're only 10 years into this new century, Mr Brown. Let's wait and see how the 21st Century turns out before we start using it as a positive adjective for our political ideals.In any case, it is rather telling that Mr Brown has pulled off his gloves and openly attacked Archbishop Hart and the Catholic Church for its opposition to policies which the Greens espouse. By contrast, in Your Vote, Your Values, the Catholic bishops were very careful to make it quite clear that "as bishops we are not advocating any political party. That is not our role." But according to Mr Brown, the Church is trying to "dictate to people" and "trying to tell parishioners how to vote". Good try, Mr Brown. In fact, what the Church is doing is what she has always done: guiding and shepherding the flock, speaking the truth of faith and morals, suggesting a "better way", a path of life and of hope. This is, in fact, what Catholics belong to a Church for. They expect their bishops to educate them in what is right and wrong, and to encourage them to live a morally upright life in society.Mr Brown retorts that "the Greens embraced Christian ethics and Catholic voters could think for themselves." Another nice try. For a start it would be interesting to see how Mr Brown defines "Christian ethics". Are the Greens now claiming a more infallible charism to teach Christian ethics than the Church herself? And yes, Catholics who can think for themselves are precisely what we want, with an emphasis on the word "think". The Greens are far too complacent in their ability to pass off ideas as "progressive" and therefore "good" for our society. We want a Catholic laity who can think beyond the slogans of Greens policies.One is not, however, optimistic. In the Letters section of today's Age, there were nine (9) letters on the subject of the Bishops' statement. ALL NINE WERE ANTI-CATHOLIC. That's balance for you. Perhaps – just maybe perhaps – The Age received no positive letters about the bishops' initiative at all. Perhaps.A quick review of the letters gives us:"WHILE Catholic bishops are perfectly entitled to advise their flocks on moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, they are not entitled to impose those views on the broader society…[I]f every Catholic followed the advice, all members of our society would be affected." (Dr Peter Evans, Hawthorn) Than[...]

Indulgence Season

2010-11-13T20:46:01.615+11:00 now open. For the Indulgences for the Faithful Departed, available from 1 to 8 November, see here.Of course, this is a contentious issue ecumenically. Yesterday was celebrated as the Festival of the Reformation in the Lutheran Church, because it was on the eve of All Saints that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517. Ever since then, indulgences has been a flashpoint issue in the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics.My children were treated yesterday to a "fun" children's address in which (according to their report) the one giving the address came into the church crying something along the lines of "Pay your money and get your sins forgiven". They were then taught that sins are only forgiven through confession and repentance. Of course. That is what the Catholic Church teaches too. Indulgences has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins, and perpetuating this myth is not helpful. But when I tried to explain what an indulgence is to my children, I found myself floundering. That is because there are at least four ideas behind the doctrine of indulgences that need to be comprehended before the doctrine makes any sense - it is like a picture which is dependant upon the frame for its full understanding. That framework consists of the following doctrines:1) Purgatory2) "Merit"3) Communion of Saints4) the Authority of the Church to bind or looseEach of these issues in turn is hotly contended between our two communions, and just complicates the misunderstandings.I also find that trying to explain the doctrine of indulgences to a non-Catholic comes up against a problem that is a little like trying to describe to someone what a stained glass window looks like, when you are viewing the window from inside the church, with the light streaming in and making it look beautiful and attractive and gracious, and the person you are trying to explain it to is standing on the outside of the church, seeing only the grey dark blobs of glass with darkness behind it. It is a doctrine that looks completely different to someone standing inside the Catholic Church to someone standing outside it.A related problem is that to the person outside the Church, it looks as if we are doing legalistic "works" to win God's favour, his love, his acceptance, his approval, his forgiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. It really has to do with one's relationship to God in terms of one's attachment to sin and purification from that attachment. I find one of the most helpful analogies being that which my friend Peter once pointed out: there are some things which the Church recommends that you can do for "the good of your soul". Even the protestant churches have this, of course. They recommend bible reading, prayer, acts of charity, fasting etc. They know that, as our Lord taught us, these things are "for the good of your soul". They do not "earn" anything, rather they strengthen one's relationship with the Lord and they purify one from attachment to self and sin. The Authority of the Church to bind or loose on earth and the promise that this will be granted by God in heaven is also central to our practice of indulgences. The Church has the authority to "recommend" this or that act of devotion or charity which the individual believer may engage in and to attach to it the promises of God. That is a very contentious issue in itself, but Catholics believe that the Church actually has the authority to act in the way in which Jesus said it does. It can determine the guidelines by which this "binding or loosing" may be obtained. Of course, here we are not talking about the "binding or loosing" of absolut[...]

"It's not my building, its God's".


Well, that isn't quite the quote, I admit, but it could have been said. I am referring to an excellent article in Saturday's edition of The Age called "Mad, bad or masterful?" by Ray Edgar on La Sagrada Familia, the Barcelonian Church and dream of Antonio Gaudi, nearing completion and to be consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI this coming Sunday. It is a very good article, which brings to light a Melbourne connection with the Church. Melbourne architect and professor at RMIT, Mark Burry, has been working on the Church as a consultant for thirty years, and the article focuses on his attitude toward La Sagrada Familia and its original architect. The quotation is actually from Burry himself, who said "It's not my building, it's Gaudi's", but the whole article points to a controversy in the direction of the heading of this post. At the end of the article, Burry says, in answer to the question "But is it in service to God or Gaudi?":"It's a church," says Burry. "Its purpose is to afford the congregation of people from all walks of life with a place for one purpose. If they are thinking of architects, they will be thinking of Gaudi and an architect who died in 1926, who had the capacity to inspire people to make money sufficient to get the church started and built, and inspired people to continue that work 80 years after his death."And it is precisely this point - that La Sagrada Familia is a CHURCH - that gets up the nose of secularist opponents to this amazing and miraculous project. As Edgar summarises:While zealots have, over the years, nominated Gaudi himself for sainthood, not everyone is rejoicing in the building's completion. This landmark of the city, which attracts 2.6 million tourists a year, is also a symbol of the divisions within it. The issues involve heritage, the role of the church and state, and, indeed, the reputation of the architect himself - one whose architecture teacher described him to his students as "a genius and probably mad". [my emphasis]He goes on:Indeed, the cultural tremors surrounding the Sagrada Familia date back decades... After the war, Europe's cultural elite felt the same way about continuing construction on the site. Architectural luminaries such as Le Corbusier and Gropius signed local petitions against it. More recently, FAD, the key artistic and architectural union in Barcelona, produced the "Gaudi: Red Alert" manifesto signed by the Spanish intelligentsia, including the head of the Reina Sofia museum. Former FAD president Beth Gali herself appears in Robert Hughes' 2003 Gaudi documentary offering facetious proposals for the new sections of the church - a Christo wrapping, a train station, which Hughes, another opponent, happily endorses. In his 1992 book on the city, Hughes laments, "Nothing can be done about the Sagrada Familia"."There's lots of reasons to think of why you wouldn't want to continue that building," Mark Burry says. "That it's better off as a ruin, testament to a tragic genius, or that it's better to rethink religious observance for the 21st century in a different form. I asked them myself when I came here in 1979. Why didn't they adapt it to a secular plan? It seemed like that would be a more ecumenical approach. I was told it's not my building, it's Gaudi's building."......Barcelona-based architect David Mackay, a partner in the prestigious architectural firm MBM Architects, who signed the petition against the project along with Le Corbusier, says the church is the product of Gaudi's deluded obsession, rather than the great man's best work. Gaudi was in thrall to God and "his mind was stolen by fundamentalism". W[...]

Your Vote, Your Values


Coming out this weekend in all parishes in Victoria is a joint statement from the Catholic diocesan bishops of Victoria, Archbishop Denis Hart (Archbishop of Melbourne), and Bishops Peter Connors (Ballarat), Joseph Grech (Sandhurst), and Christopher Prowse (Sale) called "Your Vote, Your Values: Issues and Questions for Parliamentary Candidates for the Victorian Election".

I have been eagerly awaiting this document, as I have been wanting to write to my local member and to the other candidates to ascertain where they stand on a number of crucial issues. This is because things are not simple in the State of Victoria at the moment. The political values of the parties and leaders are not clearly demarcated, and the policies of all parties seem more designed to get themselves elected than to do what is right for the state. There are good and honest and virtuous candidates in all the parties, but their own values do not always translate into the value of the party as a whole or that of their leaders.

But we don't get to elect a party or a leader, we only get to elect a candidate. So it is vital to know what your candidate stands for. "Your Vote, Your Values" provides a series of issues and related questions on a number of values, including Life, Families, Education, Health and Aged Care, Community, and Religious Freedom. Taking this statement, I have written it up as a questionnaire in table form for my local member and the other candidates (I have turned all the questions into "Yes/No" questions for quick answering, and also added a question about funding palliative care - I don't know why that was left off the list). I am going to send it to each of them, and request a response. I will inform them also that I am a blogger, and will report on their responses (or lack of response) to my readers on my blog (the questionnaire is rather extensive, and it is not likely that they would go to the bother of answering it unless they knew that it was going to be reported).

I wonder what the response will be?

In the mean time, if you want to do the same, you can download the questionnaire from here from Media Fire (sorry, free Wordpress doesn't support document hosting). You can find out information about the Election and Candidates from this website. Note that official nominations for the 2010 Victorian State election only open next Wednesday, 3 November, so start writing your letters now ready to post next week.

Please share any responses you get with us in the combox to this post, or email them to me and I will post them.

Our St Mary: More likely to pray for vocations than to challenge for women "priests"


Dr Laura Beth Bugg (a lecturer in sociology of religion at the University of Sydney) writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:
This past week a woman was ordained a Catholic priest in Canada. The church did not sanction her ordination, and she will shortly be excommunicated. Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a movement for women's ordination that began in 2002, supervised the ordination. Since that time nearly 100 women worldwide have been ordained, although none have been recognised by the church.

These are not women who wish to break off from the church; they want to reimagine it. There are yet other Catholic feminists who understand the very concept of priesthood and the hierarchical structure of the church as fatally flawed. They do not wish to see women as priests, but to see the entire Catholic community as one that is radically democratic and committed to peace-making, justice and community building.

...Perhaps the legacy of St Mary and others like her who have spoken out boldly and faithfully will be to inspire new generations to speak to the structures of hierarchy and patriarchy that choke the church and countless other religious institutions.

Dr Bugg attempts in this article to use (abuse?) St Mary of the Cross MacKillop for her cause. As she herself points out, St Mary wisely advised: "Never see a need without doing something about it". But I am confident that, rather than trying to "reimagine the Church", St Mary was and is more likely to follow Jesus' own directions, as he said: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Taking your (Greek) bible to Church


It is a regular practice for protestants to take not only their hymnal but also their bibles to church with them on Sunday - although these days there are usually "pew bibles" (ie. copies of the bible in the pews already) provided. They are likely to look up the readings for the day and to read along as the lector is reading the lessons. Catholics on the other hand get everything in their missals (except the hymns, but I'm not going there just now), or at least on their bulletin sheets, so, even if they do read along with the reading instead of just listening to it (that is another question too, which we will deal with another time), they don't really ever get the readings in context. Often too, they are not even aware of where it comes in the bible. All that being as it is, my issue here today is that I have decided that in the future I will take my Greek New Testament along to mass, because I have become very suspicious of the tranlstion in our missal. We are stuck with the current translation - which I understand are a modified version of the Jerusalem Bible - for at least the next twelve months, when - again as I understand it - we will get a modified version of the New Revised Standard Version instead. That should be an approvement, depending on the level of modification. But it will surely be a relief to leave the JB well and truly behind.All this is prompted by last week's gospel, on the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:9-14. Here is how the missal has it:Gospel Lk 18:9-14 A reading from the holy Gospel according to LukeThe publican returned to his home justified; the pharisee did not.Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’I have highlighted a word-stem that occurs three times in that story, and (in the missal) once in the short summary of the Gospel at the beginning (which isn't read aloud). The word-stem is the Greek "dikai-/dikoi-" stem. I am teaching Romans at the moment for Anima Education, and so my ears are very attuned to this word and its translations. The word can basically be translated in two directions, either as "righteous" or as "just", from which we get "justification" and "justify" as well. The confusion abounds in the above translation which translates "dikaioi" in verse 9 as "virtuous" (instead of "righteous"), "adikoi" in verse 11 as "unjust", and "dedikaiomenos" in verse 14 as "at rights with God". For good measure, the initial summary translates "dedikaiomenos" as "justified". Reading (or, even more, listening) to this parable told in the Jerusalem Bible translation obscures the fact that the central question of the story is: Who is "Righteous"? And that of course, requires the preacher or homilist to explain to the assembly what "righteous" actually means - for the one thing it certainly doesn't mean [...]





I have been very impressed with the new version of Sherlock Holmes that has been showing on Channel Nine (BBC One "Sherlock"). I caught only the last one on the telly on Sunday night, and have watched the first episode on the catchup channel on the internet.

A review in The Sunday Age accurately called Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of the title role as Holmes a mixture of Hornblower, Dr Who and House. He is a thoroughly interesting and engaging character. Martin Freeman does an excellent Dr Watson. The relationship between the two is filled with good humour and warmth - odd given how cold Holmes is supposed to be.

Clearly this series owes something to the recent Sherlock Holmes film - many of the usual cliches such as the deerstalker are abandoned, and the theme music is very similar - but they go one step further in placing Holmes in modern day London rather than in Victorian England. This has been done before, of course. The Basil Rathbone series was in a contemporary (1930's) setting, if I remember correctly.

A striking feature of the modern Sherlock is his use of the modern mobile phone to instantly access data from the internet. He also texts. He doesn't smoke - but clearly he once did as he is using nicotine patches to overcome his addiction and help him think. The drugs are there too (somewhere), and he has a go (unsuccessful) at boxing in the third episode. Mrs Hudson, 221B Baker Street, even the Irregulars are all there in an updated manner.

Really this is very good television.

Cute, and helpful, even if misdirected


[caption id="attachment_4382" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Cartoon by Bill Leak, The Australian, Monday 25th October 2010"](image) [/caption]

Today's cartoon in The Australian is cute, but a little misdirected. I don't think it is the Lutherans of Woodside that are making all the noise against the proposed assylum seeker processing centre (Woodside was not one of the 19th Century SA German settlements, although of course, there are lots of descendants living there). Although the historical reminder is worth taking note of. I tell my children that some of our ancestors came to Australia as religious "assylum seekers". George Fife Angas, a Baptist who sponsored their settlement in South Australia, saw their plight as not unlike that of the dissenters of Great Britain. The South Australian colony at the time welcomed the newcomers as they were a good source of labour and were productive farmers providing much needed food for the new settlement. In the 19th Century, South Australia was one of the most multi-cultural colonies in Australia. Bill Leak's humour, though misdirected, should at least be a reminder to South Australians that "we've done this before" and benefited from it.

What Ho, Fr Denton! Rector of Domus Australis!


[caption id="attachment_4379" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Fr Anthony Denton"](image) [/caption]

Oh, I say. Talk about falling on your feet! Fr Anthony Denton, our one time Vocations Director here in the glorious See of Melbourne, has been dubbed the first "Rector of Domus Australis".
"Fr Denton is currently completing a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology in Rome, is a keen historian, speaks fluent Italian and has an insider's knowledge of Rome and the Vatican city," Archbishop Hart said.

Cardinal Pell agreed. "We are very fortunate to have a priest like Fr Denton in this role," he said, adding that Domus Australia would continue the long established Church tradition of providing accommodation for pilgrims in holy places and that it would also be a religious and cultural centre for visitors to Rome.

"A centre such as this requires an outstanding priest with energy and vision and we look forward to Fr Denton working with us in this role," the Cardinal said.

I can't wait to visit Rome again - and hopefully this time I will be able to stay at Domus Australis and experience the hospitality of the Rector. He certainly can't complain, in this new role, that people are "dropping in on him" from home. I hope that he finds time to complete his doctoral studies. Something about Eastern ecclesiology, if I remember correctly...

In the meantime, have a gizz at this video - no mention of the new Rector, unfortunately.


Another significant new Cardinal


[caption id="attachment_4372" align="aligncenter" width="324" caption="Archbishop - soon to be Cardinal - Malcom Ranjith"](image) [/caption]Sandro Magister correctly predicted one of the Cardinals in the latest announcement:
ROME, October 14, 2010 – In Sri Lanka, the bishops and priests dress all in white, as can be seen in the unusual photograph above: with the entire clergy of the diocese of Colombo, the capital, diligently listening to its archbishop, Malcolm Ranjith, who is likely to be made a cardinal at the next concistory.
He was quite right. Malcolm Ranjith, one time secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, is also one of the Church's foremost proponents of returning to ad orientam celebration of the liturgy along with kneeling to receive Communion and reception of communion on the tongue. Take the time to read Magister's piece and you will understand where Pope Benedict is coming from.