Wednesday, 30 May 2012

When transparency and accountability just isn't...

There is always a delicate balance between transparency and accountability on the one hand, and the need to protect confidentiality in the interests of good governance on the other.

For good decisions to be made, there are times when people have to be able to exchange opinions frankly and fearlessly.

Over at Cath News, there has been lavish coverage of these various stories, a certain glee and predictable reaction to the 'Vaticleaks' affair in the comments box.

So let's hope they also run this response tomorrow.

Osservatore Romano on the stolen documents affair

Here is the response, from VIA news:

"The "Osservatore Romano" newspaper today published an interview with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, concerning the question of stolen papal documents.


Archbishop Becciu says that he has seen the Holy Father "suffering because, on the basis of what has thus far emerged, someone very close to him would seem to have acted in a completely unjustifiable manner. Of course, the Pope's prevailing sentiment is one of pity for the person involved, but the fact remains that he has been the victim of a brutal action. Benedict XVI has had to witness the publication of letters stolen from his own home, not simply private correspondence but information, reflections, expressions of states of mind, and effusive comments which he has received merely by virtue of his ministry. For this reason the Pope is particularly sorrowful, also for the violence suffered by the writers of the letters he has received".

In the view of the Secretariat of State, the publication of these documents "is an immoral act of unprecedented gravity, especially because it is not just a serious violation of the privacy to which everybody should have the right, but a despicable abuse of the relationship of trust that exists between Benedict XVI and those who turn to him, even if they do so to express some heartfelt protest. The question does not merely involve the theft of some of the Pope's letters; the consciences of those who address him as the Vicar of Christ have been violated, and the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter has come under attack".

It is, Archbishop Becciu said, unjustifiable to claim that the stolen documents were published for the cause of transparency and reform in the Church. Robbery and accepting stolen goods are both illegal. "These are simple concepts, perhaps too simple for some people, but certainly when a person loses sight of them he easily loses his way and also leads others into disaster. Renewal cannot trample moral law on the basis of the principle that the end justifies the means, which is not in any case a Christian principle".

A number of articles which have appeared in newspapers in recent days have suggested that the published documents reveal turbid dealings inside the Vatican walls. On this subject the substitute for General Affairs notes that, "on the one hand they criticise the monarchic and absolutist nature of central Church government, while on the other they are scandalised because people who write to the Pope may express ideas or even complaints about how that government is organised. Many of the published documents do not reveal power struggles or vendettas but the freedom of thought which the Church is criticised for not allowing. ... Diverging points of view, even contrasting evaluations, are part of the normal order, and if someone feels misunderstood he has every right to turn to the Pontiff. What is scandalous about that? Obedience does not mean renouncing one's own opinions, but sincerely and fully expressing one's point of view, then abiding by the leader's decision".

In conclusion Archbishop Becciu tells the Catholic faithful that "the Pope has not lost that serenity which enables him to govern the Church with determination and foresight. ... We wish to echo the Gospel parable which the Holy Father himself mentioned a few days ago: the winds beat against the house but it does not fall. The Lord sustains it and no storm can bring it down".

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cath News on Monday: Michael Voris on the Sydney's gay Mass - and the response

Continuing my campaign to keep a focus on Cath News, on Monday Cath News 'blog watcher', Michael Mullins flagged the continuing scandal of Sydney's homosexual 'acceptance' masses.

I want to congratulate Cath News for highlighting the issue, even if not for the wording of the write up!

Indeed, an issue well worth drawing our attention to!

Including the continuing scandal of priests and bishops who refuse to teach what the Church teaches on this subject.

Opposing the 'gay' lifestyle is not homophobic!

The starting point for this debate is this video from Michael Voris on the 'Acceptance' Mass at Newtown, made during his recent Australian tour.

Mullins describes it as 'homophobic'.  One expects that kind of name calling from the secular media.  But Catholics should know that to oppose the promotion of immorality and all that goes with the 'gay lifestyle' does not constitute homophobia!

Far from vilifying homosexuals, as some are claiming, Voris elsewhere suggests that Catholic homosexuals can offer their chastity as 'victim souls', offering up their sufferings for the salvation of the world.

What Voris is attacking here is not homosexuals per se, but a community that actively participates in the Mardi Gras each year, and worse.

It is indeed a continuing scandal on which Cardinal Pell's refusal to act is difficult to understand.



And the response?

Mr Mullins was actually trying to draw our attention to the response from  Fr Peter Maher of Newtown.

Far from reassuring us that Church teachings are being respected in his ministry to the homosexual community, Fr Maher's blog post actually to argue away Church teaching and the Scriptural injunctions on the subject.  Consider this extract from his post for example:

"But what of the scripture passages that seem so damning of homosexuality? Through scripture scholarship which emphasizes the meaning of the text in context, it seems that all the texts referring to homosexuality, and there are not many – indeed, none in the gospel, all refer to abusive sexual relationships. In times when people did not identify as gay, as they do today, it is reasonable to infer that the texts referring to homosexuality refer to people being used and abused. Scriptural texts do encourage intimate and caring relationships and these can often be found among lesbian and gay couples."

Rubbish!  Take a look at Romans Chapter 1 for example.

Fr Maher has even produced his own video to push his erroneous views on the subject (though I couldn't get it to play!).

Time for Cardinal Pell to act!

To contact him, should you feel moved to do so, the Archdiocesan website gives this email address: chancery@sydneycatholic.org

Pope says to renew the soul of our institutions (Cath News open post for Tuesday)

Consider what Cath News is reporting on today, and whether your comments are accepted or not in the light of some words of the Holy Father reported by VIS News today that are particularly apposite to the Cath News context:

"We must form people's consciences in the light of the Word of God, whence all plans of the Church and of men draw meaning and strength, also as regards the construction of the earthly city. We must renew the soul of our institutions and make history fertile with the seeds of new life". Benedict XVI pronounced these words this morning in St. Peter's Square where he received thousands of members of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit Association,which is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of its foundation in Italy.


The Pope expressed the view that "in modern society we are experiencing a situation which is in some ways precarious, characterised by insecurity and the fragmentary nature of decisions. Often there is a lack of points of reference from which to draw inspiration for our lives. It is, then, increasingly important to construct the edifice of life and social relationships on the stable rock of the Word of God".

Today, the Holy Father said, believers are called to show a "convincing, sincere and credible witness of faith, one closely united to charitable commitment, It is, in fact, through charity, that people far removed from and indifferent to the the message of the Gospel are able to approach the truth and to become converted to the merciful love of the heavenly Father".
 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Starting afresh from Christ: open post on Cath News for Monday!

We are in the Australian 'Year of Grace' now, and the tagline for the year is 'Starting Afresh in Christ'.

So let's call on Cath News to start afresh.

And keep calling!

Comments

This morning I said:
Last week's campaign to reform Cath News focused primarily on comments over at Cath News.  I have more to say on this topic shortly, but do keep your rejected comments coming in! 

And do keep trying, even if you think you are butting up against a brick wall!

This evening I have to conclude we really have to keep trying even harder!

The Gospel is literally true!

Consider, for example, the ugly modernism that has appeared in response to an news item presenting science to support an event reported in St Mathew's Gospel, viz an earthquake  on the day Our Lord was crucified. 

The scientists suggest there actually was one on Friday April 3, 33 AD. 

Now you'd think that would be potentially at least regarded as good news, a little independent corroboration that might aid the faithful.

But according to commenter Francis Maloney (and supported as might be expected by the usual suspects) the possibility of it being literally true gets in the way of understanding the 'real message' St Matthew was trying to convey!  And of course the last thing we would want to encourage is belief in the literal truth of the Gospel... Gah!

Now I know the Catechism is inconvenient to historico-critical devotees who received their theological education in the barren years of the 60s and 70s, but does contain some important principles, which one can also find in recent magisterial documents such as Verbum Domini.  In particular:

"The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."

We are not supposed to start from our assumptions about what the writer is trying to say and interpret backwards!  We are meant to start from the literal.

I'm not saying that this really was the earthquake recorded by St Matthew.  But for the record, whether an event is mentioned in only one of all four of the Gospels is irrelevant in determining whether or not it really happened - one mention is enough!

The stories and links they are missing...

But this week I want to focus primarily on Cath News' story selection.

And particularly, the stories they aren't reporting on, the sources they never use (the Life Site immediately springs to mind!), the links to helpful contextual material they aren't including.

So throw in your suggestions folks!

Think about the commentators we never hear from; the political topics rarely touched on; and in particular, what is missing from today's selection.

And given that today is Michael Mullins' blogwatcher, tell us especially which blogs you think he should be mentioning instead of his regular selection of Irish and American liberal/Jesuit hangouts!

Cath News must be reformed!

Cath News must be reformed: Who are the real 'Temple Police'?

Over at aCatholica Forum, Brian Coyne has had a couple of goes at my campaign to reform Cath News, first to suggest that Michael Mullins stop directing readers my way (sleeping with the enemy!), and most recently to describe the campaign as part of the 'Temple Police' effort.

But it is Cath News that is doing the censoring Brian!

But here's the thing Brian.

Just in the last week, I've captured fifteen, in my view perfectly legitimate, comments rejected by Cath News here. 

And been told offline about several more that didn't make it past the censor over there.

Just in a week.

Add to that the many people who have just given up, knowing they won't be published over there.

I don't much like the term temple police.  But if there are any obvious candidates for the job title, it is Cath News' staff, not me!

Listening to your customers

Now I can understand perhaps, why comments criticizing Cath News's story selection or modus operandi get rejected for publication. 

Personally, if I were in charge of Cath News, I'd at least engage in a bit of 'customer care' in these cases.  I'd put together some more or less standard words for the commenter which said that their comment was being considered/had been considered but was accepted with because...and engage offline.  It is, after all, fairly standard business practice to listen to reader complaints and take them seriously!

Such responses done well can turn a disgruntled reader into a champion for your organization.

But here is a clue.  Smarmy, insulting or patronising responses to such complaints are not going to turn us into converts to your organization's cause, quite the contrary.

It is going to cause us to launch campaigns such as this one...

But why reject...?

I find it rather less understandable why so many other comments from ordinary believing Catholics on stories run over there seem to be being rejected though.

Wouldn't it be great if the bishops or Catholic Resources got someone in to do an audit of all those gigabytes of rejected comments that must be sitting around on Ms Hogan's computer, and take a fresh look, with a view to drawing up some sensible guidelines!

Here are some of what seem to be some of the 'no go zones' over at Cath News.  Please do add to the list - I'm thinking of using them to conduct a survey (why do you think your comment was rejected...).
Women religious

Ms Hogan has previously openly admitted that she will reject pretty much any comment that criticizes Australian women religious.  In the context of the celebrations of St Mary McKillop's canonization, for example, she stated that:

"This question of women religious... and their dress is a continuing, low-level grumble-thread through the discussion boards. Ever since one such missive appeared in reaction to the Mary MacKillop special edition we did on February 19 for the announcement of the date of the canonisation, harping on about the Sisters of St Joseph not wearing habits, I have routinely deleted them."

Indeed she once banned a priest (!) for daring to speak up on this topic:

"I banned a priest for a week recently because he constantly wrote in the most denigrating terms about religious sisters who do not wear a habit. When I refused to publish a comment in the same vein and offered him a week’s respite from the boards to consider his position, he wrote to me: “No offence was meant to the real Sister’s (sic) who have dedicated themselves to the Consecrated life, nursing, teaching, serving etc.. Them I defend to the death. But ‘Sisters’ in worldly finery of makeup, jewellery etc. is (sic) a scandal to many of us, who are expected to believe they have no overt attachment to anything except serving God and neighbour."

Indeed!

Why censor debate on this topic? 

Wearing a habit is a requirement of Church law for religious. 

And surely debate about whether or not the modern Josephites (and other Orders) are remaining true to their founder's charism is a legitimate topic for discussion on the part of catholics.

Even the faintest hint of criticism of the bishops in any way is also taboo

Criticism of any action of bishops (or is it just certain bishops?) also seems to be taboo over there.

Now I guess that's a case of not biting the hand that feeds you, but are our bishops really not interested in hearing other perspectives from the laity, or is this just a case of Cath News making its own presumptions?

Take a look back at posts on the handling of the sex abuse cases for example - you'll find, on the whole, a remarkable lack of comments.  And as far as I could see on a quick check (and I'd be happy to proven wrong on this) only the most muted of criticism possible of the handling of it all by our own bishops.

Ms Hogan commented a while back:

"Among the most commented was the question of sexual abuse in the Church. The heartfelt responses showed how deeply the members of the Body of Christ felt the crisis, and how painful the process has been for everyone involved. Sadly, it also provided an opportunity for some people just to get into Church-bashing mode, and pursue their own, narrow agendas."

But the issue here is, on the sex abuse scandal and other potential scandals, have things really changed enough?  Has enough action really been taken to deal not just with the symptoms but also the disease? Have our leaders really understood how betrayed the laity continue to feel? 

Asking these kinds of questions is not about pursuing 'narrow agendas'.  Rather, it is about making sure that we learn from history, tackle root causes, rather than repeat past mistakes.

Calling heresy what it is!

One of the strangest reasons for rejecting comments over there seems to me to be the aversion to the word heretic.  It goes along with the false secularist notion that 'niceness' should always be the norm.

I'm all for civility when appropriate.  But there are times for name-calling diatribes, as Our Lord shows in Matthew 23 (Woe to you, blind guides; woe to you, hypocrites.') or as St Paul illustrates when he castigated the Corinthians for immorality. 

On many subjects (some of which I've touched on above) there is plenty of room for debate within the Church.

On pretty much all areas, there is room to look for the best way of presenting a truth to the modern world.

There are some areas where different theologians will debate just what we are and aren't required to believe.  Cath News, for example, highlighted some views on Nostra Aestate recently, that suggested that its teaching on the Jews was binding on all Catholics.  Other websites quickly highlighted a counter opinion (strangely not picked up by Cath News!) by a leading Cardinal on this same subject.
Perhaps when and if the SSPX ever do reconcile, the Pope will provide some official guidance on this particular debate, and resolve it once and for all.  But in the meantime, the question of just how binding Vatican II teachings are is open to debate amongst theologians at least. 

But in some areas the Catholic Church does actually have a set of formally defined teachings which all Catholics are required to believe.

Reject them and your are in error/hold erroneous views - you are what is known popularly as a heretic.  Continue to reject them after formal correction by the proper authorities and you are automatically excommunicated.

So what's wrong with calling it for what it is?

What can and can't be discussed

On a Catholic News board, I can see a good case for allowing genuine comments that seek to understand why the Church holds the position it does.  So many Catholics are poorly catechized, so many lack any knowledge of basic apologetics, there is a gap to be filled that Cath News could and should help in filling.

But I see no case at all for allowing comments that reject those teachings outright and incite others to do likewise.  It is called protestantism, and should be rejected.

But above all, I remain extremely puzzled as to why something calling itself 'cath news' persists in rejecting those who actually want to defend the faith against such attacks!

Similarly, while many topics in the pastoral sphere are surely open to debate (the merits or otherwise of covenants with the Anglicans springs to mind!).

But there are some pastoral decisions where we just have to accept the official ruling: Rome has spoken, the case has closed, as St Augustine so eloquently put it.

So no Brian, I'm not the Temple Police.

I just want Catholic voices to be heard, and the faith to be promoted through Cath News' ministry.

I want genuine debate and discussion, within the proper limits set by the (actual) Magisterium and not the arbitrary Magisterium of Cath News (or the acatholics).

Why is that too much to ask?

Ordinariate and other good news: calling all Perth and Sydney readers!

A few good news stories to start the week on a happy note!

Upcoming Ordinariate Ordinations

You may recall that Archbishop Hart announced that the Australian Ordinariate for former Anglicans would commence on June 15.

Well here is something to make that a bit more concrete.  I've been told that Bishop Harry Entwistle of the Traditional Anglican Communion will be ordained to the Catholic Priesthood at 7.00 pm on Friday 15 June 2012 at St Mary’s Cathedral Perth – ie the “start date” of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.  Also, members of his TAC flock will be received into the Catholic Church.

So Perthites, please do make a note in your diaries, and show them your support!

And if you know of upcoming ordinations/receptions into the Church elsewhere, please do let me know and I'll publicize them too!

Please keep all concerned in your prayers.

Two new doctors of the Church

Secondly, the Pope has announced that on October 7 he will proclaim St Hildegard of Bingen and St John of Avila doctors of the Church.  At his Regina Caeli address for Pentecost he said:

These two great witnesses of the faith lived in very different historical periods and came from different cultural backgrounds,” he said. “But the sanctity of life and depth of teaching makes them perpetually present: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fact, projected them into that experience of penetrating understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world that constitutes the horizon of permanent life and action of the Church.”

Especially in light of the project of the New Evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the vigil of the Year of Faith, these two figures of saints and doctors are of considerable importance and relevance.”

New religious community in Australia?

The Maternal Heart of Mary website in Sydney announces that:

"With the approval of His Lordship, Bishop Julian Porteous, Francesca Wills and Colette Ng will be departing Australia in mid-July to complete a period of formation within an active Benedictine Community in France in order to return to Sydney, deo volente, to start a semi contemplative Benedictine Community using the Old Rite."

If you are in a position to help them financially, go the Maternal Heart website for details.  And please keep these two women in your prayers.

Reform of the reform in Sydney?

You might recall that I asked a week or so back abut any 'reform of the reform' Masses (ideally ad orientem in English).  Got several responses for Melbourne, so I just thought I'd try again on the Sydney front - are there really no particularly good OF masses in Sydneytown?  Or anywhere else in the country?  I don't believe it - please do help turn this into another good news item by telling us about the good Masses in your town!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Year of Grace series: The Wisdom Sayings of St Benedict/1



Today is the official start of the Australian Year of Grace (well year and a half really, as it won't officially close until November 2013 when the Year of Faith finishes).

I wanted to make my own contribution in the spirit of the Year, and so today I'm launching a weekly series on the Wisdom Sayings of St Benedict (480-543).

The Year of Grace is about, amongst other things, committing ourselves to the path of holiness, cultivating the many gifts of the Spirit and seeking to grow as disciples of Jesus.

How better to do this than to contemplate the wisdom and life of one of the Church's greatest saints, a saint who lived, perhaps as we do today, at a time when civilization was collapsing?

If the Year of Grace is meant to be a quasi-retreat, think of this series as Conferences for that retreat, providing some fodder for you to think on.  So I hope you will enjoy it and find something of use in it.

But first a few comments by way of short introduction.

The Tools of Good Works

By the wisdom sayings of St Benedict, I'm actually talking about Chapter Four of his Rule, entitled the tools (or instruments) of Good Works.

They aren't particularly original.  Rather they are distillation from many sources of the key practices and attitudes that all Christians should adopt in ways appropriate to their state of life.

In fact St Benedict, in his conclusion to the chapter, says of them:

"Behold these are the tools of the spiritual craft. If we employ them unceasingly day and night, and on the Day of Judgement render account of them, then we shall receive from the Lord in return that reward which he himself has promised: Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, what God hath pre­pared for those that love him..."

The chapter is, on the face of it, a somewhat eclectic list of one liners, that starts and ends with the Great Commandment, takes in some of the ten commandments, the works of spiritual and corporal mercy, and much more.  But there are some sub-programs underlying their ordering, and some reasons, I think, why some things were included and others left out that I'll explore as we go along.

Food for reflection and contemplation

All up there are 72 (or 73 depending on how you split them) of these sayings (so they will spread nicely over that year and a half!).

Now normally of course, if one reads the Rule of St Benedict regularly, one tends to skip through them fairly quickly.

But I want to treat them one at a time, and link each one to other aspects of St Benedict's teaching, his life, and other material that might open us to moments of grace.

The first saying: In the first place, to love the Lord God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s strength

The first of the tools of Good Work, is the Great Commandment (split into two, I'll deal with love of neighbour next week): the Latin is, In primis Dominum Deum diligere ex toto corde, tota anima, tota virtute.

The command to first to love God with one's whole heart, soul and mind is, of course, straight out of Scripture. Our Lord cites the text from Deuteronomy 6:5 when asked what is the greatest commandment (Mk 12:30).

And St Benedict places it at both the beginning and end of his list, and thus it can thus be seen as the summation of the whole Gospel, and of all the tools that come in between in St Benedict's list.

Loving God

The degree to which we can follow this Great Commandment determines and reflects the degree of our sanctity: the greatest saints are those with the greatest love for God.

A Carthusian puts it thus:

“God has commanded us to love him with ‘all your heart, all your soul, all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37), and we desire to love utterly in this way...But in this drama that of ourselves we are incompetent. We want to love purely, but we don’t want to entirely, not yet. We are so weak, so easily diverted from our true Good…Our heart is corrupt. This is our human inheritance; it is also the fruit of our personal choices. It demands ascesis: a hard, long struggle. But we are not alone. Christ has taken upon himself our nature and our sad heritage; he has redeemed us and he communicates his energy to us, the power of his Spirit, that enables us to enter the divine life that makes us children of God, and gives us the power to live, in the light, as children of God, after the pattern of Christ. But without us, not without our free co-operation, our personal response to his love.” (The Way of Silent Life, Conference II, pp 8).

How can we express our love for God: vocation

The first, and most important expression of our love for God is of course is to reject all other gods - such as the false gods of money, power and pleasure - and do for love what he wishes of us.

Of course, that's often the hardest of all the commandments to truly follow, because it requires that we properly discern our vocation, accept it, and then stay true to it.  Easier said then done!

Our vocation is first to a particular state of life: if we marry, it means no divorce; for a priest or religious, no escaping those vows and promises.

But secondly, our 'personal vocation' calls on us to act in the particular situations we find ourselves in accordance with the dictates of the Spirit.  We may be given a special call within our state of life.  And all of us are called to act, with the help of grace, to advance the faith in our families, parishes, communities and countries.

Our vocation in both senses requires a total commitment at every moment of the day.

We need the help of grace to open ourselves to this.

And we need to ask the aid of the great saints, who responded so selflessly to their calls, for aid. 

St Benedict: man of God

Let's take our inspiration from the opening of the story of St Benedict, as recounted by St Gregory the Great:

"There was a man of venerable life, blessed by grace, and blessed in name, for he was called "Benedictus" or Bennet: who, from his younger years, carried always the mind of an old man; for his age was inferior to his virtue: all vain pleasure he contemned, and though he were in the world, and might freely have enjoyed such commodities as it yieldeth, yet did he nothing esteem it, nor the vanities thereof.

He was born in the province of Nursia, of honourable parentage, and brought up at Rome in the study of humanity. But for as much as he saw many by reason of such learning to fall to dissolute and lewd life, he drew back his foot, which he had as it were now set forth into the world, lest, entering too far in acquaintance therewith, he likewise might have fallen into that dangerous and godless gulf: wherefore, giving over his book, and forsaking his father's house and wealth, with a resolute mind only to serve God, he sought for some place, where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose: and in this sort he departed, instructed with learned ignorance, and furnished with unlearned wisdom." (Translated into our English Tongue by "P. W." and printed at Paris in 1608. Re-edited by Edmund G. Gardner in 1911, and again by the Saint Pachomius Library in 1995)



You can find the next part of this series here.

Launching the Year of Grace...

Today is the official start of the Australian Year of Grace.

But just how that is marked will depend on your diocese.  Here is a round up of what's happening in the Archdioceses - do feel free to tell us what is happening in your own diocese, or to highlight any particularly good (or questionable!) initiatives for it that you are aware of.

Canberra

The Year of Grace will be launched at the Pentecost Masses to be held on the weekend of  27 May 2012.  A page on the website provides information and resource links.

But quite the nicest way to start any year of a quasi-retreat would be to attend Solemn Vespers at the Cathedral:

"Solemn Vespers will be sung by the choir of St Christopher's Cathedral on Pentecost at 4.45pm (preceding the 5.30pm Mass"

Brisbane

In Brisbane, Archbishop Mark Coleridge will celebrate a 10am Mass for Pentecost at the Cathedral of St Stephen.  The Archdiocesan website explains that  this will involve the "breaking open the ‘Year of Grace’".  The Archbishop has also put out his first Pastoral Letter to the Archdiocese on the subject.

Here is a short except:

"This Pentecost Sunday we begin what we’re calling the Year of Grace. This will be like a time of retreat for the whole Church in Australia – a time to refocus on what really matters, a time to rediscover the heart of the Christian life. We can’t earn the almost incredible love of God; but we don’t have to. It’s given to the unworthy as a free gift. All they have to do is accept it. But that can be harder than it sounds, given our tendency to insist that we can do it all ourselves."

Adelaide

In Adelaide, the Archdiocesan website explains that:

"Year of Grace will be launched on Pentecost Sunday, May 27. The overall focus for The Year of Grace in the Archdiocese of Adelaide will be one of prayer, using Lectio Divina to reflect on scripture.

Archbishop Philip Wilson has asked that every parish nominate two ambassadors to assist their parishes with promoting the Year of Grace. The ambassador's role will be to support the priest and parish leaders as well as a communication role passing on information from the Archdiocesan Year of Grace Committee."

The website includes links to a number of resources, including suggestions for a 'Liturgy of the Word' for the launch (bring out your projectors and get that logo up!).

Perth


In Perth:

"A Year of Grace will be launched in Perth with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB of Perth at 5pm on Pentecost Sunday, 27 May at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Archbishop Costelloe invites all parishioners to attend the Launch.

A Year of Grace candle for each parish will be blessed during the Mass and organisers hope that this candle will become a focal point for A Year of Grace in each parish community."

The website also has resources to explain what it is all about.

Melbourne


There doesn't seem to be a formal launch event as far as I can find, but Archbishop Hart's article on Kairos on the Year of Grace provides an important injunction we can all get behind, namely to pray for the Church in Australia:

"What, then, should you do in this Year of Grace? At the Feast of Pentecost, we remember that only the Holy Spirit can breathe new life into the Church. Therefore the most appropriate contribution you can make to the Year of Grace is to implore a new sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in Australia."Sydney

Sydney Archdiocese seems to be taking a rather different approach to the Year, viz ignore it as much as possible!

Bishop Comensoli, writing in the Catholic Weekly, explains that:

"For the next 12 months, until Pentecost 2013, the Catholic bishops of Australia are inviting you to join us in “starting afresh from Christ”: to enter on a journey of the heart so as to experience anew the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I should let you know, however, that there will be no launch of this Year in our Archdiocese of Sydney; no official event to mark the occasion; not even a list of initiatives to implement. The Year of Grace will begin with nothing ... or, more accurately, with nothing to do. It’s simply not that kind of Year.

And while Cardinal Pell's Pentecost message arguably deals with one of the themes of the Year (ie


The Archbishop's Pentecost Pastoral Letter takes the Year's tagline, Starting Afresh from Christ, as its title, and urges us to focus on grace, living out our baptism, start afresh with prayer, get back to Sunday Mass, go to confession, read the Bible, and focus on mission.  Good stuff!

Hobart

In Hobart the launch of the Year takes place at a 'Pentecost and Pizza' event:

"Southern Youth Council invites all young Southerners (& any visitors) to join with us at St. Mary’s Cathedral for Mass at 6.00pm for the Archdiocese of Hobart’s launch of The Year of Grace.

Following Mass you are invited to join with us in the Cathedral Centre for some pizza and a movie— ‘The Way’….there may be some ‘Holy Spirit’ flames & possibly even some marshmallows too!!

Launceston as a 'Soup and Spirit' event.

Surprisingly, the archdiocesan website has no obvious links to the official Year of Grace page displayed.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Pentecost!







Cath News on Friday and this week...

I promised I'd get back to Friday's edition of Cath News.  But first a few other issues that readers pointed to this week.

Melindagate

First, an update on the Cath News shouldn't-have-been a story of the week, the Melinda Gates saga.

Cath News got lots of comments on it. 

And rejected a whole lot more, read back through the week's posts!

Fortunately not all the Catholic media are acatholic, or at least not all the time, because this week's Catholic Weekly has a really excellent piece on the subject, from Jovina Graham under the heading 'Youth Voice'.  It talks about the 'Catholicbut' mentality.

It's the kind of article one would love to see featured on Cath Blog or in the opinion column (but I'm not holding my breath!), so do go take a look.

Anti-pope Joan

Sister Joan piece also seems to have attracted its share of rejections, presumably on the basis that they were part of a 'campaign'.  Here's a rejected comment passed to me by a reader:

"Poor Pope Pius XII cops it again with another broadside of allegations that have already been disproven in a number of books, including one written by a Jewish scholar. He was also awarded a medal from a Jewish organisation after WW2 for His and the Church`s efforts in saving Jews from Hitler’s final solution.One could suppose that any excuse to attack any Pope is easier for Sr Joan to do than answering the genuine and real problems among some religious organisations in America with relation to their loyalty and fidelity to the Church`s teaching. Why do Sr Joan`s writings always get a run at Cath-news when they seem to be always against the Church? As an organisation funded by the Catholic Church in Australia and funded by many individual [myself included] Catholics through the Bishop`s conference is it too much to ask Cath news to publish stories that are actually positive, loyal and true to the Church?"

Yup, I'm guessing it was rejected because it was interpreted as being part of my campaign for reform.  

Rejected for asked for stories that are positive, loyal and true to the Church!

Or perhaps it was rejected for attacking Sr Joan - for her attack on someone else!

Websites promoting abortion...

You might also look at the comment on Friday's open post from commenter Sharon, who pointed to one of Cath News' 'featured websites' that features links to sites promoting abortion.  Yes, it was  few years back. 

But the link is still there, live in their archives.

Despite the fact that more than a few commenters pointed out that it was not in fact a Catholic Agency (as the Cath News feature claims).

And despite the fact that it promotes contraception and abortion...

Oh dear, can the bishops really continue to protect this organization!


Friday's stories

Friday's stories included a few of particular note:
  • some comments from the Pope on absentee Dads, which attracted a series of shall we say, 'interesting' comments that could really do with some responses!;
  • the merger of the (few remaining) Tassie St Joseph's sisters and a gathering to honour the 125th anniversary of the order in Tasmania.  Cath News reports: "Archbishop Adrian Doyle was the main celebrant at yesterday's Mass which followed a procession of the Sisters into the church wearing their symbolic teal pashminas."[What is a 'pashminas' you ask?  According to wiki, it is something such as a scarf made out of a type of cashmere wool, that comes from the Nepalse pahmina goat!  Come on Cooees, that one is just begging for the treatment...]
  • Bishop Heenan of Rockhampton criticises the introduction of income management (which ensures that 50%  - not 70% as the story incorrectly claims (70% income management only applies when the child is in the child protection system because of substantiated neglect) - of unemployment and other benefits must be spent on essentials such as food, rent and other essentials, rather than pissed away on the grog.

Cath News must be reformed: Open Post for Perspectives (Weekend edition)***updated

So folk, no I'm not giving up; in fact I'm more determined than ever to effect some reform here!

So:
  • DO try and comment over there.  Let's try and get some promotion of the actual faith, and genuine discussion, not just one sided assertions, on the areas open to debate;
  • DO comment here on what you think of the story selection over there, the moderation of comment (any rejected that you know of; any published that you think should have been rejected);
  • DO pray for the conversion of all associated with Cath News.
How to get published over at Cath News...

Well, I'm not exactly in a position to advise given my total lack of success of late!

But based on some correspondence with Ms Christine Hogan, publisher of Cath News (see my previous post), if you want to get a comment published over there:
  • DON'T bother criticising their editorial policies - save that for over here!;
  • DON'T mention Australia Incognita blog or the need to reform Cath News!  It will be rejected as part of a campaign;
  • DON'T ASSUME the moderator will know what the actual teaching of the Church is - you may need to cite sources and explain where you are coming from;
  • DON'T ASSUME they'll know any contextual information around Catholic issues, either contemporary or historical, particularly in areas such as the fight against the culture of death - apparently they've never heard of Planned Parenthood for example over there.  So you might need to explain or provide a link.
Of course, even if you don't get your comment published, it is being read by Cath News staff - so offline protests have value too!  And of course, you can always publish your rejected comments over here...

Is it worth keeping up the pressure?

Yes. 

Effecting change takes time.

The first stage is to get people to understand the need for change.

Everyone operates from a particular view of the world.

When people reject and attempt to subvert Church teaching, they aren't necessarily acting maliciously.

It may just be that they really don't know better - that they've been brainwashed by the secularist mainstream and what they see coming out of all too many dioceses and parishes, affirmed by assorted bishops, and so think that it must be right.  They may just be what Lenin termed 'useful idiots'.

From 'pre-contemplation' to 'contemplation'...

So to use a bit of psychological jargon, the first stage is to set up a bit of 'cognitive dissonance', to keep challenging that pre-existing world view with counterfactual information, until the weight of it becomes sufficient that the person starts really questioning what they currently believe.

And I'm not just talking about Cath News staff here - our real target has to be their readers. 

In the health promotion area, a good example of this is smoking: most smokers can rationalise away all those health messages they read in the media and other sources by saying to themselves that it's deadly effects will happen to everyone else but him or herself, they'll be the lucky one to beat the odds.  Those gory pictures on cigarette packages were about getting in their face and trying to personalise the message!  Plain packaging goes a step further, saying 'this is a drug', not something recreational.

When it comes to life issues, our challenge is to shift people from explaining away an unborn baby as a bunch of cells, something not quite human: hence the push to require ultrasounds for those contemplating an abortion, to bring home the reality that this is a life.

When it comes to Catholicism, our challenge is to get not only the publisher and editorial staff of Cath News, but also that publication's readership (and indeed all nominal and modernist-infected Catholics), to understand that Catholicism is not a religion where doctrine 'evolves'.  Catholicism does not change just because society does: rather it is grounded in the truth handed down by the Apostles, and guarded by the Magisterium.  This is the challenge of the New Evanglization.

So keep the pressure on!  Keep criticising what you see, keep challenging.  Keep trying to get people to take a fresh look at whether their worldview really stands up to scrutiny, or is filled with contradictions.

Keep hoping and praying that they will open their hearts to grace and see things afresh.

Next steps

I've said the first step is to challenge people's world view, get them to rethink whether their often unspoken assumptions are correct.  Get them thinking in other words.

Our efforts will hopefully go part of the way to achieving this.

But we also need to lobby those in charge of Cath News and the bishops.  Let's keep building the evidence base first though!

It doesn't end there though.

Because it is one thing to want to change, another to actually do it.

The next step is to give them the tools, knowledge and support to make the necessary changes.

That's why we should explain why we don't think certain stories should be included in Cath News, and why others should be.

That's why we should explain what the Church's actual teaching is.

So, go take a look at this weekend's edition  of Cath News Perspectives and see what you think.

Have a go at commenting over there, and report back here on how you went...

***Update

So here is a partial rundown on this weekend's edition of Perspectives.


On the plus side, not a bad mix of stories: Weigel on the US health mandate fight; religiosity and civic participation; a good turnout for a Marian procession in NSW; a story on a Josephite sister actually engaged in practical charity (ie not just political action!); and an interview on the Social Media with Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

What's with those wacky obituaries?

On the negative, what on earth is the criteria for deciding which obituaries to include!

There have been a string of odd obituaries included in Perspectives, seemingly heroes of the push against the Church.  And this week's one is no exception!  It is all about a convert who twice left the Church, and apparently spent his final decade an agnostic.

Now I can understand why the UK Bitter Pill included his obituary - apparently he continued to review plays for them two or three times a week even after his departure from the Church (?!).

But why is an apparently unrepentant UK defector from the Church of interest or relevance to Australians?

We can offer our prayers for his soul of course, in the hope that he did repent at the last.  But...

Bad faith? I think not!

I just wanted to let readers know that I was contacted by Ms Hogan complaining that I had acted in bad faith in publishing my response to her email online. 

She initially claimed that the email had been marked 'not for publication'. 

Actually, it hadn't been.

A tale of three emails...

I received three emails from Ms Hogan yesterday. 

The first was marked not for publication and I respected that (notwithstanding that I actually think it deserves publication as it offered an explanation for a claim made by a commenter and its counter-claims deserve, in my view, to be scrutinised and tested...).

The second was explicitly for publication: it offered me a copy of a blog post by a reader that Cath News had not used, and stated that if I had the author's permission it would be ok for me to publish it here.  A positive gesture.

The third was the much longer email I responded to here last night.  There was no indication that it was not meant for publication (something Ms Hogan has been careful to state in past correspondence).  Nonetheless, I refrained from publishing it in full, sticking with a summary of its key points instead.

So why didn't I publish it in full?

I did consider publishing it in full, because its inimitable style deserves to be made known: it explains, I think, why so many who have encountered Ms Hogan have complained about her (and I know that because more than a few have told me about their complaints to bishops and others offline over the years).

But in the end, I decided to stick with the policy I have always adopted here, which is to comment on other people's words in full if they are available publicly, but stick to summarising the pertinent information (if necessary including short excerpts for the sake of clarity) if it is provided offline, unless I'm given explicit permission to publish the actual words. 

It's called fair use, and was I thought justified in view of the nature of the comments she made that directly impact on my readers efforts to publish over at Cath News, and those who have read about my campaign to reform Cath News here.

Help make AI better!

So just to summarise my position, do feel free to contact me offline (by email or phone) if you want to help make Australia Incognita blog a better place!

I'm quite open readers, including priests or bishops (such as those who have jurisdiction over me; or whose words or actions I have commented on; or who support my work but don't always think that I've got my pitch or position right in a particular case) suggesting I rethink a position or blog post.

I do get it wrong on occasion, and I do remove or amend blog posts on further reflection from time to time.


Indeed, I really really treasure the emails and calls I've received from readers, especially priests, supporting my work and/or providing good counsel.

As a general rule, if you want to suggest I rethink a post, or want to debate me on its content, I'd prefer that you do this via a comment in the comments box.

But I appreciate that sometimes that isn't the most appropriate way to go.

But equally, I will make my own judgment as to whether your comments are made in good faith nor not.

And if it is just an attempt to intimidate or slime me, I will react accordingly!

Providing information in confidence

Similarly, I do welcome readers letting me know about things they think I should know about, or write about.

I don't always have time to respond (though I do try), particularly at the moment. 

But I do appreciate it, and your information and views will inform my future blog posts.

I will respect confidences when you ask me to.

So here is my policy in full:
  • if push the comment button on the blog, your comment is fair game.  I can either publish it, or comment on it in a post;
  • if you email me and explicitly tell me something is not for publication, I won't use it (unless of course it is clearly sent in bad faith, and intended to intimidate, bully or otherwise be nasty, in which case I may well make a reference to your diatribe online, see below).  People give me confidential information all the time which even though not for publication provides useful context, help builds up a picture against which to interpret things that are publishable!  I really appreciate this, and will safeguard what you tell me;
  • if you email me with information for which you don't want to be identified as the source, I will protect my sources, subject to the usual rules of our faith (claim to me that you are a child abuser and I will refer your email to the appropriate authorities for example!).  Again, many people provide me with useful and important information.  Sometimes it is things that are in the public domain that they are aware of, but I don't have time to go digging for. Sometimes, it is something involving them personally.  They don't want to be identified as the source lest it jeopardise their vocation or career.  I will respect that!;
  • but if you email me offline in order to have a go at me, my blog, or my readers; if you email me to provide information that other people genuinely need to know, you are fair game!
Corrections, clarifications and comments

I've let Ms Hogan know that if she feels I've misrepresented her, I'd be happy to address this on the blog.

The comments box is open, and there are other options I'd be prepared to consider to continue this debate...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Cath News must be reformed: a response to Ms Hogan!

I'm not going to provide an analysis of Cath news for Friday tonight - I'll do that on the weekend.

Instead, here is an open response to the series of emails I have received from Ms Hogan today.

Dear Ms Hogan,

1.  You ask that I reject comments on my blog that you believe are inaccurate. 

Well no!

Here is how the social media works.  People assert something.  Someone else corrects it.  We eventually arrive at the truth.  That's how citizen journalism works!

One of the examples you cite is the comment suggesting that it was unusual for comment moderation to occur on Cath News on the weekend.  You say that it is in fact normal.

Feel free to jump in over here and post a correction on an issue like that if you think there is an issue Ms Hogan!  But I'm not going to engage in a fact checking exercize on every blog comment - and I really suggest Cath News have another think about its position on this subject.

2.  You ask that we accept everything anyone in a media story claims is true!

You go on to state that one of your reasons for rejecting comments on the Melinda Gates story is that they include 'untrue' claims.  Really?

You say:

"Inter alia, some of those disallowed comments included those which asserted the Gates Foundation funds abortions (that was specifically addressed and denied in the linked story)[And we are supposed to just accept what they say?  Craig Thompson must surely want you on the jury at his eventual trial Christine!  I'd suggest a read of the long fight Life Site News had with the Canadian bishops who similarly claimed their aid wasn't going to services providing abortions], that his father was associated with some sort of family planning organisation (truth? relevance?)."[Are you telling us you've never heard of the atrocities perpetrated by Planned Parenthood Christine!  If so, I'd suggesting adding a good US news aggregation service like Pewsitter to your reading list on what's happening in the Church.  But for the record, Planned Parenthood is the organization that is currently promoting 'National Masturbation Month' in the US!]

 3. Rejecting ad hominems?  Campaigns?

You advise that all comments that were "were not actionable, or ad hominem, or clearly part of a campaign" were posted.

Well clearly that  is not the case.

First, none of the comments rejected by Cath News and posted here were, on the face of it, actionable or ad hominem.

Ad hominem, for the record doesn't preclude an attack on an individual for the actions, ideas or words.  Rather it means when someone is attacked because of some particular characteristic or set of beliefs that are irrelevant to the argument.

It is not an ad hominem attack to talk about Bill Gates' wealth in the context of a debate about what he does with it for example!

4.  No campaigns?!

You state that you will reject any comments that are part of a campaign.  Now normally when the  journalistic/PR world talks about campaign responses, what is meant is being besieged by more or less identical words provided by some third party for individuals to send in.

Often it is handled by publishing one version of the 'standard words', but then acknowledging that x more people said similar things.

But I'm not providing campaign responses in that sense Ms Hogan, as you'd know if you bothered to read my posts.

All I'm asking is that people take a look over at your place and comment if they happen to see something that needs to be commented on!  Sure I'll occasionally flag particular stories.  But I'm not telling people what to say or think, merely inviting them to have their say.

That is what social media is about. A way of engaging us all in a constructive debate.

And how can you tell they came to Cath News from reading my post on the subject anyway?  Unless they explicitly mention Australia Incognita, how can you know they are part of a 'campaign'?!

So please, I encourage you to rethink this!

But of course, maybe it is just another excuse to reject all the orthodox comments...

5.  Bill and Melinda Gates are Mass going catholics!

I asked why this story appeared in Cath News at all, given that it appeared to laud dissent.  You say that the answer is that Melinda Gates is a Mass-going Catholic and stories about Catholics fall within your purview.

Kind of missing the point here Ms Hogan.  I have no problem with stories about Catholics doing good things - or drawing attention to evils perpetrated under the cloak of Catholicism.   But a Catholic News Service shouldn't be lauding the subversion of the Church's teaching on contraception and the nature of the family!

6.  Thanks for all the fish!

You draw my attention to Cath News' (claimed) circulation numbers in contrast to my own modest ones and thank me for the additional readers directed to you.

Happy to send people your way Christine.

Here is the thing.

Australian Incognita is not in competition with Cath News - Cath News is a news aggregation service; I'm a content provider.

I'm not in it for the numbers - I'm in it to get people thinking and acting for their faith.

It's the mustard seed principle (try reading Matthew 13: 31-32): small things spread and grow, eventually transforming the world.

But for the record, I'm no Fr Z, but my reader numbers are pretty healthy as blogs go! 

More people tuning in each day than hear the average priest's sermon across a couple of Masses each Sunday for example!

7.  Pray for our bishops

Finally you say that Cath News will keep on doing exactly what it is currently doing, because it has been encouraged by the hierarchy to do just that.

I'm sure that is true. But that doesn't mean things won't change as new appointments continue to be made, and the grace of the Holy Spirit calls our existing bishops to take up the good fight!

You claim that Archbishop Wilson told you not to lose heart and that:

‘If people do not like what you are doing, it is because they do not understand what you are doing.’

Or perhaps we understand all too well!

You also note that Archbishop Hart has been the Chair of their commission for the past six years, so don't expect any change.

Well, I'm not going to pre-judge at this point, I'm just going to pray, work and rely on God!

I understand that you yourself are not in fact a Catholic Ms Hogan.  So I'm going to particularly pray that in this upcoming Year of Grace, you too may be moved by the Spirit and embrace the true faith and reflect that in your work on Cath News.

Cath News has the potential to be a real force for the New Evangelization.  But of course, if you haven't yet found the truth, I guess you are not going to see the value in that.

In Domino

Kate Edwards

PS You advised that you had rejected my comments on Cath News because of alleged bad faith around my phone number.  By virtue of this correspondence you now seem to have accepted that I am who I am (and while you haven't left any messages on my phone there do seem to have been a few calls that got my standard greeting of which I presume yours is one). 

So why haven't you published my comments?

Am I in fact banned from posting on Cath News?

And if so, why?

Cath News Friday edition: open post

Continuing the Cath News must be reformed campaign!

Do please:
  • comment (constructively) over there, and tell us if your comment got up or not - and if it does get bounced, publish it here (you can email it to me offline if you want to keep separate your various online identities!);
  • draw attention to any particularly good or particular bad stories; and
  • point us to the debates we should all be joining over there.
Getting our voices heard

One or two people have queried whether this campaign can really have an impact.

I can certainly understand the cynicism - many of us have tried complaining individually to bishops on various subjects and gotten nowhere.

But firstly, putting the issues up in lights here will get noticed - I'm often getting around a thousand webhits a day according to blogger (often a lot more if pewsitter or one of the other blog aggregation websites pick up a post.  But no Mr Coyne, Blog Watchers' references don't actually generate much traffic here relatively speaking!).

Secondly, once the evidence accumulates, I propose to launch phase 2...

Thirdly, even if it doesn't actually change Cath News, maybe it will challenge a few people's thinking.

Small actions accumulate.

But could I urge you also to add your prayers to this cause.... 

Because Cath News must be reformed!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

PS Happy feast day Australia!

I've been reminded that today is a our patronal feast, Our Lady Help of Christians!

Thursday at Cath News: anti-pope Joan OSB rides again!

Continuing my campaign to make Cath News well, actually Catholic, here is a round-up on Thursday's edition.

Cath News comment policy

Comments over there continue to be very sparse, suggesting that they are being tightly controlled.  Good.

But yet another person (Sharon, see the open post for Thursday) advises that her comments (on the Melinda Gates story) have been rejected.

That's a problem.

Error vs politics?

The key issue here is differentiating between what is open to legitimate debate, and what isn't.

What I'm campaigning for is for comments over there to be rejected if they advocate error. 

And Cath News does seem to be taking more care about that.  That's good news and a great step forward.

But now it's time to take the next step in the right direction, and that is to understand the difference between rejecting error, and rejecting perfectly orthodox positions that reflect political views that Cath News moderators just don't happen to like!

There is a big difference between arguing, for example, that religious life is always a bad thing (which would constitute an error of doctrine), and arguing that a particular manifestation of it (yes I am talking about those American sisters!) is bad.

There is a big difference between being outright disrespectful of a bishop, priest or religious, and disagreeing publicly with their decisions or approach.

Promoting legitimate debate

There are areas of pastoral policy and politics that Catholics can legitimately debate - like whether Covenant Agreements with the Anglicans are a good idea, or how best to address the refugee issue for example.  Why can't we have those debates on Cath News?

So folks, gear up, and start thinking about submitting comments that could stimulate a genuine, constructive discussion over there on some key issues.

Anti-Pope Joan strikes again

On the story front, the worst item of the day was, as a reader has pointed out the regular sermon from well-known as an advocate of women priests amongst many other errors, Sr Joan Chittister OSB. 

Sharon commented:

"It's amusing/exasperating how the unfailingly anti-Catholic Joan Chittister and her pals at the US National Catholic Recorder seem to have a permanent spot on CathNews to voice their views."

I can only agree.  Sr Joan's opinion piece today is a doozy.  Her topic her opposition to attempts to clean up the Church's act, including reform of Caritas, the LCWR (nuns), and the (abortion promoting) Girl Scouts. 

Quite the most spectacular of her claims is blaming Pope Pius XII not just for his alleged failure to oppose Hitler during the war, but for Hitler's rise in the first place.  It is instructive to read the reviews up on Amazon of the book she relies on to support her claims...

Why not just stick to orthodox writers when selecting opinion pieces?

In praise of Cath blog!

But on the plus side, can I draw readers attention to a really excellent post on Cath Blog from Patricia Mowbray (consultant to the Bishops on disability issues) on the alleged 'costs' of disability, particularly in the context of a rationale for abortion.

It is a warm human piece, grounded in the faith.  Exactly what Cath Blog posts should always be.  And there are some good comments on it too.

Do go and read.

Other stories of the day...

Other stories listed by Cath News today include:
  • the coming start of the Year (and a half!) of Grace;
  • the debate on refugees and current high immigration levels (an area for legitimate debate);
  • persecution of Catholics in Vietnam;
  • human trafficking in Nepal;
  • a soccer star acting as a Catholic role model;
  • assorted conspiracy theories around a teenager who disappeared from Rome 30 years ago (well, I suppose they are being widely reported!);
  • a new parish priest to replace the disgraced Fr Lee in Parramatta.
Not a bad mix?

Cath News for Thursday: open post

Continuing my campaign to reform Cath News, go take a look over there, and see what you think of the stories it has selected today, then come back here and tell us what you think!

Are they are fair selection or slanted?  Do they contain errors, and if so does the commentary point them out?

Let's keep the pressure on...

Cath News must be reformed!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Cath News on Wednesday: progress?

Just a write up on Wednesday's edition of Cath News for the record.

Comments

First to thank everyone for their efforts on the comment campaign!

There are now quite a few good comments up on the Melinda Gates story (though its not obvious to me at least why some others have been rejected, but still).

I note that comment  acceptance seems to have come pretty much to a full stop. 

That's fair enough: a pause for some rethinking is no bad thing. 

So unless you see something truly awful, I'm calling off the blitz them with comments campaign for the moment!

Of course, all bets are off if the previous practice resumes...

The stories

Not exactly a good news day it has to be said, but truth speaking is needed too, so these stories do need to be told:
  • another bishop 'Toowoombed' as Rorate Caeli has dubbed it, this time removed for fraud.  Close on the heels of a Canadian bishop laicized after being found guilty of possessing child pornography.  Cleaning up the Church, bishop by bishop;
  • more on the Legionary scandal.  They really do just need to be abolished; and
  • the abortion debate in Brazil, where 80% of the population still support Catholic teaching - but that hasn't stopped the courts de facto legislating...;
  • some good stuff on how not to argue with atheists;
  • and a Cath Blog piece which is trying to make a point about listening respectfully, but which actually says more about the worthlessness of the cult of the facilitator that is embedded in so many organizations these days!; and
  • a piece on an upcoming Sandhurst diocese education conference that involves lots of people, and even if some less than inspiring speakers (Fr Brennan strikes again!),  fair enough to report it I think. 
I'm counting Day 3 of  the reform Cath News campaign as a win, but what's your take on it?

Why the death of the 'mushy middle' won't save Catholicism in the West....

Over at Crisis Magazine there is an article on the impending (alleged) death of liberal Catholicism.

Is liberalism dying?

It's another version of that optimistic line, that says liberals are ageing, and the seminaries are filling up with committed actual catholics, all will be well:

"...Catholics in the West will increasingly fall into one of two categories. They will either be (1) quite orthodox on matters of faith and morals and trying, despite sin, to live the Church’s teaching; or (2) more-or-less totally detached from the Church, living lives indistinguishable from secularists. Slowly but surely, the mushy-middle is emptying out."

But does the argument really stand up?  I would argue no.  And the reason is this: at least in Australia what Crisis Magazine describes as the 'mushy middle', have taken over our schools, hospitals, news services, and other Church institutions, are using them to actively prevent a revival in the faith.

The mushy middle

Crisis points to the large group of people who are nominally Catholic, but in practice are protestants:

"Many self-described liberal Catholics have either raised their children to think and act more-or-less like liberal Protestants (another fast-disappearing species), or they’ve decided their children should be “free to make up their own minds” about religious matters.

Of course, the latter position isn’t as neutral as it sounds. As the philosopher J. Budziszewski writes, “declining to teach [the faith] is itself a way of teaching.” Among other things, he adds, it tells children that what their parents think about God is unimportant, and that reflecting adequately about God requires no theological or philosophical formation. Hence, no-one should be surprised that many who grow up in such families end up knowing or caring little about Catholicism."

The trouble is, that for reasons of cost and status, these people still send their children to 'Catholic' schools.  And they then demand accommodationism around them.

Religion 101?

Consider for example the case of the lesbians who wanted to enrol their child in a Catholic school, and the bishop who wanted to allow it.  And let's face it, I'm betting more than a few homosexual couples already have children in our schools, and are working quietly behind the scenes to promote the gay agenda there.

You might think we had some potential allies on holding the line in other religions and ecclesial communities who continue to have a committed core.  Alas, all too many of those religious communities too have been penetrated by the disease of liberalism.

Take this article from the Canberra Times this week, written from a Jewish perspective.

The writer has some legitimate complaints.

But he surely goes too far when he objects to students attending a (private) Church school being forced to go to chapel:

"The problem of respecting Jewish religious rites was particularly pronounced when it came to chapel attendance at the church schools. One participant complained of being forced to go to chapel; the pupil nonchalantly explained they dealt with this situation by simply mouthing the words. Another Jewish student refused to go to chapel at all - according to Jewish law it is forbidden to enter a church in prayer; they were forced to sit in the detention room while the issue was resolved, effectively being punished for observing their Jewish faith."

Sorry mate, but if you don't want your children to be subjected to a religion other than your own, don't send them to a Church school!

Now I'm pretty certain the school in question is an Anglican one (viz the word chapel) - for surely no Catholic school would actually 'force' kids to attend Mass!  The reality is that we've already fallen into the indifferentism the writer seems to advocate in the very name of respect for other religions...

The triumph of liberalism?

The bottom line is that while the aggressive liberals are indeed dying out, they are still replicating themselves.

They are replacing themselves with a new generation who call themselves Catholic but attend Mass only occasionally, doing just enough to get their children baptised so as to get into a Catholic school.

They genuinely see themselves as Catholic in their commitment to social justice, even while rejecting
the idea that the Church is the custodian of absolute truth.

They control the institutions we need to be genuinely Catholic if we want to turn that tiny spark we can currently see in younger committed Catholics into the wildfire we need to spread if we want to save Catholicism in this country.

Saints will arise!

Crisis Magazine concludes that these are the kind of times that call forth great saints.

St Teresa of Avila wrote that we are all called to be great saints: to get there, we need to listen, and act! 

We don't necessarily need visions or miracles to help us know what is to be done.  We just need to educate ourselves in the faith, and open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, to learn, see and act.

And we should take heart, too, from the other St Therese - our acts don't have to be the big, showy things.  Every little action counts, every small step towards holiness contributes to the whole!

I'm hoping my campaign to reform Cath News might be one such small step, so go over there now and try and comment on what you see, and then come back here and tell us what you found...

Cath News must be reformed: open post for Wednesday's edition of Cath News

Once again, can I encourage you to go take a look at Cath News for today, the news aggregation service supported by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference and funded through services paid for by your parish, as well as other Church organisations.

Then come back here and tell us what you think!

Did you like the selection of news and opinion stories for the day?  Was there anything you feel shouldn't have been there - or anything obviously missing?  Anything promoting outright error?

Did you try and comment on a story - and if so, did it get published?  If you were knocked back,  please do post it here, so we can try and work out why!

Let's all play our part in ensuring that Cath News actually promotes the faith....

Cath News must be reformed!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Open post: Cath News must be reformed (Tuesday edition)!**

I'm running a campaign to reclaim Cath News for Catholicism: let's work to make it an instrument of the New Evangelization rather than something that constantly seems to subvert the actual teaching of the Church.

So, I urge all my readers to go over to go over to Cath News and take a look around.

If you see a story that you think needs a Catholic perspective put around it, or where others are pushing error and disobedience, try commenting on it.  But save your comment!  And if it doesn't get published, post it over here, so everyone can see what is going on over there.

Then come back here and tell us what you thought about Cath News' selection of stories for the day - were there one's that really had no business being there?  Or one's they missed?

At the end of the day, I'll compile up a summary of the day's efforts.

***Tuesday on Cath News....

So to start with the positives, the stories included in today's Cath News really seemed to me quite a good mix, so they deserve kudos for that. 

I particularly enjoyed the Broken Hill experience of a baby-priest from the Catholic Weekly for the good news story of the day, but there was also some good meat, in a story highlighting ethical issues around surrogacy, an update to resistance to Obamacare's assault of religious liberty in the US, as well as a story about persecution of Christians in Indonesia. 

Once again very few comments of any colour, which is interesting.

On the negative side, those who do attempt to put the orthodox/conservative view are still getting bounced.

So five comments rejected that I know of so far on stories from yesterday - one of my own (sigh), and four from Matin!

If others have tried and failed, do post them here through the comments box...

Blacklisted?

On my own side, neither my Sunday or Monday night comments have appeared and no further correspondence received from Ms Hogan.  Come on Cath News, do you really think it is a good strategy to just blacklist anyone who dares to criticise you?! 

Because really, that would kind of be proving my point, wouldn't it...

Rejected comments

Anyway, for the record here is my rejected comment, on the Opinion piece from the Tablet defending the US nuns:

To claim that the decision to insist on orthodoxy from religious women is just clericalism is disingenuous indeed.


No one doubts the great historical contribution of religious women in the US: what they are questioning is the state of things today.

Fr Lawrence appears to disparage the habit and clerical dress, yet these are great signs of witness and commitment: no one someone would treasure the sign they represent.

Similarly, just what does Fr Lawrence mean by 'the virus of perfectionism'?! Didn't Our Lord say Be ye perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect?

Above all though, we do need to affirm that celibacy or virginity for the sake of the Kingdom is in fact objectively a higher state of life. This is a defined teaching of the Church (at the Council of Trent) reaffirmed by Blessed Pope John Paul II in Perfectae Caritatis.

The life of Our Lord and Our Lady, he pointed out, provide a model of perfection that in no way belittles marriage: rather it points us to the ideal of chastity that we should follow appropriate to our state of life.

A model sorely lacking in this world where all too many clerics and religious have abandoned not only the dress that declares their commitment to the world, but also the commitment to authentic Catholic morality that goes along with it.

 Here is Martin's on the same subject:

"So often these kinds of claims are just anachronistic.

In the 1950's when social approval was very high sure there was more of that danger. But today? The Church is constantly reviled in the mass media (The Drum 'Where Have All The Good TV Catholics Gone?) the subject of persistent legal attack by the the state.

It is much easier to argue that the same desire for social approval is just finding new expression with the LCWR- this time with an anxious willingness to dispense with Catholic identity.

The sisters in the US have behaved abysmally there is no other way to say it. Read who they invited to their national conference (google god and the machine lcwr) new age quack Barbara Marx Hubbard.

Wearing clerical dress today exposes one to possible abuse, yet also for this reason, to gratitude from members of the public who feel beaten into submission by anti-Catholicism. Religious today remark how often they're approached by the curious, the guilt ridden, those in crisis because of the 'signals of transcendence'.

Clearly in our context it is unarguably true that emphasising Catholic identity is much more likely to be a species of charity than not."

And here are Martin's other rejected comments:

On the Georgetown is being sued by the Exorcist film guy story:
Bad Catholic blog is excellent today - shows how marked the contrast is between Jesuit run Georgetown and Franciscan University Steubenville.

Poor Prof. Patrick Deneen, forced to leave his beloved university for Notre Dame to simply find a Catholic environment, laments the hideous decline of Georgetown in an article on line at First Things a few days ago.

The Melinda Gates story:

"Bill Gates' dad was a president of 'Planned Parenthood' (Planned Barrenhood). From its racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger beginnings to today with its domination of the Democratic Party - it is the very definition of an evil institution.

Abortion and contraception are potently anti-Christian as Patrick Fagan from the Family Research Council explains. http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF09H36.pdf

And exactly where an amazing Christian revolution is occuring [Jenkins: 'The Coming of Global Christianity'] - how do secularist internationalists respond? - in terror that their legacy will be swept away - they try and kill it at it's root.

There's no other word but abhorrent for Gates' monied support of the culture of death."

And finally on 'How Catholic are we'? and inclusiveness (yes that was indeed a shocker!):

To impress God's love, tenderness and mercy at the point of temptation and weakness, then His nature as 'a severe man who reaps where he does not sow' 'who casts body and soul into Hell' - Is to use a truth in the service of a lie.

We're dominated by liberalism, which uses the rhetoric of inclusiveness to legally dismantle competing non-liberal centres of authority, especially the Church with its exclusive and competing claims. This language in here is almost perfectly designed to mislead.

In the name of 'inclusivity' it is proposed marriage be abolished, the church's natural law moral philosophy deemed 'arbitrary prejudice' and as a body made similar to a racist organisation like the KKK in the public mind.

In THIS context to talk in the mode of the state when the life of the Church is imperilled is to talk 'peace, peace when there is no peace'.

“Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who, in this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him who as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway!” Melville

Cath News must be reformed!

Obama's war on liberty

There is a fascinating story over at Crikey drawing attention to US President Obama's remorseless war on basic rights.

Obama is not just attacking religious liberty!

Crikey, one of Australia's independent news websites, is not exactly republican central: far from it!

And so no, the article is not talking about Obama's attempt to force religious organizations to take out health insurance for sterilizations, abortions and contraception.

It is not talking about the Obama Administration's opposition to a conscience clause for military chaplains, so they can't be forced to perform same sex marriages.

Rather, it is pointing to the Administration's draconian approach in other areas.  The article draws attention to the hypocrisy of progressives who fail to oppose what it describes as an agenda of censorship and surveillance.

It points, amongst other items in a longish list, to persecution of whistle blowers and journalists relying on leaks, and to extension of surveillance without warrant or court approval in the name of fighting terrorism that go way beyond anything the Bush regime introduced.

Yemen

The article draws attention to the massive civilian casualties inflicted by drone weapons in the secret war in Yemen.  And to the Executive Order aimed at any critics of the regime there:

"On Wednesday last week, Obama issued an executive order that would seize the assets of anyone who “directly or indirectly threaten[s] the peace, security, or stability of Yemen”. This refers to the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the former vice-president who replaced long-time dictator and US ally Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. Hadi is nominally committed to a transition to democracy after a bizarre one-candidate election, but Saleh’s family and key supporters remain in control of crucial sectors of the régime like the security forces.

US policy has primarily aimed at ramping up its full-scale war inside Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, which Hadi has enthusiastically supported. Now, any critics of Hadi potentially face a crippling financial blockade — not very different to the one imposed by Visa and Mastercard on WikiLeaks at the behest of the administration."

Bring on the US election!