Monday, 29 November 2010


From the Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent: "And he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

It's rare for the readings to match the Southern Hemisphere seasons....

Friday, 26 November 2010

Vigil for Life on November 27: Yes some more vigils...!?

Some good news folks, one more Vigil has crept in at the last minute, for Adelaide Cathedral (thanks to my Adelaide correspondent).

If there are any other last minute additions please do let me know and help spread the word at least a little!

Vigil details for November 27:

Adelaide: St Francis Xavier Cathedral, at 7pm with Hymns and a Scriptual Rosary with the Joyful Mysteries being prayed; led by Fr Marin.  For about 45 minutes duration.

St Laurence's Church, North Adelaide from 7pm until 12 midnight, including 7pm- Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament; Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus; 8pm- Act of Reparation; 9pm- Holy Rosary; Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; 10pm- Divine Mercy Chaplet; 11pm- Compline; 11:30pm- Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Brisbane: - St Stephen's Cathedral, 4:30pm, Evening Prayer and the Rosary. Mass will be at 6pm, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, which will conclude with Benediction at 8pm.

Nambour: Vigil will take the form of our evening Mass followed by Evening Prayer and Benediction.

And the Archbishop has put out a pastoral letter for Advent focusing on life issues.

Canberra-Goulburn: - Archbishop Coleridge will lead the Vigil for Life in St Christopher’s Cathedral, from 8pm until midnight;

Canberra Latin Mass community, Garran, 8am - 9am.

Parramatta: 7.30pm, St Patrick’s Cathedral. Bishop Fisher OP will lead Vespers, Sermons and Benediction followed by Adoration until 10pm.

Perth: Archbishop Hickey will celebrate the 6pm Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Victoria Square on the same date and continue the vigil for three hours more until 10pm

Rockhampton - Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Gladstone: Calliope and Star of the Sea, following the 6 PM Masses; St Peter Chanel, Tannum Sands, at 6 PM

Sydney - St Benedict's Broadway: 7pm, with Vespers, Exposition, rosary and Benediction.

Wagga Wagga - Our Lady of Fatima Church, 7-8pm.

Vigil for Nascent life: final list?

As you may know from my previous post, the Pope has called for Vigils for nascent human life to be held across the world by bishops, parishes and other communities in spiritual union with the Pope. 

The list of Vigils I have is below

Sadly, I haven't received any more details of Vigils that might be occurring in quite a few dioceses.  But if you can't make it to an official one, do say a rosary and other prayers on Saturday evening, especially if you are based in places that seem to be without an official vigil on Saturday 27 November, such as:

Armidale: -
Ballarat: -
Bathurst: -
Broken Bay: -
Broome: -
Bunbury: -
Cairns: -
Darwin: -
Geraldton: -
Hobart: -
Lismore: -
Maitland-Newcastle: -
Melbourne: (note one held 13 Nov)
Sale -
Port Pirie: -
Sandhurst -
Toowoomba -
Townsville -
Wilcannia-Forbes -
Wollongong -

Vigil details for November 27:

Adelaide: St Laurence's Church, North Adelaide from 7pm until 12 midnight.

Brisbane: - St Stephen's Cathedral, 4:30pm, Evening Prayer and the Rosary. Mass will be at 6pm, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, which will conclude with Benediction at 8pm.
Nambour: Vigil will take the form of our evening Mass followed by Evening Prayer and Benediction

Canberra-Goulburn: - Archbishop Coleridge will lead the Vigil for Life in St Christopher’s Cathedral, from 8pm until midnight;

Canberra Latin Mass community, 8am Nov 27

Parramatta: 7.30pm, St Patrick’s Cathedral.  Bishop Fisher OP will lead Vespers, Sermons and Benediction followed by Adoration until 10pm.

Perth: Archbishop Hickey will celebrate the 6pm Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Victoria Square on the same date and continue the vigil for three hours more until 10pm

Rockhampton - Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Gladstone: Calliope and Star of the Sea, following the 6 PM Masses; St Peter Chanel, Tannum Sands, at 6 PM

Sydney - St Benedict's Broadway: 7pm, with Vespers, Exposition, rosary and Benediction.

Wagga Wagga - Our Lady of Fatima Church, 7-8pm.

Pope Benedict XVI's Guide to REAL lectio divina: absorbing Verbum Domini II

Advent is almost upon us, and in that context many dioceses are encouraging Catholics to do some lectio divina.  So it seems timely to continue my series on the Pope's teaching in the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture, Verbum Domini, focusing on his 'how to' guide contained in the document.

Lectio divina needs to be grounded in the intellect, not just the emotions

I said in the last part of this series that one of the Pope's major concerns was the 'sterile chasm' between exegesis and theology, and the resulting spiritual dangers to the faith.

A classic example of this is the kind of instructions one typically sees on how to do lectio divina, which basically amount to nothing much more than, read the text aloud a few times, seize on whatever part of it gives you a good vibe, and tell everyone about your emotional response to it.

It's the kind of approach that might work well if you are a trained theologian with a good knowledge of the whole of Scripture.  But which is extremely dangerous for the typical under-catechized cafeteria Catholic whose acquaintance with Scripture is at best superficial.

Contrast that with the Pope's instructions on how to do real lectio divina, which reflect the real monastic tradition, not the pop version often propagated today under its name.

The stages of lectio divina

Pope Benedict suggests that there are five stages to the process:

1. Lectio (a terms that literally means reading, but in late antiquity and medieval usage also encompassed translating, thinking about studying the text): The Pope suggests that the fundamental question to be answered at this stage is, 'what does the text mean'?

2. Meditatio (meditation): 'what does the biblical text say to us'?

3. Oratio (prayer): 'what do we say to the Lord in response to his word'?

4. Contemplatio (contemplation): 'what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us'?

5. Actio (action; sometimes the term 'work' is used for this stage in medieval schemas for lectio): Putting it into practice.

Using all  of the tools at our disposal to get at meaning
It is at the 'lectio' stage that the Pope first proposes the integration of the tools offered by exegesis and theology into the process. 
He makes the point that Scriptural interpretation is not just a purely individual matter: we must read it in the light of the faith, and in accordance with the principles the Church as set out.
In particular he points to the importance of:
  • the way the New Testament definitively interprets the Old;
  • the witness of tradition:  we must read "in communion with the Church, that is, with all the great witnesses to this word, beginning with the earliest Fathers up to the saints of our own day, up to the present-day magisterium";
  • drawing on the tools of exegesis;
  • with attention to both the literal and spiritual senses of the text (noting that the spiritual is subdivided into three senses which deal with the contents of the faith, with the moral life and with our eschatological aspirations).
The lectio stage, in other words, is not just a matter of reading the text through a few times, but requires serious study.

Meditation through to action

And this intellectual orientation carries through into the other stages of the process.   At the meditation stage, for example, he suggests that "we must open ourselves to what God wants to say to us, ‘overcoming our  deafness to those words that do not fit our own opinions or prejudices’.  The theological implications of the text, in other words, should inform and be the subject of our meditations, prayers and consideration for action. 

It is not, of course, all a matter of intellect.  The Pope stresses that lectio divina must be a dialogue with God, involving prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, so that "the word transforms us".

Dialogue though, involves listening, and listening not just to what we feel personally here and now, but also to what God has said to us through his Church down the ages.  Sound advice indeed.

The condom debate - it keeps getting more interesting!

This debate keeps on keeping on, and as it does, despite some good attempts to convince me otherwise, on balance I'm actually inclined to think this is a good thing.

Debate within limits can be healthy

Firstly, although a Pope's remarks on such a subject will always be sensitive, by making it clear that he is speaking as a private theologian, he's making an important inroad into the ultramontanism - the inability to distinguish between different levels of authority and insistent on them all being pseudo-infallible - that was used by neo-conservatives to bash traditionalists under Pope John Paul II's regime.

Secondly, and flowing from the above, it is a chance to have debate on a controversial moral issue and set out the limits of what can and can't be debated within the Church. Making people think and talk about an issue can have a positive effect in bringing to mind the Church's teaching, thus confronting the aversion of cafeteria catholics to actually talking about these issues within a proper framework.

How not to manage a debate?

I'm not saying the way its been done is the best way of managing a debate of this kind.

I know the Church is not about PR.  But if you want to advance the Church's mission and get the message out, and have a theological debate, it does make sense to manage the process so that the message doesn't get distorted (too much).

Fr Lombardi apparently tried to dissuade the Pope from doing this interview.  Fair enough.  But that doesn't excuse the failure to do the kind of preparation that would have occurred if this were a policy debate in the secular sphere being promoted by a Prime Minister (well OK perhaps not the current or previous one, but!).

First, the bureaucratic machine would have had contextualising briefing papers all ready.  Papers that would have set out what the Church's Magisterial teaching actually is, what the Pope was and wasn't saying, how it related to his previous comments on condoms in Africa, and what the issues at debate actually were.

Possible questions and answers would have been at the ready, instead of concocted at the last moment and written in a way that actually added to the confusion about what the Pope was and wasn't saying.

The machine would have warned the bishops of what was coming, and made sure they had briefing material in their hands before anything went public. 

There would have been pre-briefing of sympathetic theologians in a position to explain what the Pope meant, as well as warming up of the major bloggers and important potential catholic critics so that they didn't get distracted by side-issues (such as L'Osservatore Romano's role in the whole thing, mistranslations etc).

So I do think critics of the Vatican bureaucracy are on the right track. 

The substance of the debate
All the same, and far more importantly, I'm beginning to understand where the Pope is actually coming from on this issue, thanks to an insightful piece by Fr Finigan (previously mentioned) and now a contribution from Sandro Magister.  That's not to say I'm entirely convinced.  But I think it is an important and interesting debate to get out in the open.

Magister reproduces quotes from a 2004 article by Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, from Switzerland, professor of ethics and political philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Roman university of Opus Dei.  The Professor basically makes the following points:
  • condoms per se are not the issue, contraception is - there is no sin inherent in using a condom if there is no possibility of conception (though of course there may well be a sin inherent in the sexual act itself!);
  • condoms used in marriage to prevent infecting a partner may in some circumstances be permissible under the doctrine of double effect (ie the contraceptive effect is an unintended consequence).
Magister makes the point that whatever your view on these arguments, the Pope's previous comments about the ineffectiveness of condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa remain true for a variety of reasons, including the failure rate of condoms, and more particularly cultural factors: abstinence is the answer!

Go over and read Magister at Chiesa on the subject...

Friday prayers....

Please pray particularly for:
  • Said Musa in Afghanistan, arrested for apostasy – the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity still carries a death sentence there;
  • Sydney artist Sergio Redegalli, accused of 'Islamophobia' for a mural advocating 'say no to the burqa'  - so we aren't even allowed to discuss burqas lest Muslims be offended? 
  • Christian and other religious groups asylum seekers allegedly bullied by Muslim asylum seekers over there religion while in detention on Christmas Island;
  • Christians in Egypt, subject to a recent spate of attacks.  Islamic protesters continue to besiege the site of an attempt to build a Coptic Church  in Talbiya, near Giza.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Right to Life IV: the natural law

Continuing my series of reflections in the lead up to Saturday's Vigil for Nascent Human Life, today the natural law.

The natural law is that law 'written on our hearts', programmed into us if you will, and that underpins the proper working of society.  The classic encapsulation of it is of course the ten commandments, including the biggie - Thou shalt not kill.

The natural law and clouded minds

The natural law is something we can in theory arrive at through reason, and which drives our instinctive reactions to certain things - such as our natural revulsion at the murder of an infant.

But in practice, cultural beliefs and practices - brainwashing really - can cloud minds, and undermine our natural grasp of the natural law.  That's why we need revelation as well. 

It is this kind of cultural construction and clouding that could allow Hitler to define Jews, gypsies and the disabled as non-humans, whose lives not only could be set at naught but should be.  It is this kind of cultural construction that saw Australia as an empty land there for the taking, and regarded Australia's indigenous people as a doomed race whose inevitable demise should be actively helped along the way by the colonists.

And in our society, this clouding of mind and intellect takes the form of the whole culture of denial around the idea that abortion is murder.

Yet the truth seeps through: the Keli Lane case

Yet such cultural constructions inevitably involve weird contradictions that must generate at least some 'cognitive dissonance', a sense that there is something not quite right about the embedded beliefs of society.

In Australia at the moment the classic example of this must surely be the intense interest in the Keli Lane case.  Ms Lane had five children.  She is accused of concealing the pregnancies in order to maintain her image as a sportwoman.  She is also accused of murdering four of the five (one child was adopted out). 

No one is contesting three of the murders: they were perfectly legally, through abortion. 

She is on trial for the fourth only, because it is allegedly a case of infanticide.  Yet because there is no body, the pattern exposed by her abortions has become part of the Crown's case against her.  And it is her seemingly casual and callous, utilitarian approach that has the tabloids agog. 

Creating cognitive dissonance

But really, even if Lane is found guilty, has she really have done anything more than permitted and even encouraged by our society?  In Victoria, she could potentially have had a legal abortion even after 24 weeks - so why does a few days on the other side matter? 

The answer of course is that it doesn't.  A child is a child is a child; and murder is murder whenever it occurs.  Whether the child is still in the womb or not is completely irrelevant to objective realities.

Cases like Lane's can help highlight the contradictions and maybe help raise doubts of received views in people's minds.

We should pray for people to start questioning what they have been brainwashed into believing.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Right to life III: Preparation for the Vigil continued

This is the third installment of short reflections preparing for Saturday's Worldwide Vigil for all Nascent Human Life.

Constant tradition

Today, I want to turn to early Christian tradition.

It is one of the great ironies of this debate that those who in so many other areas view the early Church as golden age to which we must return, pointedly ignore the fact that one of the defining features of those early Christians was their strong stance against contraception, abortion and infanticide.

So, for all those who try and twist the Church Fathers to their cause, some early examples of the constant teaching of the Church.

The early Christians and life

Consider for example, the Letter to Diognetus, dated c125 AD:

"For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. 

But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking, literally, “paradoxical”, method of life.

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.

They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring [literally: cast off cast away fœtuses.”]...

Other early Church documents such as Didache (c100), The Epistle of Barnabas (c 130) and the Apocalypse of Peter (c100) also strongly condemned and outlawed abortion.

SA Euthanasia Debate update **Updated 25/11

Today the South Australian Parliament is debating a Euthanasia Bill, and there have been a few useful interventions and articles on the subject you might read to aid your prayers on this subject:
  • SA Health Minister John Hill has weighed in to say that the bill is flawed (unfortunately he has a better idea...);
  • Tim Cannon  - South Australia risks turning doctors into agents of death;
  • Ethicist Professor Tonti-Filippini has labelled the legislation 'manifestly unsafe';
  • Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide put out a pastoral letter on euthanasia on November 11;
  • so too did Bishop O'Kelly of Port Pirie, back on 24 September.
A vote is expected this week.

**  The bill was defeated in the Upper House "on the voices", but may return amended next year...

Pakistani woman condemned to death for blasphemy freed!**

I've mentioned the plight of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy in two of my last 'friday prayers' segments.

Zenit reports today that she has been pardoned by the President of Pakistan and released from prison following an international outcry that included a specific plea on her behalf from the Pope.

The Zenit story goes on:

"At the conclusion of last Wednesday's general audience, Benedict XVI appealed for her freedom.
He mentioned the plight of Pakistani Christians in general, who along with Hindus make up only a 5% minority in the Muslim country. "In these days, the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, who are often victims of violence and discrimination," the Holy Father said. Then he mentioned Bibi specifically: "Today I particularly express my spiritual closeness to Mrs. Asia Bibi and her family, asking that she be given full liberty as soon as possible. As well, I pray for those who find themselves in similar situations, so that their human dignity and fundamental rights be fully respected."

Human rights groups have long decried Pakistan's blasphemy laws as a means by which people take advantage of religious minorities.

It is reported that Bibi is now in hiding out of fear for her safety. There are precedents of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan being killed by vigilantes."

According to the Wikipedia, between 1988 and 2005, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with offences under the country's Sharia blasphemy laws. Fifty percent of the people charged were non-Muslim. Twenty of those charged were murdered soon after the charge was laid.

**This report has turned out to be premature: a court has ordered that her pardon not proceed pending the hearing of an appeal on her case.  There are also moves afoot to change the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The right to life II

This is the second in a series of short reflections leading up to the Worldwide (well seemingly sans an awful lot of Australia, but see below) Vigil for Nascent Human Life this Saturday.

Why life is sacred: the Incarnation

 Yesterday I pointed to the dignity of man in the manner of his creation and his vocation to eternal life as the source of life's sacredness.  Today, a second reason in the Incarnation of Our Lord.

There is a reason why the Pope has suggested that this Vigil for Nascent Human Life coincide with the start of Advent (and many Vigils will include I Vespers of Advent).  Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae put it as follows:

"At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this "great joy" is the Birth of the Saviour; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21)."

Promotion of the Vigil

While there are still an awful lot of gaps in my listing of Vigils across Australia (please do send in details of any you are aware of), it is good to see that there is at least some promotion of the event going on. 

So, to give credit where credit is due....

Perth was the early leader on this front, but Parramatta Diocese seems to be blitzing the web given the number of webhits a search on the Vigil in Australia generates from them!  My own parish bulletin included a notice about the Canberra Vigil following some guidance for priests and parish leaders, and Archbishop Coleridge has now put out a statement inviting people to join in.  And it was good to read too, that the Archbishop of Brisbane has been providing liturgical suggestions to his priests with some result.

I do wish it could all be coupled with a little more catechesis though. 
Something to pray about on Saturday I guess.  Along with the fate of unborn children in the still very long list of dioceses and especially cathedrals where nothing appears to be happening at all...

The condom debate - an update...

So this item is still running hot, with some great posts around on the subject.

Let me take advantage of their distillations to summarise a few key points, and point you to some of the best analyses of the issues:

L'Osservatore Romano's unethical role in the affair

Jimmy Akin  points out that the Vatican newspaper seems to have deliberately broken a press embargo, provided a misleading cut of what the book said, provided no context, and perpetuated a mistranslation (the Pope was talking about a male homosexual prostitute using a condom, a situation where no contraception is involved). Canonist Ed Peters has nice take on this angle too.

***Fr Finigan explains that the newspapers action may have had a political-theological motivation in an ongoing debate within the Church.  If you are going to read one article on all of this, read this useful analysis of just what the theological issues actually are.

The impact on the Church's official position

The Pope was speaking as a theologian, not as Pope.  We are free to disagree with him.  Fr Finigan gives a great analysis of the levels of authority that are applicable.

What did the Pope really say? 

Well read for yourself, Chiesa has all of the pre-release extracts in full (and there is a lot of more interest than condoms!) as well as some interesting contextual information.

Suffice it to say he gave an example where condoms might be a positive step in very limited circumstances that don't relate to the possibility of contraception.

Should he have said it? 

As I read it, the consensus is that what the Pope actually said is perfectly in line with past teaching. 

The problem is that a nicely nuanced comment that would be fine shared among theologians tends to have a quite different impact in the world media.  Fr Finigan (amongst many others) therefore suggests it might have been a less than prudent example to use.

However, there are an interesting range of views on this.  I have to say that when I first heard the news item, I wondered if the leak was a rather hamfisted attempt to soften the Pope's image.  Prima of Gregorian Rite Catholic sees it as a measure of his laudable desire to promote the conversion of sinners.   Damian Thompson interprets the issue as one more item for the critique of the Pope from pro-JPII conservatives. 

There is a lot more around of course...

The Australian Bishops Conference is meeting, please pray...

On my latest hunt around the net today for upcoming Vigils I stumbled across one bishop's diary entry for...a plenary meeting of the Australian Bishops' Conference, November 22-26.

I checked the main ABCB website but could find nothing to confirm it.

But on their facebook page, this item appeared a few hours ago:

"The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference ask for your prayers as they meet this week. You are all in theirs."

I suspect that means yesterday was essentially a travel day, and it is only just kicking off.  In any case, we should certainly pray for them.

Of course, it would be even better if we had some indication of what the agenda items are (though one can always speculate...)!

My recent piece on the problem of bishops conferences in general, and ours in particular, can be found here..

Monday, 22 November 2010

The right to life: preparation for the Vigil I

By the looks of it, most Australian Catholics will not have a chance to participate in the world-wide vigil for all nascent human life this Saturday, except in the privacy of their homes.

So I thought I'd put up a short piece each day that reflects on why this is such an important subject.

Reflections on why nascent human life is sacred....

And I think the best starting point is to reflect on the dignity of human life.  Psalm 8 provides a little mini-catechism on the distinction between humans and the rest of creation:

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour"

In other words, God endows us with the gifts of free will and reason, creating us in his image in a way that is not true of other animals, over which man is granted dominion, with the duty of stewardship.

More, we are called not just to life in this world, but to eternal life.  Unlike the animals, we have immortal souls. 

These gifts - of being created by God in his likeness and image, and being called to a fullness of life that 'exceeds the dimensions of earthly existence' - are the first source of the sacredness of life, from its very beginning to its end.

Cath News oh Cathnews...

A commenter on the weekend bemoaned Cath News' promotion of a dissenting Melbourne priest's views on women 'priests' (supported by several religious and numerous laity), with several posts from him in response to the news item on his disobedience and dissent running unchallenged over the weekend.

And today Cath News strikes again on the Pope's condom comments.

The increasingly useful 'xt3' website (if you haven't signed up, do so - its the best prospect for an alternative to Cath News we have in this country) is twittering the Vatican's clarification of the story:

"Despite media claims of a revolutionary change, Pope Benedict is not altering Catholic teaching on condom use or justifying the disordered use of sexuality, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has explained.

In a Nov. 21 statement from Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi discussed the Pope’s comments in Peter Seewald’s forthcoming book “Light of the World: the Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” In these comments “the Pope is not reforming or changing the teaching of the Church but he reaffirms it, putting it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility,” the spokesman said."

Cath News however, is perpetuating the misreporting of the story under a headline "Opinion - Pope's condom decision a leap forward" - as well as a news item under the heading "Pope says condom use to stop HIV is ok".

So why not add a third item, viz the clarification story?

But of course that would undermine its liberal agenda.  Just what is the purpose of Cath News again?  Because all I can see is promoting dissent and disobedience.

**Update: And they've done a sweep of the international blogs too.  But the slant of the commentary, predictably, is pretty evident from the first line: "On the Pope’s widely reported comments allowing condom use for AIDS prevention [you mean widely misreported...], many bloggers are annoyed by the manner of its reporting in the media..."  The crux of the piece is liberal John Allen's take that a new direction in Church teaching is indeed being opened up...

***Cardinal Pell and Bishop Fisher have put out clarifying statements saying no change in policy as well.  Still nothing on Cath News though....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Pope on condom use

Some sensationalist reports in the media are claiming a shift in the Churches position based on some remarks the Pope made in a book.  Don't believe it.

The short extracts, which L'Osservatore Romano, being its usual helpful self on these type of issues, are highly selected, and have been taken out of context.

For some perspective on what the Pope actually said and what it really means see:
**Update: The Vatican has issued a clarifying statement, see my post on 'Cath News oh Cath News'...

SSPX about to expel Bishop Williamson?

Thanks to commenter RJ for alerting me to the news that the SSPX is finally threatening to take action against Bishop Williamson. 

The final straw it seems, is Williamson's decision to sack his existing lawyer for the upcoming court case on his holocaust denying remarks, and replace him with one with clear neo-Nazi links.

As RJ points out in his comment on my post on a liberal dissenter, expelling the bishop is overdue, and doing it a lot earlier could have saved all (genuine) traditionalists, and many others, from the Pope down, a lot of trouble.

The fact that the SSPX are finally taking action, though, is a very positive sign.

But while I applaud the Pope's attempts to save souls by returning them to unity, and strongly agree that every attempt needs to be made with thsoe who stand so near to full communion with Rome, I have to admit I remain pessimistic about the chances of reconciling the SSPX. 

But then again, who would have thought we'd see the day when a concrete timetable for bringing in 5 Anglican bishops, perhaps 50 priests and 500 or so of their parishioners put out by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales? It is looking to be a very good coming Easter indeed for the Church.  And that's only the first wave....

Of course, it could all have happened thirty years ago had Pope John Paul II been as willing to stand up for true ecumenism as Pope Benedict XVI...

Friday, 19 November 2010

I'm a loyal catholic - albeit a heretic. Go ahead, dismiss me...

Yep, it's happening in Melbourne.

Here's the story according to the The Age

A priest gave a sermon a couple of months ago.  It was clearly erroneous in its assertions (about the possibility and desirability of women's ordination and criticism of the Church for its refusal to allow this). 

The priest clearly knew he was in error - because to save his parishioners the angst of reporting him, he told them we would send a copy of his sermon to Archbishop Hart.  And he did.

The Archbishop and his assistant bishop met with him several times and counselled him to desist or face dismissal.

He has persisted.

Oh dear.  Here are a few clues Fr Reynolds.  There is no such thing as 'loyal dissent' when it comes to the official teachings of the Church.  There are areas where theological debate is permissible - and areas where it isn't.  You are either a loyal catholic - or not a catholic at all.  And in the later case, attempting to lead your people into error, or reinforce the errors they already hold is a serious crime indeed.

So friends, please pray for Fr Reynolds to repent and accept the teaching of the Church.  And for Archbishop Hart.

An episcopal backbone award may be coming up...

Friday prayers...

Please pray for:

  • Australian primary school children told not to choose songs mentioning God or Jesus for the end of year concert lest they offend non-Christians;
  • Malalai Joya, activist and critic of the current Afghan regime currently visiting Australia to campaign about the appalling treatment of women there;
  • Mrs Asia Bibi, Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy mentioned last week, but for whom the Pope has now appealed on behalf;
  • victims of the massacres of Catholics in Iraq, and those subject to continuing threats there - a requiem will be held at the Vatican on November 25;
  • Christian Pastor Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, death to death in Iran for apostasy from Islam.
And for those who don't see Islam as a significant lobby group as yet in Australia, read about the Islamic group planning to run candidates in the NSW election next year...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Are you a 'gay marriage dinosaur'? Vote yes!

Apparently the motion asking MPs to canvass their electorates on homosexual 'marriage' passed - by one vote.

And the campaign to vilify those who disagree with this tiny but vocal lobby group (aided and abbetted by their latte-set collaborators) for immorality has already started - so please do go to the Sydney Morning Herald website and vote to register your opposition.

Because let's be clear - there is no absolute 'right' to get married.  There are certain basic criteria that need to be satisfied before a marriage can occur.  One of them being that the couple concerned consist of a male and a female respectively.

I do have to say I see a certainly irony in the SMH's headline courtesy of  ex-pat actress Portia di Rossi (partner of Ellen deGeneres) that opponents of gay marriage are dinosaurs who should 'evolve or die'.  Because gay adoptions and IVF not withstanding, its pretty clear which side evolution favours, and its not the gay lobby...

***Update: Oh and it gets better!  Ms di Rossi has been accused of sexism by Sunrise Show Host David Koch because she refused to be interviewed him on the grounds that he was a man....So, human rights only for lesbian women?

Bishops, a jump to the 'right', and the blogosphere...**Updated

I have to admit that I don't really follow US ecclesiastical politics closely because I find it (like US politics generally) rather bemusing given the strong admixture of anti-government sentiment that seems to colour debate on any issue.

But the outcomes of the latest US Bishops Conference meeting is certainly worth contemplating. 

Election of Archbishop Dolan as President of the USCCB

Instead of the usual automatic succession of the Vice-President of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Dolan of New York was elected the new President.

The result seems to have been the outcome in part of a blog campaign against the presumed automatic succession of Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, partly due to his handling of the abuse crisis in his diocese (including allowing the ordination of a suspect priest who went on to be convicted of abuse to proceed), and partly because of his reputation as '“the leading liberal hope” among the progressive wing of the Church.'  

But the election of Archbishop Dolan also seems to signal a more general desire among the American bishops (due in part to a series of recent Benedictine appointments) to continue the more activist role in the public square on moral and other issues as carried out by the outgoing President, Cardinal George.

Meanwhile back in Australia...

Meanwhile the Australian Bishops Conference has put out more than half a dozen statements over the last year on refugees - but not one on the abortion, homosexual 'marriage', homosexual adoption or euthanasia debates (and no, putting up an opinion piece on your website from Fr Brennan does not count) currently raging in this country.

Just as well that the Pope has reiterated that bishops' Conferences are there to support individual bishops in their leadership role, not replace them.

Still, the Pope's recent remarks do stress the value of collective action. 

Adelaide, oh Adelaide...

It would have been nice to see some action from the Australian Bishops' Conference in support of the Vigils for Nascent Life called for by the Pope for example. 

But presumably the President of the Conference, Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, has been rather preoccupied of late with the continuing issues posed by allowing his offsider Monsignor Cappo to be on the taxpayer payroll and participate in taxpayer funded junkets to Italy.

The homosexual challenge

But there are still plenty of opportunities ahead for supportive action.

Our Parliamentarians are gearing up, courtesy of the Greens, to canvass their electorates on homosexuality.  And the Labor Party is bringing forward its National Conference to December 2011 so it can have a debate on whether to change the Party Platform opposing homosexual marriage.  What a perfect time for some strong catechetical resources to be put out on the subject...

I'm not holding my breath however.

And on the subject of bishops conferences...

Fr Blake of St Mary Magdalen has a great post today on the subject of bishops conferences, with some links worth following back.  I strongly endorse his sentiments, which are equally applicable to the ACBC:

"In the US there is openness; agendas, speeches, voting are public, here [England] everything is behind closed doors, except for the close of session press conference. A committment to openness by the US Bishops helped to repair the loss of trust following their abuse crisis.

It is not just the Cathosphere that is critical of the Bishop Conference... Today we are rightly suspicious of closed shops and groups who meet in secret, men exercising power without scrutiny. People expect transparency, openness and honesty, especially from the clergy, with the net the technology is possible."

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Pope Benedict on Scripture: absorbing Verbum Domini Part I - the sterile chasm between exegesis and theology

I posted a dot point summary of key points from the Pope's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture, Verbum Domini last week, and now I want to start a series that tries to look more deeply at its key messages.

This is of course my own interpretation of the text, and I'm certainly open to debate and correction!

The hermeneutic of continuity and Scriptural study

So today, a look at the Pope's application of his principle of 'the hermeneutic of continuity' to Vatican II's Dei Verbum.

Essentially, Verbum Domini argues that, as with so much else of Vatican II, Dei Verbum has been read only selectively, and without proper regard for the continuity of Magisterial teaching.  It is an argument that is easier to sustain in the case of Dei Verbum, I think, than some other of the documents of Vatican II.

The Pope does not reject the validity of the historico-critical method that has so dominated academic Scriptural studies outright.  But he does provide a forthright critique of the way it has been applied, and presents a damning analysis of the destruction of faith that has resulted from its misuse.

Catholic Bible Scholarship and the Magisterium

The relationship between Biblical scholarship and the Church has been a fraught one for more than a century.

The historico-critical method was a protestant invention in its infancy.  Its primary focus is on issues such as 'how a text came into being', speculating on things like authorship and the history of the redaction of a text, as well as literary devices uses and so forth.  As such, its methods are almost inevitably rooted in rationalism and modernism, such that “higher criticism” has generally served to undermine both the historicity and authority of Scripture.

For that reason, in the early twentieth century the Pontifical Bible Commission set clear limits to its use, for example stating that the authorship of psalms Our Lord attributes to David in the New Testament cannot be questioned.

Two key encyclicals however, did encourage Catholic Bible scholarship to engage in historical and literary approaches to Scripture, namely Providentissimus Deus (1893) and Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). Both allowed scientific approaches to the study of Scripture. But both also imposed strict limits on the scientific, in particular emphasising the subordination of the results of scientific inquiry to the demands of revelation.

Pope Benedict XVI reaffirms key aspects of that previous teaching (including Providentissimus Dei’s statements on scriptural inerrancy which were challenged at the Synod), and argues that they provide the necessary backdrop against which to interpret Vatican II’s teaching on Scripture:

"Against this background," he says, "one can better appreciate the great principles of interpretation proper to Catholic exegesis set forth by the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum."

Spirit of Vatican IIism and Verbum Dei

In particular Pope Benedict XVI argues that Catholic scholars took up Verbum Dei's emphasis on the study of literary genres and historical context as basic elements for understanding the meaning of the text, but essentially ignored the three overall criteria for appreciation of the Divine dimensions of the text that Verbum Dei set out, namely:
  •  attention to the unity of the whole of Scripture (canonical exegesis);
  •  the living Tradition of the Church (which the Pope makes clear includes attention to the Fathers and theologians);
  • and the 'analogy of faith'.
The result of this neglect is a ‘dualistic’ approach to Scripture, resulting in what he terms the sterile separation between exegesis and theology:

"While today’s academic exegesis, including that of Catholic scholars, is highly competent in the field of historical-critical methodology and its latest developments, it must be said that comparable attention needs to be paid to the theological dimension of the biblical texts."

The consequences for the faith

And the results of this neglect of the theological dimension of Scripture that the Pope sees are fivefold.

First, “Scripture ends up being a text belonging only to the past: “ One can draw moral consequences from it, one can learn history, but the Book as such speaks only of the past, and exegesis is no longer truly theological, but becomes pure historiography, history of literature.”

Secondly, instead of being read from the perspective of faith, rationalism creeps in, denying the reality of the miraculous: “a positivistic and secularized hermeneutic ultimately based on the conviction that the Divine does not intervene in human history. According to this hermeneutic, whenever a divine element seems present, it has to be explained in some other way, reducing everything to the human element. This leads to interpretations that deny the historicity of the divine elements...”

Thirdly, this rationalism leads to a false “spiritualization” of Christian mysteries such as the Eucharist, promoting interpretations of them that reject the specific historical context of their Revelation.

Fourthly lectio divina becomes completely divorced from theology, resulting in poor homilies and catechesis.

Finally, Scripture is no longer ‘the soul of theology’, leaving that science too, impoverished.

How does the Pope propose that these problems be overcome?  I'll look at that in the next part of this series...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Why is the agenda of the 3% being foistered on the 97%?

Tonight the Parliament is debating yet another Green bill, this time on gay 'marriage'.

And the lead in to this was some classically distorted reporting of a survey in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age today on the subject.

The survey asked whether you thought homosexuality was immoral, and whether homosexuals should be able to adopt children.  Fairfax see the results as evidence of homophobia.  But as even pro-gay rights  bloggers have pointed out, neither of these questions provides evidence for anything of the sort.  A phobia is an irrational fear - yet these questions simply asked for views on the morality of an act, and a judgment on prudential grounds about who should be allowed to raise children not their own. 

The media have naturally focused in on the electorate by electorate break down of views on homosexuality.  Now admittedly these are certainly interesting, particularly given the bills in the Parliament, and attempts tby some in the Labor Party to use this issue in the desperate search for ways to stop the drift to the Greens.

But by far the more interesting result of the survey was how many people claimed to be homosexuals. 

The answer is 3%.

So, parliaments around Australia are spending huge amounts of time (and thus taxpayer money) debating positive discrimination for acts that a significant proportion of Australians believe are immoral.  For three percent of the population.

So here's a hint for Labor.  Homosexual 'marriage' is not a vote winner.  Not just because many people still (correctly) believe that homosexual acts are immoral (even after a survey lead in that clearly tried to lead them to a pro-homosexual mindset by talking about how gay 'marriage' is legal in other countries).  And not just because for many of those people, changing party platforms would be a vote changer.

But because there really isn't a significant constituency for homosexual perceived rights out there.

Apart of course from all those fellow travellers desperate to establish their credentials for any cause going.

And in the end, you'd pick up their votes anyway if you actually stood up to the lobby groups and really took action on the environment - on water, on a carbon tax.  Pretty much any real action actually.  Because you can't help suspecting that people voted Green last time because they actually wanted to see some action on (real) green issues. Time will tell if people vote for the Greens again now they see their real colours...assuming of course that Labor recovers its.

Verbum Domini: why the lack of interest?

A few days ago I provided a dot point summary of the Pope's new Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture, and flagged that I'd write some more on it, and I'll do that over the next few days.

A deafening silence?

But I thought first I'd comment on the lack of reactions from other bloggers, because there has been a surprising dearth of comment on it on the mainstream blogs and the catholic media.

One or two, such as Fr Blake of St Mary Magdalen reproduced first the Vatican press release and later selected quotes.   The Sydney Archdiocese news service put up a Vatican produced short video introduction to it.  And Rorate Caeli commented on an alleged failure to address head on "limited inerrancy" (although like some of the commentators on their piece, I actually thought the Holy Father made it pretty clear that so-called limited inerrancy was an error, not least with his reaffirmations of Provendissimus Deus and Divino Afflante). 

But on the whole not much has been said about it, and that is a shame because I think it is a very important document.

But perhaps the lack of comment reflects the problem the document aims to solve, namely the relative neglect of Scripture by Catholics?

Or perhaps the relative silence reflects the appalled reaction of academic exegetes who find that the Pope's concerted critique of the current academic consensus contained in the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth has now turned into Magisterium!

Practical and theory

There are of course good reason why Catholics have generally neglected Scripture - such as the deadly combination of poor catechesis, sterile academic exegesis resulting from the historico-critical method, and the encouragement of superficial approaches to lectio divina which cause people to quickly lose interest.

Fortunately Pope Benedict XVI addresses all of these problems in his document.

One or two of the practical suggestions in the document - a directory for sermons, pride of place for the Bible in churches - are in fact suggestions from Australian Archbishops unless I'm much mistaken.

But the really crucial part of his document is on the reintegration of biblical exegesis and theology; on grounding lectio divina once again in the intellect, not just emotions.

There is a strong movement out there to reclaim the liturgy. But no equivalent movement to reclaim Scripture from the modernists.  The Pope has now given us the tools to support such a movement though, and the traditionally inclined should take up this cause with gusto.

More over the next few days...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Death of a blog? Please pray for David Schutz...**

I've received an email from David Schutz of the Sentire Cum Ecclesia blog, saying, inter alia, that:

"Those of you who have tried to access my blog in the last 24 hours will have received this notice:

This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service.

For questions or concerns, contact

I have contacted Wordpress, but from what I have read on the internet about others who have experienced this, there is not much hope for resuscitation.

I suppose I have angered someone.

Who? God knows...."

Please pray for David and that his blog will be back soon.

***He's back with his own domain this time...

Pope's call for a Vigil for Life - what is your diocese and/or parish doing?

You might recall that the Pope asked the world's bishops to join him in a Vigil for all nascent life on Saturday 27 November, the eve of Advent.  Surely a golden opportunity for our bishops and priests to take a stand against abortion, and to work to persuade catholics of the truths of their faith. 

So, with two weeks to go, which dioceses are actually something, and starting to publicise the event? 

Might I venture to suggest that the answser to this question perhaps provides a good test of real diocesan commitment to and capacity for the New Evangelisation?! 

Well if so, our archdioceses so far seem to be on a failing grade!  A quick search shows:
  • Archbishop Hickey of Perth is holding a Vigil on 27 November, and publicising it with a nice background article in The Record;
  • Melbourne is apparently tonight (Sat 13 November) - election night clash I guess;
  • but nothing as yet on the Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra-Goulburn websites lists of upcoming events.  But of course there is still time....
Do let me know if I've missed publicity for an event in one of the archdioceses above (or alert us if they do announce something), or tell us about what is happening in your diocese....

Our dying religious orders...

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a survey to be released shortly that shows the numbers of religious (monks, nuns, brothers and sisters) in Australia has halved since 1976, from 17, 029 to 8422.

The median age is 73, and only 8.2 per cent are aged under 50, whereas 26.6 per cent are aged 80 or more.

In 1976, around half of religious worked in education; now only 12% do.

The raw numbers do, I suspect, conceal some different trends. 

Some monasteries and Orders, such as the Josephites, Good Samaritans, Arcadia and New Norcia seem pretty much doomed unless somethng changes drastically.  Others are doing better.

Signs of life?

In recent years the Dominicans have managed to find a few excellent recruits who have even managed to stay the distance despite their more liberal elder brethren (though you could still have knocked me over with a feather when I saw an ad for an upcoming chant workshop in Melbourne run by them, particularly when I saw that one of the presenters is my parish priest.  I'm looking forward now to seeing his expertise bring to an end the 1970s pseudo-hymns normally served up at Dickson (and Watson), and the use of even one piece of actual Gregorian chant regularly at a Mass in the parish!

The conservative Tyburn sisters continue to grow and expand around the world, having recently added a second monastery in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, Australia has no traditionalist monastery, and only a handful of Australians are in overseas traditionally oriented monasteries.  And it is in the new traditional communities that the revival of monasticism is really happening around the world...

Friday, 12 November 2010

Please offer your Friday prayers for....

  • Catholics in Iraq - following the Cathedral massacre, Catholics have been targeted in their homes by a series of concerted attacks intended to drive them out of the country;
  • Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemy  - the SMH reports that she was "asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.  But a group of Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl.  A few days later the women went to a local cleric and alleged that Ms Bibi made made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.";
  • Catholics in Spain who failed in a court case claiming offense of religious sentiments in relation to a violent invasion of Cordoba Cathedral by Muslims during Holy Week;
  • The conversion of Islamic protestors in the UK who disrupted Armstice Day remembrances in central London, burning a model poppy and chanting 'British soldiers burn in hell' during the customary period of silence.  They held banners which read 'Islam will dominate' and 'Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell'.
Oh and if you are a Muslim looking for a place to pray in remote Inuvik, Canada (population 4,000 including 80 or so Muslim migrants) you are now in luck, with the importation of a 'little mosque on the tundra'...Up until now the town had been most famous for its Igloo Church, Our Lady of Victory...

Verbum Domini - The Pope's Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture

Pope Benedict XVI's Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture Verbum Domini has just been released and is available here.

There is lots of important material here, and it will take some time to absorb it, and I'll probably write more soon.  But here is a quick lifting of key points from my first quick read!

  • It opens saying the exposition will be based around the famous prologue of St John's Gospel, said every day in the EF Mass, In the beginning was the Word...;
  • Reminds that we are not (as Muslims claim)  a religion 'of the book': "Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable." (7)
  • The Old testament and New Testaments are affirmed as history, not myth!:"It is very beautiful to see how the entire Old Testament already appears to us as a history in which God communicates his word..." (11); "the death of Christ testifies that the word of God became thoroughly human “ flesh ”, human “ history ”.  Similarly, the resurrection of Jesus takes place “ on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures ”" (13), (32)
  • Importance of the patristic and medieval tradition (thoughout, but esp 37);
  • eschatological dimension of Scripture reaffirmed - no new public revelation until Second Coming of Christ  - thus be careful on private revelations, claims of false religions (14);
  • Scripture can't be understood without the action of the Holy Spirit (16);
  • Scripture must be understood in context of  apostolic 'living Tradition' ;
  • reaffirms inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture: "we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus, ‘all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’" (19);
  • importance of the book of Psalms as prayer (24);
  • the sin of refusal to hear God (26);
  • Our Lady as the model for the Church.
The Interpretation of the Word in the Church
  • the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church (29) - "we can never read
    Scripture simply on our own"...we slip too easily into error (30);
  • textual and form criticism might be interesting, but only preliminary and incomplete (30)
  • Reaffirms teaching of Providentissimus Deus and Divino Afflante Spiritu on historical and other methodologies of analysis (33)
  • Three key principles: "1) the text must be interpreted with attention to the unity of the whole of Scripture; nowadays this is called canonical exegesis; 2) account is be taken of the living Tradition of the whole Church; and, finally, 3) respect must be shown for the analogy of faith." (34);
  • Limits of historical criticism - more attention needs to be paid to the theological dimensions of the text (34)
  • dangers of artificial separation of scientific exegesis and lectio divina - faith and reason needed (35-6);
  • Importance of the Fathers and their exegetical methods  - both literal and spiritual sense of texts important (37);
  • Importance of OT, unity of Scripture (39) - "a basic aspect of continuity with the Old Testament revelation, an aspect of discontinuity and an aspect of fulfilment and transcendence" (40)
  • Need a Christological, typological methodology to interpret OT (41);
  • Can't just ignore the dark passages of Scripture (42);
  • Value of dialogue with Jews on Scripture (43);
  • reject fundamentalist literalism (44);
  • value of ecumenical bible study but care needed in how done, esp noting importance of translations and other differences in approach (46);
  • Listen to the saints on Scripture (47).
  • Liturgy as the privileged setting for Scripture that should shape our understanding of it (52);
  • Unbreakable bond with Eucharist and sacraments (55);
  • lectionary issues (58);
  • Ministry of reader  - no change on instituted lectors?, need for training whoever does it (59);
  • sermons (clerics only!) important - directory to be prepared (60)
  • Confession and Scripture (61);
  • Liturgy of the Hours important - where possible introduce in parishes etc (64)
  • 'Celebrations of the Word' encouraged (65);
  • Rediscover value of silence (66);
  • Give Bible visible place of honour, and other measures to emphasise importance;
  • Use of songs at appropriate times - Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant (70);
  • importance of Scriptural formation and catechesis for Catholics (74-5);
  • Value and importance of lectio divina - BUT "it is important to read and experience sacred Scripture in communion with the Church, that is, with all the great witnesses to this word, beginning with the earliest Fathers up to the saints of our own day, up to the presentday magisterium" (86);
  • Basic steps of lectio: "the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas. Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged. Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us. Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?...not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity (87);
  • Reading Scripture as an opportunity to gain indulgences (87);
  • Scriptural rosary, Angelus, etc (88);
  • Importance of the Holy Land (89)
  • Word as source of Church's missionary imperative - need a renewed commitment to mission by all (90 - 94);
  • Mission 'ad gentes' essential (95);
  • To the baptised but not really insufficiently evangelized - New Evangelization (96);
  • public and social life;
  • importance of practical charity, not just commitments to reconciliation etc (103);
  • Migration  - "Large numbers of people who know nothing of Christ, or who have an inadequate understanding of him, are settling in countries of Christian tradition. At the same time, persons from nations deeply marked by Christian faith are emigrating to countries where Christ needs to be proclaimed and a new evangelization is demanded. These situations offer new possibilities for the spread of God’s word. In this regard the Synod Fathers stated that migrants are entitled to hear the kerygma, which is to be proposed, not imposed. If they are Christians, they require forms of pastoral care which can enable them to grow in the faith and to become in turn messengers of the Gospel. Taking into account the complexity of the phenomenon, a mobilization of all dioceses involved is essential, so that movements of migration will also be seen as an opportunity to discover new forms of presence and proclamation." (105)
  • interesting stuff on poverty as a virtue as well as a problem (107);
  • importance of culture (109-110);
  • importance of internet (while not replacing face to face) - "I express gratitude to those Catholics who are making serious efforts to promote a significant presence in the world of the media..." - need more (113)
  • No syncretism under the guise of inculturation (114);
Interreligious dialogue
  • Context of mission - an essential part of the proclamation of the word to consist in encounter, dialogue and cooperation with all people of good will, particularly with the followers of the different religious traditions of humanity; no syncretism or relativism (117);
  • Possibility of countering secularism together;
  • Islam - look for ways of promoting peaceful co-existence (118);
  • But all interreligius dialogue must be predicated on freedom to practice own religion - need for reciprosity (120).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Is the only good Muslim a bad Muslim?

St Thomas More College in the US has posted a lively debate from a few days back between Professor Peter Kreeft of Boston College, who takes a relatively positive view of Islam (seeing them as potential allies against secularism) and Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch. 

Personally, I find Spencer's warnings about the wishful thinking inherent in Kreeft's (and others) view of Islam reasonably convincing.  But listen and make up your own mind.


That horrible Old Testament - thank goodness those nasty bits didn't really happen!

Yup, that's the sentiment gracing the pages of the November edition of the Canberra-Goulburn diocesan newspaper The Catholic Voice, in the form of a book review by Janet Moyle.

I suspect that one of the reasons why Catholics are so reluctant to actually read Scripture, except in nice sanitised chunks (the Liturgy of the Hours for example, dumps whole psalms and many other uncomfortable verses as unsuitable to modern sensibilities) is that it contradicts their all-is-permitted, rose-coloured glasses view of religion.

The rose-coloured glasses version of the Gospels

Fr Finigan of the Hermaneutic of Continuity blog has written a great post on this problem in the context of a sermon reported in the UK catholic press, and puts the problem in a helpful context:

One question that tormented Cardinal Ratzinger when the files came streaming across his desk was how these men could do such things and then go out and say Mass next day as if they were in a state of grace. The answer lies at least in part in this kind of spirichooaliddy [Fr F's wonderful new term!] in which God loves us all unconditionally, we are all weak and broken wounded healers, everything is grace, all sin is forgiven; and don't you dare mention mortal sin or the possibility of eternal damnation.

The origins of this 'Catholic-lite' heresy comes from a failure to actually read the Gospels, as he points out:

"A headteacher, imbued with this spirichooaliddy once challenged me at a meeting, saying "Jesus did not impose conditions on his followers". I pointed out that according to the gospel accounts he did ("If anyone would be a follower of mine, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me", "If you love me, keep my commandments", "Unless a man is born again by water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" etc.) It seems to be a nice, child-friendly way to present the faith to remove all the difficult bits about sin and hell, and present a God who is a big fluffy teddy bear who magically transforms our broken vows into strings of pearls...."  

And as for the Old Testament...

The same mentality Fr Finigan takes to task is alive and well elsewhere, and reflected in the November edition of the Canberra-Goulburn diocesan newspaper.

The book being reviewed is "Making Sense of the Bible: Difficult Texts and Modern Faith" by Anthony Campbell (Paulist Press, 2010). 

Now I haven't read the book itself. But the review takes a perspective that reflects erroneous approaches to Scripture, and if the author's reading of the book is correct, she should be sounding a warning about it rather than lauding it.

Let's take a look at some extracts from what Ms Moyle writes.  She starts:

"Many times when reading parts of the Old Testament or when praying the Psalms, I have reflected that the history of Israel sounds more like a modern-day jihad than that of a pilgrim people's journey with their God.  There are accounts of wars, massacres and triumphalism which seems at odds with the loving, forgiving Father as revealed by Jesus Christ."  [Hmm, could it be that her view of what Jesus reveals is wrong?  That what she sees as 'triumphalism' might not be....That the 'pilgrim people's journey' doesn't actually mean drifting through life in an ecumenical and inter-religiously dialoging haze?  True, the Old Testament presents an imperfect people, with God only gradually revealing himself.  That does not make it any less true or any less important for our instruction.]

"Anthony Campbell SJ a noted biblical scholar and author, skilled at research and well-versed in the traditions and culture of ancient Israel, addresses these anomalies. His aim is to demonstrate how critical study together with current trends in biblical scholarship combine to make sense of difficult and even disturbing texts for the modern reader. [Nothing wrong with this objective].

Campbell's concern is less with the historical value of the texts than with their reflection on human experience and their theological value for assessing life before God. [If that's the case, that's a problem, the classic stuff of modernism.  Because the Old Testament is history.  We need to pay attention to the literal sense of Scripture first.  And one of the key messages of Scripture is that God continues to work through history to reveal himself and his saving plan.]    Nevertheless he is fully conversant with the arguments that archaeological discoveries prove the Bible right or conversely prove it wrong.[I don't think so!  Archeology, as Pope Leo XIII pointed out in Providentissimus Deus cannot disprove the Bible, since the Bible presents us with inerrant truth.  Where there is apparent contradiction, efforts should be made to reconcile it; where this isn't possible, judgment must be suspended until the matter can be resolved properly.  And besides, how many news stories have you read in recent years that basically say, ok so the Bible was right after all....]

What is needed, he says, is a wider interpretation of the biblical text, an interpretation that has always been possible but too often ignored.... He devotes Chapter 4 to the Book of Joshua and what he terms "the most appalling extermination levels" in this scripture. He is clear that the slaughter never happened which is a relief.  [Phew!  Great way to deal with the story of the people of Israel acquiring the Promised Land by conquest - it never happened!  Hmm, I wonder what else never happened in the Bible in this view....most of it?]  The nasty bits, he says, are mainly in the reports. [!] However, the book has been preserved over the centuries and we need to explore other perspectives also contained in Joshua.

Campbell has particular familiarity with the books of Samuel. It is fascinating to learn of the myths surrounding the person of David, of his military power and of his kingly court. Campbell states there is a massive unanswered question as to why the story of Bathsheba and David was ever told. [Perhaps because  these are not myths, but a real story providing an important lesson on sin and the need for repentance?  Because it shows that even someone on an importnat mission from God can fall into sin, and that serious sin has major consequences?] There is nothing like it elsewhere in the Bible. This book is at the cutting edge of scriptural studies. It would be of great value to those undertaking serious study. Being written in an easy style, it is also accessible to a broad readership.

Oh dear, doesn't sound like this book is helpful at all....

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The power of the Commonwealth Government to override Territory laws - should it be exercized?**

I've argued before in the context of the euthanasia debate that Federal MPs and Senators cannot hide behind notions of self-determination and claim to abrogate their power to prevent a great moral evil, viz euthanasia laws. 

And I've also put the arguments that the NT in particular has all the hallmarks of a failed state (and Norfolk Island it seems is not too far behind), with an inherent power imbalance that positively invites Federal intervention.

The debate on Territorial rights is hotting up though, with some exchanges in the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs.

Why MPs and Senators must exercize their vote

My view is that the case is straightforward: from a catholic perspective, if a legislator has a power to prevent an absolute moral evil, they have a duty to do so. 

Of course, whether they will or not depends on just how much they adhere to their catholic principles: the late King of Belgium abdicated (albeit temporarily) in order to avoid approving abortion legislation; the current King of Spain signed abortion into law there.

Would we really be having this debate if it was on something other than euthanasia?

But the real issue is that though the Greens's bill is couched as about Territory rights, in reality it is about killing people.  Moreover, it is not about legalizing suicide, as some seem to think, but about empowering doctors and nurses to kill people.

If a State tried to pass laws to exterminate all blondes, or some other obvious moral wrong everyone could agree on, would we really be debating State rights?  I think not. 

Indeed, even when States do things that are matters of mere prudential judgment, such as Queensland's Wild Rivers Act, the Federal Parliament sees fit to debate whether that legislation should be overridden, State legislative power notwithstanding.  So why should Territory laws, which the Constitution gives an explicit imprimateur to the Commonwealth to reject, be regarded as sacrosanct?

Any abstention or support for the Territories power to legislate on euthanasia then, is a vote in favour of euthanasia, not a vote for Territory self-determination.

George Williams vs Ken Parish

Yesterday, George Williams put the contrary case in the Sydney Morning Herald.  But he's been taken to task by Ken Parish on the Club Troppo blog for making mere assertions rather than providing an actual argument as to why the power to override Territorial legislation should not be used.

Note that Parish's arguments don't go to euthanasia itself - he supports it - only to the constitutional issues. 

That's perhaps more helpful to the cause of life though, if it might help persuade those concerned about alleged Territory rights! 

Do go over and read the exchanges, including Williams' response to Parish on the blog. 

Williams notes that there are other powers in the Constitution not regularly exercised, and that he believes should not be, such as that of the Queen to reject Australian laws.  Hmm, isn't that actually why many of us believe Australia should become a Republic (or acquire its own local monarch)?  Because those reserve powers can sit there on the books for a long time and then someone can just decide to use them, a la 1975...

***PS There is an appalling pro-euthanasia story in the Adelaide Advertiser today, together with a poll which needs your vote....