Friday, 30 November 2012

Bible Reading Plan: The Minor Prophets

This is a somewhat belated post (for which apologies) on the 'Twelve Minor Prophets', whose books are traditionally read around this time of the year in the Office at Matins, and are set for the Bible Reading Plan over November and early December.


These prophets are called 'minor' not because they are unimportant (quite the contrary, they are very important indeed) but because they are short: the longest two books of the group (Hosea and Zechariah) clock in at fourteen chapters; while the shortest, Obediah and Haggai, have only one.

Despite their shortness, several of them are quoted in the New Testament very frequently indeed, in part because some of their prophesies are fulfilled in the New Testament, but also because of the enduring nature of the warnings they contain.

The prophets frequently point to the importance of right behaviour, providing the seeds of the social teachings of the Church.  They should also though, remind us that the failure of God's people to keep his covenant - whether new or old - has real consequences in the here and now.

What is a prophet?

These writings stretch over quite a long period - from the eighth to the fourth centuries BC, and the things they describe often overlap with events recounted in the historical books.

What they have in common is that the speaker played a charismatic role in his time: the prophets were not (necessarily) priests, but rather derived their authority to speak directly from a charism granted by God.

Some of them were instructed by God to use dramatic means to get the message across: the instruction to Hosea to marry a harlot,  to symbolize the state of the marriage between God and his people, being right up there.

I have to admit, though, that my favourite is the most reluctant of the prophets, Jonah, who when told to call on Nineveh to repent, first ran in the opposite direction, and after finally giving the warning rather hoped they wouldn't heed it, and was angry when they were spared!

A quick guide to the twelve...

Here is a quick guide to the twelve books.

Hosea (Nov 14-17) - Fourteen chapters long, Hosea prophesied between around 745-730.  Born in the reign of King Jeroboam II in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, this was a turbulent period when Israel managed to depose or assassinate six kings in the course of twenty years and was invaded by the Assyrian Empire at least twice.  The key issue for Hosea though is the resulting religious syncreticism that grew up: in an effort to appease the invaders, the people worshiped pagan gods and priests failed to teach.  The relationship between God and his people is depicted as a marriage - and infidelity was rife.  One particularly relevant to our times!

Joel (Nov 18) - Three chapters long, scholars are split on when this was written, debating whether it was very early indeed (830-740) or around 400 BC, after the return of the people to Jerusalem from Exile, but before the Greek invasion.  Either way, it is a call to repentance and penance in the face of a calamity (historically a plague of locusts).

Amos (Nov 19-20) - Nine chapters.  Amos was a shepherd at the time of King Jeroboam II (his work probably dates from between 760 and 750), and his focus is on injustice and immorality: in short, true social justice.

Obadiah (Abdias) (Nov 21) - This is actually the shortest book of the Old Testament, with only one chapter and twenty one verses.  It prophesies the destruction of Israel's enemies, in the form of Edom, the nation that began with Esau, and the future kingdom of God.  It may be the oldest of the minor prophets books.

Jonah (Nov 22) - The story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale and surviving three days in its belly is cited by Our Lord as foreshadowing his own descent into hades.  Modernist scholarship has decided this book is a fable or parable; the tradition has always held otherwise.  Nonetheless, these four chapters are surely the most humorous in the Bible.

Micah (Nov 23-24) - Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, prophesying between around 740-700.  Its seven chapters are a call to conversion, and contains the prophesy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.

Nahum (Nov 25) - The three chapters of this book deal with the fall of Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) due to their cruelty (they were conquerered by the Babylonians in 612) and its author was active between 698 and 642 BC.

Habakkuk (Nov 26) - Three chapters dealing with the problem of evil, and on how injustice may prevail in the short term - but good will ultimately triumph.  It was probably written around 608 BC, and loooks at how God brings down the Assyrian Empire by using the Babylonians (Chaldeans).

Zephaniah (Nov 27) - Zephaniah was the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, and prophesied just before the Babylonian captivity, around 635-630.  The main target of his three chapters is superstition and idolatry.  The author of the Dies Irae drew heavily on his description of the day of judgment.

Haggai (Nov 28) - Written in 520 BC this short one chapter book urges the exiles returned to Jerusalem courtesy of the Persian Cyrus to resume the task of rebuilding the Temple.  Lack of funds and people had caused the returnees to give up on the task; Haggai's message is that the poverty of the people has been caused by their lack of commitment to the task.  Handel uses the verse Thus says the Lord: and I will shake in his Messiah.  A message here for some of our bishops, intent on selling off churches rather than building up their beauty, perhaps...

Zechariah (Nov 29-Dec 1) - A contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah also gets a guernsey in Handel's Messiah, with the aria Rejoice O Daughter of Zion, and a key focus of the book is certainly the future coming of the Messiah.  Like Haggai, though, it deals with the need to rebuild the Temple, destroyed in 587 BC.  It has fourteen chapters.

Malachi (Dec 2) - Malachi's four chapters foretell the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ.  Written between 420-400 BC he is the last of the Old Testament prophets, and speaks of the legalism and lack of real reverence that characterized the times.  The keys to reform, he suggests, are the Temple, the priesthood and the liturgy, and fidelity to the law.

The bishops on the Royal Commission

The Australian Bishops Conference has put out a statement on the Royal Commission:

"With leaders of Religious Orders, we welcome the establishment of the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

It is an opportunity for those who have suffered to obtain a compassionate hearing, justice and further healing.

It is also an opportunity for the Church’s processes to be scrutinised with greater objectivity. This will allow further refinements that seek justice and pastoral care.

However imperfectly, this work has been going on in the Catholic Church for the last two decades. It will continue.

Once again, we renew our heartfelt apology to those whose lives have been so grievously harmed by the evil perpetrated upon them by some priests, religious and church personnel. 

In order to work as effectively as possible with the Royal Commission, we have established a supervisory group of representatives from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia.

This supervisory group will establish and oversee a new Council for the Royal Commission consisting of 10 people (including bishops, religious and lay people) served by an Executive Officer.

Our hope is that, in its search for truth, the Royal Commission will present 
recommendations ensuring the best possible standards of child protection in our country.

Painful and difficult as this might be for the Church, it is nothing compared to the hurt of those who have suffered sexual abuse, particularly by clergy and religious.

Through the days of our meeting, the bishops and religious leaders have appreciated the support of the prayers of many in the Australian Catholic community."

The Royal Commission and the ACBC plenary

The Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference is meeting at the moment, as you can tell from the typical stream of press releases on topics that are shall we say, of at best marginal relevance to the central concerns of most Catholics in this country at the moment.

But ACBC has now put out a statement on the bureaucratic for the handling of the Royal Commission (on which I'll post separately), which is, I guess a step forward.  Sort of.

Yet what Catholics are surely really waiting to hear is not what committees and Councils are being set up to manage the process, but some evidence that the bishops have a real understanding of the underlying drivers of the problem, such as the failure of our seminaries, the collapse of any genuine commitment to morality, and the rejection of the virtue of obedience.  And we are waiting to hear about the processes that will be put in place to identify and deal with these issues.  Let's hope there is something still to come on this...

What really matters?

ACBC meetings are inevitably marked by a stream of press releases on predictable topics such as asylum seekers, people with disabilities or some other distinguishing feature seen as marginalizing them, and some heart-tugging story about the third world.

They are rarely if ever about things that actually matter to the travails of the Australian Catholic Church: how to deal with falling Mass attendance rates; the de facto rejection of most Catholic teaching by most Catholics; or the recovery of a richer ascetic, devotional and spiritual life in this country.

With the Royal Commission on child abuse about to start one might have thought this week would be different.

But alas no, the week has been marked by statements on the possibility of war in the Congo, sales pitches for Christmas from Caritas Australia and Catholic Mission Australia, and more of that ilk.

Sr Cunliffe and Bishop o'Kelly

The two attempts at active media management for the week have been a statement from Sr Annette Cunliffe, President of Catholic Religious Australia, the peak body for Religious Orders in this country, who attempted to distance herself from Cardinal Pell's media statements, and Bishop Greg O'Kelly, who claimed a distinction between the actions of evil individuals and the Church.

Neither media foray seemed to advance the cause much in my view.

Sr Annette's billing as one of only two women in the room at the ACBC meeting just served to highlight the lack of any real lay input to the Church's decision-making processes in this country.  And while hearing a different voice might be a media plus in the short-term, it surely won't be long before the media wake up to the fact that the religious orders have actually been considerably slower to respond effectively to the abuse crisis than even most dioceses!

Bishop O'Kelly's Pastoral Letter to his diocese of Port Pirie seems even more problematic in attempting to pre-empt some of the issues likely to be considered by the Commission, and denying the systematic nature of the cover-up:

"While not shrinking from a clear vision that must keep the victims at the 
forefront of our consideration, and not wishing to put image above other needs 
in compassion and justice, it remains true that among those being interviewed 
there are some who make false claims, such as the accusation that the 
Church prevents victims from going to the Police.   The opposite is true; 
victims are encouraged to go to the Police.[That is surely a matter of debate!  The issue is not the words that used, but the underlying incentives and pressures on victims.] There is also the use of the term “the Catholic Church”.  In various Reports broadcast on the media statements  are made that “the Catholic Church” shielded offenders, or “the Catholic Church” obscured Police investigations, etc.  It was not “the Catholic Church” who did that; it was certain very sadly misguided, quite erroneous individuals within the Church.  The Catholic Church is you and I, our families, those who sit in our congregations, those who taught us, and so on.[And not all of us are wholly innocent either!  How many refused to believe that Fr X could have done something like that?  How many parents failed to pursue the matter with the police?  How many whistleblowers got the support they deserved?]  They or we have not been obstructing Police, or preventing investigations."

We are the Church!

In fact one of the better pieces on the subject of the Royal Commission I've read so far is I think Angela Shanahan's piece in the Australian earlier this week (google it to access if you are not a subscriber to the Oz).

Bishop O'Kelly's message is, I guess meant to tell us to stick with being catholic despite the failings of those within the Church.  Fair enough.  But we can't reject the communal dimension to what happened, and the need for communal solutions to it.

While I don't agree with Ms Shanahan's analysis on the reasons for and timing of the Commission, she makes the crucial point that sins of this kind are not just individual, private matters, but rather affect the whole community:

"Consequently, the evil of child abuse and systemic cover-up is much more than a terrible crime. It is a terrible sin, and not simply a terrible personal sin. The evil of this crime is twofold. First, there are the consequences of sexual molestation for individual victims, which are spiritually and psychologically disastrous. Anyone can see that. Second, an even more serious thing, is the spiritual consequences for the church itself. This is a sin of scandal against the whole body of the church, the laity as well as the clergy. This is worse than a crime. It is a mortal sin against the church itself."

She makes the point that we, collectively, have to take responsibility for solving the problems.  I agree.

Unlike Ms Shanahan, I do think the Commission can help even as it hurts the Church.  It might, for example, lead to something of a much-needed clean out in the ranks.  It might lead to a bit of genuine humility.

But ultimately things won't fundamentally change unless we co-operate with this possible moment of grace, and work to make things happen.

At the moment the media is filled with a predictable mix of genuine concern for what happened, opportunistic attempts to use the crisis to advance longstanding liberal agendas, and outright anti-Catholic bigotry.

It is surely time for that small remnant of faithful Catholics in this country to consider how we can seize the day.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Blogging break

Apologies dear readers, but I'm going on a blogging break for a while.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

St John's: Shouldn't it just be shutdown?

The latest update on St John's College, Sydney is that the police have been called in and some students offered accommodation in a 'safe house' after serious threats were made against those who have spoken up on the vile behaviour happening there.

Apparently senior students brought in an it expert in order to discover the identities of those who had 'dobbed' to the media,

Enough is enough.

Surely the college should just be closed down and the students required to find alternative accommodation until the situation is properly dealt with. 

Yes, I know its exam time, and I know it is probably a minority who are making life miserable for the majority.

But if the reports of internal anarchy, witchhunts and worse are true, this situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Sin city updates...

The NSW Premier has announced an inquiry into police investigations into paedophile priests limited to the Hunter region, in response to this morning's claims by a senior police officer to the effect that Church continues to obstruct police investigations of child abuse.

The Inquiry will have the powers of a Royal Commission, but be strictly limited in its terms of reference.


That is obviously a disappointment for those who have been campaigning for a Royal Commission, but not an unreasonable response given the very serious claims, and quite specific that were made.

And if it is done properly, it should indeed disentangle and expose any connections between politicians, police and the Church establishment in the ways these events were handled.

But the real issue with paedophilia and its cover-up goes way beyond the Church, and into the sickness in society that developed in the rebellion against morality in the 1960s, and infiltrated and destroyed so many institutions.

Personally I still have mixed views about the case for a Royal Commission: on the one hand, the Church seems incapable of reforming itself; on the other hand, it is far from clear that a Royal Commission will have, on balance, a positive effect (the views to the contrary of Newcastle's Bishop Wright notwithstanding).

Either way, the overblown statements by assorted campaigners is not helping their cause.

One MP called on Cardinal Pell to resign for failing to fix the Church's problems in the state today.  That's just overblown and silly - not least because on the face of it Sydney Archdiocese has been handling this particular issue rather better than of its near neighbours (though it has to be said that the bar is not high on this count!) or the Cardinal's former Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Others in Victoria have suggested today that the Church should altogether abandon its own internal investigative processes.  Those processes clearly do need to be overhauled (again).  But for obvious prudential reasons, not to mention ensuring victims who cannot sue the Church in the courts do in fact receive some assistance, to abandon any internal investigation at all would be madness.

The comment today on Detective Chief Inspector Fox's claims to the effect that his comments relate to events that took place long ago, and yet he continues to talk as if it were still happening, made by Bishop Wright though seems less than helpful.  Not least because far from being about events that happened 35 years ago, as the Bishop claimed, some actually occurred in 2010...

Meanwhile on the St John's front...

Justifications for action (or inaction) continue to flow

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the story, I really have to say that attempting to spread the attack to include the other (Protestant) colleges on campus, as the story carried on the archdiocesan website  does, doesn't seem to me like the best PR tactic. 

Citing Germaine Greer (of all people's) comments on Wesley College, and noting that its been like this for fifty years just makes the whole situation worse not better in my view. 

Nor does the smirking face of well known alumnus (and shadow Treasurer) Joe Hockey do anything for the college's cause, though the story fortunately doesn't mention that other famous former 'Johnsman', Mr Misogynist himself, Opposition leader Tony Abbott...

St John's, the abuse scandal and the limits to 'natural justice'

The Sydney Morning Herald today has an article providing the latest update on the St John's College affair, in the form of an explanation from the criminal barrister  - one of the culprits' mother - who acted for the students.

And it's a classic articulation of the American legal disease that has infiltrated our culture, viz a demand for 'due process' and 'some rules in place so you know what you can and can't do'.

Those things which were once self-evident no longer are...

Ms Ravenscroft, the lawyer in question, claims she was concerned that the Rector's investigation of the incident that nearly resulted in the death of a girl failed to accord those in question due process (aka natural justice).

Well, we're not in a position to be able to assess that.

But on the face of it, is this really a situation where the full legal gamut of natural justice requirements as understood by our courts these days - including requirements for rules clearly set out in writing before you can be said to have breached them, the giving of appropriate warnings, chances to formally respond to accusations and so forth - really applies?

I think not.  A bunch of students behaved badly.  The head of their College imposed pretty mild penalties in my view (the most obvious response would have been to expel them), in the form of community service (no bad thing to do if you are a Catholic whether or not you are guilty) and disbarring them from holding office within the college (hardly the end of the world!).  Yet instead of accepting that they had overstepped the mark, they resisted.

It's the Bishop Morris of Toowoomba reaction to the exercize of legitimate authority: first argue that you did nothing wrong, regardless of what the evidence suggests; then argue that the authority shouldn't have stepped in at all; and if the authority in question must act, they should accord you some quasi-judicial process.

This surely reflects a mentality that simply isn't Catholic.

There is a time and place for considerations of due process and natural justice.  But there is also a time and place where we should simply acknowledge that we are sinners, and practice some docility and obedience.

We are all saints these days!

Cardinal Pell wrote a piece this week on the extinction of that species once known as 'bad catholics'.  He tells the story of a priest attempting to instruct a couple preparing for marriage who considered themselves to be good Catholics despite the fact that they never attended Mass, didn't pray, and had no sense of their sinfulness at all:

"Recently a brother priest recounted a conversation he had with a couple who came along for a Catholic marriage. "Where are you religiously", he asked. "What about your relationship with God?" It is terrific, was the answer. They explained that they never prayed or went to Mass and claimed emphatically that they were not worried by any guilt about sins or wrong doing.

The priest was flabbergasted. "How could they square this circle? What about Christ's command to repent and believe?" They were sure there was no need to worry on that score because God loved them as they were! The priest could make no progress against that conviction.

Not one of us is completely logical, but ours is an age of profound religious confusion. One Pew Research Center US finding informed us that half the sample of agnostics and one fifth of the atheists believed in some sort of deity or Supreme Intelligence. Anything is possible.

However the conviction that God and Jesus are not interested in whether we are good, bad or indifferent is new and it is not the Christian faith."

Prudence vs action

The problem is what should we do when faced with the various manifestations of this mentality. 

Should we act 'prudently' and go with the flow?  Or should we stand up and hold out for the truth regardless of the consequences?

In the case of the couple preparing for marriage, for example, did the priest refuse them a Church wedding?  Well, I'd like to hope so...

In the case of the St John's parents who  want to protect their children from the consequences of their actions, perhaps the correct approach would have been an appeal to the Cardinal in his role as Visitor to the College, rather than the mock trial that actually occurred, and that seems to have served to undermine the rector's authority (though of course, perhaps that did occur, and the process set up was a result of it?).

The bottom line though on the loss of understanding of the self-evident nature of what is right and wrong, is that one can hardly expect the laity to have a correct understanding of morality and the natural law engraved on our souls if those entrusted with the teaching office in the Church lack such an understanding.

We are coming up to that time of the year when in the traditional breviary, we read the 'minor prophets', which are full of warnings to priests for leading the people astray,  Hosea, for example, warns:

"There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder...My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.  And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children." (4:1-6)

Abuse scandal...

 It is a timely warning in view of the continuing reports on the abuse scandal, and worse, the cover up that is implicating so many of our priests and bishops.  In Victoria, the evidence being given to the Parliamentary Inquiry continues to give scandal.  But it is not just Victoria.  Consider, for example, the latest stories:
  • 'Fr F' , whose name continues to be suppressed (who was laicized for other cases than those now in the courts yet who seems not only not to have been reported to police; not only to have evaded prosecution until now; but also seems to have been given favourable treatment by the diocese under Bishop Manning even after he was laicized), has been granted bail pending his trial;
  • senior police officer has called for a Royal Commission in NSW in the light of the continuing coverups, particularly in the Newcastle area (which allegedly implicate Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, Fr Brian Lucas, General Secretary of the Bishop's Conference, and retired Bishop Malone);
  • allegations that members of a religious order pack raped children in its charge.
The time for 'prudence' is past; what is needed now is tough action.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bible Reading Plan: The Book of Daniel and the evils of the historico-critical school

If you are following the Bible in a year reading plan I suggested a few weeks back for the Year of Faith, it is time, tomorrow, to turn to the Book of Daniel.

Daniel is a great read, with some of the most memorable stories in the Bible, such as the three young men in the fiery furnace (Chapter 3), the invisible had writing doom at Belshazzar's feast (Chapter 5), Daniel in the lion's den (Chapter 6), the story of Susannah (Chapter 13), and Bel and the dragon (chapter 14).

And Catholic, and most other contemporary commentaries on it, are a nice illustration of the destructive force of historico-critical Scriptural scholarship that is thankfully waning.

Prophet or historian?

Daniel is set in Babylon during the time of the Exile, and is not included in the prophets in the Hebrew canon probably because although he had visions, recorded in the book, he did not play the usual role of prophetic intermediary between God and his people.  Rather, Daniel was a Jew who became successful at the Babylonian court and who recorded important events there, as well as his own visions of the future.

The book of Daniel is extremely important from a Christian point of view, because it prophesies, amongst other things, the coming of the Messiah (see especially Chapters 7 and 9). 

Yet the book itself clearly claims to be genuine history as well as prophesy, and there are several New Testament statements to that effect, including a reference by Jesus to Daniel as a real historical person, and references one of his prophesies.

Unsurprisingly the work has attracted a long string of attackers.

The Jewish anti-Christian reaction in the late first/early second century saw some inconvenient-to-their -case parts of Daniel excluded from the Jewish canon on the grounds they were written in Aramaic.

In 285 the pagan Porphyry wrote a tract called Against Christians in which he claimed that as prophesy is impossible, the book was really written at the time of the Maccabees, in order to justify the struggle against Antiochus Epiphanies. 

That theory that became popular again in the seventeenth century (some sections of the book were excluded from the Protestant Bible).

And Porphyry's theory became de rigeur even for Catholic scholars, under the influence of rationalist and modernist Scriptural scholarship in the twentieth century.  Indeed, even the Navarre Bible claims that  - despite the author's claims to have actually witnessed the historical events he describes - it was actually written in the second century BC not the sixth; that the events are not meant to be regarded as historical; and that there is no evidence 'Daniel' is a real person rather than simply a literary device.

How Catholics should approach the claims of Scripture

Recent archaeological and linguistic evidence has however, in my view at least, pretty much demolished all of the claims for the late authorship of Daniel.

In 1893, Pope Leo XIII wrote the Encyclical Providentissimus Deus in which he wrote that where Scripture appeared to be contradicted by science or archeology, theologians should not assume the mistake lies in Scripture, which after all is inerrant (para 29). 

Of course, that did not stop the modernists in this particular case.

They claimed Daniel must be a late composition because (apart from being correct in his prophesies) he uses a few Greek words (which, it was claimed, would be impossible for him to know prior to the invasion of Alexander the Great); uses of Persian loan words that would have been unknown; wrote partly in Aramaic; refers to people who clearly did not exist such as Belshazzar, and made historical mistakes.

All of these arguments have now been comprehensively debunked: the archaeological evidence shows that the Greeks had a presence in the Middle East long before Alexander the Great came along; the Persian words used by Daniel are entirely consistent with the place and era he lived in'; the use of an Aramaic 'core' embedded in Hebrew was a known literary device of the sixth century, and the linguistic features of both the Aramaic and Hebrew text mark it as suitably ancient; Belshazzar was indeed a real historical person; and Daniel is right about his history.

The most important evidence is archaeological.  First the dating of Dead Sea Scrolls versions of the Book of Daniel make the second century BC dating of the text pretty much untenable.  The claim that Belshazzar didn't exist was demolished by nineteenth century archaeological discoveries.  And indeed all the other claimed historical inaccuracies in the book have actually turned out not to be inaccurate at all in the light of recent archaeological evidence.

Further reading

So if you are going to read a commentary to help you as you read the Book of Daniel, make sure it's not one infected by modernism!  Fortunately Haydock is as usual a sound starting point.  Or you could read St Jerome's commentary on Daniel.

Modern (and orthodox!) commentaries on sections of Daniel that you might find of interest include:
There is a huge literature on the scholarly debate on Daniel, but a couple of useful sources for further reading available online include:

On a 'catholic' college: how could it end up like this?

A number of readers have asked me to comment on the bizarre story of St John's College in Sydney.

I have to say I think this is one that pretty much speaks for itself, but as it does keep getting more and more bizarre, here goes.  This peculiar story has been bubbling away all this year in Sydney over one of Sydney University's (so-called) Catholic residences, St John's College.

The latest installment is that Cardinal Pell has stepped in to prevent the rector of the College being sacked for attempting to restore order in the place, by getting all of the priest members of the College's Council (and there were six of them) to resign.  Under the College's constitution, this means it cannot make any decisions.

A fairly drastic, and unsatisfactory solution you would have to say! 

Particularly when the Cardinal has had to ask the Premier of New South Wales to step in to reform the legislation that underpins the College's operation in order to achieve a real resolution of the problem.

How did it come to this?

The short version is that, according to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the student population of the college seem to think they are living in some nineteenth century English boarding school where second and third year students can terrorize 'freshers' through vile initiation rituals and enforcement of other petty rules and practices.

Things came to a head earlier in the year when a young woman nearly died after being allegedly forced to drink a vile concoction that included things she was severely allergic to by a group of thirty male louts as part of an 'initiation ritual'.

Attempts to discipline the group were overruled by a cabal of governing Council members (some did resign in protest.  But most were reportedly more concerned about the future careers of the guilty students than about the safety of first year students); alumni (who have sought to defend the 'traditions' of the college against attempts to reform it); and the parents of the guilty, who took legal action to prevent their children being required to do community service and being barred from being office holders in the college.

Then this week it was revealed that not only had those involved escaped punishment, but several of them had been elected onto next year's internal House Committee that runs the college on a day-to-day basis.  Meanwhile, the college has allegedly descended into anarchy.


It is hard to understand how this situation could have been allowed to continue, particularly when the governing council of the college includes six priests!

But the instinct to cover-up and even lie if necessary - whether in relation to child abuse, jockey's betting against themselves in horse races, doping in sport, or the sleazy politics of New South Wales being revealed by current corruption hearings - seems to be alive and well.

Indeed, the ABC's Lateline ran a story on the college featuring an interview with a student who stated that she was a freshman at the college and the claims being made were all untrue.  Now it has been revealed  that she was actually a third year student, and a member of the College's 'House Committee'...

There would appear to be nothing 'Catholic' whatsoever about this college.  But then, that's true of most of our so-called Catholic institutions which have long since lost any genuine claim to the title.

A failure of leadership?

At the recent Synod on the New Evangelization, Cardinal Pell lamented the reluctance of bishops to speak up on issues of morality perhaps out of fear of the message being rejected and the political consequence thereof.

Well, he surely knows of what he speaks.  This, after all, a diocese where 'Acceptance Masses' promoting the homosexual lifestyle have been allowed to continue, and more than a few priests continue to promote erroneous opinions over at places like acatholica and The Swag.

The Cardinal is, under the Act of the NSW Parliament that governs St John's its 'Visitor', an office which, on the face of it, has wide powers at law.

It is truly breathtaking that this particular situation has been allowed to continue and he has only stepped in to act when the story hit the media once again.

The Church in Australia is doomed unless our leaders put their own words into action.


For those who wish to read or watch the various articles and reports on which I am relying for this piece, here is a partial list:

But there are a string of others  - just google Sydney Morning Herald St John's.

And for those interested in the power of a 'Visitor', a few articles of interest:
  • a review article from the Canterbury Law Review, 1982;
  • a University of Melbourne Law Review article by Patty Kamvounias and Sally Varnaham, 2010 (it notes that the power of the University Visitor was rendered largely ceremonial in NSW in 1994, but the legislation involved did not amend the College's Act so far as I can find).

Canberra's 'traditionalist' pollies...

Today all eyes are on the US Presidential election.

But yesterday in a very much tinier pond indeed, the outcome of the recent Australian Capital Territory election became official with the re-election as Chief Minister of Labor's Katy Gallagher, who made it across the line with the help of the one remaining Green member.

One result of note in the recent election is that Canberra's Traditional Latin Mass community is surely unique in Australia at least (and perhaps around the world) in having now not one but two elected members in the Territory's House of Assembly, both women and both Liberals, in the form of Vicki Dunne who was elected speaker yesterday, and the newly elected Guilia Jones.

So congratulations are in order!

Canberra uses the complicated Hare-Clark electoral system (a version of the single-transferable vote method), which pretty much ensures that the Territory is condemned to perpetual minority Government's, and the current House of Assembly is split evenly, eight each between Labor and the Liberals. 

The good news this time around was that the Greens were reduced from four members to one.  The bad news was that one was enough to decide who wins Government, and gained not only commitments to a long list of Green policies as part of the deal, but also a ministry.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Melbourne Cup's New Evangelization moment!

Today is the day Australia stops work (whether or not one happens to live in a State or Territory that declares it a public holiday!) and watches the Melbourne Cup.

So nice then to see the winning jockey, Brett Prebble, very deliberately making a sign of the cross after the race clearly in thanksgiving....(oh yes and the winning horse was Green Moon).

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cath News' Michael Mullins promotes heresy. Again.

Cath News' 'Blog Watcher' column today bears the headline 'A nasty victory for blogger power'. 

It is yet another case of Cath News' (and Eureka Street's) Michael Mullins promoting error and disobedience.

In fact the headline should have been 'Victory for the power of the laity'.

Because the story it goes with is actually a case of lay Catholics exercising their right  - even duty - to draw attention to a problem in the Church, and succeeding in getting their voices heard.

Dissenting Catholic theologian gets the boot...

Here is what happened.

A prominent British so-called Catholic theologian Tina Beattie, signed a letter to The Times in support of same sex civil unions.  She has previously advocated same sex marriage, and abortion amongst many other issues with her work.

So a number of bloggers raised the issue of her use of the title Catholic, and successfully managed to get a lecture she was to to give at Clifford Cathedral cancelled.   Subsequently the (Catholic) University of San Diego has cancelled a visit by her.

Nothing nasty about that. 

Entirely proper, in fact, as bishops are required to ensure that theologians speaking in official capacities, teachng at Catholic Universities, and using Church premises, actually teach what the Church teaches.

Free speech? Only when I agree with what you have to say!

But far from being repentant, Ms Beattie is whingeing about evil bloggers on her own blog!

It is called free speech Ms Beattie.

And proper action on the part of the laity.

Ms Beattie seems to want to have it both ways.  On the one hand she wants to claim Catholic status while subverting the teachings of the Church. 

But on the other, those who happen to disagree with her and want to promote fidelity to what the Church actually teaches are viciously attacked.

Amongst her claims is that those who disagree with her are 'willfully ignorant of  the norms and methods of the Catholic theological tradition'. 

Willfully ignorant?  I don't think so!  The responsibility of theologians to remain faithful to Magisterial teaching has been articulated on numerous occasions.  The job of theologians is not to advocate heresy, but to help us understand the faith better, in contemporary terms, and to explore ideas within its bounds.

The line that academic freedom means a free for all is called protestantism.

Latin prayer of the week: Requiem aeternam

I'm resuming of Latin prayers from the Compendium of the Catechism that everyone should know, and as November is the month when we especially remember the suffering souls in purgatory.

A prayer for the dead

So here is a prayer that carries with it a partial indulgence for the dead:

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

or in English:

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen."

The prayer is ancient in origin, but its authorship is a mystery.

Looking at the Latin

This is one of those prayers that you will often here in several different forms, so here are a few clues to the different versions.

The first two lines are used in the Introit for funeral masses, as well as the doxology for the psalms in the Office of the Dead:

Réquiem (rest/respite/repose) ætérnam (forever/eternal) dona (give) eis (to them), Dómine (O Lord), et (and) lux (light) perpétua (constant/perpetual) lúceat (let it shine) eis (on them).

But you might also come across it as a prayer for just one person:

Réquiem ætérnam dona ei (him/her), Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat ei.

The final line is a used as a concluding prayer in many places:

Requiéscant (They may rest/Let them rest/May they rest) in (in) pace (peace). Amen.

In the singular it is:

Requiescat in pace.  Amen.

Surprisingly I couldn't find a sound file online that just reads out the prayer.  Never mind, treat this as a chance to learn the first two lines as they appear in the Introit of the Mass for the Dead.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Monastic doings....

Apologies for the break in blogging dear readers, normal transmissions will hopefully resume soon.

In the meantime, a few items that may be of interest.

First the excellent Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles (traditionalist American Benedictine nuns based in Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese) are putting out a new recording of music for Advent through Decca.  You can order it through their website, but do listen to this video that gives a sampler and tells something of their life.  The money will go towards the construction of their monastery.

Secondly, many readers may be familiar with the recordings of the daily Benedictine Office and EF Mass put online by the wonderful American-Italian monks of Norcia, Italy.  You might be interested to read a piece on them written by Cardinal Pell  recently.

Also, you may recall that the monks of Le Barroux recently started livestreaming some of their Office.  Unfortunately, timezones being what they are, livestreaming is not that helpful for us in Oz!  However, help is now at hand, as an American group has obtained permission to put the recordings online for the benefit of those in other timezones.  You can find them here at The Chant of Le Barroux (note the Le Barroux livestreaming isn't working at the moment, but should be restored soon!).

Hmm, so now we just need the nuns to join the party and stream their offices!

Finally, if you haven't had a chance to get the names of your dead in need of prayers on a Mass list, you might think about asking the excellent Sons of the Holy Redeemer to add them to their list.

Life and wisdom of St Benedict/24 - Not to hold guile in one's heart

The twenty-fourth of the wisdom sayings in Chapter 24 of St Benedict's Rule is, Not to hold guile in one's heart.

From St Gregory the Great's Dialogues, Chapter 8 of Book II:

"When as the foresaid monasteries were zealous in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their fame dispersed far and near, and many gave over the secular life, and subdued the passions of their soul, under the light yoke of our Saviour: then (as the manner of wicked people is, to envy at that virtue which themselves desire not to follow) one Florentius, Priest of a church nearby, and grandfather to Florentius our sub-deacon, possessed with diabolical malice, began to envy the holy man's virtues, to back-bite his manner of living, and to withdraw as many as he could from going to visit him.

When he saw that he could not hinder his virtuous proceedings, but that, on the contrary, the fame of his holy life increased, and many daily, on the very report of his sanctity, took themselves to a better state of life : burning more and more with the coals of envy, he became far worse; and though he desired not to imitate his commendable life, yet fain he would have had the reputation of his virtuous conversation.

In conclusion so much did malicious envy blind him, and so far did he wade in that sin, that he poisoned a loaf and sent it to the servant of almighty God, as it were for a holy present. The man of God received it with great thanks, yet not ignorant of that which was hidden within. At dinner time, a crow daily used to come to him from the next wood, which took bread at his hands; coming that day after his manner, the man of God threw him the loaf which the Priest had sent him, giving him this charge: "In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, take up that loaf, and leave it in some such place where no man may find it." Then the crow, opening his mouth, and lifting up his wings, began to hop up and down about the loaf, and after his manner to cry out, as though he would have said that he was willing to obey, and yet could not do what he was commanded.

The man of God again and again bide him, saying: "Take it up without fear, and throw it where no man may find it." At length, with much ado, the crow took it up, and flew away, and after three hours, having dispatched the loaf, he returned again, and received his usual allowance from the man of God.

But the venerable father, perceiving the Priest so wickedly bent against his life, was far more sorry for him than grieved for himself. And Florentius, seeing that he could not kill the body of the master, attempts to do now what he can, to destroy the souls of his disciples; and for that purpose he sent into the yard of the Abbey before their eyes seven naked young women, which there took hands together, play and dance a long time before them, to the end that, by this means, they might inflame their minds to sinful lust: which damnable sight the holy man beholding out of his cell, and fearing the danger which thereby might ensue to his younger monks, and considering that all this was done only for his persecution, he gave place to envy; and therefore, after he had for those abbeys and oratories which he had there built appointed governors, and left some under their charge, himself, in the company of a few monks, removed to another place.

And thus the man of God, on humility, gave place to the other's malice; but yet almighty God of justice severely punished [Florentius'] wickedness. For when the foresaid Priest, being in his chamber, understood of the departure of holy Benedict, and was very glad of that news, behold (the whole house besides continuing safe and sound) that chamber alone in which he was, fell down, and so killed him: which strange accident the holy man's disciple Maurus understanding, immediately sent him word, he being as yet scarce ten miles off, desiring him to return again, because the Priest that persecuted him was slain; which thing when Benedict heard, he was passing sorrowful, and lamented much: both because his enemy died in such sort, and also for that one of his monks rejoiced thereat; and therefore he gave him penance, for that, sending such news, he presumed to rejoice at his enemy's death."