Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Q&A: Why can't or won't bishops explain the faith?!

The ABC's Q&A Program program tonight was an Easter Monday special panel about religion.  It wasn't a starring moment for the New Evangelization.

The ABC's version of religious programming....

I don't normally watch Q&A partly because I can't stand the simpering secularism of the presenter, Tony Jones; partly because I don't like the audience question format, as it positively invites the most superficial of discussions and trivialisation of the issues; and partly because the selection of panelists always seems to leave so much to be desired.

Last night's effort was pretty much par for the course on all three fronts.  Consider for example the panel.

Despite the fact that the program was notionally prompted by Easter, Christians got only one representative, current ABC favourite Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane.

The nominal representative of the Jewish faith turned out to be an atheist woman whose claim to fame is as a singer-songwriter.

And the atheist (why did there have to be one at all, let alone two!) was a comedian (well OK, maybe that is appropriate).

Symbols of commitment

All the same, it was refreshing to see some representatives of some religions at least, being willing to wear clothing that proclaims their religious commitment.

On the show the Buddhist nun wore a habit and shaved head.

The Muslim Imam wore the hat thing and other clothes that were instantly recognisable.

But Archbishop Mark wore an open necked shirt with one of those tiny lapel badge crosses on his (secular) jacket.

No wonder Buddhism and Islam are gaining converts in this country - in stark contrast to the Catholic Church whose numbers are being propped up purely by immigrants.

Explaining and defending the faith

There was a similar division when it came to explaining and defending the actual tenets of the various faiths on show.

The Muslim and Buddhist were happy to say what they believed and explain why.

Archbishop Coleridge, on the other hand, gave a series of odd and rambling answers that obfusticated rather than explained or persuaded in my view.

 When questioned about the teaching that same sex people should practice celibacy, for example, the Muslim clearly affirmed that the practice of homosexuality is forbidden to Muslims.

The Archbishop, on the other hand, gave a dissertation about the 'justice' owed to homosexuals and tried to assure the atheist on the panel that the Church is ok to homosexuals really and he'd explain why to him off air!

In fact, the only subject on which Archbishop Coleridge sounded vaguely credible - and even there he wouldn't have survived without the support of the Jewish panelist - was on why the abuse crisis was not about celibacy.  And even then, he wouldn't have gotten away with some of his lines in any other forum.

Still, he wasn't alone in getting away with some very curious claims indeed.

The Muslim panelist, Dr Muhamad Abdallah, in particular got a dream run in promoting his faith virtually unchallenged - even including that ridiculous line that all who teach and practise violent Jihad simply 'misunderstand' their faith, and the even more ridiculous line that the silent majority, despite everything we know about the appalling persecution of Christians in those countries, in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan - really support moderate Islam rather than the hardline 'puritan' version of it that they are taught.

Honestly, the New Evangelization is doomed if this is the best Catholics can do.  Perhaps our bishops and other spokespeople could take some lessons from those faiths that are actually winning the propaganda war.


J Smith said...

I was hoping Coleridge was going to be good. I was very disappointed he dressed in an open neck shirt. He rarely dresses like this in public, so why do it on national tv?

Coleridge made some good points on creation, heaven, love, but he began losing points on celibacy, sexual abuse. But any good he achieved was destroyed when he referred to homosexuals as warped.
What on earth was he thinking? This is leaf out of Cardinal Pell's How to act on Q&A Book.

Coleridge was my big hope for Sydney, but not sure of it anymore.

Gervase Crouchback said...

I was very disappointed with mark Coleridge and also thought he dithered out of deference to the atheist gay comedian,whilst the Muslim stated his view and was not even criticised by Josh Thomas-said atheist.
Perhaps Fr Tattersall or another of the Latin mass priests would have been a better representative or Archbishop Tomlinson or Bishop Elliott.

A Canberra Observer said...

All the available evidence suggests that the Australia episcopate is singularly devoid of any ability to engage successfully with the world outside the church.

But then after 50 years of relativism it is a wonder that anyone can argue anything cogently. The fruits of the springtime of Vatican II?


Casual Critic said...

I too was disappointed that Archbishop Coleridge wore nothing that clearly identified him as a Catholic Bishop. Although in fairness it was rather consistent with the vague & somewhat confusing ambiguity that marked much of what His grace said. That apologetic showcase highlights some of the reasons the Church in the Western World has failed to adequately address secularism. We seem to be no more convinced that the Judeo-Christian principles responsible for Western Civilisation are relevant to the current arena of the public square any more than your average atheist does. Regardless of how much we treasure the Holy Faith something of the separation of the Church and State mentality has dictated that we adopt a reluctant, politically correct attitude towards Catholicism's engagement with contemporary Australian culture. We claim so boldly to have an important contribution to make to public life and then fail to contribute anything of actual significance when given the opportunity. Clearly this unfruitful approach to Evangelisation is why we need a New Evangelisation to began with.

Mary Abraham said...

Coleridge is a real media tart, eh? He pops up everywhere!

I wonder if his choice to 'dress down' had anything to do with the new Pope?