Catalyst Digest

Catalyst Digest Edition 26

Catalyst Digest Edition 26 – October 2010 – Edition 26

Euthanasia coming?

Melbourne Catholic archbishop Denis Hart warned in a statement early this month of a concerted drive to legalise euthanasia in Australia, pointing out that legislation to this effect was about to be introduced in the Victorian parliament, was proposed also by the New South Wales government and would be the subject of a private member’s bill to be brought down by the Greens in the Senate.  Conceding that it was never easy to face the end of the life of a loved one, the archbishop said that sometimes misplaced compassion led people to call for assisted suicide but “we cannot support the legalisation of euthanasia however it is described.”  This was the opposite of care and represented the abandonment of older and dying persons.  Hart said he called on the Catholic community and all people of goodwill to continue to care for the frail elderly, the sick and the dying at every stage of life.

Police raid “Pope’s bank

Italian police shocked the Vatican last month by raiding the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), known as the Pope’s bank, in a surprise money laundering investigation.  According to the respected London Financial Timesthe police seized 23 million euros and began inquiries into the activities of senior IOR executives, including its president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and general director Paolo Cipriani.  The Vatican responded hastily with a statement in which it expressed its “perplexity and amazement” at the police action and staunchly defended the IOR and its management.  It did, however, confirm that certain (unspecified) IOR cash transactions were under investigation by the Procurator’s office in Rome.  This was the result of a misunderstanding, the statement said, and could have been “clarified with great simplicity”. Vatican spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi SJ, said the purpose of the statement was to “clarify matters in order to avoid the spread of inaccurate information and to ensure that no damage is caused to the activities of the institute or the good name of the managers.” To what extent the statement achieved this objective is hard to gauge because it made no attempt to address the money laundering issue per se and concentrated almost entirely on arguing that the IOR was not a bank “in the normal definition of the term” but was an institution that “administers the assets of Catholic institutions whose goal is to further a religious and charitable apostolate at an international level.”  Lombardi went on to say that the IOR “was located within the territory of Vatican City State; in other words, beyond the jurisdiction and surveillance of the various international banks.”  The statement insisted that “from the day of his appointment and in accordance with the specific mandate he received from the highest Vatican authorities” Tedeshi had been working “with great commitment to ensure the absolute transparency of the IOR’s activities.”

Christians beware, patriarch warns

The Christian presence in the Arab world was threatened by the cycles of war afflicting the region, the cradle of Christianity, Gregoire III, Patriarch of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, warned delegates at an historic synod of Middle East bishops which began in Rome on 10 October.  The synod was personally initiated by Benedict XV1 because of increasing anti-Christian violence in the Middle East.  The main reason for the threat, the patriarch said, was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The fundamentalist movements, Hamas and Hezbollah, are consequences of this conflict as well as internal dissension, slowness in development, the rise of hatred, the loss of hope in the young who constitute sixty percent of the population in Arab countries”. The Eastern rites church leader said emigration of Christians was among the most dangerous effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The emigration would “make Arab society a society of only one colour, Muslim, faced with a European society identified as Christian.  Should this happen, should the East be emptied of its Christians, this would mean that any occasion would be propitious for a new clash of cultures, of civilisations and even of religions, a destructive clash between the Muslim Arab East and the Christian West.”

Win for church lobby

An interfaith lobbying alliance succeeded last month in achieving exemption for church-related adoption agencies from legislation in New South Wales—described by Sydney archbishop George Pell as a pre-state election stunt—that allows gay couples to adopt children.  The churches had argued that, as it stood, agencies that refused to conform could be sued under anti-discrimination laws.  The measure was sponsored in a private member’s bill by Sydney lord mayor and independent MP Clover Moore.  It was supported by New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell both of whom, like Moore, are Catholics.

Posted by Bob Birchall in Archives, Catalyst Digest

Catalyst Digest Edition 25

Catalyst Digest Edition 25 – September 2010 -Edition 25

Church irrelevant, says bishop

Another Catholic bishop—Kieran Conry, from the United Kingdom diocese of Arundel and Brighton, who in 2001 succeeded the recently-retired Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy O’Connor—has broken ranks in the church by criticising a decision by Benedict XVI and questioning the relevance of the church to many Catholics.  Conry told a BBC interviewer that personally he was “not entirely convinced” about the pope’s decision to establish the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation in an effort to re-evangelise secular Europe.  “I think the church has a problem in its own proclamation of the Gospel,” Conry said.  “I am not entirely convinced about this secularisation argument.  It suggests that the church’s problems are external; in other words, that society has gone wrong but the church is fine.  I am not sure that is true.” The bishop said that while secularisation was part of the problem, the church had become irrelevant to people.  “The church is intolerant, demanding, exclusive,” he said.  “I think it has to re-present itself instead of simply blaming everything on the ills of society.  It needs to become a little more tolerant, accessible, welcoming, compassionate—all the things that for many people it is not.”

No to no burqa

New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally has thwarted an attempt by Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile to persuade the parliament to legislate to ban on the burqa, the head and body covering favoured by some Muslim women, saying it had no place in her multicultural state.  Keneally declared her government’s position on the burqa at an interfaith dinner at Parliament House, an annual event in Ramadan initiated by former premier Bob Carr in 2004. The premier told the more than 200 religious leaders at the dinner—Christians (among them Cardinal George Pell), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and others—that “we are fortunate to live in a largely harmonious state where differences in language, culture and faith are rightly seen as things which enliven and strengthen our society.”  It was in this spirit, she said, that her government had decided to oppose a bill “seeking to create a criminal offence of wearing a burqa in public.”  Nile sought to justify his action by claiming that wearing of the burqa oppressed women and that it could be used to disguise terrorists.

Reprieve for long homilies?

Church-going Catholic tourists planning to spend time in Louisiana will be relieved to know that despite Governor Bobby Jindal’s approval of legislation authorising, for the first time in the United States, the carrying of concealed weapons in places of worship, the risk of their being caught in the crossfire during Mass has been greatly reduced by the intervention of the local Catholic bishops’ conference.   Announcing a ban on weapons in Catholic churches, conference director Danny Loar explained, “We don’t think it is appropriate to have guns in churches.”  Republican legislature member Henry Burns, who sponsored the measure—passed in July by 65 votes to 24—was philosophical about the church’s lack of co-operation. “It is a freedom of choice thing,” he said.

Rush to celebrate with Mary

Between 7000 and 8000 Australians will be in Rome next month to witness the canonisation on 17 October of Australia’s first saint Mary MacKillop.  Among them will be 150 Sisters of St Joseph who are members of Mary MacKillop’s congregation. It will be the biggest pilgrimage ever to leave Australia, according to official tour operator Philip Ryall, managing director of Harvest Pilgrimages.  To date, Mr Ryall’s firm has sold 1760 complete tour packages and has met another 3000 requests for bookings to attend the actual canonisation and related events.  In addition, another 3000 Australians either holidaying independently or resident in Europe were known to have made their own arrangements to attend the celebrations. Mr Ryall said thousands of the visiting Australians would also attend a vigil in St Peter’s Square on 16 October and would gather again on the day after the canonisation for a thanksgiving Mass.

Beware, women cross

Public relations professionals, long used to shaking their heads over the Vatican’s propensity for shooting itself in the foot with communication gaffes must have really cringed last month when the attempt to “clarify” new rules (norms, in church language) on dealing with the dedict (crime) of clerical sexual abuse went terribly wrong.  Somehow they managed to bundle it in with “the attempted ordination of a woman,” described it as “one of the most grave dedicts” that existed in the church.  Vatican spokespriests tried hard at a media conference to say that this really wasn’t what they meant but the journalists were mainly unimpressed and the norms ended up getting a lukewarm reception over all and attracting probably more brickbats than bouquets. The critics were particularly unhappy that the statute of limitations in respect to sexual abuse allegations had only been extended from 10 to 20 years instead of being waived entirely, and they were astonished that the new norms virtually ignored the fact that there was scandalous cover up by senior clergy, including bishops, of incidents of abuse, and also that the revised norms failed to make it mandatory, throughout the church, for credibly accused clergy to be removed from the ministry—as is already required in the United States and Britain.  The sceptics’ dissatisfaction certainly would not have lessened when they learned a month later that the Vatican had intervened to overrule Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s decision to accept the resignation of two of his auxiliary bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, who were named in a report of investigators of sexual abuse in Ireland.  The archbishop, who had demanded that all clergy in his diocese make themselves accountable for their actions, chose his words carefully in announcing the Vatican decision.  “Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict,” he said, “it has been decided” that the two bishops “will remain as auxiliary bishops” and would be “assigned to revised responsibilities within the diocese.”

Same-sex marriage OK—US Judge

United States federal judge Vaugn Walker has overturned a Californian Supreme Court ruling—Proposition 8 which was passed narrowly in 2008—that prohibits same-sex marriages in the state, arguing that “a private moral view that same sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation.”  Walker said the Supreme Court measure denied gays and lesbians “the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment” of the American constitution.  Not surprisingly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was not amused. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society,” conference chairman Cardinal Francis George said in a statement.  “The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good.  It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage.” The judge may not be all that confident that his ruling will be sustained.  He stayed it from being implemented pending appeal.

Happy visit, Benedict

Had Malcolm Fraser been a Catholic he might have been tempted to remind Benedict XVI that life wasn’t meant to be easy, a comment that may resonate with the pope as he packs his white soutane for his state visit to Britain later in the month. The truth is that not a great deal has gone well with it so far.  Costs have blown through the roof, largely, it seems, because they were grossly under-estimated in the first place, and now the estimators may be in trouble again because an embarrassing number of entry passes to events on the pope’s itinerary—up to 50 percent in some parishes—are being returned “not required”.  Meanwhile, the anti-Catholics and the Catholics who are anti something the church is or isn’t doing are working hard to get their point across while Benedict is in town.  During the four-day visit the women’s ordination lobby will be out there in strength having their say, albeit with decorum; on the day that Benedict arrives and for the rest of his stay pro-abortionists will be demonstrating on the streets and there will be banner advertising on buses, and to top it off there will be a much-publicised debate on priestly celibacy in London’s Leicester Square.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Benedict may never see it on the TV.  The BBC’s news staff are threatening a strike.  But you can rest easy.  It’s about their pay, not about the pope.

Two bob each way

If the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams were looking for a ready-made solution to the rapidly-escalating split in his Anglican church over the blessing of same-sex marriages he could do worse than apply the formula that his Canadian colleagues used in reaching a conclusion in their recent Synod in Halifax.   After long and earnest debate on how the synod should legislate, the primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz welcomed the outcome as evidence of “healing” in the church in that “opposing sides in the debate were no longer demonising each other”.  The Canadian formula?   Not to legislate either for or against same-sex marriages.

Vatican denied immunity

An attempt by the Vatican to distance itself from responsibility for the actions of paedophile priests has failed in the United States Supreme Court which has refused to overturn an Oregon court ruling which denied the Vatican sovereign immunity from American courts.  Lawyers representing sexual abuse victims in the lower court had charged the Vatican with complicity in the transfer of known paedophiles and the shielding of such priests from the civil authorities.  While the decision is a setback for the Vatican, finally the issue may hinge on the outcome of another lower court ruling on whether priests can be categorised as “employees” of the Vatican—which many lawyers regard as unlikely.  That decision is not expected for some time and even then could be subject to appeal.

Thought for the month

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope that I do not do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.—Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude.

For your Catalyst diary:

18 September – Reflection Morning Leader Dr Timothy O’Hearn Spirituality of Everyday Life.
Sacred Heart Church Parish Hall Cnr Sturt  and Wentworth Sts, Blackheath       10 AM. For information Carmel 4787 8706.

9 October – Reflection morning (Special: last for 2010)   Leader Rev Dr Stephanie   Dowrick Gratitude and Forgiveness
Parish Hall, cnr Mary Street and Gladesville Road Hunters Hill. 9.30am   For information: Carole 9869 1036 or Michelle 9958 5963.

15 October – Catalyst dinner Speaker Phil Glendenning Edmund Rice Centre director
Subject Asylum Seekers-Debunking the Myths
Parish Hall, Holy Mary Church Hall 3a Mary Street Hunters Hill. 7.00pm for 7.30. Information: Pauline message bank 02 9990 7003

6 November – Reflection morning  Leader Bishop Geoffrey Robinson Jesus human and divine in the Gospel of Mark.
Sacred Heart Church Hall, Cnr Sturt and Wentworth Sts, Blackheath 10am. Information: Carmel 4787 8706.

13 November – Eucharistic reflection  Presider Fr Michael Whelan
Parish Hall, Holy Mary Church Hall 3a Mary Street Hunters Hill. 4pm,  RSVP necessary for catering.
Information: Pauline message bank 02 9990 7003

Posted by Bob Birchall in Archives, Catalyst Digest

Catalyst Digest Edition 24

Catalyst Digest Edition 24 – August  2010 – Edition 24

Visiting priest: act like adults

The role of modern-day Catholics was more to follow the way of life to which they were called by Jesus than to try to live out a life defined by doctrines and the rules of moral theology, American priest and renowned Catholic commentator Donald Cozzens told a Catalyst for Renewal audience in Sydney on 23 July. “The role of the laity is no longer just to ‘pray, pay, obey’,” he said. “We are called to act as adults, think like adults and speak like adults while listening to the Spirit.”  In a lively discussion with Aquinas Academy director Fr Michael Whelan, Cozzens argued strongly for greater dialogue in the Catholic church and used the analogy of a ship in a storm, asking, “Do we take refuge in our cabins or are we up on deck helping?”  He submitted that Vatican II had called for dialogue and thus it was “not outside the magisterium” for concerns about the church to be discussed.   Some members of the church misunderstood the meaning of dialogue, he said, and they needed to understand that renewal and reform were not the same as revolution. “Certainty of faith is an oxymoron,” Cozzens said, “True dialogue presupposes the possibility of change.” Reverting to the church’s sexual abuse “crisis”, he reminded his 200-plus audience of the observation of respected Protestant theologian Paul Tillich that if a religion judged society, society would judge the religion.  The sexual abuse scandal made the Roman Catholic Church particularly vulnerable, Cozzens warned.

Double whammy for Williams

The Anglican synod’s rejection last month of a compromise proposal designed to placate members of the Church of England who are opposed to the ordination of woman bishops was another setback for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams but could be a bonus for the Catholic church which is expected to benefit from an increase in the number of disaffected traditional Anglicans who will accept Benedict XVI’s invitation to switch their allegiance to Rome.  The downside, of course, is that it could undermine efforts to bring the Catholic and Anglican churches closer together.  Dr Williams, with the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, tried unsuccessfully to persuade synod delegates to accept the proposition that rather than amend church legislation to give no-strings-attached approval to women bishops, clergy and laity who did not want a woman bishop working in their diocese or parish would be able to call for a male bishop to take her place.  Synod’s decision to press on with the contentious issue (which now goes to the church’s 44 parishes for “evaluation”) brought a sharply adverse reaction from traditional Anglo-Catholics who predict that a minimum of 200 of their 1300 priests were likely to defect, many taking their congregations with them.   Williams is living in difficult times.  He must now face the dilemma of deciding whether to give way to strong pressure to elevate the popular gay but celibate dean of St Albans Canon Jeffrey John to bishop of Southwark.  If his answer is yes the gap between him and the Catholic hierarchy will begin to look like a chasm.

Sound familiar?

The cost of Benedict XVI’s state visit to the United Kingdom next month, originally estimated to be £10m and then amended to £14m has, at last reading, rocketed to £19m without taking account of “policing
and security,” the cost of which doesn’t seem to have been calculated but you can bet it will be substantial.  Nor has anyone been game to promise, core or otherwise, that £19m will be the absolute maximum.  The British taxpayers will foot most of the bill with the Catholic Church committed to give £7m of which £2m is still to be raised.  The conjecture is that the parishioners who have already contributed most of the church’s $5m via the collection plate, are about to be asked to dig even deeper.  Why so expensive?  A spokesman said the government had underestimated the “complexity and sophistication of the event”. In case you are wondering, the papal visit will last for four days.

Ah well it’s only money

And speaking of money, last year wasn’t exactly a great year for the Vatican.  Delegates to the 45th meeting in July of the (deep breath, please) Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and
Economic Problems of the Holy See were told that the 2009 consolidated financial statement of the Holy See showed a deficit of 4,102,156 euro.  Total income in the year was 250,182,364 euro but costs were 254,284,520.  The Governate of Vatican City State didn’t do too well either.  It lost 7,815,183 euro but it did better than in 2008 when the deficit was a whopping 15m euro plus.  The statement noted that, the Holy See employed 2762 people last year of whom 766 were ecclesiastics, 344 religious and 1652 lay people.   Mostly men, one assumes.

Less anger, more hope

One-time prime minister Ben Chifley once explained why he had had a larger than expected election campaign meeting. “We must be in trouble,” he said.    Maybe there is a similar message to this for the Catholic
church in the fact that 250 priests including five bishops attended the 2010 Australian National Council of Catholic Priests at Parramatta last month; the biggest in memory, perhaps ever.  No doubt it was a reflection of the intense pressure that priests have been under for years because of the sexual abuse crisis and of their need to be with others who have shared their suffering.  Among them was Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the author of the best-selling Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, whose arrival was greeted with a standing ovation that lasted five minutes and would have been some small compensation for the pain he has suffered since he embarked on his crusade for church action and justice for abuse victims. Asked what he had taken away from the council, one priest, a regular attender, said, “Less anger, more hope.”

Bishop lashes out at leadership

Hard on the heels of the pope’s rebuke in June of the archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, apparently for speaking out of turn, there is yet another instance of restlessness among his troops.  South
African bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, who is already on record as a critic of church policy that prohibits the use of condoms as a protection against HIV/AIDS, recently told a gathering of lay Catholics in Cape Town that the moral authority of the church’s leadership “had never been weaker.”  The 66-year-old bishop said instead of giving an impression of its power, privilege and prestige the church leadership “should be experienced as a humble, searching ministry together with the people.”  Dowling said that when “thinking people” looked at the church leadership they raised questions about real participation of the membership in its governance and how the church was to be held accountable and to whom.  He said the principle of subsidiarity, by which decision-making was devolved to the lowest appropriate level, was “highly relevant” to the current needs of the church.  “However,” Dowling said, “I think we have a leadership in the church which undermines the very notion of subsidiarity; where the minutiae of church life and praxis at the lower level are subject to examination and authentication being given by the higher level, in fact the highest level.” The bishop asserted that the “mystique” surrounding the pope, and the perception because of this that unquestioning obedience was required, had made it more and more difficult for the bishops to exercise their “theologically-based servant leadership.”  The church leadership should recognise and empower decision-making at the appropriate levels in the local church, he said.  In this way the church could be “enriched through a diversity which truly integrates socio-cultural values and insights into a living and developing faith.”

Stop “using” boat people

More than 100 delegates to the National Council of Churches, representing 19 different religious faiths across Australia, have called on the federal government and opposition to stop using asylum seekers,
most of whom were fleeing conflict and persecution, for political advantage. They resolved during the council’s seventh national forum in Canberra to appeal to all candidates in the 21 August federal election to work together for a humane, bipartisan approach to the issue “to fulfil our international obligations and enhance Australia’s reputation as a just and humane global citizen.” The resolution also reminded election candidates that asylum seekers were not illegal migrants and had rights under international law to seek protection.

Vacancy for Latin teacher?

After a long-running battle that began in 2002—archdiocese in one corner, parishioners in the other—10 parishes in the cash-strapped Boston Catholic archdiocese are about to close, assuming some
higher authority than the Vatican doesn’t intervene.  Nearly a decade ago the archdiocese was embroiled in a horrifying sexual abuse scandal that led in 2002 to the resignation of Cardinal archbishop Bernard Law (who, incidentally, is now comfortably ensconced in a plum job in Rome). Threatened with bankruptcy because of the millions it was required to pay to compensate victims, the new management of the archdiocese sold its investments and a lot of property and engaged in a major “reconfiguration” of the archdiocese, part of which was a decision in 2004 to shut down the 10 parishes, which, not surprisingly, caused a huge kafuffle.  The parishioners protested the decision and when they got nowhere with the archbishop they appealed the issue to Rome, first to the Congregation for Clergy which rejected their plea in 2006. Not to be denied nine of the parishioners then took their case to the Apostolic Signatura.  Last month the archdiocese was advised that the appeals had been denied.  On what precise grounds is not clear because as at 22 July the archdiocese had not yet published a translation of the nine Latin language decrees.  In a statement, it explained: “While our initial review of the decrees appears to confirm that the Apostolic Signatura has affirmed the earlier decision of the Congregation of the Clergy regarding these closed parishes we look forward to a formal review of the translated text.” All of which seems to suggest that the archdiocese could be short of Latin translators as well as cash.

One rejection, perhaps two?

Opponents of the new translation of the Roman Missal whose What if we just wait? campaign has gained widespread support from Catholics around the world have taken heart from an unprecedented Vatican
decision to shelve an authorised translation into German of the Order of Christian Burials and revert to the 1973 version that it replaced because of “objections to the translation, especially to the many changes Rome made to the submitted translation”.  Although many Catholics have thought that final approval of the much-delayed English translation of the Roman Missal is imminent, in fact it is still, to use British journalist Robert Mickens’s description, only a “work in progress” with a number of English-speaking bishops yet to vote on it.  Hence, as Mickens pointed out, the presentation of a beautiful leather-bound copy of the Missal to Benedict XVI almost a year ago to mark its recognitio would appear to have been somewhat premature.

Posted by Bob Birchall in Archives, Catalyst Digest

Catalyst Digest Edition 23

Catalyst Digest Edition 23 – JUNE 2010 – Edition 22

US report chides own religious freedom policy

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has branded 13 nations—Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam—as “countries of particular concern” and has placed on its “2010 watch list” another 12 nations that “require close monitoring due to violations of religious freedom”. The United States’ own foreign policy on religious freedom did not escape censure, the commission’s annual report quoting its chairman Leonard Leo as saying that “after some strong language on religious freedom” by President Obama his references to the issue  “had become rare.”  The same, he said, applied to Secretary of State Clinton. “The government must do more,” he said. Nations on the USCIRF watch list are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, India,
Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

Catholic stamp on history

Australian philatelists, especially Catholic ones, will be queuing up this month to buy Australia Post’s first stamp to commemorate an event in a parish church.  The stamp, which appropriately goes on sale on 11
June, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, is to celebrate the 120th anniversary that day of the dedication of the Sacred Heart parish church in Kew, an eastern suburb of Melbourne.

Yes, no, maybe

Catholic folk who are inclined to believe the old saying that where there’s smoke there’s fire could be wondering if Cardinal George Pell’s nine-year tenure as Sydney’s archbishop is nearing its end.  There have
been persistent rumours for months, frequently aired by Tablet’s well-informed Rome correspondent Robert Mickens, that Pell, who turns 70 in June next year, is in line for promotion to a senior post in Rome, often nominated as successor to the soon-to-retire Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, a position he has held for the last 10 years. Some Australians will not weep at Re’s departure.  It was his pressure on the Australian bishops in 2008 that was reported to have persuaded them to attack the theology of fellow Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s best-selling book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. But that, of course, was before the church was forced to admit, at least by implication, that there was substance in Robinson’s courageous questioning of its handling of the sex abuse scandal.  Spare a prayer for Bishop Geoffrey.

Priests in search of hope

Spare a thought also for the tens of thousands of good, totally blameless Catholic priests whose lives have been turned upside down and their morale battered mercilessly by the scandal.  A remarkable number of
them—236 already booked against a usual turn up of half that—will attend the biennial convention of the National Council of Priests in Australia at Parramatta on July 12-16, the theme of which will be Where is the Risen Lord in the changing face of the priesthood?  One of the organisers (and Catalyst foundation member), Fr Michael Whelan, thinks the convenient location and the strong line-up of speakers (among them American Fr Donald Cozzens, Fr Richard Lennan, of the Newcastle-Maitland Diocese, who is currently lecturing at Boston College, ABC presenter Geraldine Doogue and Professor David Tacey) could be factors in the unprecedented interest in the convention but he suspects there is a deeper meaning.  He points out that the Catholic church has in recent times brought on itself terrible opprobrium from the wider society.  Some
priests had been responsible for criminal behaviours that had hurt people horribly and some priests and bishops had tried to hide from this awful truth, only to exacerbate the pain and damage already done. “The great majority of priests who generously and faithfully continue to serve their people are looking for some signs of hope,” Whelan said.  “Where is the Risen Lord in all this?  I see the unprecedented interest in this convention as a very good sign, indicating energy and hope and a willingness to face what must be.”


Fr Whelan has written four interesting commentaries on the issue of clerical abuse. They can be found by clicking here.

Priest reformist to speak

American priest, author and outspoken advocate of reform in the Catholic church, Donald Cozzens will speak in Sydney next month at a Catalyst dinner.  Cozzens, about whom a journalist once said, “While some people try to ignore the fractured foundation of our church, Fr Donald Cozzens calls attention to the cracks in the hope of inspiring enough people to work together to repair the damage,” has written several books
including his award-winning best-seller Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church. The Catalyst dinner—titled Fr Donald Cozzens in conversation with Fr Michael Whelan—will be on 23 July in St Mary’s Parish Hall 3 Mary St Hunters Hill, commencing at 7pm. See Digest Diary for further information.

No blogs please

The Traditional Anglican Communion which is leading the drive among Church of England members to accept Benedict XV1’s invitation (Anglicanorum Coetibus) to move en masse to the Catholic church is showing evidence of growing pains. TAC primate Archbishop John Hepworth has announced the introduction of a special section on Anglo-Catholic, the movement’s website, on which only official statements may be published.  It appears that a report of proceedings of a recent meeting of the Anglican Church in America’s House of Bishops, seemingly contentious, was posted on the website in the archbishop’s name without his approval.  In his statement Hepworth wrote of the unauthorized report causing difficulties of communication and confusion and he complained that the message published was “not entirely helpful” to the TAC’s
commitment to pursue unity with the Catholic Church.  The new official documents section of the website would maintain an absolute distinction between formal announcements and any open discussion conducted on the site.  Discussion would be prohibited in the section.

Abortion ads on TV

The Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales has condemned as “exploitive” an advertising campaign that promotes abortion on British television, and has demanded that it be stopped.  The sponsor, Marie Stopes International, launched the campaign at the beginning of June, planning to run it on Channel 4 for the whole of the month.  The advertisements urge women to call a help line if they believe they could be pregnant and need advice.  The company

Bishops warn “wound to Catholjc unity”

US president Barrack Obama could be forgiven for permitting himself a wry smile when he read the Catholic claims it received 350 000 calls in the first couple of days and argues that the response justifies its decision to advertise. The bishops will be lucky to win this one.  The UK Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice prohibits commercial abortion clinics from advertising on television but the Marie Stopes
clinics escape the ban because it does not apply to not-for-profit organisations.bishops’ statement on 21 May after his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act finally made it into the statute book. This despite the
bishops’ unrelenting opposition to the bitter end and the widespread dismay of ordinary citizens, including Catholics, who desperately needed decent health care which Obama has now delivered.  The bishops’ long statement contains the faintest hint of confession that the legislation probably wasn’t all that bad but none of apologia for the hard words they used against the president and his health reform.  It does however record that the bishops were “disturbed and disappointed” by reactions “inside and outside the church that had sought to marginalise or dismiss legitimate concerns that were presented in a serious manner by us.”  “Our clear and consistent position,” the bishops said, “has been misrepresented, misunderstood and misused for political and other purposes.  Our right to speak in the public forum has been questioned.”  The statement
continued: “Our teaching role within the Catholic Church and even our responsibility to lead the church have come under criticism.”  The bishops “disagreed” that the divergence between the Catholic conference and Catholic organisations, including the Catholic Health Association, represented merely a difference of analysis or strategy. Rather, they said, for what ever good will was intended, it represented a “fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain but with the bishops themselves.  As such, it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

Prayerfest for Brisbane

If you are going north to catch the Queensland sun next month it would be a good idea to book early and make sure you pack your Rosary beads as well as your swimmers and sun cream because in July Brisbane archbishop John Bathersby is staging a quite remarkable program that he’s calling Pray2010.  The aim of the project is to bring together people from across Australia and perhaps overseas “to deepen their relationship with Jesus through prayer”.  The program will be in Brisbane over three days—7-10 July— and will include a wide variety of top keynote speakers from the United States, Italy, the UK and Australia.  Archbishop Bathersby, who has long believed that prayer is the powerhouse of our lives and mission, is confident that Prayer2010 will be a “wellspring for renewing the prayer life of Catholics” in his archdiocese and beyond.

Posted by Bob Birchall in Archives, Catalyst Digest