Daily Archives: February 21, 2007

A Slowly Baked, but Well Done Conclusion on Hicks

I have never as much as mentioned the name “David Hicks” in this column so far. Partly the reason for that is that my ability to make up my moral mind on the whole affair is almost as slow and tardy as the US Military have been to lay charges against the sole Australian in Guantanamo Bay.

But after a long time in the oven, I think I can say that the timer has gone off, and I have come to the point where I can take a stand. Not that I will be going to any “Bring Hicks Home” vigils or marches or anything in the near future. Maybe I should, if my conclusion is right. I haven’t got that far yet. Maybe that will be the icing on the cake…

Anyway, my ten bobs worth, if you want it, is virtually the same as that expressed by Peter Faris QC in today’s edition of Crickey. He writes:

In my opinion, Hicks is a vile, despicable and abhorrent creature who chose to support the Taliban, one of the worst regimes in recent history. He is not a hero and certainly not an Australian hero. He deserves to be condemned for what he has done. But despite all of this, he has the fundamental right to be tried by a court or released. He has not been tried. He must be released

.I couldn’t agree more. This isn’t a case of merit, it’s a case of simple human dignity. I believe that respect for the inalienable dignity of every human being is foundational for all ethical and moral action. Hick’s dignity (nb. his dignity that rests on what he is–a human being–not on what he has done, which has no dignity about it and in fact appears not to have valued the human dignity of others very highly) is not being respected, and something should be done about it.

Incidentally, when I was home over New Years, I heard a bunch of farmers discussing the issue. I was surprised to find that every one of them was critical of the Howard Government for not doing more to bring David Hicks back to Australia. They, however, were not being driven by any sense of the dignity of the human being enshrined in natural law. They had come to their conclusion on the basis that it was shameful for Australia to allow one of its citizens to languish inthe hands of a foreign power. For them, the extradiction of Hicks would represent an assertion of Australian sovereignty and autonomy. There’s something in that, as Neuhaus would say.

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A Truly "Romantic Notion"

In the Cathnews report on the ignorant suggestion by the Times-Online that the Anglican and Catholic Churches were ready to formally reunite any moment now, the Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, is quoted as saying:

If a Pope gives a directive, every parish priest follows it. If the Archbishop of Canterbury offers a directive, most ministers of a parish would think that a nice piece of advice. The very thought we would hand over our authority would be a romantic notion at the least.

Ha, ha! The joke is on you, Bishop! The truly “romantic notion” is that “if the pope gives a directive, every parish priest follows it”!

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Poison Woman

That woman–Catherine Deveny–is poisonous. Following an Archepiscopal telling off for her last foray into the subject of religion, she has thrown the fat into the fire with this rather nasty little diatribe.

She could hardly be more offensive if she tried to be. Do we really need to know what she would be willing to do on the consecrated altar of a church? And is this really journalism? Why did the editor of The Age feel justified in giving it column space? Is the article particularly insightful? No. Is it funny? No. Is Ms Deveny (as Jane Austen would say) “a person of information”? No. So what is the point of printing it? Maybe if Ms Deveny wants to write this sort of stuff she should start a blog. I don’t pay my $1.50 each day to read this garbage.

But, let’s cut her some slack. Perhaps Catherine Deveny is more sinned against than sinning, more “poisoned” than “poisonous”. Judging by what she has written in both columns, she has not had a particularly positive experience of the Catholic religion. There could be anyone to blame for that–her parents, her priests, her school teachers, some nun somewhere–even (contra Monty Python) the Romans. It just goes to show that when we are in the business of evangelising (ie. telling the GOOD news) we sometimes (as a Church) are far better at communicating BAD news. And that’s really tragic.

It would have been nice if she had, for instance, been given some decent biblical catechesis as a youngster, and then she would know a) how to read the infancy narratives of the Gospels, and b) how to read the legal codes of the Torah. It would also have been nice if, when she asked her priest why they didn’t have altar girls in their parish, he had shown her some respect and at least attempted an explanation. After all, people don’t respect institutions that don’t respect them.

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Jesus, the Pope and Harry Potter all say: "Stand up to Evil!"

The Pope made a strange comment (I thought) in his most recent Sunday Angelus mini-homily. He said that Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies”

does not consist in surrendering to evil — as claims a false interpretation of “turn the other cheek” (Luke 6:29) — but in responding to evil with good (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice.

Who on earth would ever interpret “turning the other cheek” as “surrendering to evil”? I thought.

Then tonight, as we were reading through tomorrow’s Gospel from Maddy’s First Communion bible (it’s an attractive production called the “International Children’s Bible” and uses the “New Century Version” translation which is very simple for her to read), I saw this translation of Matthew 5:38-39

“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you, don’t stand up against an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, then turn and let him slap the other cheek too.”

I thought to myself, that has to be a mistranslation. But in fact it is a quite literal translation of the Greek “me antistenai”. Yet I can’t help but think that in translating the text this way, the translators have, as the Holy Father puts it, made a “false interpretation” of Jesus’ meaning, suggesting that we should simply “surrender” to evil.

In Ephesians 6:10ff, St Paul speaks at length about “with-standing” or “standing against” evil, and he uses exactly the same word that Jesus does here. He says that we need to wear the “whole armour of God” to protect ourselves from the threats of evil. He lists five “defensive” shields against evil (truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation) but only one “offensive” weapon: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

In the light of St Paul’s teaching, then, Jesus is clearly using “me antistenai” to mean “do not retaliate”, and even more specifically, “do not retaliate to violence with violence”, but as the Holy Father says, “confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.”

I understand it was Ghandi who coined the term “non-violent resistence”. Jesus went one step further: he indicated that not only was violent resistence out of the question for his followers, the only truly Christian resistence to violence is LOVE.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing that standing up to evil is her duty as a Christian, and that LOVE is the greatest power she can bring to bear against the forces of evil. Oddly enough, this idea is reinforced by one of her favourite book series, Harry Potter. Harry has no special magical powers to stand against the evil of Voldemort, but Dumbledore alerts him to the fact that he has the greatest and most powerful weapon of all, a weapon that was gifted to him by his parents.

Dumbledore: Harry, do you know why it is that Professor Quirrell could not bear to have you touch him?
[Harry shakes his head]
Dumbledore: It was because of your mother. She sacrificed herself for you, and that kind of act leaves a mark.
[Harry reaches up to touch his scar]
Dumbledore: No no, this kind of mark cannot be seen. It lives in your very skin.
Harry: And what is that?
Dumbledore: Love, Harry. Love.

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