Monthly Archives: October 2007

Sign the Counter Petition! John XXIII Coop leads the way!

Unfortunately they don’t have this for online signing. Nevertheless, here is the John XXIII Coop’s attempt to organise something to counter “That Petition”:

The Australian Bishops need your help …
Sign The Counter-Petition !

A petition is circulating in response to the current crisis in priestly vocations. It calls on the Australian Bishops to (inter alia):

“encourage a wide-ranging discussion of the role of women in ministry … including the question of women’s ordination.”

This is in open defiance of the Apostolic Letter of the late Pope John Paul II Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which states:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

A member of the Church’s faithful will thus instantly recognise that the agenda behind this petition is not part of the solution: it is part of the problem!

This petition now has some 9000 signatures. It will be presented to the Australian Bishops Conference at the end of November.

What can I do to respond?

• Pray earnestly in all charity for every signatory to this petition, that “their hearts may regain sanity and return to the unity of truth.” (Good Friday Liturgy, Extraordinary Form)

• Pray for the Australian Bishops. There is a wonderful opportunity afforded to them by this unfortunate event! Pray that they will have the courage to respond as one to this petition with a clear and forceful articulation of Catholic teaching on the priesthood, and on the obligations of Catholics with respect to magisterial teaching.

• Sign our counter-petition. We want to let the Australian Bishops know that there are many Australian Catholics who are loyal to Holy Mother Church, who are obedient to the magisterium, and who deplore the efforts of dissidents to create a counterfeit Church. We wish to encourage the Australian Bishops in their office as true shepherds of the flock and support their decisive steps to protect it from the predations of wolves.

• Copy and spread our counter—petition and letter amongst your Catholic friends Australia-wide. And don’t forget to return it to the address supplied by November 15 so it can be presented to the Australian Bishops at their November Plenary Conference.

Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us!

And here is their “Counter petition”:

A Letter to the Australian Bishops

We, the undersigned Australian Catholics, profess loyalty to our Holy Mother the Church, to the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI and to the Australian episcopacy as it strives to build up the body of Christ.

1. We acknowledge that there is a drastic shortage of priests and religious serving the Catholic Church in Australia.

2. We submit that this stems predominantly from a systemic undermining by dissidents, over several decades, of Catholic principles in the areas of theology, philosophy, spirituality, liturgy and catechetics.

3. We deplore those efforts of dissident or poorly catechised Catholics to suggest the ordination of women as a solution to the current crisis in ministry. Such open defiance of the magisterium is scandalous and demoralising. We request of you at this time a strong reaffirmation that the Church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” ( Ordinatio Sacerdotalis )

4. We believe that, rather than resort to superficial and bogus measures, the only effective way to respond to this crisis is to attack its root cause. We urge the prompt removal of dissident
Catholics from positions of influence in Catholic institutions across the nation, and their replacement with suitably qualified men and women of faith.

5. We note as a ‘sign of the times’ that vocations to the priesthood and religious life are languishing in those institutions which have compromised their Catholicity, whereas vocations are flourishing in authentically Catholic institutions in Australia and worldwide.

Sincerely yours,

The Undersigned

Please return this petition by November 15 to:
John XXIII Fellowship Co-op
Box 22 Ormond
Victoria 3204

A little strident, perhaps. I still recommend my “Open Letter to the Catholic Laity of Australia”, as it proposes some positive measures other than chucking out all the dissidents (which would leave us with a very small church!).


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What is one to make of this? Are Catholicism and Orthodoxy two different religions?

This comment was left by Anastasia Theodoridis recently in the combox:

ISTM the more we Orthodox learn both of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the more we become convinced that they are not at all the same. They often sound the same. But behind the words is a very, very different way of life, a different spirit, and a different way of doing things that is different intentionally and for a theological reason, rather than because of any historical accident or circumstance. (Those kinds of differences also exist, yes.)

Just for one example, the filioque is a *major* issue, making for a whole different Holy Trinity. And you do not mean the same thing by it that we do without it; if you did you could simply delete the word and end the whole controversy, but that does not and will not happen. It is important to Catholics to keep the filioque.

For another example, the papal claims of supramacy and infallibility are no minor matter. They alter the faith very significantly, from the Orthodox POV. Not only are they, for us, in themselves major changes of the faith, but they have also come, from an Orthodox POV, to color almost every other Catholic doctrine to make the Catholic way of stating it sound strange to our ears.

If we take the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as I have done, and read very attentively and begin underlining parts that are put incorrectly in ways that may seem small but have huge implications, we end up underlining a huge percentage of the book. Another huge percentage of it we put question marks beside because the language is too vague (syncretistic) and/or too contradictory (again, syncretistic)to be able to know for sure whether it agrees with Orthodoxy or not.

Sorry, but the idea that we share the same faith is wishful thinking. I, too, wish it were so and pray it may one day be so. For now, we have a lot of hard work to do, and a lot of honest discussion is required.

What a bleak outlook.

Am I to take it from that that we are really two different religions? That would be the conclusion, if we really believe that the “filioque” clause actually teaches “a whole different Trinity”. [I should point out that we can, in fact, delete the filioque in the sense of omit it on occasion, but we cannot delete it in the sense of obliterate it, as it is a part of our liturgy and tradition!]

And parts of the Catechism that are “put incorrectly”? Surely you mean “differently from the way Orthodoxy would put it”, but surely not “heretically”? Do not the Orthodox themselves have different ways of putting things within the one tradition? Or is there only ever one way of saying what is true? Of course, Western theology will sound “strange” to Eastern ears–the opposite is also true. Latin and Greek are different languages. Are they to be different religions too?

Is there really a “different spirit” behind Orthodoxy and Catholicism? That is, does one of us have the Holy Spirit, and the other “a different spirit” in the sense of St Paul’s “different gospel” or “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4)?

Tell me it isn’t so!


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Annual Jewish Catholic Dinner: Eating, Drinking and Dancing our way to harmony

Sorry there hasn’t been much blogging going on lately. And I also apologise for being really behind in reading your blogs too. I have been really busy.

One of the things I have been really busy with was this year’s Annual Jewish Catholic Dinner held at the Archdiocesan centre on Sunday night.

I can hear the question marks in the thought bubble above your head. Let me explain.

Three years ago, members of the Jewish and Catholic communities in Melbourne thought it might be a good idea to have a special dinner together to aid our mutual respect and genial relations. The first event was held in 2005 for 50 Catholics and 50 Jews, the Jews playing host. We had speakers from both communties, and a musical item from an all male Jewish choir, mainly singing liturgical music and psalmody.

It was an outstanding success and we did it again in 2006, again on Jewish premises, but this time with a Catholic ensemble providing the music–singing a selection of psalms in various styles.

Three years later and it was our turn to play host. As chief cook and bottle washer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, much of the organisation fell to me, so I was pretty busy getting the Kosher caterers, sound system, presentations etc. all organised.

But the night was a hit–the best yet. The Jews provided the music, with a Polish-Jewish folk duo playing keyboard and violin and singing all the old popular Jewish music like “Hava Nagilah” and “If I were a rich man”.

There were the usual speeches, but Rabbi Fred Morgan gave us a interactive bible study style reflection on Psalm 150–with Jews and Catholics together contributing to the insights. He then ended by leading us in singing the psalm with a response in Hebrew.

The musos got going again and then the president of the Jewish Community Council honoured us with a song (he’s a great singer).

But the interaction didn’t stop there. Inspired by the music, the Jewish ladies spontaneously got up and started dancing (in a ring with hands joined in traditional style). A couple of our religious sisters joined them, and then (breaking all orthodox rules) they dragged in a man–one of our priests, who was then joined by one of the progressive Rabbis, and then it was all on for young and old!

I think we can confidently say that Jews and Catholics have never danced together in the Archdiocesan centre before.

Earlier in the day, in a homily based on the Gospel of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee, my parish priest had quoted Chesterton who once said “good religion can always laugh at itself”. Well, we always can have a good laugh with our Jewish friends, and we laughed a lot more than usual on Sunday night. I arrived home very tired but feeling that there had been a real meeting of hearts.

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The Abbey – Great viewing

I hope that readers here in Australia have taken the time to watch (or at least record) The Abbey.

This is one of the most intelligent and inspired programs that the ABC has produced for Compass in a long while. The Sisters of Jamberoo Abbey are to be applauded for the brave decision to open their enclosed monastery for this “invasion” of the media.

On the first day of the experience, one of the 5 participants remarked:

I still wonder though how you can justify shutting someone [Sister Hilda] with that personality away and just praying most of your day. I still don’t see it as relevant in today’s society.

This program will enable the world to see that such a life and a calling really is relevant–and essential–to the human race today more than ever.

I have been watching it with my daughters. Apart from Sister in the parish here (Presentation nun – no habit), they don’t really get to see much in terms of role modelling for the religious life. They watched the film of St Therese of Lisieux with me recently (thanks for the loan of the video, Marco), and that was really the first idea they had of what an enclosed life might be. Now they get to see it in real life. Think about it as an antidote to the Bratz movie they watched last weekend…

After her usual diatribe (upped a couple of decibels because the subject is intensely religious and intensely Catholic at that), Catherine Deveney, the TV critic from Hell (or perhaps going there? Hey, it isn’t my call!), had this rather poignant comment:

Watching The Abbey and attempting to immerse myself in the reality of the nuns’ lives I found harrowing and stifling. Although the nuns are living far more meaningful lives than most, their sacrifice is phenomenal. And I couldn’t help wanting to save them.

My emphasis. I emphasise it because what she is saying is that she wants to rescue these women from lives that are “far more meaningful than most”. She would rather they lived the same meaningless “Bratz style” life of indulgence that most of the rest of the western world does. Deveny wants to “save” the nuns because they tell her something doesn’t want to hear: that meaning does not come without sacrifice.

The Abbey is a great watch. If you can’t watch it, you can read the transcript of the program at the Compass Website. Here is episode one.


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The Church, Her Authority, and My Conscience

Everyday I print off a raft of articles and blog entries to read. Sometimes it happens that these end up entering into a conversation with each other in my mind. Here are several that lead in an interesting direction.

First, Pastor Weedon blogged on a revered Lutheran contemporary and colleague of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Herman Sasse. Sasse pointed out (in a book called “Here we stand”–originally Was Heisst Lutherische–that:

Despite its decided rejection of false teachings which prevail in other churches, our church has never denied the presence of the church of Christ in the established churches of England and Scotland, in Holland and Switzerland, in Spain and Italy, in Greece and Russia. It has not tried, therefore, to conduct missions for the Lutheran confessional church in these countries, just as it has avoided the “evanglicalization” of Catholic territories in Germany. Let all those who accuse Lutheranism of intolerant confessionalism reflect on the fact that the Lutheran Church is one of the very few churches in Christendom which has never, under any circumstances, engaged in propaganda for itself or conducted missions among Christians of other persuasions. (Here We Stand, pp. 182, 183)

I remember reading the book twenty years ago and being impressed. I must pull it out again and read that last chapter, entitled “The Lutheran Church and the Una Sancta”.

The precise issue is “What is the Church”? We as Catholics recognise the presence of Christ–and thus also “the presence of the church of Christ” (remembering Ireneaus’ old statement that the Church is where Jesus Christ is)–in the ecclesial communities of the Protestant reformation. Like Sasses’ pre-WWII Lutheran state churches, we do not proselytise our Christian brethren and sistern either (although I suspect that the motivating theologies and impulses behind this similarity were very different). But “the presence of the church of Christ” is not the same thing being the Church of Christ. Understanding herself to “be” the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church is impelled to seek the full visible unity of all who belong, even imperfectly, to her, both within and without her visible borders. What I find conspicuously absent in Sasse’s praise of his Lutheran Church is any sense of the compulsion to seek ecumenical unity.

This issue comes up in a second piece I read today by Dr Jeff Mirus entitled “Conscience and Authority: the Protestant Dilema”. This is a must read article, as is the article it is reacting too from the November issue of First Things by Lutheran theologian Gilbert Meilaender, “Conscience and Authority” (not yet available online).

Mirus praises Meilaender’s work, pointing as it does to three essentials in the equation:

the need for the “Church” to speak with authority in order to preserve and transmit Christianity;
the need for the individual Christian to respect that authority;
and the need for the Christian to form his conscience ultimately through a direct personal relationship with God.

But he goes straight to the core again of what we mean when we say “Church”. The Church, in Meilaender’s Lutheran theology–similar to Sasse’s own idea of “Church” in the quotation above–is ultimately a sociological phenomenon of like minded believers. What sort of “authority” does such a group ultimately have? To be sure, such a “Church” has public teaching, but I am free (if I disagree with that public teaching) to lobby within the church’s structures to change that public teaching. As Mirus sums it up:

Whether we can ultimately claim the authority of that organization for our ideas depends solely on whether we win an internal battle for control. We ought not to dishonestly claim any organization’s authority to promote something contrary to its official position, but we are perfectly free to attempt to influence the organization to change its position. If we succeed, we can then claim its authority for promoting what we had all along asserted it should say.

He is quite right about this. I know it from experience. Going to Synod was like going to battle. Each opinion sought to garner support for its own ideas so that, through the democratic majority, the “Truth” would prevail. It was exactly this on the issue of women’s ordination which I faced at the 2000 Synod of the LCA (read about my experience of that on my Year of Grace blog).

Mirus asserts that it is only if there is a living Magisterium of the Church which directly exercises the authority of Christ that I can truly (and must truly) give full submission of conscience to the Church’s teaching. The only time when a personal “fight” of conscience against what a Church heirarch might teach is acceptable is when that heirarch is teaching against the Magisterium of the Church.

And that leads me to this rather strange interview that the Holy Father gave recently (reported here by John L. Allen Jnr.). The future pope candidly said that after the Council he was “too timid” in defending the teaching of the Church’s magisterium against the false claims of some in authority. But how could this happen that there were such false ideas in the first place?

“At that time, the situation was extremely confused and restless, and the doctrinal position of the church was not always clear,” the pope said. “In fact, claims were circulated that seemed to have become suddenly possible, even though in reality they were not consistent with dogma. In that context, the discussions within the doctrinal commission were full of strong positions, and extremely difficult.”

In saying this, it becomes evident that for us to be able to hold, defend and live the true teachings of the Church, there must be CLARITY of teaching–which clarity can only come with a strong exercise of the Church’s authority in her Magisterium. I believe that today we do have such clarity–the excellent teaching of Pope John Paul II (and now his successor, Pope Benedict XVI) and especially the gift of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has gone a long way to clearing up this confusion. You can add to that the instant and excellent access we have today to Church teaching through the internet–something undreamed of in the 1970s–and Catholics today cannot claim ignorance to support their free exercise of “conscience” against the teaching of the Church.

Finally I am left with Cardinal Scheffczyk’s regret (referred to in Allen’s article) that, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,

Pope John Paul II had failed to pronounce the ban on women’s ordination as an infallible dogma in formal, ex cathedra fashion.

That indeed would have given clarity in the face of confusion.

All that brings me back to our discussions we have been having on this blog about papal authority. I have come to see that what Reader (not Father) Christopher Orr has called the “unfettered, unilateral power” of the Pope to pronounce infallibly on matters of faith and morals is a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, for it makes possible the clarity of teaching necessary for the true formation of the Christian conscience.


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Aw, come you guys…

Vote for me! (Just click the button!)

My site was nominated for Best Religion Blog!

(Remember the old saying: Vote early! Vote often!)


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Do you know what causes AIDS, children?

That’s right. The big nasty authoritarian sex-obsessed Church.

Okay, so I fiddled with the picture. For the original and the story behind this, see: Anti-condom stance fuels AIDS spread: UN.

And in case you want some more laughs, thanks to Sharon in the combox, here is the link to a romantic latin American evening… by Patrick Archibald at the Creative Minority Report.


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Another Australian Saint? The more the merrier!

For some reason, most Catholic saints seem to have been born in Italy. God knows why… perhaps its something in the wine.

Well, we have plenty of good wine here in Australia, so I raise my glass to Clara Geoghegan (a regular reader of this blog) and her “Friends of Mrs Chisholm” in their attempts to draw Caroline Chisholm to the attention of the Italians in the Vatican.

Aside from being an Australian, she was (is?) a LAY person. Makes a change from all those founders of religious orders… And you can see why Clara is keen for this to happen–she is the coordinator of the Catherine of Sienna Called and Gifted program in the Melbourne Archdiocese.

Won’t it be nice when the Caroline Chisholm Library can be renamed the SAINT Caroline Chisholm Library?

Comments Off on Another Australian Saint? The more the merrier!

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I’ve ordered my copy: Cardinal Schönborn’s new book "Chance or Purpose"

I’ve just gotten off the phone to the Central Catholic Bookshop (their motto is “faithfully expressing the Catholic Tradition”, which I like. I’ve gone off John Garrett’s since they published and promoted +Geoffrey’s book) and they have a copy of Cardinal Schönborn’s new book “Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith” winging its way to me right now. It promises to a great read.

Regular readers will know that I have been a Schönborn fan for some time. I believe this book is a translation of (or an adaption of) the series of catecheses he gave in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna over the last few years. It will be good stuff. Get it while its hot!


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"Beware the Jaberwock, my son!…"

“…The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Fictitious monsters have always held a fascination–no more so than that fictitious monster, Triumphalist Roman Papalism. I will leave it to historians to argue whether or not there was ever such a monster, but today–believe me when I say this folks–there is no such animal.

Nevertheless, I am amazed at the power this mythology has even to skew modern ecumenical relationships. You can’t start a healthy relationship on an “hermeneutic of suspicion” (“you speak with forked tongue!”). Dialogue requires a relationship of trust.

I can partly understand the long ancenstoral memories of those whose fathers’ fathers, and whose fathers’ fathers’ fathers, and whose fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers (you get the idea) remember some atrocity committed by this ancient monster. Yet, even those who have no personal stake in this history (eg. recent converts to Orthodoxy) seem more than eager to adopt the full mythology and paradigm of the world which includes this horrible monster.

Fr Christopher Orr (born and raised Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran and received into Orthodoxy in 2001) is a case in point. In a recent comment on a previous blog, Fr Orr stated:

Whatever positive, inclusive, friendly steps have been taken in the past decades – and they have been honestly taken, I think, in the main – there is a long history of RC abuse and domination that is well-remembered by the Orthodox and Protestants. Time will need to go by to ensure that positive language is not simply a marketing ploy, a bait and switch; until Rome can come to a dogmatic determination that is more in line with your explanation of Vatican I and II, most will simply fear not what this or the most recent Pope’s have said or done, but what future ones may do with their dogmatically unfettered power.

Oh, Christopher. That is really unworthy of you. A “marketing ploy”? A “bait and switch”? What future popes “may do with their dogmatically unfettered power”? Good grief. I know (as my Mother-in-law keeps on telling me) that the Pope and bishops of the Catholic Church are “only men”, but please–they are are at least men of charity and justice, and of integrity.

Beware the hermeneutic of Suspicion, my friends! It will be the undoing of us all!


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