Daily Archives: April 8, 2008


(From press release from Catholic Communications)

The former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Thomas Francis Little died peacefully in his sleep last night at his home in Camberwell at the age of 82 years.

He was appointed the sixth Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope Paul VI, succeeding Cardinal Knox on the 1 July 1974. He resigned from the position in 1996 for health

Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said today that the death of Archbishop Little will be felt deeply by many people in Melbourne.

“Archbishop Little will be fondly remembered as a dedicated caring leader of the Church for 22 years,” Archbishop Hart said today. “His sincere pastoral style and concern for his people was admired by all who met him.”

Archbishop Little was born in Werribee on 30 November 1925. He entered Corpus Christi College, then at Werribee, in 1943 to begin studies for the priesthood. In 1947, he continued his studies at Propaganda Fide College, Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood in the chapel of the College on 3 October 1950, by Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi.

For the next three years he pursued his doctoral studies through the Urban University in Rome and was awarded his doctorate in 1953. On his return to Melbourne in 1953 he was appointed as assistant priest to Carlton, then assistant at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1955. From 1956 to 1959, he worked as Secretary to the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Romolo Carboni, in Sydney. He returned to Melbourne as assistant priest to St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1959, Dean of the Cathedral in 1965 and parish priest of St Ambrose’s, Brunswick in 1971.

In Melbourne at this time he was actively involved in a wide range of activities. He was a lecturer in the Provincial seminary, a member of the Diocesan Ecumenical Affairs Commission, a member and Chair of Victorian Action for World Development, Episcopal Vicar for the Apostolate of the Laity and chaplain to teams of Our Lady.

He was ordained as a Bishop on 21 February 1973 by Cardinal James Knox during the International Eucharistic Congress held in Melbourne that year. Residing in Moonee Ponds as Parish Priest, and as a regional Bishop, he was given pastoral responsibility for the north western region of Melbourne.

In 1977 he was created a Knight Commander of the British Empire.

On the 10 April 1992 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Theology by the Melbourne College of Divinity.


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A Way out of the Maze? Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on Evangelisation and the Jews

Writing in the most recent edition of the Tablet (“Judaism’s way to salvation”, 29 March 2008) Cardinal Christoph Schönborn suggests a way out of the maze surrounding the question of evangelisation and the Jewish people (most recently stirred up by the Good Friday prayer for the Jews in the Extraordinary Use of the Latin Rite).

What he suggests is quite radical, but I think it clearly shows a way ahead in this discussion. Here is how the Cardinal summarises his own essay:

The following short article tries – very simply – to consult the New Testament in an attempt to give an answer to the theory of the “Two Ways to Salvation”. The article tries to show that according to the New Testament and from the Christian point of view there is only one salvation in Jesus Christ, but two clearly distinguishable ways of proclaiming and accepting this salvation. In this respect it must be made clear that the overture/offer to the Jews to recognise Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah cannot simply be equated with Christ’s mandate to evangelise all (heathen) nations and make them his disciples (cf. Matthew 28: 18-20). That is what I have tried to explain below.

I think he is really onto something here, and he demonstrates this from the New Testament.

However, the article is a bit light on. It makes a suggestion, and gives reasonable basis for that suggestion, but there isn’t room in a Tablet article for greater scholarly expansion. We understand that the editors do not wish to overtax their general readership. In this sense, the article is a little like Cardinal Schönborn’s famous New York Times article on Creation and Evolution. Hopefully, as with that article, the good Cardinal will follow up this suggestion with an entire book.


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My Review of "Ratzinger’s Faith" by Tracey Rowland

I don’t think I have put up the link to my review of this fine book. Here it is in the last edition of “The Kairos”.


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Giving Tony Blair a fair go over his speech at Westminster Cathedral

There are some out there who obviously have it in for Tony Blair. Fair enough. He was a political leader, and you are allowed to have it in for political leaders. Look how many people had it in for (and still do have it in for) our own Little Johnny Howard.

But some Catholic bloggers and commentators are still very hesitant to give Blair “a fair go” even though he has a whole new identity as an private citizen and as a Catholic to that which he had as a politician and a protestant. One example is Fr Tim at the Hermeneutic of Continuity) in reference to a recent and significant speech Tony Blair made in Westminster Cathedral as part of the “Cardinal’s Lectures” last Thursday.

As a political leader and before he entered the Catholic Church he and his government did things and supported things that Catholics would have a right and duty to question. There was probably a large dose of “Real Politik” about all that. I find his explanation of that famous comment by his press secretary (“We don’t do God”) most interesting, and if you are looking for an explanation of why he did what he did when he was Prime Minister, you could probably find it there as clearly as anywhere.

We need to remember too that our brother in Christ, Tony, has chosen to enter the Catholic Church. That he chose to take that action only last December, and not years ago when he first married his Catholic wife, is an indication that his conversion is an honest one, and not just done for convenience. One presumes then that over the years he has gone through some process of development. One also needs to remember that he retired from his office of Prime Minister–he wasn’t voted out. The reasons for his retirement may have been many, but at least one of them appears to have been so that he could enter the Catholic Church without creating a legal furore in England.

So I think we should give the bloke a fair go, as we say in this country.

And (apart from his citation of Karen Armstrong), I believe that he has put it about as clearly and as straight as he possibly could have done in his speech. You will find little that he said that was not completely in line with documents such as Nostra Aetate, “Dialogue and Mission”, “Dialogue and Proclamation”, or even the recent CDF statement on Evangelisation.

Here are some snippets:

One of the oddest questions I get asked in interviews (and I get asked a lot of odd questions) is: is faith important to your politics? It’s like asking someone whether their health is important to them or their family. If you are someone ‘of faith’ it is the focal point of belief in your life. There is no conceivable way that it wouldn’t affect your politics.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that it is extreme to believe your religious faith is the only true faith. Most people of faith do that. It doesn’t stop them respecting those of a different faith or indeed of no faith. We should respect humanists too and celebrate the good actions they do. Faith is problematic when it becomes a way of denigrating those who do not share it, as somehow lesser human beings. Faith as a means of exclusion.

Reading the Dawkins book – The God Delusion – I am struck by how much the militant secularist and the religious extremist need each other. The God Delusion is a brilliant polemic but rests entirely – as does the more reasonable The Blind Watchmaker – on the view that those who believe in God believe in Him as a means of exclusion, as a frightening, irrational piece of superstition and mumbo-jumbo which then justifies the unjustifiable.

I could quote many other fine passages of his speech.

He wasn’t preaching a sermon–he was speaking to all people of goodwill (“people who have religious faith and those who have none”)–so you can’t expect him to have used “church speak”. There is a certain “diplomacy” that is appropriate for us to adopt as Christians in the public square. It has nothing to do with going “soft” or “flakey” and everything to do with being as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”, to quote Someone. In other words, if this was a “political” speech, it was political in that Blair was using every trick in the political manual to persuade as many of those who listened to him as possible.

And what he is trying to persuade us to do is so very important. Like it or not, the people’s of the world are divided by religion as much as by race or nation. I hope that you, like me, believe that the evangelising mission of the Church is our essential Christian calling. Learning the skills to co-exist in harmony with those of other religions (and none) is no enemy to this evangelising mission. In fact, I would say, the evangelising mission will not progress without it. The only way you can convert someone with whom you live in enmity is by force, and to seek conversions by such means is completely against God’s will.

So let’s give Brother Tony a fair go. I think his speech was a fine example of the way in which this new convert intends to live out his Catholic apostolate.


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