Daily Archives: April 2, 2009

Culpable Ignorance does not equal Discrimination

The story by Barney Zwartz in today’s edition of The Age about the “discrimination” in the Australian Catholic School system against Eastern Rite Catholics deserves some comment.

The story is not quite “hot off the press”, as it was several weeks ago that the Bishops and leaders representing the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in Australia held their joint meeting in Sydney.

They have a legitimate complaint. Due to ignorance – indeed, culpable ignorance – the particular spiritual needs and distinctives of many Eastern Rite Catholic school children are failing to be met in the Australian Catholic School system. We should not be surprised at this. Catholics – even Catholic school teachers – are often no better informed about their faith than the man in the street, and the man in the street thinks that all Catholics are ROMAN Catholics. The Catholic Churches in Australia, whose leadership is still predominantly descended from their Irish Catholic forebears, have often been monocultural in their outlook.

But at the risk of angering my good friends in the Ukrainian Church in Australia, I think it is necessary to point out that culpable ignorance is not the same thing as active discrimination.

Even in Barney’s summation of the issue, you have to go right to the last paragraph before you actually find out how the “discrimination” is manifesting itself. There we are told that:

[Some] Clergy refused communion to children who were entitled to receive it. There were many attempts to confirm children who had already been confirmed [ie. Chrismated as infants], and schools treated the prayer rope as a piece of jewellery and forbade students to wear them. [To be fair, that last one has happened with regard to rosary’s in my daughter’s school too!]

What this shows is ignorance, not discrimination. Who is to blame for the ignorance? Well, who is responsibile for the education of clergy and teachers?

But to ask another question, we have to look at where this story surfaced. Who gave the Eastern Rite leaders a forum in which to make their justified complaint against this ignorance (although the complaint was mistakenly aimed at “discrimination”)? None other than our friend, the editor of the Catholica Australia, Mr Brian Coyne. In fact, did Barney talk directly to Dr Andrew Kania, Fr Olexander Kenez, Fr Brian Kelty or Bishop Peter? The only source Barney cites is Mr Coyne:

Catholica editor Brian Coyne told The Age there was strong tension between the Eastern churches and the Vatican over perceptions that Eastern Rite churches were treated as second-class Catholics, and particularly over delays to a decision to appoint a Ukrainian patriarch.

The Vatican? I found nothing in the original complaint of the Sydney meeting that the Vatican was to blame for this “discrimination”. What’s going on here? Why has Brian – our local opponent of all that is traditional and conservative in the Church – suddenly become the defender of a group of Catholic Churches who are MORE (not LESS) traditional and conservative in their practice of the faith than modern western Catholicism?

Let me take a stab at it. Is it perhaps a case of “Any stick will do when you want to beat the dog”?

And while we’re at it, here is a banner advertisement currently running on the home page of Catholica. Be amused. Or not.


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