Daily Archives: November 24, 2009

On Interfaith Dialogue

You might be interested in this discussion on the Catholica forum with Dr Elmer and Brian Coyne on Interfaith Dialogue and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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An Unfortunate Situation in Benedigo

The news is that Bishop Joe Grech of Sandhurst has reconsidered his original offer to the local Anglicans of the use of St Kilian’s for their upcoming ordinations while their own Cathedral is unsafe for use.

I think all readers will agree that it is an unfortunate situtation, especially as the offer had already been made and had to be withdrawn. Nevertheless we will also agree that it was the right decision to make. To have gone ahead with the planned ceremony would simply have caused even more hurt and confusion.

That being said, I would like to point out that Bishop Grech – in originally making the offer of the use of a Catholic church building to the Anglicans in their time of need – was simply acting in accordance with the protocols of the DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM, which states:

137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

He was also acting in accord with an ecumenical protocol to which the Catholic Church in Australia is a signatory, namely, the National Council of Churches in Australia agreement “Australian Churches Covenanting Together”. This “Covenant” contains a number of clauses, and the member churches of the NCCA (which includes, through the Bishops Conference, all dioceses of the Catholic Church in Australia) had the option of signing up to those clauses to which they could assent.

The clause in question is “Dimension Two” of “Part B” which reads:

b. Shared Use of Physical Resources
We AGREE together to support initiatives for sharing physical resources, such as buildings, and to encourage consultation between the appropriate governing bodies of our churches before new major developments are undertaken

This clause has been agreed to by the following:

Anglican Church of Australia
Assyrian Church of the East
Churches of Christ in Australia
Congregational Federation of Australia
Coptic Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Lutheran Church of Australia
Religious Society of Friends
Roman Catholic Church in Australia
The Salvation Army
Uniting Church in Australia

There is certainly precedent in other parts of Australia, where non-Catholic Christian communities have used Catholic churches for worship with the permission of the local bishop when they have not had a building of their own to use.

What are the provisos? None are spelled out either in the Covenant or in the Ecumenical Directory, except that the latter says:

140. Before making plans for a shared building [or by extension, I guess, sharing a building], the authorities of the communities concerned should first reach agreement as to how their various disciplines will be observed, particularly in regard to the sacraments [my emphasis].

The fact that the sacraments are singled out for mention is significant. One could not imagine there being any problem with another community such as the Anglicans using our church buildings for baptism or marriages (or funeralsfor that matter), because we recognise the validity of these sacraments in the Anglican Church. Problems would arise however with those protestant sacraments whose validity we do not recognise: namely confirmations or ordinations, and perhaps even the Eucharist.

I guess the proviso therefore is that nothing take place in the Catholic building which could reasonably be supposed to give scandal to the Catholic faithful. And, in the current climate, an ordination ceremony involving women held in a Catholic church would definitely cause a great deal of misunderstanding.

I think that St Paul’s advice about eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor 8 ) would have to come in to play here.


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“Deviant Message” of the Twilight Series?

According to this report, Monsignor Franco Perazzolo of the Pontifical Council of Culture has said that the film of Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon “is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern.”

I wonder if Mons. Perazzolo has read the books? Cathy and I haven’t seen the film yet (any offers of baby sitters?), so we can’t comment on the “moral vacuum” of the cinematic adaption, but to desribe the books as “a moral vacuum” would be to overlook the very positive marriage and pro-life message that Ms Meyer has incorporated into her novels – albeit in a very unusual manner. Many critics have in fact commented on the very strict (Mormon?) morals that come through her writing. Is it perhaps just the fact that the film has vampires and werewolves in it that bothers the good Monsignor?


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Jesus’ death certificate on the Shroud of Turin?

Well. This is something.

Dr Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican secret archives, said “I think I have managed to read the burial certificate of Jesus the Nazarene, or Jesus of Nazareth.” She said that she had reconstructed it from fragments of Greek, Hebrew and Latin writing imprinted on the cloth together with the image of the crucified man.

The text supposedly reads:

“In the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Jesus the Nazarene, taken down in the early evening after having been condemned to death by a Roman judge because he was found guilty by a Hebrew authority, is hereby sent for burial with the obligation of being consigned to his family only after one full year”. It ends “signed by” but the signature has not survived.

I never knew about this “writing” on the Shroud. How amazing – if Dr Frale is right.


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An interesting Anglo-Catholic blog

I received an email from Bishop Louis Campese of the Anglican Church in America, alerting me to this blog which might be of interest to some readers: http://www.theanglocatholic.com/

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Dr Ian Elmer replies

Over on the Catholica forum, Dr Ian Elmer has replied to my earlier criticism:

Hi David,
Thanks for your reponse. It is always good to hear from someone who is willing to discuss issues without resorting to personal, anti-intellectual comments. So I will ignore your final paragrah…LOL!

I would like to make a couple of points. First, I would challenge the implied distinction between prophets and priests. To suggest that the impulse towards reform was merely a prophetic one belies the fact that most of the prophets were either priests or functionaries of the Temple. Isaiah and Ezekel were both priests. Hosea was also connected to the Temple in some fashion. Jeremiah was one of the architects of the Josian reform. Moreover they were all men. In short, the prophets who were the most vocal in their defense of monotheism and the Temple cult were part of the emerging male-dominated priestly or aristocratic elite.

Secondly, recognising that much of the emerging cultus in the years leading up to the Exile served the agenda of such men does not equate with wanting to restore the age-old pagan belief in a female deity; and it is certainly not out of any “misguided feministic concern” that I raise the issue. It is merely one of historical interest, and it served to introduce for discussion the question of orthodoxy with which I ended the commentary.

I’m sure you would agee with Rahner’s observations about the salvific effect of faith regradless of the level of orthodoxy therein – something which nuns at my old convent school regularly pointed out by telling us that the Protestants would get to heaven before us because the were blessedly ignorant of the true faith and, therefore, could not be held accountable for their misguided actions.

I suspect that you have missed the point – although you did recognize the fact that monotheism developed in ancient Israel. I would, however, point out that the persistence of asherah worship was not confined Canaanite folk religion, as you say, but was also pervasive throughout Israelite folk religion – which brings me back to my first point. The “Book” religion propagated by prophets, priests and kings represented the educated, literate, male elite and not the folk religion of the masses; which is as true today in Catholicism as it was then in the YHWH cult of ancient Israel.



Ian, like Kyle in the comments on the previous post, has correctly pointed out that I “missed the point” of his essay, which is, essentially, that ““Book” religion propagated by prophets, priests and kings represented the educated, literate, male elite and not the folk religion of the masses; which is as true today in Catholicism as it was then in the YHWH cult of ancient Israel.”

But I still object to the way in which the suggestion is that because later Israelite orthodoxy was driven by an “educated, literate, male elite” (which is, as Kyle points out, a pejorative way of putting it to say the least) its value as authentic and authoritative revelation is, for some reason, to be questioned.

I am reminded of Richard Dawkins’ comment that “the book of Genesis, after all, was not written by any philosopher or scientist of any great wisdom. The book of Genesis was written by tribesmen who had no privileged information at all.”

For Dawkins – who, like Dr Elmer, is a member of an “educated, literate, male, elite” – the fact that Genesis was written by “tribesmen who had no privileged information” (a point which itself is seriously to be questioned) is a reason for not taking the Genesis stories seriously. Dawkins and Elmer may be using different standards, but they are using the same method to question the authenticity of the Scriptures as authoritative revelation.

Which brings me to ask another question: Why, by either Dawkins’ or Elmer’s standards, should we accept the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as authentic and authoritative revelation?

After all, a good case can be made either for the fact that Jesus was a peasant “who had no privileged information” OR for the fact that Jesus was a member of a “educated, literate, male” who was (if we take his mother’s side of the family) was also a member of the priestly clan centred on Jerusalem. On this last point it is interesting to note, as an aside, that though Jesus critiqued both the Pharisees and the priests, he was, in a way, a member of both.

In any case, why should Jesus be taken any more seriously than the author of Genesis or the authors of the later Jewish scriptures?

The answer, as we all know, is because Jesus was “sent by the Father” and his words are “Spirit and Truth”. In other words, as the Gospel of John testifies with its lists of witnesses to Jesus, Jesus had authority to teach in the name of his Father.

For the same reason, the apostles – who were either, depending on who you are talking about, illiterate fisherman (eg. Peter) or Jerusalem educated literary elites (eg. Paul) – also taught authoritatively because they were sent by Christ who was sent by the Father and were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

By extension, today’s ecclesiastical magisterium (who, I think, are the real targets of Elmer’s critique) are also an “educated, elite, literate, male, priestly” class (although some of them had their origins in tribal and peasant communities too!). But does this in any way invalidate the authenticity of their teaching? Certainly not. The only question that matters is: are they authorised to teach their “orthodoxy” in the name of God?


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