Monthly Archives: August 2010

Still Waiting for Government…

And for the latest, up-to-the-minute news on this question, try this website:


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“Descendant of Mary MacKillop”???

I don’t think so. Just a careless mistake on the part of the person who wrote the Media Release for the Catholic Education Office in the Diocese of Parramatta.


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Waiting for Government

Australian federal politics is in a bit of a “Waiting for Godot” situation at the moment, where we have a very unusual situation of a “hung parliament” (for the first time since 1940). I haven’t made any comment yet, because there has seemed to be little to comment about. But a few observations:

1) I know that in many parts of the world the system of election (contrary to our Westminster system) is one of proportional representation. We have a “kind” of proportional system in our Senate (which is why the Senate situation after the election is very different from that in our lower house), but I do prefer the fact that as our system currently stands, we actually get to vote for a particular person, rather than a particular party, to represent us in our local seats. This does help to keep politics local. For instance, I am very impressed with our sitting State MP, James Merlino, and this might very well lead to me voting for the Labor candidate for the first time in my life at the November election, even though I am not personally a supportor of the State Labor Party.

2) I am personally impressed with at least two of the independants who seem set to hold the balance of power, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. The former was on ABC TV Lateline last night and spoke very well, and the latter on QandA just before that and was also impressive. I had heard Windsor on the radio a couple of times just before the election and he seems a very decent bloke.

3) The success of a Greens candidate for the Seat of Melbourne and now 10 Green seats in the Senate is also a bit of a worry. It seems to me that the Green vote is largely a young vote (I might be wrong) and the general “trendiness” of voting Green without any in depth consideration of their overall policies. The Democrats used to say that they were in the Parliament to “Keep the Barstards Honest”, but the Greens were saying on the radio yesterday that their aim is to “Get RID of the Barstards”! Anyway, now that we finally will have a chance to see how the Greens really act in the government of this country, their supporters may get a bit of a reality check on them. We will wait and see.

4) There have been some pleasant surprises in this election, such as our youngest MP ever at the age of 20 being elected (shades of “Pitt the Younger”? Or, as Black Adder would have it: “Pitt the Embryo”?) and the possibility of our first Indigenous lower house MP in Hasluck – and a Liberal candidate at that! It would be a pity if, as looks likely, he in fact loses his very small current majority and fails in his bid for his seat.

5) Finally, I am a bit surprised at how things have panned out in the Senate for Victoria. An article in the paper yesterday listed the way in which the votes went initially before reshuffling the deck:

Labor 323,868
Liberal 181,099
Family First 85,916
DLP 71,544
Sex Party 71,244
Lib Dems 52,700
Shooters 42,160
Others 83,673

The high rating of the “Sex Party” is a real shocker. Was this just some sort of “dummy vote”? According to the article, after the first reshuffle, the votes went:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
Sex Party 152,028
DLP 102,630
Family First 99,967

On this breakdown, Senator Fielding misses out – but only narrowly – and the bulk of his votes go to the DLP. That makes the score:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
DLP 197,807
Sex Party 156,818

The Sex Party goes out, and its preferences go to Labor. But those of the Liberal Democrats now go to the DLP, making the score:

Labor 428,412
DLP 253,062
Liberal 230,710

Senator McGauran then goes out, and his preferences too go the DLP, making the final outcome:

DLP 478,556
Labor 433,628

I am happy for the DLP, that their candidate got up, but to see FF disappear from the list when it was the third highest polling party in the primary vote in favour of the Sex Party (which finally, thank God, got dropped in the process) was a real shame and is a real reminder about how unpredictable this whole process is, and how easy it is for a “dummy vote” to get skewed into a real life result.

I hate the current system where you have to fill out either a “1” only above the line or number all 60 sequentially below the line. I always fill out all the boxes below the line, because I want my preferences to go in the direction I want them too, not in the way the parties have predetermined. (I personally voted FF first, then DLP, then Liberal, then the rest in declining order). Why can’t we have the option of numbering all the parties in our own choice of preference ABOVE the line?

We are still waiting to see how this all pans out. If the Labor Party manages to hold on to both Hasluck and Denison, they could still – with the cooperation of the Green MP from Melbourne – have a very real chance (and probably just the slimmest “mandate”) to form goverment on the basis of having the most seats of any party in the House (but it would still only give them 75 seats, ie. exactly half, unless one of the three rural independants also supports a Gillard Government). In the meantime (with apologies to Samuel Beckett):

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Government.


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An interesting article in The Guardian

I don’t really have any comment to make about this article in The Guardian other than that it is interesting. I thought you might be interested too.


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“What about the Orthodox?”

I have just been listening to a number of podcasts from John Cleary’s Sunday Night program on ABC Radio National on the subject of “The Future of the Church”. It all got a little boring after a while (although I enjoyed listening to my Evangelical friend Prof. Brian Edgar trying to explain to the Catholic and the Anglican on one episode that it was “all about Christ” – I don’t think they quite got it…).

Then Christine sent through a link to this mob calling itself “The American Catholic Council”. They too are on about “the future of the Church”:

American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World. We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the “signs of the times”, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration. We educate; we listen; we facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we build toward an American Catholic Council at Pentecost 2011. At this Council we hope to proclaim our belief in the Rights and Responsibilities of US Catholics.

The idea that has been going through my head as I listen to all this is: “How Occidental this all is.” In other words, I wonder what would happen to all this blather if we just put our hand up and said: “Aren’t you forgetting about the Orthodox?”

Aidan Nichols knows what I am talking about and says it in the conclusion to his great “Rome and the Eastern Churches”.

Rome…not only desires but needs reunion with the Orthodox East. In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen (and churchwomen) in various portions of her far-flung “Western” patriarchate, from Santiago de Chile to Manila, from Melbourne to Detroit, Catholicism’s grasp of the historic Christian tradition can only be strengthened by the accession of Orthodoxy to communion with Rome. In such matters as the upholding of the transcendentality of revelation vis-a-vis human understanding; the defence of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine of the first seven councils; a perception of the nature of salvation as more than temporal alone; the maintenance of a classical liturgical life; the nourishment of group and personal devotion to Mary and the saints; the preservation of the threefold apostolic ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons (in that same gender in which the incarnate Word exercised his own high priesthood); the encouragement of the consecrated life, especially in its most basic form. monasticism; and the preservation of the ascetic dimension in spirituality, in all of these the present struggle of the papacy to uphold Catholic faith and practice in a worldwide communion exposed to a variety of intellectual and cultural influences often baleful, if some times also beneficent, can only benefit from Orthodox aid.

So next time you are in a conversation where someone is going on and on about how this or that should be done for the future of “our Church”, just stick your hand up and say: “What about the Orthodox?”


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News Just In: Michael Root becomes Catholic!

HT to Christine for this, who has just sent me the links.

Dr. Michael Root is a very well respected lay theologian who was Professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC, and Dean of that same institution from 2003 to 2009. He has been blogging about the current ELCA woes on “Lutherans Persisting”, which had not had an update since March this year (there is a certain irony in the title of that blog, btw). Michael has in fact visited this blog in the past (commenting on this post) and thus is in fact a honourary guest at our little table.

Anyway, to business. As the title of this blog has already proclaimed, now comes the news that Dr Michael is the latest leading American Lutheran theologian to dive into the Tiber and come up on the other side (unlike the Anglicans – who get a bridge to facilitate their and so get to stay “high and dry” – Lutherans still have to swim). Someone who knows him writes about it here. The same writer provides an excerpt from Dr Root’s statement to his Seminary faculty:

“On Monday I shared with the faculty the news that in the near future I will be received into the Catholic Church. I now wish to share that news with you. This action is not one that I take lightly. The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years. But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity.

This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.

No single issue has been decisive for me, but at the center of my reflection has been the question of how God’s grace engages the justified person and the church in the divine mission of salvation. How are we redeemed as the free and responsible agents God created us to be? Catholic theology speaks of God elevating the justified person and the church to participation in the divine life and mission, so that God grants the Christian and the church participation in God’s actions in a different way than Lutheran theology affirms. Catholic teachings do not follow from that vision with deductive force, but they do hang together with that vision in ways that I have come to find deeply convincing.”

I can deeply identify with the passage in this statement that I have highlighted. At the same time I am not quite sure what Dr Root means by the final sentence in the above statement (partly because I am not sure what “that vision” refers to). And I am sure that while Dr Root does not feel himself able to describe himself any longer as a “Lutheran” theologian, yet his very decision shows him to be and to remain a “theologian with honesty and integrity”. And, I would suspect, unless his experience is different from mine, he will remain in his own particular way, a Lutheran as well – with important distinction that he is now “a-Lutheran-in-communion-with-the-Bishop-of-Rome” as we say here on SCE!

In any case, welcome Michael to the Catholic Church. I think this calls for the whisky bottle, rather than the port…

[In the meantime, a warning to other Lutherans out there: if you don’t want to end up Catholic like Michael and I and others reading this ‘ere blog have, then DON’T (whatever you do) actually do any serious study of what the Catholic Church teaches and why she teaches it. That path has only one conclusion for a “theologian with honesty and integrity”.]


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Dear Friends

You are invited to an important book launch of  A NEW WINE & FRESH SKINS: Ecclesial Movements in the Church, writeen by Bishop Julian Porteous

7 September
4.30pm until 6pm

Australian Catholic University campus,
St. Patrick’s Campus,
115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy

To be launched by Steve Lawrence, Director, Identity & Mission,
Australian Catholic University, Melbourne,

Rsvp –

Information about the book click here.

Comments Off on Book Launch of A NEW WINE & FRESH SKINS

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Mr Collins conjures up Banquo’s Ghost at the Voting Table

Well, here’s a novel attempt at negative politics: Public-Commentator-For-Ever Mr Paul Collins, writing in Eureka Street (“Abbott and Santamaria’s undemocratic Catholicism”), attempts to conjure up the ancient spectre of B.A. Santamaria to discredit our Opposition Leader (and aspiring PM) Tony Abbott.

As Gerard Henderson’s reply to this article (“Defending Abott and Santamaria”) shows, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in Collins’ argument.

Basically, it goes like this:

1) Mr Abbott is a self-declared disciple of B.A. Santamaria
2) B.A. Santamaria was an “integralist”
3) “Integralism” was an authoritarian political ideology that sought to impose a narrow interpretation of Catholicism upon citizens’ freedom of conscience
4) It was therefore just like Italian Fascism

Umm… As the Bard wrote: “Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!” (The Scottish Play: Act 3, Scene 4)

[Post Script: Actually, the funniest bit in Collins’ piece is the very last paragraph, where he writes:

I am not claiming that Abbott consciously follows Santamaria’s integralism. But there is always the danger of osmosis, of absorbing attitudes without realising it. If I were a politician — or an archbishop — I’d want to put considerable distance between myself and the most divisive man in the history of Australian Catholicism.

Perhaps Mr Collins thinks that Mr Abbott has been sleeping with a copy of the works of B.A. Santamaria under his pillow!]


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Eamon Duffy in The Tablet on the Pope on the Liturgy…

I highlighted a little while back our Tracey’s article on Pope Benedict in The Tablet. Well, this time they have Eamon Duffy (he of “The Stripping of the Altars” fame) writing on Pope Benedict’s attitude toward the liturgy.

Much of it is purely descriptive, rather than evaluative, such as this paragraph:

Clearly, these opinions place the Pope as a theologian at right angles to a good deal that is most characteristic of the post-conciliar liturgy. We now have a Pope profoundly unhappy about much of what goes on in our parish churches Sunday by Sunday. In his view, the liturgy is meant to still and calm human activity, to allow God to be God, to quiet our chatter in favour of attention to the Word of God and in adoration and communion with the self-gift of the Word incarnate. The call for active participation and instant accessibility seem to him to have dumbed down the mystery we celebrate, and left us with a banal inadequate language (and music) of prayer. The “active participation” in the liturgy for which Vatican II called, he argues, emphatically does not mean participation in many acts. Rather, it means a deeper entry by everyone present into the one great action of the liturgy, its only real action, which is Christ’s self-giving on the Cross. For Ratzinger we can best enter into the action of the Mass by a recollected silence, and by traditional gestures of self-offering and adoration – the Sign of the Cross, folded hands, reverent kneeling.

In this passage, one gets the feeling (from the way Duffy has worded the passage) that he agrees with Ratzinger on this emphasis.

Only at the very end do we get a slight attempt at an evaluation of Pope Benedict’s liturgical path:

It is Pope Benedict’s hope that the free celebration of the old Mass will help reconcile to the wider Church many of those who view Vatican II with deep suspicion. It is possible, however, to sympathise with many of the Pope’s liturgical instincts and preferences, while fearing that his gesture, and the manner of its making, will be read by many as a sign of his own reservations about the work of the Council, and thereby help entrench such reservations at the heart of the Church’s worship.


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“In Persona Christi” in 2 Corinthians 2:10

Marcu Grodi often talks about the “Verses I never Saw” in Scripture when he was a protestant. I could make my own list, and if I did, I would have to include a passage that Fr John Fleming referred to in a homily on the weekend.

Fr John was preaching at a solem mass for the celebration of the silver anniversary of ordination of a good friend of mine, and his topic was naturally the priesthood (although, of course, being the the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, this also was included in the homily). He used a number of biblical passages to illustrate the doctrine of the priesthood. I can’t just for now remember all of them, but one of them was 2 Corinthians 2:10.

In the RSV, this passage reads:

“10 Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

Naturally, therefore, without consulting the Greek text, this verse would not necessarily leap out at one as being about the priesthood. But Fr John pointed out that that Greek text says that St Paul forgave sins “en prosopo Christou”.

“Prosopon” in Greek literally means “face”. In the Trinitarian debates of the 4th Century, the Greeks used it to translate Tertullian’s use of the latin term “persona” for what we now commonly refer to as “the Persons” of the Holy Trinity. Working the other way, when Jerome translated made his new Latin translation of the bible, he used “persona” to translate “prosopon” in 2 Corinthians 2:10, thus making the text read:

“10 cui autem aliquid donatis et ego nam et ego quod donavi si quid donavi propter vos in persona Christi 11 ut non circumveniamur a Satana non enim ignoramus cogitationes eius”

. In English translations, both the Douay-Rheims and the King James Bible follow suit in translating “en prosopo Christou” as “in the person of Christ.”

As you can see, this certainly lends strong support to the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood (cf. CCC p1548 quoting 24 Pius XII, Mediator Dei: “Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).)

However, let us just pause for a moment and ask: did Paul mean what we mean today when we say “in persona Christi”? You might well ask “Who can tell?”, but we have more to go on than that. One interesting fact to note is that our modern use of the word “person” derives directly from the use of that latin word during the Trinitarian controversies of the 4th Century previously alluded to. Before those discussions, “persona” literally meant “a mask”; it was a word that came out of the dramatic arts, where actors used masks of the “faces” of the characters they were depicting.

This means that in the original pre-4th Century use, the latin “persona” meant roughly the same as the Greek “prosopon”, namely “face”. I don’t know of any English translation of 2 Cor 2:10 that speaks of Paul forgiving sins “in the face of Christ”, but this is literally what is meant by the passage. In Hebrew, the very common phrase “lipne adonai” literally meant to be “in the face of the Lord”, that is, in his presence (as in Psalm 95:6 – where Jerome translates “ante faciem Domini”). It seemeth to this humble commentator that Paul is using the exact same Hebraism translated into Greek: “in the face of Christ” meaning “before his face” or “in his presence” – hence the RSV translation and that of most modern English bibles, Catholic and Protestant. (Nb. the one thing mitigating against this argument is that the Greek Septuagint usually translates “lipne adonai” as “enantion kuriou”/”over against or opposite the Lord” rather than the literal “en prosopo kyriou”). Interesting that Martin Luther (himself an OT and Hebrew scholar) translated the passage as “es vergeben um euretwillen vor Christi Angesicht“, which is literally “before the face of Christ”.

What is the upshot of all this? It is interesting that Jerome does not use the noun “persona” anywhere else in his translation of the New Testament (and only incidentally in three places in the Old Testment). I believe that by translating “prosopon” as “persona” he was very deliberately using the new meaning that the word “prosopon” had aquired in the previous century – but which it did not have prior to this nor in the time of St Paul. (Unfortunately I don’t have available to me any text of the Vetus Latina used prior to the Vulgate. It would be enlightening to see how 2 Cor 2:10 was translated there.)

Does that mean that Fr Fleming was wrong in his exegesis of this passage in relation to the priesthood? No, not at all – for the doctrine is still very much there even if we translate the phrase “in the presence of Christ”. For to claim to forgive sins “in the face of Christ” certainly carries the objective meaning that Paul believed himself to be forgiving sins with the full authority of Christ and acting in Christ’s stead. It is the equivalent of Jesus’ own promise to St Peter that “whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”, ie. if you forgive someone’s sins on earth, they will be loosed in the presence of God as well. What we see in Jerome’s translation, and in the later western understanding of this text in general (and it is worth noting that in his homilies on 2 Corinthians, the Eastern Church father, St John Chrysostom does not give the phrase “en prosopo Christou” the weight of “in persona Christi”), is a legitimate plumbing of the depths of Paul’s statement within the life of the Church and under the guidance of the Holy Spirt, even though it is not directly apparent on the surface reading of the text.

No wonder I had missed it in the past!


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