Daily Archives: October 22, 2010

“Progressive, rational, independent”… and wrong

Tony Smith (who “holds a PhD in political science. He has taught at several universities including the University of Sydney”), in the October 15 edition of Eureka Street writes a piece about the religious beliefs of New South Wales Premier, Kristina Keneally. I wouldn’t know Ms Keneally from Eve, so what I say here is no reflection on her. It is a reflection, rather of Dr Smith’s praise for a kind of “Catholicism” which has one main fault: it isn’t Catholic.

Dr Smith says that “Keneally’s faith makes an interesting study”. He contrasts her “Catholicism” with Tony Abbott’s “great enthusiasm for Catholic orthodoxy” (although, it should be said, for all that “enthusiasm”, Mr Abbot is no less of a politician than Ms Keneally). He writes that “by contrast Premier Keneally represents a growingly assertive Catholicism which might be described as progressive, rational and independent”.

So, what are these “progressive, rational and independant” beliefs? Let’s look at them (please note, I am commenting on Dr Smith’s assessment of what comprises “progressive, rational and independant” beliefs – I am not judging Ms Keneally’s faith):

1) “Keneally has stated plainly her belief that Catholic women should not be excluded from ordination.” Progressive? Depends what you mean by “progress”, I guess. Rational? Depends what your premises are. Independant? Independant of the Catholic Magisterium, that’s for sure.

2) “In explaining her decision to support a bill to remove anomalies from the Adoption Act so that same sex couples would be eligible to adopt, Keneally noted the importance of allowing all MPs a ‘conscience vote’. She described how her conscience was informed by Catholic teaching about the ‘primacy’ of conscience and the importance of actively developing the conscience.” Is the example here her ideas about “same sex adoption” or her ideas about what “primacy of conscience” might mean? If in regard to “same sex-adoption”, again it depends on what you call “progress” and what your premises are. In regard to “primacy of conscience” this isn’t an accurate application of the doctrine.

Dr Smith says that “Keneally has not compromised her religious faith”. Fair enough. But if what Dr Smith says is true, her witness to her faith cannot be held up as a shining example for Catholics to follow. (Not that I am saying that Mr Abbott’s example can be). It is possible to be “progressive, rational and independant” AND wrong at the same time.



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As if we needed proof…

…that our Western society cannot handle saints.

According to this report in the Herald Sun, Zoo Magazine (called a “men’s magazine” – which is even more insulting to men than calling “New Idea” a “women’s magazine”) has dealt with the canonisation of Mary MacKillop in the only way it can: by sexualisation and ridicule.

This tacky incident speaks volumes about how uncomfortable our society is with holiness. In Australian society, a common way to handle an uncomfortable situation is to make a joke of it. And a well known tactic of the devil (both inside and outside of the Church) to undermine both the holiness of the saints and the holiness of sex within the sacrament of marriage is to pervert both together at the same time.

As I see it, Zoo Magazine has just provided Exhibit A in the case against Western society. Whatever may be said for Islamic societies, you wouldn’t find anything like this there.


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Historian Cardinal

Monsignor (soon to be Cardinal) Walter Brandmueller

Among the new cardinals announced by Pope Benedict XVI for the November 24 consistory is a priest who is over 80 (and therefore not entitled to vote in a papal election), Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. This cannot be seen as anything other than a papal approval for Mons. Brandmuller’s historical work. I have read his book “Lights and Shadows: Church History among faith, facts and legend”, and can highly recommend it.


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I was a stranger and you welcomed me

I have been a little dismayed in the last 24 hours listening to the angry words of Woodside residents in South Australia reacting to the Federal Government’s announcement that disused military accomodation in the Adelaide Hills will be used as an on-shore assylum seeker detention and processing centre. I have been listening to the radio news, and haven’t found a lot of it in the print media, but you could see here, here and here for more information.

I can understand the Woodsiders’ frustration at lack of consultation. Apparently Julia Gillard was in Woodside recently, and entirely failed to mention any plans for the establishment of the centre. I can understand parents concerns that the children of the assylum seekers will be sent to the local schools. This isn’t an issue of racism, but an issue about a school system already overstretched. The local community is entitled to ask about extra funding and expansion of the schools to take an additional 200 students with very special needs. And I can also understand members of the community being angry about the fact that 10 million dollars will be spent on the centre, including 24/7 medical and dental services – when similar services for the locals exist only in their dreams.

All this I can understand, and all this reflects badly on the Federal government. But I have been deeply saddened to hear, in much of the rhetoric eminating from the public meeting at Woodside, such ugly words directed against the assylum seekers themselves. I had not thought that the “stop the boats” slogans had been quite so effective. I hope that the Christian community of Woodside and their pastors will be able to lead the community in general into a more welcoming embrace of the stranger.


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