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Issues for Church and Society in Australia.
Aquinas Academy diamond jubilee lectures
Society of St Paul, 2006.

comment by Kevin Bates, sm

Sixty-one years ago, Dr Austin Woodbury began a school of philosophy, the Aquinas Academy, at Church Hill, in Sydney.  Over these years, the Academy has nourished the intellectual and spiritual life of thousands of people.  It has changed shape and direction to meet the changing needs of society and the church, and is engaged in that process still.   Under its present Director, Father Michael Whelan sm, it celebrated its 60th anniversary in good style.  A key part of this celebration was a series of jubilee lectures, which have now been published as a book, Issues for Church and Society in Australia

Contributors include Professor James Franklin, Professor of Mathematics at NSW University, and author; Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney; Fr Gerard Hall sm, Senior Lecturer in Theology at Australian Catholic University in Brisbane; Fr John Thornhill sm, internationally known for his theological writing; Esther de Wal from the UK, a well-credentialed author and speaker on the rule of St Benedict; Fr Tom Ryan sm, theologian based in Brisbane; Fr Andrew Murray sm, lecturer in Philosophy at the Catholic Institute in Sydney and Fr Michael Whelan sm.

Their papers cover reflections on the philosophical forces at work in today's society and Church, changing theologies of Christian mission, democracy in the Church, genetics and our future, living creatively in today's Church, and John Thornhill's masterly reflection on the history and outcomes of the Second Vatican Council.

I recommend it to you as an  excellent reflective read.  It may stimulate your own reflections, and even your own hope as we all seek to re-imagine our life and mission. 

Fr Kevin Bates SM spent six years, 1993-1999, at Aquinas Academy, as director, during a period when it was starting to re-think its shape and direction as the long era of Father Allan Connors' contribution was coming to a close.

The Aquinas Academy website also announces the visit of two eminent overseas guests later this year:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, will be the guest of the Academy, late August and early September.  The Cardinal will give three separate public addresses: one in Brisbane, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr will be in Australia, also as the guest of the Academy, in October-November.  His schedule is:  Brisbane, Monday, October 30 - Wednesday November 1; Sydney, Friday, November 3, - Wednesday, November 8; Melbourne, Friday, November 10 – Sunday, November 12.


The Friendship of Women
The Hidden Tradition of the Bible
by Joan D. Chittister
Independent Publishers Group

The Friendship of Women is about lessons on friendship and love from the great women of the Bible. Looking deeply into biblical stories of female friendships in order to extract greater truths, this compelling work explores the sacred dimension of friendship through the lenses of faith, tradition, and scripture, revealing the often-overlooked voices and experiences of women in the Old and New Testaments. Recovering and reclaiming the witness and wisdom of such women as Lydia, Prisca, Phoebe, Martha, Deborah, Esther, Rachel, Ruth, Veronica, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary Magdalene, and drawing a highly inspiring message from each of these women's lives, the book embraces friendship as it is embodied by women, between God and all of creation, and between all human beings.

"For Joan Chittister, defiance is a form of obedience. And silence in the face of injustice is a sin." — USA Today

Sr Joan Chittister OSB is an internationally known writer and lecturer, and the executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research centre for contemporary spirituality. She is the past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. She is the author of In the Heart of the Temple, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, and Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. She lives in Erie, Pennsylvania.


Expressions of Mercy
Brisbane’s Mater Hospitals 1906 – 2006
by Helen Gregory
UQ Press, 2006.

Expressions of Mercy, written by Brisbane historian Helen Gregory, tells the story of the Mater Hospitals’ growth, over 100 years, from a 20 bed private hospital to a world-class health institution with seven hospitals and a research institute.

Expressions of Mercy tells the story of a remarkable group of women, the Sisters of Mercy, and their quest to provide high quality, public and private health care for the people of Queensland,” says Mater Health Services CEO Dr John O’Donnell.  “Their journey throughout the last 100 years is filled with tales of hardship, success stories and above all, sheer determination as a small group of women built a Queensland health care icon from the ground up.  It also highlights the impact the Mater has had on our community.”

Expressions of Mercy and the “Mater 100” stories project are integral to the hospitals’ centenary celebrations. The ‘100 Stories’ is a ‘spin-off’ project that offers past and present Mater patients, staff and supporters, the opportunity to submit their own ‘Mater Story’, to be considered for an anthology of 100 stories to be published late in  2006.  Submissions for the Mater ‘100 Stories’ Project will close on July 31, 2006. Stories can be submitted via www.exceptional.org.au  All stories received will be displayed on the Mater website for the duration of the project.

Expressions of Mercy is available from Mary Ryan’s Bookstore or the University of Queensland Bookshop or by mail order by calling the Mater Foundation on (07) 3840 8000.  (paperback $30; hard cover $45)


Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes
The Catholic Church’s 2000-year paper trail of sexual abuse
by Thomas P. Doyle, A.W.R. Sipe and Patrick J. Wall
Volt Press

reviewed by Bill Frogameni for The National Catholic Reporter

Since exposure of clerical sex abuse reached critical mass in 2002, Catholic leaders have sometimes defended their mishandling of the problem by claiming insufficient knowledge. Publicly, some bishops said they didn’t understand that paedophilia is incurable; thus the attempts to “rehabilitate” abusive clerics, then shift them from assignment to  assignment.

Fr Thomas Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall have co-authored a book that asks, “What did [the Catholic  hierarchy] know, and when did they know it?” The answer, the authors emphatically proclaim, is “in a nutshell ... all about it and all along.”   (full review)


Jewish Belief and Practice in Nineteenth Century America
Seminal Essays by Outstanding Pulpit Rabbis of the Era
edited by Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel


Islamic disputes with other faiths, intelligent design or science, evangelical and liberal Bible interpretation – these are not only the topics capturing today’s headlines, but are also those of leading 19th century rabbis like Max Lilienthal and Liebman Adler.

The thoughtful and engaging oratory and polemical writings of leading 19th century rabbis are collected in a new anthology, Jewish Belief and Practice in Nineteenth Century America: Seminal Essays by Outstanding Pulpit Rabbis of the Era, edited with an introduction by Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel. The volume is one in an ongoing series of Judaica books issued by McFarland, a leading publisher of scholarly and nonfiction books.  The book contains 18 selections written between 1856 and 1900 by 11 rabbis, including Max Lilienthal, James K. Gutheim, Isidor Kalisch, Frederick de Sola Mendes, Isaac Mayer Wise, Bernhard Felsenthal, Alexander Kohut, Gustav Gottheil, Joseph Krauskopf, Liebman Adler and Adolph Moses.  The publisher is welcoming interested readers to order the book directly from them at www.mcfarlandpub.com.


Mirrors of the Unseen
Journeys in Iran
by James Elliot

reviewed by Isobel Alexander

… Jason Elliot’s brilliant new book about Iran, Mirrors of the Unseen… tells the story of two parallel journeys to Iran. The first is from top to bottom of the modern country, from its classical showpieces – the ancient cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Mashhad – to the crowded streets of the capital Tehran (a city now as large as London). Elliot is the perfect guide: admiring without losing his sense of perspective, patient, above all endlessly curious. His evident charm, intelligence and good humour stand him in good stead time and again…This is classic travel book territory, and Elliot is not afraid to follow some of the conventions of the genre. But what marks him out is that he handles those conventions with modesty, wit and real assurance…

Mirrors of the Unseen, however, also tells the story of a second journey: a philosophical enquiry into the connections between the intellectual life of the East and that of the West.  Some of this is presented as a meditation, set against the background of the architectural masterpieces of Isfahan, on the question of whether Islamic art has a deeper meaning beyond decoration…

Elliot’s conclusions are not startling, but they are nonetheless important. His Iran is ancient and civilised, yet enfeebled by centuries of venal internal misrule and malignant external meddling. His Iranians are humorous and charming, but also stubborn and nationalistic. His Iran is maddening, but impossible not to love. Above all, his Iran is a country which has not yet lost its soul. Those policymakers in the West struggling to understand Iran would do well to bear that in mind, and to read this book with care.   (full review, The Tablet, May 6)


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