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A Question of Social justice

I read this article (‘Teaching Social Justice’, September 28) and was so glad to see that someone was able to articulate my own very thoughts, something I have fallen short of for years. Well done Stephanie Thomas. 

Father Duncan was very Christian in his critique of those practicing piety without works; twenty five years ago I nearly cried when a group of Catholics told me that they were unable to help me with a needy person because they had to attend a weekday mass. I am trying still not to judge them.

I can tell you that for me “Faith without works is as dead as a body without breath.” James 2:26.  I always believed that we can make our whole life a prayer if we offer up whatever we are doing to God. Piety doesn’t require a bent knee or lowered eyes.

Patrick John O’Connor

Dalby Qld


Pell and married clergy

If Cardinal Pell has been correctly reported (‘No change under new Pope, cardinal predicts’, September 28), his comments are not only ignorant - but offensive not only to married Protestant and Anglican clergy but also to Eastern Orthodox parish clergy. 

Since the right of marriage was restored to priests of the Church of England when for better and worse it was separated from Rome, that Church has been greatly blessed by clergy families. Children of the clergy have been very prominent in English history and a large number of their sons have in turn become priests. That is still true today as is evident in my own Diocese of Sydney. That is significant. 

To say that the children of the clergy "often find it very difficult indeed" is simply nonsense.  Of course, some do but observing my Church from the inside for over 60 years, I think the opposite is true.  My present Rector, for example, has four outstanding older children, deeply committed to our Lord and to the Church, and he and his wife for some years took in three other children as well. Neither his marriage nor his family commitments have weakened his "pastoral effectiveness" in a large and thriving parish and, like other Anglican priests, I think his people expect from as much from him as is expected of Roman Catholic clergy.

There is a place in the Christian Church for single, "secular priests" (I myself am one), and for the special witness of the religious communities (the latter often today the greatest signs of hope in the Church), but one looks forward to the day when so much wonderful potential in Cardinal Pell's Church will be released and so many gifts of the Spirit able to be more effectively exercised through the ordaining of married as well as single men - and women.

John Bunyan

Campbelltown, NSW



I have to confess I am mystified by Cardinal Pell's belief that he is going to re-evangelise the world by political means. The history of the Church in the last four or five decades is not that the so-called liberals have taken over the institution and reduced it down to the position where only 15% of baptised Catholics on average in the Western world bother to practice their faith into adulthood.

The uncomfortable reality is that the conservative forces have been firmly in control of the Catholic Church's agenda for the entirety of the post Vatican II era.

At the beginning of this era between 40 and 50 percent of baptised Catholics practised their faith into adulthood. Today around 13% in Australia and around 15% internationally bother. Conservatives argue that this is because of the influence of the liberals or because people are sucked out of the Church by the attractions of consumerism and what they perceive to be the relativistic philosophies of the secular world.

There is another argument which is rarely considered. I submit the majority of people leave simply because the language used by the conservative hegemony that controls the Church today does not communicate the essential message of Jesus Christ in language that intersects with the vasty majority of people in the world today.

I communicate with a lot of young people and I fail to see the great hope that Cardinal Pell finds in a resurgence of conservatism amongst the young. Yes, 5% of the youthful population do exhibit the insecurity that leads them to want authority figures in their lives and the back-to-the-future sense of certitude provided by simple rules, formula and kindergarten level liturgy and rubric. The spiritual quest though is not like some set of instructions for building a piece of IKEA furniture. The vast majority of young people I come across are not attracted to those simplistic certitudes that appear to give so much hope to His Eminence.

One can assemble that 5% of the youthful population at the MCG, the Sydney Entertainment Centre, or internationally in a city like Cologne or Sydney and it gives the illusion that "all is well". The reality is that that exercise cannot be repeated week-in and week-out in every parish across the Western world, or even in every parish in Australia.

Essentially, I believe the Cardinal's problem is that he endeavours to present the faith and spirituality as something essentially no different to the political endeavour of supporting, or voting for, a conservative political party. Religion and spirituality, at its base, is not a political endeavour. Yet Pell seems to want to present it as some alternative political party to the Liberals, the ALP or the Greens. Most people are leaving the Church today because it presents the faith endeavour as some sort of simplistic quest for certitude and security. This conflicts with the lived and observable reality of life where it is only the deluded and the childish who believe there are simple answers to the complexities of life.

There is not enough space to expand on these arguments in a letter to the editor. Could I invite anyone who is interested to join an in-depth discussion on the OnLine Catholics' discussion board that seeks to dissect in detail, and generate a considered discussion, on this issue of the politicising of religion that is being encouraged by Cardinal Pell and those who think like him in the Church.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Scott


Darwin and Chardin

As Professor of Philosophy Max Charlesworth said (‘Darwin’s God’, September 28) it is regrettable that Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna has claimed that the theory of evolution is at odds with Catholic teaching most recently expounded by Pope John Paul II in 1996 and by Cardinal Ratzinger's Inrternational Theological Commission in 2004.  However, Professor Charleworth said, Schonborn's statement may provoke Catholic theologians to think seriously about the kind of God [so to speak] that is compatible with the theory of evolution [including the evolution of Homo Sapiens] by natural selection.  As the Professor said, it is one thing to BE the product of evolution; but it is another thing entirely to know that we are the product of evolution and that - very probably - we are the only beings in the entire universe who know this.  "We cannot assume - as Teilhard de Chardin does - that this shows that we humans are the goal or end-point of evolution."
Where did Pierre Teilhard SJ (1881-1955) "assume" that we humans are the "goal" or "end-point" of creation's evolution.  To cut a long story short - such is the primacy of Christ, as expounded especially by Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), that the Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is also the on-going centre point of the universe and of its history, which extends from the beginning or Alpha point [15 billion years ago?] to the end or Omega point of time.  It is Christ who has been informing the whole process and continues to do so.  Indeed, in "FORMA CHRISTI," written in 1918, Teilhard identified information as the word that comes nearest to describing the universal influx and influence of Jesus Christ, the ascending centre of the world.  In fact, since even before the Incarnation became an obvious fact with the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, the whole history of the universe has been that of its progressive information by Christ.
The "goal" or "end point" will be revealed as the perfect man (Eph.4:13) or total Christ - meaning all mankind and all creation finally centred on Christ and radiant with his glory.  Exactly when that will happen and what kind of people they will be are questions to which God alone has the answers. Certainly Teilhard did not see "we humans" - here and now - as the goal or end-point of the cosmic process.
Grahame Fallon


The long goodbye

With Heartfelt thanks I am indebted to you for the courage that you gave to the community of us all Online regarding the tragic loss of a life taken through the struggle to survive the human condition and the incomplete answers to where God is during this time (“From the Editor’s Desk”, September 28). 

Your tragedy I share and as four years or so have gone by now since a blood brother was to be so broken in spirit I wrestled long and hard not only with my faith but with the ultimate of humility what Job talks about in his own struggle with God as he too loses all that was familiar to him and called out to God with a response that still yet has not been clearly deciphered.

For myself I have looked to the past theologian Karl Rahner who, to me, summed up beautifully in his teachings on Death and Life after Death when he writes that death “is as an active consummation from within brought about by the person himself, a maturing self-realization which embodies the result of what a man has made of himself during life, the achievement of the total personal self-possession, a real effectuation of self, the fullness of freely produced personal reality”.

Rahner goes on to add that what life is really all about is the construction of a personal reality open to the infinite which we call God. All our life is an attempt to fashion this person we are meant to be and whose fullness is most completely expressed in our death.

I am sorry from the bottom of my heart that Steven, like my own relative of a very youthful age was unable due to the incompleteness of our democratic institutions to reach his full potential in his humanity, but what they together have both achieved as loving son's, brother's, uncle's, colleague's and friends is really who God is calling us to be and no more than that, and now Steven's together with my own relative's love is open to the infinite that Karl Rahner speaks about and so they both still live with us each hour of every day in a spirit of peace as each no longer struggles with what we could not provide for them in their loneliness of their final hours here on earth.

In Peace and Good Will

Kareen Squires   


In praise of McGirr

A quick note to say how much I appreciate OnLine Catholics.

I am writing at this stage to especially indicate my appreciation of Michael McGuir's piece in Issue 71. It was brilliant. I laughed a lot when reading it - both times - and when reading it out loud to a colleague as we traveled to Melbourne.

I thought of Michael further as we were on the Hume Highway. I was inspired to subscribe to OnLine Catholics because of Michael. He was the speaker at the Wangaratta Arts Council's Literacy Lunch this year, and I heard about your journal from his biog.

I very much relate to Michael's spirituality as expressed in his writing (not just OnLine Catholics). His piece this issue was so funny and witty and clever - and simply profound - like so much of his other writing. I look at all of the journal and read most of it. Max Charlesworth's piece and the other main sections were also of particular interest to me this issue. If I had to label myself I would probably have to say 'liberal Catholic Anglican'. I am certainly in need of good theological writing and keeping up with what is happening in the church.

So thank you for OnLine Catholics generally, and to Michael for his latest (and other) pieces. I will continue to enjoy my subscription I am sure.


Margaret Brickhill

Wangaratta, Vic

A Catholic University

Up to this point in time I thought that the intrusion of Notre Dame into Sydney was about a further erosion of Australia's once publicly funded tertiary education system; showing George Pell as a factional ally of the Howard government, and therefore revealing Notre Dame as more akin to such an institution as Bond, rather than to authentic Australian universities.

I also thought that Notre Dame was an institution more to George Pell's liking, in contrast to the legislative barriers presented to him at Australian Catholic University.

But thanks to Damien Gleeson's article (‘Notre Dame and Sydney’, September 21), I now know that Notre Dame is about "Catholicity" and how it will foster that tradition.

As Damien points out, what a rich tradition it is, such cultural impact! The publicity surrounding football matches between St's Joseph and Ignatious schools shows the Gospel effectiveness of such "Caholicity". The effect upon Sydney culture by alumni of "large Catholic institutions" is offered as another
reason why Notre Dame should be taken seriously. Tony Abbott will be pleased! Hmmm, the "Catholicity" of the powerful.

One of the many things which taint this ersatz educational institution is the whif of deception it wears so arrogantly. Notre Dame is about many things: narrow ideologies, politics, ecclesial intimidation and cultural hostility. It is not about humble beginnings, far from it as Damien Gleeson well knows. Media images of chortling PM and cardinal on the grounds at Broadway expose that lie. In writing such obfuscation, Damien Gleeson merely adds to the whif.

Mark Johnson

Blue Mountains, NSW


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