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The celibacy tradition

In the Synopsis of Cardinal Pell's 'Intervention' (“The celibacy tradition”, October 19) the sentence that stood out for me was, "The recent sexual scandals have not invalidated these gains".

I am sure it suits Pell, and others, to have us believe 'sexual scandals' are unusual and merely 'recent' in the life of our Church. Certainly, the scandals are much more publicised these days, thank Goodness, but some religious and priests were masturbating boys in the 1930s. 

Can we believe some were not doing something similar throughout the 1900-odd years before?

Best wishes

Bill Dowsley


Should one remind Cardinal Pell of the etymological derivation of the word "liturgy"? It is the contraction of "people's work" in Greek (to tou laou ergon). The people referred to are the lay people. Thus the laity is the original celebrant and it is incorrect to state that lay people can only perform para-lturgical services.

Wolfgang L Grichting


I liked Dr Kinkel’s article (“The celibacy tradition”, October 19). As you know, celibacy had more to do with money than with holiness. Foreign priest, who gave church money and property to their families, were stopped by celibacy, while Italian Popes and Bishops who gave church money and property to their families, were expected to, and were celebrated with one of those Italian expressions (which I had forgotten to write down ) that says exactly that. 

If the church allows priest to marry, the church income will suffer financially, and thus so would its worldly power. More than one American bishop has asked "do you want us to go back to the immigrant church?” - which I interpret as going back to the "poor church".

So rich has our church become, that when the clergy steals church money, it is usually not detected for some time. In fact, it is usually because of something else the cleric has done, that triggers the audit that discovers the theft.

As you point out, the bishops don't seem to know church history or is it that the bishops do not choose to know church history?

Good article!

John Gibson

Bronxville, New York 


Dr R. John Kinkel, in responding to Cardinal Pell's intervention at the synod, leaves a few blind spots in his own argument for married clergy. It may be true; given the accepted definition of historical periods that mandatory celibacy is not ancient. Although whether we call it so is neither here nor there and adds or detracts nothing from the substance of one’s argument.

Dr Kinkel rightly observes that until the 12th Century married clergy was the norm. He also rightly points out that some of the apostles themselves were married. What he seems to ignore (perhaps deliberately) is that upon receiving the call from Christ, the apostles are told to leave everything behind (wife and family included) and follow him. Any careful reading of this account in the Gospel clearly spells this out. I issue Dr Kinkel's advice to bishops back to him and commentators on bishops' statements: read your bibles!!

Dr Kinkel proceeds to give a series of ‘what if’ scenarios in which he presumptuously claims to know what the outcome would be if each were followed. I did not realise fortune telling was a Christian gift. Dr Kinkel is in no position to predict what such results would be just as much as I am in no position to comment in the same way.

Finally then, acknowledging that an argument cannot be based on futuristic presumptions, but only on past and present facts, I issue a challenge to Dr Kinkel to look critically at the shortage of priests and its remedies. Men like Cardinal Pell in Sydney are doing well with seminary numbers growing (albeit not fast enough to solve the problem but still growing). Obviously he is doing something right.

Comparatively look at a place like Maitland-Newcastle. Here the bishop has alternate policies (such as advocating married clergy) and what is happening in this diocese: vocations are drying up. Similar comparisons can be drawn worldwide. Based upon current facts (no futuristic presumptions here), which approach seems to work? Cardinal Pell ought to be congratulated and supported in his good work, not criticised!

Luke Makaritis
North Lambton, NSW  


The answer to Dr Kinkel’s "WHAT IF"s is simple.

It's the Church of England.

For a sociologist to ignore such abundant evidence is alarming.

All of his suggestions to help the Catholic Church have been tried and found wanting.

Compared to the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church is "the New Jerusalem on high."

If there are "Catholics", like Dr. Kinkel, who apparently don't believe the Church's teaching on the matters he referred to is guided by the Holy Spirit, then why not be "led by the Spirit" and become Anglicans.  Let The R.C. die.

But unfortunately for him, as Vatican II teaches, it is the "one true Church of Jesus Christ."

John Corcoran

Flagstaff, AZ


Some comment on R. John Kinkel’s swipe at Catholic teaching on contraception last issue. Implying how much better the Church would be, Kinkel asks ‘what if’ the pope had allowed artificial birth control in 1966 and, indeed, had apologized for the Church’s ‘mistake’ in condemning it in 1930.

The 1930 condemnation was Pius XI’s Casti Connubii, a response to the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops which overthrew two thousand years of Christian tradition by permitting contraception, at the discretion of married couples. Up until that time no Christian denomination sanctioned artificial birth control.

A dissenting bishop, Bishop Brent, said that as a consequence contraception would be allowed for any reason and the decision would give way to selfish rationalization. How prescient he proved to be. The poet T.S. Eliot commented: “The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized, but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in waiting its collapse.”

Aldous Huxley’s reaction was to write Brave New World as a parody of the new contraceptive society and the Church which permitted it.

By the 1960s, following the discovery of ‘the pill’, the Catholic Church was under tremendous pressure to fall into line with the other Christian denominations which had followed the Anglicans. As journalist Malcolm Muggeridge observed, “new theologies had been devised, modern moral insights had been elaborated, weasel words had been floated, issues had been side-stepped, and committees had been appointed to look into the matter – all sure signs of an attack on truth”. For Muggeridge, and many others, the overthrowing of the expectations of many by Paul VI with Humanae Vitae was a sure sign of divine guidance in the Church.

In 1959 American author Flannery O’Connor described the Church’s stand on birth control as “the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands”, and added “with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease”. Muggeridge later developed this idea saying that in a materialistic society, sex becomes the new religion, its mysticism: ‘in the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word; with its own mysteries – this is my birth pill; swallow it in remembrance of me! – and its own sacred texts and scriptures – the erotica which fall like black atomic rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, stupefying us.”

Yours truly,

Peter Dolan

Lambton, NSW


The catholic university

John Fleming (“What is a Catholic university”, October 19) gets a bit carried away with himself when he defines what a catholic university should be. He speaks of "complete fidelity to the teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church" as if that is in every respect consistent with the open pursuit of knowledge.

History tells us otherwise. Surely we are entitled to be questioning and probing - not sycophantic and gullible.

As a Catholic and taxpayer I would be most uncomfortable about public funds being allocated to the type of institution that Fleming espouses. I don't think there is a place for religious conversion and evangelisation to be at the heart of a publicly funded institution of learning. The Church may think itself clever by gleaning public funds for this type of activity. I rather would call it misguided zealotry and an abuse of the public purse.

 Why not let honest searching be the touchstone, with each word of equal value. Why do we always have to be defining Catholicism in ways that exclude and build barriers?

Terry Fewtrell



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