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Greater transparency will evolve the Church

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Frank Brennan |  23 May 2012

Keynote Address, Sandhurst Catholic Education Conference 

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, the Jaara people, and pay respect to their elders, past and present. We commit to working alongside Aboriginal people for reconciliation and justice.

Eight years I was here when your beloved Joe Grech had been your bishop for just three years. He was still fresh and full of energy. He was yet to show his compassion and commitment to refugees and asylum seekers which became his national contribution to the life of the Australian Church and society. Today I am with you in company with your new bishop Les Tomlinson and I join with you in praying that he will have a long, fresh and energised time as Bishop of Sandhurst.

2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and the Strike for State Aid in Goulburn NSW in July 1962, both very significant events in the development of Catholic Education. We are invited to take these days to reimagine our mission on our pilgrimage of faith. Thanks for doing me the honour of opening the proceedings.

Catholic education and social justice

In the wake of the Gonski Review coming 50 years after the Goulburn Strike, I will offer only two observations on school funding, asking that there be a fair go for all children no matter what class of school their parents might choose for them.

First, I am one of those Australians who is not helped when told by one protagonist of an argument that funding is inequitable when one makes reference to the funds provided by only one level of government. In a federation like Australia, the equity of funding arrangements can be judged only by considering the taxpayer funding received from all levels of government.

Second, funding arrangements need to take in to account the heavy lifting done by different schools and networks of schools in providing education services to the neediest students including those with acute learning difficulties and those from families where parents have both few resources and little motivation for providing for the education of their children. There is much talk at the moment about residualisation of some state schools which are left to do the heavy lifting especially for children who just do not fit anywhere else in the education system. Schools which perform this heavy lifting deserve a higher level of funding. I make no attempt to quantify what that level should be.

When I studied philosophy more than 30 years ago, the guru on justice was Harvard professor John Rawls who wrote a book A Theory of Justice. He was in the social contract mould, proposing a simple thought experiment. Imagine everyone is placed behind a veil of ignorance where they do not know what their attributes, interests or place in society will be. In this Original Position, people would then choose a list of suitable arrangements to which they would be bound or to which they would voluntarily comply. Everyone would be entitled to the same list of basic liberties. The key offices in society would be open to everyone without discrimination. The unequal distribution of goods and opportunities would be justified in so far as it assisted the worst off in society to be better off than they would have been if no unequal distribution were permitted. For 30 years, social philosophers made their mark by agreeing or disagreeing with Rawls.

The philosopher Amatya Sen who won the Nobel Peace Prize for Economics recently published a book The Idea of Justice. He gives a simple example of three children and a flute. Bob is very poor and would like to have the flute because he has nothing else to play with. Carla made the flute and wants to keep it. Anne is the only one of the three children who knows how to play the flute and she plays it beautifully bringing pleasure to all who hear her. Who has the best claim on the flute? Sen tells us that the economic egalitarian would give it to Bob. The libertarian would insist that Carla retain the fruits of her labour. Most Australians without a second thought would simply assert, 'Carla made it; it's hers; the rest should stop complaining; if they want a flute they should make their own!' The utilitarian hedonist would give it to Anne. Fortunately we have more than one flute to appropriate for education in Australia. The resources are divisible. What are the relevant considerations when it comes to distributing the education dollar? Education for the poorest? Education for those who would most profit by it? Education for those who can afford it? These are real tensions for all of us making judgments on formulae for the allocation of scarce education resources.

Vatican II and Catholic education 50 years on

In 2004 when addressing the Sandhurst Diocesan Education Conference, I asked, 'What Do Our Students Rightly Ask of Us, the Church who are Many Parts, One Body?' I gave nine answers:

  1. Take us beyond our comfort zones
  2. Help us to count our blessings without feeling guilty
  3. Assure us that the balance holds
  4. Trust us and teach us to form and inform our consciences as we decide how to act, how to relate, and how to love
  5. Inspire us and console us that there is such a thing as truth
  6. Provide us with the tools to critique our society
  7. Invite us to participate in a Church that speaks to us of life, love, mystery, suffering, death and hope
  8. Teach us to engage in respectful dialogue in our Church and in our society
  9. Put everything in the context of love

I think our students are still asking the same things of us. Back then I copped a little flak from some of our church leaders for daring to insist on the need for teachers to trust their students and to teach them to form and inform their consciences and to their consciences be true. Just as it is too simplistic to equate following one's conscience with doing what one feels like, so it is too simplistic to equate it with doing what Father, the Bishops or the Holy Father has to say. I am quite unapologetic in according primacy to the formed and informed conscience of the individual. Any Catholic taking their faith and church membership seriously will be very attentive to the teaching office of the hierarchy, especially the Pope. But at the end of the day, all of us, whether lay or cleric will have to act according to our conscience before God.

In the last month, the Canadian and US Bishops Conferences have issued lengthy pastoral letters on freedom of conscience and religion. Suffice to say, bishops cannot lecture to governments about freedom of conscience unless they also concede to the laity the same freedom within the Church. The Canadian bishops have neatly summarised the challenge to parents and teachers re-imagining the mission of the Church 50 years after Vatican II. They say:

Families and schools are the primary places of formation where young people receive a correct understanding of what is entailed in the right to freedom of conscience and religion. Parents and educators have an especially important task to fulfill in forming the consciences of the next generation in respect for their brothers and sisters of different religions. Their constant challenge is to develop in children a conscience that is truly upright and free: one that can choose what is truly good and right and thus reject what is evil. They have the duty of helping young people conform their conscience to the truth of the moral law and to live in conformity with that truth.

Among the human and Christian virtues acquired in the family, certain ones in particular prepare today's youth to resist the attacks on freedom of conscience that they will inevitably encounter: courage, justice, prudence, and perseverance. This formative work also entails forming citizens ready to call to account any person or institution that would intrude upon their right to freedom of conscience or religion.

My parish

On Sunday I was so bold as to announce to the parishioners in Canberra where I say mass regularly that I would be addressing you in Sandhurst today on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. I asked their advice. Being north of the Murray, many of them did not know where Sandhurst was so I explained that I would be coming to Bendigo.

The overwhelming reaction of the parishioners was one of delight and thanks that they had the opportunity to speak their minds in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance which is the Church. Some thought I was being brave in allowing people to speak their minds. It does not take courage, only trust that the Spirit is alive and active amongst the People of God. Let me share with you some of their thoughts.

  1. Sometimes I think the laity have just been too lazy, not taking up the challenges and opportunities. Other times, I think the clergy have been too anxious to hang on to power and control. 50 years on, maybe this is the action of the Spirit as we move backwards and forwards with this movement.
  2. Being a Catholic primary school principal, I know that primary schools are the face of the modern Church. Everyone wants their children educated at a Catholic primary school. Our schools are bursting at the seams. But the parents don't necessarily want to be involved with the Church. There are none of our children here at the regular parish mass. But their parents will be delighted to turn up in droves for first communion and confirmation. The problem is that we are not able to make the liturgy relevant to them. We have a confirmation mass coming up and we are not even allowed to change the reading of the day even though it talks about sex and things that have no relevance to the children.
  3. My concern is with our young people. They have lost their way. The church is not there for them. Our liturgies are too boring for young people. I and most of my siblings still go to mass. But none of my four children do. I am a good parent. Liturgies can be inspirational for young people, and more liturgies should be directed at them.
  4. The Church must not let the government take over all the welfare services telling us how to do things. Some things we know best how to do. The churches should co-operate more together to help those in need.
  5. In 1988, our then archbishop made a commitment to reconciliation and we have celebrated Reconciliation Sunday ever since. This has been a great boost for the diocese. How welcome for us to be asked. A church with no room for Bishop Bill Morris or Paul Collins is hardly going to be able to fulfil the mission of today's gospel: 'Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation.' Rather than Vatican II, I think we risk going back to Vatican I.
  6. It is time for the women to stand up, and it is time for women to be given their rightful place in the Church. Other Churches have done it. Why can't we? The Church's position and treatment of women is now counter-cultural and has no theological explanation. When the priests are running out, why don't we women take part? Do they think we are not good enough?
  7. The new translation of the mass is a disgrace. It's a wonder that any of us still come.
  8. My daughter in law is REC at a large Catholic school. She swears like a trooper, hardly goes to mass, and has more spirituality than any one else I know. Why can't we just let them find God in their own way?
  9. We might have read the Vatican II documents when they came out but we haven't really looked at them since. I remember a priest telling us that it would be like the new grass growing. It would first be cut down but then it would shoot again. I guess after 50 years we are just at the stage of the grass being cut down for the first time. We'll have to wait and see what grows back.

Looking back 50 years

In 1962, I moved from the Brigidine Convent at Indooroopilly in Brisbane to St Joseph's College, Nudgee Junior, under the care of the Christian Brothers. I was an impressionable eight-year-old and was in grade 3. I well recall one of the brothers taking the class up to the top floor of the school. We gathered outside the chapel in front of the large portrait of our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Brother told us that there were very significant events occurring in Rome. Pope John had convened a Vatican Council. We were instructed to pray for all the bishops because this council would affect the future of the church. I have no real recollection of the prayers we offered, and thus am not in a position to say whether or not they were answered. But like you, I know that things have changed very significantly in the Church and in the world since that group of eight-year-old boys offered prayer and supplication.

50 years on, we gather to celebrate as Catholics, confident that the gifts of the Spirit will assist us in proclaiming the Good News to each other, to our fellow believers, and to our fellow citizens no matter what their religious beliefs or none. Let's recall that it was the week of Christian Unity in 1959 when John XXIII gathered with a small selection of his cardinals in the Benedictine chapterhouse beside the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he said, 'I am prompted to open my mind and heart to you, because of this feast of the Conversion of St Paul. I want to tell you frankly about several points of planned pastoral activity which have emerged in my thoughts because of my brief three months here within these church circles in Rome. In doing so, I am thinking of the care of the souls of the faithful in these modern times.'

The great historian of Vatican II from the 'Bologna School', Giuseppe Alberigo, recalls that Roncalli upon election as Pope and on choosing the name John emphasised his commitment to being a good pastor consistent with Jesus' discourse in John 10 on the Good Shepherd. Roncalli said, 'The other human qualities — knowledge, shrewdness, diplomatic tact, organisational abilities — can help the Pope to carry out his office, but they can in no way substitute for his task as a pastor'.

There at St Pauls Outside the Walls, the new Pope said:

I am saddened when people forget the place of God in their lives and pursue earthly goods, as though they were an end in themselves. I think, in fact, that this blind pursuit of the things of this world emerges from the power of darkness, not from the light of the Gospels, and it is enabled by modern technology. All of this weakens the energy of the spirit and generally leads to divisions, spiritual decline, and moral failure. As a priest, and now as the shepherd of the Church, I am troubled and aroused by this tendency in modern life and this makes me determined to recall certain ancient practices of the church in order to stem the tide of this decline. Throughout the history of the Church, such renewal has always yielded wonderful results. It produces greater clarity of thought, solidarity of religious unity, and abundant spiritual riches in people's lives.

Then 'trembling with a bit of emotion', he announced his intention to hold a diocesan Synod for Rome, and an ecumenical Council of the universal Church, as well as an aggiornamento (bringing up to date) of the code of Canon Law. He thought such initiatives would not only produce 'great enlightenment for all Christian people' but also 'a renewed invitation to our separated sisters and brothers so that all may follow us in their search for unity and grace.' What's happened to our ecumenical spirit?

He spoke of 'bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the Gospel'. And this is the invitation to you, the Church of Sandhurst, fifty years on.

John O'Malley SJ, the finest contemporary historian of Vatican II writing in the English language has provided us with 'a simple litany' of the changes in church style indicated by the council's vocabulary: 'from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to conversation, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical and top-down to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from static to changing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from prescriptive to principled, from defiant to open-ended, from behaviour modification to conversion of heart, from the dictates of law to the dictates of conscience, from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of holiness.'

I am one who welcomes these changes. I am not one of those Catholics so wedded to the continuity of the tradition as to think that nothing happened at Vatican II, and that we should be back to business as usual as we were when those eight year old boys gathered with the Christian Brother around the portrait of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

Contemporary faith

Most of you who are parents or grandparents wonder how any practice of the Faith is to be handed on credibly to your children and grandchildren. You know that the younger generations are more impressed by actions than by words, and that talk of justice rings hollow with them unless there are structures in place to ensure justice is done, and that talk of God's love rings false unless it is lived through deeds and witnessed by a real sense of transcendence and respect for every person's human dignity elevating the believer above the materialism and power of the world. If our faith is to be handed on to the coming generations, we need to be sure that we the Church are not an obstacle but rather a bridge for bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel.

The Czech theologian Tomas Halik sees the Church as the community and the institution which helps to instill a person's original, untested, unreflective faith. It is also the privileged space for the person whose original faith is shaken by life to come to a 'second wind faith' which is at home with paradox, engaged with the world, and accepting of inevitable Church shortcomings. The crisis and severance of faith can have various causes: 'It can be some traumatic disillusionment with those who imparted to us our original faith, or it can be a private drama, in which our original trust and certainties are eclipsed, or just simply a change of circumstances and 'mental climate'.' Teilhard de Chardin thought Christianity was in its infancy. Many contemporary thinkers assert that it is obsolete and its time has expired. Halik thinks both may be mistaken. 'Maybe our Christianity is actually going through its midlife crisis — a time of lethargy and drowsiness.'

Halik quotes Joseph Ratzinger's conversation with the journalist Peter Seewald published under the title 'God and the World'. The present Pope holds that faith is not like some mathematical formula that can be rationally demonstrated apart from the experiment of life: 'The truth of Jesus' word cannot be tested in terms of theory. The truth of what God says here involves the whole person, the experiment of life. It can only become clear for me if I truly give myself up to the will of God. This will of the creator is not something foreign to me, something external, but is the basis of my own being.' Halik posits God himself placing the 'metaphysical disquiet' of the need to seek meaning within the human heart. God responds to this questioning with His Revelation. We then respond in faith with an act of trust and self-surrender 'to that divine sharing, the Word, wherein God gives Himself.'

Halik is not one for the certainties of the Catechism or the latest Vatican declaration. The certainty of doctrine and submissiveness to religious authority are no substitute for facing the hard reality of true religious experience. This well connected cleric in good Vatican standing proclaims, 'The religion that is now disappearing has tried to eliminate paradoxes from our experience of reality; the faith we are maturing toward, a paschal faith, teaches us to live with paradoxes.'

Hope, paradox and reconciliation

In Spe Salvi, his last encyclical, Pope Benedict says: 'Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.'

Just two weeks ago, I was travelling around the Catholic parish of Khompong Thom in Cambodia in company with the parish priest, Thai Jesuit Fr Jub Phoktavi, and Director of UCAN News, Australian Jesuit Fr Michael Kelly. As we drove through the village of Prek Sbeuv, Jub matter-of-factly pointed to Pol Pot's old house. It is an unremarkable house, and if tourists happened to be this far off the beaten track they would have little idea that this was the residence of one of the world's greatest war criminals. I thought back to 1987 when I met a Khmer leader in the Site Two refugee camp on the Thai Cambodian border. I asked him if he could ever imagine a return to government in Cambodia. He looked very sad as he told me how the Khmer Rouge had killed most of his immediate family. He could not trust the Khmer Rouge again. I had the sense that he would find it hard to trust any of his fellow Cambodians ever again in rebuilding his nation from such ruins. Reconciliation was a fashionable textbook concept. Twenty five years later, there is a certain routine to life in Cambodia, though poverty in the villages is widespread and government corruption legendary. The previous evening I had been asked to address a multi-faith group of NGO and Church workers on faith, justice and public policy.

What could I, a Catholic priest from Australia, say about such matters in a largely Buddhist country devastated by genocide? Whether Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim, faith is about my having, owning and reflecting on a belief system which allows me to live fully with the paradoxes and conflicts of life and death, good and evil, beauty and suffering. It is only fundamentalists who are able to live as if these paradoxes are not real, as if they do not impinge on our sense of self and on our considered actions every day.

By embracing these paradoxes and confronting these conflicts, the person of faith whether inspired by Jesus, Mohammed, or Buddha is able to live an engaged life of faith. I am able to commit myself to others, in love and in justice. I am able to be open to reconciling, or at least being reconciled to, the previously irreconcilable. I am able to accord dignity to all others in the human family, no matter what their distinguishing marks, and regardless of their competencies, achievements or potentialities. I am able to surrender myself to that which is beyond what I know through my senses. I am able to commit myself to the stewardship of all creation.

Some guideposts for re-imagining the mission

We need to foster our contemporary sense of the transcendent and openness to the other, the world and culture which are not all bad. We need to be attentive to the arts and culture, open to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and mutual learning.

We need to be credible in agitating for justice and dignity for all, espousing not just equality and non-discrimination, but also the common good and the public interest, with a particular eye to the voiceless and those whose claims on us do not enjoy fad status.

We need to celebrate liturgy which animates us for life and mission — being faithful to the routine of life including weekly Eucharist and daily prayer, being sufficiently educated in our faith and familiar with liturgy to celebrate the big events and sacramental moments of life, attentive to our local cultural reality and part of a universal Church which both incorporates and transcends all cultures. The clunky new translation provides us all with a real challenge, particularly when celebrating marriages and funerals when very few in the congregation know the responses.

Given the shortage of priests and religious in the contemporary Australian church as compared with the situation 50 years ago, we need to provide more resources and opportunities to the laity wanting to perform the mission in Christ's name — lay organisations, public juridic persons, volunteering, better structured opportunities for part time commitment to the apostolate, and provision by religious orders for young people wanting to make a commitment for a few years before marriage and life and work in civic service. The greatest challenge is providing a place in the Church for young women wanting to contribute to the mission. When I stood at that portrait of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour 50 years ago, there were almost 15,000 women religious in the Australian Church. Today there are less than 6,000 and their median age is 74. Only 6% of them are under 50. When I joined the Jesuits in 1975, almost half the women religious were aged under 50.

I caused alarm with some of my fellow Jesuits last year when I gave an interview to The Good Weekend saying: 'I wouldn't be a priest if I was 21 today. I am one of the last generations of Irish Catholics whose families made it professionally and were comfortable with the church. I love being a Jesuit but I can't honestly say I would join now. My religious faith has remained rock solid, but there are times when I feel really cheesed off with the institutional church, which sometimes treats its lay members and non-members in a too-patronising fashion.' From here on, it is essential that you the laity affirm and live out the reality that you are the hands, feet, heart, and mind of Christ in the contemporary world and in the contemporary Church. And you need to encourage your children to consider the call to priesthood and, given the later age of marrying and the longer life expectancy, to consider dedicating a couple of years to full time church service before marriage and again after retirement from full time paid employment.

We need to reform our church structures to be more aligned with contemporary notions of justice and due process. While preparing this address, I came across a blog reporting on the dismissal this week of Bishop Francesco Micciché from Sicily who is said to have misappropriated diocesan funds. He claims not to have had access to the report of the Vatican visitation which inquired into his financial transactions. The blog reported that another bishop had been 'toowoombed'. In the case Bishop Morris from Toowoomba, we know there was absolutely no suggestion of financial or other impropriety. A year ago, the Australian bishops told us: 'We appreciate that Bishop Morris' human qualities were never in question; nor is there any doubt about the contribution he has made to the life of the Church in Toowoomba and beyond. The Pope's decision was not a denial of the personal and pastoral gifts that Bishop Morris has brought to the episcopal ministry. ... We are hopeful that Bishop Morris will continue to serve the Church in other ways in the years ahead.'

When Bishop Morris went to Rome to meet in person with the Cardinal Leaders of the three relevant Congregations (Cardinals Re, Arinze and Levada), with Archbishop Philip Wilson present in support on 19 January 2008, Cardinal Re wrote:

Bishop Morris is a person of integrity in morals, a man of good will and other gifts. He can continue to do much good, but the right role for him is not that of Diocesan Bishop of Toowoomba.

He should be given another assignment, with special duties. With this in mind, the Holy Father asks the Metropolitan Archbishop of Brisbane and the President of the ACBC to help find the most appropriate responsibility in which Bishop Morris can continue to effectively serve the Church elsewhere in Australia, while obviously being assured of financial security for a suitable living.

Now that a new Archbishop has been appointed in Brisbane and a new bishop appointed in Toowoomba, let's hope that Bishop Morris might be given an appropriate episcopal task to which to dedicate his splendid pastoral gifts.

The process for dealing with Bishop Morris has been a disgrace. The people of Toowoomba still don't know why he was sacked, and we are all still waiting for a public credible explanation of the reasons for his dismissal. Are we really to believe that it was for having the temerity to point out that people overseas are talking about women's ordination? Fr Jack Mahoney SJ, a former principal of Heythrop College and author of the highly acclaimed The Making of Moral Theology: A Study of the Roman Catholic Theology, has just published a new book Christianity in Evolution in which he says things like: 'Dispensing with the idea that Christian priesthood involves ordaining a man to act 'in the person of Christ' by offering his atoning sacrifice to God removes whatever ground there was for restricting ordination to the priesthood to men and for excluding women.' One of the most respected pastoral theologians in the English Church is Professor Nicholas Lash from Cambridge. He writes in a recent issue of The Tablet: 'When, for example, Pope John Paul II announced that the Church had no authority to ordain women to the presbyterate, and that the matter was not to be further discussed, two questions immediately came to mind: first, how does he know? (that is to say: what were the warrants, historical and doctrinal, for his assertion?); secondly, what theological note should be attached to his assertion? In view of the fact that, so far as I know, the question has never, in the Church's history, come up for serious and close consideration, that note cannot be very high up the scale. From which it follows that his further instruction that we must not discuss it lacks good grounds.' All Bishop Morris said in his pastoral letter of 2006 was that people overseas were talking about this sort of thing. They were, they are, and they will be. So why the need to sack not the theological agitators but the occasional pastoral bishop who merely points out that these things are being discussed? These issues are being discussed by people who love the Church and care passionately for its future.

You will recall that the Vatican appointed the American Archbishop Charles Chaput to conduct the formal visitation of the Toowoomba Diocese. Bishop Morris remains adamant that Chaput never shared with him the proposed contents of his report. Archbishop Chaput is adamant that he did. Five months after Chaput submitted his report, Morris was presented with an unsigned list of grievances from the Vatican. Seeking a way forward in charity and in truth, on 4 April 2012, I told ABC Radio National:

So from here in order to clear the air one thing that would be possible is Archbishop Chaput could provide Bishop Morris with the detail of what he says he discussed with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba and specifically, he would be able to provide a list of the matters of concern and we would be able to see whether they tallied with the matters that were then listed in the unsigned, anonymous document of September of 2007.

The specific list of allegations included amongst other things a demonstrably false statement namely that no priests had been ordained in the last eight years. Well four had been ordained. It also contained the false statement that deacons were being used to replace priests. There were no deacons in the diocese. Now there is no way that Chaput could have provided that information so after the Vatican had Chaput's report they were still proceeding with a list of allegations against Morris which were inaccurate and therefore could not have been drawn from Chaput's report.

Bishop Morris did write at considerable length to Archbishop Chaput, and in a highly respectful and fraternal tone. On 16 April 2012, Archbishop Chaput responded. To be fair to Chaput, I will quote his breath taking response in full:

Bishop Morris, your imagination is in 'over-drive'. I did share everything with you. I did not keep any notes after sending the report to Rome. How would I — or anyone — ever respond to your questions from memory? You are involved in an exercise of self-justification that is obscuring the truth and good reason. I will pray for you.

This is what still passes for due process and pastoral care in the Roman Church. As Christ's faithful we have to insist on something better. And with greater transparency, we will get something better. Of course, we must continue to show due deference and respect to our bishops, our shepherds, but when they abuse even their own like this, we should ask for better, in Christ's name.

As Catholics, we accept that the Pope ultimately has full authority to appoint, transfer or dismiss bishops. Therefore any person recommending an appointment, transfer or dismissal to the Pope is obliged to act in a manner such that the ultimate action of the Pope could not be or be seen to be capricious, arbitrary, or prejudiced. Any person recommending a dismissal must accord due process and natural justice; otherwise their denial of same will infect the Pope's action. Why could Archbishop Chaput not simply have reviewed his report, repeating to Morris the key points, especially given that he claims to have already shared everything? Why would he not do what he could to refresh Bishop Morris's memory, bringing satisfaction to all those concerned that Morris has been denied natural justice?

Pope Benedict commenced his encyclical Caritas in Veritate with the words:

Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.

Charity in truth should also be the principal driving force behind all dealings with each other within our Church. If only we were more committed to charity and truth, we the members of Christ's faithful would be able to be more trusting of Vatican moves in relation to Bishop Morris, in relation to the women religious in the USA, in relation to the Girl Scouts in the USA, and in relation to theological training in the Church in Ireland. If only we were more committed to charity and truth, we would have been so much better in confronting the horror of child sexual abuse within our Church. Fr Kevin Dillon from Geelong recently asked, 'If Christ was lying in this Church bleeding, would we say, 'Can we afford to heal him?' Well, Christ is in this church, bleeding. Not from wounds inflicted from Roman soldiers but from wounds inflicted from within. Victims first; true justice; genuine compassion.'

Conclusion

If we as the People of God rejoicing in the name 'Catholic' are to bring the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel, we need to ensure that our Church is an exemplar of the noblest values espoused by people of all faiths and none. We need to recommit ourselves to charity, justice and truth both within our own structures when dealing with each other, and in all our dealings with those outside the membership of our Church, especially those who differ with us conscientiously about the moral challenges of the Age. We need to examine afresh our belief in 'a love or compassion which is unconditional — that is, not based on what you the recipient have made of yourself — or as one based on what you are most profoundly, a being in the image of God'. The Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor sums up the challenge as 'a difficult discernment, trying to see what in modern culture reflects its furthering of the Gospel, and what (in modern culture reflects) its refusal of the transcendent'. Thus exercised, we might bring even the young into engagement 'with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel'.

Re-imagining our mission amongst the young in our care, let's take to heart Pope Benedict's observations in Spe Salvi:

We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is 'truly' life.

If we offer our students anything less, they will be rightly disappointed by a Church they perceive to be marked by hollow rhetoric, empty sacramentality, and authoritarian tradition. As teachers and pastors to the young, I invite you to be bold and confident in proclaiming the love in your hearts, the hope in each other, and the faith in our Church. Thanks for your witness and commitment thus far. I hope and pray that you will be energised during these days together so that you might 'go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation.'


 

Frank BrennanText is from Fr Frank Brennan SJ's address 'Re-imagining the Mission — A Pilgrimage of Faith Catholic Education Sandhurst Conference 2012: A Pilgrimage of Faith, presented 24 May 2012 at Catholic College Bendigo.

 


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Submitted comments

Yes Frank "Faith is the hypostasis of things Hoped for; the proof of things not seen".

Myra 24 May 2012

Frank Brennan is a courageous, good man. His championing of the dubious, unjust dismissal of Bishop Bill Morris must be a thorn in the side of the hierarchy. However, he is a beacon of light to we disillusioned laity who love our faith.

Gerardine Grace 25 May 2012

Father Brennan's article requests the theological note attached to the magisterium's exclusion of women from the Catholic Priesthood. Such uncertainty,'dubium', had a transparent 'responsum' from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith way back in October 1995: "Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith. Responsum: Affirmative. This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith."

Father John Michael George 25 May 2012

Can you believe the deceitful and patronising words of Archbishop Chaput to Bishop Morris,Thanks Frank for bringing that letter into the open.

Maureen Stewart 25 May 2012

After reading this long address I am persuaded that the Catholic church has people who know just what the best option would be on playing that "flute".

Pam 25 May 2012

A superb address, Frank. With our Church in such a sad and down-ward spiral at present, prophetic reflections such as yours keep we more faint-hearted and disillusioned members hanging on to the thread of hope of eventual renewal. Not in our lifetime though, sadly...

Helen H 25 May 2012

Maybe we are moving to a new church where Catholic education, maybe attendance at mass at Easter and Christmas is the norm, with the laity trying to live their lives within the truth of Jesus's words, while the institutional church maintains its insular, self serving position.

George Miller 25 May 2012

Teilhard de Chardin thought Christianity was in its infancy. Many contemporary thinkers assert that it is obsolete and its time has expired. Halik thinks both may be mistaken. 'Maybe our Christianity is actually going through its midlife crisis — a time of lethargy and drowsiness.'
**********
Everything evolves, even Religion.
Perhaps the crisis Christianity is going through is a Crisis of Identity. The first community, as depicted in Acts 2:44-46 was a grassroots Doomsday Jewish sect, known as "Followers of the Way", and showing no intention of splitting from Judaism.
With the stoning of Stephen, a persecution forced them to flee, and they spread their beliefs to the Gentiles, who adopted their communal life of Love and Compassion, but combined it with their own traditions.
Eventually The Way became the official religion of the Roman Empire, which added its own status,
structures and authority, and Christianity (as it was then called), became the religion of Europe.
In the meantime, Science was beginning to realise that God governed the Universe with Constant and Universal Laws. Hence some of the Church traditions need to be re-interpteted.
This is the cause of most of the present crisis in the Church.

Robert Liddy 25 May 2012

Dear Frank your incisive comment is indeed worthy of reflection. In your address you said: “You know that the younger generations are more impressed by actions than by words, and that talk of justice rings hollow with them unless there are structures in place to ensure justice is done, and that talk of God's love rings false unless it is lived through deeds and witnessed by a real sense of transcendence and respect for every person's human dignity elevating the believer above the materialism and power of the world. If our faith is to be handed on to the coming generations, we need to be sure that we the Church are not an obstacle but rather a bridge for bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel.” That comment is so truthful, blunt and real that all of us (particularly the laity who are parents) must reflect on your comments daily. We must hand on our faith that is relevant, just and loving. I believe that it is up to the laity to restore the message of the Gospels. The bishops, cardinals and sadly the last two popes have lost touch with the laity. Secrecy, injustice and a complete lack of respect now dominate conversation. Discord, arrogance and disdain now perpetrate the messages from the Church’s hierarchy (e.g. Archbishop’s Chaput response to Bishop Bill Morris’ respectful communication). Argumentum ad baculum is the preferred manner of discourse. There seems to be a contest amongst the Church’s hierarchy as to who can be the more abrasive, the more disdainful, the more adversarial. Unfortunately your comments, Frank, reflect what is happening with our church. The people of God are not dills; they see the unbridled power and wealth of the bishops and cardinals. They have little respect for these people as they have seen injustices within the church especially the sexual abuse of our children and the lack of transparent fair process. They despair and most leave. As one of your parishioners reflected “A church with no room for Bishop Bill Morris or Paul Collins is hardly going to be able to fulfil the mission of today's gospel: 'Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation.'” Frank, your comments give me great hope and a definite way forward. I am in awe of your courage and clarity of vision.

Patrick Nunan 25 May 2012

Robert, John Paul II in his book 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope' states: God created man as a rational and free, thereby placing Himself under man's judgement.The history of salvation is also the history of man's continual judgement of God. Not only of man's questions and doubts but of his actual Judgement of God. In part the Old Testament Book of Job is the paradigm of this judgement. There is also the intervention of the evil spirit, who with ever greater shrewdness than man, would judge not only man but God's actions in human history- this too is continued in the Book of Job.

Myra 25 May 2012

all very interesting....

could Bob Liddy contact Peter Norden.

No more to say!

Peter Norden 25 May 2012

Courageous and brilliant, Frank.
You are a true Jesuit, challenging all that is anti-gospel within our institutional church and being a voice for the voiceless, a life-line for the ostracised, a support for the down-trodden and a Light-giver to those who are afraid of the crippling darkness generated by the corruption of uncontrolled power. Bill Morris and the myriad of others who have been rejected and ostracised by this 'power', are ideally situated in the footsteps of Jesus for the Spirit to use them to lovingly lead the People of God so that they will be energised,transformed and transfigured into the fullness of Christ.

Sr Diana Law sgs 25 May 2012

I think, Frank, that one of the problems with the contemporary Catholic Church is that there are some prelates and clerics who want to return it to "the good old days" of the 1950s when the laity were expected to be silent and take orders from above. Those days are long past. No intelligent cleric, from the Pope down, would, I think, wish Catholics to be mindless automatons. Your emphasis on engendering moral, thinking Christians who are both spiritually literate and able to exercise their consciences in real life is what Christ himself did. This modern age, with far fewer priests, is one in which I think we need to follow the ideas of the late Michel Quoist and develop a Christian spirituality for families. Not a cut down priestly regimen but something family specific. Christianity in Australia will live or die depending on real Christian families who engender Christian members. Because priests, like yourself, are knowledgeable exemplars of the way, they do have a moral duty to teach and guide us. But, like yourself, they need to do it in a spirit of love and humility. I think we need a humbler Church with clear understanding that it is a pilgrim one.

Edward F 27 May 2012

What a wonderful speech!

conor bradley, canberra 27 May 2012

In a true contemporary Church Pat Power would now be a Cardinal with Frank Brennan as Pope!

Brendan Ryan 27 May 2012

Mr Ryan forget Disneyland,in the contemporary One, True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; Bishop Power is not lined up for the consistory, nor is Father Brennan papabile.

Father John Michael George 28 May 2012

I agree with Fr George. I am not papabile. But as one of Christ's faithful I will continue to express views about charity, truth and justice within the Church as well as in broader society, if I may.

Frank Brennan SJ 28 May 2012

"In a true contemporary Church Pat Power would now be a Cardinal with Frank Brennan as Pope!" .... an interesting reflection. Maybe if critics of 'the institutional church' were to walk in the shoes of those they so lavishly and readily criticize, they may see things from a different point of view. It would be interesting to see how Fr Frank went if he had the arduous task of being a Bishop, or the Pope.

Cate 28 May 2012

Need I recall for Jesuit Father Brennan SJ, the charism and injunction of his outstanding Father Founder, THE GLORIOUS St Ignatius of Loyola who in his 'Sentire chm Ecclesia' hammered out the characteristics of his Jesuit Sons [ most worthy of consideration in Father Brennans daily 'Particular Examination']:

"Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one's own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy."
"That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same

Father John Michael George 28 May 2012

For someone who is, I gather, an ordinary priest, Father George often seems to be making some remarkable ex cathedra statements. Usually about those whose views on Catholicism differ from his.

Edward F 29 May 2012

Fantastic speech, Thanks again Fr Brennan, you are a true inspiration in the modern church. I suspect that Father John Michael George represents where we have been and Fr Frank Brennan represents where we are going. We must always remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in our Church as it evolves and that should give us all eternal hope.

Andrew Teece 29 May 2012

Andrew Teece, "where we have been" was the great Second Vatican Council in continuity with 2000 years of conciliar magisterium and even earlier the historical person and message of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


Father John Michael George 29 May 2012

It is trendy these days to criticise the Church and I tend to stay away from sources that are known to be "reformist" as I trust in Christ's promise to guide his Church according to His wisdom, not ours!

The other reason I avoid reformists is because of the lack of charity it seems to bring out when reformists talk to traditionalists;- and vica-versa.

Take the case of Father George's comment; - which is none other than a quote from the founder of the Jesuits. It is an excellent quote... and it is sad to see Catholics rejecting it!

I would suggest it would be beneficial if everybody went back to the quote and viewed it with the eyes of Faith; - rather than human wisdom.

And in particular we need to ponder the following:

"For we must undoubtedly believe, the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse; - by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation; - is the same!"

How can any catholic; or Eureka Street, not accept that?

Hartley 29 May 2012

Hey Eddy F! Dont knock "ordinary priests". Such are the door-knockers seeking souls; the consolers of bereaved families at gravesides; preparing the dying at bedsides and roadsides; or baptising bubs;absolving crims;feeding souls with the Body and Blood of Christ; Catechising from kinders to secondary; and in my case presenting night lectures in a Uni Faculty of Commerce in Business Ethics.
And along the way: House-master of 110 teenagers.[not forgetting Parish-Missions; and locum tenens from Darwin,Tennant Creek to Victoria and in between and o/s
Yep even 'ordinary' priests can contribute a perspective to ES [even if less rarefied.less 'out there';more experiential]
I treasure the"ordinary priest" by Lacordaire:
"To live in the midst of the world
without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family,
yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering;
to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds;
to go from men to God
and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men
to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity,
and a heart of bronze for Chastity
To teach and to pardon,
console and bless always.
My God, what a life;
and it is yours,
O priest of Jesus Christ."

[beats being 'papabile' or cardinalatial]

Father John Michael George 29 May 2012

Fr Brennan: "Are we really to believe that it was for having the temerity to point out that people overseas are talking about women's ordination?" No, Fr Frank, because Bishop Morris did not just say that people overseas were talking about ordination. Here is what he said in his 2006 Advent Letter: "...we may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. As has been discussed internationally, nationally and locally the ideas of: ... • ordaining women, married or single; • recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders." If we put these two sentences together in the only way that makes sense of them they say something like this: "we may need to be more open to the options of ... ordaining women and recognising Protestant orders." So Bishop Morris is not just tabling a remark, entirely unrelated to the previous sentence, that some people overseas are talking about womens' ordination. He is saying we may need to be open to the idea.

HH 30 May 2012

With all due respect and good intentions, Fr Frank Brennan, even as the son of a retired high court judge, cannot be personally committed to anything or anyone being answerable to a higher authority. I recall when Bishop Joe Grech offered the Anglican community the use of St Killians and at the last minute, left to face the whole City of Bendigo when he was over ruled by his.

L Newington 30 May 2012

It was because people like HH engaged in the sort of exegesis that he does that Bishop Morris then placed the following message on his website: “In my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 I outlined some of the challenges facing the diocese into the future. In that letter I made reference to various options about ordination that were and are being talked about in various places, as part of an exercise in the further investigation of truth in these matters. Unfortunately some people seem to have interpreted that reference as suggesting that I was personally initiating options that are contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. As a bishop I cannot and would not do that and I indicated this in the local media at the time.” And that is how I have continued to read what Bishop Morris intended to say. Those who judge him adversely should at least give him credit for having issued this corrective. Let’s remember, he remains a bishop in good standing. And no less a person than the Holy Father has requested that he be given another job in the Australian Church AS A BISHOP because he remains in communion with Rome. He is not a heretic or a schismatic. He would only do what Rome authorises.

Frank Brennan SJ 30 May 2012

Cate, the bishops I know do very well actually.
With Bishop Morris: I don't under stand the situation in depth.
What I do know and respect him for, he set a precedent in taking full responsability for the insidious goings on under his juristriction.
The God I know will honour him for that alone.

L Newington 30 May 2012

Robert Mickens writing in this week’s Tablet says, “These episodes of the butler, the banker and the book (Sua Santita) are only symptom of a more fundamental problem. It is simply and plainly this: the arcane and un-evangelical governing structures of the Roman Curia, and even those of the broader Church, are in urgent need of reform. Until there is a pope that understands this, the implosion of the Roman Church’s governing elite body will continue.” The Morris case confirms this. Some who love the Church will hear none of this and pray that critics will fall silent and see black as white etc. Others who love the Church hear the bell tolling and pray for change informed by charity and truth.

Frank Brennan SJ 01 June 2012

Against my fundamentalist “exegesis” of the Advent Pastoral Letter (30 May), Fr Brennan today insists that all Bishop Morris was doing was pointing out that “people overseas are talking about women’s ordination”. Yet barely over a year ago, in a speech posted on this very blog, Fr Brennan’s own higher hermeneutical labours were producing a result which, I flatter myself to say, sits squarely with what I’ve stated above - ie, the letter did more than merely report those overseas conversations: “So [Bishop Morris] was sacked, not for ordaining a woman … — but for inviting a conversation about it!” (“No justice for Toowoomba's shepherd” May 16, 2011). It’s all very well for Fr Brennan to argue that his interpretation of Bishop Morris’ controversial words be definitively held by all the faithful. But - with respect - which interpretation, Father?

HH 01 June 2012

As Andrew Teece said ,We must always remember the Holy Spirit is at work in our Church ... Why was Peter called a rock- a stone- a Kephas? How many Catholics reject the Pope's authority? Could it not have been -as he was to "follow"- Him the Rejected Stone ? Therefore the stone that was rejected is not just those who denounce the Vatican ( the Temple) as unjust as unfair in it's dealings, as Jesus did and for which He was also rejected, but all the Clergy and the Pope included not only in the "Who's ,who in Vatileakes case".We are all rejected as Christ the head and the foundation of the church the "Rejected Stone" was, in one way or another, from time to time.We are all Spiritual Stones in the making...Greater transparency will evolve the Church, if only we realise: It's not about us and them. Christians- the Vatican - the Pope and the Clergy- It's about Us All and how much we are willing to be peacefully courageous whilst defending "His" ( not ours) Eternal Word- His Eternal Truth- Had Jesus wanted women to be ordained priests, He would have said so in the Gospel of John the Beloved.

Myra 01 June 2012

Father Brennan SJ ought note the postconciliar genuine reform of the Roman Curia [even if it is not up to his standards].
the 'New Catholic Encyclopaedia', re 'Roman Curia', noted:
"On June 28, 1988, Pope John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, to take effect on March 1, 1989, modifying the organization and competencies of the Roman Curia which had been regulated by the norms of the Aug. 15, 1967, apostolic constitution Regimini ecclesiae universae issued by Pope Paul VI. The introduction to the new norms highlights the nature of the Curia as an aid to the Petrine ministry in service to the universal Church (n. 3) as well as to the bishops throughout the world (n. 9), and suggests that this reorganization of the Curia makes it conform more closely to the needs of the post-conciliar Church as well as to the exigencies of modern times (n. 13)."

Father John Michael George 01 June 2012

John Allen writing in the National Catholic Reporter quotes from the book His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, published by journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. “Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba, Australia, was removed from office in 2011 on charges of favoring women priests, collective absolution, and other deviations from official teaching and practice. Nuzzi publishes a set of November 2009 notes on the Morris case, written by Benedict XVI himself and addressed to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, at the time the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. “The notes were written after a June 2009 meeting between Benedict and Morris, and after Morris had written a letter objecting to the way his case had been handled. Among other things, Benedict writes that Morris' ‘theological formation ... is not adequate for his office,’ citing his views on women's ordination and the possibility of Anglican ministers leading Catholic liturgies. “In his letter, Morris accused the Vatican of a ‘lack of care for the truth,’ in part for implying he had agreed to step down. Benedict appears to take responsibility for that point, blaming it on a problem of language. ‘Obviously there was a misunderstanding, created, it seems to me, by my insufficient knowledge of the English language,’ Benedict writes. ‘In our meeting, I tried to convince him that his resignation was desirable, and I thought he expressed his willingness to renounce his functions as bishop of Toowoomba.’ ‘From his letter, I see this was a misunderstanding,’ Benedict writes. ‘I acknowledge that, but I must say decisively that this isn't a case of “a lack of care for the truth.”’ “In the end, Benedict writes, ‘there's no doubt of his very good pastoral intentions,’ but ‘the diocesan bishop must be, above all, a teacher of the faith, since the faith is the foundation of pastoral activity.’ Benedict tells Re to recommend that Morris accept ‘free renunciation of his actual ministry, in favor of a ministry more consistent with his gifts,’ and asks Re to ‘assure him of my prayers.’”

Frank Brennan SJ 02 June 2012

Fr George, in the Gospel of John from chapter 13 to chapter 18 there is no mention of Jesus - speaking to women about their future ministry, as no women seem mentioned as being present- Please correct me if I am mistaken, though to me it seems the following words are explicit in confirming the disciples ( with exclusion of Judas Iscariot) with priestly powers:John 17:16-19 - They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Santify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may be santified in truth.The 'eleven' are clearly mentioned with future priestly obligations in Matthew 28:16-20 -The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Myra 02 June 2012

Perhaps Father George might consider giving the same broad tolerance and genuine respect to others who disagree with him as he expects to receive himself?

As Winchester College's motto goes "Manners Makyth Man". Winchester was originally founded as a school for Catholic clergy.

Edward F 04 June 2012

Fr Brennan, not that I endorse the theft and the invasion of privacy, but now that you are aware of the "leaked" notes detailing the real reasons for Bp Morris' removal, are you going to edit this and your previous articles giving oxygen to the wild conspiracy theories that his removal was due to lies about him told by "Temple Police" and Abp Chaput? Rather, it was the Bishop's own words in that Pastoral Letter and subsequent discussions on just what it meant that hung him. The notes show that the Pope talked to him, and concluded that his views on women's ordination and the possibility of Anglican's leading the liturgy were not orthodox. He apparently wrote that: ...Morris' "theological formation ... is not adequate for his office," citing his views on women's ordination and the possibility of Anglican ministers leading Catholic liturgies. It's also interesting that instead of retaliating to Morris' virtually calling him a liar, the Pope blames himself for 'misinterpreting' Morris' response to his directive to him to resign. Truly a man of God who blesses those who curse him.

Peter Kennedy 04 June 2012

Perhaps Eddy F needeth the good mannered tolerance for my hypothetical intolerance that he diagnoseth for me. I recall the Motto of Chevalier College, Bowral, NSW, "Fortes in fide"[Strong in Faith].

Father John Michael George 04 June 2012

Spot on, Peter Kennedy. Pope Benedict is right - Bishop Morris' Advent Letter shows he isn't up to the mark as a teacher of the faith. His subsequent attempts to state what he REALLY meant to say lack credibility. For instance, in his website message, kindly provided by Fr Brennan above, he states that some have falsely accused him of "initiating options" forbidden by Church doctrine and discipline. But no-one, not even his harshest critics, was accusing Bishop Morris of actively planning to ordain women priests or deploy protestant ministers say mass. So that's a straw man. Even less convincing is his explanation on Compass: "What I was saying,'we need to be creative in our conversation and we need to be creative in such a way that these are some of the things that are being in the ferment of the world. They're being talked about.'" Allowing for it being an answer to the camera, and so rather awkwardly phrased, the meaning of this statement, especially if it is taken not to include thinking about ordaining women, etc, is anybody's guess. I'm sticking with the Fr Brennan (2011) reading. His Lordship was inviting a discussion there. The awkward, unconvincing nature of his attempts to rephrase the letter's content at that point is itself testimony.

HH 05 June 2012

Might I suggest to Father George that we both agree to attempt to remove the respective blockages to our ability to "see" the other as a real person? Whatever differences we have really detract from the subject under discussion here.

Edward F 08 June 2012

Robert Mickens in this week’s Tablet has published an English translation of Pope Benedict’s not of 11 December 2009 to Cardinal Re concerning Bishop Morris. The translation of the note reads: Thank you for drafting the letter … I would further insert the following points: The bishop continuously talks about a “process”, of “defects in process” … he says: “I have been denied natural justice and due process”; “there had not been a canonical process”, etc. … It must be said that in fact there was no process, but a fraternal dialogue and an appeal to his conscience to freely renounce his office as diocesan bishop. We are convinced that his doctrinal formation is not adequate for this office and it was our intention to explain to him the reasons for our conviction. The bishop speaks of “a lack of care for the truth” on our part. This statement is unacceptable. But obviously there was a misunderstanding, created – I think – by my insufficient knowledge of English. At our meeting I tried to convince him that his resignation was desirable, and I understood him to have expressed his willingness to renounce his duties as Bishop of Toowoomba. From his letter I can see that this was a misunderstanding. I acknowledge that, but I must state firmly that there was not “a lack of care for the truth”. The bishop states that this concerns only cultural differences that do not regard communion. In fact, in his pastoral letter – in addition to pastoral choices that are highly questionable – there are at least two proposals that are incompatible with the doctrine of Catholic faith: The letter says one could even start ordaining women to overcome the priest shortage. But the Holy Father John Paul II decided in an infallible and irrevocable way that the Church does not have the right to ordain women to the priesthood. He says furthermore that even ministers of other communities (Anglicans, etc.) could help out in the Catholic Church. But according to the doctrine of Catholic faith, the ministries of these communities are not valid, are not “sacrament” and therefore do not permit them any actions linked to the sacrament of priesthood. There is no doubt about his excellent pastoral intentions, but it is clear that his doctrinal formation is insufficient. A diocesan bishop must also and above all be a teacher of the faith, seeing that faith is the foundation of pastoral work. This is the reason for the invitation to reflect in conscience before God about the free renunciation of his current ministry in favour of a ministry more suited to his gifts. Assure him of my prayers.

Frank Brennan SJ 08 June 2012

Thank you, Fr Brennan, for supplying us with this truly wonderful letter of Pope Benedict. It emboldens me to pray "pax, vita, et salus perpetua" for His Holiness, and also to pray for Bishop Morris, Mgr McGuckin and the Toowoomba diocese. Te Deum, laudamus.

HH 09 June 2012

In his note of 11 December 2009 following upon his meeting with Bishop Morris on 4 June 2009, Pope Benedict wrote “that in fact there was no process, but a fraternal dialogue and an appeal to his conscience to freely renounce his office as diocesan bishop”. Prior to the fraternal dialogue, there was a process of sorts. In April 2007, the Holy See sent Archbishop Chaput to conduct a visitation of Bishop Morris’s diocese. Morris never saw the report, and claims never to have been appraised its contents. There then followed four Vatican requests or demands for Morris’s resignation prior to the Holy Father’s “fraternal dialogue”. The process was neither fair, transparent nor consistent. It was premised on Morris’s resignation and ran for one year and nine months before the Pope met Morris. On or after 4 June 2009, the Pope decided that the 2006 Advent Pastoral Letter was the hanging offence. Benedict identified two theological errors: “The letter says one could even start ordaining women to overcome the priest shortage.” “He says furthermore that even ministers of other communities (Anglicans, etc.) could help out in the Catholic Church.” With all respect, Benedict’s summary of Morris’s position is far too simplistic. This is what Morris wrote: “Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options of ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed internationally, nationally and locally: • ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community • welcoming former priests, married or single back to active ministry • ordaining women, married or single • recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders. While we continue to reflect carefully on these options we remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas.” As soon as the local media started asking Morris in January 2007 if he would take these courses of action, he consistently replied that he would only do what Rome approved. Ultimately in early January 2008, he even published a clarification of his pastoral letter on the diocesan website saying: “Unfortunately some people seem to have interpreted (my pastoral letter) as suggesting that I was personally initiating options that are contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. As a bishop I cannot and would not do that and I indicated this in the local media at the time.” In his own minutes from a curial meeting of three cardinals with Morris on 19 January 2008, Cardinal Re wrote: “To sum it up briefly: to present these questions as topics for public discussion is to separate yourself from the teaching of the Catholic Church.” It seems the Pope agrees.

Frank Brennan 15 June 2012

If The Holy Father John Paul II decided in an infallible and irrevocable way that the Church does not have the right to ordain women to the priesthood and futhermore said, it’s not even to be to be spoken about. It seems to me , to discuss it, is simply to go against the Faith-

Myra 15 June 2012

So Fr Brennan is flipping back to his 2011 interpretation,viz. that Bishop Morris was actually inviting discussion of the possibility of women's ordination, not just "mentioning", arms-length, that such discussions are taking place worldwide.I agree.That's what Bishop Morris' Advent Letter seems to say.

But (Fr B:) "As soon as the local media started asking Morris in January 2007 if he would take these courses of action, he consistently replied that he would only do what Rome approved."

So Bishop Morris would only do what Rome "approved"?

Let's see. Rome: "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."(Ordinatio Sacerdotalis)

So Bishop Morris's Advent Letter inviting discussion on women priests was thoroughly consistent with the Pope's letter to bishops (including Bishop Morris) that there was no doubt as to the Church's position on orders?

Let the reader decide.

HH 19 June 2012

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The preferential option for the poor

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Frank Brennan | 23 July 2014

'Rohan provides a detailed and accurate analysis and history of the word games that have gone on between the Vatican and the Latin American bishops and theologians wrestling with the concept of the preferential option for the poor.' Frank Brennan launches The Preferential Option for the Poor: A Short History and a Reading Based on the Thought of Bernard Lonergan, by Rohan Michael Curnow. 


Story, event and person: Ignatius and Jesus

Frank Brennan | 01 August 2016

Inspired by the person Ignatius, inspired by the person Jesus, we are motivated to make a difference; we are passionate to seek justice for all, especially the poor and the marginalised; we are convinced that we can find God in all things, even in the Don Dale Detention Centre; we know that all persons are called to a deep interior freedom, even those prison guards with hardened hearts; we are convinced that the law of the Lord teaches us right from wrong and that the ways of the Lord inspire us to do and proclaim what is right and to denounce what is wrong, especially when the wrong is done by the powerful upon the powerless.