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How do we navigate medico-legal questions without a bill of rights?

02 December 2015 | Frank Brennan

The consideration of medico-legal problems in the public square of a pluralistic democratic society keeping pace with profound technological change is often marked by simplistic assertions, precluding considerations of comprehensive world views, whether religious or philosophical. It is now commonplace for doctors to be told to leave their consciences at the door, as their patients are consumers and they are suppliers and of course the market decides. Debates about law and policy are often resolved with simplistic assertions about individual rights and autonomy, with little consideration for the public interest, the common good, and the doctor-patient relationship. Even conscience is said to be a matter for contracting out. This evening I ask whether there are more compelling ways to resolve medico-legal dilemmas, while conceding a limited role for law in determining the range of acceptable answers.

Challenges and opportunities for the Catholic Church in the 21st century

29 November 2015 | Frank Brennan

'No one doubts the pastoral sensitivity of Pope Francis. But the Church will continue to suffer for as long as it does not engage in open, ongoing discussion and education about the issue of women's leadership. The official position is no longer comprehensible to most people of good will, and not even those at the very top of the hierarchy have a willingness or capacity to explain it.' - Fr Frank Brennan SJ outlines five challenges and opportunities for the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

Discerning the place for the churches in the great moral questions of the age

26 November 2015 | Frank Brennan

'The crisis of child sexual abuse in our societies has required that our institutional procedures be more transparent and that we learn from the ways of the world in exercising power openly and justly. This means we have to restructure some of our church arrangements so that power is exercised accountably and transparently. All of us who have positions of influence and power in institutional churches need to be attentive to the voices of those who have suffered within our institutions.' 'Discerning the place for the prophetic voice and pragmatic cooperation of the churches in the great moral questions of the age', address to the Association of Practical Theology in Oceania conference, 26 November 2015.

Cardinal Pell, his lawyers and the Royal Commission

23 November 2015 | Frank Brennan

Cardinal Pell before the Royal Commission in March 2014Last week the Herald Sun reported: 'Victims of child sexual abuse look set to be grilled by lawyers for Pell in a bid to quash explosive allegations he was complicit in a widespread cover-up.' As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommences its case study on the Catholic Church in Ballarat, it's only fair Pell have his lawyers cross examine these victims. His reputation is on the line and the commission has spared no effort in scrutinising his past actions.

Family Synod neglects feminine genius

28 October 2015 | Beth Doherty

Camila Leiva MartinezWe can assume that despite the recent Synod's focus on families, most of the voters have never had any involvement in raising families, and certainly not of experiencing pregnancy and childbirth. None have directly dealt with an abusive spouse, struggled to regulate family size, questioned whether to stay in an unhappy marriage, or dealt with a child identifying as gay, lesbian or transgender. Last year, I spent time working in a parish in Paraguay, where, unlike the church more broadly, women run the show.

Betting on the Synod

28 October 2015 | Andrew Hamilton

Claud CockburnThe journalist Claud Cockburn once said that Catholics could never bet on the election of a pope because they believed it was all up to the Holy Spirit. He was mistaken — many Catholics then and now would place a bet on anything and everything. His reasoning also overlooked the Catholic understanding that human beings cooperate with the Holy Spirit. But his association of God's action with the election and actions of popes provides a lens for looking at the recently concluded Synod on the Family.

No room for culture warriors in Canberra or the Vatican

14 October 2015 | Michael McVeigh

Tony Abbott's 1987 essay in the BulletinMany in the Church would echo Tony Abbott's feelings on the dangers a theological environment 'at war with itself' presents to its moral authority. Similarly, there are many conservative politicians and members of the press who look at the current political commentary — marked by discussion rather than authority — and wonder what a government can accomplish in such an environment. Not surprisingly, Cardinal George Pell — described by Abbott as a 'fine human being and a great churchman' — is among those pushing back against the dialogue at the current Synod on the Family.

Third World issues illuminate Synod's first world problems

28 September 2015 | Andrew Hamilton

Gathering of bishopsAlthough important to respond to generously, divorced and homosexual Catholics will not be the only people who make a claim on the Synod on the Family in Rome, with bishops of the Third World to want a focus on the life and death issues that face families in their region. But divorced and homosexual Catholics are important, and the divisions between bishops are both real, and generally misread by the media.

Religion in the state school curriculum

30 August 2015 | Kevin Donnelly

Jewish candles Various state based legislation argues that education in government schools should be secular in nature, but it does not rule out a place for religion in the general curriculum. To argue that religions should have a greater place in the school curriculum is not to proselytise. Rather it is to recognise that, while we are a secular society,  students need to encounter a more transcendent sense of life that incorporates a strong moral, spiritual and ethical dimension.

The nun who couldn't say no

11 August 2015 | Philomena van Rijswijk

Nun prayingOur family life was fraught with conflict, centred on our parents' inability to cope with my father's serious mental illness. During the early years of her childhood, my sister was made my mother's intimate confidante. This was a time of anguish for Mum, about both her marriage and a series of tragic miscarriages. My sister left home when she was 14, and entered the juniorate on the way to becoming a nun.

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