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Commission hearings' trail of collateral devastation

02 April 2014 | Neil Ormerod

John EllisDamage was done to the reputations of Pell's secretary Dr Michael Casey, and to the solicitors from the his chosen legal team Coors, who would have heard clearly the warning of Justice McClellan that saying they were following their client's instructions would be no defence. There is the damage done to the Australian Church as a whole, and, of course, the damge to Pell himself. This is not how he wanted his reign in Sydney to end.

South African lessons about racial discrimination

26 March 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

'Whites only by order' sign attached to a park benchThe South African experience suggests racial discrimination begins with the appropriation of wealth and power by one racial group and its consequent suppression of other groups in order to extend its wealth and power. If we are to address racial prejudice and discrimination we need to examine the way in which wealth and power are distributed and protected in society. In Australia, they are being concentrated increasingly in fewer hands.

Faiths fight forced marriage

20 March 2014 | Ashleigh Green

Participants in dialogue at the NSW interfaith forum on forced marriageThis week's inauguration of Twiggy Forrest's Global Freedom Network — a large-scale interfaith initiative to end slavery — publicly recognises the importance of interfaith collaboration as a means of understanding and addressing social issues. Its launch comes not long after an Australian-first interfaith forum about the issue of forced marriage. It included Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Jews, and discovered that forced marriage is not a Muslim issue.

Asylum seeker ethics is simple

19 March 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Ethics for Dummies book coverAsked whether they think the government's treatment of asylum seekers is right, some people will withhold judgment, arguing that the question is ethically complex; asylum seeker policy must take into account many issues, and an ethical judgment must await consideration of all these factors. This position is mistaken. The ethical questions are quite simple. The complexities and confusions arise only after we have answered them.

Trials of a recalcitrant priest

18 March 2014 | Frank O'Shea

Cover image of Tony Flannery's book 'A question of conscience'Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery wrote that he did not believe 'the priesthood, as we currently have it in the church, originated with Jesus'; that some time after Jesus 'a select and privileged group who had abrogated power and authority to themselves' claimed that priesthood had been instituted at the Last Supper. He was duly silenced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His supporters now hope that Pope Francis will reinstate him.

Church abuse crisis and the law

13 March 2014 | Carmel Ross

Priest in shacklesReports from the Royal Commission this week have focused on the efforts of John Ellis to have his experience of sexual abuse as a teenage boy, perpetrated by a Catholic priest, acknowledged and adequately addressed by the Church. The finding by the High Court that Australian law as it stands does not allow an individual to sue the Catholic Church is an untenable situation if our nation believes justice for individuals is important.

The celebrity Pope

12 March 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope Francis smiling on the cover of Il Mio PapaThe appearance at the end of Francis' first year of Berlusconi's new magazine, Il Mio Papa, is testimony that the Pope is now mythical, a celebrity, and that the myth can be manipulated, marketed and monetised. It is difficult to give an accounting for celebrities, but merely popping their balloon also misses what in them attracts popular attention. So it is with evaluating what is distinctive about Francis and what he has contributed to the Church.

Chords of community in a country church protest song

12 March 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Cover illustration of Regina Lane's Saving St Brigid's features the church in the background while workers toil in the field in the foregroundThe conflict began with falling church attendances and a decision by the Koroit parish priest to rationalise resources. Although Regina Lane describes in detail the battles to save St Brigid's, her book is far more than a protest song against the power of the Catholic Church. The larger stories embodied at St Brigid's, the immigrant groups who formed the first congregation and their relationship to the first Australians, have continuing importance.

Radical Pope's gender flaws

12 March 2014 | Megan Graham

Pope Francis on the cover of Time magazineThe broad support Francis receives from progressives, despite his unwillingness to even consider female ordination, demonstrates how marginalised women's issues really are in our society. He may have changed the game in terms of the Church's engagement with the poor, but this does not diminish the significance of his oppressive and outdated views on gender roles.

Winds of theological change at the Vatican

12 March 2014 | Neil Ormerod

Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on 4 December 2013No one can deny the impact Francis has had. The question remains whether the differences between him and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI are a matter of style or substance. Francis has downplayed the prospects of major doctrinal changes, yet the rehabilitation of liberation theology and the bringing in from the cold of outspoken 'extreme centrist' theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper do reveal a fundamental shift.

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