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12 March 2014 |
No 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.
12 March 2014 |
The greatest danger is that we expect too much from Francis. He brings a new perspective that has little to do with the preoccupations of the developed world. But we shouldn't kid ourselves that he is a closet progressive. The other danger is that he could turn out to be all show and no substance. His 'Gang of Eight' has not even begun to address the diabolically difficult problems embedded in reforming the curial structures of the Vatican.
05 March 2014 |
To call someone a bleeding heart is an insult, not a description. It has no meaning but does have connotations. Those who call advocates for asylum seekers bleeding hearts usually dismiss ethical arguments. Although they may accept in the case of personal relationships that it would be wrong to inflict pain on people in order to deter others, they usually claim without supporting argument that governments are not bound by this ethical principle.
26 February 2014 |
Augustine wrote of the Roman Empire, 'Without justice, states are robber bands.' His mordant comment aimed to strip away the self-congratulatory rhetoric of empire from the reality of a Rome concerned purely with asking how to achieve desired goals uncontrolled by respect for human dignity. If we appreciate how robber bands work we can better understand what states do, including Australia.
25 February 2014 |
George Pell's promotion to Rome is proof of the powerful friends he has made. As for enemies, it is not hard to compile a list of those who will be glad to see him go. It would include most liberal Catholics, many priests, and a good many of his fellow bishops. One group who are likely to regret Pell's departure are the journalists and commentators for whom he has loomed large as a figure of ridicule if not outright contempt.
23 February 2014 |
I was able to mix with other writers bemoaning Australia's refugee policy including the obfuscation about the death of an asylum seeker on Manus Island and Julie Bishop's latest diplomatic initiative asking Hun Sen to accept refugees from Australia for permanent resettlement in Cambodia. I came away wondering how passionate refugee advocates could be so sanguine about doctor administered death even for children.
19 February 2014 |
Social justice has to do with what we owe to others. No one likes to think of their debts. And when the debts are universalised so that they are owed by us as members of society, we do not want to know about them. No wonder it is more effective to appeal to our individual generosity than to our shared duty, and for religious leaders to be less comfortable speaking about justice than about love.
17 February 2014 |
Australian-born creationist Ken Ham argues that every human is descended from Adam and Eve, that God created man and all land animals on the same day 6000 years ago, and that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. The relationship between faith and reason goes to the credibility of being a Christian in the modern world. A minority view within Christianity should not be allowed to frame a false dichotomy between religion and science.
13 February 2014 |
Most priests believe the Royal Commission was very much needed to face up to a terrible episode in the Church's history. They also believe that sexual abuse took place in an environment of clericalism which was imposed by the highest authority in the Church, and which they felt powerless to confront. 'Father is always right' operated from the Pope down and any questioning of it was seen as disloyal or even heretical.
13 January 2014 |
I wish he would invite me to be his temporary consultant, to offer him advice for his next 500 days. I'd begin by proposing a substantial Vatican-led inquiry, into why the Church has been so troubled by sexual abuse across various countries. Then I would point to the experiences of several large secular institutions, including the New York Times and US Army, that have rebuilt after crises.
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