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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.

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.

Jury still out on Francis the game-changer

12 March 2014 | Paul Collins

Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on 27 November 2013The 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.

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.

Encouragement for bleeding hearts

05 March 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Bleeding heartTo 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.

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