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Robber bands in Parliament

26 February 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Silhouette of a robber with a money bag and a crow barAugustine 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.

Coming out of Cardinal Pell's shadow

25 February 2014 | Chris McGillion

George Pell speaking, hand raised for emphasisGeorge 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.

Discussing a good death with Philip Nitschke

23 February 2014 | Frank Brennan

'Damned if I do' by Philip Nitschke features the doctor standing with arms foldedI 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.

Social justice with a smile

19 February 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

World Day of Social Justice poster features a map of the world in black on whiteSocial 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.

Thinking Christians spurn hammy creationism

17 February 2014 | Chris Middleton

Water ripplesAustralian-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.

Pastoral priests decry clerical culture that fostered abuse

13 February 2014 | Pat Power

Priest in dog collar with hands spreadMost 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.

Best of 2013: Advice for the Pope on reforming the Church

13 January 2014 | Geraldine Doogue

'Geraldine and Francis', by Chris Johnston. Geraldine Doogue whispers advice to Pope FrancisI 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.

Best of 2013: Another round of Ramadan lunar-cy

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08 January 2014 | Irfan Yusuf

Plates of fried food at iftar feastRamadan is supposed to fine tune your soul, weaken the ties binding you to your physical appetites and test your religiosity. This month unites Muslims around the globe in an envelope of piety and mercy. At least that's the theory. In reality, for most of us Muslims Ramadan is the month of massive weight gain.

Best of 2013: A Jesuit learns to live with a Jesuit Pope

05 January 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope FrancisI indulge a passing self-congratulatory thought that the Pope is, like me, a Jesuit, and will understand our Jesuit ways. And that the Church, of course, will benefit immeasurably from his Jesuit training. That is immediately followed by a touch of anxiety: perhaps he will understand our ways all too well.

Church plays part of Christmas villain

18 December 2013 | Andrew Hamilton

Evil looking SantaChristmas tells the story of a God who entrusted Christ as a baby safely to the care of Mary and Joseph in a markedly hostile secular environment. The stories told at the Royal Commission are of parents who entrusted their children unsafely to the care of representatives of the Church. The face of Herod in our day is not that of a persecutor who threatens the church from without. It is that of a minister of the church who betrays from within.

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