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Pell abuse saga reeks of incompetent policing

28 July 2016 | Frank Brennan

George Pell - Still from ABC reportWednesday night's ABC 7.30 program carried allegations against Cardinal George Pell which, if true, are devastating: life ruining for victims like Damian Dignan and Lyndon Monument; confronting for all citizens committed to the wellbeing of children; and earth shattering for Catholics who still have faith in their church. The report is also troubling for those of us concerned about due process and the rule of law - not as academic notions for lawyers but as the secure bulwarks of a society in which everyone's rights and interests are protected.

Theology of elections

29 June 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Parliament HouseDuring the campaign neither of the major parties addressed seriously the major challenges facing Australia: climate change, inequality and the forced movement of peoples. That makes it inevitable that following this election, sovereignty, mandates and other weighty words will continue to dominate public conversation. They usually function as political knives to cut through the messiness of our democratic order. But they also carry a theological weight that may illuminate our present condition.

Catholic bishops deliver election year ethical wedge

18 May 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Family sceneThe bishops speak less trenchantly than Pope Francis, who criticises sharply the assumptions and practices of neoliberal economics. But in the context of this election, they add their voice to that of those who are concerned about economic assumptions that enrich the few and exempt corporations and business from social responsibility. Their statement will encourage those who see the now notorious behaviour of banks, finance business and corporations as symptomatic of a vicious economic ideology.

Pope Francis' social activism has long roots

15 May 2016 | Bruce Duncan

Pope Leo XIIIPope Francis is determined to highlight the opposition of Christian social thinking to the tenets of neoliberalism or market fundamentalism, an ideology which assumes that free markets of themselves will produce the best outcome, and which pushes aside considerations of social or distributive justice. It is unlikely Francis would be waving the flag of social justice so boldly on the world stage had Pope Leo XIII not written his famous social manifesto, Rerum Novarum, 125 years ago.

Women deacons the solution to priestly power problem

10 May 2016 | Phyllis Zagano

Stained glass image of woman preaching from biblePope Francis may be interested in better situating women within Church governance and ministry, and there is sufficient theological evidence to readmit women to the order of deacon. Even so, significant curial roadblocks keep him from moving in the obvious direction. Women deacons could take up significant posts, at the Vatican and around the world, but in 2008 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed ordination of women a crime worthy of automatic excommunication.

The divisive life of a pacifist priest

03 May 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Daniel BerriganBy many United States Jesuits including military chaplains, Dan Berrigan was seen as a divisive figure. I also found his actions challenging. I was still to move from my concentration on the goals of military action to focus on what happens to people who make war and have it made on them. Berrigan and others helped me to see the dishonesty in the conduct of the Vietnam war, the cost to Vietnamese civilians and to soldiers on both sides, and the corruption of ethical sensitivity in both societies.

The past, present and future of the Easter Rising 1916

01 May 2016 | Frank Brennan

Anzac Day and just war scepticism go together

24 April 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Australian Soliders marchThe classical arguments originated at a time when casualties were suffered mostly by soldiers. In modern warfare, civilians overwhelmingly suffer. Just war theory is used as spin to give specious justification to military campaigns in whose devising ethical considerations played no part. Wars that governments wage are just; those waged by their enemies are unjust. By joining in such debate churches are co-opted into playing an intellectual game designed to make legitimate killing and destruction.

Neerkol orphanage findings and the place of compassion

21 April 2016 | Frank Brennan

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has now published its Case Study 26 on the Neerkol Orphanage in Rockhampton. It finds that the response by the bishop and by the Sisters of Mercy to victims making complaints prior to 1996 was often inadequate and lacking in compassion. The word 'compassion' or 'compassionate' appears 21 times in the report. I have no problem with church people or other individuals adversely judging church leaders for a lack of compassion. There may even be a case for politicians doing it. But I don't think it's the job of a royal commission.

Crossing boundaries with the wire-cutter Pope

18 April 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Francis on LesbosLesbos is famous for crossing boundaries. It was the home of the poet Sappho and the tender, delicate lyrics dedicated to the woman who was her lover. More recently it has been the home of refugees who have crossed from the murderous conflict in Asia. Pope Francis is also as famous for crossing boundaries as we Australians are for patrolling them. He is reinventing the papacy as a one-man barbed-wire-cutting team. So it is not surprising he decided at short notice to cross into Lesbos.

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