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Buried or burned, respect for the dead is what matters

01 November 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

UrnLast week the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an Instruction on the conditions under which cremation is legitimate for Catholics. The starting point is the conviction that for Christians the best way of treating the body after death is through burial. Yet cremation is open to possibilities that the Instruction does not envisage. Sprinkling the ashes over the sea or a place significant to the dead person can be consistent with an informed Christian sensibility. It need not be pantheistic.

Heed the echoes of Mussolini's Italy in today's world

24 October 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Don Luigi Sturzo: The Father Of Social Democracy, by John MolonyWhen surveying one's world it is always dangerous to forget the past. Australian historian John Molony's recent book about Italian priest and politician Luigi Sturzo is an accounting, showing how easily democracy, freedom and respect for human rights can be surrendered both by politicians and by the Catholic Church. It invites reflection on our situation today. The Italy in which Mussolini came to power and in which Sturzo operated has haunting similarities to today's world.

Sheikh Fehmi talked me out of going to war

03 October 2016 | Irfan Yusuf

Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-ImamFehmi Naji El-Imam, the former Grand Mufti of Australia who died last month, taught us at a time when we had no internet and books on Islam were limited. Politicised religion was all the craze. In Afghanistan, a coalition of local militias and foreign fighters, the Mujahideen, were receiving support from Western leaders. Conservative politicians praised them for taking on those nasty Soviet Communists. It was easy to be carried away, to have one's faith shaped by overseas events. I almost did.

Religious freedom in an age of equality

22 September 2016 | Frank Brennan

'No good will be served by a royal commission auspiced by the state telling a Church how it judges or complies with its theological doctrines and distinctive moral teachings. By all means, set universal standards of practice expected of all institutions dealing with children, but do not trespass on the holy ground of religious belief and practice.' Fr Frank Brennan SJ addresses the Freedom for Faith Conference in Melbourne, 23 September 2016.

Pope Francis among other disruptive leaders

14 September 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope Francis greets fansIs Francis' style of political engagement effective? It has certainly gained him a favourable hearing within church and society. His message and his personality suit the times. Whether it will be lastingly effective will depend on whether he changes attitudes, particularly those of people who will be responsible for governance in church and state. But at the very least he has stressed the ethical and religious urgency of treating refugees, the environment, and the economy with respect.

A symbolic solution to the marriage debate

08 September 2016 | Brian Lucas

same sex coupleMarriage, and more broadly any other close domestic relationship, is a fundamental social institution. Could not the federal legislation move away from defining marriage to a regime where it recognises marriage? It could recognise Catholic marriage (as described in the Code of Canon Law). It could recognise Anglican or Jewish or Islamic marriage and it could recognise secular marriage (which could include a same sex relationship). On this basis the various 'marriages' are different but equal.

Rise of the celebrity pope

07 September 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Pope FrancisPopes are politically significant because they lead a large international church that is present in many nations. The teaching, interests and opinions of popes affect the way bishops and priests act, and so influence Catholic attitudes. More recently, popes have also become celebrities. Their influence on public opinion, in wider society and in the Church, is increasingly personal. As a result the way individual popes understand and express their faith will shape the possibilities for their political influence.

Plebiscite the only way forward for Turnbull on marriage equality

05 September 2016 | Frank Brennan

Malcolm TurnbullOnce Turnbull went to the election with a commitment not to legislate for same sex marriage except after the conduct of a successful plebiscite, it was inevitable that the only way forward to resolving the issue during the life of this parliament would be by enacting legislation to authorise a plebiscite. A conscience vote during the life of this parliament, and without a plebiscite, would leave the opponents of same sex marriage rightly feeling that the government had breached an election commitment.

Rogue bishop's rebellious example lives on

01 September 2016 | Ann Deslandes

Dom Hélder CâmaraMany Brazilians remember the 'Red Bishop' as much more than a defender of human rights. For these people, Helder Camara is included reverently in the litany of rogues who drew the ire of church and state authorities by demanding both do a better job of embodying a message of social justice. It was a powerful idea to grow up with: that this imposing and defining institution I had been born and baptised into contained a rebellious truth that often demanded we go against the institution's own grain.

Purifying language vital to renewing 'polluted' churches

31 August 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Jane Dowling's Child Arise! The Courage to Stand. A spiritual handbook for survivors of sexual abuseDowling, who was a victim of clerical abuse, offers a program of reflections that bring together scriptural themes and the effects of sexual abuse. Most striking is the extraordinary labour required to purify the language of a tradition that has become polluted. This is vital not simply as a therapeutic exercise but as a condition for renewal and reconciliation. It may also be pertinent to wider society, where Brexit and the Trump phenomenon have been characterised by a coarsening of public language.

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