Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Thank you...

Dear readers, first this is not a return to blogging, but rather a bit of an explanatory note and thank you.

Firstly I wanted to thank all of those who have written or spoken to me inquiring about the blog - apologies for not getting back to you individually, but I really have appreciated your notes.

Let me assure everyone that I'm not ill, nor have I been bullied out of blogging.  In fact I've been cheered by various developments over the last several months that seem to have been positive outcomes for issues I've campaigned on (though whether or not my particular efforts actually contributed to the outcomes is an open question).   And in fact I was rather entertained by a recent ad hominem attack on traditionally inclined bloggers by one of that dying breed of 'liberal' heretics recently; I was flattered by the company he put me in, and thought that the series of posts simply exposed the author for what he is.

That said, my health has been fairly bad in recent times and I still do have some bad periods, but on the whole I'm greatly improved and finally able to actually get on top of things again.  But the long period of ill-health means that I have a lot of catching up on various things to do, and so I'm focusing on other things at the moment.

I'd also have to admit though, that blogging on things ecclesial at the moment (the odd positves notwithstanding) just seems to me a tad too depressing.  This seems to me to be a time for traditionalists to focus on getting our own spiritual and other lives in order, and ensuring that we give no excuses to those who view us as a threat to their cosy empires and narrow, outdated worldviews, rather than as an environment in which campaigning for positive change is likely to be effective.

So thank you again to those who have written, spoken or thought about me and the blog; please do keep me in your prayers, and who knows, perhaps the blog will yet again do a Lazarus in the fullness of time...

*PS: On the meantime, while I'm not much of a fan of facebook, you can find me occasionally on twitter: @kate_edwards_oz, or if you are interested in Benedictine spirituality and/or the psalms, over at my other blogs.

*PPS And do feel free to email me offline.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas



As it is now the vigil of the Nativity, let me take this opportunity to wish all past readers of this now defunct blog a happy and holy twelve days of Christmas.

We live in dark times indeed, so it is good to remember with this great gift of the Incarnation that no matter what men, even those entrusted to the very highest offices in the Church, may attempt to do it, she will yet prevail against the gates of hell.  Pray hard, therefore, this Christmas season, especially for the Franciscans of  Immaculate, and the reform of the hierarchy in Australia.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Fr Ephraem Chifley RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Ephraem (John) Chifley, formerly of the Dominicans, who died unexpectedly on Friday, aged 53.

I remember fondly Fr Chifley from his time as chaplain at ANU (he confirmed me in a Dominican Rite Mass), and I'm sure he helped many others as well, so please do keep him especially in your prayers.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Quaeritur: What dissolves a (Time Lord) marriage?**

Those who haven't yet seen the Doctor Who 50 year special may want to postpone reading this!


***SPOILERS**




****
One of the bizarre plot moments in the Dr Who Fifty Year Special was a scene in which Doctor number ?10 (?11) (David Tennant) marries Elizabeth I (yes, as Damian Thompson has tweeted and posted, the show is a load of campy nonsense, but isn't that how it was back when we loved it?).

Now, as those who still follow the show will know, Doctor ?Eleven (?Twelve) (Matt Smith) married Dr River Song (Alex Kingston).

So is he a bigamist?  Is his marriage with River Song invalid?

Marriage is of course dissolved by the death of either partner.  But if you are a Time Lord equipped with a TARDIS, the death of your human partner means rather less than it usually does, since you can visit them at any point in their lifetime without the need to maintain chronological order in such meetings.

In fact, the Doctor and River Song's encounters, you may recall, mostly seemed to occur backwards from her perspective (the first time they meet from his perspective is the last time from hers).

The solution to the problem presumably is that the two marriages take place between different versions of the Doctor.  But does Time Lord regeneration constitute death for this purpose?

I'm going to suggest that the answer is yes: his old body is destroyed after all, and the new one comes complete with a new personality.  And marriage is about bodies in the end, since no one is married in heaven...


***PS If you watched the show, and resented the fact that they didn't manage to include more of those former incarnations and companions, do go watch the Five(ish) Doctors Reboot put together by Peter Davison, and with numerous hilarious cameos from many associated with the show and outside it.

Dr Who and the close of the year of faith: never give up, never give in!


Dr Who: First Doctor William Hartnell in Day of the Daleks
Those who got up early this morning (or watched it at some hour of the evening in another time zone!) to watch the Dr Who Fifty Year Special worldwide simulcast (for a good recap and review I pretty much agree with , try here) will recognise a mild spoiler in the title of this post, because it seems to me entirely appropriate that the closing date of the Year of Faith is also the 50th anniversary of Dr Who.

Fighting the good fight

The classic Doctor Who, after all, was all about the fight between good and evil, and helping people to see things for what they really are (including the often somewhat ambiguous character of the Doctor himself).

Dr Who, after all, at least in those first few incarnations that I grew up with, often seemed to wander around helping the tattered remnants of humanity fight off evil invaders such as the daleks and cybermen, leaving behind a reinvigorated group of survivors to rebuild.  I remember quite vividly, for example, the first Doctor's (William Hartnell) granddaughter, Susan, falling in love and staying behind to rebuild the earth in the Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).  And there were many more in this genre, especially in the Tom Baker era.

But Dr Who also helped opened our eyes to the lurking dangers within ordinary life, to the possibility of terrorists operating within, to the idea that things may not be what they seemed to be.

It encouraged the idea too, that we could and should help do something about it.

Everyone who grew up watching the show through the 60s and 70s will, I suspect, have their 'hiding behind the sofa' episode memories.  I certainly remember finding The Celestial Toymaker (1966) as one, where the Doctor's companions are forced to play games with a life or death outcome, with a tense chess game going on in the background between the first doctor and the evil toymaker pretty scary (put all those family playing together horrors in perspective?!).

But the story I remember most vividly from those early years was The Faceless Ones, a Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) episode in which airplanes full of people were kidnapped and miniaturised so their bodies could be appropriated by evil aliens.  Its impact on me I think was because it was shown in Australia in December 1967, and my family and I were just about to get on a plane and move to New Zealand...

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, hides at Gatwick Airport in The Faceless Ones
Inspiring followers

The Doctor rarely acted alone though, but rather created a  family around him, and a community behind him.

The process of defeating the evil of the week often served to bind together a previously disparate group of people, and give them a new sense of unity and purpose.

As well as those left behind to pick up the pieces at the end of an episode, he attracted 'companions' who learnt and grew through their association with the Doctor.

Some of the Doctor's companions, I have to admit, were less inspirational.   Sarah Jane, for example, always seemed to me to exist mostly in order to be kidnapped and rescued by the Doctor, and Teegan's Australian whine was just annoying.  My personal favourites were Jamie, The Brigadier, Leela, and, in the modern era, Donna all of whom seem to me to show the power of ordinary people to show extraordinary courage and ingenuity when the situation demanded it.

Jamie and Victoria being chased by Yeti in
The Abominable Snowman
Recovery and updating

There are some other resonances with ecclesial life too.

Like the Church, the BBC went through a period of not treasuring its patrimony!

Many of the episodes I remember most vividly, like the Faceless Ones and the absolute classic Web of Fear (Yeti and more in the London Underground), were wiped or destroyed in the 1960s and 70s.

Fortunately there has been a gradual process of rediscovery, recovery, and even restoration.  Indeed the BBC confirmed yesterday that another set of missing episodes from the First Doctor era have only just been discovered and restored by combining a silent film version made from the tv by a fan in 1964 with audio held by the BBC.

Let's hope that the Church follows this lead!

And then of course there is the modern 'updating' of the series.

I have to admit that after some initial interest, I haven't been much of a fan of the show as it has developed under current showrunner Steven Moffat's leadership.  I'd pretty much stopped watching it altogether under Matt Smith as the Doctor, though I did decide to watch The Day of the Doctor today for old times sake.

***spoilers**







****
And I enjoyed it, not least for that Tom Baker cameo near the end.

More importantly, the 50th year special seems to have taken the opportunity to do a bit of a reboot of the timeline (it has become fashionable lately, what with Star Trek and all!), setting up the potential for a rather less dark future under the Doctor's next regeneration.

In the relaunch of the series back in 2005, we gradually learnt that the Doctor had committed genocide, wiping out both his own race of Time Lords and the Daleks in order to save the universe.

In this Special, history is rewritten and Gallifrey is still out there, somewhere (and of course we already knew that the Daleks can never be entirely exterminated!).  If they follow through on the possibilities of that, I might even start watching the show again.

Let's hope that our bishops can take a leaf out of the (three) doctors book, and likewise confront the tough choices they face, and instead of making that same old choice over again, find a new way forward.

Perhaps the take out message for them, as for us, from the Year of Faith might usefully include something of the Doctor's newly proclaimed motto of "never be cruel or cowardly; never give up, never give in", and thus lead us to a better future in faith.

So do indulge in a bit of nostalgia today, and watch the Special (it is being repeated this evening in Australia), as well as shown in numerous cinemas, the associated new releases, or watch some of those old episodes available online.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Breaking up the club: can we really do anything about the Church's response to the abuse crisis?

Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, put out a press release a day or two back calling on all Catholics to take responsibility for how the Church responds to the abuse crisis.

I have to say that ever since I saw his twitter post on this I've been quietly seething, for it seems to me to be oblivious of the realities of how the Church in Australia (and pretty much everywhere else in the West) actually works.

Because the reality, in my view, is that the laity - aside from a middle class club of church bureaucrats and the inner circle friends of the episcopacy - have little or no capacity to influence anything at all about the way the Church is run.

That's one of the reasons why there is so much passive resistance around, in the form of failure to attend Mass and more.

Sullivan on lay co-responsibility

Mr Sullivan argues that though we can't be blamed for the abuse itself:

"We are responsible for how we respond to the victims, how we deal with the perpetrators, how we get reform and cultural change, and how we talk about sexual abuse in the Church with our friends, our families, our colleagues."

Well, at the margin perhaps.

But the reality is that there are absolutely no mechanisms in place for the laity to have much effect on any of these fronts, and every reason for the laity to want to stay well away from any active engagement in this area.

The clericalist club

Consider the evidence.

There have been several apologies to victims, and, as a result of pressure from the Victorian and other inquiries, some constructive engagement at last on changing the Church's approach to handling child sex abuses cases.

But where are the apologies and compensation for whistleblower teachers, priests and others, many of whom lost their jobs or were otherwise marginalised?

Where is the internal action against those bishops (such as Bishop Mulkearns of Ballarat) and other senior clergy who aided and abetted the mishandling and coverup of these cases?

And how can the Church defend itself against attacks on the seal of the confessional and other matters effectively, when every time they speak up, dirty linen on this subject can be brought out to discredit them, as happened with Archbishop Hart on Lateline last week last week with this exchange:

EMMA ALBERICI: And do you believe that you yourself at times acted in a way that was inconsistent with the teachings of the Church?

DENIS HART: I've always tried to act in accordance with the teachings of the Church and I believe that my record as Archbishop stands by that.

EMMA ALBERICI: Even when you told a woman who'd been sexually abused by a priest, when you told that woman back in 2004 to - and I'm quoting the court record here - "Go to hell, bitch"?

DENIS HART: That was an unfortunate comment, one which I've regretted long since. I think it was in a moment of frustration when my house had been intruded and I've regretted it ever since and I do apologise.

So what needs to happen?

1.  Clean out the hierarchy

If the Church really wants to regain credibility on the abuse scandal, the first step has to be a clearing out of those in positions of power who have propped the system up.  Those bishops who supported a system that meant that cases were not reported to the police; those clergy who worked to tidy things up under the carpet, and more have to go.

2.  Action, not just words

And for those who remain, more than words are needed.  I agree with those who suggest that some public penance might be appropriate, though whether this particular suggestion is the right one (or enough!) I'm not sure:

I wonder if it's practicable for church leaders to prostrate themselves for half an hour before Mass as public penance for their failures.

3.  Recover the Church's moral teachings!

But the more fundamental problem is that the child sex abuse scandal cannot just be treated as one isolated problem.  Rather it needs to be seen just as one manifestation of that peculiarly post-V2 version of clericalism that says priests can do anything they want, regardless of Church law or teaching.

The Church needs to recover, first of all, the idea that celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is an objectively higher state of life, and insist that priestly celibacy is a much needed witness in the face of the pornification of our culture.

Flowing from that, it needs to insist that priests live up to their promise of celibacy.  The reality is that pretty much any sexual relationship involving a priest, homosexual or heterosexual is not just a serious sin, not just something that undermines his ministry, but almost invariably involves imbalances of power and pressures for further sins to cover up what is going on.

And they need to preach on these subjects, to insist that those who don't follow the Church's teaching cannot receive communion.

4.  Stop acting like a club and find ways of genuinely engaging people

The biggest problem of all though, are the governance processes of the Church, such as they are.

There have been a number of posts in various places recently about how to engage Catholics more effectively, and turn them into 'disciples'.  A classic of the genre is Daniel Ang's piece arguing that 'consumerism' has infected us all so that people look at the Church for what they can get out of it, rather than what they can give to it.

Maybe there is something in the argument (though I'm not sure why an attractive church is such a big ask!), but I think the far bigger problem is that most parishes act like clubs that far from welcoming newcomers, actively repel them.

There was a rather sad piece from a US Catholic blogger a while back, telling about how after a brief period of being actively engaged in a parish she is back to being a 'roaming catholic' wandering from parish to parish in search of one she can actually engage in as a single person.  It is a common problem.

5.  Transparency and accountability

The best way of opening parishes and dioceses up it seems to me, is by engaging in some genuine transparency and accountability.

But the hard reality is that these are not concepts that have penetrated very far into the Church as yet.

Most parishes barely have a website, let alone one that actually provides useful accountability information.

Indeed, few if any dioceses make much of the information they give to the Vatican publicly available in advance of it appearing in the Yearbook.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Pope and traditionalists: rapprochement?

Whatever you might think of Pope Francis, one big positive is that he does seem to be listening.

Many traditionally oriented (and neo-conservative) Catholics have been pretty unhappy with the new regime to date, due to things like some extremely odd comments (and gestures) on the record and off, his liturgical 'minimalism', and the disturbing restrictions placed on the Franciscans of the Immaculate saying the Traditional Latin Mass.

But over the last week or so there have been reports suggesting a concerted attempt to repair relationships, and rebalance the books somewhat.  Let's hope it continues!

Positive gestures

Some of the positive notes sounded in the last week or so towards the more traditionally oriented within the Church include:
  •  'that interview' was thankfully removed from the Vatican website (an event that got almost as much coverage as the original story in some quarters!);
  • the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) are currently celebrating twenty-five years since a small group of priests split from the SSPX and reconciled with Rome.  And the Pope apparently sent the French District a congratulatory message for the occasion through the French Nuncio (did he send one to the Fraternity as a whole?), lauding their loyalty to Peter;
  • reports that the Pope made one of those 'Hi it's Francis calling' phone calls (!) to a traditionalist critic who is gravely ill.  The man had actually been fired by an Italian Catholic broadcaster after he wrote a critical piece on Pope Francis.  The Pope, however, acknowledged the importance of constructive criticism; and
  • an endorsement for the work of an advocate of the 'hermeneutic of continuity' approach to interpreting Vatican II, with an implicit slam of the progressive 'Bologna' school.
Yes, (a)catholics he was talking about you!

And the fifth strand to this rebalancing effort are some comments clearly targeting the 'progressives'.

According to Vatican Radio, one of his 'Domus Martha sermons' lauds adherence to our traditions in the interest of resisting secularism, and attacked that 'adolescent progressivism' that sees doctrine and practice as negotiable:

"Often he said, the people of God prefer to distance themselves from the Lord in favour of worldly proposals. He said worldliness is the root of evil and it can lead us to abandon our traditions and negotiate our loyalty to God who is always faithful. This – the Pope admonished – is called apostasy, which he said is a form of “adultery” which takes place when we negotiate the essence of our being: loyalty to the Lord...

And Pope Francis warned that this happens today. Moved by the spirit of worldliness, people negotiate their fidelity to the Lord, they negotiate their identity, and they negotiate their belonging to a people that God loves. 

And with a reference to the 20th century novel “Lord of the World” that focuses on the spirit of worldliness that leads to apostasy, Pope Francis warned against the desire to “be like everyone else” and what he called an “adolescent progressivism”. “What do you think?” – he said bitterly – “that today human sacrifices are not made? Many, many people make human sacrifices and there are laws that protect them”...

Good to hear.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Pray for Tasmania and Canberra

I wanted to alert readers briefly of two events, one (hopefully!) positive, one not happening tomorrow that need your fervent prayers.

First the positive - tomorrow is the installment of Canberra-Goulburn's new Archbishop, so please do keep Archbishop-elect Christopher Prowse in your prayers.  And if you can't get to the ceremony, it will be livestreamed (from 10.45am).  **You can read an interview with him in The Canberra Times (nothing startling, all very Francis-PC!).

Secondly, I've received an alert from a reader that the debate on Tasmania's proposed extremist abortion bill, aka the Tasmanian Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) bill, is going to be debated in the Tasmanian Legislative Council tomorrow (Tuesday).  The bill proposes, amongst many other things, hefty fines and even jail for protesters at abortion clinics, and attempts to force medical professionals to refer patients to pro-abortion doctors and counsellors.  You can read more in The Examiner.