Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You Can Bet on Celebrity Catholics

One of the biggest stories to come out of the 2016 Australian Census statistics is that  those indicating "No religion" have outnumbered Catholics.

However,  Catholics may not have the numbers, but they have the clout as shown in the Facebook page of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne which made a feature post on 28th June  of  Patti Newton "  a prominent Melbourne Catholic, having just been honoured in the Queen's Birthday awards" Now that's what I call celebrity Catholicism. 

Catholics, like Heinz come in many varieties! Popular Catholics in Australia are devout, practising, (aka committed) and Mass-going. Less popular Aussie  Catholics are lapsed and even bad. In recent history some have become Exiles and Inclusive. We and even Gay and Lesbian Catholics

We can be RomanUkrainian, Melkite  Maronite,  Syro-Malabar. And for all you scrabble fans we now have the  "Ordinariate Catholics".

So, back to Patti Newton and Celebrity Catholicism. America has had a longer tradition of "Celebrity Catholics" thanks to Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, all the Kenedys  and Al Capone.

Australia can trace its beginning of  celebrity Catholics from  Ned Kelly to Ronald Ryan. Mary MacKillop is exempt from this category as she is in the Sainted division of Catholicism, although she does have her own celebrity web site.Sitting on the fence between celebrity and saint is Caroline Chisholm deposed from the five dollar note by the Queen.

Celebrity Catholics have taken the lead in the race for identity in Australia. Perhaps it began with Philip Lynch who became the first prominent Catholic in the Liberal Party. His memory has been somewhat overshadowed by a new generation of Catholics in the LNP

Now there is a new breed of celebrity Catholic who appear simultaneously in tabloid and religious news coverage. Nicole Kidman began to attract spots in the CathNews service with her wedding and her first born's  baptism  A Murdoch baptism was also noted in case readers missed the columns in the family press. Even Alan Bond, canonised as a "corporate crook" made it into CathNews. Bondy also takes out the Catholic Celebrity image of the era for his meeting with Pope John Paul II

Sometimes it can backfire when a celebrity Catholic becomes a celebrity on another team such as Tom Cruise.Would CathNews have covered all of Elizabeth Taylor's other marriages after her first Catholic wedding? Will Mel Gibson be canonised?

Perhaps celebrity Catholicism is here to stay and will continue to pop up in the Royal Family, the entertainment industry and even the Vatican. Let's hope the odds are still with those Catholics who never appear in celebrity or religious news but quietly and passionately live their faith in service and devotion to the life and teachings of the man from Nazareth.

Identity and loyalty are probably the  most emotive and divisive  marks of contemporary Catholics. For example have a look at the discussion on  the Catholica Forum  "What Kind of Catholic Are You"?


George Cardinal Pell of  cappa magna fame is responsible for the most interesting variety of   Catholic. His celebrity status includes "Australia's most senior Catholic" "Top Catholic" "Most Senior Ranked Catholic". He features in two recent books, "Hell on the Way to Heaven" and "Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell"


So, what sort of Catholic are you? I like to see myself as just Catholic . Of all the theological statements and reflections the Church offers, its Social Teachings are my main inspiration. In this body of teaching and in the lives of great witnesses of justice I find a spirituality and vision to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God..

I suspect my public statements and position on sexuality also mean I don’t qualify for all the reward points accrued by card carrying Catholics. Yet I am Catholic, if only “just”. Why does a middle-aged gay man with a passion for justice, a love of the human body, and sheer exhilaration in the wonder of life continue to claim membership in the Catholic Church?

Because this is the community in which I find a way of celebrating and confronting the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of all humanity, particularly those who are poor or oppressed. And in this community I live out my mission as a "holy irritant" believing that peace overcomes hatred; joy overcomes sorrow; pardon overcomes injury; faith overcomes doubt and love overcomes everything!

Who would have thought to see
New fruit upon so old a tree? (A.D. Hope)

Nothing can go on if we leave the table (Pierre Teilhard de ChardinThe Phenomenon of Man)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi 2017

On 18th June 2017 Catholics celebrated  one of the most flamboyant of days, Corpus Christi.. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand.


In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.


Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)


Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Divine Office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" From this classic hymn we also have another  "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." The tune popular in Australia has been given a beautiful contemporary setting by Matt Maher. In this pic of the era you can see Tom  and Urban discussing a fishing trip. Waiting patiently to the side is the learned St Bonaventure who missed the boat that day.Image source
"


Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images unless you choose the "Feast" tab. . The default choice includes  scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. 




The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope Benny XVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome (more links)

A jolly  good number of Brisbane Catholics took to  the public square for the feast. Until recently  this event happened in the suburban quiet of Nudgee Junior College.  But in keeping with its more flamboyant expression in Europe the procession now does  a lap of honour “around the block” from the Cathedral of St Stephen in true Australian style.

This was a religious event Western style. Solemnity and lots of men. This year I have captured a theme of the "Faces of Catholicism" My favourite has to be this most Catholic of cars. The chant of the rosary and ehoes of the Living Parish Hymnal filled the city for a brief moment. I wonder of the  devotees considered the political statement of their presence in the shadows of the great temples of commercial worship.

The feast and its procession provides a platform for a particular feature of Catholicism that has a strong sense of nostalgia for life when Bing Crosby was everyone’s favourite priest and Archbishop Fulton Sheen swooned around the old black and white TV sets. 

The 2017 Corpus Christi  Procession collection is here. See the Brisbane Corpus Christi Procession 2016 here.

To leave you with a woman's insight of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey


I dedicate this page to the brave people and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Celebrating Anthony

One of the significant days of this month is June 13th, my name  day. My parents made sure I would spend my life gaining easy and instant recognition as a good Catholic boy by naming me after St Anthony of Padua whose feast-day falls on this day

Now this saint should not be confused with the many other holy Anthonys who have front row seats in the celestial realm:


My "Anthony" is a one of Catholicism's pin-up boys. He is patron for a number of a eternal chores that occupy most of his working days 


In his spare time he poses for thousand of popular images and statues that adorn churches homes and religious houses.


Somewhere along the timeline he also found time to star in a series of movies. My favourite is this classic from the silent movie era made long before the days inter-religious dialogue.


:


It's always good to remember that saints are often given to us to admire rather than imitate. Anthony was part of the weird and wonderful world of medieval Catholicism  in the early 13th century. He died at 36 in 1231 and never had an intimate relationship. So far I've outlived him and have not found the queue for the call to lifelong chastity.

Anthony was a great public speaker and had a pretty sharp intellect. Catholicism has a quaint practice of awarding posthumous PhDs to smart cookies and Anthony eventually got his in 1946.


Iconography of the saints is a big business as Churches, Monasteries, Convents,Schools, Oratories, Retreat Centres,Presbyteries and the humble domestic house have all gone shopping for their heavenly personalities to decorate walls. Anthony has quite large choice for the discerning shopper. 


This feast falls within a time of grieving and burial of Anthony Foster who won't make it into the Litany of Saints but wll be remembered for his  passionate challenge to the Church.and its sad history of clergy sexual abuse.  Anthony Foster's legacy has ensured that the Church has to undergo a shift in culture.  Perhaps it is time to replace the popular 17th Century image of St Anthony with the child Jesus as no longer appropriate. Despite an attempt to theologise the image I suggest it is one that has well passed its use by date. The icon used in this blog is from the work of Robert Lentz OFM.

Tourism is also part of every saints working life after death. Anthony has inspired a series of Churches and Basilicas. In Melbourne the local Capuchins applied for an extension of their friary chapel back in the 1950s..By the time they finished Power Street Hawthorn was adorned with its very own Italianate Shrine to St Anthony.

I have also discovered that Anthony himself goes  on tour for special events. He last appeared in 2010 when his less than attractive remains were taken for a lap of honour around his home base Basilica. Close up pic here. Howeber, it seems that  the locals may have been short changed. As you are reading this a piece of his floating rib is touring select cities Downunder.

Behind the saccherine hagiography lies the story of a man of faith and service, a man of his time with passion for truth, people and the needs of his era. Yeh, I still invoke him when things go missing and he has been part of my community of faith since my childhood days when his pic used to hang in my parents house over the bathroom door!!!.

So here's a call out to all those who share variants of the name Anthony! Celebrate, eat some good bread, indulge in some Italian or Portugese wine and make a public statement about  your passions

Iftar 2017

 With friends and neighbours from my local Suburb at the Hlland Park Mosque  11th June 2017
The quintessential Australian religious experience is to sit in a pub after attending an #Iftar on #TrinitySunday. For those unfamiliar with religious scrabble Iftar is the breaking of the daily fast for Muslims during the fasting time of #Ramadan. Trinity Sunday is the Christian feast of the mystery of three persons in one God. So if you are still with me it's like diving in the deep end of cross cultural understanding with divers all on different boards.

Religious diversity challenges our world view and forces us to plunge those core values that we affirm by osmosis, conversion and the sheer wonder of grace. We discover language and practices that are both comforting and unbelievable. And in the midst of it all we honour hospitality, work for the common good and learn respect for difference.

Tonight was was sacred time with my good friends at the #HollandParkMosque where I have been welcomed for many events as we work together to promote understanding and good will.

Checkng in at the pub rather than the Mosque means this post will reach an audience that may not have opportunities to consider these values and take advantage of such opportunities. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Today we lay to rest Anthony Foster whose name deserves a place of honour in Australian Catholic Church history. His witness to truth, integrity and justice means we need to change the way we are Catholic.
It means more than statements about child protection in the Church porch. It means an upheaval of those structures, practices and cultural norms that sheltered clergy abusers and shamed victims.
It it means returning to the source of our identity in the one who challenged the norms of ancient near eastern culture and religion two thousand years ago. Those challenges are equally valid today.
Thanks to Michael Mullins for this poignant and beautiful tribute. Rest in Peace Anthony and may the angels lead you into paradise where every tear will be wiped away.
How the Catholic Church came to embrace its enemy Anthony Foster
This morning a State Funeral will be held for Catholic Church child sexual abuse victims advocate Anthony Foster, who died suddenly on 26 May. In her tribute…
MICHAELMULLINS.ORG

Pray For Peace on June 8


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Anthony Foster, talks to the press after abuse survivors met Cardinal George Pell in the Hotel Quirinale, Rome, after Pell gave evidence to the The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture by David Mirzoeff /i-ImagesSource:Supplied
Every Catholic parish bulletin should carry this sad news. Anthony Foster was a man of faith, integrity and commitment who called the Church out of dishonesty. His story witnessed to truth telling in a way the George Cardinal Pell failed to grasp.

Anthony Foster called a powerful institution to face its sin in ways that will haunt the hierarchy into the future. His name deserves to be acknowledged in Australian Church History as a voice for the abused, a challenge to clericalism and a witness to the Gospel call to conversion.

Rest in peace good and faithful servant

Tributes may be posted online here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Churches deplore the shaming and punishment of asylum seekers.

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Media Release

Churches deplore the shaming and punishment of asylum seekers.

22nd May 2017:
The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce calls for a re-instatement of justice and hope for the 7500 asylum seekers yet to apply for protection in Australia.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is dismayed at the recent ‘shaming’ language and hardline decision by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in regard to asylum seekers. 

The decision by Minister Dutton yesterday to threaten asylum seekers who have not yet had the opportunity to apply for protection by using language such as ‘fake refugees’ is unjust and unbecoming of a Minister in the Australian Government.

Rev Mark Riessen, Deputy Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce; “It astonishes me that we have held people seeking refuge in our country in limbo for so many years. We have heaped heavy burdens upon them and they have become captive to punitive measures in an unfair ultimatum. The Christian faith calls us to work towards freedom for the captive and advocate for those treated unfairly, not to demonise them and shame them.”

Many of the people Minister Dutton derides did not even have an option to apply for protection for a number of years until the ‘fast track’ processing system passed in 2015.  During this time many of them did not have a right to work and have been living in poverty. 

The process of applying for protection is arduous for those who do not have legal advice, many of whom are waiting for pro bono advice from overstretched legal services.  The 7500 who have not yet applied deserve the same respect as others who have applied before them.

Caz Coleman Acting Executive Officer;
“To draw boundaries that sharply delineate between those who are ‘in’ and to whom justice and fairness applies, and those who are ‘out’ and to whom justice and fairness does not, is to deny justice at all.”

The ACRT supports the need for all 7500 to be processed in order for them to be able to determine their future.  However, the ACRT believes that shaming and punishing people is not the way to encourage engagement. 

The ACRT calls on the Government to provide additional support to this group of people in the form of legal support and positive messaging to resolve the residual caseload.

Rev Riessen “At the core of this process we ask for a reinstatement of hope, and that there will be fairness and justice in this process.”

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Rev Mark Riessen 
Deputy Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce       
0422 115 259 

Caz Coleman                   
Acting Executive Officer     
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
0411876226

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reclaiming May in Catholicism

As a young boy I was fully inducted into my privileged state  in the Catholic Church. I was a altar server which meant I had access to the sacred in ways that my revered grandmother would never know.I was taught the ritual language of Latin and dressed in robes that marked me off from others in the Church.

The elite male caste of clericalism is one that can easily trap a young boy with religious interest,imagination and dreams of adventure. Although I had my share of comic book heroes, some of whom were military monsters, I also read of the martyrs and wonder workers of my faith tradition who ranged from the hard working to the eccentric. Few of these stories were of women whether  in comic books or biographies of saints.

I spent a number of years as a young adult within this culture of male clericalism. I learnt much from this  experience. My choices meant that I lived in a  multicultural religious community of men. This nurtured a  new appreciation of cultural diversity that has stayed with me since.It also gave me insights into masculinity that have led me to a new understanding of my sexuality as a gay man.

My passion for social justice led me to an awareness that at the core of my life was a deep injustice both personal and systemic. It was an injustice deeply rooted in  the very culture I had taken on board as my  source of meaning and fulfillment.

Patriarchy is the elephant in the room of Catholicism and much of Christianity.In my younger days I took it for granted that males had rights and privileges.When I was a young altar boy there was one Sunday in the year when girls took centre stage in the Church.

The annual crowning of Our Lady's statue was a high  religious festival in May. It involved  flowers, lyrical songs and young girls dressed in white strewing rose petals on the nave of the Church, There was even a "WHS" factor ignored at the time, when one  special girl in full white wedding gear had to climb a ladder to place a wreath of flowers on the head of the statue. Many observers would see the day as a bit of Goddess worship Catholic style where women had their  15 minutes of religious fame. But after all the processing and drama of the crowning we went back to hearing a male priest tell of the glory of Mary.

In  2012  the NCR has published one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read by Sr Joan Chittester : Silence about the global treatment of women is disquieting. Chittester concludes this item with this call:

From where I stand, it seems to me that male "protection," paternalism and patriarchal theology are not to be trusted anymore because the actions it spawns in both men and women have limited the full humanity of women everywhere, and on purpose.

Isn't it time for us all to really be converted, to say the real Truth about women from our pulpits, from our preachers, from our patriarchs, until both they and we finally believe it ourselves? Then surely the actions that make it real will follow.


I am all for keeping May as a month of "woman awareness". I believe we should rediscover the mythology and person of Mary of Nazareth in our day. My preferred text for such an approach is Marina Warner's "Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary". It speaks with far more religious and feminine insight the Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary.


I have  my own Marian Shrine in the back garden. "Our Lady of the Milk Crate" is a local devotion inspired by the appearances of Mary at Coogee Beach. Readers may be surprised to know that the Virgin Mary had made an earlier visit to Coogee in 1911 to a young woman, Eileen O'Connor who founded Australia's Brown Nurses.

On a practical and pastoral response perhaps our Churches could begin by recognizing May as Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.No such mention of this basic issue last year  in the May 13 ceremony of the consecration of the Pontificate of Pope Francis.

My many women friends continue to challenge me into the full maturity of my masculinity. I recall with gratitude the women of global influence I have been privileged to meet or know online and through their writings. I honour the work of Dorothy Day, Jean Houston, Helen Prejean, Pauline Coll, Julia Cameron. Marina Warner, Janet McKenzie,   Mirium Therese WinterOdetta, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Maureen Watson, Oodgeroo  Noonuccal  Mirium Rose Ungunmerr Baumann and so many more.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Greeting 2017




Welcome to the season of Easter. Yes,it runs much longer than tomorrow's public holiday and the end of Easter specials on offer.
Thanks to joy filled Christianity there are 50 days for the greetings, the chocolate, the hot cross buns, and the 'Alleluia" refrain that will echo with hope in worshipping communities.
As we Christians complete our Easter celebrations on June 4th we will join our sisters and brothers of Islam who will commence their holy season of Ramadam on May 27 .
Truly this is a season of new life, peace among peoples and universal hope for the future of our planet, May this time of renewal and peace find a home in our hearts.


The tee-shirt I wore to services on Good Friday and for the Easter Vigil. Alongside the First eoples image of the cross is the sticker placed on each of us who attended the Lamentations at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Dormition of Our Lady, Mt Gravatt The Easter spirit is captured in the burst of light across the top of the tee.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Catholics Called to Stop Adani

Stop Adani

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane have called on Catholics to join the movement to stop the develoment of the Adani Coal mine in Queensland.

In his landmark encyclical of 2015, Pope Francis spoke about the need to phase out the use of fossil fuels in the world economy to respond to the climate crisis:
 
Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy… (No. 26)
 
Right now, one of the world’s largest coal mines is on the verge of being constructed in Queensland.  The Adani project will ship tens of millions of tonnes of coal annually when in full production.  A coalition of environmental and community groups is campaigning to stop the Adani project.  The Commission encourages Catholics to join these efforts.  To find out more information on the Adani project and what you can do to stop this project, go to: 
www.stopadani.com/


The Commission stands in solidarity with the Wangan Jagalingou people and is pleased that the legislation re The Native Title Bill  has not been passed.


Petitions




Sunday, April 02, 2017

Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia


Catholics for Renewal has drafted the following letter in consultation with many Catholics strongly committed to the teachings of Jesus and their Church. People of the Church, including our bishops, have been distressed by the increasing failings of our Church, particularly in the context of the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Australian Catholics are invited to consider and sign below the Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia.The Open Letter provides an opportunity, consistent with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for the faithful - lay people, religious, priests, all members of the Church - to seek renewal of the Church. The Open Letter may be signed online BELOW, or via download hard copy HERE or say after Sunday Mass.