What's it all about?

Well, you can read that in the header to this page.

We trying to redress the balance and put the other side.

Crittenden's Religion Report program, needs to be read with this corrective.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to be a Catholic without really trying aka Oppression of a minority by Rome

Okay, let's see if this week's program will take us where we think. Ready? Let's go...

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

As we reported last week, the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane has been rocked [what, because they aren't used to an Archbishop threatening to do his job?] by a threat from Archbishop John Bathersby to close down one of its most thriving parishes [right, so it's a magnificent parish that shouldn't be touched because it's thriving. Does Crittenden report is such glowing terms about the traditional and traditionalist communities that are "thriving" the world over or are they doing the wrong sort of "thriving"], St Mary's, South Brisbane.

It seems that every major city has an inner-city parish like St Mary's, innovative, ecumenical, inclusive, social justice oriented, and radical and difficult to control. [crikey, talk about being hoisted on your own pettard. If someone like Crittenden praises any organism like this within the Catholic Church, you know it's probably time that it be shut down]

Well late last week Archbishop Bathersby wrote a three-page letter to the parish detailing a number of liturgical and canonical irregularities that needed to be attended to. [mere, "irregularities" that need "attending to". Regardless of who used the term first, this down-playing of the seriousness of the heterdoxy and heteropraxis is shameful. Call a spade a spade, Crittenden. Or don't you know the difference?] He complained [merely "complained" as though it were merely a matter of subjective taste, Crittenden?] about the placement of a Buddhist statue in the church which he described as 'extremely reckless', and he also complained about a radical form of Eucharistic prayer used during mass, in which the whole congregation prays together, not just the priest. He also referred to the fact that a similar letter had been written in 2004 which he said had been dismissed as unimportant, and even ridiculed. 'My authority as Archbishop is scarcely recognised by the parish of St Mary's', he complains. 'In reality St Mary's South Brisbane has taken a Roman Catholic parish and established its own brand of religion.'

But the Archbishop stopped short at carrying out his verbal threat to close the parish down.
On Monday night a packed meeting of parishioners resolved to try to work with the Archbishop and create a series of working groups to respond to his main areas of concern.

That meeting was chaired by Karyn Walsh, who runs the big social justice initiative [we are sure Ms Walsh does great work. Crittenden's comment, however, politicises her and constitutes the usual illiberal tactic of protesting that "jack-boot Rome dares touch a modern day saint"] in the parish. It's called Micah, and when she spoke to me yesterday afternoon, I began by asking her to explain what it is that Micah does.

Karyn Walsh: Well we're based in the Parish House. We work collaboratively with a lot of community agencies in the area, we're the lead agency with the Brisbane Homeless Service Centre; we're providing a key assessment and referral service for people who are homeless as well as the street service that works seven days a week till midnight, working with people who are sleeping rough in parks and seeking accommodation.

Stephen Crittenden: And this is all parish volunteers, is it? [see a pattern emerging? gee the leading questions he asks are annoying]

Karyn Walsh: No, no. [Good research, Crittenden. Like almost everything else] We receive government funding for a lot of the work, but it's backed up by parish contributions. For example, with the homelessness work that we do, we have government funding to have outreach workers and centre-based workers, but then the community gives about 40% of its income to support the social justice work, including contributions to a homelessness and housing fund. That fund would provide accommodation for hundreds of people by purchasing them a bed in a motel, or paying their bond, or paying rent and giving financial assistance to prevent people from being homeless. [so, now that we have established that the good folk of the parish are committed to that part of the Catholic faith that requires all to "do unto others", let's move to those parts that are annoying and ultimately unimportant barnacles on the hull, you know, doctrine, dogma, discipline, liturgy...]

Stephen Crittenden: What's your response to the Archbishop's letter?

Karyn Walsh: Oh well I'd have many responses, but certainly I don't believe that making real division of social justice as a collective action of a community, is any less important than the spirituality of the community, and what I personally gain from St Mary's, and many others, is that the two are so intricately linked. Like it is the liturgy and the sustaining presence of the liturgy each week, that gives many people working in social justice the support and nurturing that they need to sustain their commitment to working with often very difficult and complex issues. [Fine, but what Church's "liturgy" might this be exactly...]

Stephen Crittenden: He's clearly got concerns about irregularities in terms of the liturgy and various canonical irregularities as well. Does he have a point there?

Karyn Walsh: Well obviously they're very real issues that this is the way Rome is talking about liturgy [Ah, yes, but Rome hath no power in this Realm of Brisbane. They're bloody Italians, anyway, aren't they, not Aussies?] and talking about the way in which it wants to centralise the way in which people live their lives, [You wot? "centralise"? Wethinks a modicum of catechesis is needed for Ms Walsh] but I think that many people at St Mary's, including myself, really had a vision from Vatican II that we believed in, [too bad YOUR vision of Vatican II bears little relationship to THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL'S VISION of Vatican II and that no one wants to tell you this or educate you. Crittenden certainly won't.] that we ["We" the Catholic Church, or "we" being me and my mates that had issues if Church teaching and wanted to find a folksy way around it?] felt was more consistent with the gospel, [the arrogance of the teaching that underpins the views expressed here is sublime! and, sadly, way too common] and believed that we should be able to live that out in communion with the church, [yes, but which protestant church do you have in mind, exactly?] that it shouldn't be something that is always marginalised.

Stephen Crittenden: Karen, I understand you chaired the meeting on Monday night; what was the mood of the meeting?

Karyn Walsh: The mood was very serious. People don't want to lose what in many cases they have had taken from them before. [Ms Walsh has common cause with the traditionalists in the Church. We can put them in touch with each other. Perfect opportunity for the Parish to do some ecumenical outreach] Obviously when you have 500 people together there is a range of diverse views, but it was a fantastic meeting in the way in which people listened and respected those views, because not everyone agrees with everything.

Stephen Crittenden: Is there a general sense of appreciation of the situation that Archbishop Bathersby sounds like he's in?

Karyn Walsh: Oh definitely. In fact many members of the community respect that the Archbishop is also in a difficult position, [so why put him in it????!!!] and that is why the community is going to take seriously the letter and not dismiss it, and reflect on the four areas that he outlined he wanted us to reflect on.

Stephen Crittenden: Do you think he would go so far as to close the parish down?

Karyn Walsh: I can't speak on how far the Archbishop will go or even what the boundaries of his decision-making are. [With respect to Ms Walsh, how can a practising Catholic NOT know that a bishop has jurisdiction in his own diocese. If this is not known, what else is not known: any idea about what is a proper understanding of the theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or what the documents of Vatican II really said?] That's not what I know. But I do have a respect for him as a person, as many people in the community do, and I think that it will be a sad day if he is forced to do that for the Catholic church in Australia, because it's very symbolic of where that Catholic church would be heading. [WHAT?!!! This parish is barely Catholic in belief and practice, the legitimate authority whose job is to ensure all his parishes are, tries to act to address the problem, and people see incapable or unwilling to actually the problem and then have the gall to have a swipe at the Archbishop doing his job? CLOSE THEM DOWN BATS AND SEND 'EM ALL BACK TO SCHOOL ON PAIN OF EXCOMMUNICATION]

Stephen Crittenden: Was there any talk at the meeting on Monday night about what the parish would do if it were to be closed down? [Is he actually going to delve on what THE PARISH thinks the irregularities are so unimportant?? Or does that risk having to speak about the real issues?]

Karyn Walsh: No, that's a premature question at this point. What was very clear at the meeting was that people do see that we are in communion with the archdiocese [How, if your faith and practice does not reflect the official teaching and practice of the Catholic Church?] and want to be. People want to be able to practice and have liturgy and have community the way it has happened at St Mary's. [Translation: we want to be protestants and do what protestants do because we don't like Catholic teaching and practice, but we still want call ourselves Catholics, so we'll pretend we are still Catholics by behaving like protestants and re-define what "Catholic" means by arguing "there's more than one way to be a Catholic".] They're not saying every church should be like that, but people do have options. We live in a world where people go, where they feel most comfortable. For many people at St Mary's this is their last option.

Stephen Crittenden: Karyn Walsh, who chaired Monday night's meeting at the Catholic parish of St Mary's South Brisbane.Well Archbishop Bathersby joins us now. Archbishop, thanks for joining us. You've also said a lot of positive things about the parish in your letter this week. Would it be fair to say that in the past you've been pretty supportive of the parish of South Brisbane, and that up to a point, you've been prepared to allow a fair degree of latitude? [Bats, that's your first mistake, mate. Give 'em an inch...unless of course you're actually okay with what they do down there]

John Bathersby: Yes, I'd say so. What I was conscious of was certainly the attitude towards the social justice matters over there. But apart from that I didn't really know much about it, and certainly some of the things that came to light with the letters that were written overseas to Rome, certainly were a surprise to me. I did think that there was a certain laxity about the liturgy, but I didn't know to what extent. And that certainly was a revelation to me. [Shouldn't you have sent someone down there to find out???]

Stephen Crittenden: You've made no secret of the fact that you're coming under pressure from Rome to act. Where precisely is that pressure coming from?

John Bathersby: The congregation of the bishops, the congregation of the clergy, and the congregation for worship.

Stephen Crittenden: All three? That's pretty heavy. ['bout the only sensible observation he's made all day. May we suggest this suggests there is something seriously wrong in this parish, such is the extent of its "irregularities"]

John Bathersby: Yes, I imagine the letters could have been written to all three as far as I know.

Stephen Crittenden: You've said that you've received many letters in the past few days yourself in support of St Mary's. But how many letters were received complaining about St Mary's?

John Bathersby: Not a great number, although I think over the years there's probably been a trickle of letters that have been coming. [And why not a "great number"? Because most wouldn't know a invalid Mass if it hit them in the face]

Stephen Crittenden: You mentioned social justice. [Must we again?] St Mary's is the No.1 social justice parish in Queensland, possibly in the whole of Australia. It's known for its work with the aboriginal community, you've threatened to close the parish down. Wouldn't that come at great cost, perhaps too high a cost?

John Bathersby: Well it wasn't so much a threat as the fact that that could happen, you know, that it might need to be closed. But of course, yes, it certainly would come at a cost. The difficulty is that it's more or less branched out on its own, more or less shaping itself to its own desires, particularly in this whole area of the sacramental life of the church. It's flaunted itself again in regard to church law and church regulations, but certainly that whole area of worship and sacrament is very much out of kilter with the Roman Catholic church. [Come on, Crittenden, delve into why this is an important issue, c'mon, mate...]

Stephen Crittenden: Coming out of the meeting that the parish held on Monday night, there do seem to be signs that the parishioners are looking at working with you and responding to your concerns. How much latitude does the parish have now? You mentioned those liturgical issues. Would conforming over a number of key liturgical and canonical irregularities be enough to pull them back from the brink, or realistically, is Rome going to continue being unhappy about well really everything these people represent? [What, doing good to others??? "Rome" ain't going to have a problem with that, don't you know. So, what exactly do "they represent", Crittenden? And if Rome does have an issue with what they represent, might it not be a fair gripe? Anyway, still in this interview we've got no idea what those gripes are (other than a statue of the founder of another religion appearing in the House of God)]

John Bathersby: From my point of view, it's interesting that there's a core of Catholics in there I think who don't really have a good understanding of what it means to be in communion with the Roman Catholic church and it possibly came as a bit of a surprise for them to have it spelt out in the letter that I sent. [Crikey, such is the level of education in your Archdiocese, Bats. Are you going to fix this? How did it get to this?] Those people seem to be very much at home there, [most people are at home if they're doing precisely what they want] but wouldn't have any idea that the actual liturgy that was being used, was certainly an unorthodox liturgy. I mean this is not untypical of the church at the present time, but there's a real ignorance about what is required, and therefore it needs to be spelt out for them. [Thanks, Bats, you've hit the nail square on. But what about your own liturgies. How orthodox (in the proper sense of the word are they???) Baptism, perhaps, Mass?]

Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed, the parishioners at St Mary's aren't the only ones introducing all kinds of liturgical deviations these days. [No, because many priests and bishops don't give a brass razoo, what the Church says about her worship and despite the fact that liturgical innovation was condemned as soon as it started to happen after V2]

John Bathersby: Oh no, I wouldn't think so.

Stephen Crittenden: It must be very hard to make people do it Rome's way if that's not what they want to do. [There we go. Rome vs us. Not that the good Arch doesn't use that lingo too, of course...]

John Bathersby: Yes. I think in an increasing secular society you get a lot of secularity creeping into marriage ceremonies and also funerals, you know. I don't know how many times you would have found that Frank Sinatra had been trotted out, doing it his way. [Will this cue be taken up for the program's closing music?]

Stephen Crittenden: Let's just talk about some of the governance issues that you've raised. [Yes, why don't we talk "corporate", now, given that we've been talking politics]

You've described the parish as congregational, and you're clearly concerned about the level of lay leadership. Isn't St Mary's modeling a different way of being a parish that will become more important in the future as the priesthood dies out, and isn't that something the Catholic church is just going to have to begin getting used to? [On one hand, we shouldn't be suprised; it could be argued that this is just an interviewing technique. But on the other hand, it's so ubiquitous and direct, that you know he is just giving voice to views and criticisms he holds himself.]

John Bathersby: Well I don't know if the priesthood is going to, I'm certainly optimistic about it. I mean when you look at the very secular society in which we are, I mean there's no guarantee that that secularity is going to continue into the future. [Bats inspires confidence, doesn't he.]

Stephen Crittenden: But this isn't just about secularity, there are a number of priestless parishes already in Australia now, and clergy numbers are declining, and there's I think a growing expectation [says who?] that the laity are going to be much more involved, already are much more involved in running parishes. [involved in running the administrative side yes, but not being priests taking care of the sacraments. We know you don't care for the distinction, but it is important in Catholic theology]

John Bathersby: Well certainly that was the idea of Second Vatican Council that it's the people of God who come together within the church, and there was every encouragement given to lay people more or less being called into the mission of the church, and they responded to that with parish councils and pastoral councils. There's been a great deal of involvement of lay people. But I'm not as pessimistic about the future in regard to vocations to priesthood. I think that already those numbers are increasing, and I believe will continue to increase.

Stephen Crittenden: But let's get back to this question of governance. Are you saying that in principle, you're opposed to the idea of laity having executive authority in the parish?

John Bathersby: Oh yes I am, because the structure of the church is that the -

Stephen Crittenden: It's a clerical church in the end. [Snipe, snipe, snipe. he can't help himself]

John Bathersby: Yes, it's a clerical church, the priest is the leader. Now that shouldn't lean to an abuse of power in that particular situation. I mean the priest is supposed to be the servant of the people there. [Let's not kid ourselves that Vatican II brought to end an era of some priests abusing their power. It's arguably even more prevelant now, because they are free of most claims to authority and ortodoxy and they can co-opt a bunch of hippy lay sympathises and pseudo-wannabe-priests (some of whom fit into the wymyn priest category). This parish is another case in point and in happens in small and large ways all over the world]

Stephen Crittenden: It's clear that you've been very patient over a long period, and I'm very interested in the rather gentle tone of the letter that you sent the other day. You seem to be holding out an olive branch and trying to weave your way through what's obviously a very difficult situation. But placing the ball in their court to respond, are you also trying in all of this, to model a different way of being an Archbishop? [Crittenden hasn't moved on from Julius II, folks. Tiresome, no?]

John Bathersby: (laughs) Well I was sort of hoping that all Archbishops would more or less act in that particular manner. I mean to lose a parish, or lose people is a tragedy wherever it happens. I would certainly want to welcome people back into communion with the church, than rather cut them off, I think that's an absolutely last resort. [a point that you may have reached now]

Stephen Crittenden: If it comes to closing the parish down, it may be that the community decides to stick together with their priest. I think there's even been talk of approaching the archdiocese to lease the church back. What action then from you if that was the outcome?

John Bathersby: Well I'd say that if they are going to remain in an unorthodox situation, they break away and they're into a style of church that -

Stephen Crittenden: And does Father Kennedy continue with his faculties from you?

John Bathersby: No it would certainly be a cut-off situation.

Stephen Crittenden: And what about the church building?

John Bathersby: Well of course it belongs to the archdiocese. It's a parish that goes back 100 years. It is a church of the archdiocese of Brisbane.

Stephen Crittenden: Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane.Well now to Adele Rice, another long-serving parishioner. Adele you say the mood of Monday night's meeting was very positive. What do you mean by that? Positive in the sense of agreeing to stand your ground, or positive in the sense of being willing to compromise?

Adele Rice: I think probably looking for some kind of negotiation or reconciliation and I didn't actually hear the word 'compromise', [They sound like the Lefebrvists.] but I think many of us feel that we have a lot to lose and that we wouldn't like to lose that space. We wouldn't like someone or any authority to tell us that we weren't Catholic, [HELLO?! How can such poor misguided views be expressed. How did it get to this?] and that we are prepared to work on it, yes.

Stephen Crittenden: You say you wouldn't like to lose that space, it's a magnificent church, isn't it? [So it's a question of property, politics, corporate governance. Everything but faith and practice]

Adele Rice: It is. But it's what happens in it. It's a very joyful place, the liturgies are very relevant to everyday life. [Are you saying that a Mass using the most beautiful sacred art, vestments and music, in which the congregation experience the transcendent and are present at the sacrifice of God's Son made present again for them, is not relevant to everyday life? God in front of them, is not relevant?] In my particular instance I've had four of my grandchildren baptised there, two of my three adult children married there, my husband buried from there, a grand-daughter buried from there.

Stephen Crittenden: You've been in the parish 26 years?

Adele Rice: Twenty-six years, yes. And the circumstances around our going and leaving a very traditional and very comfortable parish in the suburb where we lived, where we had no issues with the parish priest, he was a great family friend, but it was the teenage daughter who'd gone off to high school who was starting to be resentful of going to mass every Sunday and the same thing, and bobbing up and down and so on, and in her school she was introduced to some other feminist theological ideas, and was involved in painting a women's shelter, and so off the family went to St Mary's, and from the minute we set foot there and heard the sorts of talk and discussion and the readings, the priests are so well-read, and then we get the benefit of someone who can synthesise what those readings are. So it's a place of great learning, and for our family, we've never gone anywhere else since. [Yep, that's about how confused this person is. She's sincere, certainly, like so many are, but mightily and thoroughly confused. There's a lot of work to be done, folks, a lot.]

Stephen Crittenden: We've heard about women preaching at South Brisbane, and I'm told you're one of the women who preaches.

Adele Rice: Well I work in areas that deal with providing educational services and settlement services to immigrant and refugee young people. And so particularly when it's Refugee Week or Refugee Sunday or there's some issue about refugees, Peter or Terry might ask me if I will do the homilies on that weekend. So many times over the years at that particular Sunday or week or month, I will give those homilies and always have great support and feedback and often people ringing wanting to volunteer, wanting to help. You know, it's a place of solidarity. I feel very warmly supported there. [Right, who cares if you don't have the authority to do this. You just do what you want]

Stephen Crittenden: What's your response to Archbishop Bathersby saying you're not in communion with the Catholic church as a parish?

Adele Rice: I have a great deal of difficulty with that. I feel very much in community with the Catholic church, and with all humility, I don't think anybody has the right to tell me that I'm not in communion with my God and with my church. [Does God? Does Christ? Does the Vicar of Christ of Earth? Do his lawful delegates? Face it Ms Rice, you're not in communion and you don't want to be. You're a protestant. Of what sort, we don't konw, but a protestant you are. Good luck to you. But don't insult the rest of us by attempting to call yourself a Catholic. That's offensive.]

Stephen Crittenden: And if the axe does fall, and Archbishop Bathersby closes the parish down, do you think the mood of the parish is to stick it out, stay together?

Adele Rice: I suppose that's a very hard hypothetical question. I wouldn't like to be practicing or attending in parks or halls or things like that. To me, that's a consecrated, designated space, ["designated"???! like a car parking spot. oh please] and I think in his heart, I mean I think he is probably a man with many good qualities as well, I honestly don't think he will close it down. I think he is putting it back on to us as a community, saying 'Will we rather close ourselves down? And I certainly don't think we will, I think there are too many people there who have too much to lose. [like embracing the fullness of Catholic faith and practice.]

Stephen Crittenden: But Adele, he may be forced to act.

Adele Rice: Yes, well I think we probably have to deal with that if it happens, but if that did happen and there was that Roman sort of push, then as a member of my family said, Well maybe our family will start saying 'ex-Catholic' on the next census. [they're in denial and have been for years, by the looks of it]

Stephen Crittenden: Adele Rice

FRANK SINGS 'MY WAY' [do we need to comment?]

Stephen Crittenden: The most un-Vatican-like of sentiments there. We couldn't resist that. [no, you can't resist insulting the Catholic Church, we know. We hear it most weeks, Crittenden.]

* The parish priest of St Mary's, Fr Peter Kennedy, declined the Religion Report's requests for an interview

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reactionaries at 10 paces

Returning from the success of World Youth Day, we recommence with last week's program.

Brillant it is. Let's look at it.

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

Next week, July 25th, marks the 40th anniversary of the single greatest catastrophe to befall the Catholic church since the Reformation, [We can't work out whether he's saying that the Reformation was a catastrophe too. We think it evidently was] when Pope Paul VI published his encyclical banning the pill, Humanae Vitae, leading to a theological Stalingrad from which the church has been unable to recover. [Lest you think there's any objectivity about this program, Crittenden manages to demolish that within 21 words of beginning his program]

The overwhelming majority of Catholics [How do you know? Anywa, no, the Catholic Faith is not determined by the vote of a majority (or even a minority). When are you going to understand this and get over it? It ain't Protestantism] have always [Always, folks] rejected the basic principles about sexuality which the encyclical lays out, that sex should only take place within marriage, and that it should always be open to the procreation of children, and defending the encyclical has come at great cost. [Defending the faith also came at great cost to the matyrs and saints, so how fatuous is Crittenden's statement here?] In fact it has contributed to the collapse of the sacrament of confession, [Huh? No, your secularist idea that there is no such thing as "sin" has lowered the numbers of confessions] the collapse of the priesthood, [No, your protestant rejection of the sacramental priesthood has done that] and the purging of a brilliant generation of liberal theologians. [There no such thing exists. They're called heretical, actually.]
But above all, Humanae Vitae led to the collapse of the very papal authority it was designed to defend, because everybody knew that the Pope had been talked into rejecting the overwhelming majority advice of his own papal advisory commission.

Veteran Rome journalist, Robert Blair Kaiser had covered the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s in Rome and he also covered the ill-fated encyclical. [Media interviews media: wow, how trustworthy are these views going to be?]

Robert Blair Kaiser: Pope John XXIII started up a small birth control commission to advise him about the licaity of the pill, and then it kind of grew, and they thought, 'You know, let's start things much more from the foundations. And why do we say that contraception is intrinsically evil? And what's behind that? And let's re-examine our attitudes towards sex and women and so forth.' And then Paul VI came along after John XXIII died and expanded that commission to 73 members; lots of experts, scholars, lay people, psychiatrists, demographers and so forth.

Stephen Crittenden: You of course were working for Time Magazine in Rome, covering the Second Vatican Council at exactly this time because the Council was going on while this commission was meeting in secret and you nearly broke the story.

Robert Blair Kaiser: Highly secret, but I had a close friend, one of the members of the commission, the Pope's moral theologian in Bernard Häring, the Redemptorist priest from Germany, who leaked a lot of stuff to me, and he told me whom to go and interview. And I took a month-long trip to France and Belgium and Holland and interviewed all these great theologians, and they began to give me a rationale for changing the church's teaching on birth control, that it's not Catholic doctrine as such, it has nothing to do with the faith, it has everything to do with morals, but morals are all reasoned out. God didn't tell us not to practice birth control, this was a reasoned application of the first principle of the natural law: do good and avoid evil, and they began to realise that either contraception is moral or it's immoral. If it's immoral, the Pope can't give his permission to use it and if it's moral, we don't need the Pope's permission.

Stephen Crittenden: Back at the beginning, as you said earlier, the commission starts off with a very small group of I think six theologians. I think there's a suggestion, isn't there, that John XXIII appointed this German Redemptorist, Bernard Häring, because he knew what he wanted to do. So he wouldn't sort of stand out in a photograph of one, he added a few other theologians. But then Paul VI as you say, expanded it, and it included members of the laity, women. I mean it was in a sense a really pioneering....

Robert Blair Kaiser: Oh yes, there were six married couples who really are the chief experts in this matter.

Stephen Crittenden: It's a real pioneering venture in a way, in democracy. [People see what they want to, folks. But when 100k young people attend confession at World Youth Day, and constitute what Crittenden and that Ilk describe as "conservative" Catholics, then they are written off as not reflecting the thougths of real Catholics]

Robert Blair Kaiser: It never happened in the history of the church that I know of, and it hasn't happened since. Lots of trouble there. So when the commission advised the Pope that we've got to change, there was a counter-attack by the conservatives [there's that word] inside the Vatican, Cardinal Ottaviani who was the head of the Holy Office, a post that Cardinal Ratzinger filled for 25 years before he became Benedict XVI.

Stephen Crittenden: I think we should perhaps add that I think he was one of 11 or 12 children and people like Ottaviani , they didn't believe in family planning at all. [Evil monsters of course]

Robert Blair Kaiser: No, not at all. So Otaviani convinced Paul VI who was kind of a fearful man at times, what will happen to your moral authority if you change a teaching as ancient as this one? Actually the teaching only went back to 1931 at the time Pope Pious XI wrote Casti Conubii in reaction to the Anglicans at the Lambeth Conference in 1930, who tentatively put their blessing on modified forms of birth control. [Oh, come on brother, read your church history and understand it - you're meant to be an expert!]

Stephen Crittenden: And basically married couples making up their own minds in the end.

Robert Blair Kaiser: That's right, that's where the decision ought to lie, [Breaking News: it's where the decision DOES lie, regardless of what the Church teaches.] with the consciences of the people. So the ironic playout of that decision by the Pope, to turn his back on his own commission and write an encyclical called Humanae Vitae. He lost his moral authority, because Catholics around the world said, 'He doesn't know what he's talking about', and they did not follow this so-called teaching. And if a teaching is not received by the people, according to ancient Catholic tradition, it's not a teaching at all. [Gosh] If I tried to teach you the Pythagorean theorem and you don't get it, there hasn't been any teaching involved. Now that's an analogy, but it comes close to the idea that if the Pope tries to teach us something and we don't get it because of our own faith and our own experience, which is very important in this particular issue, marital morality, then it's not a teaching at all. [How profoundly sad]

Stephen Crittenden: Take us back then to that couple of weeks in July 1968. International headlines went crazy, didn't they?

Robert Blair Kaiser: There'd been a two-year long debate over this question. We were all expecting the Pope would follow the lead of his own commission. After all, why would he appoint a commission in order to turn his back on his own commission? So we were quite surprised, and so was the media. The media was primed for this and of course there were headlines all over the world and I remember Pat Crowley, Patricia Crowley was the wife of Patrick Crowley, they were the leaders of the Christian Family Movement in the United States -

Stephen Crittenden: And they had been on -

Robert Blair Kaiser: - they'd been on the commission for four years, and they got a call in the middle of the night from the Associated Press reporter in Rome, asking for comment on this. Well that was the first they heard about it, and they just roared; they roared with laughter and then cried with sadness. 'What did we spend four years there for?' They couldn't believe it.

Stephen Crittenden: They had brought really overwhelming evidence to the commission from married Catholic couples -

Robert Blair Kaiser: Thousands of letters.

Stephen Crittenden: - that the practice of natural family planning, of the rhythm method and all that stuff, was basically driving people crazy.

Robert Blair Kaiser: It was. It was breaking up marriages, it wasn't working. You know what they called people who practiced rhythm? They called them parents.

Stephen Crittenden: Let's talk about the impact that the international reaction to Humanae Vitae had on Pope Paul VI personally, because it was a catastrophe for the church, but it was a personal disaster for Paul VI, wasn't it?

Robert Blair Kaiser: He went into a funk, into a depression, he never wrote another encyclical.

Stephen Crittenden: Journalist Robert Blair Kaiser .

ABC ARCHIVE MATERIALMan: It's clear that the issue of birth control is just the top of an iceberg. The nature of moral thinking and the issue that the notion and proper exercise of authority are there, not very far below the surface. We reject the use of authority which tries to bind consciences rather than inform them. [Who is Archive Man kidding with this sophistry. God grants Freedom to the individual to follow what His Church teaches. That freedom does compel or force, it can't.] Especially on an issue where informed opinions within the church differ, have differed, and do differ. In a sense, what is regrettable about Pope Paul's statement is not whether he has banned the contraceptive pill or not, but rather the whole conception of papal authority that it portrays. During the Vatican Council the church came to see that the Holy Spirit dwells and acts in the whole people of God, and not just in the Pope and Bishops. [As opposed to your interpretation where the Holy Spirirt dwells and acts solely in the "people of God" and not the Pope and Bishops]

Woman: The important thing which has emerged clearly in the past few weeks, is that each person must confront this question of birth control with an active and enlightened conscience. Pope Paul's teaching must be taken into account, informing one's conscience, but then so must the fact that this teaching seems to be widely separated from much recent and widespread thinking in the church.

Stephen Crittenden: One of the few female voices at a public meeting held at Sydney University in 1968 to discuss the encyclical, Humanae Vitae.Well let's hear from Australian Catholic women who remember those debates. Morag Fraser is the former Editor of the Jesuit magazine, Eureka [oh, oh] Street, and in 2004 she was awarded an Order of Australia for her contributions to journalism and to debate on social issues. [Right, so she's credible on the science of theological then, much more than a bishop or a Pope]

Morag Fraser: I think I remember where I was when I heard the decision. [that's an impressive start] I was walking up the stairs in the house we were living in and I thought, 'Oh heavens, they've gone backwards', a sense of being stymied somehow. You thought things were going to be more rational. Life for women was going to change the openness that one had sensed with Vatican II was going to continue and then suddenly it was though a door closed, you know, slam, bang in your face.

A turning point I think it was, Stephen, and certainly for me it was, because it was the moment when a young woman had suddenly to put into practice what she'd learned about the importance of conscience and making her own decisions. I was a young married woman. If I recall, I'd had one child and I'll never forget going to my gynaeocologist, a very good Catholic gynaecologist, he'd been my aunt's doctor, delivered my babies beautifully. I went to him on the first appointment after I'd had my first child, very easily, I was obviously a good breeder let's say, and saying 'What do I do about making sure I don't have millions of children?' and God bless him, the man said, 'I don't deal with that, you'll have to go to someone else.' And that's when I thought, 'Oh, OK, I've got to think about this and make my own decisions', and that was for me a turning point. I also remember being in the maternity hospital in Calvary in South Australia and discussing contraception. Do you want the full details? I'm sitting there, pretty well stripped to the waist, trying to produce milk because I was having a bit of trouble breastfeeding, and I'm visited by a priest I knew very well, so that was the style of the conversation. We had to work our way around the how does he cope with my sort of standing there with things attached to me. We talked about contraception and I can remember him saying to me, 'I think the Pope's right, it's consistent'. And I thought, 'Consistent? Or the right decision? I mean what are we talking about here? Are we talking about keeping a line and maintaining a line, because for me it was an absolutely crucial issue. I knew, understanding my own psychology, that I was not the person to have five children, and without some sort of contraception, it was very likely that I would have had more than that, and that was the first time really I'd had to face that kind of moral decision-making on my own.

Stephen Crittenden: Morag Fraser. Anne Henderson of the Sydney Institute was a young student in Melbourne in 1968.

Anne Henderson: For me, it wasn't such a big deal because I wasn;t even thinking of getting married. I mean the teaching of the church about premarital sex is more interesting to me, it wasn't about contraception, and as far as I was concerned, as a young woman, it was horrible. You know, relationships inevitably lead to sex when you're that age, and you were constantly thinking in your own brain, you know, What's right? What's wrong? Will I get pregnant? I must say that I wasn't thinking about going to hell, I was thinking about 'Will I get pregnant'? And there were many of my generation who did. Had to go to backyard abortionists, and one of them, not necessarily in my group, but my own daughters wouldn't have had that problem.

Stephen Crittenden: It was a moment that coincided with a different attitude towards authority, that period in the late '60s, that was all going on anyway. Was it a great 'Emperor has no clothes' moment perhaps?

Anne Henderson: Well I think it became that. The interesting thing about it was while it was seen as the great victory, I think that was the moment when intelligent couples, educated people, it was the era when I was the generation where women were going to university, working class people were going to university, it was never going to be the same again, and quietly we had Vatican II just prior to this, and this was seen as a reversal in some ways of that moment of change, I think privately people took up that theme of private conscience, and that I remember being a very big issue during the '60s and '70s with Catholics. Quietly priests advised couples to make their own decisions. [And what do you say to the intelligent couples, educated people and women going to university right now, who conclude that HV was right? ]

Stephen Crittenden: And there's no doubt that that did happen either, that's what priests were saying.

Anne Henderson: You bet. Yes, and they weren't telling their bishops what they were saying, and there were bishops who were upset that priests were doing this, and there were priests who were arguing about the right to do it, and others were pretending they didn't. And what happened over a decade I'd say, and by the time I was a married woman with children, was that couples just made their own decisions. I mean I laugh when people who are not Catholics saying 'Well this is against what the Pope says', well I mean for four decades now I would say Catholic couples just do their own thing.

Stephen Crittenden: When the encyclical came out, it immediately turned into an argument about papal authority and in fact about infallibility. I think in Sydney there was a moment of comedy when the auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Thomas Muldoon, was asked by the press whether the encyclical was infallible, and he said, 'No, no, it wasn't infallible, but it was almost infallible.' [How hard is it to understand a bit of nuance? Sorry, that's the issue isn't it. How silly of us]

Anne Henderson: Yes, maybe, but it's been proved to be not infallible. And I find the great irony with Humanae Vitae is that Muslim families are following the Pope much more strictly than Catholic families in the West. [Right villify the muslims now, such irrantional, ignorant, backward, mediaeval people they are. Or don't you have the stomach to do this?]

Stephen Crittenden: In fact Anne, I think the only group of people that the Pope was able to enforce the teaching upon was Catholic bishops. Who were supposed to be celibate anyway.

Anne Henderson: Yes, and the poor things had to teach it.

Stephen Crittenden: Anne Henderson.Well let's hear now from a woman theologian who has devoted her career to defending Humanae Vitae. Professor Janet E. Smith holds a chair in Life Ethics at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and she argues that the encyclical on the pill was a prophetic document. [No, surely not the other side of the argument???]

Janet E. Smith: Well Pope Paul VI predicted that four things would happen if contraception became widely used. One was there would be a decline in respect of women by men. There would be a decline in general morality. Combined with the first one, a kind of a disregard for a woman's physiological and psychological wellbeing. A prediction that governments would use contraception coercively, and then that people would begin to treat their bodies like machines. There are more or less four there, somehow I said it's five, but there were four. The reason I think that Pope Paul VI was right was because now we have rampant sex outside of marriage, out of control, babies born out of wedlock, massive numbers of abortions, massive increase of poverty, or single women with children. We now have in vitro fertilisation, we have babies being created in petrie dishes because of a huge increase of infertility, most of which can be traced to sexually transmitted diseases. There's just a crescendo of things that can be traced to the increased use of contraceptives. Not to mention HIV, AIDS etc.

Stephen Crittenden: But Janet, wasn't Humanae Vitae really addressed to married couples? [WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? Has he read the document and thought about it??] And aren't all those things that are happening outside marriage, strictly speaking irrelevant to the scope of the document? ["STRICTLY speaking"!!!! The irony.]

Janet E. Smith: Not really, because preparation for marriage is very important to marriage, and people are preparing very badly for marriage. They're having multiple sexual partners before marriage, they get used to thinking of sex as being just a casual activity that has no relationship to babies. I think they choose their sexual partners quite casually and sometimes they choose their spouse quite casually. In the United States the vast majority of people are having sex before marriage and even the majority are co-habiting. And so I feel that they're doing a kind of sliding into marriage, sort of like, Either we're going to break up or get married.

Stephen Crittenden: You mentioned abortion. You've argued that there's a connection between contraception and abortion, in that contraception has paved the way to more unwanted pregnancies which leads to more abortions. I don't really understand how that follows. I mean I would have thought that she'd only end up with more pregnancies if the contraception wasn't working.

Janet E. Smith: Well that's what you'd definitely think. But the problem is that more access to contraception makes people think it makes sense to have sex outside of marriage, and these people are not prepared for babies. [And this is the crux, isn't it] And well over 50% of the women going to abortion clinics to say that they were using a contraceptive when they got pregnant, and almost the majority of the rest of them say that they're contraceptively experienced, they've used it in the past. But around 80% are not married. Now that seems to suggest that it's because they're not married that they're having the abortion.

Stephen Crittenden: However, I mean I've done a study of the statistics in South America for example, it's countries like Uruguay and Peru in the '90s that had no access to contraception and in fact where abortion was illegal, that have the high abortion rates. One in two pregnancies terminated, and of course terminated illegally endangering the lives of the mothers. It's Chile at the end of the '90s where the abortion rate is five times the US and Canada; it's places like Spain and Holland and Belgium where the abortion rate is actually much lower.

Janet E. Smith: Well it does make a difference on what type culture contraception enters. Contraception enters into a culture that's been a traditional in its sexual morality, sex should be reserved for marriage, and where abortion has been illegal. When contraception is introduced, the sex outside of marriage just skyrockets, unwed pregnancy skyrockets, abortion skyrockets. When you introduce contraception into a culture that hasn't had contraception and has relied upon abortion as the primary form of contraception then yes, in those few cultures, it can reduce the number of abortions, that is true.

Stephen Crittenden: Professor Janet E. Smith.Well let's go back to the Second Vatican Council itself. It's November, 1964 and one after another, leading bishops stand up to speak in favour of relaxing the teaching on birth control. The most powerful of all those speeches was by the 84 year old Melchite Patriarch, Maximos the Fourth Saigh speaking in French .

Translation: There is a question here of a break between the official doctrine of the church and the contrary practice of the immense majority of Christian couples. The authority of the church has been called into question on a vast scale. The faithful find themselves forced to live in conflict with the law of the church, far from the sacraments, in constant anguish, unable to find a viable solution between two contradictory imperatives, conscience and normal married life. Frankly, should not the official positions of the church in this matter not be revised in the light of modern theology, medicine, psychology and social science? In marriage, the development of the personality and its integration into the creative plan of God are all one. So the purpose of marriage should not be divided into primary and secondary ends. And are we not entitled to ask if certain official positions are not the product of obsolete ideas and possibly even a bachelor psychosis on the part of those who are strangers to this sector of life?

Are we not unwittingly weighed down by a Manichean conception of man and the world, in which the work of the flesh vitiated in itself, is tolerated only for the sake of the children.

Far be it from me to minimise the delicacy and gravity of this matter and the possible abuses. But here, as elsewhere, is it not the duty of the church to educate the moral sense of its children, to train them in personal and community moral responsibility, profoundly mature in Christ, rather than enveloping them in a network of prescriptions and commandments and purely and simply asking them to blindly conform.

Let us see things as they are, and not as we wish them to be. Otherwise we risk talking in a desert. The future of the mission of the church in the world is at stake.

Stephen Crittenden: That's the speech at Vatican II by Patriarch Maximos the Fourth Saigh, the Melchite Patriarch.

Well let's hear now from a slightly older generation of Australian Catholic women who knew what Patriarch Maximos was talking about, women who were well into their child-bearing years when Humanae Vitae was published in 1968. They were also the first generation of women for whom the pill was available. In fact my producer, Noel Debien and I are both children of that generation of women, so we invited our own Catholic mothers onto the program and we were very surprised when they accepted. [So Crittenden and Debien come from the angry lapsed hippy Catholic set that wants to to continue calling themselves Catholic, when in fact they are Roman Protestants] Judy Debien had her first child in 1962. My parents went through a lot of anguish trying to start a family. I'm the eldest of Irene's four surviving children. I asked them what the publication of Humanae Vitae meant for women in their child-bearing years.

Irene Crittenden: At that stage, it was like a person getting married today. Here I am 30, but I've already had six full time pregnancies. So then the worry set in about how will I not have a big family. It hadn't occurred to me before, because I'd had all the misery of losing babies. At no stage did I ever think 'I'll go and see what a priest tells me I'm allowed to do.' I certainly talked about it to a priest friend, and I told him that my doctor had mentioned the rhythm method, and he said, 'I reckon you'd have to be neurotic to go through all that wouldn't you?' and I was happy to hear it but I was -

Stephen Crittenden: It was thermometers and stuff like that?

Irene Crittenden: Yes, get out of bed - sit up in bed and take your temperature and all that, and then decide, Well tonight's the night. I mean how could anyone live like that? So I thought it was pathetic, and I never ever put it into practice. Never. But my doctor was the person I trusted and believed in, and he was wonderful and he made some suggestions, but it was up to my individual conscience - not me, us, Keith and I both, we decided that after four children we'd - to be responsible parents, our family was really finished, big enough.

Stephen Crittenden: Judy, what did the publication of Humanae Vitae and the debate over contraception mean for you?

Judy Debien: I think it means that whereas before I'd just had the babies as they happened along. By the time I got to three, I can remember a friend offered me some solution, a pill that you used, which I disliked, used it once, felt guilty, that was the end of that. When I was having the fifth child, a friend of Mum's was there and he was a tough wharfie fellow who was a bit of a character, and looked at me and said, 'You really are exhausted'. And I said, 'Yes, I've never felt like that before with the other pregnancies but I really feel that I can't do this again.' And I thought to myself, as many had said to me, Well it's all very well for the priests to hand out the directives, but I thought they're not going to be there to look after the kids if I'm sick in bed.

Stephen Crittenden: Or look after you.

Judy Debien: Well, true. But I was mainly thinking of the children, and I just decided then that I would have the tubes tied, straight after I had the fifth child. Also I had worked for doctors for most of my life, so I sort of had people to talk to, but I can remember talking to one fellow about the rhythm method, and as he said, 'You're not geared that way. The time of the month that they're telling you to abstain is actually the time that you're really wanting to be with your partner.' So I thought that was one thing laughing at the other, in a sense. Talking about using natural methods, and it just doesn't work that way.

Stephen Crittenden: Irene, you've talked to me about the fact that the Vietnam War was going on at this time, and that you were very impressed by some of the young blokes who were conscientious objectors and refusing to go to war, and that there was this thing going on of people rejecting political authority, and this debate about spiritual authority going on.

Irene Crittenden: At that stage I had two baby boys, and I tried to put myself in the position of a mother who had boys aged 18 and whatever age you were conscripted, and I would never have wanted to see any boy go to the Vietnam war. We were all confused about why we were there [A good basis for making decisions] and I did admire people who objected and I would have backed anybody who objected. [So, what has this to do with obejctive morality? It's a political position]

Stephen Crittenden: And how did that affect your views about contraception? The two things were going on at the same time.

Irene Crittenden: Well it was all in my opinion, individual conscience, and I feel and have always felt that I have to make up my mind. I have to answer to my maker, I don't have to go up there to my maker and say, 'Somebody told me to do so-and-so', I have to answer for myself. And I felt I was doing the right thing by thinking about a problem, any problem, the war, having babies, and making up my own mind.

Stephen Crittenden: Judy, looking back, do you feel that your generation of Australian Catholic women were in the front line of making a big decision?

Judy Debien: Yes, we were. As I said, the guilt feelings when you use the pill for whatever reason, supposed regular cycles, was an absolute joke, but there were guilt feelings there because I'd been reared in Catholic schools, I had that enormous guilt that I carried for quite a while. But I got past that because I felt my conscience was clear.

Stephen Crittenden: Irene, had the fact that you hadn't been brought up a Catholic, that you hadn't gone to Catholic schools, did that change your attitude towards I guess priestly authority?

Irene Crittenden: I think it did Stephen, because I didn't grow up with fear, and the wonderful presentation nuns that gave me instruction didn't go on about fear, and so I never ever had a problem with it. I don't remember them talking too much about individual conscience but they certainly didn't tell me that this is a line and you must do this, this and this. And I never felt I had to.

Stephen Crittenden: What's your response then to the kind of John Paul II line that if you were contracepting, even after you'd had five or six babies, you're sort of part of the culture of death, that you're rejecting God.

Judy Debien: I didn't feel that way.

Irene Crittenden: I didn't either. If you were aborting babies it would be different, but contraception, or avoiding pregnancy in some way -

Judy Debien: Preventing.

Irene Crittenden: Preventing, was a responsible thing to do.

Stephen Crittenden: Irene Crittenden and Judy Debien, with an interesting counterpoint to the younger generation [Yes, those nasty young people who don't know anything about life or religion, but just carry on in an intolerable way. That shows us up] that's all over the airwaves with World Youth Day this week, and a counterpoint to Cardinal Pell's call this week to Australians to populate or perish.

We'll have more coverage of World Youth Day next week. Thanks to producers Charlie McCune and Noel Debien and to Michael Davis for the reading.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The End of the Catholicism: One Man brings it crashing down...S. Crittenden

We knew it was coming and no surprises.

On the cusp of the Holy Father's visit to Australia for World Youth Day, let's look at Crittenden's predicable program.

The degree of the Anti-Catholic diatribe contained in the blurb on his website describing the program content surprised even us. Judge for yourselves.

With just a few days to go before World Youth Day in Sydney, we ask whether the
visiting pilgrims from around the world are going to be presented with a real
church or a fantasy church. On the one hand there is a strong emphasis on
Catholic identity as traditionally conceived, and an attempt to revive a range
of traditional Catholic pious practices including the veneration of saintly
relics, individual confession, the Latin Mass, eucharistic adoration and the
stations of the cross. On the other hand there is a failure to confront modern
problems. We look at the attempt to exclude young gay Catholics, the
never-ending saga of sexual abuse, and the reality of a diminishing Australian
church now facing an acute priest shortage.

He's priceless, isn't he? The Old Dear. Religious vilification is alive and well, folks.

Now for the program proper.

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

With just a few days to go before the Pope arrives in Australia, there's unprecedented negative publicity around World Youth Day. [From whom? You know things are dire when the subject of a story is the media itself] Last week there was a public outcry over the so-called Anti-annoyance powers given to the New South Wales Police. This week, even as victim support groups were calling for a Papal apology and Cardinal Pell was feeding those expectations, the clerical sexual abuse crisis was still crashing around the church's head.

In the ACT the Marist Brothers are arguing they bear no liability for 30 compensation claims from former students because the abusing Brother, now in jail, wasn't technically an employee of the order. That's despite a psychiatrist's report that says Brother Kostka Chute repeatedly asked the Marist Order for help, but for years received none.

And of course Cardinal Pell has been explaining why he misrepresented the findings of the church's own internal investigation into allegations of abuse made against Sydney priest Terence Goodall, writing to one victim saying his complaint had been upheld, but writing on the very same day to another victim stating that his complaint had been unsubstantiated and that no other complaint of sexual assault had been received against Father Goodall.

If anything, yesterday's attempt by the Cardinal to explain the matter away only made things worse.

[We confess at the Report to not having followed these matters closely, so we don't feel in a position to comment on their accuracy. Although, given their source...we'll let you make up your own minds]

George Pell: Yes. That was poorly put. I was attempting to inform him that there was no other allegation of rape - and that, the incidents were run together. That was done badly.
Tony Eastley: You said that soon after you made this initial mistake to MR Jones, that a subsequent letter you expressed sorrow at what Mr Jones suffered. When was that sent to him? Was that in the same year?
George Pell: Yes, that I think, was - a couple of months later. But I didn't realize that I had made a mistake at that stage. Because I thought that, that phrases like "aggravated assault" which I would apply only to, to rape - and that was the distinction I was trying to make - it was not useful. But I didn't realize the mistake at that stage.

Stephen Crittenden: Cardinal Pell, speaking to Tony Eastley on the 'AM' program.
Meanwhile last Friday a number of schools and parishes who had been preparing to host overseas pilgrims, were told their facilities and their hospitality will no longer be needed. Plans to accommodate pilgrims in many public schools have apparently also been dropped. As one source in the Catholic system [Does he mean the Catholic school system?] told The Religion Report this week: "the amount of wasted infrastructure is overwhelming, there is no getting that money back".

Well today on the program, we ask whether one reason for all the negative publicity around World Youth Day is the huge disconnect between its emphasis on a fantasy church- a church of big crowds and idealistic, mass-going young people [he means, one reality he doesn't like, can't explain and can't understand] - and the reality [what he perceives as reality and think can be explained in his terms] of a diminishing Australian church with an acute priest shortage and a sexual abuse crisis that just lurches on and on. Paul Collins [...here we go, Mr Catholic himself] has just written a new book on the Australian church called 'Believers: Does Australian Catholicism have a future?' He says there's a lot of anti-Catholic feeling just below the surface in Australian society, especially in the media, [exhibit A is a program like this - thank's Mr Catholic for your acute powers of observation] and he fears that World Youth Day is feeding a public backlash against Catholics and Catholicism. [Well, may be it needs to, so that that vilifiers can be seen for what they are]

Paul Collins: What the World Youth Day is doing is providing an opportunity for that type of stuff to come to the surface. That doesn't mean that World Youth Day hasn't been a fairly ham-fisted performance and rather poorly presented, and it's not just World Youth Day's fault. I mean the New South Wales government simply has to accept a massive part of the responsibility for that. They in their typical fashion have wandered into this without thinking it through and without knowing the implications of it, and now whoever comes home to roost, is coming. [So, if this is essentially a political issue and one of bureaucratic organisation, why are we hearing about it on a "Relgion" program?]

Stephen Crittenden: A few months before Pope John Paul II died, I interviewed Hans Küng, the great ["great" in what sense?] Liberal Catholic [as opposed to Catholics, of course] theologian who said something in the interview that has stayed with me. That what John Paul II was on about was a church of the façade, that he failed to address any of the deep problems confronting the church but he spent all his time and energy creating the illusion of reinvigoration and success. [So, the whole of this program is based on a hypothesis by Kung] In other words, the Catholic church under John Paul II fits squarely into the bread and circuses scenario [O, whore of Babylon...] that we all know we've been living through in politics. [politics, not faith] Is that what World Youth Day began as part of?

Paul Collins: Well look, the world in which the church operates especially in the Western world is a world which is driven by media image. It's driven by appearance on television, it's driven by a pseudo sense of intimacy. There is this kind of pseudo-intimacy. Now I wrote an article about John Paul's use of the media in a book many years ago, published in the States entitled 'Has the Vatican Destroyed Vatican II?' The essay that I wrote was about the way in which John Paul used the media. He was the omnipresent Pope. Innocent III in 1215 may have had pretensions to being almost God, certainly the Lord of the World.

Stephen Crittenden: But John Paul pulled it off?

Paul Collins: But John Paul pulled it off . Because of modern media. [So, the Catholic Church manipulates the media and the message? These two are good aren't they. "Man bites dog" all over again.] You couldn't pull it off without television, you couldn't pull it off without telephone instant communication and travel. His approach in Third World countries was quite different. It was there based on massive crowds. The largest crowd in human history was a World Youth Day in Manila, I can't remember if it was 1994 or 1995, estimated between 4-million and 5-million people in one crowd. So that there was a kind of I think, a dual approach taken, but I do think Küng's phrase that a papacy of façade is true, I think. [No, we're not sure you DO think, old boy] However, I think that there are some good things going for World Youth Day.

The good things are it brings young people together. It brings them together within a reasonably structured context. The research work that Richard Rymarz at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, but he's now moved to the University of Alberta in Canada, Richard who is I think in town at present, looking at this particular World Youth Day, because it's never been assessed before; no-one's ever done a research project on it as far as I know. [Scientific, and empirical hypotheses these are, dear readers]

Stephen Crittenden: Who comes, and why, and what happens after?

Paul Collins: Who comes and why, and what happens after. Richard had done quite a bit of work with the ones from Australia who went to Cologne, and he makes a number of interesting observations. One of the observations is that certainly if they travel from overseas, they're already committed, and what it does is, it brings them from a committed Catholicism into a much more involved Catholicism. [We can feel the words fanatic and fundamentalist coming on...] They actually begin to work within the context of the church. But his guess is, and I hope I'm quoting him correctly here, but certainly I've heard this from other people as well, [boy, this is reliable then: scientific and empirical based on hear-say and supposition...] that their observation is that young people love being together, they love hearing the Pope articulate ideals, love hearing the Pope say the ideal of premarital chastity. They love the idea of a commitment to social justice, a commitment to the environment, all of those things that are now kind of popular causes for Popes to talk about. But young people love to hear the ideals. [Which of course is all bad, isn't it, because we grown-ups know better, we grown ups know that the ideals these Popes and the message of Christ they continually proclaim calls each one of us to a holiness that is hard, far too too hard and needs to be watered down if we grown ups are still to call ourselves "Catholic"] But that doesn't mean - and this is where the disconnect is - that doesn't mean that they're going to do anything necessarily about that in their own lives. [Crikey!! I bet this is empircally researched too! Mr Catholic as Eternal Judge]. That doesn't mean that they're not going to be engaged in intimate activity with their girlfriend or their boyfriend. [For pete's sake, how does this guy know this???] They think it's a good thing to hear it, but then they're just like older people. [Are they?? Reeeally?] Priest-for-life Mr Collins may be wrong there.]

So I think that bringing people together, giving them that sense of the experience of the universal church, what a wonderful thing it will be for the kids from Timor, from East Timor, from the Pacific, that's terrific. Does it do anything of substance? Not in my view. [Let's assume you can tangibly measure it for just a moment: would it be fair to ask how priests and religious come out of it or young folk who attribute a spiritual re-awakening to this event? For all his evangelicalness, we don't think the Good Doctor believes in the Holy Spirit]

Stephen Crittenden: Paul Collins. Well there's no doubt that this World Youth Day will feature a strong emphasis on a restorationist pre-Vatican II theology and spirituality. [See what we mean?] When the Pope arrives in Sydney he'll be resting up at a centre on the outskirts of town run by Opus Dei. [Horrible, terrible] When he leaves, there's talk that he'll offer World Youth Day pilgrims a plenary indulgence, [thanks, Martin Luther] and the city has suddenly been flooded with the relics [worse! Surely, Catholics don't believe in that any of that mumbo jumbo any more...] of young Italian saints. Pier Giorgio Frassati is at St Benedict's, Broadway, and the Passionist order has brought out a reliquary containing the bones of three saints, Maria Goretti, Gabriel Possenti and Gemma Galgani.

I asked Passionist father Tiernan Doherty to tell me about their lives.

Tiernan Doherty: Maria Goretti was the daughter of a couple who were very poor, and through their poverty they went to assist at a farm and Dad worked on the farm on the land, and also the Mother had to work on the land because eventually Dad got malaria. So young Maria Goretti, at the very young age of 9, had to do all the housework, and she was really pushed into maturity as a young girl to take on adult responsibilities of the housekeeping, and sharing the house - another gentleman was also sharing that household with two sons, one son's name was Allesandro, but Allesandro was sexually attracted to young Maria, he was 18, she was, as I said, 11, he approached after a number of times, he propositioned her and she refused, and in anger he then stabbed her some 11 times in the back. And she survived that for about a day after, and what is interesting about Maria Goretti is that she not only forgave him, but she said a very interesting thing which could not have just come from the human heart [it would seem to be a man of faith talking, Crittenden, you should learn something from him. Respect for difference, if nothing else]. She said, 'I would like him one day to be with me in heaven'.

Stephen Crittenden: And she died in 1902 didn't she?
Tiernan Doherty: That's right, yes.
Stephen Crittenden: And canonized when? About 1950?
Tiernan Doherty: Yes, 1950 she was canonised, that's right. My mother was at the canonisation.
Stephen Crittenden: And she's the best-known of the three.

Tiernan Doherty: She is, and I think it's a lovely story of restorative justice because eventually after being in gaol for some eight years, he was quite cranky about things. But he changed, he had a transformation, a dream of Maria Goretti, she came to this dream and she simply presented flowers, which turned into lights in his hand and he came out of that dream, he was changed, and he sought out the mother and he asked for forgiveness, and what is really incredible, in 1937 at Midnight Mass at Christmas, a little country Italian town, both the murderer and the mother of the victim went to Holy Communion together on Christmas Midnight Mass. [You would have thought, Crittenden might have commented, but...]

Stephen Crittenden: Now tell us about the other two: Gabriel Possenti, 1862 he died aged 24, and he was actually a member of the Passionist order.

Tiernan Doherty: That's correct, yes. Gabriel is really a little bit like the story of St Theresa of Lisieux. He's an ordinary person, had an ordinary life, he was a good horse-rider, he liked sport and he became known by the girls in the town at Spoleto as The Dancer. And when he graduated, there was a girl that he was friendly with and there was a hope between the two families that they would marry. But he slipped away after his graduation and entered the Passionists.

Stephen Crittenden: But he doesn't actually get ordained, he dies before he's finished his novitiate.

Tiernan Doherty: That's correct. He and Gemma both died of tuberculosis, there was no penicillin and he was 24 when he died, and Gemma was 25 and she also died of tuberculosis.

Stephen Crittenden: Now she dies in 1903 and in some ways she's the strangest of them all, isn't she? She's a stigmatic.

Tiernan Doherty: Well we'd say perhaps first of all she was a mystic and Gemma Galgani loved Christ and in her prayer life with him she had mystical experience, which seems strange perhaps in the modern age, but I think the best way to understand it is that a mystic means somebody who knows God by experience, not just reads about him or just follows commands.

Stephen Crittenden: Because she doesn't just know God, does she, she's visited by the Devil and tormented every day.

Tiernan Doherty: Yes, there's said to be some manifestations that way. And going back to what you saying about the stigmata; she had an apparition of the crucified Christ where flames came from his wounds and entered her own body and then she came out of the trance, she found herself wounded, the same wounds of Christ in her body, and she used to bleed on Friday and she would go each Friday into a tranced experience. The passion of Jesus and then the wounds would heal on the Saturday.

Stephen Crittenden: Tell us about the relics themselves, Tiernan, they've been here since May, and from what I can tell from the photo I've seen, all three relics are really in one small coffin ["coffin": yep, dumb it down, and please don't use the right terminology, that may indicate you've actually care about facts], is that right?

Tiernan Doherty: That's right, a reliquary. It is in the shape similar to a coffin, that's correct.

Stephen Crittenden: And they're not visible, you can't see the relics themselves? [What, they don't realy exist? Is that the hocus pocus angle you're aiming for?]

Tiernan Doherty: No they're bones of the saints; a number of bones, and they're behind each image of the saint that's there. And there's the image there on the front so people want to pray before the reliquary, when they kneel they see the particular image of the saints.

Stephen Crittenden: And how do young kids or young adults react?

Tiernan Doherty: Surprisingly very well. I know relics are not everybody's cup of tea, and they're not obligatory as part of the Catholic faith. [You've learned something today Crittenden, let's see you apply that knowledge in future programs] But what I found was in talking to young people, the relics became the opportunity to hear the story. I mean how do you start a story and how to get people interested.

Stephen Crittenden: You run them as a talking point, almost? [Good boy, dumb it down]

Tiernan Doherty: Yes. I mean as Catholics we believe in the communion of saints, which is this idea that our spirit lives on, and particularly when we celebrate the Eucharist we remember the dead and the dead are present to us because they are alive in Christ still. So coming to the presence of the relics are to first of all come into the spirit of that person is still alive in Christ to us, and to realise these people really existed, and to connect to their story, and if it speaks to you, good.

Stephen Crittenden: They're all Italians, not just your three the Pierre Georgio, they're all Italian. I'm not sure if there are any African or Chinese or Anglo stigmatics at all. [That's right, the Catholic Church is just a Roman thing, and everyone hates Rome] I can't think of any. Seems to be an Italian kind of thing. But they were all Italian and they all died young, and I wonder, I mean you say you use them as a talking point; I wonder how you use their lives as models for young people in 2008, who are presumably hoping to live long, productive, happy lives. [...che?]

Tiernan Doherty: Of course. And I mean we're grateful we're not in their situation where we lose siblings and do not have penicillin and modern medicine to help us. However, [Sometime we think the politeness that is shown to such ignorant and ridiculous questioning is misplaced. How much more effect might the good Father have had if he said: "Well, no, you moron." Wishful thinking we know. But we digress...] I think the three of them put together are quite dynamic presentations to us in the Christian life. That first of all our young people need to be encouraged through the Gospel to stand up for peace and justice in the world and Maria Goretti's a nice story of restorative justice. That Gemma speaks to us, we all are called to be mystics in the sense of experiencing God and knowing in our hearts if we believe in him, it's not just a head trip, but a heart journey. And thirdly, that God is found in the ordinariness of life. Gabriel was an ordinary person, he just did the ordinary things very well, from his heart. A lot of miracles happened after his death, not during his life.

Stephen Crittenden: Passionist Father Tiernan Doherty.

And if you want to visit the relics of St Gemma, St Gabriel and St Maria Goretti they'll be at St Brigid's church Marrickville - the headquarters of the Passionist order in Australia. And Pier Giorgio Frasati will be at St Benedict's Broadway with an excellent photographic

exhibition.Another strong emphasis of World Youth Day will be on encouraging young people to take up the practice of Eucharistic adoration. What's that? I hear you ask.

Well Christine McCarthy runs the Eucharistic Adoration Society in Australia.

[This is going to be good...]

Christine McCarthy: Eucharistic Adoration is the worship of Christ present in what appears to be bread in what we call the sacred host or the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe that Christ is really and fully present in the bread and wine which are consecrated during the mass. And after the mass, the consecrated host left over after Communion are placed in what's called the Tabernacle in the church, which is a little safe. That's there so communion can be given to the sick, and also for people to come to pray to Jesus who is really and fully present in the Eucharist there.

Stephen Crittenden: I must say very few Catholics I've spoken to seem to be familiar with the term 'adoration'. But they all ask whether it's the same as Benediction . Is it the same thing?
[How revealing: what "Catholics" are you speaking to Crittenden?]

Christine McCarthy: Yes, [Well, we wouldn't have said "yes" given what follows...these Catholics are far too polite; that's their trouble] Benediction is an aspect of Eucharistic adoration . It's a special ceremony that a priest or a deacon can conduct. The sacred host is put into what's called a monstrance , which is I guess a "showing" thing. It's a beautiful vessel which actually shows usually a golden vessel which shows the host, so people can very readily see this aspect of the Eucharist and it's put on the altar, your monstrance is put on the altar and there are hymns, beautiful, usually Latin hymns, [don't know about that Ms McCarthy!] but sometimes in English and there are beautiful vestments and flowers and candles, and it's a very short ceremony of adoration.

Stephen Crittenden: But there's a much longer version [dumbing it down, brother, dumbing it down] as well, isn't there? This is perpetual adoration.

Christine McCarthy: Well perpetual adoration is I suppose you'd call it the Crème de la crème of the worship of Christ outside of mass. This is 24 hours 7 days a week adoration of the Eucharist.

Stephen Crittenden: So the Eucharist is exposed, as they say, exposed on the altar all the time in a parish church or a chapel or whatever.

Christine McCarthy: Yes. Although it can take place without exposition but it's usual that there's exposition, in the monstrance as we're saying, and there's usually a roster of people who come to pray. You have to have somebody there, because it's regarded as irreverent if there's nobody there, and there's no point in having exposition if there's nobody there to get the benefits from that. So people comer all day, all night and they'll make great efforts to even come long distances to be there, because it's very special.

Stephen Crittenden: Now it's pretty clear, isn't it Christine, that these practices in particular fell out of favor after the Second Vatican Council [who's doing was that, dear boy? was it a change in teaching and belief?] and there does seem to be an attempt with this World Youth Day to reintroduce a range of older Catholic pious practices: individual confession, [hellooooooooo, anybody home???] veneration of the relics of saints, [helloooo?] the Stations of the Cross, [helloooo?] the Latin Mass; [nup] what's going on here? Is this an attempt to return the church back to a, well an older kind of period of the church that certainly most young people would not be familiar with? [Chestnuts, anyone?]

Christine McCarthy: Well in a sense that's probably not really true, because Eucharistic Veneration for instance has always been a very strong component of World Youth Day. Pope John Paul II instituted it as you probably know, it was his baby, his inspiration: World Youth Day. And he was always a big promoter of Eucharistic Adoration. And the young people who have been attending the World Youth Day since the first one in 1985 have always been very keen to be a part of Eucharistic Adoration. It's something that the young people really seem to feel very close to.

Stephen Crittenden: And how popular is it in the Australian parishes?

Christine McCarthy: Well there are eight places where there's Perpetual Adoration in Australia.

Stephen Crittenden: This is just in other words going on all the time in a particular location?

Christine McCarthy: That's right, yes, day and night. Now this is a movement that's been going on in the world for about the last 2-1/2 decades, it's not just associated with World Youth Day. In the US there are about 1100 places where there's Perpetual Adoration. In the Philippines there are 500, and in Korea there are about 70.

Stephen Crittenden: I can see how the idea, well I've always thought of the idea of Christ enthroned on the altar in a glittering, golden monstrance, was typical of Tridentine theology , the theology of the Council of Trent, a baroque thing. [AAAAAAAAAAAAARH, the Council of Trent. The Inquisition is coming too, we can feel it] Is there some tension between a static view of the Eucharist enthroned up on the altar, and a more I suppose you'd say, a more active view of the Eucharist [go back to school, old boy] that came out of Vatican II as an active event of the community? [Say, it, Ms McCarthy, say it!!]

Christine McCarthy: Well Eucharistic Adoration stems from the mass, [couldn't you just say, "NO, YOU IGNORANT MAN"?] because you can't have the presence of Christ except that it's consecrated at the mass. But at the same time, it leads back to the mass, [We
re getting annoyed about Mass with a small 'm'] so people who are praying before Christ in the Eucharist outside of mass, are going to have their faith increased and are going to want to attend mass more frequently.

Stephen Crittenden: Christine McCarthy.

One of the positive untold stories about World Youth Day is that a lot has been done to ensure overseas pilgrims are able to come to Australia from the widest possible range of countries. For example, one inner-city parish will be hosting schoolkids from the USA, Niger, Malawi, Austria, Poland, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Slovenia, Tanzania, Bolivia, Italy, Puerto Rico, China and the Republic of the Congo. That's really very impressive.But the emphasis on inclusivity [we thought it was inclusiveness?] only goes so far. It doesn't include young gay Catholics. The Jesuits have been ordered to withdraw their plan to host a forum with the gay Catholic group Acceptance and PFlag, the organisation for parents and friends of young gays and lesbians.
One of the presenters of that forum was to have been Father Donald Godfrey, SJ, who runs a youth ministry at the University of San Francisco. I asked him why the church would cancel such an event.

Donald Godfrey: It's either a mistake that they misunderstand what this was about, because many dioceses, at least in the United States where I live, sponsor just such a conversation. Los Angeles diocese [And which Catholic Church does the apostate diocese of LA belong to??? With its esteemed Cardinal Archbishop, gloriously reigning] for example has designated certain parishes for gay and lesbian Catholics, explicitly to provide a safe space for Catholics who are gay, to have a conversation, to feel part and included in the church's ministry. [and to receive Holy Communion in controvention of law? We just ask the question] As the Catholic bishops of the United States have said again and again, gay and lesbian Catholics must be included and it has to mean an explicit outreach, such as this one, that MAGiS is willing to sponsor. I hope it was a mistake because if it wasn't a mistake, it's just homophobic, and that would be unfortunate if the organisers of World Youth Day are homophobic, that's a great pity.

Stephen Crittenden: At an event like this drawing on people from all over the world, you would presumably be expecting all sorts of different cultural attitudes towards sexuality.

Donald Godfrey: There are huge differences, culturally and within the church just as there are in society. As I arrived at the MAGiS in Riverview, I met a young Malaysian man who I told him I was from San Francisco and of course San Francisco is well-known for a large gay community, and he said, 'Oh, it's such a pity that California has recognised gay marriages; it's such a pity that gays have such a strong role in California.' [Backward Malaysian, tut tut] And I didn't know what to say to him because at least at the University of San Francisco, which is Jesuit Catholic University [Ah, there's the other Catholic church, the Jesuit one] where I live and work, the issue of sexual orientation [this old sleigh of hand, no one has issues or orientation, but of practice] is one of acceptance. People are just accepted for who they are, and that's the culture we live in. There's a policy of non-discrimination and many openly gay and lesbian people are hired, some are Catholics, some aren't.

Stephen Crittenden: I guess it must be very difficult, Donald, to hold any kind of conversation about sexuality with young Catholics when the church knows that by and large, certainly in a country like Australia, they don't share he basic principles on which official Catholic teaching is based, namely that all sex should take place inside marriage and it should always be open to procreation. I guess it must even be more difficult for someone like you who's trying to mount a more nuanced conversation. [ah, "distorted", not nuanced...]

Donald Godfrey: I think it's a bigger issue, even on this issue, I think there are issues of power [Bingo. Everything is power, everything is politics] and issues of sexuality that we need to explore and sometimes are frightened of exploring, because I think the fear might be if we explore this, where does it end? [At the right answer?]

Stephen Crittenden: Father Donald Godfrey, SJ.Well the President of P Flag, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is Judy Brown. She's a Catholic parent and she's worried that the church is actively driving people away.

Judy Brown: A couple of weeks go the Australian Bishops Conference had sent out a pastoral letter to all the parishes, and in our particular parish, I happened to be chatting to our parish priest because he had advertised the Sexuality Forum that we had planned, and I had to go and tell him that unfortunately it had been cancelled.

Noel Debien: So your parish priest was actually advertising it?

Judy Brown: Yes, he said he had no problem with it at all. He felt it wasn't against church teaching at all, and he was happy for it to go into the Bulletin and also up on the notice board. So when I alerted him to the fact that it had been cancelled, he mentioned to me that he'd received this pastoral letter and that he was to talk about it in his sermon that weekend. But he said actually he was having a lot of trouble with it, because in the pastoral letter it asks Are we a welcoming church? And when he looked at the institutionalised church, he said he felt that it didn't appear to be welcoming, that it wasn't welcoming to the gay and lesbian community, and it wasn't welcoming to the divorced and re-married people. [Let's see how welcoming this lot are to Traditionists Catholics, who wish to worship using the ancient Latin Rite of the church. "Welcoming"]

Noel Debien: You're the President of P Flag, which is Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and you're also a practicing Catholic. [interesting question: is Paul Collins asked if he is a "practicsing Catholic"?]

Judy Brown: Yes, that's right.

Noel Debien: What were you hoping this forum would do? What was it meant to do?
Judy Brown: We were hoping for it to open dialogue between the Catholic church and the gay and lesbian Catholic people in Sydney and also to provide support to any young gay and lesbian transgender people that might be coming here from either overseas or from the country, or maybe even siblings, or family of gay and lesbian Catholics. The forum was presenting a dramatization of a young gay person coming out to his family, a Catholic family.

Noel Debien: The playwright is actually a young gay man himself.

Judy Brown: Yes, he's actually a young gay man himself, a Catholic, who was brought up in the Catholic faith and went to a Catholic high school. So that was going to be part of the forum that actually depicted a P Flag meeting and his parents' journey to accepting him. It was to present a parent couple who are very involved in their Catholic church. They were going to speak about their experience of having two gay sons in their family. There was to be a young youth worker from a gay and lesbian youth support group.

Noel Debien: This is 20-10, the youth refuge where some gay and lesbian kids who get kicked out of home actually find a place to stay.

Judy Brown: That's right.

Noel Debien: When you heard that this was going to be banned from the church, what was your own reaction?

Judy Brown: Well I felt hurt for our gay and lesbians, sons and daughters, because not just in my own experience, but I've now been involved with P Flag for nine years, and we monitor an information line, and we also take emails through our website. And we get many emails and phone calls that come from Catholic people. Most of our emails would come from committed Christians [is that the equivalent of a practising Catholic?] at least, and a lot are Catholic. A lot of them have a lot of problems with coping with their sons or daughters being gay. I don't know what that says about the Catholic church [so, what's the point then?] but we seem to be the ones that have more problems than others. Most of our children have been very involved in the Catholic church, most of them have been altar servers, [oh, don't say that!] they've been conveners of youth groups in their parishes, they've been involved in other charitable arms of the church. There have been people that have perhaps sung in the choir, they've been very involved in their parishes. But once they actually come out and declare that they're gay, they feel that they're no longer welcome. Many of the parishes are very welcoming I must say, [but you didn't say that] but as far as the church as an institution goes, the young people do not feel welcome.
In this letter that was brought out by the Australian Bishops' Conference, they mention that the church is impoverished by the fact that they've lost so many of their church community, and I feel if they were to embrace these young people, they can bring so much to the church. I think if Cardinal Pell just opened up some dialogue with these young gay Catholics, I think he'd be surprised about what they could offer the church.

Stephen Crittenden: The President of P Flag, Judy Brown speaking to Noel Debien, and ending our magical mystery tour of World youth Day. And the Acceptance/PFlag event is still going ahead at the University of Technology in Sydney next Wednesday evening. Details on our website.

Thanks this week to producers Noel Debien (who I think is pretty good in a choir) and John Diamond. I'm Stephen Crittenden.