Dona ei Domine
et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace. Amen
We were particularly interested in the insight in gave into Mr Crittenden’s own viewpoint. A viewpoint he seems to wear on his sleeve during his interviews and introductions.
John Russell joined the ABC as a Current Affairs reporter in 1970 and left after
several years to do other things. I met him when I went to work at the New
South Wales Cabinet office in the mid-1980s. He was a man of extraordinary
erudition, generosity and wit, a former Franciscan seminarian with a vast
circle of friends, who promoted a sympathetic, enlightened life-affirming kind of Catholicism.
In retirement John returned to journalism and broadcasting with a string of wonderful programs for the ABC Religion department and articles that were
amongst the best things to appear in Quadrant Magazine in recent years.
Making a radio program involves conversations and collaborations with all kinds of people, both on-mic and off-mic. Of course most of all it's an ongoing conversation with you, dear listener. But in a very special way over these past few years, with his daily phone calls and his constant stream of books and ideas, for me, The Religion Report has often seemed like one long public conversation with him.
I think I only ever interviewed John once. He loved Germany, and in 2002 he
described his last visit to the East German town of Bautzen, where he had
John Russell: Bautzen in the old times of the GDR, was a word that sent fear and loathing through the souls of all Germans, not just in the East but also in the West, because it was the place where the Stasi maintained its two prisons, and in fact one of those prisons has been closed and is now a museum, and to walk through the Stasi prison, which of course also before the Second World War a Gestapo prison, and see the way people were treated is a spiritual experience in itself.
Stephen Crittenden: Bautzen's got a stunning, stunning, East Saxony kind of church, very light and airy, very beautiful.
John Russell: Bautzen has the most incredible 'Dom' as they call it, that I have seen, because it dates back to 1200. It had a new roof and ceiling installed in the 1600s, but it's divided in half between Catholics and Protestants and has been divided since the Reformation. The Lutheran half is at the back, you come in the back door, you walk up the aisle, there's a little picket fence, there's a Lutheran altar and a pulpit, and then you go over the picket fence and there's the Catholic half, with an altar and
pulpit, and of course it being Germany, both halves have wonderful organs. And
it's a stunning building, and people who visit that area of Germany should make
some effort to see it. It is incredible. To my knowledge it's the only shared church in Germany, it certainly was the only shared church in the old East Germany.
Stephen Crittenden: And presumably these days both sides get on pretty well in the ecumenical environment?
John Russell: I understand both sides have always got on. There was a contract made in the late 1500s between the Catholics and the Protestants about the times of services, and that contract is still in force. Saxony is a very interesting place. Saxony,
Luther was a Saxon, Wittenberg is in Saxony, but Saxony always maintained some
degree of peace between the two groups, the Catholics and the Protestants. The
Thirty Years' War came, all sorts of problems came, they tended to come from
outside, and this was an area hidden to the world during the GDR years. It's an
area very few people know much about and it's an area worth seeing. The
churches, Catholic, Protestant, whatever you like are stunning, many were untouched by the Second World War, but I think we have a lot to learn from people in those areas. I met a wonderful Lutheran pastor who was 89, and he was the former Superintending Pastor for the area of Bautzen. He spoke perfect English, he'd learnt it in school, and he told me that during the Communist years, none of his children had been allowed to go to high school. The children of pastors couldn't go to high school, so they had to be taught at home and pick up what education they could along the way.
But I asked him how the Communist years were for the church, and he said, 'They were wonderful years for the church'.
Stephen Crittenden: Why?
John Russell: Because they bought the church, the Catholic church and the Protestant church back to essentials. They took away the flummery at the top and made people look inside and look about what it was all about and where they were going. Some of us in the West have not had that opportunity, thank God, but those in the East who've had it, have, it seems, benefited by it.
Stephen Crittenden: John Russell, who died in Sydney last week.
Dear Listener, a “sympathetic, enlightened life-affirming kind of Catholicism”?? A church brought back to “essentials”?? We all know what these are code for don’t we.
The line Mr Crittenden and his guests seem to repeatedly push is just this: the Catholic Church has lost the Faith (and is probably the Whore of Babylon too, who knows). Benedict XVI and any orthodox Catholic misrepresent and distort true catholick faith, suffering from the accretions of the decadence of mediaeval times and renaissance Rome. They stand for hatred, bigotry and intolerance. And Benedict XVI is at their head.
Oh how tawdry and passé.
May these people reflect sincerely on the facts, the writings and the thoughts of, for one, Pope Benedict, especially in the Holy Father’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, along with most of his daily output (eg on the Zenit news site).