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.