Pope Benedict XVI and the Papacy

Posted: 26 March 2013

pope-wavingAs the Christian world begins the season of lent in preparation for Easter, there could be no greater surprise than the news that Pope Benedict XVI will step down from the Papacy on 28 February. Even though the reasons of deteriorating health are valid for an 85 year old pontiff, having not seen a Papal abdication since Pope Celestine V in 1296, (and even before then they were rare), the decision has met with expected shock.

Pope Benedict is the 264th successor of the Apostle Peter in a line that has seen empires rise and fall and dynasties come and go. No institution is able to claim a more ancient status than the Catholic Church and the papacy. In modern times the Pope is referred to as the head of the Catholic Church, differentiating him from other Christian Churches and communities, but it is wise to recall that for the first thousand years of Christianity there was no other Church besides the Church led by the Pope. The schism of 1054 between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) was, and remains, a tragic political blunder which will certainly one day be rectified. The remainder of the Christian world goes by the name of ‘Protestant’ deriving most simply from a protest in the Middle Ages against the authority of the Pope. And so through the peaks and troughs of history, the Papacy has remained a constant. Read the rest of this entry »

Have Yourself a Very Adult Christmas

Posted: 24 December 2012

Once again, Christmas is upon us; Santa is out in full force, shopping centres are playing Bing Crosby and the ‘spirit of giving’ is in the air. You may be planning to attend the local Christmas Carols at some point. If it is a religious caroling event, the children may be dressing up as shepherds and angels; if they are the larger ‘commercial’ carols you will be more likely to see the little ones dressed as elves and reindeer. However Christmas is celebrated though, it is well and truly a season that lights up the faces of children everywhere.

From a marketing point of view Christmas is like manna from heaven, the car parks are crowded, the food courts are full and the EFTPOS terminals are running hot. While many families, including my own, go with the ‘Kris Kringle’ method of present giving, (meaning that each adult buys for one other adult in the family), the children always receive individual presents from all the members of the family. Outranking gifts from mum and dad however are the gifts children receive from the jolly man in the red suit. Once based in the historical personage of the gift giving Saint Nicholas, from the early 20th century he has strangely morphed into a man living at the North Pole with a large team of magical elves and flying reindeer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Secular Society Should be Grateful for Confession

Posted: 9 December 2012

So once again we see the inner workings of the Catholic Church being dissected by an audience that has little understanding of, or care for, matters of faith. Interestingly while commentators are usually quick to point out perceived trespassing by the Church into the domain of the State, there doesn’t seem to be quite the same concern about calls for the State to come wandering into the inner sanctum of the Church. With a Royal Commission having being called into the sin of child sexual abuse, the latest target is – somewhat ironically – the very sacrament that exists to forgive sin, confession.

The criticism stems around the thousand-year-old Church law which binds priests to never disclose anything that they learn from penitents during the course of the sacrament. This confidentiality between priest and penitent is the oldest kind of confidential communication that exists. It has been upheld by priests down the ages and around the world regardless of where they may sit on the theological spectrum. It doesn’t take much logic to consider why the seal of confession is essential to the integrity of the sacrament. Without anonymity people would simply not pursue sacramental forgiveness. While some might respond ‘who cares’, the truth is confession has a greater potential for effect on the citizens of a nation than a hundred Royal Commissions. Read the rest of this entry »

Wedding: Church or Garden?

Posted: 15 August 2012

I was recently speaking to a Catholic woman whose daughter is getting married later this year. I enquired about what church the marriage was to take place in but the mother replied that while the daughter liked the look of the parish church she had opted for a garden wedding so she was able to design more of the ceremony herself. The mother didn’t seem to be aware of any concerns stemming from this decision.

Catholics leaving their parish for a scenic wedding is no longer unique. Until recently even the most distant of Catholics would appear in the parish to be hatched, matched and dispatched, that is, for their baptism, wedding and funeral. But a growing proportion of young couples are marrying ‘outside the Church’ (to use the classical phrase). Some do so because they have such little connection with their faith it makes no sense to them, others dislike the Church for one reason or another and some simply felt an outdoor wedding would be more picturesque. Read the rest of this entry »

Is truth possible?

Posted: 5 August 2012

I was filling in an online form recently and the security question at the end was “2+9=” and I had to type in the answer to submit the page. I found it interesting that this very mainstream form on the website of this very mainstream company was not only telling me that there was objective truth but that they actually knew what it was! If I had tried to type in that 2+9=5 I would have been told I was wrong. No message was going to appear and tell me that while they respected my freedom to believe that 2+9=5 they preferred the response to be eleven. The message would very simply say, ‘Incorrect, try again’.

I found this small incident amusing because for the most part we exist in a ‘truth free’ society where definitive statements are not welcome. Our society does of course acknowledge right and wrong but these are mostly understood to be established by the Parliament and upheld by the police. Something that is ‘right’ today can be declared ‘wrong’ tomorrow by a simple legislative adjustment. People have lost the idea that there is a genuine reality that is bigger than the law. To declare that something is right or wrong is very different to stating that something is true or untrue. Read the rest of this entry »

The Stations of the Cross and the Marital Bed

Posted: 11 March 2012

This Lent, as you pray the Stations of the Cross and recall the Passion and Death of the Lord, you might add to your reflections the connection between Christ’s act of love for his bride the Church and the love of a husband and wife. The great spiritual writers have long spoken about the comparison between the Cross and the Marital Bed but in bringing it to mind again we can undergo a renewed appreciation of these two great life-giving realities.

The 10th Station recalls that after the arduous walk to Calvary, Christ is stripped of his garments. It is not often that one finds a Crucifix in which the Saviour is completely naked; we usually leave a conveniently-placed loin cloth to protect our somewhat prudish sensibilities. Let us not be confused though, Our Lord was stripped of all his garments; he hung upon the wood of the cross in the same way that he came into this world, naked. At Christmas we often speak about the humility and simplicity of the baby Jesus, but in this season we would do well to recall the utter humility which was forced upon the man Christ as he lay before his tormentors with nothing between him and them. This nakedness is not only a historical fact though. The first Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and he understood he was naked; his disobedience brought forth death and the feeling that his nakedness was shameful. Christ, the second Adam, would return to the tree once again, but in his nakedness he would bring forth life and redeem mankind from the curse that had been laid upon him through Original Sin. Is it not also in nakedness that a husband and wife continue to this day to overcome the sin of our first parents? Where but in the marital embrace can a man and woman experience that pure and beautiful gaze which Adam and Eve knew every day before the fall? It is in their nakedness that man and woman approach the marital bed to make of themselves a gift in the way that Christ makes himself a gift to his bride. Read the rest of this entry »

When Other People Let Us Down…

Posted: 27 December 2011

We all know people who have let us down at one time or another. Sometimes it is only in small matters and other times it is in very great matters. In recent years the media has been very vocal about priests and religious in the Church who have let us down. How can it be that those whose lives are dedicated to God fail to live out what they have promised? Should we remain in a Church where even the leaders have failed to lead with honour?

Even when Jesus Christ walked the earth he was often the target of the criticism of the Pharisees. These devout men were sincere believers but they had trouble with those who did not live the law as well as they did. When the Pharisees saw Christ eating with tax collectors and sinners they became angry, but Jesus reminded them, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17). In the 13th century the renowned theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote a Prayer for preparation for Mass which included the words: “I come sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fountain of mercy, blind to the radiance of eternal light, and poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth”. Read the rest of this entry »