Pope Francis Marrying Sinners Is No Surprise

Posted: 28 September 2014

Pope Francis weddingThis month Pope Francis seemed to shock the world by marrying twenty couples in a ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica. Aside from the fact that Popes don’t get the opportunity to preside at weddings all that often, what provided the real shock value was that amongst the couples, some had cohabited, one had a child out of wedlock and another had a previous marriage annulled. Some of the hundreds of headlines read, “Pope’s Marriage Celebrations Hint at Coming Changes for the Church”, “Pope Francis Spent His Sunday Marrying Dirty Cohabiters and Other Sinners”, and “Pope Breaks Taboo by Marrying Cohabiting Couples”.

I realise of course, that editors and news producers love to create a stir, but when you digest the actual reports, it becomes clear that there is real ignorance around what the Catholic Church is actually on about. There was a false assumption by the media that the ceremony was a sign that Francis is about to dismantle the “Vatican rules” about marriage. One report boldly stated that by his actions the Pope had “redefined” Catholic doctrine. Another report felt the need to actually clarify that the Pope didn’t marry any homosexual couples in the ceremony, however hinting that this may be the beginning of some openness towards that. The general theme was that because the Pope married people who the media deemed as sinners, 2000 years of Christian understanding on the nature of marriage and sexuality was somehow up for grabs.

The Pope and the ceremony did not redefine anything, least of all any doctrine. The ceremony certainly included a mix of couples including some very active in their faith and others who in the past were less so. Unlike the media, the Church does not look to people and define them as ‘sinners’, she states what sin is, but never attempts to read the heart of an individual and cast judgement: that is generally left to God. What we saw was the same spectrum of couples that are married in churches every day across the world. The truth is that not every couple who stand before a priest to get married are saints, in fact I guarantee you that none of them are. But that’s the whole point of marriage. The sacrament exists so that couples mutually sanctify one another through their life together. Every married couple should go to their death bed as saints but there is no obligation to be canonisable at the start. Each of the couples who the Pope married were prepared by their local parish priest and were ready and willing to embrace marriage. Read the rest of this entry »

A Stupid Nation Will Reap What It Sows

Posted: 21 September 2014

Ashley-Madison-BillboardI was up later than usual the other night watching a fairly mainstream TV show on a fairly mainstream channel and in the break an ad appeared that initially caught me with its catchy tune. Then I registered the lyrics. The young men in their early 30’s were singing, “I’m looking for someone other than my wife…Ashley Madison’s right”, as they looked through images of equally young women on the computer. For those who may not know, Ashley Madison is an online dating service launched in 2001. The difference to other dating sites is that Ashley Madison targets those who are already married. Their slogan is ‘Life is short. Have an affair’. When the company launched in Australia in 2010 the Advertising Standards Bureau received a host of complaints and the television and billboard ads were subsequently withdrawn. However it is evident that there has not been enough pressure kept up since then, and the ads are back. (If you are one of those people who think a company marketing infidelity is problematic, and have time to let your feelings be known you can visit adstandards.com.au).

That our society seemingly approves marital infidelity and breakdown, goes some way to explain the ridiculous situation that transpired in Australia recently when it was discovered that the World Congress of Families (WCF) was due to hold a regional conference in Melbourne this past August. It all began with a misleading article on the popular but left-sitting website Mamamia accusing the group of just about everything short of war crimes. Whoever wrote the article suffered an apparent inability to separate objective statements about the goodness of traditional marriage and the nuclear family from subjective judgements about individuals who do not hold the same view. Read the rest of this entry »

Anyone can do the house-work; but who is doing the home-work?

Posted: 24 August 2014

Housework men womenDid you know that it is women who do the majority of housework? Even mothers of young children, who are holding down fulltime jobs, seem to spend more time than men with a mop and vacuum in hand. This however is not new information; every few months you can find a news report somewhere highlighting the situation. The most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA), shows that in households where men are the main breadwinners, they do 14.5 hours of housework a week, compared to 27.6 hours by women. That may seem understandable, but even when the situation is reversed, and women are the main breadwinners, the data still shows that men are not taking up their fair share of the load. Needless to say, if both the man and woman are in the workforce it seems only right that they contribute to the domestic duties in an equitable matter.

However, these reports about who is doing what chores are only so helpful, and in fact I think that in some respects, they are completely unhelpful. They may be leading us to believe that quantifiable domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and laundry, are the sum work to be done in keeping a household, and by extension a family, in good order.

Of course ‘back in the day’ we know that husbands left the house to work, and wives raised the children and cared for the home. Since women got the vote in Australia in 1902 however, there has been a steady march towards a greater participation of women in the paid workforce, and in the last two generations this has really flowered (which is not in-principle a bad thing). Governments are working harder than ever to ensure than women are getting back into the workforce as soon as possible after having their 1.87 children. Read the rest of this entry »

More Sex and Less Happiness

Posted: 21 June 2014

Playboy BunniesIf you want a good insight into the state of a nation’s happiness keep an eye on sex and relationships. While health, education, defence and the economy are the standard priorities of most governments, beneath the surface of those rather generic pursuits are the hearts and desires of actual people, from the greatest to the least. On our business cards we may be teachers, plumbers or lawyers, but in the privacy of our own lives we are individuals who have varying degrees of success relating to other individuals. And my premise is that we are failing – absolutely abysmally – in our priorities and methodologies regarding sex and relationships.

As a first thought, witness the incredible rise of online dating. In Australia, a country with only 22 million people, the two most popular dating websites claim to each have 2 million members; allegedly 51% of the population has either tried online dating or would consider doing so. Alongside this search for love sits the rise of couples moving in together, and this is not necessarily as a pathway to marriage but increasingly with marriage not even considered a possible future reality. Directly corresponding to the rise of cohabitation is the fall of marriage rates, the two lines intersecting sometime in the 1980’s as they headed in their new directions. Perhaps it is little wonder that marriage is taken up less frequently when the example of good marriages continue falling. More than one third of marriages are ending in divorce and the figure rises to sixty per cent for second marriages. After the divorce, floods of individuals head back over to online dating sites to begin again the search for ‘someone special’.

And flowing through all of this is an era and society that has never been so carefree about sex. Any ‘consensual’ sexual action between two or more people is not only tolerated but – as is seen in the case of the vocal gay lobby – it is often applauded. A dating relationship without sex is almost deemed to be no relationship at all. Pornography has become an addiction and is estimated to be a $14 billion per year industry with 25% of all search engine requests being pornographic. Our free sexual appetite though is costing us dearly. Rates of sexually transmitted infections are skyrocketing (and even normalised in government health campaigns), while the use of antidepressants has doubled since the year 2000. Read the rest of this entry »

Abortion, Depression and the Demise of Charlotte Dawson

Posted: 6 April 2014

Charlotte DawsonSadly, Australia recently lost a well-known television personality to suicide. Charlotte Dawson was only 47 years old when she was found dead in her waterside apartment. Being a media personality, the story was given much coverage with an outpouring of grief from people across the entertainment industry. At her memorial service one of her closest friends said farewell to “one of the most beautiful and generous, sharp and witty, sparkling and effervescent, honest and uncompromising people ever put on the planet.”

Unfortunately I learnt more about Charlotte Dawson through death rather than through life. Hers was a life that seemed so full of promise and possibility but in the end it was all too much for one person to bear. Charlotte left her home of New Zealand on the cusp of adulthood and spent ten years modelling in Europe and the USA before relocating to Australia. She worked in the fashion scene and eventually moved over to television making appearances on a range of shows including as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model. It was the kind of life that fuels the sales of every gossip magazine around the world.

In 2012 Charlotte was admitted to hospital after trying to commit suicide. This incident stemmed from her being the target of a particularly sickening and very public hate campaign waged against her over Twitter. When she did actually succeed in taking her life this year, the mainstream media blamed her death completely on the depression resulting from the social media bullying. However, her battle with depression was nothing new and while the cyber bullying was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ in 2012, Charlotte herself identified an incident 15 years earlier which she claimed was “my first experience with depression”. Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the Catholic Church against IVF?

Posted: 5 May 2013

ivf-blueIf you take a quick poll of the next ten strangers you encounter and ask them about the Catholic Church and its attitude towards in vitro fertilization (IVF) you are likely to get two responses: half will not realise the Church has a concern with IVF and the other half will state how ridiculous it is that the Church is concerned about a process that can bring children to couples who are unable to conceive. Actually the Church has more than a concern; the Church has taught since IVF came about, that the process is “gravely immoral”. Not that the Church just made up this teaching when IVF began in the late 1970s, rather it applied its ongoing understanding of sexuality to this particular question. None the less, couples considering IVF as a last hope don’t like being told that their choice is gravely immoral so it’s worth considering just what the real problem is.

IVF presents a host of problems. First, it has no guaranteed success. The success rate of IVF is generally 50% for women under thirty but falls to just 20% for women under 40. Second, IVF costs a lot of money. Each treatment cycle can cost a couple around $3000 (after government assistance) whether there is success or not. Third, IVF has health risks. About 30% of IVF patients experience at least a mild case of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which causes swollen, painful ovaries. While mild cases can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication a small percentage develop severe OHSS which may require hospitalisation. Fourth, IVF creates a life by destroying others. A usual cycle of IVF produces multiple embryos to assist with the success rate and also to store if a couple wishes to try for more children further down the track. However the truth is these embryos are mostly unused. There are 120,000 embryos sitting in frozen storage in Australia, the majority of which will be eventually destroyed with about 90% of IVF couples choosing to discard them. It is worth remembering that an embryo is no longer just an egg or a sperm, it is a new human life. A couple must ask themselves if the birth of one of their children justifies the deliberate creation and destruction of a few of their other children. Read the rest of this entry »

Men and Wedding Planning

Posted: 18 November 2012

188 Men women and weddingsI am getting married at the end of the year to a lovely woman named Jane, and so my life in these last five months has involved an inordinate number of decisions around the height of cakes, the thickness of paper and the width of rings. I have also been informed on numerous occasions, by a wide variety of people, that the wedding is Jane’s ‘special day’ and that all major decisions, including what I will be wearing on the day, belong to her. Thankfully Jane has all along seen our wedding as a joint effort but this very common idea, that the wedding is a day for brides, needs some questioning.

While I am certainly pro-marriage I am not so sure that I am pro-wedding. I do not like the way in which the burgeoning wedding industry has taken the ideas of fidelity and self-giving love and associated them with make-up trials, chair covers and expensive cars. Interestingly the rise of the wedding industry and the amount of money spent is almost in direct correlation with the fall in the understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage. Read the rest of this entry »

Same-Sex Marriage…Ending Discrimination?

Posted: 16 September 2012

It is amazing the way that the same-sex marriage debate has taken such a strangle hold on discussion and commentary in Western society. Who would have thought that in the space of just a few years popular opinion could swift to such a degree that to simply hold marriage as the union of a man and a woman could be labeled as intolerant? Yet this is where we are at.

One recent move for a change in legislation has come from Tasmania where a bill to legalise same-sex marriage was introduced into the Parliament with Premier Lara Giddings imploring the members of the House to “open their hearts and minds to remove this last bastion of discrimination”.

Now if there is a buzz word in the same-sex marriage debate it is most definitely ‘discrimination’. In the 21st century it would be better to be accused of anything rather than be found to be discriminatory. Yet we seem to have forgotten what the word actually means and that each of us discriminate every day of our lives. 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 »

Why I Decided Not to Move In With My Girlfriend

Posted: 2 May 2012

I have been going out with my girlfriend for almost three months and thankfully all is going very well. I was filling in a friend on this news the other day and at the end of the conversation the person asked me, with a face of anticipated excitement, “Will you be moving in together”? I was initially surprised by the question as I imagined it was obvious to most people I know where I would stand on such an issue. However I guess that it is no longer ‘obvious’ why a young dating couple would decide not to pack their bags and find a place together. Let me explain then why I have decided not to share a bed with my girlfriend.

Cohabitation prior to marriage is well and truly the most popular path for young couples. Just over 75% of couples now live together prior to marriage and for many of them it is something they slide into rather than necessarily consciously deciding upon. When he or she begins to spend more nights at the other person’s house than their own, eventually it seems natural to stop paying two lots of rent. Read the rest of this entry »

University and Women: A Fair Combination?

Posted: 21 March 2012

A new university year has just begun and thousands of fresh faces are sitting in lecture halls being prepared to one day step into the world and make their mark in their chosen career path. The necessity of the journey through university and into a well paid career is almost an unspoken law. Yet I wonder if we are placing young people, especially young women, into what will one day be a difficult position that compromises their potential for genuine happiness.

From their earliest years children hear the mantra that men and women are equal, and while they are certainly equal in dignity they are not equal in ability. I do not mean that one sex has more ability than the other; I mean that each sex has a different ability, each sex has different strengths. The complementarity of the sexes is the reason that the natural family of father, mother and children is the best model; it is far better to have a loving father and a loving mother than to have two loving mothers or two loving fathers. However preferring to ignore all evidence to the contrary and in the push to describe gender as no more than a social construct, society tells us that men and women must achieve the same level in all things. If men can drive a tractor, women must be able to drive a tractor; if men can run a corporation, women must be able to run a corporation. It seems to focus though on women being able to achieve in traditionally male roles, not the other way around. 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 »

Gift Registries: Help or Hindrance

Posted: 26 February 2012

Some good friends of mine were married recently but when the wedding invitation arrived there was something conspicuously absent, that little card advising me of where their preferred gifts could be purchased, or instructions on how I might fund their honeymoon. There was no wedding gift registry.

I was speaking to a friend about this lack of registry and he was rather bothered by the fact that the couple had decided not to specify their gifts. My friend was even more surprised when I said that I do not even usually follow the registry when one is included, he actually thought that was rather rude.

I admit I am not a fan of gift registries; I do not like them, I rarely follow them and I would never use them. In my mind an invitation to a wedding is (or at least should be) an invitation to witness and share in the joy-filled marriage of a particular couple with whom I share some degree of friendship. When a registry card is inserted the invitation has a clause attached which is, “We like gifts, we would like you to bring a gift, and here is a list of gifts you can choose from”. Read the rest of this entry »

How well do you know your Family?

Posted: 11 January 2012

Welcome to 2012! Did you have a restful break from work…or did you have a break at all? Did you know that at the end of 2011, Australian workers have stockpiled 129.6 million days of annual leave! It matches the recent conversation I had with a man who admitted that he had not taken annual leave for three years even though he has a young family. His response as to why, was that he liked being at work and would not know what to do otherwise (I guess that if one had not taken a break for that long, one may forget what to do with the time).

This does make me wonder though, why we are not taking breaks. It is good that we like our work but why are we not going home? Could it be that it becomes easier to be at work than to engage with the family?

In our homes and amongst our families we also have work that must be done and it is not mowing the lawn or tidying the house. The real work is the work of building up a community, a place where love is received by each member of the family and a place where each member is able to give love. Read the rest of this entry »

Consultation did Marriage no good at all

Posted: 25 September 2011

Late last year Greens MP Adam Bandt put a motion into Federal Parliament that politicians seek out the views of their constituents in regards same-sex marriage. That motion was passed and MPs spent this year in “consultation mode” until last month when the period of official consultation ended. The position of Bandt and the Greens party in relation to same-sex marriage is of course well known. The consolation was really designed to create a bit of a smoke screen and advance the cause of same-sex marriage one step further. Besides the fact that numerous MPs disliked the idea of being told by the new kid on the parliamentary block how to do their jobs (as if they never consulted their constituents), in my mind the “consultation” process was a floored one from the beginning.

We live in a democratic nation and while that is a great blessing, it can lead us as citizens in that democracy to believe that our ability to decide on questions of ethics and morality is also a democratic right. If you walk outside now and ask the first ten people you see if the aforementioned consolation process was a good idea (regardless of their position on the issue) you would without a doubt get a very high ‘yes’ rating. If you pushed further about why those people believed it was a good idea you would likely get responses revolving around the ideas of democracy, freedom, listening to all opinions, majority consensus etc. Now that is all good and well if we are deciding on day-to-day matters of regulation and law, but for us to think that we can vote in the meaning of marriage in the same way that we vote in the Prime Minister is a misunderstanding of the “freedom” of true democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

Un-married – There’s no Such Thing

Posted: 25 September 2011

It was recently reported that Hollywood actress Liz Hurley had been granted a divorce from her husband, Arun Nayar. The report stated that the divorce was number 17 on a list of 28 couples being granted “quickie divorces” that day. We have become so used to our near 50% divorce rate, and celebrities who have made divorce and remarriage an art form, that sometimes it needs to be stated quite clearly: divorce makes a mockery of marriage and it actually makes no sense.

Divorce is an unnatural reality that has been sold as a normal and necessary part of life. I must emphasise here that this is not a criticism of any person who has sought a divorce but rather a brief consideration of the concept of divorce. Marriage, the commitment of one man and one woman united as husband and wife, is as old as humanity. Marriage is not the invention or the property of Church or State. The Church, following Christ, raised marriage to the level of a Sacrament. The State, desiring good social cohesion, regulates marriage. Neither can control what marriage is. Marriage can no more be adjusted to unite two men than it could be adjusted to exclude fidelity from the vows. What makes marriage something is that it is not everything, it has parameters. Read the rest of this entry »

Greatest Gift for Children is Brothers and Sisters

Posted: 23 September 2011

Why is it that everyone does what everyone else does? Yes, we all carry iPhones and drink Coca Cola but what I find most intriguing is why everyone stops at two children? Why is Mum, Dad, Johnny and Jenny considered the perfect sized family in advertising and in reality? It is no great revelation to note that the current total fertility rate in Australia is around 1.9 children per woman compared to the 3.4 children that was the case only fifty years ago.

We are not even replacing ourselves anymore.

The most obvious reason for this significant drop would have to be the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1960. The main function of ‘the pill’ is to disturb a woman’s normal cycle of fertility by confusing her body into thinking it is pregnant thus suppressing ovulation. (If ovulation does occur the pill’s second line of defence is to make the mother’s womb inhospitable to the newly created embryo and the little guy is eventually flushed out, most often without anyone knowing). Read the rest of this entry »

Bucks Parties: An Opportunity for Men to Step Up

Posted: 22 September 2011

My good friend (let’s call him Tom) got married recently and in preparation for this joyous occasion the customary buck’s party was organised.

We were informed that this particular event was to be held in two parts: The day events would include a round of golf, lunch and a game of bowling; the night event would include a selection of more ‘adult’ activities.

While golf and bowling are rather tame activities in and of themselves, they did involve Tom being dressed in a blonde wig, a frilly pink dress and being obliged to carry around a life size, blow up doll all day.

To add to the excitement, during the travel to the various destinations, the hired mini van had been well equipped with a number of sexualised games and activities for both the groom-to-be and his fellow travellers. Read the rest of this entry »