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 »

Dick Smith Foods, Microsoft & Cooperation in Evil

Posted: 19 February 2014

Dick Smith Peanut ButterIn 1999 Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith created Dick Smith Foods to provide Australian owned and produced alternatives to the increasing number of foreign owned products. In a number of cases Dick Smith’s determination to support local growers has seen factories reopened, jobs saved and family security restored. Since it began, Dick Smith Foods has given all its profits – some $5.1 million – to over 350 community based charities including the Salvation Army, the Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

Sharing Dick Smith’s desire to support and sustain Australian farmers, I recently put a post on my Facebook page promoting Dick Smith Foods and encouraging people to buy their products. While I usually enjoy a good debate, I was surprised to see one take place beneath my post, with a number of people commenting that they wouldn’t support Dick Smith Foods because of the man’s enthusiasm for national and international population reduction targets.

Now while I don’t agree with his assessment on the population issue (I actually wrote an article on the myth of overpopulation some months ago), it can sometimes be imprudent to reject the good being done in one instance because of a negative aspect in another. Especially in the case of Dick Smith Foods the profits and ideals of the company have nothing to do directly with issues of population control. It is all good and well to stand up to the immorality of the usual ‘life issues’, abortion, contraception, euthanasia etc., but we shouldn’t do that at the expense of not standing up to the immorality of other justice issues such as the right to have a job, earn a fair wage and feed ones family. If we pray for the life of unborn babies on Sunday but don’t support justice for working adults on Monday are we completely balanced? Read the rest of this entry »

The Scandal of Unfaithful Priests

Posted: 10 June 2012

I had a few ideas in mind for this particular column but on the day I sat down to write it the story broke of a popular Sydney priest who had just announced to his congregation that he had secretly married a woman one year earlier and had since been living a double life. Immediately this priest was across the media in print and radio stating his case and decrying the Church for her laws on clerical celibacy. And as was to be expected the majority of commentary came out in favour of him and against the Church. This priest has always been very diligent in teaching the faith and bestowing the sacraments which makes the story even more disappointing but what is most disappointing is the harm and scandal such a situation does to the Church and to the people of God.

First it must be said that we are all fallen. Each of us has our individual temptations and we often struggle to be faithful to the higher ideals we know we should embrace. Some struggle to moderately use alcohol, others struggle with lust, others struggle with anger. The scandal is not in our struggle and the scandal is not even in our falling into sin. The scandal is when we portray our vices as virtues, try to justify our erroneous judgement and then sell that judgement to others as a truth to be believed. 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 »