Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You Can Bet on Celebrity Catholics

One of the biggest stories to come out of the 2016 Australian Census statistics is that  those indicating "No religion" have outnumbered Catholics.

Catholics may not have the numbers, but they have the clout as shown in the Facebook page of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne which made a feature post on 28th June  of  Patti Newton a prominent Melbourne Catholic, having just been honoured in the Queen's Birthday awards" Now that's what I call celebrity Catholicism. However, I suspect that deep in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne the bones of Irish patriot, Archbishop Daniel Mannix will be rattling with disbelief.

Catholics, like Heinz come in many varieties! Popular Catholics in Australia are devout, practising, (aka committed) and Mass-going. Less popular Aussie  Catholics are lapsed and even bad. In recent history some have become Exiles and Inclusive. We and even Gay and Lesbian Catholics

We can be RomanUkrainian, Melkite  Maronite,  Syro-Malabar. And for all you scrabble fans we now have the  "Ordinariate Catholics".

So, back to Patti Newton and Celebrity Catholicism. America has had a longer tradition of "Celebrity Catholics" thanks to Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, all the Kenedys  and Al Capone.

Australia can trace its beginning of  celebrity Catholics from  Ned Kelly to Ronald Ryan. Mary MacKillop is exempt from this category as she is in the Sainted division of Catholicism, although she does have her own celebrity web site.Sitting on the fence between celebrity and saint is Caroline Chisholm deposed from the five dollar note by the Queen.

I was introduced to  my first celebrity Catholic watching B. A. Santamaria every Sunday after Mass and just before World of Sport.

Celebrity Catholics have taken the lead in the race for identity in Australia. Perhaps it began with Philip Lynch who became the first prominent Catholic in the Liberal Party. His memory has been somewhat overshadowed by a new generation of Catholics in the LNP

Now there is a new breed of celebrity Catholic who appear simultaneously in tabloid and religious news coverage. Nicole Kidman began to attract spots in the CathNews service with her wedding and her first born's  baptism  A Murdoch baptism was also noted in case readers missed the columns in the family press. Even Alan Bond, canonised as a "corporate crook" made it into CathNews. Bondy also takes out the Catholic Celebrity image of the era for his meeting with Pope John Paul II

Sometimes it can backfire when a celebrity Catholic becomes a celebrity on another team such as Tom Cruise.Would CathNews have covered all of Elizabeth Taylor's other marriages after her first Catholic wedding? Will Mel Gibson be canonised?

Perhaps celebrity Catholicism is here to stay and will continue to pop up in the Royal Family, the entertainment industry and even the Vatican. Let's hope the odds are still with those Catholics who never appear in celebrity or religious news but quietly and passionately live their faith in service and devotion to the life and teachings of the man from Nazareth.

Identity and loyalty are probably the  most emotive and divisive  marks of contemporary Catholics. For example have a look at the discussion on  the Catholica Forum  "What Kind of Catholic Are You"?


George Cardinal Pell of  cappa magna fame is responsible for the most interesting variety of   Catholic. His celebrity status includes "Australia's most senior Catholic" "Top Catholic" "Most Senior Ranked Catholic". He features in two recent books, "Hell on the Way to Heaven" and "Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell"


So, what sort of Catholic are you? I like to see myself as just Catholic . Of all the theological statements and reflections the Church offers, its Social Teachings are my main inspiration. In this body of teaching and in the lives of great witnesses of justice I find a spirituality and vision to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God..

I suspect my public statements and position on sexuality also mean I don’t qualify for all the reward points accrued by card carrying Catholics. Yet I am Catholic, if only “just”. Why does a middle-aged gay man with a passion for justice, a love of the human body, and sheer exhilaration in the wonder of life continue to claim membership in the Catholic Church?

Because this is the community in which I find a way of celebrating and confronting the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of all humanity, particularly those who are poor or oppressed. And in this community I live out my mission as a "holy irritant" believing that peace overcomes hatred; joy overcomes sorrow; pardon overcomes injury; faith overcomes doubt and love overcomes everything!

Who would have thought to see
New fruit upon so old a tree? (A.D. Hope)

Nothing can go on if we leave the table (Pierre Teilhard de ChardinThe Phenomenon of Man)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi 2017

On 18th June 2017 Catholics celebrated  one of the most flamboyant of days, Corpus Christi.. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand.


In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.


Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)


Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Divine Office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" From this classic hymn we also have another  "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." The tune popular in Australia has been given a beautiful contemporary setting by Matt Maher. In this pic of the era you can see Tom  and Urban discussing a fishing trip. Waiting patiently to the side is the learned St Bonaventure who missed the boat that day.Image source
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Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images unless you choose the "Feast" tab. . The default choice includes  scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. 




The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope Benny XVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome (more links)

A jolly  good number of Brisbane Catholics took to  the public square for the feast. Until recently  this event happened in the suburban quiet of Nudgee Junior College.  But in keeping with its more flamboyant expression in Europe the procession now does  a lap of honour “around the block” from the Cathedral of St Stephen in true Australian style.

This was a religious event Western style. Solemnity and lots of men. This year I have captured a theme of the "Faces of Catholicism" My favourite has to be this most Catholic of cars. The chant of the rosary and ehoes of the Living Parish Hymnal filled the city for a brief moment. I wonder of the  devotees considered the political statement of their presence in the shadows of the great temples of commercial worship.

The feast and its procession provides a platform for a particular feature of Catholicism that has a strong sense of nostalgia for life when Bing Crosby was everyone’s favourite priest and Archbishop Fulton Sheen swooned around the old black and white TV sets. 

The 2017 Corpus Christi  Procession collection is here. See the Brisbane Corpus Christi Procession 2016 here.

To leave you with a woman's insight of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey


I dedicate this page to the brave people and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Celebrating Anthony

One of the significant days of this month is June 13th, my name  day. My parents made sure I would spend my life gaining easy and instant recognition as a good Catholic boy by naming me after St Anthony of Padua whose feast-day falls on this day

Now this saint should not be confused with the many other holy Anthonys who have front row seats in the celestial realm:


My "Anthony" is a one of Catholicism's pin-up boys. He is patron for a number of a eternal chores that occupy most of his working days 


In his spare time he poses for thousand of popular images and statues that adorn churches homes and religious houses.


Somewhere along the timeline he also found time to star in a series of movies. My favourite is this classic from the silent movie era made long before the days inter-religious dialogue.


:


It's always good to remember that saints are often given to us to admire rather than imitate. Anthony was part of the weird and wonderful world of medieval Catholicism  in the early 13th century. He died at 36 in 1231 and never had an intimate relationship. So far I've outlived him and have not found the queue for the call to lifelong chastity.

Anthony was a great public speaker and had a pretty sharp intellect. Catholicism has a quaint practice of awarding posthumous PhDs to smart cookies and Anthony eventually got his in 1946.


Iconography of the saints is a big business as Churches, Monasteries, Convents,Schools, Oratories, Retreat Centres,Presbyteries and the humble domestic house have all gone shopping for their heavenly personalities to decorate walls. Anthony has quite large choice for the discerning shopper. 


This feast falls within a time of grieving and burial of Anthony Foster who won't make it into the Litany of Saints but wll be remembered for his  passionate challenge to the Church.and its sad history of clergy sexual abuse.  Anthony Foster's legacy has ensured that the Church has to undergo a shift in culture.  Perhaps it is time to replace the popular 17th Century image of St Anthony with the child Jesus as no longer appropriate. Despite an attempt to theologise the image I suggest it is one that has well passed its use by date. The icon used in this blog is from the work of Robert Lentz OFM.

Tourism is also part of every saints working life after death. Anthony has inspired a series of Churches and Basilicas. In Melbourne the local Capuchins applied for an extension of their friary chapel back in the 1950s..By the time they finished Power Street Hawthorn was adorned with its very own Italianate Shrine to St Anthony.

I have also discovered that Anthony himself goes  on tour for special events. He last appeared in 2010 when his less than attractive remains were taken for a lap of honour around his home base Basilica. Close up pic here. Howeber, it seems that  the locals may have been short changed. As you are reading this a piece of his floating rib is touring select cities Downunder.

Behind the saccherine hagiography lies the story of a man of faith and service, a man of his time with passion for truth, people and the needs of his era. Yeh, I still invoke him when things go missing and he has been part of my community of faith since my childhood days when his pic used to hang in my parents house over the bathroom door!!!.

So here's a call out to all those who share variants of the name Anthony! Celebrate, eat some good bread, indulge in some Italian or Portugese wine and make a public statement about  your passions

Iftar 2017

 With friends and neighbours from my local Suburb at the Hlland Park Mosque  11th June 2017
The quintessential Australian religious experience is to sit in a pub after attending an #Iftar on #TrinitySunday. For those unfamiliar with religious scrabble Iftar is the breaking of the daily fast for Muslims during the fasting time of #Ramadan. Trinity Sunday is the Christian feast of the mystery of three persons in one God. So if you are still with me it's like diving in the deep end of cross cultural understanding with divers all on different boards.

Religious diversity challenges our world view and forces us to plunge those core values that we affirm by osmosis, conversion and the sheer wonder of grace. We discover language and practices that are both comforting and unbelievable. And in the midst of it all we honour hospitality, work for the common good and learn respect for difference.

Tonight was was sacred time with my good friends at the #HollandParkMosque where I have been welcomed for many events as we work together to promote understanding and good will.

Checkng in at the pub rather than the Mosque means this post will reach an audience that may not have opportunities to consider these values and take advantage of such opportunities. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Today we lay to rest Anthony Foster whose name deserves a place of honour in Australian Catholic Church history. His witness to truth, integrity and justice means we need to change the way we are Catholic.
It means more than statements about child protection in the Church porch. It means an upheaval of those structures, practices and cultural norms that sheltered clergy abusers and shamed victims.
It it means returning to the source of our identity in the one who challenged the norms of ancient near eastern culture and religion two thousand years ago. Those challenges are equally valid today.
Thanks to Michael Mullins for this poignant and beautiful tribute. Rest in Peace Anthony and may the angels lead you into paradise where every tear will be wiped away.
How the Catholic Church came to embrace its enemy Anthony Foster
This morning a State Funeral will be held for Catholic Church child sexual abuse victims advocate Anthony Foster, who died suddenly on 26 May. In her tribute…
MICHAELMULLINS.ORG

Pray For Peace on June 8


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Anthony Foster, talks to the press after abuse survivors met Cardinal George Pell in the Hotel Quirinale, Rome, after Pell gave evidence to the The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture by David Mirzoeff /i-ImagesSource:Supplied
Every Catholic parish bulletin should carry this sad news. Anthony Foster was a man of faith, integrity and commitment who called the Church out of dishonesty. His story witnessed to truth telling in a way the George Cardinal Pell failed to grasp.

Anthony Foster called a powerful institution to face its sin in ways that will haunt the hierarchy into the future. His name deserves to be acknowledged in Australian Church History as a voice for the abused, a challenge to clericalism and a witness to the Gospel call to conversion.

Rest in peace good and faithful servant

Tributes may be posted online here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Churches deplore the shaming and punishment of asylum seekers.

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Media Release

Churches deplore the shaming and punishment of asylum seekers.

22nd May 2017:
The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce calls for a re-instatement of justice and hope for the 7500 asylum seekers yet to apply for protection in Australia.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is dismayed at the recent ‘shaming’ language and hardline decision by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in regard to asylum seekers. 

The decision by Minister Dutton yesterday to threaten asylum seekers who have not yet had the opportunity to apply for protection by using language such as ‘fake refugees’ is unjust and unbecoming of a Minister in the Australian Government.

Rev Mark Riessen, Deputy Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce; “It astonishes me that we have held people seeking refuge in our country in limbo for so many years. We have heaped heavy burdens upon them and they have become captive to punitive measures in an unfair ultimatum. The Christian faith calls us to work towards freedom for the captive and advocate for those treated unfairly, not to demonise them and shame them.”

Many of the people Minister Dutton derides did not even have an option to apply for protection for a number of years until the ‘fast track’ processing system passed in 2015.  During this time many of them did not have a right to work and have been living in poverty. 

The process of applying for protection is arduous for those who do not have legal advice, many of whom are waiting for pro bono advice from overstretched legal services.  The 7500 who have not yet applied deserve the same respect as others who have applied before them.

Caz Coleman Acting Executive Officer;
“To draw boundaries that sharply delineate between those who are ‘in’ and to whom justice and fairness applies, and those who are ‘out’ and to whom justice and fairness does not, is to deny justice at all.”

The ACRT supports the need for all 7500 to be processed in order for them to be able to determine their future.  However, the ACRT believes that shaming and punishing people is not the way to encourage engagement. 

The ACRT calls on the Government to provide additional support to this group of people in the form of legal support and positive messaging to resolve the residual caseload.

Rev Riessen “At the core of this process we ask for a reinstatement of hope, and that there will be fairness and justice in this process.”

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Rev Mark Riessen 
Deputy Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce       
0422 115 259 

Caz Coleman                   
Acting Executive Officer     
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
0411876226