Sunday, July 30, 2006

What do you give an Archbishop for his 70th Birthday?

John Alexius Bathersby, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, my adopted home town, was born in Stanthorpe on 26th July, 1936. Reaching 70 and in the home stretch of his run as Archbishop I thought it appropriate to add my best wishes and mark this event with a memorable gift.

It's not easy shopping for 70 year old celibate bishops at the best of times. Most of his material needs are provided in his workplace agreement and he gets to travel a fair bit so would have collected enough souvenirs and relics over the years. The job also comes with its own wardrobe of exotic and street wear, so he probably has a lifetime suply of "socks and jocks".

However it's a pretty safe bet he doesn't have a copy of 'Equality" the first CD compilaton from the Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Choir. The Archbishop has taken an interest in the choir since it took up residence at St Mary's South Brisbane in 1998.

Back in 2003 the choir perfomed in the Church as part of the annual Pride festival. At the time the Archbishop expressed his opinion that such a performance was "offensive". Most of the offense was in fact carried by the staff at St Mary's who had to field abusive phone calls and threats from good catholics who seemed to have anger management problems.

The 'Equality" album shouldn't cause the Archbishop any offense. In fact I suspect he may find himself tapping away to the 13 tracks that include African, Traditional, Popular, Spiritual, Folk and Modern songs recorded under the musical direction of Marina Aboody Thacker, a talented local community artist and singer with vocal ensemble Petit Four.

The tunes and lyrics of popular and some new sounds are the stuff of life and give voice to the joys and hope, grief and anguish of all who struggle against social prejudice.

The Archbishop even gets a byline in the album notes. The clergy and community at St Mary's South Brisbane are also thanked for their support over the years.

The presence of the choir in a Catholic building should be acknowledged by all members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane as an example of one of the desired outcomes of the 2003 Synod that we become a more welcoming and inclusive Church

One of these rights is access to the spiritual treasures of the Church expressed in the practice of hospitality and sanctuary. For many in the choir, the physical act of entering a church building has been a major step across the divide of prejudice and homophobia that that continues to haunt the reality of Lesbian and Gay people.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Middle East Conflict A Christian Perspctive

In a statement released on July 20 through the Vatican press office, the Holy Father called upon "the pastors and faithful of all the particular churches, and believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace."

The Pope's statement listed specific petitions to be raised during the day of prayer and penance:

* for an immediate ceasefire,
* for the opening of humanitarian corridors allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid, and
* for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region."

Pope Benedict also encouraged relief agencies to provide help to those civilians caught up in the fighting.

The papal statement included a summation of the Holy See's viewpoint on the struggle:

In reality, the Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis the right to live in peace in their State, and the Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.
Source: Catholic World News ( see responses to this item on the site)

I invite you to continue this prayer campaign by visiting the web site of the Peace Abbey
where you will find prayer texts from the major religions for peace.For any of those who are interested, Fr Dany Akiki, Parish Priest of St Maroun's Maronite Parish in Brisbane has warmly welcomed anyone who would like to join him and the Lebanese community at their Mass (English) on any Sunday at 6pm at St Maroun's Lebanese Maronite Church, 29 Bunya St., Greenslopes. He thanks the people of Brisbane for their prayers and support

If these were silent the Stones would shout out
A Statement on the Middle East by Australian Church leaders
1 August 2006

We find it impossible to remain silent in the face of so much pain and suffering in the Middle East, both in Lebanon and in Israel, but we have been particularly outraged by the news this morning of the deaths in the Lebanese village of Qana, no matter what its cause.

Where is the moral courage of our leaders? How can the leadership of the Australian Government and the Opposition not cry out for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire?

We are outraged that such unspeakable pain is being unleashed upon civilians, especially women and children, while the world remains largely silent.

Does it not occur to the Governments of Israel and the United States of America that the very possibility of a lasting, generational, peace is being made almost impossible while a new generation of youth are being accustomed to violence as a way of life.

We deplore the violence of Hezbollah and we deplore the violence of the State of Israel.

We find it impossible to understand how the leaders of our own nation have remained so cowardly silent in the face of such brutality.

We have had enough of this so called war on terror. When will the governments of the world come to understand that peace can only be built on justice and fairness?
We urge all governments of the world to invest in the millennium goals as the road to peace and to immediately apply them for the peoples of the Middle East.

We support the Christian leaders of Jerusalem in their recent call for an end to violence in the Middle East.

We can have no peace while violence is repaid with violence. It is a recipe for eventual annihilation.

May God have mercy upon us all and may there still remain, somewhere in that battered part of the world a seed which can one day grow into peace for the children who will soon become adults. May they not perpetuate the wrongs of the leadership of this generation.

Bishop George Browning, Anglican Church
Bishop Pat Power, Roman Catholic Church
Reverend Peter Walker, Uniting Church
Dr Kevin Bray, Churches of Christ
Professor James Haire, Director, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Contact: Alan Wilson (Bishop Browning's Executive Officer) on (02) 6248 0666 or or Bishop Pat Power on (02) 6201 9800 or

They were not the only ones saying 'enough violence, time to talk' :

We, Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice, Australian Arabic Palestinian Support Association, Lebanese Community Council, The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies brought together by our common humanity, people dedicated to peace, non-violence, conflict resolution, International Humanitarian Law and human rights, ask that our voice be heard.

Almost sixty years of bloodshed, violence, counter violence and many wars have not resulted in an end to the conflict, or an end to the pain and sufferings, to the killing of the innocents.

Buffer zones, mass retaliation, killing of civilians and oppression have not brought about lasting security or a just and equitable peace. There is a complex history of oppression and hurt for all peoples involved in the conflict, and it is counter-productive to blame one side or another.

Prospects for peace depend on resurrecting the value of dialogue and negotiation. History has shown that for entrenched cycles of violence to end, a willingness to meet in the spirit of common humanity is required. Israelis and Americans, Palestinians and Europeans, Arab politicians and United Nations representatives need to renew an interest in life rather than death. Realising these goals depends on a peace enhancing culture replacing the current preoccupation with violence and war. Only changed attitudes will enhance the possibilities of a ceasefire and a subsequent peace with justice for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis.

All parties, including Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese should adhere to a ceasefire across Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The long term solution is to build confidence and trust, the creation of an independent Palestinian State and a secure State of Israel. The UN resolutions already e xist to provide the framework for negotiation.

We urge the Palestinian, Lebanese and Israeli Leaders to respect the lives of civilians and to create an environment that is safe and secure for all. We urge the Israeli Government to ease the harsh conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.

We, the concerned signatories to this statement, urge all people in Australia and the world to work together in bringing about a peaceful outcome to the problems of the Israeli-Palestinian issues. This can only come about by fresh thinking that is not based on past injustices and oppression, but on a commitment to a good life for all peoples in the region.

Our vision is that this document will contribute to continuing dialogue, between the signatories and others in Australia and around the world.

Enough violence, enough killing and enough suffering. Its time to listen, to hear and talk to one another.

For further information please contact:
Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice
Donna Jacobs Sife 0417241418
Lyndall Katz
Claire Jankelson 0401 156 321
Australian Arabic Palestinian Support Association Inc
Abe Quadan 0412 460 373
Lebanese Community Council
Elie Nassif 0425230649 96260162
Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies
Prof. Stuart Rees 9351 4763 9351 4468

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Take Hart,, O'Murchu Still Coming

Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart (no "e") is a big man with a big job. Luckily, the over-worked Archbishop seems to have willing minnions who post him updates from obscure corners of the world warning of religious terrorists who might unleash havoc in his Archdiocese.

On July 8 Denis withdraw his approval for the planned visit of a priest with the almost unpronouncable name of Diarmuid O’Murchu. It's worth reading the official version of events from the Edmund Rice Center Ameberley.

Update July 27: The Wellspring Centre in Melbourne is now sponsoring the workshops and they will be held at Janet Clarke Hall at the University of Melbourne. Further details can be found in the brochure.

Denis Hart (no "e") only needed to dust off his old copies of AD2000 to realize that the priest with the unpronounable name was going to be a the subject of many letters and missives. You just can't say this sort of stuff and not expect the Church police to report you:

"Where religions have failed most dismally is in their perception and understanding of the world, which they all tend to dismiss as an inferior, ungodly, and transitory reality. This cosmology goes right back to the Agricultural Revolution, which projected the original mechanistic image that the world was an object to be conquered and .controlled. Adopting this worldview, the religions concocted a self-inflationary, eschatological myth, whereby the world would come to nothing and the religions themselves would triumph. What was intended to be an instrument of God became a god in its own right; religion became an outrageous form of idolatry" Fr. Diarmuid O'Murchu in his book Quantum Theology

"Once we begin to understand and internalize the sacredness of life from within--ourselves, our planet, and our universe--then the classical academic search for an external agent may become quite irrelevant."

"We stood upright about 2 million years ago and in our presently developed state have been around about 200,000 years. For most of that time we lived in open spaces surrounded by the mysteries of grass, trees, stone and stars. Now we live indoors and our minds are so cluttered with scientific reductionism and utilitarian functionalism we are bereft of imagination and a supportive sense of the true history of our kind."
"Modern living now has nearly completely curtailed the unlimited possibilities of the fascination with mystery. We don't need to return to living outdoors, but rather to look at what's right under our noses. Our human sexuality was once perceived as a component of the spiritual, indeed a central aspect of it."
"Ours is a culture rife with addiction because we are deprived of mysticism. In the Catholic church also we have had what I call 'celibate rationality.' This legacy from several centuries in our theology maintains that God has nothing to do with sexuality, so celibates shouldn't either. It counsels us to transcend eroticism and passions, not integrate them responsibly into our living. This old view of celibacy is crippling and destroying people's lives."
"Our current labels for sexual identity --heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual--were all devised recently, in the late 1800s, by psychiatrists. Before that, sexuality was always considered to be a continuum, without boundaries. Many cultures still honor the transgendered, for example, in the figure of the berdash in Native American cultures or the hijra in South India. The challenge for our times is rethinking our own rigid categories."
There's an urgent need to generally reconceptualize what sexuality is and what it's about. Failing to recognize that sexuality is something archetypal, our sense of it is inadequate and has become corrupt. When we honor the sacred mystery of sexuality, we embrace the deepest human mystery and God's divine mystery both..... when our consciousness about sexuality changes, then the church will come along...... and more
Extract from Reclaiming Spirituality: A New Spiritual Framework for Today's World
You should also take some time out to read O'Murchu's paper: The New Age and Mainstream Christianity