Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seventh Day of Christmas: Day to Take Stock

It hasn't taken long for the "Christmas Sales"signs to be replaced by "Stocktake Sales" in the major stores around our cities.These sales are basically incentives to add to our consumer appetite at bargain prices

Today can also be a great day to "take stock" of life as the year draws to a close. Our new year resolutions are best informed by the reflection of the previous year.

The ABC 2011 review reminds us of the joys and hopes the grief and anguish of our planet. Yet this review failed to celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 award to Ellen Johnson, Sirleaf Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman  "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work".

Also missing  from the review was any reference to the major religious events of 2011.The significance of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi should not be ignored nor the work of the World Council of Churches. However the growing awareness of the history and clerical silence of  of  clergy sexual abuse in my own Catholic Church is a scandal that will continue to undermine the authority of its leadership. This scandal with the current political climate of the papacy in Rome has left me distanced from the Church which nurtured my youthful dreams for a just world.
Today is a day to take stock of core values and commitments. For me this means I no loner align myself with the Catholicism of my family and ancestors. It means I place my commitment in small communities such as L'Arche, in the activism of groups like Amnesty International and Oxfam, in the commitment of NGOs like Micah Projects and Palms Australia to bring about social change.

When I take stock of my core values I recognize my duty to use social networking tools for raising awareness of justice and peace concerns and building solidarity with those who occupy our cities for the cause of justice.

I invite you to share the story of your "stocktake" of 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Second Day of Christmas:The Essential Nativity Extra

While we might be used to the main stars of the traditional Nativity setting, I have recently taken to adding another figure to my ever expanding Domestic Nativity.

A Caganer (Catalan pronunciation: [kəɣəˈne]) is a small statue found in Catalonia, in neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, and in other parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy. The figure is depicted in the act of defecation. Caganer is Catalanfor "shitter".

My Cajaner is our current Papa Benny I shall post a pic when he installed for January 1. 

The reasons for placing a man who is in the act of excreting solid waste from his posterior in a scene which is widely considered holy are as follows:
  1. Just tradition.
  2. Scatological humor.
  3. Finding the Caganer is a fun game, especially for children.
  4. The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. However, this is probably an a posteriori explanation, and nobody would say they put the Caganer on the Nativity scene for this reason.
  5. The Caganer represents the equality of all people e.g. regardless of status, race, gender everyone defecates.
The article for the above quote also makes reference to the Catalan greeting before eating;  "menja be caga fort" (Eat well, shit strong).

Caganer a gift for Christmas, figures, crafts  Check out World Leaders Cajaners here

For those expecting a little more  classic reference for the second day of Christmas I should acknowledge the feast of Stephen the Martyr. The juxtaposition of feasts of life and death running back to back is missed by most of the Christmas revelry.

In Australia the feast is lost in the Boxing Day Test Match and the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. In Brisbane however there is a local celebration as the Catholic Cathedral is dedicated to St Stephen. Unlike most Cathedral's this building is not called St Stephen's Cathedral but rather the Cathedral of St Stephen. This was part of some very smart marketing by a previous administrator who also designed a logo for the building.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

Welcome to my domestic nativity for 2011. I live in an estate of townhouses where our front windows face the roadway which gives the place an English Village feel. . I have put my nativity on the window sill this year for the local kids and neighbours to enjoy. 

As has been my custom the Nativity scene includes the diversity of traditional and popular images. The centrepiece is from Korea, a reminder of the divided nation. As we gather in joyous celebration I remember the people of North Korea  living in a closed world manipulated by political and military powers.

The angel figurine is from Peru and many of the other figures are drawn from popular culture. They include folk heroes like Batman, some wizards and mermaids, a few popular saints,yes,a Buddha  a Bushy and even a native North  American Indian on horseback.

The Magi are not installed yet as they won't arrive until Epiphany on January 6. According to the traditions (not the song) there could have been quite a few in the convoy and not merely the three we usually expect.

May these  12 Days of Christmas  bring you encouragement and strength for the journey of justice and peace-making to which this celebration calls us. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More

Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More

Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More
Art that dares to show Jesus as gay or female has been censored and destroyed. Now for the first time these beautiful, powerful, sometimes shocking images are gathered for all to see.
Packed with full-page color illustrations, this eye-opening collection features a diverse group of eleven contemporary artists who work both inside and outside the church. They present the gay Jesus, the woman Christ and other cutting-edge Christian images. Their art respects the teachings of Jesus and frees the minds of viewers.
Here the artists tell the stories behind the images. A lively introduction puts the new genre into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom. You can view some of the images on this site
Publisher: AndroGyne Press
Paperback with color images: 96 pages
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches
Price: $38.95
Publication date: 2007
Purchase from Book Depository

Monday, December 19, 2011

Geoff Lacey responds to Cardinal Pell

Geoff Lacey

Talk given at Social Policy Connections Annual General Meeting 24 November 2011

In October, Cardinal George Pell gave a lecture in Westminster Cathedral Hall, entitled One Christian perspective on climate change. A shorter version appeared in The Australian (27 October 2011). He said that a reason he was speaking out was to avoid having too many Christian leaders repeating the mistakes of the past and “to provide some balance to ecclesiastical offerings”.

In this talk, I address the question of how we develop an ethical response to the issue of climate change. In particular I will examine the science, the politics, the foundations of an ethical position, and what constitutes an adequate response. I will look at where Cardinal Pell stands on each of these matters.

Read Full Text of Geoff Lacey's Talk here

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Anniversaries Jubilees and Memories

One of the realities of living through middle age is the regularity of anniversaries and jubilee celebrations. Some of these include family jubilees of weddings, anniversaries of deceased relatives and the diminishing experience of long service with the same employer.

In recent years I have celebrated  the 50th anniversaries of my Baptism (1953) and  First Communion (1960)  More recent jubilees include the  40th anniversary of my Confirmation (1963) and Year 12 graduation (1970) . I can also add to that list the 40th anniversary of my first interstate plane flight (1964) and I can probably lay claim to the 45th anniversary (1964) of my first visit to a pub as a young newspaper boy at the now demolished Oriental Hotel in North Geelong

This weekend there have been celebrations for the foundation  at my old primary school, St Patrick's in Geelong West 100 years ago. My brothers,my sister and I were the second generation from both our parents families to ago to primary school at "St Pat's". If I count in the various cousins, the name Robertson is well and truly etched into the history of this parochial school.

My memories and images of those formative years are grounded in the joys and hopes the grief and anguish of the human experience. Now with hindsight I look back at those days with mixed emotions.

My primary school days were spent in the last years of Pope Pius X11 prior to the impact of the Second Vatican Council. When I began my primary education the names of Bolte and Menzies dominated the Victorian political scene. Local and world events of the era have been etched  in my memory. In 1960 I shared the communal anxiety of the news of  the kidnapping of Graeme Thorne. I can still remember the Melbourne Herald headlines in 1963 when the deaths of Kennedy, Mannix and Roncalli joined the lexicon of history. In 1963 my tribal connections to Geelong were celebrated with the VFL Premiership win and in my Grade Six year (1964) the Beatles Tour captured my imagination.

In the midst of social, political and religious upheaval my primary education was  formed in the sectarian world view in which we were not encouraged to form friendships with the local kids at Ashby Primary School. which was the Protestants school. I cannot remember any of the major world events being discussed or raised apart from the death of the Pope and of course the legendary Daniel Mannix.

St Pat's was founded by the Sisters of Mercy The women, lay and religious, who taught me provided me with the basic three Rs and for good measure threw in the "catholic R of religion" with its mix of rituals, doctrine and tribal loyalty.

As part of the jubilee activities the school invited past students to submit answers to a questionnaire  which proved to be a great tool for reflection on my time as a primary student. As I gathered the memories and responses to the questions I discovered a few key insights:

I remembered the love of music and singing that I gained from days when every teacher played the piano. The school was part of a vibrant Catholic parish in Geelong West where we were introduced to great contemporary choral singing with a young organist, Roger Heagney.

 I also recall my first introduction to ABC radio through its school service broadcast via the old speakers which hung over the class altars.

I can  reflect back now on the racism that permeated the school culture of the time. As I look over the names of families we mixed with there was no-one from the migrant group of WW11 European refugees..We had no introduction to the Indigenous history of Geelong..

As a young Catholic lad I never questioned the fact that  girls could not get time out of school to make pocket money as altar servers by serving at funerals at the parish church.

I wondered why our recreational times at school were segregated with the boys having access to the back paddock with a cricket pitch and the girls given a nice asphalt covered yard with basketball rings

In Grade Six we knew something "big" was happening when we were kept behind after class to practice the texts for a new English Mass which would change the way we worshiped.

I look back at my First Communion  group photo and realised that the sisters who spent hours preparing us for this event were  left out of the picture when the big day came around.

The names of many of the kids in this photo are forgotten in the decades of lost connections. Among them is a young Lexie Brooks who would join the Sisters of Mercy in their mission in Pakistan.

There are 53 kids in that photo and most of us spent our primary days in the same room year after year until the boys left after grade six and  girls had an option to stay on for grade seven.The women who taught us were gutsy to take on such a task. One of those  women, Miss Carroll was one of those legendary single women who taught two generations in a lifetime commitment to St Pat's.

The Centenary celebrations  are a moment of nostalgia which reminds me of where I have come from and  how my current choices have been informed by values good and bad which were part of my time and culture. May the spirit of wild Patrick stir the hearts of past and present students to be adventurous, and  seek the divine in life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Aussie Catholic's Guide to Social Networking

It's good to see that the Aussie Bishops have released an updated version of the Social-Networking Protocols. I must confess I wasn't aware  that we even had protocols that needed "updating". Although you can read the document as a pdf file on the official site for the Catholic Church in Australia, I suggest you log onto this document on the Media Blog site which allows for sharing and comments.

While it's a pretty cool text, it does have an odd quirk which may be part of the current trend of being faithful to the Latin. The statement insists: "Social networking, using platforms such as Facebook, MySpace or Xt3, is a phenomenon which allows groups to share information, build friendships and promote activities. Indeed, social networking has already proven to be a powerful way to engage with and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a wide variety of fora."  Now according to the authoritative  Wictionary, the English plural forums is preferred to the Latin plural fora in normal English usage. I wonder which member of the Commission for Mission and Faith Formation   edited that part of the text?

There are some good practical suggestions about personal and public issues that plague all organisations that venture into the unregulated world of  social networking. The "blurring of boundaries"  is a phrase that should be common with any professionals who engage in social networking, particularly with young people.

The statement is directed primarily at Church organisations and their personnel but it also challenges participants who engage in the world wide web using the catholic tag with little commitment to "growth in faith and in communion with others". I wonder how many of these "loose cannons" will feature this statement on their sites?

 I love the paragraph that is directed at the bishops themselves.

Some Bishops have elected to set up a public profile on Facebook, which displays them as a public figure – for example, the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn would be listed as a public figure, with a photo and information about his work and ministry. Those using these sites may wish to become a ‘fan’ of the Archbishop as a public figure. This can avoid some of the tensions which can come with accepting or denying ‘friend’ requests.

There is an obvious reason that the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn features here as he has attracted 556 fans on his public figure page. He is way ahead of Cardinal Pell who has only found 20 fans so far!! Mind you the Cardinal has  attracted 261 members to the Cardinal Pell Appreciation Society although catching up behind are the 193 members of the "Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church are out of touch with reality"group.The most intriguing group has to be the 120 members of the Bp Chris Prowse Groupies Club.

Readers of this blog  would be surprised to see the clerics who I have as "Facebook Friends".  They represent a good cross section of theological and pastoral perspectives. I have only been "unfriended" by one cleric, a former  confrere in a religious order who now lives in another paradigm.

All people of good will should find common ground in the Bishops' naming of human dignity as the overarching principle of the communion we seek to experience in social networking. It is also challenging to read the statements' reflection on the "Digital Divide". However, I  hope a further updating will provide   more creative suggestion about bridging this gap by using Church resources in creative ways.

I would like to think that  the Holy Irritant blog was an  incentives for this quote:
 "Blogging is a conversational and reflective mode of communicating which is cost-effective and allows people to express their views in a relatively unmoderated forum. A number of priests, religious and lay people within Australia maintain excellent blogs which can be helpful for the promulgation of faith. Once again, Church workers should try to consistently represent the Church in a positive light and communicate evangelically using this medium."

I have recently announced my decision to step down from a long term gig  as web editor for the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.  I can take a step back from this statement's reminder to those who work for Church organistions. But I  hope that this blog continues to provide  a perspective of  bringing about the message of Christ to the world, albeit in a slightly off beat tone!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Statement of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference on Papua: Stop Violence! Let Us Hold A Dialogue!

Violence in Papua continues to occur despite the fact that many parties have repeatedly called for resorting to peaceful means to solve Papua issues. People’s welfare can only be achieved if there is a peaceful atmosphere that allows all elements of a society work together peacefully. Violent ways are unlikely to solve so many social problems. Violence contra violence only gives birth to new violence and thus increases problems. It can be worse whenever public views and political statements expressed by the Papuans in a peaceful and transparent manner are again met with gunfire, arbitrary arrest, torture and killings. Herewith, we, the Indonesian bishops’ conference, express our deepest concerns and condemn violence acts that ostensibly do not promote human dignity and derogate the right to life, a God’s gift to every human being.

Read full text here

Stop the Gay Death Penalty

Right now, religious fanatics in Uganda are trying to push through an illegal vote that would sentence gay Ugandans to death. But two men can stop it. 

Widespread international pressure stopped this heinous bill from coming a vote in the last Parliament. Now, extremist evangelical MPs are bringing it back to the floor -- violating Parliamentary rules -- and spreading hate messages across Uganda. But 83% of Ugandans are Catholic or Protestant. If we can get the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury to appeal directly to MPs, they could stop the vote and drown out the intolerance and violence.

If we all act now -- we can save lives. Sign the urgent petition now to get the Archbishop and the Pope to speak out -- we will broadcast their messages all over the airwaves in Uganda -- then share this campaign with everyone!

To Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury :

We stand with citizens across Uganda who are calling on their government to withdraw the gay death penalty bill and protect the universal human rights embodied in the Ugandan constitution. We urge you to join us in rejecting persecution and upholding values of justice and tolerance by loudly and publicly denouncing this brutal bill.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

World Day of Prayer and Action for Children

This week the world marks two important days to recognize support for a child's right  to freedom from sexual abuse and other violence: November 20th is World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in  honour of  the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and November 19th is World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.

The  World Day of Prayer and Action for Children  was first celebrated in 2008. In 2009, more than 9,000 people in 29 cities in 22 countries participated in the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. In 2010, the World Day was celebrated in 47 countries through 69 events with more than 33,000 participants from around the world.
The logo for the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children features a stylized image of a child painting a rainbow in the sky. The rainbow in the design symbolizes the beautiful diversity of the human family; the many colors unite in a single rainbow to express the universal hope that all children will one day be able to grow to their full potential in a peaceful world. The child in the design is taking creative action to produce the rainbow, representing the inspired work of people of good will everywhere — especially the efforts of children and young people — to build a world fit for children. Our logo is meant to serve as a daily reminder of the spirit and vision of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
In Brisbane I invite you to join this international campaign by coming to the shrine of St Mary MacKillop on Sunday November 20 between 11.30am and 12.00pm to light a prayer candle for the rights of children. If you are unable to be in Brisbane for this event you may like to join us in solidarity in your local community. See the facebook event to register your interest.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Occupy The Lord's House

Sign from Occupy Brisbane Site

As the Vatican attempts to pour cold water on the possibility of Pope Benedict's popemobile cruising through the wordlwide "Occupy sites" in solidarity, the Anglicans have taken out an injunction  to remove the London  protesters from the square in front of St Paul's Cathedral. 

The flurry of excitement about the Pope doing a "World Occupy Tour" (WOT2011) was generated by a statement from the office of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. The  statement came in the form of a "Nota" ("Note in Vaticanspeak)  Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.

The contents of the statement reflect many of the issues of concern being raised by those who have "occupied" cities around the world. Sentences from the statement could easily sit alongside the current agenda for example at my local Occupy Site in Brisbane.

"Recognizing the primacy of being over having and of ethics over the economy, the world’s peoples ought to adopt an ethic of solidarity to fuel their action.

Economics and finance need to be brought back within the boundaries of their real vocation and function, including their social function, in consideration of their obvious responsibilities to society – for example, that of nourishing markets and financial institutions which are really at the service of the person and are capable of responding to the needs of the common good and universal brotherhood. 

The time has come to conceive of institutions with universal competence, now that vital goods shared by the entire human family are at stake, goods which individual States cannot promote and protect by themselves.

The birth of a new society and the building of new institutions with a universal vocation and competence are a prerogative and a duty for everyone, without distinction. What is at stake is the common good of humanity and the future itself."

Meanwhile in London the Bishop of Buckingham,  Alan Wilson blogged his dismay at the decision of the Dean of St Pauls' Cathedral to close the sacred space  citing issues of health and safety due to the presence of the occupiers.The BBC News service  has published a great image of the relationship between the Cathedral and the London Stock Exchange which  makes it an obvious  site for an "occupy" event.

However, the announcement of a campaign by Cathedral Chapter to evict the protesters by legal action has been revealed as part of the very economic system the protesters are challenging. In a statement from Australia the British PM David Cameron said ""We need to ensure that important places like St Paul's Cathedral are open to the public, open for tourism."

Not all Cathedral staff  have been supportive of these decisions. Fraser  Dyer, a cathedral chaplain followed in the footsteps of Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor, and resigned from his position citing g 'disappointment " at the decison to pursue legal action against the activists.

In my fathers house there are many mansions, but no tents thank you!!! (Adaptation of John 14:2)

Christians for the Occupy Movement
Where you stand determines what you see
The Occupy Movement...Your Kingdom Come
Huffington Post reports on Occupy London

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sacrifice, Law and the Catholic Faith: is secularity really the enemy?

The premise of the Catholic Faith is that there is no real other in any meaningful religious sense, that is "another" who can be seen as so unlike us that they could not learn as we have learned, that we are victimisers and must learn not to be, and so belong to the same sign as we. There are only humans who, starting from where they are, can have desire reformed in such a way as to learn not to create identity over against anyone else at all. Whenever we come across an apparent "other" and start to get frightened and retrench into identity politics, we are not becoming more Catholic, but much less Catholic. My sorrow at Archbishop Nichols' recent sermon seeking to maintain a sacred right to discriminate against gay people was not because I am a gay man, but because I'm a Catholic. It is because I am a Catholic that I recognise that anyone playing identity politics with a victimary [sic] slant is functionally atheistic.

James Alison The Tablet Lecture 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vatican Concerns about Pope Kissing!!!

Was it a Holy Kiss or not? Definately not says the Vatican:

Statement of Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson, on Benetton Ad

A decisive protest must be expressed for the completely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and instrumentalized in the context of a publicity campaign of a commercial nature. It’s a question of a grave lack of respect for the pope, of an offense to the sentiments of the faithful, [and] of a evident demonstration of how, in the context of publicity, it’s possible to violate elementary rules of respect for persons in order to attract attention with provocations. The Secretariat of State is evaluating the steps to take with the competent authorities in order to guarantee a just protection of respect for the figure of the Holy Father.

Sorry to tell you Fr Lombardi but you did not consult me before you issued this statement. My sentiments have not been offended in any way. In fact I find the image challenging in that it has encouraged me to commit to the Benetton Unhate Campaign. I hope readers of this blog will join me and add their kiss to the Unhate Kiss wall.

If you do a search on Google Images you will find lots of images under  "Pope Kissing:  The Vatican legal team will be chasing up a lot of sites to pull done every copy of this famous image.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Introducing a new site from Sandie Cornish

Finding sites that really nurture the spirit of faith is a challenge out in the blogsphere. It's so refreshing to find this new venture . This site comes from the reflections and experience of Sandie Cornish, educator, animator and a woman of lived faith in Australia. Drop in, add it to your faves but make sure you join the conversation!!

Pilgrimage as a Social Justice Practice

Why is the ancient practice of pilgrimage enjoying new popularity?
Recently I was invited to speak at a colloquium breaking open the Lineamenta for the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. I was given the topic Bringing Forth Treasures Both Old and New which prompted me to reflect on the ‘old treasure’ of pilgrimage. Continue Reading →

Monday, October 10, 2011

Evolutionary Christianity

Thursday, 27 October, from 5.30-7pm at Delamore Retirement Centre, entry from Cremorne Rd, Kedron. This final conversation for this year will be about the interview with Spencer Burke, entitled The Emerging Church: A Heretical Guide which you can listen to at the site for Evolutionary Christianity ( If you want an audio copy or a transcript please contact us. This is an opportunity to explore new edges in ecospirituality. No cost, but please RSVP to 3425 3138 or by Monday 24 October.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Speak Now :A Book for your Shelf
Australian perspectives on  same sex marriage, Edited by Victor Marsh  PhD Forward by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

Over thirty writers, a mix of activist and reflective voices, explore the legacy of the 2004 changes to the Australian Marriage Act, which now states—and which must be stated at every wedding—‘marriage is between a man and a woman’

Congratulations to  friends and colleagues who have contributed to this work: Michael  Carden, Dorothy McRea-McMahon, Paul Martin, Maria Pallotta Chiarolli, and Wendell Rosevear 

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Spoken Word: The coming of Ailan Culture

The Coming of the Light festival marks the day the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait. Many Torres Strait Islander people have embraced and integrated Christian beliefs into everyday life. Others have questioned the influence that Christianity, in its various forms, has had on the evolution of Torres Strait Islander culture.

What would have happened had the missionaries not arrived? Would songs, dances and spirituality be different today? Did the introduction of Christianity inhibit or enhance the culture?
 These questions and others will be explored in a community discussion.

Wed 19 Oct, 6pm–8pm
State Library of Queensland Auditorium 1, level 1

Free, bookings required, 3842 9061

Part of Strait Home

Monday, September 26, 2011


Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team joined together to launch a campaign to get Government action to address on-going Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

The campaign was launched last Wednesday evening at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on the anniversary of the death in custody of a 16 year old Aboriginal youth, John Pat, in 1983.

John Pat was punched and kicked by off-duty police officers when he tried to help another Aboriginal man who was involved in a fight with the police officers outside a hotel in Roeburn, Western Australia.

Pat died as a result of his injuries. Charges were laid against the police involved, but none was convicted.

Media Release Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Campaign 2011

Deaths in Custody launch fact sheet

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When a Picture Speaks a Thousand Words!

Brisbane City Council bus outside the Catholic Cathedral of St Stephen Brisbane  August  28 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Social Justice Sunday 2011 - 25 September

Building Bridges, Not Walls: Prisons and the justice system

It is time for all Australians to revisit the needs of prisoners, their loved ones and those who work with them. It is time to recommit ourselves to reducing the number of Australians held in prison, making better provision for ex-prisoners to become law-abiding and constructive citizens.It is time to knock down the walls of social exclusion that increase the prospects that a person will end up in jail. Before and after jail, we need bridges, not walls.

No crime can take away or diminish the fact that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. In the words of Sir Gerard Brennan, former Chief Justice of Australia: Prisoners, no less than the free, are our brothers and sisters and we have been silent too often when their human dignity has been diminished.

These quotes from the statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops for Social Justice Sunday should provoke discussion and review of the Australian criminal justice system by politicians and voters across our country.

Order form (pdf)
Summary (pdf)

I Was in Prison and You Visited Me

The number of people in prison in Australia (both sentenced and unsentenced) is increasing faster than population growth. At the same time, rates for most categories of offending are decreasing. These trends require us to pause and reflect on what is happening in our society and especially, who is most likely to be found in prison. The great majority of prisoners come from impoverished circumstances, often experiencing multiple disadvantage. However, most attention is given to the few high profile, even very wealthy, individuals who engage equally high profile legal advisers to secure their freedom.

The Social Justice Network has produced this resource to assist individuals and congregations to be aware of the alarming facts about prisons in Australia and to advocate for a more just society.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't Upset Hogan's Heroes

Once upon a time in a Catholic News service there was a publisher whose name was Hogan

She had lots of heroes including of course Pope Benedict One bright spring day the  publisher ran a story from AFP about the fact that George and Joseph Ratzinger had never fallen in love with girls. Now both news services allow for public comment on news items. 

Meanwhile out in the blogsphere the Holy Irritant decided to add a comment o the CathNews report of this papal revelation. HI sent off the following comment:

Wow, the Ratzinger boys  never fell in love with a girl because they wanted to  "take another path that excludes marriage"
You mean they are both  good Catholic gay guys??

Now HI is a bit of a veteran at dealing with editorial whims having written his first "Letter to the Editor" to the Herald Sun back in 1967. he knows that CathNews doesn't always publish his somewhat "left field" comments  every time he serves them up on a cyber platter.

However this time  it was different. (At this point dear reader if this was a printed page you would have to turn the page with a sense of dramatic expectation. Perhaps you could just close your eyes for a minute before reading on)

HI received an email from the publisher. There was no message just his comment in the text of the post.  But there in the subject line was the editorial reprimand: Tony - knock it off!

The exclamation mark took HI's breath away and he sat down to think hard about how he had offended one of the Hogan's Heroes. After much pondering and a quick google search HI realised that on her Facebook page Hogan the publisher describes her religious views as  "tolerant thinking Anglo-Catholic"

"Aha", though HI in one of those 'Aha" moments.Is Hogan waiting in the queue for the doors to open for the Australian Anglican ordinariate? This could explain the reprimand for making light of  the papal revelations

So Hogan didn't publish the comment and HI published it in  his blog and they were both left wondering

Saturday, August 20, 2011

God's Tears in Mogadishu

On August 13 , photographer,  John Moore posted this image online:

Safia Adem mourns the death of her son Hamza Ali Faysal, 3, in a camp of displaced Somalis within the rubble of the Cathedral of Mogadishu on August 13, 2011 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The malnourished child died of sickness two weeks after fleeing with his family from famine and drought in far southern Somalia. The US government estimates that some 30,000 children have died in southern Somalia in the last 90 days from the crisis.

This contemporary image of a "Pieta" grieving the unaccountable loss of her son will be one of the enduring images I will hold during the  World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid. Although Mogadishu and Madrid seem worlds apart, I believe that WYD2011 needs the tears of God if all of us,young and young of heart are to live "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith." (Colossians 2:7)

The ruins of the Cathedral of  Mogadishu  serve as a reminder of the futility of Church order when the core business of human rights is not witnessed.

The tears of Safia carry more grace and mercy than the angst and politics of both sides spending  money and energy defending or challenging  the new English translation texts of the Roman Missal.

The veil of  Safia carries more value and  reverence than the baroque vestments favoured by the curent Papacy and the promoters of the Extraordinary Rite.

The death of Hamza Ali Faysal,and the countless thousands of children who continue to die in this human tragedy have an equal right  to the support of  those who promote a pro life agenda as a touchstone of orthodoxy.

Safia's image of the tears of God challenges me more than any Episcopal Catechesis to live the words and deeds of  Jesus who came that "all may have life and . have it to the full". John 10:10

My Church's teaching of the "preferential option for the poor" measn that I will follow the news coming out of Mogadishu more than the news from Madrid

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome the Divine Wedgie (Nudge Nudge, Grin Grin, Say No More!)

Out there in the religious and spiritual blogsphere you find a little gem that you want to add to your collection. I found The Divine Wedgie thanks to a column in Cathblog

Only after I had posted this item did I go back and check the title of the blog to realise it is really The Divine WEDGIE. That has to be up there with the "Top Titles".

Now you have to sit up and take notice of a name like Matthew John Paul Tan. Is he related to my favourite illustrator Shaun Tan? In April 2010 Matthew added a Doctorate to his name tags  which in my world is almost as cool as having a good Facebook profile!!

Apart from the well crafted text published by Cathblog, I was pretty impressed to find Matthew's blog reference to Rene Girard I wonder if he will respond to the barbed animosity of the comment posted by Anonymous? We share a common interest in the Ekklesia Project and I will be trawling around Jesus Radicals for familiar mentors in the faith journey.We probably share less interest in the The John Paul II Institute of Family and Marriage and Campion College. I wonder which of my links we will have in common?

I look forward to reading a bit more of Matthew, not that I expect to agree with him, but I enjoy the healthy perspectives from  this new generation of Catholic writers who seem more optimistic than some of the more progessive discussion forums and "communities".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayer for Norway

Holy One,
We come to You in our shock and sadness. We grieve this sudden loss of lives in senseless acts of violence. 

Strong  Deliverer, we seek Your protection, strength and comfort in this time. May Your presence be made known to all who grieve. May Your strength be with all those who have survived, who will live with the memory of this moment forever etched in their minds. We pray especially for the people of Oslo, Norway, but our prayers include all those who have experienced the horror and violence from acts of terror in this world.

Prince of Peace, we surrender our desire for revenge to You. We remember Your call to pray for those who would persecute us, to pray for our enemies. We pray for the ones who have caused these acts of violence, who have brought fear and death into our world again. We ask that You protect us from all acts of violence, including our own anger and revenge, that we might not become like those who cause terror. Help us to mirror Your image in this world, to be peacemakers, to pursue the path of peaceful living as far as it depends upon us.

Almighty God, help us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with You. Help us not to seek revenge and retribution but Your justice, Your restoration, Your way of life that is renewed and restored through Your death on the cross. Help us not to live in fear but to walk in hope. In the name of Christ, the one who lived, died and lives again so that we might have life abundantly, we pray. Amen. (Rev Mindi from Rev-o-lution .org)

Speech of Norway's PM at Oslo Cathedral 

Norway Churches Pray As Terror Death Toll Rises To 92