Friday, April 26, 2013

Worth Reading:Resisting Violence and Victimisation Christian Faith and Solidarity in East Timor:

Ed Conrad, Joel Hodge , Anne Brown
Book launches are up there  at the top of my preferred social gatherings just below watching Geelong play a decent winning game of footy. 

On a balmy Brisbane Friday night in April I pushed against a determined footy crowd of another denomination to make my way to a community hall for the  Brisbane  launch of a new work by Joel Hodge.

Resisting Violence and Victimisation Christian Faith and Solidarity in East Timor is a landmark work in the conversation about religion and society. It continues the theological conversation from the "underside of history", a theme developed in the  school of Liberation Theology and popularised in the works of Gustavo Gutierrez

Joel has presented his book in sections that reflect his methodology. The first section, Setting the Context in Dialogue comes out of his deep personal relationship with the people of East Timor and their experience under Indonesian occupation and the turbulent period of liberation. Section 2, Violence and Faith explores the experience of victimisation and faith using the mimetic theory of Rene Girard.  Section 3, Sacred Violence and Christian Resistance offers a contemporary insight into the tradition of Christian resistance to the State.. Section 4, Solidarity with the Victim, spells out the theological model that builds faith and community. A concluding reflection provides insights into the experience of being Church in East Timor A good sample extract from Joel's book is available online

Any book that comes with positive reviews from both James Alison and William Cavanaugh is a "must read". 

Cavanaugh describes this work as "a fine contribution to a new way of doing political theology, an interdisciplinary way that starts in the midst of people’s suffering and courage.'

Alison tempts us with: "This is cutting edge stuff. Joel Hodge is a pioneer in a new understanding of Church, of Eucharist and of our relationship to our own violence"

At the launch  Dr. Anne Brown and  Assoc. Prof. Ed Conrad  who helped to supervise Joel's PhD work on which the book is based spoke with excitement and praise for the ground breaking way Joel explored across disciplines in academia.

Joel Hodge will be known  by  ABC fans as a regular contributor to public opinion on religion and society. He  is currently  a lecturer in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University's St Patrick’s campus, Melbourne.

Joel's first book is not an easy read. However, the experience of victims, resistance, faith and community are not easy topics and demand commitment. Reading this book is like  the title, a long intriguing challenge. The challenge is one we must promote and encourage if we are to  confront a world where the language of terrorism and State security threatens our sense of community. Joel is offering those of us in First World  communities a fresh understanding of what it means to be Church in the 21st Century.

Students of politics, religion and society will find this book a valuable resource. Clergy religious and those responsible for formation of religious ministries will also benefit from this text. The price might deter the general reader but my hope is that we will see local council libraries purchase copies that can be available to the public.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another Great Gift from Bishop Bill Morris

Year of Grace and The War in Iraq

Among the eye catching bold headlines in  News and Events for the Archdiocese of Brisbane is an item promoting the presence of General Peter Cosgrove at the Brisbane West Deanery Year of Grace Event.

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that I am less than impressed with Peter Cosgrove's promotion as a public role model for Catholicism.

What makes this appearance of the much decorated and lauded war hero so disgraceful is that he is sharing the platform with the popular Bishop Bill Morris the Bishop Eremitis  of Towwoomba. There is a wealth of hermeneutic to be unpacked in the profiles of the speakers which place Morris last in the listing.Perhaps  the order is designed to provide gender balance for Margaret Vider, the lone female member of the panel.Mark Coleridge, the Archbishop of Brisbane has described the Year of Grace as a time to "contemplate the face of Christ". I ask the Archbishop, where is the face of Christ in having General Peter Cosgrove leading the panel of speakers for this event?

In March 2003 Bishop William Morris, was  chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, which released a statement condemning the War in Iraq

[W]e believe that the strict conditions of Christian teaching for the use of military force against Iraq have not been met. In particular, we question the moral legitimacy of a pre-emptive strike. Indeed, any action against Iraq without broad international support and the mandate of the United Nations Security Council would be questionable.

War on Iraq contends that the military intervention fails to meet the just war criteria.
For the first time in the history of the western democracies, the United States, Britain and Australia have prepared for a war without the blessing and moral authority of their churches. This is a completely unprecedented situation 

In a 2010  interview with the ABC News Peter Cosgrove stated "I wasn't particularly conscious that the church was taking a very strong position". It's hard to believe that the then Defense Chief was not aware of public opposition to the War from the Vatican and the Australian Catholic Bishops.

The presence of Peter Cosgrove as a public face of Catholicism is disgraceful in the Year of Grace. His acknowledgement of mistakes made in Iraq barely makes him a model penitent. The Australian Catholic Bishops have lost another opportunity to stand with the Church's tradition of nonviolence and peacemaking.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Blessed Are The Peacewomen

Since 2010 the Queensland Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom have made the annual Peace Womens Awards. WILPF Queensland’s Peace Women Awards recognise the talents and dedication of women whose activities have promoted peace at the local, national and/or international levels.Among the women awarded in 2013 was Ravina Waldren, coordinator of Murri Ministry in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Ravina received the award for her community building especially in the Indigenous community.

In a recent interview Ravina described  her life and work as  "are trying to bring people together and to create a greater understanding and a love and respect for everybody, of all different nationalities, all different backgrounds." She also spoke of her work supporting Indigenous Families who struggle with the ongoing experience of deaths in custody.

The Catholic Leader in Brisbane has published several moving interviews with Ravina exploring the meaning and significance of the apology to the Stolen Generations .

As a photographer and justice activist I have been mentored and guided by Ravina's gentle determination to  bring about reconciliation and justice for Indigenous Peoples. Through her I have come to know and love Indigenous people of  my birthland who carry the dreamtime story and spirit in dance, yarning and ritual.

I hope readers of this blog will add their congratulations and best wishes to Ravina on her reception of this award. You can email her at Email:

Ravina Waldren and Sam Watson podcast 15 October 2011
Other 2013 recipients of the award were

Marianne Hanson
Ros Kidd
Aila Keto
Olivera Simic
Heather Millhouse

 Let us celebrate these women and their peacemaking work  in song:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Progressive Christians Welcome NZ Marriage Reforms

The president of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia), The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt has welcomed the New Zealand Parliament's vote to allow same-sex marriage.
  • ‘World-wide the tide is changing on this issue’, Dr Catt said.

    ‘An increasing number of people in Australia have openly GLBTI people in their lives as members of their families, friends and work colleagues. More and more we are seeing the quality of the relationships that GLBTI people are forming and are coming to see them to be a good thing,’ he said.

    ‘NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell’s, indication of support is a further welcome move. Fortunately this issue has well and truly risen above party politics.’

    ‘Opening marriage to allow committed same-sex couples to express their commitment is an important way of increasing social cohesion. To have one’s relationship legitimized by the society in which one lives is both encouraging and life-giving.’

    ‘I hope that GBLTI people in Australia will be encouraged and feel legitimized by this move by our near neighbours’.

    Dr Catt also released a APCVA discussion paper on GBLTI issues by Dr Stuart Edser calling on Churches ‘to re-visit their understanding of human sexuality in the light of modern scholarship informed by the sciences and Biblical Studies and theology’.

    ‘Churches and other faith communities will need to have careful conversations to determine where they stand as society moves forward on this issue. As happened with divorce, some will be able to embrace the changes while others will not. Our call is for the dialogues to begin and for deep listening to be part of that process’, Dr Catt said.

    Dr Stuart Edser is Principal Psychologist at Newcastle Psychology & Health.

    The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt
    0404 052 494

    Dr Stuart Edser PhD. MAPS. MASCH. Principal Psychologist
    Newcastle Psychology & Health
    20 Kendall St LAMBTON NSW 2299 T. 61 2 4952 9777 F. 61 2 4952 8777

Monday, April 15, 2013

Letter from Birmingham 50th Anniversary

As celebrations mark the 50th Anniverary of the release of Pacem In Terris on April 11 1963 another anniversary  of a significant human rights document barely attracts media interest in most Churches.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the "Letter from Birmingham". This is Martin Luther King;s response to a group of white clergy who protested about his methodology of nonviolent civil disobedience. It remains one of the great documents of human rights and public protest. It is a challenge to comfortable religious people who believe in "trickle-down" justice. Justice making is not an arm chair or Church based activity. It is won on the streets by nonviolent protest and acts of civil disobedience.Its heroes like Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Nelson Mandela and others have been dragged of to prison for their cause. Read and be inspired: 

50 years later the Churches have responded Leaders of U.S. Christian denominations who are part of the ecumenical organization Christian Churches Together gathered in Birmingham April 14-15 to sign a response to the letter and discuss its meaning then and now.

One participant was Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In an April 14 address to the gathering, he stressed the importance of responding to Rev. King's words by asking forgiveness for past wrongs, appreciating efforts that have been made and being "resolved for more action."

He commended steps made by the Catholic Church including its Aug. 23, 1963, statement "On Racial Harmony," issued by the administrative board of what was then the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the predecessor of today's USCCB. It said: "We must insist that the heart of the race question is moral and religious." read more of the History of Catholicism and Racial Segregation in the USA here

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Images that open your eyes

The quotation above is a translation of what the theologian Leonardo Boffwrote recently on his  blog, following the election of the new pope and his choice of the name Francis.:
Word art | philip chircop

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Pacem in Terris Anniversary Brisbane

Thursday 11 April is the 50th anniversary of Bl Pope John XXIII’s landmark encyclical, Pacem in Terris.  

In Pacem in Terris, John XXIII said that peace on earth is founded on the four pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom.  He insisted that respect for civil, political, social and economic human rights and the exercise of those responsibilities inextricably linked to these rights are essential for the establishment of peace on earth.

The Justice and Peace Commission will mark this important anniversary with a Mass to be celebrated in St Stephen’s Chapel (next to the Cathedral of St Stephen, Elizabeth Street, Brisbane) at 5.10 p.m. on Thursday 11 April.  

All are welcome to join in this celebration