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)


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