Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Catholicism for Dummies: The Tony Abbott Edition

Did you know that Julia Gillard is the Number One Ticket Holder at the Western Bulldogs Football Club?  Did you also know that George Cardinal Pell is really just the Archbishop of Sydney rather than Australia's  most senior Catholic? There are heaps of Catholics older then George in Australia.

Among the Dummy Catholics however there is little doubt that the Number One Ticket Holder is Anthony John Tony" Abbott. In a series of public gaffes the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal  Opposition has managed to climb over an assortment of celebrity Catholics to champion the cause of the Dummy Catholic.

Thanks to a Facebook item an old story about Abbott's foray into Scripture and sociology has begun circulating again. Back in 2010 Michael Perusco then the chief executive for Sacred Heart Mission published "Bible bashing the homeless, Abbott Style" This story is a reminder that political statements are never old news and should be held up for the ridicule they deserve when delivered by a man who aspires to lead the Federal Parliament in September 2013.

Abbott like his religious mentor, George Cardinal Pell is not a Scripture scholar. So it is somewhat worrying to hear that he quotes from Matthew's Gospel that the poor will always be with us as a rationale for not wanting to honour the Government's commitment  to halve homelessness by 2020. Mr Abbott should take some timeout to read Ched Myers post on this text. And if he wants an interpretation closer to his political ethos I have found this post in the extremely patriotic American Catholic.

This type of Biblical fundamentalism is catching on among politicians who subscribe to small Government. In the USA Congressman Stephen Fincher also used the quote from Matthew's Gospel to propose a limit on the food stamp program for some of the poorest people living in the States.

In the same article Abbott uses the dismissive cliche that people choose to be homeless and so the Government can do little for them. Again if Mt Abbott did some basic research or better still sat down and talked to the people affected by homelessness he would learn how to  address many of the myths about homelessness.

Sending Mr Abbott off to the Facebook page  Catholicism for Dummies isn't going to be very helpful as it will only reinforce his status. Someone needs to bombard his office and email with good old fashioned Catholic Social Teachings before September 14.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Graceful Act of Photography

Beth Doherty is media director for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. the  She writes with insight and passion about the graceful act of photography:

"The power of the photograph; its content, composition, message can say much more than an article, a radio grab, or even a television show - as evidenced by the adage ‘a picture tells a thousand words.’

In 2004, I went to Cambodia for a four-month volunteer stint with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
The question of whether to take a camera with me weighed heavily on my heart, but five weeks in, I realised there were stories that needed telling. 
During my time, I worked as an English teacher to Montagnard refugees from the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was a dramatic and difficult refugee situation.
Babies were born in squalid conditions in refugee camps in Phnom Penh and I was able to take the very first photos for the families; families were resettled or sent home; people faced the prospect of never seeing their loved ones again." Read full text here

One of my primary uses of social media is sharing my photography.  I cover the lives and issues of vulnerable people. 

My subjects include Indigenous people, those living with disabilities, Refugees and Asylum Seekers and Forgotten Australians. 

Beth writes of  discovering the rich relationships that happen when a photographer meets another person. Some of the people I photograph survived institutional childhoods and have few if any images of themselves as children. They now cherish the images of their lives as adults. 

My commitment to photography means that I am able to walk into many situations with vulnerable people and they know my work is about promoting their lives and issues.

The high incidence of people tagging themselves in my Facebook albums is also a form of permission and sharing of these precious images.

I hope that Beth's blogpost will provoke more discussion about the role of photography both as social conscience and 'sanctifying act'

Tuesday, May 21, 2013



July – August



Wes Howard Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson

Authors, activists, theologians, spiritual directors, educators and grandparents.  Wes and Sue will be using their professional skills as facilitators and drawing upon their vast experiences living in community and engaging in activism to increase our capacity to understand and explore the competing religions of empire and creation.  Advocating the need to integrate the inner and outer, the mystical and prophetic, the private and public journeys, Wes and Sue are leaders in assisting people discover ways to nonviolently challenge the dominance, violence and injustice of empire.  CLICK HERE TO READ MORE


What events are happening?  New events will continue being updated.  Click here to find current events in:

BrisbaneSydney and Melbourne

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cardinal Pell Makes Poor Comment on Poverty in Australia

Cardinal Pell should come and spend a day with me in my work with an NGO supporting people in poverty including those at risk of homelessness before he makes statements claiming wealth distribution is "pretty good" in this country.

Every day I engage with people struggling to survive on pensions who also deal with issues related to mental health and substance abuse. I invite the Cardinal to walk the streets of inner Brisbane with me and try telling these people about rising living standards.

Perhaps the Cardinal will join me at Sorry Day this weekend to hear the story of poverty in Indigenous Communities across this country.

I suggest the Cardinal prepare for his immersion experience by reading the The Poverty in Australia Report 2012 from ACOSS. The report shows that poverty in Australia remains a persistent problem with an estimated 2,265,000 people or 12.8% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line used to measure financial hardship in wealthy countries.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Worth Reading: "Come Out My People!": God's Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond

Any book that has endorsement from Walter Brueggermann grabs my attention.  "Come Out My People!": God's Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond is a new work from Wes Howard-Brook

A remarkable offering for those who care about the interface of power and faith with all the threats and seductions that go with it . . . . As I read, I felt overwhelmed, both by the mass of data and by the cunning of interpretation. I could not put it down, and expect to continue to be instructed by it. --Walter Brueggemann

Wes Howard-Brook teaches at Seattle University and collaborates in the ministry, Abide in Me, with his wife, Sue Ferguson Johnson  He is author of John’s Gospel and the Renewal of the Church, Becoming Children of GodThe Church Before Christianity, and Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now (co-written by Anthony Gwyther).

Brisbane readers may recognize the name of Anthony Gwyther from his involvement with the West End Catholic Worker Community. Gwyther is now living with the  Basisgemeinde Wulfshagenerh├╝tten, a christian community in northern Germany

Listen to this podcast wheree, co-hosts Joanna and Mark interview Wes Howard-Brook.
Their conversation covers, among other things: the “argument” within Scripture between advocates of the “religion of Empire” and the “religion of Creation,” the ethic of love (rather than nonviolence in the New Testament) and the anarchic impulses within Scripture.
Come Out My People Facebook Page
Frank Cordaro review

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Spiritual Motherhood Will Rock the Church!

The day after Pope Francis called  religious women to become "spiritual mothers" the media is covering the story of Sister Megan Rice, 83, Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 56,  who admitted to cutting fences and entering the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which processes and stores uranium.

The July 2012 incident prompted security changes.
Sister Megan said she regretted only having waited 70 years to take action.
A jury deliberated for two and a half hours before handing down its verdict. The three members of Transform Now Plowshares face up to 20 years in prison following their conviction for sabotaging the plant, which was first constructed during the Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear bomb.
Sister Megan Rice has  given witness to the ministry of spiritual mothers in a prophetic and  faith filed action. She stands strong in the Christian tradition of civil disobedience and the martyr's refusal to cooperate with the death machines of war and destruction.

Spiritual motherhood is a witness to the civilisation of life against the civilisation of death.

Spiritual motherhood is a witness to the service of the feminine, disarming the power of patriarchy.

Spiritual motherhood builds community among the vulnerable and the dispossessed.

Spiritual motherhood nurtures elders of vision committed to the Gospel of peace and reconciliation rather than apologists of doctrinal semantics.

Spiritual motherhood is a gift and grace to a Church  broken by the culture of abuse of power and children.

So go well Sister Megan with your companions. In the tradition of St Peter, I say you rock!!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Tawadros meets Francis

Vatican City, 8 May 2013 (VIS) - From 9 to 13 May, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, will come to Rome to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis.

As Reuters notes this will  create the never before moment of three Popes in the walls of the Vatican. The average Catholic and their neighbours are probably still recovering from the shock of discovering that Rome isn't the only Church that calls its leader Pope.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt has about ten million faithful. This large membership makes the Coptic Church one of the most important elements in the ecclesial landscape of the Middle East where, in recent times, Christian communities are having to deal with very difficult situations.
Pope Tawadros’ predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, met with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican 40 years ago in May of 1973. On that occasion, the Pope and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch signed an important Christological Declaration in common and initiated bilateral ecumenical dialogue between the two Churches.

The joint communique issued by Paul Vl and the head of the Coptic Church in 1973 said:
"In accordance with our apostolic traditions transmitted to our Churches and preserved therein, and in conformity with the early three ecumenical councils, we confess one faith in the One Triune God, the divinity of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word, of God, the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance, who for us was incarnate, assuming for Himself a real body with a rational soul, and who shared with us our humanity, but without sin. We confess that our Lord and God and Savior and King of us all, Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His Divinity, perfect man with respect of His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real and perfect union without mingling, without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation. His divinity did not separate from His humanity for an instant, not for the twinkling of an eye. He who is God eternal and invisible, became visible in the flesh, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. In Him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of the humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible and inseparable union.
We venerate the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True Light, and we confess that she is ever Virgin, the God-bearer, she intercedes for us, and, as the Theotokos, excels in her dignity all angelic hosts."
Since the election of Pope Tawadros II as the new Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, there has been a growing rapprochement between the Christian communities in Egypt. This has led to the establishment of a council of Christian Churches in Egypt.
Pope Tawadros, as well as having an audience and a shared prayer with the Holy Father on Friday, 10 May, will be received at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and other dicasteries of the Roman Curia. He will visit the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and will meet with the faithful of the Coptic community resident in Rome.

Vatican News carries he full text of Pope Francis' address to Pope Tawadros and his delegation:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2013

The 2012 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be celebrated from 20-27 May and this year’s theme is “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ (Corinthians 15:51-58)”

Prayer cards ($10 for 25) can be obtained by contacting Queensland Churches Together on 07 3369 6792, admin@qct.org.au or message on Facebook about Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  An invoice will be included with your order.  Printed posters will not be available this year, but you can print your own if you wish by downloading the FREE flyer.  The flyer includes a section at the bottom where you can promote your church’s service.

Other FREE resources:  Eight Day ReflectionsOrder of Service templateSermon notes, Prayer for WPCU
On Sunday, May 20th, 100 people from across the Christian Churches in Townsville gathered to mark the opening of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, click hereto read Walk of Witness, Townsville.
Each year in many countries one week is set aside by a wide range of churches to pray specifically for the unity of the churches. The idea was born in 1908 - which means that 2008 was the centenary of the global initiative of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.Click here for some history and background concerning this initiative.

An Appeal to End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

By signing this petition you are assisting every Catholic group calling for change. You are helping to create something very special: - the voice of the faithful. You will be helping to create a church for the future, free of sexual abuse, full of participation and inclusiveness–, a Church where loving God, through Jesus Christ makes us proud and full of the Holy Spirit. This is the voice we want the Vatican to hear. . 
So if you are Catholic and believe that it’s time for the Church to listen to its people; if you’re a Catholic who wants to stamp out sexual abuse from ever occurring again please sign this petition.

For some readers the image and promotion of this petition may be confronting. But so is sexual abuse and its tragic history in the Church.For Christ Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church…for good is the most recent book from the retired auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson.

I signed his petition in solidarity with victims of abuse. I signed this petition in solidarity with my sisters and brothers of the Church who believe the Church can be a sign and sacrament of the reign of God. I signed this petition in solidarity with  people of good will who believe religion can be a force for unity and peace in our fragile world.

As I look at other signatures on this petition I see many names that have been companions on my faith journey and people whom I have admired for thier ministry: . Majella tracey Graham English Terry Veling, Paul Castley,  Jacinta Sinclair, Susan Connelly, Phil O'Donnell, 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Catholic Leader Poll on Social Media and Digital Technologies

The Catholic Leader was one of my first publishing forums. In 1966 I was in second form at St Joseph's College in Geelong where I had a class master who encouraged us to write and  send  our work to the youth pages of the Catholic Leader. Perhaps I should make a pilgrimage to their archives this year as part of my 60th Birthday Celebrations to find the pieces I submitted.

Pen and paper are now long lost memories as I sit at my keyboard reading the latest edition of what is now my home Archdiocesan publication. And as we approach World Communications Day on May 12 I am  pretty chaffed to see the CL is still publishing my material in an unacknowledged photo for the "Women of Peace"  news item.

In the lead up to WCD the Catholic Leader Facebook Page is inviting readers to share how they have experienced truth and faith through their use of  social media and digital technologies.It will be interesting to see the level of response to this initiative. The first comment was a simple link to the Papal twitter account. Let's hope we get some more creative and  interactive comments.

The Australian Catholic Bishops have also released an e-book and parish resources for the May 12 anniversary.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

See, Judge, Act on Children in Detention

One of the most  interesting sites out there in social media land is the Media Blog for the Australian Catholic Bishops.Sadly it is also one of  the most neglected if you go on the  lack of comments to the posts. As well as an easy read site, the blog includes a handy list of tags for quick reference to topics covered.

The latest entry is worth sharing and supporting to raise awareness of the tragic effects of  detention on Refugee children and Asylum Seekers. It seems that we need more resources such as this given the public position of Catholic politicians such as Tony Abbott who continue to ignore Catholic Social Teachings on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.I hope one of the participating schools will invite politicians from both sides of the Parliament to visit them when they are on "Detention" during this campaign.

Media Statement from Australian Young Christian Students
Australia is facing a crisis against children our age.
1000 children are without proper access to education
1000 children are being imprisoned.
1000 children are without their basic human rights, outlined in the Conventions Of The Rights Of The Child, a UN document Australia signed in 2000.
1000 children are currently being held in immigration detention in Australia and just off our coast.
As a high school student of Australia, I find this totally unacceptable.
YCS is standing with Catholic Mission, Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Uniting Justice, Catholic Religious Australia and Chilout collectively in the Coalition- End Child Detention Australia- to show solidarity with those facing immigration detention. This May, we are all inviting you to undertake a ‘Detention4Detention’ doing a voluntary lunchtime detention with other high school students all around Australia to provide asylum seekers with a message of hope, and a welcome to our country. We will be asking students to take action by signing a petition and taking photos in support.
We have produced a resource that we ask you use and can access athttp://www.cathyouthadelaide.org.au/media/files/5290.pdf