Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas 2017

May the ancient story of a child born in occupied territory open our hearts to the work of defending human rights.

May the birth of every child call us to our communal responsibility to protect children, to take them on wild adventures and to let them grow into the unique person they are called to be.

May the image of a family forced to seek refuge and asylum far from their home inform our political choices as citizens of a global village.

May our messages of good wishes and happy holidays not blind us to the work of justice making and non-violence.

May the lights and decorations of the season remind us of our mission to bring light to the darkness and celebration to life.

May our gifting be generous as we remember those who live in situations of poverty and exploitation.

May we hear angelic voices singing our dream of peace on earth

Image is the work of Mark Knight cartoonist at The Herald Sun in Melbourne

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Cultural Diversity Calendar 2018

The Pope and Rohingya

We need to understand the art of politics, the skill of diplomacy and the urgency of activism when working for social change. 

This interview should be read by everyone who works for justice and equity. The last sentence spoken by the Pope should be printed and framed for every Australian politician.

Images: Pope in Myanmar Pope in Bangladesh

Pope Francis explains why he did not use the word ‘Rohingya’ in Myanmar

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Images That Open Your Eyes

It’s almost impossible to find a Christ figure that expresses both LGBTQ identity AND non-white racial / ethnic identity. “Neither” by David Hayward is one of these uncommon treasures.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trapped In a Closed World: Catholic Culture and Sexual Abuse

Kevin Peoples lives in Melbourne. He is a retired Technical and Further Education (TAFE) teacher and has a Master of Arts Degree in Australian History from the University of Melbourne. As a late vocation to the Catholic priesthood, he returned to complete his secondary education at Chevalier College, Bowral, NSW in 1962. He entered Saint Columba’s Seminary, Springwood in 1964 and left in 1966. He is the author of Santamaria’s Salesman (2012) and From the Top of the Hill (2016).

Book Purchase and distribution

"Trapped in a Closed World is timely, comprehensive and accessible to a broad readership. Peoples’ acute insights on beliefs, values and practices that have led to sexual violence and cover-up scandals shows why the Church must stop tinkering with the clergy culture in the vain hope of rescuing it from these historical revelations." ...Dr Jane Anderson, honorary research fellow, University of Western Australia

"The reactions of the Catholic hierarchy to the child sexual abuse scandal confirms Ralph Linton’s quip that the last thing a fish would notice is the water. Kevin Peoples spent three years in a seminary pond, and provides us with a well written account of his own struggle with the cultural murk, while interweaving it with the results of the many inquiries. All great tragedies have a mixture of the good and the bad, and the author describes them both in a book difficult to put down." ...Kieran Tapsell, author Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse

"Peoples takes a hard look at the toxic culture of the Catholic Church, the madness of seminary training, and the tortured, lonely lifestyle of the clergy. Trapped in a Closed World is a serious contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of the institution we know as the ‘Vaticanised’ Catholic Church." ...Chris Geraghty, former priest and retired judge

"Through the prism of his own seminary training, Kevin Peoples enables his readers to see what has gone wrong. Clericalism, misogyny and mandatory celibacy are demonstrably major factors in this unfolding tragedy. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but the Scriptures assure us that ‘the truth will set us free’." Bishop Pat Power, retired auxiliary bishop, Canberra Goulburn Diocese

"A deeply-felt account of a personal journey with faith and disillusionment."...Ailsa Piper, author Sinning across Spain and with Tony Doherty, The Attachment

"Peoples makes a very personal and persuasive case that the institutional Catholic church must reform its closed culture if it is to respond positively to the lessons of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse." ...John Warhurst, emeritus professor of Political Science, Australian National University

"I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand how, when, and why the open window dream of Vatican II lost out to the reality of secrecy, clericalism and the protection of the institution’s power, identity and reputation at all costs." ...Michael Morwood, author It’s Time. Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith

"Kevin Peoples has brilliantly combined his experience as a student priest in a Catholic seminary with reflections on clerical child abuse and the Church’s cover-up. With insight, humour, and extensive research, he shows that clerical abuse is linked to the history and culture of the Church with its authoritarian structures, misogyny and celibacy. A powerful, compassionate and courageous book." ...Iola Mathews OAM, author My Mother, My Writing and Me: a Memoir

"Peoples describes a toxic seminary and church culture which created clerical egotists who felt comfortable only with defenceless children. He links this to the solid research on the over-representation of Catholic clergy among clerical abusers worldwide and makes sensible suggestions for another Reformation. The book is a page-turner and a heartbreaker." ...Helen Praetz, professor emeritus, RMIT University

"Reading Trapped in a Closed World you warm to Kevin Peoples. That is the sign of a good memoir. He has a good story, knows his material and is a good teacher. It is a page-turning read. He describes the authoritarian style, enclosure from the world and misogyny that pervaded Springwood seminary. He shows how this was a seedbed for clericalism and narcissism; no check for any latent paedophilic inclinations, and a direct contributor to the denial and defensiveness of the church leaders that it produced." ...Eric Hodgens, retired parish priest, alumnus of Corpus Christi College

"It is essential that truth-telling about what has gone on behind closed doors is not left to abuse survivors alone. Through telling his seminary story, Peoples stands in solidarity with all who have suffered from the misuse of power by what is coming to be recognised as a heretical sect. Peoples shows these discredited leaders, and truth-seekers everywhere, how honest storytelling can be a path to liberation." ...James Boyce, author Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World

"A profound contribution to understanding the sexual abuse crisis that has ravaged the Catholic Church. At once sympathetic and forensic, Peoples opens up a secretive world." ...Barney Zwartz, formerly religion editor of The Age, is a senior fellow with the Centre for Public Christianity

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Frank Brennan SJ on History, Catholicism and Culture

On Thursday 23rd November at St Ignatius Parish Toowong in Brisbane Fr Frank Brennan was asked to speak on 'Being Catholic in Today’s World'. Listen to Frank Brennan here

The Legacy of Justice Higgins: Seeking a True New Start for all Job Seekers and workers

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO, gave the 2017 Rerum Novarum Oration, The Legacy of Justice Higgins: Seeking a True New Start for all Job Seekers and Workers, on the 110 year anniversary of the Harvester decision.

An Economy That Works For All

The Catholic Church has a role to play in encouraging action from those in power to deliver an economy that serves all in our community, particularly the most vulnerable, because our Church is one of the organisations who help the poor and vulnerable people who have been left behind. - Use this link to read the full text of Fr Frank Brennan's speech

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

St Columban's Day 2017

Today is the feast of St Columban and 2018 will the centenary year of the foundation of the Missionary Society of St Columban.

To acknowledge the Centenary year I will be hanging  the 2018 Columban Calendar as my calendar of choice in my study. This calendar was the norm in my childhood home along with the Far East magazine. The calendar added classic religious art works to the house decor and the Far East brought the issues of global poverty and development into our suburban world.

In the 1970s I studied with young Columban students with whom I traveled in the Philippines during the tumultuous Marcos regime. Thanks to the Columbans this  experience included my first encounter with Islam and my introduction to the work of Fr Brendan Lovett.

I have been mentored, inspired, challenged and befriended by these men. Some have remained in the community, others have moved on to other life choices.

I want to acknowledge the mentoring and wisdom I learnt from many conversations with the late Cyril Halley. The first Columban my parents befriended was Fr Colin McLean who exchanged letters and news via mail. Today I have several Columban friends connected via social media.

Recently I met up with Columban twins Kevin and Peter O'Neill. Kevin is currently the Superior General of the Columbans residing in Hong Kong and Peter is based in Taiwan fighting for the rights of migrant workers. They get a special mention and picture today because they share their birthday with this great feast day!!!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

How can our government better support and foster human values?

Source http://slideplayer.com/slide/2437893/
In the lead-up to the Queensland State elections on 25th November the Archdiocese of Brisbane has  launched a public forum inviting  discussion on public policy and Catholic values.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge encourages participation in these words:

 " I warmly invite you to contribute your thoughts on the ways you believe the future Queensland Government could better support families, particularly those who support Catholic values. We would like to see improvements in learning and education from a future government that reflects the core values of decency towards Queenslanders. 

Your feedback can help to continue shaping an environment for our children, anchored among Catholic values that include respect for others"

The heading for the online forum points to "human values" yet the blurb invites a reflection on "Catholic values" This itself is a good starting point for conversation.  So, away you go. Let's build this conversation. The link is here

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Limerick for Archbishop Hart

One of the quirky observations I made at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne some years ago was  that the official portrait of Archbishop Denis Hart with Pope John Paul II  mounted under a bright 'Exit" sign.

"Exit" seems to be the Archbishops preferred term for gay people working in the Church. His most recent contribution to the public debate about marriage equality is a threat to sack same sex couples who might marry should the legislation be passed by Parliament.

To commemorate this public announcement I have added to my collection of episcopal limericks:

There is an Archbishop called Hart
Who says being gay isn't smart
If you marry one day
He'll block all your pay
That's an act of man with no heart

Back in 2015  the Archbishop featured  in The Age, where he   weighed in about the "gay lifestyle": Catholic Archbishop warned against "tolerating" gay students" . The photo of the Archbishop in this article had him  looking to the left  Hope springs eternal!!

I find the weasal words of "gay lifestyle" used by Archbishop Hart pretty meaningless. My lifestyle includes, catching public transport, going to work, catching up with friends, praying, and a host of mundane activities like hanging out the washing.Much of my lifestyle is pretty similar I imagine to a "non-gay lifestyle"And like Archbishop Hart I love a good dose of pomp and circumstance. Does that suggest the Archbishop may be taking a plunge into the "gay lifestyle"?

As a life member of  St. Joseph's Old Collegians Association​ I applauded  the decision of Paul Tobias and the College community to sign up to the Safe Schools Coalition. As a young gay student  in the late 60s I lived with the frightening silence and isolation that can haunt a young person coming to terms with sexuality. The culture of my local and faith community lacked the language of support that I needed.In recent years I have been welcomed back to SJC to tell my story to a new generation of young men who have a healthy respect for diversity among their peers

Again in 2017 it is worth remembering the  call from Professor Peter Norden for the Catholic Church to develop a positive understanding of sexuality.

The original text for this post was published on the feast of the androgynous St Wilgefortis

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Media Release – Christian Leaders Welcome Civil Marriage Equality Bill

7 August 2017

A group of Christian leaders and academics today welcomed the much-anticipated Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, opposing any form of plebiscite and instead urging the Parliament to make it law through a free vote in the Australian Parliament. Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Rev Dr Peter Catt said, “As Australians of faith we celebrate that we live in a democratic, multicultural and secular nation.

“We believe that the law should reflect the widely held conviction that LGBTI Australians should be treated equally and be able to marry the person they love.”

Rev Dr Margaret Mayman of Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, said, “I fully support civil
marriage equality because of my faith, not in spite of it. As an ordained minister, I believe in a
God who welcomes every person. I am passionate about this because this is about my LGBTI
friends and their families who are a beloved part of our church community. I call on Australian
politicians to listen to the voices of people of faith, a majority of whom support marriage
equality. We call for a free vote. We remind politicians that this is a civil issue that does not
affect religious beliefs and practices.”

Read full statement with signatures here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bishop Vincent statement on refugee death

Statement from MostRev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, Bishop Delegate for Migrants and Refugees, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

It is with sadness that we have heard of yet another death of a refugee on Manus Island. This death could have been prevented. The Australian Government has been removing support services on Manus Island since the announcement of the closure of the detention centre.
Those in the care of the Australian Government whilst in offshore processing, who have come to Australia for safety and a better life, deserve more.
I urge the Australian Government to provide support services for those who are on Manus Island, awaiting a resolution to their current situation. The Australian Government needs to listen to the concerns of these people and treat them with dignity.
People seeking asylum are currently some of the most vulnerable members of our global community. It is imperative that they are treated humanely and with dignity. These people must be provided with options for settlement in safe countries free from further persecution.
I urge the Australian Government, to be committed to its international obligations, and continue its work within the region and with non-government organisations to ensure the safety of those seeking asylum.
Whilst it is important to prevent the loss of life at sea, it is equally important to provide adequate care for those in offshore detention. The Australian Government needs to provide adequate amenities, and provide quick resettlement options.
I urge the Australian Government, to provide adequate amenities to those on Manus Island, and to endorse programs that both protect lives at sea and in its care.

Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop Delegate for Migrants and Refugees
Bishop of Parramatta

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week 2017

The World Breastfeeding Week’s 25th year in 2017 is about working together for the common good!

#WBW2017 will call on advocates and activists, decision-makers and celebrants to forge new and purposeful partnerships. Together, let’s attract political support, media attention, participation of young people and widen our pool of celebrants and supporters. 

Only then can we campaign for a generation and commit to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals  by 2030.

As a Catholic I have been surrounded by religious imagery. At its best it inspires and challenges. At its worse it  is tacky and cheap.  Yet apart from galleries and some European Churches you will search in vain for an image of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding.

Perhaps this is the week to invite our local parishes and religious centres to include this image in our public spaces as an acknowledgement of the Incarnation and the role of Mary as Mother of the Lord. 

Are your Churches and places of worship welcoming spaces for women to breastfeed as they pray?  It seems that the Pope is quite open to this practice:

“You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus,” he told worshippers attending an annual ceremony commemorating the baptism of Jesus.

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)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi 2017

On 18th June 2017 Catholics celebrated  one of the most flamboyant of days, Corpus Christi.. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand.

In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)

Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Divine Office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" From this classic hymn we also have another  "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." The tune popular in Australia has been given a beautiful contemporary setting by Matt Maher. In this pic of the era you can see Tom  and Urban discussing a fishing trip. Waiting patiently to the side is the learned St Bonaventure who missed the boat that day.Image source

Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images unless you choose the "Feast" tab. . The default choice includes  scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. 

The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope Benny XVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome (more links)

A jolly  good number of Brisbane Catholics took to  the public square for the feast. Until recently  this event happened in the suburban quiet of Nudgee Junior College.  But in keeping with its more flamboyant expression in Europe the procession now does  a lap of honour “around the block” from the Cathedral of St Stephen in true Australian style.

This was a religious event Western style. Solemnity and lots of men. This year I have captured a theme of the "Faces of Catholicism" My favourite has to be this most Catholic of cars. The chant of the rosary and echoes of the Living Parish Hymnal filled the city for a brief moment. I wonder of the  devotees considered the political statement of their presence in the shadows of the great temples of commercial worship.

The feast and its procession provides a platform for a particular feature of Catholicism that has a strong sense of nostalgia for life when Bing Crosby was everyone’s favourite priest and Archbishop Fulton Sheen swooned around the old black and white TV sets. 

The 2017 Corpus Christi  Procession collection is here. See the Brisbane Corpus Christi Procession 2016 here.

To leave you with a woman's insight of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey

I dedicate this page to the brave people and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Iftar 2017

 With friends and neighbours from my local Suburb at the Hlland Park Mosque  11th June 2017
The quintessential Australian religious experience is to sit in a pub after attending an #Iftar on #TrinitySunday. For those unfamiliar with religious scrabble Iftar is the breaking of the daily fast for Muslims during the fasting time of #Ramadan. Trinity Sunday is the Christian feast of the mystery of three persons in one God. So if you are still with me it's like diving in the deep end of cross cultural understanding with divers all on different boards.

Religious diversity challenges our world view and forces us to plunge those core values that we affirm by osmosis, conversion and the sheer wonder of grace. We discover language and practices that are both comforting and unbelievable. And in the midst of it all we honour hospitality, work for the common good and learn respect for difference.

Tonight was was sacred time with my good friends at the #HollandParkMosque where I have been welcomed for many events as we work together to promote understanding and good will.

Checkng in at the pub rather than the Mosque means this post will reach an audience that may not have opportunities to consider these values and take advantage of such opportunities. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Today we lay to rest Anthony Foster whose name deserves a place of honour in Australian Catholic Church history. His witness to truth, integrity and justice means we need to change the way we are Catholic.
It means more than statements about child protection in the Church porch. It means an upheaval of those structures, practices and cultural norms that sheltered clergy abusers and shamed victims.
It it means returning to the source of our identity in the one who challenged the norms of ancient near eastern culture and religion two thousand years ago. Those challenges are equally valid today.
Thanks to Michael Mullins for this poignant and beautiful tribute. Rest in Peace Anthony and may the angels lead you into paradise where every tear will be wiped away.
How the Catholic Church came to embrace its enemy Anthony Foster
This morning a State Funeral will be held for Catholic Church child sexual abuse victims advocate Anthony Foster, who died suddenly on 26 May. In her tribute…