An apparently simple answer to this question is 'diversity': there is a diversity of women readers, diversity of interests, diversity of methods and diversity of results of women reading the Bible. In this article I will discuss the complex reality of the diversity of contemporary women's reading of the Bible. I will discuss women readers under two headings, namely the everyday, non-academic reader on the one hand, and the professional, academically trained biblical exegete on the other. I will first suggest (...) a general comparison of these two groups before I treat each one in greater detail. Finally, I will offer a reading of a story about a woman from the Gospel of Mark that draws on feminist hermeneutics to read for a meaning that liberates women from a burdensome, conventional reading. (shrink)
As Pope Benedict XVI stated, 'Youth is a time when genuine and irrepressible questions arise about the meaning of life and the direction our own lives should take' so 'we need to help young people to gain confidence and familiarity with sacred Scripture so it can become a compass pointing out the path to follow'. The 'instrumentum laboris' for the Synod on the Word of God recommended that 'greater appreciation needs to be given to teaching the Bible in schools, especially (...) in courses on religion, by presenting a complete course in learning the most significant Bible texts and the methods of interpretation adopted by the Church'. Scripture has had an enhanced place in Religious Education in Australia over the last thirty years.However, the issue of students' direct engagement with biblical texts is an ongoing challenge. This article analyses and evaluates the place of Scripture in Catholic schools in Australia, with an emphasis on Scripture in Religious Education, as it is the principal way that students interact with the Word of God. (shrink)
The Second Vatican Council promoted the calling of all the baptised to the mission of the church and highlighted the 'indispensable role' of the laity. The 1965 Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People stated: An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances.
In 1970, exactly fifty years ago, I took entrance examinations in Hebrew and Greek to begin studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. I have shared in various ministries since then, sometimes in positions that distracted from my academic interests. Nevertheless, I have been a privileged 'insider' to the development of critical studies of the New Testament over the past fifty years. Given my history, the title of this essay shamelessly plagiarises Geoffrey Blainey's delightful recollections of his early years, 'Before (...) I Forget'. (shrink)
This article explores the idea that, just as the Jewish-Christian dialogue today benefits from the historical consciousness of critical biblical scholarship, so might the dialogue further benefit by a stronger engagement with the corporeal consciousness that permeates both Christian and Jewish traditions in relation to Sacred Scripture. That is, the well-attested 'turn toward history' is also a 'turn toward the body'. Attention to the corporeality of God's word enables a deeper reception of Scripture as 'body' and therefore, I argue, enables (...) Christians to recognise more clearly the word of God embodied in the Torah-centred traditions and living presence of the Jewish people today. The catalyst for my enquiry is Pope Benedict XVI's encouragement of a 'deeper understanding of the sacramentality of God's word' in the mystery of revelation.After examining this theme from the perspective of magisterial, theological and rabbinic sources, I consider its implications for Jewish-Christian relations. (shrink)
In today's readings from Mark's Gospel and from the book of the prophet Isaiah we hear the stirring affirmation of 'Good News'. We use the words gospel and good news in many different situations, evoking different responses, including a colloquial statement for truthfulness, a book of the Bible, a sermon, a successful or a hoped-for happy outcome, and many others ways. On the other hand, sadly, we sometimes say, 'no news is good news'. We are also accustomed to hearing 'The (...) Gospel of the Lord' proclaimed at the end of the gospel reading; we might note that what we have just heard is gospel, good news, rather than the book itself from which it was read. (shrink)
One of the great themes of the Second Vatican Council was its emphasis on the Sacred Scriptures, especially bringing the Scriptures to the lay faithful. All the faithful are urged 'earnestly and especially' to enter this experience of knowing Jesus Christ by frequent devotional reading of the text and getting in touch with the sacred text itself. The church documents speak more about how the professional exegete should approach the Scriptures, but here is an invitation to reflect on the approach (...) of the lay faithful to the text. Pope Benedict XVI, focusing on this prayer-filled reading saw it expressed especially in 'lectio divina'. That is the focus of this article. (shrink)
That the Bible rejoices in humour might come as a surprise to many. Yet since humour can be the most powerful method of communicating serious information in an appealing, relaxing and respectful manner, we must surely expect to find humour in the Scriptures. In fact, as this article explains, it is there in abundance. It is at the heart of our salvation history. The Bible 'revels in a profound laughter, a divine and human laughter that is endemic to the whole (...) narrative of creation, fall and salvation, and finally a laughter that results in a wondrous, all-encompassing comic vision'. We surely find divine humour in our attempts as humans to judge the actions of God according to our expectations and then to discover that our conclusions are dramatically wrong. (shrink)
The wound inflicted by the clerical sexual abuse scandal and its cover-up runs so deep that it is sometimes deemed impossible to talk about the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century in a credible way without making at least some reference to this problem. This opinion is seemingly partially shared by current and previous pontiffs, who, on many occasions and in various contexts, have touched upon this issue. In the many interventions in which Benedict XVI and Francis have (...) raised this sad topic, they have apologised on behalf of the leaders of the church for the cases of abuse and for the following cover-up. They have offered words of regret and consolation to victims, their families, the entire church and the world, and have promised to do everything possible to prevent it from happening again. Further, they have attempted to identify the causes of the problem to understand how it could have taken place and the actions required to prevent this tragedy from recurring. Their analyses bear signs of similarities and dissimilarities. The purpose of this article is to ask what the church in Australia, and the church in general, can learn from the two popes' approaches to this problem, not only with regard to handling possible future cases of abuse, but also with regard to the general ways of existing as a church in the twenty-first century. Behind Francis's and Benedict's conclusions lie their own theologies of the church, which are worth exploring since they contain important lessons and signposts for the church at the beginning of the third millennium. (shrink)
I dream of a 'missionary option', that is, a 'missionary impulse capable of transforming everything', so that the Church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures 'can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world rather than for her self-preservation'. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and (...) open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: 'All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion'.-Evangelii Gaudium, n. 27, my emphasis. (shrink)
The pilgrimage of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux and her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, was to begin in Sydney on 2 February and conclude in Perth on 10 May 2020. This article will outline the original purpose of the pilgrimage, the planning and logistical challenges involved, some of the responses from participants, and how the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed the proposed itinerary.
Communities of faith are not perfect and the readings this week invite us to deal with the reality of sin in ways that lead to positive change grounded in our mutual responsibility to and for each other.
In this article I will examine the purchase and opening of Lyndhurst College in 1852 and its contribution to early Catholic education in Sydney. In a previous article, I discussed the establishment of St Mary's Seminary by Archbishop John Bede Polding in 1836. Lyndhurst College was another Benedictine school set up by Polding in Sydney that gave students of wealthier Catholics the opportunity to prepare for the church, university and the civil service.
This article results from the experimental convergence of five elements. Three of these are seemingly unrelated names: the Anglican philosopher John Milbank, the German critical theorist Walter Benjamin, and the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. The remaining two are themes that seem to have little relation to each other: the explosion of online pornography, which is making addicts of younger and younger users, and Christology or the study of the nature and work of the Second Person of the Trinity.
The year 2019 saw the 130th anniversary of the death of Julian Tenison Woods, Founder of the Sisters of St Joseph and Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. He died in Sydney on 7 October 1889, aged fifty-six. In the anniversary year the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart invited the Lochinvar Sisters of St Joseph to join them in raising his profile and recognising him as Founder. The founding of the sisters in South Australia and the life of Mary (...) MacKillop have been well publicised and St Mary is widely recognised. Still, though Woods is portrayed and acclaimed in the writing of many, his relatively short and varied life, his remarkable gifts, his impact in the Australian church and the world of science is little known. Woods, the man, the priest, the founder, the scientist, the man of God, a man for our time awaits wider recognition. (shrink)
The current public debate about the role and place of religion in Australia's education system feels very much like deja vu. The Religious Freedom Review2 may be new, but we've been here before. Religious schools have regularly been at the forefront of the evolving relationship between the state and religion in Australia, from the creation and collapse of the Church and Schools Corporation in the 1830s, and the implementation of the dual board system in the 1840s, to the removal of (...) all government funding for religious schools in the 1860s-90s, and then its reintroduction in the 1960s and '70s.3 The current debate about the extent to which religious schools will continue to be permitted to discriminate against students, staff and contractors in line with the religious ethos of the school is therefore just the latest reiteration of an ongoing narrative. (shrink)
With greater sensitivity to the issues around sexual abuse, and keen to minimise potential pastoral damage and legal exposure, the church is finding an increasing number of ordained men unable to operate in pastoral ministry, on leave or with suspended faculties. However, the problem is not restricted to just criminal matters. The continuing shortage of vocations to the priesthood has led to an increasing willingness to overlook other personality issues that are serious impediments to the ability of newly ordained priests (...) to operate effectively in their ministry settings. Often these problems emerge within a year or two of ordination, by which stage there may be no practical solution beyond a permanent suspension of priestly faculties. (shrink)
I intend, in this article, to outline an argument against the indiscriminate use of the word, 'clericalism'. I do not dispute that something answering to the word does exist, but I argue that it should be used more carefully; that we should aim for a reasonable precision in its use, avoiding confusion between connotation and denotation,1 on the one hand, and between the condition itself and its manifestations, on the other. It is with the last consideration that I begin.
Since Pope John Paul II's visit to Australia, in 1986, the face of the Australian Catholic Church has changed dramatically. The once celebrated 'comfortableness at calling themselves Catholics', has given way to shame and calamity caused by hundreds of moral and sexual misconduct cases. The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse not only challenges the church's governance. It also questions certain practical aspects of ecclesiology, for example, the priestly celibacy or the seal of confession that might (...) have contributed to and even aggravated the abuse of minors. (shrink)
Mapping one's ignorance also has affective benefits. Wherever mastery of knowledge and skills creates professional status, especially in practices that give professional power over clients, there arises a natural pride that rests on what one knows, and a regrettable tendency for authority to develop arrogance. We know the effects: failure to listen, premature dismissal of relevant information, overreaching and overbearing professional conduct, mistakes and the denial of them, and so on. An explicit acknowledgement of ignorance may generate a corrective humility, (...) a desire to see rather than presume understanding, alertness to unforeseen consequences, and openness to alternative approaches. (shrink)
Since 1994, eleven ministerial public juridic persons have been established in Australia to take the education, health and community service ministries of the instigating religious institutes purposely into the future as ministries of the Catholic Church. Subsequently other ministries have been entrusted to established MPJPs, including some diocesan and parish health and aged care services. In the period from 2012 to 2016, representatives of the MPJPs explored means of fostering collaboration between the respective entities, leading to the founding of the (...) Association of Ministerial PJPs Ltd in May 2016. These are historic developments for the Australian Church in relation to lay ecclesial leadership, and offer a canonically recognised means of expanding lay women and men's participation in church governance. Table 1, in the pages that follow, summarises details of the Australian MPJPs. (shrink)
After the episode of the golden calf, in his anger Moses had smashed and broken the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Despite the shameful apostasy of the people, they were given another opportunity to enter into a covenant relationship with the living God. The first set of tablets God had given to Moses, and now it is Moses who must bring new tablets that God will inscribe. It is symbolic of the fact of the covenant relationship that humanity must (...) do its part and not leave it all to God as passive recipients; no, we must become active participants. Centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah will speak of the law being written on our hearts. All of us are invited to bring our hearts into God's presence so that the process of conversion may continue. Moses' proclamation of the tenderness, compassion and kindness of God in the face of human frailty should never be forgotten. (shrink)
There is an ongoing tension between the spheres of religious education and of theological studies. It is somewhat evident in the academy, and often enough emerges when the inevitable university restructure places religious education and theology in the same school, or situates religious education within education at a remove from theology, or any range of permutations. The tension is also felt in discussions between clergy, with a theological education behind them, and classroom teachers and religious education coordinators, whose training is (...) in education itself, and whose immediate concern is the children in front of them. This article is an attempt to set out some of the parameters at play in the interaction between the two disciplines, and to offer some areas where collaboration is highly desired. (shrink)
Two challenges facing Archbishop John Bede Polding after arriving in Sydney in 1835 were providing for the spiritual needs of Catholics in the colony and managing their affairs in a way that attempted to guarantee a good working relationship with the government. It became apparent to Polding that education was fundamental in developing both these areas. Polding regarded education as a means of social advancement, beneficial to those 'on the lower steps of the social scale'. He wanted a 'native race (...) of priests and statesmen, of lawyers and physicians, of solicitors, and sailors, and artists'. He sought to emulate Downside Abbey's approach to education in Australia; specifically in the field of secondary education that would 'transcend the mere bread-and-butter preoccupations of the masses and prepare an 'elite' from among whom the offices of Church and state could eventually be filled'. Polding's goal was to create schools that would provide a Catholic education for its students founded on the principles of Benedictine ideals. But, as Francesca Fitz-Walter argues, it was the colonial conditions of the time that placed obstacles on Polding's expression of the Benedictine ideal in education. Given that the colonial conditions of the time imposed restrictions on the expression of the Benedictine ideal, Polding still maintained that a lifelong education was significant in developing in the student the ability to make an informed Christian response to whatever circumstance might emerge in the life of that person. (shrink)
On 27 September 2018 Pope Francis addressed priests, deacons, and lay people at a formation course promoted by the Roman Rota. In the presentation, Francis reaffirmed the need for a permanent catechumenate for the sacrament of matrimony. The Pope noted that the permanent catechumenate for the sacrament of matrimony is a journey that is shared with priests, pastoral workers and Christian spouses. The Pope also stated that in the context of the sacrament of matrimony, a catechumenate concerns marriage preparation, the (...) celebration of the wedding, and the initial period that follows the wedding. (shrink)
As my time writing scripture reflections for this journal has drawn to an end, it is a good opportunity to reflect more theoretically about the nature of homiletic preaching today. My first peer-reviewed publication was on this topic. Since then I have returned on occasion to investigate preaching in the early Christian centuries both on its own terms qua preaching and as source material for theological expression. It is a matter worthy of fresh reflection, because in the twenty years since (...) the publication of the article in 'Worship' there have been new documents issued from Rome, which in turn have given rise to fresh statements from bishops' conferences. The question is: has there been much change in the way the nature of a homily is understood over those past twenty years, and how does that align with the 'Worship' article? The argument advanced here is that these recent documents reveal a multiplicity of understandings of the purpose of the Sunday liturgical homily. (shrink)
For euthanasia the case is deceptively easy to make. When the suffering of others is ended by death we often feel relief. Commonly we accept that animals must sometimes, as the saying goes, be 'put out of their misery'. And, while most people who advocate euthanasia do not rely simply on our revulsion from suffering as though there were no other considerations, the public appeal of their view probably does rest largely on it.
Being questioned about the nature of Christian faith, Mark Twain famously declared it as 'believing what you know ain't so'. Indeed, the role of reason for faith is a matter of dispute. Jesus, some argue, was not a philosopher or a teacher of wisdom. Rather, he is the saviour because of his unassuming sacrificial death and resurrection. Not reason, but the leap of faith is the ultimate condition of salvation. The Enlightenment however epitomises a Copernican revolution in favour of reason. (...) According to Charles Taylor, the dissemination of Jesus' message into Hellenistic culture contains within itself the risk of a secularisation of the faith. At the same time, voices opposing the overemphasis of reason have also been raised throughout the ages. Paul's speech to the Athenians was one such occasion that deals with the ambiguous relationship between faith and reason. Relying purely on divine grace and the Bible alone, Martin Luther rejected any form of speculative theology. According to the Reformer, it is a type of theology that trusts more in human reason than in God's revelation. In Luther's opinion, it also reverses the moral order because theological speculation justifies evil as good while professing as good what is evil. To such a theology of human glory, Luther prefers a theology of the cross that 'calls the thing what it actually is'. For the former Augustinian monk only God's grace is good beyond reasonable doubt. Hence true theologians are lovers of the cross while theologians of glory misuse their reason for the worst. Luther's theology of the cross, Marco Barone claims, has its root in Augustine. Hence, Luther's Augustinism appears to have decidedly broken with Aristotelian scholasticism. In this context, Thomas Aquinas was criticised for his threefold failure. First, the Dominican friar's speculative theology lacks an experiential human dimension. Secondly, it gives too much credit to Aristotle. Thirdly, Thomas is reprimanded for his serious deficiency of a theology of justification. (shrink)
Many people wonder as they look at their newborn child about how this perfect child can be marked by original sin. This invites us to look more deeply at our understanding of human nature and our capacity to make choices that can give life to ourselves and others, or take life and diminish it. While we have tended to identify the sin of the first couple as some sort of sexual sin, this is not supported by the text of Genesis. (...) The original sin is one of seeking knowledge, of overstepping the boundaries established by God, and grasping what is not ours. We are created in God's image, but that does not mean being equal to God-clearly not. God intimately and lovingly breathed life into the creature of the earth, but being so richly blessed is sadly not enough. The story is a complex one that leaves the reader wondering why God places the tree of the knowledge of good and evil right in the midst of the garden, where the first couple cannot avoid seeing it and continually have to confront the boundary that God has set. The role of the serpent prompts questions that will remain unanswered about how God allows the serpent to exist in the first place, let alone endanger the peace and tranquillity of the garden. (shrink)
How is one to tell the story of a life without becoming lost in uninteresting details? I had lived with this question for some days, when the answer came - as has often happened - in the early hours of the morning. I should tell my story from the end, rather than from the beginning. Destination achieved, the stages of one's progress become more meaningful.
In the last few decades there has been no more controversial a papal document than that of 'Amoris Laetitia'. The controversy revolves around divorce, in particular allowing the divorced and remarried, with no annulment, to communicate at the Eucharist.1 The critics of 'Amoris' argue that Pope Francis, under the claim to be exercising mercy, is effectively undermining the truths of the faith. The defence of 'Amoris', however, is that in answer to the exigencies of the time mercy is being applied (...) in such a way that it develops the truths of the faith and expands their reach and pastoral application. It is clear from the New Testament itself that from the very beginning of the church the issue of how grace operates to extend the reach and application of God's mercy is one that has given rise to much dispute and even division. It is a process that prompts reflection upon theological givens, and the disputes that arise are occasioned by the question: Is the development that flows from this reflection one of an organic continuity, or is it instead a corrupt imposition? It is no exaggeration to say that this is exactly what is at issue today in respect of 'Amoris'. (shrink)