The Catholic Weekly https://www.catholicweekly.com.au The Church. All of it. Sun, 24 Feb 2019 02:12:53 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1 Pope, bishops confess failure to prevent abuse https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/pope-bishops-confess-failure-to-prevent-abuse/ Sun, 24 Feb 2019 02:09:30 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19381 In an opulent Vatican room designed in the 16th century for papal meetings with kings, a cardinal read, “We confess that we have shielded the guilty and have silenced those who have been harmed.” “Kyrie, eleison,” (Lord, have mercy) responded Pope Francis and some 190 cardinals, bishops and religious superiors from around the world to […]

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In an opulent Vatican room designed in the 16th century for papal meetings with kings, a cardinal read, “We confess that we have shielded the guilty and have silenced those who have been harmed.”

“Kyrie, eleison,” (Lord, have mercy) responded Pope Francis and some 190 cardinals, bishops and religious superiors from around the world to the confessions read on their behalf by Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand.

Heartbreaking testimonies

After three days of meetings, nine major speeches and heartbreaking testimony from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, participants at the Vatican summit on child protection and the abuse crisis gathered in the Sala Regia (literally, “royal room”) of the Apostolic Palace on 23 February for a penitential liturgy.

Related: Canon lawyer calls for revision of the ‘Pontifical Secret’

The centrepiece of the liturgy was the reading of the story of the prodigal son or, as the Vatican termed it, “the merciful father” from Luke 15:11-32 and a long “examination of conscience” that asked the bishops as individuals and as presidents of bishops’ conferences to be honest about what they have done and what they have failed to do to protect children, support survivors and deal with abusive priests.

While Pope Francis presided at the penitential service as part of the Vatican summit on child protection and ending clerical sexual abuse, Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale, Ghana, gave the homily.

Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, speaks at a penitential liturgy during a meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican on 23 February 2019, in this image from Vatican television. The liturgy was attended by Pope Francis and prelates from around the world. Photo: CNS, Vatican Television

Avoiding conflicts leads to disaster

He told the pope and his brother bishops that they all preach often about the parable of the prodigal son, encouraging their people to return to God and seek forgiveness.

But, he said, “we readily forget to apply this Scripture to ourselves, to see ourselves as we are, namely as prodigal sons. Just like the prodigal son in the Gospel, we have also demanded our inheritance, got it, and now we are busy squandering it.”

“The current abuse crisis is an expression of this,” Archbishop Naameh said.

“Too often we have kept quiet, looked the other way, avoided conflicts,” he said, adding that the bishops were often “too smug” to confront “the dark sides of our church.”

Failing to act, he said, they “squandered the trust placed in us.”

And, claiming brotherhood in the College of Bishops, he said, even those bishops who have not had to deal directly with an allegation of abuse against a priest in their diocese share the responsibility of having failed to act.

In the Gospel story, the archbishop said, the first step toward receiving the forgiveness of the merciful father is for the prodigal son “to be very humble, to perform very simple tasks and not to demand any privileges.”

Like the prodigal son, the bishops must recognise their mistakes, confess their sins, speak openly about them and be “ready to accept the consequences,” Archbishop Naameh said.

A survivor speaks

A survivor of abuse also spoke, calmly and softly telling the pope and bishops that as a victim, “what you carry within you is like a ghost that others cannot see. They will never see you nor completely know you.”

The memory of the abuse is always there, said the man, who was not identified. “There is no dream without the memory of what happened. No day without memories, no day without flashbacks.”

“I try to concentrate on my divine right to be alive. I can and should be here,” he said, choking up. “This gives me value. Now it is over and I can continue forward, I have to go forward.”

He went forward by picking up a violin and playing an instrumental piece for the group. Then, since it was a liturgy, he walked down the central aisle in silence.

A General Examen on abuse within the Church

During the liturgy, summit participants were asked to meditate on how they and the church in their countries have “responded to those who have experienced the abuse of power, of conscience and sexual abuse” and to consider “what obstacles have we put in their way?”

They were asked how they treated bishops, priests and deacons accused of abuse and how they dealt with those who were found guilty.

The examination of conscience continued, looking at how the bishops and religious superiors reached out to or failed to reach out to the communities where guilty clerics served and examining the steps taken to ensure that in the present and future children are safe in church institutions.

After a litany of “we confess” to failures to act, the pope and summit participants prayed “for the grace to overcome injustice and to practice justice for the people entrusted to our care.”

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Pope, bishops confess failure to prevent abuse | The Catholic Weekly https://youtu.be/g8p2d6Avp14 In an opulent Vatican room designed in the 16th century for papal meetings with kings, a cardinal read, "We confess that we have shielded the guilty and have silenced those who have been harmed." "Kyrie, eleison," (Lord, have mercy) responded Pope Francis and some 190 ca Abuse,Bishops,confess,faulre,Pope Francis,prevention,Rome,Summit,abuse 20190223T2008-103-CNS-SUMMIT-PENITENTIAL-LITURGY Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, speaks at a penitential liturgy during a meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican on 23 February 2019, in this image from Vatican television. The liturgy was attended by Pope Francis and prelates from around the world. Photo: CNS, Vatican Television
‘Emotional’ journey from Sydney to India, Africa https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/emotional-journey-from-sydney-to-india-africa/ Sat, 23 Feb 2019 20:00:41 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19291 For nine members of Sydney-based charity, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Association (QMHR), a visit at the tomb of St Teresa of Kolkata was just the beginning of an awe-inspiring journey. Jessica Semrany, Loris Turk, Juilette Morched, Aurora Doueihy, Sarah Kazzi, Rachel Kazzi, Charline Harb, Marie Harb and Catherine Azzi embarked on their four-week […]

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QMHR volunteers with the Shusho (Grandmas) of the local community in Nairobi, Kenya.
QMHR volunteers with the Shusho (Grandmas) of the local community in Nairobi, Kenya.

For nine members of Sydney-based charity, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Association (QMHR), a visit at the tomb of St Teresa of Kolkata was just the beginning of an awe-inspiring journey.

Jessica Semrany, Loris Turk, Juilette Morched, Aurora Doueihy, Sarah Kazzi, Rachel Kazzi, Charline Harb, Marie Harb and Catherine Azzi embarked on their four-week mission to India, Uganda and Kenya in early January.

Their aim was to assist the Missionaries of Charity (MOC) and Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) in serving the needy and drawing others to God’s call.

Loris Turk, an accountant from Greenacre, said that they were inspired by St Mother Teresa (Missionaries of Charity founder) and Fr Ho Lung (Missionaries of the Poor founder), whose missions of service have spread all over the world.

“We have been blessed, humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to go and serve at their apostolates,” said Ms Turk.

Statue of Saint Teresa of Kolkata at the Mother House.
Statue of Saint Teresa of Kolkata at the Mother House.

The first week in Kolkata saw the Sydneysiders volunteering for seven hours a day at three out of the seven homes run by the Missionaries of Charity.

At Kalighat, Mother Teresa’s first home that was opened for the dying and destitute, volunteers helped with feeding the 80 residents, washing dishes and laundry.

“It’s an emotional experience volunteering in this home and witnessing how some have lost hope,” said Ms Turk.

“But it was also an uplifting experience knowing they have the chance to die with dignity and love.”

The next house visited called Shishu Bahvan takes care of children from birth to 12 years who are both mentally and physically challenged and newborn babies whose families cannot afford care.

Helping to feed, dress and entertain 25 handicapped children with their cheeky smiles, it did not take long for the missionaries to grow attached.

The final experience with the Missionaries of Charity was at Shanti Dan, a house for both woman and teenage girls who have moderate to severe disabilities.

See related story: Fr Bob’s 60 years in India a labour of love

The main work was assisting the staff with daily chores, which provided an insight into the amazing people that devote their time and love for these women in need.

“We were able to interact with the Marcys (staff) through these chores which resulted in singing and dancing in the pools of water. It made menial tasks extremely fun,” said Aurora Doueihy, an early-years educator from Bankstown.

“There were volunteers from many countries who were there to share the load and each one would choose a song in their native tongue to sing and teach one another.”

After travelling to Warangal in Southern India, the volunteers began their second week with the Missionaries of the Poor community.

The missionaries from Sydney at the tomb of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.
The missionaries from Sydney at the tomb of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.

It was at their House of Joy, which takes care of 120 residents with mental and physical disabilities that the group assisted with physiotherapy and food preparation.

For Juilette Morched, a HR manager from Sydney’s West, the experience was quite confronting at first and many questioned why the residents were unable to live a healthy life.

“We had so much sympathy for them, but as we got to know them we were able to witness their childlike spirit and innocent souls,” said Ms Morched.

“For something as simple as a hand to hand touch and a little personal attention, we received the most heartfelt smiles and joyful hugs in return.”

The highlight for the group in Warangal was seeing how funds raised by QMHR are used to change the lives of many.

“The most joyous part of the visit was being able to purchase 15 custom-made wheelchairs for the adults and children that needed them,” said Ms Morched.

“It was beautiful to see their contagious smiles as they were seated in them.”

The works of charity with the Missionaries of the Poor continued in the third week of the mission, but this time it was with the community in Nairobi, Kenya.

The MOP brothers in the community take care of 66 children aged five-16 who are severely disabled or otherwise unable to make the 30 minute journey to the local school.

They also employ local teachers to educate the poor children in the community while providing them with school uniforms.

The disabled children require 24/7 care, which is difficult as there is a lack of help available, and so the young Aussie missionaries were put straight to work.

“When we assisted with feeding the children, it could take 20-40 minutes to feed one child as each disability varies,” said Charline Harb, one of the nine volunteers from QMHR.

“These tasks although tedious were incredibly humbling and a great way for us to bond with the residents.”

While in Nairobi, the group met with the Shusho (Grandmas) of the local community and provided them with packs of rice, flour and cooking oil.

In gratitude, the women sang, danced and showered the group with blessings, hugs and kisses.

Much needed groceries, bought by the Sydney-based charity, are unloaded ready to be distributed to the apostolates and monastery.
Much needed groceries, bought by the Sydney-based charity, are unloaded ready to be distributed to the apostolates and monastery.

Just as in Kolkata, the nine women joined the staff in the kitchen to prepare lunch for the residents at the apostolate and more than 150 poor and underprivileged local children.

“We stepped right into the kitchen with the volunteers and joined them in peeling and cutting masses of vegetables and meat. It was a true cultural experience,” said Ms Harb.

“While the meal was being cooked we got the opportunity to spend some time playing with the school children. These children were so joyful and loving. It was so beautiful to see them playing together. There was no feeling of segregation, the children all played together and cared for each other.”

The last week saw the QMHR volunteers travel to Kampala, Uganda, where they joined the Missionaries of the Poor community at their Centre and assisted them with caring for the 110 girls and elderly women with mental and physical impairment.

The volunteers help to prepare food at the Good Shepherd Centre in Uganda.
The volunteers help to prepare food at the Good Shepherd Centre in Uganda.

For Charline Harb, teaching a girl how to eat with a spoon instead of her hands was a special moment for her.

“She had mastered how to use a spoon and scoop from a bowl, her face was alive with excitement,” she said.

At the Bethlehem Home, where the Brothers house orphaned and abandoned boys, some of the children shared their story on how they came to be in the care of the MOP brothers.

“One particular child named Oscar (16 years of age) told us that he and his family travelled to Uganda from Rwanda some years ago as refugees. Not long after coming to Uganda his entire family passed away in a car accident, said Ms Harb.

“As tragic as this situation is, it was incredible to see the strength and resilience of Oscar and of all the other children.”

After sharing a meal with the MOP Sisters, of which there are 18 in Uganda, the volunteers finished up their Mission with a visit to a not for profit organisation called Teresa’s Ministry.

The organisation, inspired by Saint Teresa of Kolkata and run by lay people, has an orphanage for 25 children under the age of two and another orphanage for children with disabilities who have been abandoned by their parents.

The travellers said they felt that their experience with both religious orders was like working alongside Christ Himself.

The volunteers were invited to dinner with the Missionaries of the Poor Sisters in Uganda.
The volunteers were invited to dinner with the Missionaries of the Poor Sisters in Uganda.

“The residents are blessed to have these brothers who dedicate their life everyday to serve them not only physically but spiritually also,” said Loris Turk.

“Through our Blessed Mother Mary, the brothers are able to bring light to those in darkness, hope to those who have nothing, comfort to those who are lonely and a future to children who have been abandoned.”

For Aurora Doueihy, one of the most beautiful parts of this experience was watching each of the women on mission flourish.

“With an open heart the QMHR ladies have allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them for the glory of God.”

Established by a small family who felt a need to help the poor, sick and underprivileged, QMHR was officially registered as an association in 2011.

It has been working closely with the Missionaries of the Poor since 2013 and have organised past missions to their communities in both Jamaica and the Philippines.

To donate to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Association sponsorship program, go to qmhr.reachapp.co/sponsorships or to their website at www.qmhr.com.au/

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QMHRMission-6-030319 QMHRMission-8-030319 Statue of Saint Teresa of Kolkata at the Mother House. QMHRMission-7-030319 The missionaries from Sydney at the tomb of Saint Teresa of Kolkata. QMHRMission-2-030319 QMHRMission-1-030319 QMHRMission-3-030319 QMHRMission-4-030319 The volunteers were invited to dinner with the Missionaries of the Poor Sisters in Uganda.
Vatican official urges reconsidering ‘pontifical secret’ in abuse cases https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/vatican-official-urges-reconsidering-pontifical-secret-in-abuse-cases/ Sat, 23 Feb 2019 20:00:24 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19372 The Catholic Church should re-examine how “pontifical secret” is applied in clerical sex abuse cases so there is greater transparency in the cases and it is not invoked “to hide problems,” said a canon lawyer and Vatican official. Linda Ghisoni is a canon lawyer who serves as a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine […]

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The Catholic Church should re-examine how “pontifical secret” is applied in clerical sex abuse cases so there is greater transparency in the cases and it is not invoked “to hide problems,” said a canon lawyer and Vatican official.

Linda Ghisoni is a canon lawyer who serves as a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is undersecretary for laity at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. She was the first woman to give a major presentation at the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical abuse crisis.

Addressing the summit on 22 February, Ghisoni described bishops’ accountability, regular audits and lay review boards as essential to demonstrating with facts a profession of faith in the church as a communion of the baptised, each of whom are given gifts by the Holy Spirit and are called to share those gifts for the good of the church and the world.

At the end of her speech, Ghisoni suggested reviewing “the current norm on the pontifical secret.”

Previous request to reconsider the ‘Pontifical Secret’

In September 2017, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors asked Pope Francis to reconsider Vatican norms maintaining the imposition of “pontifical secret” in the church’s judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes.

The secret ensures cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality. Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities.

Ghisoni said there are values to protect, including the good name of the accused, unless and until he is proven guilty, but a revision could lead to “the development of a climate of greater transparency and trust, avoiding the idea that the secret is used to hide problems rather than protect the values at stake.”

Related coverage: Letters from the Vatican #5

Accountability

As the second day of the summit focused on accountability, Ghisoni focused her remarks on how accountability is not simply a good practice from a public relations and organizational point of view, but that it is a necessary part of a church living its reality as a community.

“A bishop cannot think that questions regarding the church can be resolved by him acting alone” or only with other bishops, she said. Every member of the church is called to work together to ensure that children are safe.

She urged bishops to not resist having regular audits of diocesan safeguarding policies and of the ways he or he and his review board have handled allegations.

An audit, she said, “must not be misunderstood as mistrust of the superior or bishop, but rather considered an aid” for examining actions taken and sharing responsibility for them.
“Identifying an objective method of accountability not only does not weaken his authority,” she said, “but it values him as the shepherd of a flock” whose responsibilities are “not separated from the people for whom he is called to give his life.”

The need for a collaborative hierarchical-lay approach

When a bishop works together with priests, religious and laypeople in designing procedures and accountability models, she said, mistakes and errors are not a “stain” on the bishops’ honour, but a call for all involved to find a way to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again.

Safeguarding children and fighting abuse must not be “a program” for the church, she said, but “must become an ordinary pastoral attitude.”

After Ghisoni’s remarks on the pontifical secret and accountability, Pope Francis said inviting a woman to address the conference was not about “ecclesiastical feminism.” Rather, he said, “inviting a woman to speak about the wounds of the church is to invite the church to speak about itself and the wounds it has.”

The church, he said, is not an “organisation,” but is “a family born of mother church,” which the bishops should keep in mind as they continue their deliberations.

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Vatican official urges reconsidering 'pontifical secret' in abuse cases | The Catholic Weekly https://youtu.be/xILnk32QstM The Catholic Church should re-examine how "pontifical secret" is applied in clerical sex abuse cases so there is greater transparency in the cases and it is not invoked "to hide problems," said a canon lawyer and Vatican official. Linda Ghisoni is a canon lawyer who serv Abuse,Ghisloni,Pontifical Secret,Summit,Vatican,pontifical secret
Letters from the Vatican #5 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/letters-from-the-vatican-5/ Sat, 23 Feb 2019 05:00:54 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19352 Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly. Number 5: February 23-24, 2019: In this weekend’s special double edition Xavier Rynne II writes on how Abuse is a Summons to the Church to Greater […]

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Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly.

Number 5: February 23-24, 2019: In this weekend’s special double edition Xavier Rynne II writes on how Abuse is a Summons to the Church to Greater Fidelity, Mary Rice Hasson writes on Obstinate Misdiagnosis of the Causes of Abuse, Fr Brett Brannan writes on How to find the Right Men for the Priesthood, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer writes on Spotting the Early Warning Signals of Abuse and Fr Thomas Ferguson writes on the Importance of Involving Lay Expertise in Addressing Abuse.

A summons to fidelity

At the beginning of February, a month in which an intense, global media spotlight has been focused on Catholicism’s struggles with clerical sexual abuse, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. As February now comes to a close with a global meeting of Catholic leaders to address that abuse, it’s worth reflecting on the fact  that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord was once known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the second chapter of Luke’s gospel (v. 22-38), the child Jesus is “presented” in the Temple, thus inaugurating his life in Judaism; at the same time, Mary is “purified,” forty days after giving birth, and returns to the Jewish community and its rituals. The gospel narrative of presentation/purification concludes with the famous prophecy of Simeon, a righteous elder of Israel who had been given a divine promise that he would not see death until he met the Messiah. Taking the child Jesus into his arms, Simeon blesses God for having fulfilled his pledge – and then prophesies that, just as Mary’s child will be a sign of contradiction who will cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, she, too, will have her soul pierced by a “sword,” so that the thoughts of many hearts will be brought to light.

On 21 November, 1964, at the end of the Second Vatican Council’s third period, Pope St Paul VI proclaimed Mary to be Mater Ecclesiae, “Mother of the Church.” The Church’s history, read without blinders, makes clear that what was prophesied for the mother – a sword of sorrow – has also applied over the centuries to her children.  Catholicism, today, is being painfully reminded of this.

The soul of the Catholic Church is being pierced, day after day, by a seemingly endless scandal of sexual abuse. And it must be hoped that, as many secret thoughts – and temptations, and, worst of all, actions – are being revealed, this piercing is an unavoidable and necessary part of a great process of purification: the purification that is essential if the Church is to preach the Gospel credibly and offer that friendship with Jesus Christ that is the greatest of human liberations. As these LETTERS have insisted, and as will be argued again below by Mary Rice Hasson, the reform of the Church is a summons to greater fidelity, for the abuse crisis is, at bottom a crisis of infidelity.

Related: Letters from the Vatican #4

The Church will never be completely cleansed of infidelity – the Church will never be completely pure – until it is finally and definitively purified in the Kingdom of God: after the Lord Jesus returns in glory, the Last Judgment has been rendered, the wedding feast of the Lamb has begun, and the New Jerusalem – the heavenly City built on the foundation of the apostles – is the dwelling place of the righteous and the saved. To understand that the final purification of the Church is an eschatological, or Kingdom, reality ought not cause us to lose heart, though, about the work of purifying the Church that belongs to every Catholic here and now. It should, rather, invite us to greater efforts in the work of reform, because we are assured that, whatever our failures, God will ultimately make things right.

History also teaches us that reform in the Catholic Church has rarely come from the top down – or, perhaps better, whatever reforms are mandated “from the top” only achieve effect when they are embodied “from the bottom up,” by a more radically converted Catholic flock and by more effective local pastors and bishops. Roma locuta, causa finita [Rome has spoken, the case is closed] is an old Catholic slogan; but Rome’s reformist “speech,” when and if it comes, only has real effect when it is embodied in the life of local churches. And if Rome’s reformist “speech” is hesitant or inadequate, responsibility for purification rests even more heavily on local churches, which need not wait for permission to do the work of reform in ways appropriate to their situation.

It was never on the cards for this global meeting to produce a comprehensive template for Catholic reform. The Church is too diverse, the meeting is too short, and there is still too much denial, fear, and institutional lethargy at play in the Vatican and in some sectors of world Catholicism for any such dramatic turning point to be reached in a mere four days. All the more reason, then, for concerned Catholics to become aware of what reformist efforts are underway, to encourage what is life-giving in them, and to urge their local pastors and bishops on to even deeper, more effective reform initiatives.  This weekend’s double-issue of LETTERS FROM THE VATICAN will therefore focus heavily on reforms that are underway, or that could be readily adopted, in the Church in the United States and parallel local situations around the world – after a bracing reflection on the imperative of defining today’s crisis correctly. – Xavier Rynne II

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Letters from the Vatican #5 | The Catholic Weekly Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly. Number 5: February 23-24, 2019: In this weekend's special double edition Xavier Rynne II Abuse,Bishops,Pope Francis,Summit,Vatican,summit
Couples’ course an invaluable help to a better marriage https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/couples-weekend-an-invaluable-help-to-a-better-marriage/ Fri, 22 Feb 2019 21:00:43 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19189 When Trent Prasser proposed to future wife Judy in the middle of an apple orchard six months after meeting her, it was her “ardent desire to know and be known by God” that had drawn him to her above all. For Judy, it was the sight of him unselfconsciously entertaining a mutual friends’ baby the […]

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The Prassers said that Of Life and Love was a unique support in preparing for marriage.
The Prassers said that Of Life and Love was a unique support in preparing for marriage.

When Trent Prasser proposed to future wife Judy in the middle of an apple orchard six months after meeting her, it was her “ardent desire to know and be known by God” that had drawn him to her above all.

For Judy, it was the sight of him unselfconsciously entertaining a mutual friends’ baby the afternoon they met.

“That really impressed me,” she says.

The members of the Maternal Heart of Mary parish in Lewisham chose the Sydney Archdiocese’s marriage preparation course titled Of Life and Love after a friend recommended it for its fidelity to Church teaching.

Now settled into happy married life and enjoying their newborn daughter Thérèse Marie, the couple say that the practical aspects of the course have held them in good stead as well.

“The psychology aspects were very helpful, things like communication, the different temperaments and differences between the sexes,” said Trent.

“It’s helped us to better understand each other’s needs and the way we respond to things.”

The next Of Life and Love Course will be held over three consecutive Wednesday evenings during March at The Assisi Centre, 3 Keating Street, Lidcombe. There will also be a course held in October.

Chris Gordon, Director of the Sydney Archdiocese’s Life, Marriage and Family Centre, said that the course is balanced with a variety of expert speakers covering topics of faith and belief, along with the nuts and bolts of daily married life such as communication and financial skills.

While there is time for private discussions between couples, there are no group discussions. “One of the more popular sessions introduces couples to the ‘long haul’, with a testimony from a long-time married couple that has overcome serious difficulties such as infidelity or addictions,” said Chris.

The cost is $310 per couple. For details email LMFevents@sydneycatholic.org or call 93078400.

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Marriage-240219 The Prassers said that Of Life and Love was a unique support in preparing for marriage.
Isn’t it Romantic review: Clever, but not for the youngsters https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/isnt-it-romantic-review-clever-but-not-for-the-youngsters/ Fri, 22 Feb 2019 21:00:41 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19126 Funny thing about recent Hollywood comedies, many of them are anything but. Whether marred by a post-Hangover desire to be outrageous or by actions or situations entirely unrelated to normal human behaviour, they usually wind up being more tiresome than tickling. So the sunny send-up Isn’t It Romantic (Warner Bros.) comes as something of a […]

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A clever satire of conventional rom-coms: Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in Isn’t it Romantic. Photo: CNS photo/Warner Bros.
A clever satire of conventional rom-coms: Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in Isn’t it Romantic. Photo: CNS photo/Warner Bros.

Funny thing about recent Hollywood comedies, many of them are anything but.

Whether marred by a post-Hangover desire to be outrageous or by actions or situations entirely unrelated to normal human behaviour, they usually wind up being more tiresome than tickling.

So the sunny send-up Isn’t It Romantic (Warner Bros.) comes as something of a relief.

In satirising the conventions of contemporary romantic comedies – while also, of course, providing a love story of its own – director Todd Strauss-Schulson’s upbeat film delivers laughs aplenty.

Which is not to say, however, that it’s a family movie. Though the blue material is relatively minimal, this is strictly grown-up fare.

Rebel Wilson brings verve to the role of Natalie, a lovelorn architect and cynical critic of what she considers the delusions perpetrated by the genre.

After being mugged and, in trying to escape her assailant, sustaining a blow to the head, however, Natalie wakes up in a transformed version of her world, one filled with all the clichés of the pictures she disdains.

It comes as no surprise, then, that one of her potential clients, Blake (Liam Hemsworth), a dashing billionaire who had previously ignored Natalie now suddenly begins to court her assiduously.

Similarly, Natalie’s co-worker and best friend, down-to-earth Josh (Adam Devine), starts successfully punching above his weight by dating comely, elegant self-styled “yoga ambassador” Isabella (Priyanka Chopra Jonas).

Natalie, when she’s not too busy being exasperated by the rosy-hued events taking place around her, is smitten with Blake’s good looks and lavish lifestyle.

But she continues to feel drawn to Josh, despite the fact that she has turned down dates with him in the past and has managed to blind herself to the fact that he has long been her secret admirer.

Thus the struggle is on between surface attraction and something much more substantial.

The essential message of Isn’t It Romantic, concerns the need to appreciate yourself before you can be open to receiving love.

That’s a valid enough lesson for emotionally fearful Natalie to learn. But, along the way, her educational adventure takes on topics best suited to mature viewers.

One frequent element of the movies being skewered, for instance, is the heroine’s swishy gay friend who serves as her confidant and adviser. Enter Natalie’s neighbour, Donny (Brandon Scott Jones).

Though Natalie had taken Donny for a ladies’ man, in rom-com land he’s so light in his loafers he’s in danger of floating away.

There’s not much of an agenda to this aspect of the story, though, beyond objecting to the excessively effeminate portrayal of such characters.

Another staple of romantic comedies is the discreet bedroom fade out – after which it’s made apparent that the couple spent the night together.

This becomes fodder for some amusing scenes between Natalie and Blake. But they’re not ones, obviously, that Mum and Dad can enjoy with the kids in tow.

Along the same lines, Natalie is continually drowned out by other sounds whenever she attempts to use the F-word – a sly reference to the desire of many filmmakers to qualify for a PG-13 rating from US film authorities .

Though such motifs involve restraint, they paradoxically put Isn’t It Romantic beyond the pale for youngsters – as, too, does a more wayward exchange between Natalie and Donny detailing what the former learned about Blake’s anatomy by spying on him in the shower.

That aside, though, most of the gags are no more than a bit saucy and will easily be taken in stride by older moviegoers.

The film contains mature subject matter and humour, including numerous references to homosexuality and nonmarital sex, brief medical gore, a same-sex kiss, an irreverent joke, a few uses of profanity and a mild oath, at least one instance of rough language, occasional crude and crass talk and an obscene gesture.

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Isn't it Romantic review: Clever, but not for the youngsters Funny thing about recent Hollywood comedies, many of them are anything but.Whether marred by a post-Hangover desire to be outrageous or by actions or ... Cinema,Films,Movie review,Rebel Wilson,Romantic Comedy,Romantic Movie-240219 A clever satire of conventional rom-coms: Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in Isn’t it Romantic. Photo: CNS photo/Warner Bros.
Letters from the Vatican #4 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/letters-from-the-vatican-4/ Fri, 22 Feb 2019 05:21:19 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19334 Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly. Number 4: February 22, 2019 “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of […]

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Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly.

Number 4: February 22, 2019

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

The date 22 February, the Feast of the Chair of St Peter the Apostle, is a special day to be in Rome, for to mark the feast, the Altar of the Chair, Gianlorenzo Bernini’s sculptural masterpiece in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica, is lit with over one hundred tapers, some of them six feet tall. Impressive at any time, the Altar of the Chair, ablaze with candlelight, is simply extraordinary. (It’s even more striking very early in the morning, given the acrobatics of the Sanpietrini, the basilica’s workmen, whose installation and lighting of the tapers is reminiscent of the Flying Wallendas.)

The Collect for the day, quoted above, may strike some as plaintive, with overtones of a lament. For there are manifestly tempests disturbing the Church, whose leaders are in Rome precisely because of that undeniable fact. The Altar of the Chair reminds us that the Collect’s link between the peace of the Church and its adherence to “the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith” must be taken seriously in this week’s meeting on sexual abuse. To understand why means pondering the huge bronze sculpture carefully, reflecting on its meaning as well as admiring its beauty.

The centrepiece of Bernini’s composition is a bronze cathedra, or episcopal chair, which pious tradition claims to contain wooden relics of St Peter’s “chair,” the sign of his apostolic authority. Be that as it may, what is especially noteworthy about the Altar of the Chair is its theological density. As Bernini designed it, the bronze cathedra is supported by four Doctors of the Church: St Ambrose and St Augustine from the West, St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom from the East. Their figures are, like the rest of the composition, quite enormous – and fair enough, for these were giants in the history of Christian orthodoxy.

Related: Letters from the Vatican #3

But it’s Bernini’s arrangement of them that makes the crucial theological point: for each of the Doctors “supports” the great cathedra, representing Christ’s promise to maintain and preserve the Church in truth through the Office of Peter and the College of Bishops, by a single finger. The great sculptor’s point?  Truth is not burdensome, but liberating. For as the Lord himself said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” [Matthew 11.29-30].

This is a deeply counter-cultural claim today. Just as the Altar of the Chair poses a sharp stylistic challenge to a strange, modernist confection like Oliviero Rainaldi’s sculpture of St John Paul II outside Rome’s Stazione Termini, Bernini’s message of liberating truth is a profound challenge to the post-modern culture of autonomy that is one factor in today’s Catholic abuse crisis. Yet on this Feast of the Chair of St Peter, that is what the Church is reminding its leaders and its people: that the truth, freely embraced, is light. And truth’s illumination of the often-dark pathways of life liberates us to be the sons and daughters of God we were born to be.

Some of those charged with addressing this week’s abuse summit are, it must be said, in need of that reminder. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, for example, will address the summit on “Transparency in a community of believers.” Does that “transparency” include, one wonders, an openness to asking just what Cardinal Marx thought he was doing recently when he said that the Church had to re-think its entire sexual ethic in light of 21st-century culture and contemporary mores? Does the cardinal not understand that doctrinal dissent and the confusions resulting from it were factors in the breakdown of clerical discipline that helped facilitate clerical sexual abuse?

The liberating power of doctrine, including moral doctrine, has not been one of the leitmotifs of Pope Francis’s pontificate, as it was of his two predecessors. Proponents of the Pope’s approach defend his skepticism about scholars and his oft-repeated critiques of “doctors of the law” and “Pharisees” by suggesting that the Holy Father is reminding the Church that behind everything to which Catholicism says “No” there is a “Yes” that the Church has not always been successful in communicating. True enough, and a good reminder: but not when that reminder helps facilitate a return to the moral-theological civil wars of the 1970s.

And not when it is taken to underwrite or legitimate attempts by prominent theologians, in venues ranging from Boston College to the Pontifical Gregorian University, to deconstruct John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor by denying the reality of intrinsically evil acts – things that are wrong in and of themselves, and that no combination of putative intentions and anticipated consequences can make right. Yet if, as the otherwise inadequate, pre-abuse summit “statement” by the Unions of Superiors General (cited here yesterday) managed to affirm that “the abuse of children is wrong anywhere and anytime,” then there are intrinsically evil acts – and the denial of their reality is an obstacle to the deep Catholic reform necessary to alleviate the enormous suffering caused by sexually abusive clergy.

There seems to be an iron law built into the interaction of Christianity and modernity: Christian communities that have a clear sense of their doctrinal and moral boundaries can live and even flourish under the challenging social and cultural conditions of modern life; Christian communities that fudge those boundaries wither, and some die. That iron law applies within Catholicism today. The living parts of the Church are those that have embraced the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Veritatis Splendor; the dying parts of the Church are those that have surrendered to the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.

That is true of dioceses, parishes, religious communities, seminaries, and virtually every other institutional expression of Catholicism. And it is a truth – like the truth of doctrine’s liberating power expressed in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair – that this abuse summit must reaffirm, without hesitation or compromise. – Xavier Rynne II

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Letters from the Vatican #4 | The Catholic Weekly Reports and Commentary, from Rome and Elsewhere, on the Meeting for the Protection of Minors. A special international journalistic collaboration between The Catholic Herald, First Things and The Catholic Weekly. Number 4: February 22, 2019 https://youtu.be/Uxsl1KDtli4 “Grant, we pray, almighty God, Abuse,George Weigel,Pope Francis,Summit,Vatican,Xavier Rynne II,abuse
A dozen good eggs join seminary https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/a-dozen-good-eggs-join-seminary/ Fri, 22 Feb 2019 02:37:57 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19316 Sydney's Good Shepherd Seminary at Homebush has opened its seminary year with 12 new arrivals.

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Good Shepherd seminarians
The 2019 crop of first year seminarians at the Good Shepherd Seminary. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

There are great signs of hope amid turbulent times in the Church, according to the rector of Sydney’s seminary Father Danny Meagher.

Father Meagher has welcomed 12 newcomers to the Good Shepherd Seminary, bringing the total number of men in formation for the priesthood there to 54.

Coinciding with an unprecedented Vatican summit on child protection and clerical sexual abuse, and in the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the willingness of young men to consider entering Holy Orders is a sign that there is much hope in the future of the Church in Australia, Father Meagher told The Catholic Weekly.

“There are stormy seas but the Lord is with us,” he said, adding that this year’s crop of newbies is not the largest he has seen but is a healthy crop.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP led the celebration of Mass for the opening of the Seminary year for students and their families on 20 February.

“There’s still hope. People are still being called to the priesthood and have a desire to serve the Church and its people,” he said.

This week the new recruits gathered with the current students at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to officially open the seminary year, before going on a five-day retreat.

See related article: Monica Doumit: Don’t despair. Our good priests abound

They will then come back to begin their discernment and formation under the first year director Father Arthur Givney with input from other seminary staff, and undertake a course on Christian Spirituality at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Stephen Howard, 25, from the Archdiocese of Sydney said he “immediately felt comfortable” upon moving into the seminary this month.

“But the intensity of classes and prayers started straight away and I’m sure we are in for a very satisfying spiritual year addressing all aspects for our formation from gardening to contemplation to academia and grasping at God’s will,” he added.

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Relatives of seminarians were welcomed by Archbishop Fisher OP to visit the Good Shepherd Seminary. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Shayne D’cunha, 22, from the Diocese of Broken Bay said that he thought his new home has a “wonderful balance of prayer, work and community”.

“So far seminary life has been wonderful,” he said.

“The other young men studying here have created a wonderful culture rooted in fraternity. I have also been thoroughly impressed by the formation staff who have made the transition into seminary life very easy.”

Good Shepherd’s 54 seminarians are in training for the Archdiocese of Sydney and other NSW dioceses, with eight living in parishes on pastoral placement, said Father Meagher.

This year five Good Shepherd seminarians will be ordained to the priesthood and six to the diaconate, all for NSW.

Father Meagher said that one of his ongoing priorities is working with the archdiocese’s safeguarding office to make sure students receive the appropriate training in professional standards.

“It’s important to make sure they are always up-to-date with the needs of the day,” he said.

At the opening Mass, Archbishop Fisher said that it was a “great pleasure” to welcome the first years and commended all the seminarians for their “courage and generosity” in giving themselves “heart and soul to discernment and formation for service”.

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A dozen good eggs join seminary There are great signs of hope amid turbulent times in the Church, according to the rector of Sydney’s seminary Father Danny Meagher. Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP,Good Shepherd Seminary,Priesthood,Seminarians,seminary 200219_First-year-seminarians_Opening-Mass_Portelli_850 The 2019 crop of first year seminarians at the Good Shepherd Seminary. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli Opening-Mass_Good-Shepherd-Seminary_Portelli_200219_850 Seminarian-mother_Opening-Mass-Good-Shepherd_200219_Portelli_850 A seminarian's mother and grandmother speak to Archbishop Fisher OP at Good Shepherd. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Pope opens Vatican abuse summit https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/pope-opens-vatican-abuse-summit/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 22:53:08 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19304 In his opening remarks, the Pope prayed that the bishops would "listen to the cry of the little ones".

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis talks with Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, moderator of the Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the Church, during the opening session on February 21 February, 2019. PHOTO: CNS/Evandro Inetti, pool

Opening the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis said, “The holy people of God are watching and are awaiting from us not simple, predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures” to stop abuse.

The summit meeting 21-24 February brought together almost 190 Church leaders: the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, superiors of some men’s and women’s religious orders and top Vatican officials.

In his brief opening remarks, the Pope prayed that with “docility” to the Holy Spirit, the bishops at the summit would “listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice”.

The Pope’s main address to the assembly was scheduled for 24 February after the discussions, a penitential liturgy and a concluding Mass.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gave the first formal talk of the gathering, acknowledging how church leaders for so long ignored the suffering of the victims of clerical sexual abuse and covered up the evil crimes of the priest-perpetrators.

Protesters rally
Clerical sex abuse survivors and their supporters rally outside Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome 21 February, 2019. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Sometimes, he said, bishops were simply afraid to look at the wounds caused by their priests, but he insisted that one cannot profess faith in Christ while ignoring the wounds inflicted on the people Jesus loves.

Using the Gospel stories of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, especially the story of Jesus inviting St Thomas to put his hands into the wounds on Jesus’ hands and side, Cardinal Tagle told the bishops, “Those who are sent to proclaim the core of our Christian faith — the dying and rising of Christ — can only do so with authenticity if they are constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity.”

The Christian faith itself and the ability of the Catholic Church to proclaim the Gospel is “what is at stake in this moment of crisis brought about by the abuse of children and our poor handling of these crimes,” the cardinal said.

But, he asked, “how do we as bishops, who have been part of the wounding, now promote healing?”

First, the cardinal said, the bishops must “draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults” and then take concrete steps to ensure all children and vulnerable adults are safe in the church’s care.

See related story: EXCLUSIVE: The Abuse Summit in Rome: Great expectations?

Justice for the victims is an absolute necessity, he said, but justice by itself “does not heal the broken human heart.” The Church can never ask victims to forgive and move on, “no, far from it,” the cardinal said.

But, knowing that forgiveness often aids healing, he said, Church leaders must “continue to walk with those profoundly wounded by abuse, building trust, providing unconditional love and repeatedly asking forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice, but can only receive it when it is bestowed as a gift and grace.”

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Pope opens Vatican abuse summit In his opening remarks, the Pope prayed that the bishops would "listen to the cry of the little ones". Abuse,Pope Francis,Vatican,abuse Pope-and-moderator_Abuse-Summit_CNS_210219_850 Pope Francis talks with Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, moderator of the Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the Church, during the opening session on February 21 February, 2019. PHOTO: CNS/Evandro Inetti, pool 20190221T1347-24753-CNS-SUMMIT-ACTION-ITEMS850 Clerical sex abuse survivors and their supporters rally outside Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome 21 February, 2019. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring 20190221T1101-018-CNS-SUMMIT-POPE-TAGLE850
John Watkins: Aussie Catholics are helping Timor-Leste’s teachers, kids https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/john-watkins-aussie-catholics-are-helping-timor-lestes-teachers-kids/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 21:00:50 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=19149 Everywhere we went in Timor-Leste, new roads were being constructed and buildings erected. The work in progress was a visible testament to the conviction of our closest neighbour to rebuild after decades of violence and occupation – rebuild after a period in which a quarter of the country lost their lives and almost all of […]

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A teacher takes students through a lesson in Timor Leste. Photo: Mary Mackillop Today
A teacher takes students through a lesson in Timor Leste. Photo: Mary Mackillop Today

Everywhere we went in Timor-Leste, new roads were being constructed and buildings erected.

The work in progress was a visible testament to the conviction of our closest neighbour to rebuild after decades of violence and occupation – rebuild after a period in which a quarter of the country lost their lives and almost all of the infrastructure was destroyed.

The physical rebuilding only tells part of the story, though. I wanted to hear the stories of the teachers and students of Timor-Leste because like Mary MacKillop, I believe that education is more than learning to read and write.

Education is an investment in the future – the most important investment a family, a community and indeed a country can make. As Pope Francis said, education “opens us to the fullness of life”.

In Timor-Leste approximately 71 per cent of primary school teachers have only a secondary-school level education, and a quarter of all teachers are unpaid and unqualified volunteer teachers.

When I met some of these volunteer teachers in the village of Railaco Leten in one of the poorest districts in Timor-Leste I found them to be enthusiastic, talented and yearning to improve their skills so they could help the lives of the children they taught and their wider families.

See related story: From Kogarah to Kasnafar in an instant

As they gathered in the staffroom, a tiny cement floored, corrugated iron walled room with windows open to the sky, I thought of the thousands of teachers I had met as Minister for Education in NSW.

Here in these cement brick schools on muddy mountain tracks, almost unpassable in the wet, high on the razor sharp ridges of Timor, here, these volunteer teachers showed the same love of life, enthusiasm for the future and compassion for their students that characterised teachers in every school I knew in Australia.”

When I met with teachers, parents and children across Timor-Leste, I saw that education, provided through organisations like Mary MacKillop Today is a light of solidarity in a world which is in great need of hope.

Training teachers, mentoring parents and placing books on shelves in classrooms allows the community to grow stronger, to realise their dignity and to make choices for their own future.

But even more importantly what I witnessed in Timor-Leste was a direct result of the generosity of Australian Catholics who through Mary MacKillop Today choose to give a voice to the cry of the poor and for that I am inspired and so very thankful.

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JohnWatkins-240219 A teacher takes students through a lesson in Timor Leste. Photo: Mary Mackillop Today