The Catholic Weekly https://www.catholicweekly.com.au The Church. All of it. Tue, 02 Jun 2020 00:17:05 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 Monica Doumit: tragic tale of Jane Roe https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/monica-doumit-tragic-tale-of-jane-roe/ Tue, 02 Jun 2020 01:00:43 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43262 We should pray for a woman who had a tough life “I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say … I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.” So went the bombshell “deathbed confession” of Norma […]

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We should pray for a woman who had a tough life

“I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say … I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”

So went the bombshell “deathbed confession” of Norma McCorvey, the real-life Jane Roe whose US Supreme Court case had the effect of legalising abortion across the United States.

Norma McCorvey gave up her three children for adoption. PHOTO: CNS

For those who don’t know McCorvey’s story, it is both complex and tragic. Her history includes a broken home, a violent mother, being made a ward of the state at age 11, sexual abuse by a family member, drug and alcohol addiction, a teenage marriage to an abusive husband (despite identifying as a lesbian), and giving birth to her first child at age 18.

McCorvey ended up adopting her first child out to her mother, and gave her second child up for adoption as well.

When she fell pregnant with her third child, she was referred to lawyers who had been looking for pregnant women who wanted an abortion so they could begin a legal challenge to abortion restrictions in the United States.

The case took three years to decide, and so McCorvey ended up giving birth to her third child, who was also given up for adoption.

But she remained the plaintiff in the now infamous Roe v Wade case that has ushered in more than 60 million abortions since it was decided in 1973. McCorvey then famously converted to Christianity, quit her job at an abortion clinic and became a pro-life advocate until her death in 2017.

Or so we thought.

A documentary screened last week in the US called this into question, with McCorvey reportedly saying that it was all an act. “I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say,” she says on film.  “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”

Norma was used by both sides of the abortion fight

Pro-life advocates in the US have been quick to downplay the documentary’s importance, pointing instead to decades of pro-life advocacy and personal friendships that they say are way more indicative of her views than a heavily-edited documentary created by a producer whose film projects to date have been about sex robots and transgender kids.

I don’t know the truth.  The documentary is not yet available in Australia, and so it’s hard to judge from this distance.

But what seems to be clear is that Norma McCorvey was used and abused by others for most of her life, and continues to be used, even after her death.

She was abused as a child by a family member who was supposed to care for her.
She was abused by her mother and her husband and heaven knows who else.
She was used by abortion advocates who went looking for a plaintiff and a poster girl to champion their cause, thrusting a woman with a history of significant trauma into the middle of a court case (and eventually, into the spotlight) with reckless disregard for the long-term effects on her wellbeing.

All in the name of her “rights” and “empowerment.”

And yes, she also appears to have been used by pro-life advocates who wanted to instrumentalise her conversion as a win for the pro-life movement.

40 Days for Life
Participants at 40 Days for Life in Sydney in 2015. Under exclusion zone laws in several Australian states praying or offering assistance to women within exclusion zones around abortion facilities is now illegal.

That pro-abortion activists used McCorvey is hardly surprising. After all, it is a movement and a multi-billion dollar industry built on the commodification of human life and the discarding of it when it becomes inconvenient.

It is their business model. This latest documentary gives them another opportunity to use her, because it allows them to use her final days to paint everyone in the pro-life movement as nothing more than actors and hypocrites.

St John Paul II said that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s use. The best way we have to defeat a culture of death, and to provide a real alternative to those who would use people like McCorvey for their own purposes then, is authentic love.

Any failure by any of us in showing this type of love is a counter-witness to the pro-life message and our calling as Catholics.

I’m not sure what to make of this “death-bed confession,” but it would be wrong to get too caught up in whether Norma McCorvey died as a pro-life advocate or not.

The best thing we can do in response is to pray for the repose of her soul, and recommit ourselves to treating every human person with the dignity they deserve.

Related articles:

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NORMA-MCCORVEY_260520_CNS_850 Norma McCorvey. PHOTO: CNS 850 Participants at 40 Days for Life in Sydney in 2015. Under exclusion zone laws in several Australian states praying or offering assistance to women within exclusion zones around abortion facilities is now illegal.
Vatican head: Racism a spiritual virus https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/vatican-head-racism-a-spiritual-virus/ Mon, 01 Jun 2020 23:28:04 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43281 Amid pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, the US has lost its vocation of helping says archbishop.

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Protesters in Long Beach, California, demonstrate on 31 May, 2020, after a white police officer in Minneapolis was caught on a video on 25 May pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. PHOTO: CNS /Patrick T. Fallon, Reuters

America has ‘lost its vocation of helping” says archbishop

Much like the coronavirus pandemic, racism is a “spiritual” virus that has spread throughout the world and must be eradicated, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“I would compare (racism) to COVID-19, but it is a virus of the spirit, a cultural virus that, if not isolated, spreads quickly,” Archbishop Paglia told Catholic News Service on 1 June.

The Italian archbishop commented on the 25 May death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests throughout the United States.

“And just as [brotherhood] defeats the coronavirus, it also defeats racism”

Mr Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Mr Floyd repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe”. He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

Archbishop Paglia told CNS that just as people were called to self-isolate in order to care for one another, racism can only be defeated by people caring for each other.

“Today we must start a revolution of brotherhood. We are all brothers and sisters. Brotherhood is a promise that is lacking in modern times,” he said. “In my opinion, the true strength that supports us in our weakness is brotherhood and solidarity. And just as it defeats the coronavirus, it also defeats racism.”

The fight against racism, he added, is done “not with violence but in the style of Martin Luther King, Jr., with words, with culture, with faith, with humanism. It is fought the same way we fight against the coronavirus.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, speaks during a 2018 interview in his office at the Vatican. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

“It’s not enough to remain silent,” the Italian archbishop said. “To prevent the virus of racism from multiplying, those (who oppose racism) must also multiply.”

He said the United States has had a vocation of helping others, not just themselves, but “I believe they have lost” that vocation.

Archbishop Paglia said he believed Pope Francis should consider writing a document that addresses the subject of racism, a problem “all over the world”. However, he also noted that the pope’s 2019 letter marking the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy for Life reflects on many of the same divisions that exist in the world today.

In the letter, titled “The Human Community,” the pope said the sense of fraternity between people and nations has been weakened by the erosion of mutual trust and “remains the unkept promise of modernity.”

A painting of George Floyd is seen on a business in south Minneapolis May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit

“Mutual distrust between individuals and peoples is being fed by an inordinate pursuit of self-interest and intense competition that can even turn violent. The gap between concern with one’s own well-being and the prosperity of the larger human family seems to be stretching to the point of complete division,” the pope wrote.

Archbishop Paglia told CNS that brotherhood among peoples can only be possible “if the discussion passes to the fact that we are one family of 7 billion people”.

“It’s not that I can say to my brother, ‘I don’t care about you’ because he’s the ninth brother and I only like the first five siblings,” he said. Nevertheless, “I am convinced that there is a great mission for American Catholicism” in the country.

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Killed seminarian had martyr’s courage

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Floyd_protestors_010620_CNS_850 Protesters in Long Beach, Calif., demonstrate May 31, 2020. Demonstrations continue after a white police officer in Minneapolis was caught on a bystander's video May 25 pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African American, who later died at a hospital. PHOTO: CNS /Patrick T. Fallon, Reuters) Paglia_010620_CNS_850 Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, speaks during a 2018 interview in his office at the Vatican. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring Floyd-riots_010620_CNS_850 A painting of George Floyd is seen on a business in south Minneapolis May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit
No easy answers as Plenary papers released https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/no-easy-answers-as-plenary-papers-released/ Mon, 01 Jun 2020 09:00:52 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43268 Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB released six discernment papers on Pentecost Sunday in a step towards the fifth Plenary Council of Australia. The documents are the work of Discernment and Writing Groups which addressed each of the national themes for discernment arising from the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase. Each provides a reflection on the relevant […]

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Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB released six discernment papers on Pentecost Sunday in a step towards the fifth Plenary Council of Australia.

The documents are the work of Discernment and Writing Groups which addressed each of the national themes for discernment arising from the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase.
Each provides a reflection on the relevant issues faced by the Church in Australia, offers proposals and suggests questions to be discussed as a basis for the development of the working paper (Instrumentum Laboris) for the Council assemblies in October 2021 and April 2022.

“The aim of the discernment process was to draw upon the lived faith and experiences of more than 220,000 Australians, the living tradition of the Church, sacred Scripture, papal teachings and additional insights from outside the Church,” said Archbishop Costelloe.

Dr Renee Kohler-Ryan, Dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology at Notre Dame.
Dr Renee Kohler-Ryan chaired the Conversion, Renewal and Reform group.

“While not the final word on the six thematic areas which emerged from the Listening and Dialogue process, I encourage everyone to receive them in the spirit of faith and discernment with which they have been written,” he said.

No easy answers to challenges

University of Notre Dame Australia’s Professor Renee Kohler-Ryan, who chaired the ‘Conversion, Renewal and Reform’ group, said its members agreed on which issues were important, but not necessarily on how the Church could address them.

“The paper reflects this tension,” Professor Kohler-Ryan said. “Inevitably, readers will wish that we gave some easy answers. “That wasn’t really our job, though.

“Instead, we wanted to point out areas and questions for the delegates to the Plenary Council to pray, discuss and respond.

“Our paper is really a prayerful request for delegates to listen to each other and to respond to Christ’s call for ongoing personal and communal conversion, renewal and reform.”

The six papers reflect on the questions: How is God calling us to a Christ-centred church in Australia that is missionary and evangelising; inclusive, participatory and synodal; prayerful and Eucharistic; humble, healing and merciful; and a joyful, hope-filled and servant community?

Read the Discernment Papers at plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au

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Dr Philippa Martyr: What the Plenary Council can do
Plenary 2020 and holiness: Hear the plea of the young
Plenary 2020: an inclusive Church?

 

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Renne-Kohler-Ryan Dr Renee Kohler-Ryan, Dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology at Notre Dame.
Bishops warn of ‘real danger’ https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/racism-a-real-and-present-danger-say-us-bishops/ Mon, 01 Jun 2020 05:30:36 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43251 Indifference not an option, prelates say as riots continue The US Catholic bishops said 29 May they “are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes”. “What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is […]

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A man in Minneapolis is injured after being hit in the head by an object at a protest near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct May 27, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Eric Miller, Reuters

Indifference not an option, prelates say as riots continue

The US Catholic bishops said 29 May they “are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes”.

“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion,” they said in a statement about the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

“This is a wake-up call”

In recent weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African American man in Georgia, was fatally shot ,and three white men were arrested and are facing murder charges in his death. In March, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, died at the hands of white police offers when they entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient,” the bishops said. “It is a real and present danger that must be met head on.”

“As members of the church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice.”

Protesters in Minneapolis gather around the entrance of a police station May 28, 2020.PHOTO: CNS/Carlos Barria, Reuters

“Indifference is not an option,” they emphasised and stated “unequivocally” that “racism is a life issue”.

The statement was issued by the chairmen of seven committees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

“racism is a life issue”

Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.

The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for him and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd’s neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Protesters in Minneapolis gather at the scene May 27, 2020, where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital May 25. PHOTO: CNS/Eric Miller, Reuters

The federal Justice Department promised a “robust” investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death.

Protests in Minneapolis have turned to violent demonstrations and lasted several days, prompting Govenor Tim Walz to bring in the National Guard on 29 May. The protests sparked similar rioting in at least a dozen US cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, New York, Louisville, and Columbus, Ohio.

The bishops in their statement pointed to their “Open Wide Our Hearts” pastoral against racism approved by the body of bishops in 2018. In it, they said: “For people of colour some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives.”

In their May 29 statement, the committee chairmen called for an end to the violence taking place in the wake of the tragedy in Minneapolis but also said they “stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged”.

“…beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society”

They joined with Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Floyd “and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner.”

In anticipation of the feast of Pentecost, May 31, they called on all Catholics “to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” and pray to “to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause.”

“We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems,” the bishops said urged every Catholic, regardless of ethnicity, to “beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society”.

Here is the full text of their statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful nonviolent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” for people of colour some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

We join Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.

We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.

As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

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MINNEAPOLIS-FLOYD_280520_CNS_850 A man in Minneapolis is injured after being hit in the head by an object at a protest near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct May 27, 2020. Two days earlier George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in the hospital May 25. PHOTO: CNS/Eric Miller, Reuters MINNEAPOLIS-POLICE_280520_CNS_850 Protesters in Minneapolis gather around the entrance oPHOTO: CNS/Carlos Barria, Reuters MINNEAPOLIS-POLICE1_280520_CNS_850 Protesters in Minneapolis gather at the scene May 27, 2020, where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital May 25. PHOTO: CNS/Eric Miller, Reuters
Last of a holy family https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/last-of-a-holy-family/ Mon, 01 Jun 2020 01:30:12 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43256 Father William Creede CSsR, one of eight siblings who all pursued religious life, has passed away aged 93. The last surviving member of the family who produced three priests, four Presentation sisters and one Mercy sister, died at the Redemptorist Community, Kogarah, recently after a short illness. Incredibly, not only were the siblings rich in […]

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Father William Creede CSsR  and all his brothers and sisters became religious.
Father William Creede CSsR and all his brothers and sisters became religious.

Father William Creede CSsR, one of eight siblings who all pursued religious life, has passed away aged 93.

The last surviving member of the family who produced three priests, four Presentation sisters and one Mercy sister, died at the Redemptorist Community, Kogarah, recently after a short illness.

Incredibly, not only were the siblings rich in vocations, their father William snr was about to enter the Franciscans following the death of his wife when he died and was buried in his habit.

Born in Ireland in 1927, Fr William emigrated to Australia just 18 months later on the good ship Ballarat which brought his mother, two brothers and five sisters to Newcastle where he met his father for the first time, as he had emigrated two years beforehand.

His youngest sister Bernadette was born a few years later.

The family settled in Brisbane, where the two eldest girls, Aina (Sr Mary Clement) and Moira (Sr Canice) joined the Presentation Sisters in Longreach before the family moved to Sydney where Thomas and William Jr joined the Redemptorists, and a third brother became a Vincentian.

Therese (Sr Alphonsus) and Bernadette joined the Presentation Sisters in Wagga.

Breidha (Sr Christina) joined the Sisters of Mercy at Parramatta, where the Christina Creede Music Centre at Our Lady of Mercy College is named in her honour.

Fr William said his older siblings leaving home to become religious “was the turning point” in his life and admitted that while their vocation sparked a huge interest in following God’s path, a meeting with Redemptorists Fathers Lionel Carroll CSsR and Talty CSsR sealed it.

At just eight years of age, a young William had decided his future.

He became a Juvenist in 1943 at Galong, a Novice in 1946 at Pennant Hills, was professed at Ballarat in 1947 and ordained in 1952.

He said his father was very proud to have witnessed all eight of his children entering religious life.

“We said the rosary every night, and we used to say it in Irish sometimes,” Fr William was quoted as saying.

“Daddy was at Mass and Holy Communion every morning.

“The three younger children, Bernadette, Therese and myself, if we were very good through the week our reward was that Mummy would take us back for a second Mass on Sunday.

“That was our reward, and we looked forward to it.

“Fancy saying that to kids today!”

Although saddened at being the last of the children, Fr William was comforted by his family’s extraordinary story and their lifelong commitment to religious life.

Father William Creede CSsR holds a family photo.
Father William Creede CSsR holds a family photo.

In his 68 years professed, he preached well over 500 missions and conducted more than 600 retreats.

He carried out his ministry throughout Australia and in the Philippines, Thailand, China, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, England, Ireland, Singapore, Pakistan, Japan, Burma, Laos and Russia.

As he committed to his order and travelled to missions around the world, Fr William often wrote to his siblings but they rarely reunited.

When Therese died, the three Fr Creedes concelebrated the Requiem Mass and the three Sr Creedes carried the offertory.

In his final years, Fr William often spoke about finding himself without a next generation to carry on the family name in Australia.

“I’m the only one left, it’s a terrible feeling,” he said.

“It’s tragic. I’ve got not a soul out here belonging to me, they are all in Ireland.

“However, all of us are made for eternity. Indeed we will need eternity to thank God for our family, for our parents, our fidelity and our faith.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in the Redemptorist Chapel, Kogarah, on 5 May.

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cramsie-fr-william0obit Father William Creede CSsR and all his brothers and sisters became religious. cramsie-fr-william0obit-2 cramsie-fr-william0obit-3 Father William Creede CSsR holds a family photo.
Pope leads rosary for pandemic’s end https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/pope-leads-rosary-for-pandemics-end/ Sun, 31 May 2020 23:15:06 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43245 COVID survivors join Pope in rosary streamed worldwide to Marian shrines from the Vatican gardens.

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Pope Francis prays after leading the recitation of the rosary during a prayer service at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

COVID survivors join Pope in rosary streamed worldwide

With a religious sister who survived COVID-19 and a woman who lost her mother to the coronavirus, Pope Francis led the recitation of rosary and asked Mary to intercede to save the world from the pandemic.

More than 100 people joined Pope Francis May 30 for the early evening prayer in the Vatican Gardens at a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France. More than 50 Marian shrines around the world, including Lourdes and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, were connected by satellite.

Pope Francis did not make remarks or offer a meditation during the service. Instead he opened and closed the evening with the prayers he had asked Catholics to pray during the month of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary.

He began by entrusting everyone to Mary under the title ‘Health of the Sick’. Chairs in the little square in front of the grotto were set 5 feet apart, and most people wore a mask.

People attend the recitation of the rosary led by Pope Francis at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

A brief rain storm, which ended about an hour before the rosary began, seemed to energise the parakeets and other birds in the garden; they accompanied the prayer with their song and zipped back and forth over the little congregation.

Each decade of the rosary was led by a person directly affected by the virus, including COVID-19 survivors Giovanni De Cerce and Sister Zelia Andrighetti, superior general of the Daughters of St Camillus.

Tea Pompeo, who is mourning her mother, represented those who lost a loved one during the pandemic. Federica Polinari and Manuele Bartoli, with newborn Iacopo, represented families who had welcomed a new life into the world during the lockdown.

Two doctors, a nurse, a pharmacist, a hospital chaplain, a television journalist and a civil protection volunteer also represented their peers.

A short reading from Scripture preceded the proclamation of the five glorious mysteries of the rosary: the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension into heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit, Mary’s assumption into heaven and the crowning of Mary as Queen of heaven and earth.

Closing the rosary with the second prayer he wrote for Catholics this year, Pope Francis repeated the ancient and traditional prayer to Mary, ‘Sub tuum praesidium’, or ‘We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God’.

Each decade of the rosary was led by a person directly affected by the virus. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

“In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, mother of God and our mother, and seek refuge under your protection,” the pope recited.

Prayers to seek a mother’s help and comfort

The pope invoked Mary’s comfort for those who are distraught or are in mourning, for the sick and their loved ones who cannot be with them for fear of spreading the coronavirus further.

“Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment,” he prayed.

The pope remembered front-line workers, government leaders who must find the best ways to protect their people and scientists working to find a cure and a vaccine.

“Beloved mother,” he said, “help us realise that we are all members of one great family and to recognise the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need.”

“Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer,” Pope Francis prayed.

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CNS-COVID-POPE-ROSARY_300520_850 Pope Francis prays after leading the recitation of the rosary during a prayer service at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring CNS-COVID-POPE-ROSARY-wheelchair_850 People attend the recitation of the rosary led by Pope Francis at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens May 30, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring CNS-COVID-POPE-ROSARY-crowd_300520_850
Simcha Fisher: Emotions not the same as faith https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/simcha-fisher-emotions-are-not-the-same-as-faith/ Sat, 30 May 2020 21:00:15 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43200 Feeling guilty about not feeling devastated without Mass? It’s been a long, dry spell. Many Catholics have never gone this long without receiving the Eucharist since before their first communion. Now that more and more parishes are finding ways to safely offer public Mass or some form of communion service, many Catholics are taking to […]

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Pope Francis celebrates the Eucharist during Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 12, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Andreas Solaro, Reuters pool

Feeling guilty about not feeling devastated without Mass?

It’s been a long, dry spell. Many Catholics have never gone this long without receiving the Eucharist since before their first communion.

Now that more and more parishes are finding ways to safely offer public Mass or some form of communion service, many Catholics are taking to social media to describe what an overwhelming emotional experience it has been for them. Some are even sharing photos of themselves with tear-stained cheeks, overcome with emotion after receiving communion again.

Some…are overcome with emotion after receiving communion again.

Much of this emotional response is surely sincere, a spontaneous outpouring of joy and gratitude after a time of trial and deprivation. It’s understandable to want to share our delight in the Lord with people who will understand.

So let’s set aside the question of how spiritually healthy it is to take and share selfies of pious displays, and look instead to Catholics who aren’t coming to pieces over the opening of churches.

There are a lot of them. There are a lot of Catholics who most certainly want to return to the sacraments, but they aren’t feeling wracking pangs of longing as their separation continues.

Elizabeth Hickman from St. Clement of Rome Parish in St. Louis is among the youth from the Archdiocese of St. Louis praying during the archdiocese’s Generation Life pilgrimage in Vancouver 23 January, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

They aren’t spending their days in misery and distress, ceaselessly imploring the Holy Spirit to open the church doors again. And when they do receive the Eucharist again after a long time away, they aren’t going boneless with spiritual bliss. They believe in the saving power of God with all their hearts, but they’re not getting very emotional about it.

I’m here to tell you that, if that’s how it is for you, it’s okay. It doesn’t prove there’s something inferior about your faith. It doesn’t mean you’re lukewarm or spiritually mediocre. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the sacraments, and it doesn’t mean you don’t understand how precious they are. It might mean any number of things, but it’s certainly not automatically a sign that you’re the wrong kind of Catholic.

Emotions are just emotions. They are not nothing, but they are not the same as faith.

a lot of Catholics most certainly want to return to the sacraments, but they aren’t feeling wracking pangs of longing

Sometimes emotions come to us unbidden from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they are given to us as a gift. But sometimes they are not, and there are any number of reasons why this may be so. Sometimes the emotions that flood us have to do with 99 other, secondary things, and very little to do with the thing they appear to be attached to. Emotions are not the same as faith, and to confuse the two is foolish and dangerous.

Just think: If strong emotions always signaled strong faith, then the world would look very different, wouldn’t it? Christ felt intense emotions on the Cross, but surely so did Adam and Eve when they reached for the fruit.

Not all Catholics feel an ’emotional’ at the Eucharist and that’s ok

It’s a funny thing. Many Catholics can easily (and rightly) identify as shallow a faith that depends on strobe lights, fog machines, amplifiers, and sweating, throbbing, spontaneous emotive worship services.  And yet when a very similar surge of emotion washes over them when they return to Mass, they imagine it’s a sign that their faith is immense — or worse, that there’s something puny in the faith of Catholics who don’t feel that emotional wave, but who had been stolidly, patiently waiting as long as the bishop said to wait, and who simply quietly, reverently, faithfully receive the Eucharist when they can.

Here’s a thought: It’s even possible that a lack of a flood of emotion shows a spiritual maturity. St. John of the Cross says that we shouldn’t expect or depend on spiritual consolations any more than a growing child who’s ready for solid food should depend on his mother’s milk.

It’s a fine line. Emotions aren’t meaningless, and they aren’t something to despise. Our bodies and our minds and our hearts are really us, and emotions aren’t just foolish effervescence. They can bring true pleasure or true pain, and they can point us to true things. Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of intense emotions along with an act of faith. When they come, it’s normal and reasonable to try to understand what they mean — or just to enjoy them without fighting or over-analysing them.

A passionate poet, St John of the Cross nevertheless was cautious on spiritual emotions.

But it’s also true that sometimes the Holy Spirit doesn’t give us the gift of intense emotions. Often, even. It’s a mistake to try to induce faith-related emotions in ourselves, thinking that we don’t really love God if we don’t feel what everyone else appears to be feeling. That limits the faith to something transient and physical, when it should be so much more.

What’s more, strong emotion, and confusing it for faith, can easily lead us astray. The restrictions related to the pandemic are revealing how many people don’t know the difference between strong emotions, like longing and fear and frustration and anger, and actual virtues, like strength and courage and faith.

Look at the centurion with the dying servant

Recall the centurion in the gospel of Matthew. When his servant needed healing, Jesus asked him if he wanted him to come to his house. But he told Jesus, “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.” He knew that Jesus could heal his servant because of who he was, and he acknowledged as much to him. And that was it. There was his faith: He knew that Jesus was God and that he could heal the servant if he wanted to. Matthew says that Jesus was “amazed” by his faith.

If Jesus did come right up close into his actual house, it would have been an intensely emotional experience for everyone there–a joyful, overwhelming thing to happen. But it wasn’t necessary for him to go there, and the centurion knew it. Jesus could heal right from where he was. That’s what faith looks like: Not getting Jesus to go where we want him to go and making him feel what we want to feel, but just knowing that Jesus is who is is, and does what he wants.

So when we return to the Eucharist, it would be good to pray the words of the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

If the experience does hit us right in our emotions, then let’s receive that experience with gratitude and humility. If it doesn’t, then nothing changes: Jesus is still there, still able to heal, still himself. We can amaze him with our faith when we accept this truth, even if it doesn’t come with a flood of tears.

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POPE EASTER SUNDAY VATICAN Pope Francis celebrates the Eucharist during Easter Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 12, 2020. The Mass was celebrated without the presence of the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Andreas Solaro, Reuters pool) See POPE-EASTER-SUNDAY April 12, 2020. MISSOURI YOUTH PRO-LIFE PILGRIMAGE Elizabeth Hickman from St. Clement of Rome Parish in St. Louis is among the youth from the Archdiocese of St. Louis praying during the archdiocese's Generation Life pilgrimage in Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2020, the eve of the March for Life in Washington. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review) St-John-of-the-Cross2_1n2
Why now for a Marian consecration of Australia? https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/why-now-for-a-marian-consecration-of-australia/ Sat, 30 May 2020 07:53:15 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43213 This does not give us an anaesthetic from our pain or a type of cocky remoteness from tribulations of the world- but it does unite us in hopeful solidarity while “in exile” with the Christ-focussed and grace-filled strength and love of the faithful Mother of the Covenant, Mary of Nazareth.

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A painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe by US artist Ted DeGrazia. Photo: CNS, Nancy Wiechec.

Coping with exile from our faith

Many Australian Catholics have discovered and taken to today’s versions of the bush telegraph. They have spoken over fences, taken to the phone or to social media platforms to share wavering hope, but also disappointment, grief and in some cases exasperation, that despite easing of many of the Covid-19 related restrictions in businesses and public life, they still sense that they are spiritually isolated and “living in exile” from the pith of their life of faith.

This sense was been supported by the Petition from the Archdiocese of Sydney which resulted in this week’s decision by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to finally accord the same treatment to churches as had been extended to businesses and other organisations.

Silver linings

This is not to say that Catholics have not made some valuable discoveries too. Many of the faithful have participated in online prayers, have valued live-streamed liturgies from their parishes or Cathedrals, have met conscientious priests via phone or letterbox, they have liturgy channel-hopped, they have joined or initiated zoom-prayer sessions and some have attempted retreats and special prayer intentions with humbling vigour.

This has been accompanied by the inexorable blurring of days and space, by very domestic problems interacting with the very virtual, with slow-burning anxieties about livelihood and finances, uncertain mental equilibrium, screen burn-out and pressures about getting themselves, their families and their colleagues back out to an uncertain world which has every chance of snapping shut or becoming dangerous again.

Many of the faithful have participated in online prayers, valued live-streamed liturgies, met conscientious priests via phone or letterbox [and] … liturgy channel-hopped

A response

On 14 May the Australian Catholic Bishops jointly and briefly acknowledged these mixed experiences and called for a rallying of the collective heart. In a letter, accompanied by a Prayer Card, the Bishops expressed the desire to entrust the entire country “to the Immaculate Heart of Mary under the title of Mary Help of  Christians, seeking her intercession for the safety of all our people especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.”

Around the world other Bishops’ Conferences, notably those of the US, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales, Poland and South America have all responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic with a similar re-entrustment-or re-consecration to the Virgin Mary under her various local dedicatory titles.

Entrustment, consecration

The words “entrustment” and “consecration” like “dedicated to” are used interchangeably.

Some Australian Bishops, despite the short time-frame since the announcement, have already entrusted their people and land to the Mother of God in their cathedrals and altars, broadcasting these devotional actions through their live-streaming and social media.

The most formal and widely viewed “Consecration to Our Lady” was  led by Archbishop Anthony Fisher 05 at the Cathedral in Sydney on 25 May, fittingly this year (the transposed) Feast Day of Our Lady Help of Christians, the patroness of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral.

To the end: Mary is portrayed standing beside her dying Son on the cross in this 1500 Russian painting, The Crucifixion, by Dionysius. Photo: CNS, courtesy of Tretyakov Gallery

Joy and … something else?

For some, familiar with the spiritual writings of St Louis De Montfort’s (1673-1716) True Devotion to Mary, or those involved with traditional Marian movements this news will be comforting and very welcome.  They will already sense that on many levels their Mother Mary is something like a “front-line” prayer warrior and spiritual commando in these perplexing times.

There will also be quite a few Catholics for whom the term Marian “consecration” is a curved ball, a term that is alien, something that sounds Martian rather than Marian.  There may be others who feel that the move smacks of nostalgic piety, distracting us from our closed Churches.  Isn’t “consecration” that (somewhat mysterious) thing that happens at Mass?  Where does Marian “consecration” belong in today’s Christ-centred, scripturally focussed, sense of prayer and faith?

Looking to Vatican II …

Daniel Ang, Sydney’s Director of Parish 2020 begins to explore in a helpful way the rich 21st century theology behind Marian entrustment within the context of the Second Vatican Council’s renewed theology of Mary as Mother of the Church, and Mary as the first disciple of her Son Jesus. The article can be found at The Catholic Weekly online.

Daniel also explains that the Virgin Mary’s maternal leadership in faith is a model and protection not only for Catholics but for all people: hence Pope Francis’ encouragement of Marian devotion and the world’s Bishops consecration of whole nations and territories in the “fight” against Covid-19 which has so many social, economic and spiritual dimensions.  Daniel writes: “Mary’s personal participation in God’s redemptive plan embodies the collective vocation of humanity to collaborate in the fulfilment of God’s design.”

Jesus meets his mother in the painting of the Fourth Station of the Cross by US artist Ted DeGrazia. The picture was painted in 1964 for the Newman Centre at the University of Arizona. Photo: CNS, Nancy Wiechec

… and another official reflection

Another authoritative and accessible resource for understanding the ancient sources, the scriptural and the theological context of “consecration” to the Blessed Virgin can be found in the curial document from 2001 entitled, Directory for Popular Piety and the Liturgy by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Clarifying an important distinction, the document points out that devotion, even national dedication, can never replace or overshadow the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Mystery in the Mass, Sacraments or in the Divine Office (The Prayer of the Church.)  It explains that the Liturgy is directly linked to the person, the actions “and the will of Christ” (No. 55) himself in a unique way, and the Liturgy, especially the Mass, is the source and summit of our participation as Catholics.

devotion, even national dedication, can never replace or overshadow the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Mystery in the Mass, Sacraments or in the Divine Office

A note of caution on devotion

The document also warns that some forms of private devotional life can veer off-course and neglect the Scriptural sources of our faith, can forget the importance of the Resurrection in the Redemption of the world and can blur the role of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and distract us from remembering the source and goal of our lives from, to and in God the Blessed Trinity.  We are made in the “image” of the Trinity and we are called for full “filial” participation in that Mystery of Love and Life.

Some devotions can also become so intensely sentimental and private, that they distract the Baptised from their vocations within the Church and to practical and concrete love of our neighbours.

Our Mother in Grace

However, notwithstanding these concerns, the document explains in its Chapter 5, that Our Lady is “our Mother in the order of grace.”  We can augment Liturgical faith by dedicating and warming our imaginations and hearts through the “symbolic and expressive” world of balanced devotion.

Mary’s faith and maternity- are organically linked, and these both express the call of God’s covenant with the World.  This is expressly celebrated in the Liturgy of the Church.   She has a special place in supporting and praying for us when we are facing our greatest hardships, and when we are at our smallest and most poor.

An image of Our Lady of Silence which depicts Mary as a guide and model to conetmplation. Photo: CNS, courtesy Father Emiliano Antenucci.

Clearly willed by Jesus

Pope Saint John Paul II pointed out many times our “being given to her” is something Jesus Christ willed and demonstrated from the Cross in Saint John’s Gospel 19:26-27.

In fact, we are consecrated as adopted sons and daughters in Christ, in the saving action of our Baptism. Throughout our lives we can remember and re-dedicate our Baptismal dedication at into the “hands of Our Mother.”

At times of special importance, challenge and suffering (such as “at the Hour of Our Death”) we are invited within the Maternal care of the Church, to take the “free, personal and mature” (No. 204) action of commending ourselves to Our Mother so that “we dedicate, entrust or consecrate ourselves” in renewing our primary consecration to God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the eyes of John Paul II

The theology of personal consecration to Mary was exemplified in recent times by Pope Saint John Paul II, whose entire papacy is captured by the powerful Polish term “Zawierz” meaning, the free gift of one’s entire person, service and dedication, heart, mind and body.  His papal motto, the Latin Totus Tuus, and the Pope’s papal coat of arms, bridge the Montfortian “total” dedication through Mary and while standing beneath the arms of the redemptive and saving Cross of Christ.

St. John Paul II greets throngs of Poles waiting for a glimpse of their native son at the monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa during his 1979 trip to Poland. The late pope was well-known for his devotion to the Bledssed Virgin. Photo: CNS, Chris Niedenthal

This does not give us an anaesthetic from our pain or a type of cocky remoteness from tribulations of the world- but it does unite us in hopeful solidarity while “in exile” with the Christ-focussed and grace-filled strength and love of the faithful Mother of the Covenant, Mary of Nazareth.  To cite the beautiful words of John Paul II we are held by:

Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High stands, one may say, at the very centre of those “inscrutable ways” and “unsearchable judgments” of God, conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith, accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan. (Redemptoris Mater no. 14)

Related

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GUADALUPE-POST A painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe by US artist Ted DeGrazia. Photo: CNS, Nancy Wiechec DIONYSIUS-RUSSIAN-ART-POST To the end: Mary is portrayed standing beside her dying Son on the cross in this 1500 Russian painting, The Crucifixion, by Dionysius. Photo: CNS, courtesy of Tretyakov Gallery STATIONS-OF-THE-CROSS-POST Jesus meets his mother in the painting of the Fourth Station of the Cross by US artist Ted DeGrazia. The picture was painted in 1964 for the Newman Centre at the University of Arizona. Photo: CNS, Nancy Wiechec OUR-LADY-OF-SILENCE-POST An image of Our Lady of Silence which depicts Mary as a guide and model to conetmplation. Photo: CNS, courtesy Father Emiliano Antenucci. JOHN-PAUL-II-POLAND-POST St. John Paul II greets throngs of Poles waiting for a glimpse of their native son at the monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa during his 1979 trip to Poland. The late pope was well-known for his devotion to the Bledssed Virgin. Photo: CNS, Chris Niedenthal
Covid-19 and Pentecost: a pastoral from Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/covid-19-and-pentecost-a-pastoral-from-archbishop-anthony-fisher-op/ Fri, 29 May 2020 07:34:10 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43215 It is with great joy that we learnt today that the New South Wales Government has agreed to relax the restrictions on churches and worship, to bring them into line with like venues and activities

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A woman enters St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. As of 1 June churches in NSW will be able to have congregations of up to 50 people as long as they adhere to social distancing regulations. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Sixth Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and Faithful of the Archdiocese of Sydney with Special Directives for Churches and Liturgies following the further relaxation of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, 29 May 2020 in the Light of Pentecost

Dear pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ,

Come Holy Spirit!

The explosion of grace at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) changed people forever, how they thought, spoke, related. Frightened fishermen cowering in the cenacle became fearless evangelists who gave the testimony of their lives. The story of Pentecost and what it initiated is a story of the power of the spiritual.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has on the whole responded very responsibly. The focus of our civic leaders has been very much on our physical and economic security. But what about friendship, intimacy, meaning and purpose? Such matters might be uncomfortable for public health authorities but, as the lockdown has highlighted, human beings have these other needs also.

Putting such needs in the ‘mental health’ basket doesn’t help. If we’re lonely, anxious, grieving or spiritually dry during the lockdown, if we miss being hugged or being around our extended family and friends, it’s perfectly healthy. It would be unhealthy if we didn’t feel that way! The inbreaking of the Holy Spirit speaks to that: quarantine and financial stimulus are not enough, even in a crisis, perhaps especially in a crisis. There’s the true, the good and the beautiful to consider, there’s love, and the sacred…

Deep down we all cry out: “Come Holy Spirit”. This simple prayer goes to the core of our being. It is our soul reaching out to the divine, our heart speaking to the Sacred Heart, our spirit inspired by his. For, like God, we are spiritual beings, even if like Christ we are bodily beings also. There is more to us than biology and money, important as these are. It is our souls that inform our bodies, making them live bodies, human bodies, our bodies; it is our souls that ground our consciousness, rationality and freedom, enabling creativity and, yes, economy. Our souls are also why we live after death.

In the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday (Jn 20:19-23), Jesus by-passes the barriers of isolation and distancing and re-joins his lonely disciples in the flesh, even letting them see and touch his hands and side. But first he says “Peace be with you” – Peace, Shalom, God’s presence be with you. He breathes the Holy Spirit of Peace and Presence over them. At Pentecost that Spirit returns, to warm their cold hearts, fire up their tepid souls, fuel a deep passion for the things of God and the service of people, sufficient to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. We pray at this time for that same Spirit.

St Mary’s Cathedral Dean Fr Don Richards opens the doors of the cathedral on 15 May. At that time, congregations were limited to 10 persons. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

Further easing of restrictions

It is with great joy that we learnt today that the New South Wales Government has agreed to relax the restrictions on churches and worship, to bring them into line with like venues and activities. This is a just and common-sense outcome but it took some negotiating, and I thank all those who joined our campaign for it. Other parts of Australia have not yet achieved parity between churches and other venues, and so you might still like to sign up to our revised petition at openourchurches. com.au.

We have a draft of the Checklist for COVID-19 Safety in NSW Places of Worship from NSW Health, but the Public Health Order has yet to be issued. Further updates will be given when necessary.

It is my request to you that you ensure, where possible, that churches are reopened and services resumed, in accord with these directives. And may I emphasise that these directives must be followed: if there are more than 50 at Mass or if altar servers or acolytes make no attempt at social distancing on the sanctuary, this may well come to the attention of the authorities and risk not only a penalty for that parish but a tightening rather than loosening of restrictions for all of us.

A man enters St Mary’s Cathedral on 15 May. Photo: ALphonsus Fok.

Directives for all churches and liturgies from 1st June 2020 until further notice

From this Monday, 1 June 2020, the Feast of Mary the Mother of the Church:

  • current regulations should be posted near church doors and on websites, social media platforms etc. [see document attached]
  • churches in the Archdiocese of Sydney are open and, subject to distancing requirements, may have up to 50 people inside at a time for private prayer, Confessions, Masses, Baptisms, Funerals, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary in common, Bible study etc.; only 20 attendees are presently permitted at Weddings
  • very small churches or chapels with a surface area for the congregation below 200 square metres must reduce their congregational limit to allow 4 square metres per person
  • the parish priest or trusted delegate must be present when the church is open to monitor numbers
  • at-risk parishioners should be exhorted not to attend: authorities have directed that any unwell priest, staff member, volunteer or parishioner stay away; they recommend that people with co-morbidities (e.g. compromised immune or respiratory systems) and those over 70 years of age elderly exercise particular caution
  • rationing of places for weekday Masses is probably no longer required; parishes might continue to use a booking or lottery system to identify 50 people for each Sunday Mass, while eschewing any hint of favouritism or elitism
  • Sunday Masses should be resumed and in some places they might be multiplied; nonetheless, even were Sunday Masses multiplied, many of the faithful will be unable to attend and so all but priests are dispensed from attending Sunday Mass; the faithful who cannot attend should keep Sunday holy as previously advised
  • on entering the church each attendee’s contact details should be recorded (name and phone number or email address) and the attendee should certify that they are not unwell or high risk; no record should be kept of why the person entered the church
  • previous instructions on spatial distancing still apply and have been amplified: ‘sit here’ stickers or the like should be placed in every second row of pews and at least 1½m from each other in all directions so that at least four square metres is allowed for each person; other pews/seats might be removed or cordoned off; similar notices should be placed on pews outside confessionals; people should be directed to maintain spatial distancing when queueing to enter or leave church, for Holy Communion or Confession; spatial distancing should also be observed by ministers in the sanctuary
  • previous instructions on ways of simplifying the liturgy still apply (e.g. using a lectern rather than a server to hold the book, turning pages or washing hands for oneself rather than with the assistance of a server, omitting genuinely optional elements)
  • previous instructions on maximising hygiene still apply: e.g. no holy water in stoups; hand sanitizer available at doors of churches and confessionals and in the sacristies and sanctuary; regularly disinfecting commonly touched surfaces (e.g. door knobs, confessional interiors, pews etc.) in accord with guidelines from NSW Health; time must be allowed between services for such cleaning to occur; the elements for the Eucharist must be protected from contamination before, during and after the Mass with a lid or pall; when uncovered the elements should be kept out of range of the celebrant’s breath; no Gospel procession or procession of gifts; no passing of hymn books, bulletins or collection plates; the ministers should sanitize their hands before handling objects; the priest should sanitize his hands before distributing Holy Communion; the sign of peace should be omitted or given without hand-to-hand contact; attendees are exhorted to take care when coughing or sneezing; printed bulletins are for single use only; bathrooms should be regularly cleaned, be well stocked with hand soap and paper towels, and have posters with instructions on hand washing
  • because of possible risk of aerosol transmission, congregational singing is prohibited at this time (this is ironic given how hard it is to get some Catholics to sing in public!); a cantor or small choir should provide the music if any (or a recording where this is not possible); any singer(s) should be positioned at least 3 metres away from the congregation and each other
  • for the time being, in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, Holy Communion shall be distributed and received on the hand only; the Chalice is reserved to the clergy
  • celebrants and people should minimize the time they are gathered together
  • live-streaming of liturgies should continue where convenient; please be aware of the need to observe spatial distancing but also to be seen to be doing so (some camera angles make it seem that the priest and assistants are very close to each other even when they are not)
  • regarding school Masses: see Guidelines for Schools regarding the Celebration of Masses during COVID-19 (already communicated)
  • migrant chaplains are encouraged to liaise with Parish Priests so there is a consistent response where they are sharing spaces in parishes
  • previous directives on Confessions, Worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass, Reception of the Eucharist outside of Mass, Anointing, Holy Communion and Visits to the Sick, and Funerals apply mutatis mutandis
  • alternatives to passing collection plates include bags on long handles, a plate left at each door with clarity about its purpose, tap-and-go plates, and encouragement to use direct debit
  • delayed Baptisms should now be celebrated; if more than one person is to be baptized, baptismal water should be used once only and fresh baptismal water used for the next candidate; baptismal anointings should be hygienic (e.g. use hand sanitiser before and after contact with skin)
  • the celebration of Confirmation is indefinitely postponed, except at risk of death or the baptism of an adult
  • Weddings with up to 20 attendees (plus the couple, celebrant and assisting ministers) are permitted, but might best be postponed until a fuller celebration is possible
  • previous advice on the pastoral care and practical support for elderly and shut-in parishioners, live-streaming of Masses, on-line prayer groups, discussion groups, youth groups and catechesis, parish websites and e-bulletins, continues to apply; the various online resources available through the archdiocese previously advised continue to be available and enlarged.

Context of this relaxation of restrictions on places and activities of worship

By way of context, the following points must be emphasized:

  • COVID-19 remains present in the community and highly infectious, though now in very small numbers; with the further relaxation of isolation measures and the approach of winter, we must do our best to ensure that no new outbreak occurs; clergy and faithful are therefore encouraged to download the CovidSafe App and abide by the latest public health advisories
  • Permission to reopen churches and to conduct religious gatherings of up to 50 persons from 1 June comes with strict conditions: we must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health of everyone involved and to observe the directives we have received
  • We are grateful that through the hard work of our Chancery staff, the Federal Government was persuaded to extend the JobKeeper allowance to clergy and employees in parishes and the archdiocese. Nonetheless, the closure of churches and state of the economy have seriously impacted upon parish and archdiocesan finances: the Charitable Works Fund appeal for May has been foregone and most likely will be for August; sustentation, rental and investment income have all been significantly reduced. We are by no means ‘out of the woods’ yet.
Until now, congregations in any church or place of worship were limited to 10 persons. Following the NSW government’s decision this week, numbers will be able to increase to 50 from 1 June. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Where to next?

Where to next? In due course, we hope, to heaven. In the meantime living well through the COVID-19 pandemic, with all its effects on our daily lives including our worship and community life, is in God’s strange providence part of our route to that goal. The resilience demonstrated and pastoral energies released in recent times in our parishes and agencies suggest that there will be a new momentum for our Parish 2020 renewal and our efforts of evangelisation and outreach after the pandemic passes. God can bring good out of any evil!

If infection rates continue to be very low, the Government will further ease the restrictions in coming months. But for now we can work with fifty. When a crowd of five thousand gathered around Jesus to receive his teachings and his healing touch, and he multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed them, “he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.’” (Lk 9:14)

Larger celebrations will return in due course, we hope sooner rather than later. But this will depend in part upon us demonstrating that we can keep ourselves and each other safe by exercising responsibility. Our time apart has made us all reflect upon and more deeply appreciate the importance of human company, intimacy, community. Our time together in families has also highlighted the significance of ‘the domestic church’. I ask all priests, religious and the faithful in their domestic churches to keep praying for an end to the pandemic and our return to a better way of worshipping together.

Come Holy Spirit!

Yours sincerely in Christ

Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP, DD BA LIB BTheol DPhil

Archbishop of Sydney

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200515_cw_stmarysopening_023_post A woman enters St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. As of 1 June churches in NSW wuill be able to have congregations of up to 50 people as long as they adhere to social distancing regulations. Photo: Alphonsus Fok 200515_cw_stmarysopening_008 St Mary's Cathedral Dean Fr Don Richards opens the doors of the cathedral on 15 May. At that time, congregations were limited to 10 persons. Photo: Alphonsus Fok. 200515_cw_stmarysopening_016_post A man enters St Mary's Cathedral on 15 May. Photo: ALphonsus Fok. 200515_cw_stmarysopening_024_post Until now, congregations in any church or place of worship were limited to 10 persons. Following the NSW government's decision this week, numbers will be able to increase to 50 from 1 June. Photo: Alphonsus Fok web_version
Sydney churches open – but why did it take so long? https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/sydney-churches-open-but-why-did-it-take-so-long/ Fri, 29 May 2020 06:42:16 +0000 https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/?p=43177 Better late than never It’s only right and proper that Premier Gladys Berejiklian changed her mind at the 11th hour and is now allowing churches and other places of worship to have up to 50 worshippers at any one time. The great shame is the NSW Premier’s change of heart only comes after the Catholic […]

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While it is good that the NSW Government has admitted its mistake in not treating churches and other places of worship fairly the reality is that its original decision to restrict the number of worshippers was unfairly discriminatory and wrong.

Better late than never

It’s only right and proper that Premier Gladys Berejiklian changed her mind at the 11th hour and is now allowing churches and other places of worship to have up to 50 worshippers at any one time. The great shame is the NSW Premier’s change of heart only comes after the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney under Archbishop Fisher organised a campaign opposing Berejiklian’s original decision.

The refusal to allow up to 50 worshipers to attend a church service while pubs and restaurants had their restrictions lifted from 10 to 50 denied logic and common sense.

As argued by Archbishop Fisher “We understand that the shutdown was necessary to flatten the curve, but it came at a cost – not only to the economy, but also to the spiritual and mental health of our people… I am at a loss to explain to Catholics in Sydney why our reasonable requests to the government are not being granted”.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian changed her mind at the 11th hour and is now allowing churches and other places of worship to have up to 50 worshippers at any one time

Spurious reasoning

The Premier’s justification based on overseas experience where the covid-19 virus spread among some congregations was also unjustified and spurious. Compared to overseas countries such has been our success in minimising the virus’ spread that the risk of infection is minimal.

According to the figures available on May 25, in Australia there were 7,112 cases of infection with 102 deaths. In the United Kingdom, there were 259,559 infected, with 36,793 deaths. The situation is even more dire in the United States, with 1,685,336 infections and 99,286 deaths.

Based on infections and deaths per million, Australia still has the lowest infection and mortality rates, sitting at 279 per million and four per million respectively. In the UK 3,826 per million were infected and the mortality rate was 542 per million.

Discrimination was obvious

The argument to treat churches fairly is strengthened as church authorities have promised to ensure sanitisation and social distancing protocols are adhered to. It’s also the case that many church buildings, compared to most restaurants and pubs, have ample space to ensure worshippers do not congregate.

Based on infections and deaths per million, Australia still has the lowest infection and mortality rates

That the NSW government unfairly discriminated against churches and those with a religious conviction is even more obvious when looking at the flexibility and freedom granted to museums, art galleries and libraries.

The government’s official webpage states that such public spaces beginning June 1st can open as long as they conform to covid-19 guidelines including “limiting the number of guests to allow for 4 square metres per person”. As to why churches originally were not given the same freedom beggars belief.

Sydney’s petition completely understandable

Given such unfair discrimination it’s understandable why the Sydney Archdiocese launched a petition arguing “Contrary to what has been said throughout this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practice of our faith. Premier, Catholics are not asking for special treatment, we are asking for equal treatment”.

While not suggesting the NSW Premier harboured any ill will towards religion or the Catholic Church in particular her government’s refusal to acknowledge and respect people’s spiritual needs while pandering to the appetites of those yearning for a drink and a meal illustrates how secular Australian society has become and how material needs dominate.

The spectre of political correctness

In an increasingly post-Christian age it’s also true governments are often more willing to protect minority rights involving race, ethnicity and gender compared to religious freedom which is either ignored or treated as secondary to other rights.

The NSW government’s current anti-discrimination act provides a perfect illustration. While the act currently deals with unfair discrimination in a range of areas it fails to include religious beliefs whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or any of the other religious faiths.

One Nation’s Mark Latham

Religion as a punching bag

As argued by One Nation’s Mark Latham when recently moving in the NSW Legislative Council an amendment to the bill to include religious freedom “In this era of bitterly divided political debate, religion has become a punching bag for some. Religious discrimination is real, it is unacceptable and it needs to be outlawed”. Latham goes on to ask “Why then has the NSW Government been so slow to protect people of religious faith from discrimination?”.

While it is good that the NSW Government has admitted its mistake in not treating churches and other places of worship fairly the reality is that its original decision to restrict the number of worshippers was unfairly discriminatory and wrong.  One suspects the only reason the Premier changed her mind was because of the petition and public campaign organised by the Catholic Church’s Sydney Archdiocese.  The price of religious freedom is eternal vigilance.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of a Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide available at kevindonnelly.com.au

Related

• Catholics petition for equal treatment
• Kevin Donnelly: Free speech is essential

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