Catholic rebellion

Niall Clugston writes: Tim Mackay (Friday, comments) appears not to have realised the Catholic Church is hierarchical, dogmatic and inflexible. How much does he know about the body he names “my Church”? Then again, how much does he know about “Christ’s teachings”? To state that Jesus “died as a faithful Jew” raises the question: which religious authorities, laws, or practices was he faithful to? If Mackay doesn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, the resurrection, or in fact the “Christian Church”, what makes him a Catholic? He should just be grateful that the Catholic Church can’t actually “materially punish” anyone anymore!

Justin Templer writes: While agreeing with every word Tim Mackay has written on the Brisbane Catholic Church’s problems with its turbulent priest, I cannot agree with his attempt to apply either logic or worth to organised religion. Jesus would turn in his tomb if he knew of the weird rituals which the human race has established to worship his name. Just imagine him saying “I like the rosary and Stations of the Cross but I’m a bit doubtful about the Joyful Mysteries”. Or preferring the Presbyterians to the Adventists. Or insisting that Christians fall to their knees in a cross-bedecked building before paying him homage. Or revelling in the exclusion of women or homos-xuals.

Any understanding of the spiritual message of the new testament insists that Jesus would abhor the cant of organised religion. But equally I understand that the Catholic Church and any other incorporation of religious dogma cannot permit the suggestion that their cant is not in accordance with Christ’s teachings. Denying the holocaust is a minor infringement compared with the destruction of the very foundations of the church — thus the church must rid itself of turbulent priests. This is not despite the priest being gentle and inclusive — it is because.

Roger Franklin writes: In his letter lamenting the goings-on at St. Mary’s in Brisbane, Tim Mackay reminds me why I have so little time these days for the Catholic Church or, indeed, religious devotions of any kind. In recent years I have heard church doctrines mis-explained, inverted, bowdlerised, and placed at the service of whichever fashionable cause happens to have been embraced by the same people who insist on using the first-person possessive, as in “my church”.

At a distant parish under the care of a priest I can only imagine Mackay would venerate, I was bemused to hear a pair of acne’d adolescents launch into John Lennon’s “Imagine”. The priest, too busy being groovy to heed the lyrics, was vamping in the wings until he could take up once again his theme of the day, which had something to do with Jesus turning off light bulbs. (The wise v-rgin, who saved her oil, might provide a theological underpinning to that argument, but Father Cool’s insistence that the Messiah took a clear position on open-cut mining is nowhere in the Gospels).

At the lessons prior to my son’s Confirmation, the lay instructor blithely asserted that the Eucharist is “symbolic’’ of Christ’s body. It is not. If you accept Catholic teaching, it is his body. It is Protestants — most of them, at any rate — who see the sacrificial wafer as symbolic, much of Europe having been laid waste at various points by rival armies of con and trans-substantiationists.

“Jesus would be spinning in his grave at the inconsistency,” sighs Mackay, again speaking for that one-man church of his, which evidently denies the Resurrection. Christ isn’t “in his grave” because, if you subscribe to Christianity’s central premise, He rose from the dead after three days — perhaps to turn off light bulbs, who knows?

Paul Gilchrist writes: Tim Mackay gave a neat little answer to his own invented exam question “unorthodox priest in Brisbane, holocaust denier Bishop, compare and contrast”. The only problems, I respectfully suggest, are the errors of fact and misunderstanding of some issues. I’m not condemning him for this, I am sure he wrote it with a good intention, but may I point out a few things.

First of all, a few simple facts. Fr Kennedy has not been “materially punished”, in fact he has been offered continued material support. I’m not sure what Tim meant by ‘”readmit” in reference to the holocaust denier Bishop Williams. He and the other members of the SSPX sect have been forbidden by the Vatican to practice as Catholic bishops and priests, and this is unchanged.

As far as I know, Fr Kennedy hasn’t been forbidden to practice as a priest, he has just been replaced as administrator in South Brisbane. The one holocaust denier in SSPX has now been condemned by them and the society has apologized to Pope Benedict for his statements. It is true that the excommunication of the members of the SSPX sect has been lifted, but anyway, the original excommunication was unrelated to any denial of the holocaust. It is, of course, possible to be a sinner in the Catholic church, there are lots of them (myself included, as well as, of course the paedophile priests and their protectors that people, quite rightly, condemn. ). Fr Kennedy himself has never been excommunicated.

As to whether Christ set up a Church on earth, that is the Catholic belief, but of course Tim Mackay can decide for himself whether he believes it or not. However, I am puzzled by Tim’s last statement that Jesus “was born, raised, actively practised and died as a faithful Jew. Christianity as we know it was partly Paul’s idea”. I thought the narrative promoted by the supporters of Fr Kennedy is that he is a rebel, like the rebellious Jesus who was punished for his criticism of the rulers of the day. Does this mean Fr Kennedy is really like Paul? And should he set up his own church or behave like Jesus and practise and live faithfully following the church he was raised in?

Stephen Magee writes: Tim Mackay asks me if “the Catholic Church is basically a hierarchical club that holds significant assets. Those in charge do with those assets as they see fit and only share the benefits as a reward to those members who conform.”

Ummm … yes. In corporate terms, the Catholic Church does not pretend to be anything else. I can’t see how anyone could claim to have been misled. If, like Father Kennedy’s supporters, you don’t want to conform, leave the club. There’s nothing keeping you there.

Father Kennedy cheerfully accepted employment with the club on the basis that he’d follow the rules (as laid down from time to time by the hierarchy). If he now doesn’t like the rules, he can hardly expect the club to keep paying him.

It’s really about time that many of those who publicly appoint (and anoint) themselves as the progressive liberal conscience of the Catholic Church p_ssed off to form their own religion in their own image — or just formally joined the Uniting Church.

Salvation Army:

Cam Smith writes: Salvos stiff the s-x lobby’s hard-earned” (Friday, item 6). I ain’t a religious man, nor a theological scholar or nothing, but it seems like Andrew Crook draws a rather long, hard bow when describing the differences of opinion within the Salvation Army. On the one hand, he describes them rejecting money from the s-x industry. On the other, they are reaching out to victims of the s-x industry. These two positions don’t seem terribly conflicted. Romans 6:23 comes to mind.

Peter Waterman writes: Interesting re salvos and donations from Tatts. Who can remember when the card the salvos gave out to people putting a coin in their box always had a riddle on the back which when solved gave the name of a racehorse tipped to win soon…

Human Rights:

Jeremy Gans writes: Re. “Brennan says Victoria’s rights charter is wrong; should we be worried?” (Friday, item 11). While it’d be nice to read Frank Brennan’s speech, rather than rely on the Oz, Greg Barns’s analysis smacks of the problematic “you’re with us or you’re against us” argument that has dogged the human rights debate (and other constitutional reforms) for decades in Australia. The mere fact that Brennan thinks that the Charter “failed its first test” doesn’t mean that he thinks human rights are a bad thing. It’s inevitable that people will disagree on human rights issues (and especially with Barns’s own simplistic approach to the conscience issue in abortion.) Rather than gloating about an unproven claim about an ‘own goal’ by the Catholic Church, Barns should find comfort with the fact that Brennan is critical of a clause excluding everyone’s human rights in relation to a key personal, political and social issue. That Brennan is looking into the actual practice of Victoria’s Charter – which has failed any number of ‘tests’ so far – is good news for anyone hoping that, if Australia goes down the same route, it will enact a statute that actually delivers on its promises.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Barns makes one good point about Frank Brennan but has muddied the waters by claiming that Brennan ought to talk more to asylum seekers. Frank spent years visiting Woomera and Baxter every month, he advocated for many of the Palestinians trapped in limbo, gave talks all over the country, wrote articles and books and lobbied Philip Ruddock for years to change the laws. He advocated for the Bakhtiyari family, an Iranian mother whose child had been beaten and teargassed during Easter 2002, he supported the Woomera lawyers group and he never let’s up on the plight of these people.

I do believe Barns ought to re-check Brennan’s long and extensive record on asylum seekers before mouthing off about anything else regarding Frank, a man I know very well and admire enormously for his courage and his commitment to the weakest and poorest.

Sol Trujillo:

Kate Newton writes: McGauchie loves Sol, shareholders not so much” (Thursday, item 2). Trujillo of Telstra may or may not be an arrogant jerk who continues to upset a lot of people especially in the media and may or may not have blown his second-last major decision. But he did get something spectacularly right – NextG. This seamless almost countrywide conversion from CDMA to cutting edge mobile on robust 850MHz was a clever decision executed speedily and with minimum fuss following his appointment. By comparison other mobile providers offer to non-capital city customers a hodge-podge of inferior coverage and signal quality on weaker frequencies that drop out in the supermarket. Whilst true that Trujillo merely bandaided his inherited clunky — no, risible, Telstra customer-company interface that continues to churn out Pythonesque scenarios when tapped with a toothpick, the success of NextG is not much short of a marvel in the overall context.

The provision of national fast cable broadband was always going to be a nightmare. Telstra was handed an unsustainable monopoly of ex-public embryonic infrastructure which is going to require a UN-style peace-accords process to sort out thanks to this legacy of a lazy Howard Government. Pulling the plug seemed like a tactic of last resort in the time available. It didn’t work, so Trujillo’s off. A long-drawn-out and probably frustrating negotiation will be required, which will involve all players. Here’s hoping the Minister is up to it.

In my opinion Trujillo has been more than OK overall given what he achieved and what he was up against. And a big advance on Ziggy.

Disclosures: I own about 100 T3, and live in Newcastle which might as well be Boggabilla as far as most other mobile telcos are concerned.

Commercial TV:

Tim Deyzel writes: Re. “So crazy it could work: what about another commercial TV network?” (Friday, item 18). Glenn Dyer’s call for a fourth commercial Free-To-Air TV network makes eminent sense. In 1956 Australia had a population of about 9.5 million people and managed to support the successful launch of two commercial TV stations (9 & 7). By 1965 our population was still only 11.5 million but we were able to support the new kids on the screen (the precursors to 10) even though they only broadcast initially in Melbourne and Sydney.

Now, 44 years since we last added a commercial TV network, we have Blu-ray, DVDs, Pay TV, the Internet and TiVos as well, but we also have at least 21 million people and are a wealthier society. Of course we can support a fourth commercial network provided that it helps change the industry by radically rethinking programming, scheduling and cost structures. Does anyone really think the soporific utterings of what passes for news is worth a $600,000 annual salary for a talking head?

Pauline Hanson:

Marcus Ogden writes: Re. “Left and lefter: Keane v Sparrow on political racism” (Friday, item 15). Bernard Keane thinks it’s nonsense for Jeff Sparrow to claim that “if you go back to Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech in Parliament, there’s not much that would cause a ripple today in either Labor or Liberal”. Here are a few of the things that Hanson called for in that speech:

  • An approach to Aboriginal affairs based on individual responsibility
  • The abolition of ATSIC
  • Rejection of Keating-style multiculturalism, with “those from ethnic backgrounds to join mainstream Australia”
  • The need for “people from ethnic backgrounds currently living in Australia” to “give this country their full, undivided loyalty”

and of course:

  • “If I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country”


John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “SackWatch compiled: Crikey‘s list of corporate shame” (Friday, item 2). With respect instead of repeating old news about job cuts already implemented last year it would be helpful to the economy if news such as Woolworth’s intention to create 17,000 jobs during 2009 received equal prominence in Crikey.

As for Harvey Norman the company stupidly promoted so-called interest free periods during an economic boom which brought forward spending, boosted fears on the inflation front and loaded up people with debt that is now maturing at the worst possible time. Gerry Harvey is no seer and I hope Crikey refrains from using his commentary in future.


Daniel Franks writes: Re. “The great Coalition climate change kerfuffle” (Wednesday, item 1). I don’t see a major risk to the postponement of the introduction of emissions trading as long as the emissions reduction target is not also postponed. That is the elegance of a trading scheme (though one now hamstrung by concessions), what you are locking in are outcomes. If business wants to delay introduction of the scheme they will just have to reach the first emissions target in a shorter span of time. We would still get our defined target — industry would just have travel a stepper trajectory to reach it.


Simon Wilkins writes: Ignaz Amrein’s assertion (Friday, comments) that Julie Leask must be in the pocket of Big Pharma to support broad vaccination completely misses the point of what I personally thought was a well balanced article. Three quick points to consider:

  1. Given the high financial risks for producers and generally poor market returns, the standard pediatric vaccine schedule cannot be considered a significant earner for Big Pharma compared with the “blockbusters” used at the other end of the age spectrum (although it could be argued such vaccines do give them sufficient “goodwill” to continue to be in the area).
  2. Those opposed to vaccination can also have undisclosed motives. The most recent example of which comes from the claim of adjuvant-associated injury with the anti-cancer/HPV-vaccine. Such a position is most often associated with the same groups that see prevention of cervical cancer as a “licence for promiscuity”. Make of that what you will.
  3. Finally, on a personal front, I was in the UK in 1998 when the Wakefield et al., paper was published, proposing a link between MMR triple-vaccination and autism. Despite 10 of the 12 authors on the original paper retracting the proposal for such a link and a comprehensive (multi-million dollar) Center for Disease Control investigation to exclude any such link to the limits of scientific probability, continued media focus/scare campaigning on the minority position saw a dramatic drop in the rate of ALL immunisations.

It is first-world decadence to decry our country’s immunisation policies when the developing world suffers the true burden of preventable diseases. If Ignaz wants equal time for the real pros and cons, he should spend some time on the GAVI alliance website.


John Innes writes: John Boswell (Friday, comments) related how he had been returning Telstra mail addressed to an ex-resident of their property for over a year. I issue a Crikey challenge: I have been “returning to sender” addressed mail from a well-known men’s clothing retailer for the last 14 years! (The addressee was last resident in our house in 1995.) Can any Crikey reader beat that?

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