Monday, 11 November

23:37

Politics resumes...and this time Mr Abbott made it to Church! [Australia Incognita]

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen, Canberra Times blog.

Our notoriously religious shy PM (his family ditched going to Mass long ago and he himself apparently struggles to get to Mass himself on any kind of regular basis), and the Leader of the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (also the product of a Jesuit education) both managed to make the Parliamentary Commencement Service at St Christopher's Cathedral today.

Well it's a good start at any rate.

Personally I'm looking forward to some actual reporting of what is going on in our country (and preferably some critical appraisal) from our media.  Mr Abbott can stop his MPs from talking to the media or sharing actual information, but he can't easily stop Question Time.  And as Michelle Grattan has pointed out, secrecy becomes foolish when we then get the news via the Jakarta Times!

23:10

The challenge of a post-modern world [Australia Incognita]

One of the preoccupations of the Church at the moment in the US, Australia and elsewhere - not least in the light of the Pope's fresh approach to this challenge - is how to pitch its message to, how to evangelise, our rapidly changing world.

So it should be.

What is to be done?

The reality is that we live in a society where the decline in the number of practising Catholics shows no signs of bottoming out, and where even those who do go to Church regularly can't be counted on to accept or follow what the Church actually teaches.

And instead of converting the West, the proportion of Christians in our society continues to fall.

This is a situation the Church cannot just keep ignoring.

Unfortunately, most people talking about this issue seem stuck in some tired old grooves, and persist in refusing to learn the lessons of recent decades.

Accordingly, I plan to devote a few posts to this subject over the next little while, looking at the merits or otherwise of some of the ideas being put forward.  Because in my view, some of them are positively dangerous.  But you may have a different take on the subject...

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?!

Consider for example the current preoccupation with the apparent lack of a genuine inner spiritual life on the part of many Catholics, most often described these days as a lack of a 'personal relationship with Jesus'.

Shelley Waddell's book on this subject Creating Intentional Disciples is getting a lot of kudos on this subject at the moment, with its claims that only around 5% of practising Catholics are genuinely committed Catholics ('disciples') and that to fix this we essentially need to protestantise the Church, and focus less on liturgy and more on things like actually talking about our personal spiritual lives ('testimony') and the support structures in parishes.

Now I don't dispute that there are some useful insights in this book, and I might say more about this in a subsequent post.   In particular, she is effectively advocating rebuilding some of the Catholic culture and infrastructure that was deliberately destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s, and I do think we need to recover this.

But I think Ms Waddell has missed the crucial point, for I would argue that the reason many Catholics today lack any real sense of a personal God is not because we don't talk about it, but because the liturgy at the average parish Church does not create any sense of transcendence, does not convey a sense of the sacred.

In fact Ms Waddell puts a lot of emphasis on Eucharistic Adoration, perhaps because that is one remaining context in the Church where the sense of awe in the presence of God is still actively cultivated.

The solution though isn't just more Adoration - it is the resacralisation of the liturgy!

Here's the thing: if you are not ever exposed to a sense of the sacred, and if you are immersed in a culture that actively seeks to suppress the truth, how can you be expected to develop an understanding that there is someone out there you are supposed to be connecting to?

And how can you be expected to unconsciously absorb the proper Catholic means of making that connection if instead of being exposed to silence and prayer in the liturgy you are instead constantly bombarded with demands to 'actively participate' in distracting words and action?

There are major dangers too, I think, in some of the other ideas Ms Waddell proposes to address the problem.

I for one don't actually think, as a general principle, that we should go around talking about our inner spiritual lives (except to a trusted priest or spiritual director) for example.  There may be the odd occasion when it is appropriate, but it seems to me that there are huge dangers in this sort of thing (consider the case of the Medjugorje 'seers' and innumerable other charlatans we've seen in recent times).  We would be a lot better of, in my view, pointing Catholics to the lives of the saints for guidance.

Aggiornamento revisited

Even more troubling, in my view, are the advocates of another round of 'updating' of the Church to our times.

The first version of this paradigm is stuck in the 'great grace of Vatican II' paradigm.  The challenge, according to this school of thought, is adapting the Church to modernity, and the problem is that the Spirit's directions to the Church through Vatican II just haven't been heeded properly.

One version of this paradigm is the reform of the reform/neo-conservative one advocated by Pope Benedict XVI.   But the more liberal take on the Council has also been re-energized, courtesy of  by Pope Francis' creative comments and actions.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of Vatican II, though, the reality that I think all in this school need to grasp is that the world has moved on.  We are now living in an increasingly post-modern world, and prescriptions based on a culture of modernity just won't do the job.

Some have recognised this, and are now advocating a fresh round of updating to tailor the Church to this new culture.

Indeed, some argue that this is just what Pope Francis is seeking to do.

The argument goes like this I think.  Modernity exulted the mind, so the neo-conservative emphasis on dogma made sense in that context.  Post-modern culture, however, exults the body, so Pope Francis' emphasis on visible witness is better adapted to the emerging mindset around us.

Dialogue vs dialectics

Personally, I think we do indeed need to try and understand the cultural mindset that surrounds us.

The Church does, after all, always adjust its pitch to the world and the way it operates to the circumstances it finds itself in.

It is not obvious to me though, that those thinking about these issues have really grasped the reality that no amount of 'rebranding' will stop the world from hating the Church, and that we need to be careful to treasure, preserve and hand down the tradition within the Church, regardless of how we pitch to the outside world.

Above all, the thing we surely need to learn from the last fifty years is surely that the Church needs to engage dialectically with the world, not 'dialogue' with it to find common ground, because frankly, there is none.

The fundamental challenge is that post-modernity is not just a reaction to modernity, it is an over-reaction to it.  Where modernity exulted the mind and prized rationality and reason to the exclusion of any sense of the sacred and acceptance of the miraculous, post-modernity exults the body, reflected in its pornification of sexuality and emphasis on the priority of emotion.

What the Church has to offer is not some way of treasuring any of its facets, but rather a way of finding a proper place between two false extremes.

I want to say more about the implications of the culture of post-modernity, but I'll save that for another post!

03:14

Paul Keating's Remembrance Day speech [Australia Incognita]

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating gave the official commemoration speech at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today.

Those present included the Governor-General, Chief Justice, Head of the Defence Force, Leader of the Opposition and many more.  Indeed the only notable absentee was the current Prime Minister, who apparently he chose to attend the ceremonies in Melbourne instead...

In any case, as ever, Mr Keating's was a great speech, though I'm not sure I share some his optimism that Australia has learnt the lessons of the twentieth century!

You can watch it here.  Here is the text:

Nine months from now, 100 years ago, the horror of all ages came together to open the curtain on mankind's greatest century of violence – the 20th century.

What distinguished the First World War from all wars before it was the massive power of the antagonists.

Modern weaponry, mass conscription and indefatigable valour produced a cauldron of destruction the likes of which the world had never seen.

The statesmen who had set these forces in motion had never assumed that their conflict might be limited only by the scale of their young populations. They failed to understand how developing industrial organisation, railways, science and rising productive capacity rendered almost inexhaustible the ability of each to deliver the death blow and keep on delivering it.

The generals, especially the Allied ones, knew through military training that not since the Napoleonic Wars had frontal attacks been effective – certainly not against the foil of barbed wire fortified by the modern machine gun. Yet, a line of trenches was dug, from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps – a front which denied commanders the opportunity of that classic military manoeuvre – the turning flank and encirclement. This denied, the line was fortified by major cannon and howitzers, while the generals fell back on the only policy left to them – the policy of exhaustion.

And into this deadly crevice they fed their heroic, young obedient populations.

The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism. A complex interplay of nation state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural superiority peppered with racism.

The First World War not only destroyed European civilisation and the empires at its heart; its aftermath led to a second conflagration, the Second World War, which divided the continent until the end of the century.

But at the end of the century, from the shadows, a new light emerged. Europe turned its back on the nation state to favour a greater European construct. Individual loyalties are now directed from nationalist obsessions toward an amorphous whole and to institutions unlikely to garner a popular base. It is difficult to imagine these days, young Europeans going into combat for the European Commission, or at a stretch, the European Parliament.

This advent means that European leaders are no longer in a position to ask or demand the sacrifices which once attended their errant foreign policies. A century beyond Armageddon, young men and women are now freed from that kind of tyranny.

The virulent European disease of cultural nationalism and ethnic atavism not only destroyed Europe, it destroyed the equilibrium of the world.

While a century ago Australia was an outreach of European civilisation, here we had set about constructing an image of ourselves, free of the racial hatreds and contempts which characterised European society. Though White Australia institutionalised a policy of bias to Caucasians, within Australia we were moving through the processes of our federation to new ideas of ourselves. Notions of equality and fairness – suffrage for women, a universal living wage, support in old age, a sense of inclusive patriotism.

And our sense of nation brought new resonances; Australian stories, poetry and ideas of our Australian-ness. We even developed a celebratory decorative style in our architecture and named that Federation. We had crystallised a good idea of ourselves and had begun to break free of the dismal legacy of Europe's ethnic stigmatisation and social stratification.

By 1915 we had no need to reaffirm our European heritage at the price of being dragged to a European holocaust. We had escaped that mire, both sociologically and geographically. But out of loyalty to imperial Britain, we returned to Europe's killing fields to decide the status of Germany, a question which should earlier have been settled by foresight and statecraft.

Those bloody battles in Flanders, on the Western Front and at Gallipoli nevertheless distinguished us, demonstrating what we were made of. Our embrace of a new sense of human values and relationships through these events gave substance to what is now the Anzac tradition. For whatever claims Britain and its empire had on those who served and died on the Western Front and at Gallipoli, the primary claim remained Australia's.

Those Australians fought and died not in defence of some old world notion of competing empires and territorial conquests but for the new world – the one they belonged to and hoped to return to.
This is why Australia was never in need of any redemption at Gallipoli, any more than it was in need of one at Kokoda 30 years later. There was nothing missing in our young nation or our idea of it that required the martial baptism of a European cataclysm to legitimise us.

What the Anzac legend did do, by the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, was reinforce our own cultural notions of independence, mateship and ingenuity. Of resilience and courage in adversity.
We liked the lesson about supposedly ordinary people; we liked finding that they were not ordinary at all. Despite the fact that the military campaigns were shockingly flawed and incompetently executed, those "ordinary people" distinguished themselves by their latent nobility.

The unknown Australian soldier interred in this memorial reminds us of these lessons as much as he reminds us of the more than 100,000 Australians lost to us by war.

I regard as a singular honour the decision by the Council of the War Memorial to permanently display an engraving of the oration I gave as prime minister at the funeral service of the unknown Australian soldier on November 11, 1993. And to have some words from that oration inscribed on that hallowed tomb.

My time as prime minister spanned the period of the Pacific War, 1941 to 1945, 50 years on. It caused me to visit the sites of our military action from Papua New Guinea through to Thailand. It made me think much and write about the various episodes of conflict, of the bravery and suffering of Australian service men and women during the Second World War.

This context sharpened the memory and essence of the Anzac legend, within which it was decided to inter an unnamed, unknown Australian soldier in the Memorial's Hall of Memory.
Indeed, the War Memorial's then director, Brendon Kelson and his deputy, Michael McKernan, were instrumental in the process that led to the interment of the soldier.

The words the Memorial enshrines today were written for that occasion.

When Don Watson and I first discussed the writing of it, we both felt the poignancy of the occasion. My uncle, William Keating, had died in 1945 on the death march from Sandakan to Ranau, while Don Watson's grandfather was twice wounded in Flanders after being infected with Spanish flu. He returned to Australia, never recovering from it.

The history of those two theatres of war had haunted each of our lives in differing yet similar ways.
I thought it important that the speech express with clarity, simple notions of understanding and appreciation that went in personal terms, such that we might have been speaking of a relative who had died in some contemporary calamity. Hence the notion that "he" was all of them yet one of us.

By his interment, I thought it important to say that this unknown Australian soldier would serve his country yet again. That his presence would give us a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian as well as serving to remind us of the sacrifice of the more than 100,000 men and women who never came home.

As prime minister, I was particularly pleased to bring these episodes of our history, especially the First and Second World Wars, into sharper relief. To remind us that the deeds of our men and women at war give us an opportunity to renew our belief in the country, while renewing our appreciation of their faith, loyalty and sacrifice.

The soul of a nation is the richer for it having been warmed by its stories and traditions. Yet its stories and traditions should not stifle or constrain its growth as it needs to adapt.

I am greatly heartened that so many young Australians find a sense of identity and purpose from the Anzac legend and from those Australian men and women who have fought in wars over the last hundred years. But the true commemoration of their lives, service and sacrifice is to understand that the essence of their motivation was their belief in all we had created here and our responsibility in continuing to improve it.

Homage to these people has to be homage to them and about them and not to some idealised or jingoistic reduction of what their lives really meant.

One thing is certain: young Australians, like the young Europeans I mentioned earlier, can no longer be dragooned en masse into military enterprises of the former imperial variety on the whim of so-called statesmen. They are fortunately too wise to the world to be cannon fodder of the kind their young forebears became: young innocents who had little or no choice.

Commemorating these events should make us even more wary of grand ambitions and grand alliances of the kind that fractured Europe and darkened the 20th century.

In the long shadow of these upheavals, we gather to ponder their meaning and to commemorate the values that shone in their wake: courage under pressure, ingenuity in adversity, bonds of mateship and above all, loyalty to Australia.

01:56

The Philippines need our help - so why isn't the Government giving it? [Australia Incognita]

Around 10,000 people are feared dead in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

As the Pope has pointed out, they need both our prayers and concrete help.

Not much joy on that front from our current Government - so far Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has pledged "an initial" $390,500 in emergency aid.  Wow, how generous.

You can however donate yourself via Caritas or other public appeals.

The Guardian has a useful live update post on events there.

***Update: Julie Bishop has announced a $10 million aid package.  That matches distant Britain's commitment.

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14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
August 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31010203040506
July 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29300102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930310102
June 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
May 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
April 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30310102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930010203
March 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
23242526272801
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30310102030405
February 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272801
January 2015
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29303101020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
December 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29303101020304
November 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
October 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29300102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930310102
September 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
August 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
July 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
June 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30010203040506
May 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293001020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
April 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
March 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
24252627280102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31010203040506
February 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627280102
January 2014
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30310102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930310102
December 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
25262728293001
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30310102030405
November 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293001
October 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
August 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29303101020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
July 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29303101020304
June 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
May 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29300102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930310102
April 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
March 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
25262728010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
February 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728010203
January 2013
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
December 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829300102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31010203040506
November 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29303101020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829300102
October 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29303101020304
September 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
June 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293001
May 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
March 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282901020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
February 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30310102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282901020304
December 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293001020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
November 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
July 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
April 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293001
March 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
November 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
August 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30310102030405
June 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
January 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
December 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
November 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30010203040506