Australia, America, Wales, and back to Australia again
Memo to self: Write to Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London) to express my hope that London does not win the bid for the 2012 Olympics.
This has nothing to do with the facilities on offer. Stratford East will no doubt be a fine venue for the Aquatics Centre and Olympic Stadium. Even the desolate Dome at Greenwich may have found a purpose beyond the imaginary 18,000 buses that could be parked within it.
No, it is more to do with Teresa and her attitude. She and I came to blows at Liverpool Street Station when we entered into a ‘discussion’ about the size of my luggage. Charged with the job of opening the gate at the Underground for those with bulky bags, she proceeded to give her views on the size of my valise and suggested that I enter into some sort of Olympic championship with it and the barrier.
Later, traveling to the conference leading up to the 150th celebration of SSC, I found myself on an Underground train which had abandoned any hope of revenue from advertising. Instead it was festooned with endless posters on good social behaviour. ‘No feet on seats’ ‘Keep your music down’ ‘Don’t swear’ ‘Let others off the train first’ It was like being in Singapore years ago.
Teresa cannot be left to take the blame by herself, but she does seem to be a symptom of a disease. Mr Livingstone may desire the Olympics. But what the city lacks is the heart, the collegiality and the vision amongst all the people, which is essential to make it work. He needs to know that asking people to text the word ‘London’ to some number does not mean that the people share the dream.
Memo to self: Write to Pope Benedict XVI and tell him not to worry too much about the Anglican Church.
She too has so much to offer. The Anglican Communion could make a wonderful bid to host ecumenism. After all, we have buildings, which would be the envy of many Roman parish priests. A friend took a Roman layman to Benalla (my former parish in Australia). They visited firstly the brutally re-ordered Roman Church, St Joseph’s, which had led to the writing of the book Death of a Catholic Parish: The Benalla experiment. Then they crossed the road to see the rather more sympathetically re-ordered Anglican Church – to which the response was simply ‘You bastard!’
The problem is that the Anglican Church has her own Teresa’s standing at the gates, spouting their own ill-informed and visionless thoughts. Bishop Richard Harries of Oxford is a prime example with his schizophrenic response to the election of the new Pope. On the one hand the machinery of his office presented the respectable statement acknowledging Ratzinger as an ‘able theologian’ and praying that ‘he will continue to build on the good relationships established’ between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
The very next day the Bishop expressed his disappointment at the election when he spoke on BBC Radio Oxford. So it is that this 68 year old European male, who thinks that he can speak on behalf of the young, the poor and the women of Oxford, questions the ability of a 78 year old European male to speak on behalf of the young, the poor and the women of the Catholic Church.
Harries too cannot be left to take the blame by himself. But like Teresa, he is a symptom of the disease. The Anglican Communion may desire, in some ethereal way, unity. It would be ungentlemanly not to at least pray for it. The Anglican Church indeed has so many structures for it, both at the parish level, nationally and internationally with ARCIC. She has some great visionaries who have worked tirelessly for it. Anyone who has listened to Canon Roger Greenacre on the ARCIC process cannot doubt that. But what the Communion lacks most of all is the heart, the vision and the collegiality which is needed to make it work.
Memo to self: Back home, reflect upon the Stand up for Jesus celebrations, conference and recent visit to London and Rome.
Last Sunday brought me back home, presiding at Mass for the first time since the papal election. Saying the name of the new Holy Father in the Eucharistic Prayer is strange after all these years of John Paul. I attempt some description to the congregation about my time away, both in London and also in Rome between the funeral and conclave.
The Conference and the Mass in the Albert Hall reminded us all of the international flavour to the Society of the Holy Cross, and so many shared hopes and prayers. Standing in St Peter’s Square the Monday after the funeral of John Paul the Great, there is a sense of emptiness as I look up at the window where on my last visit I saw him give his Angelus address.
There is also that desperate feeling that it is the ecclesiastical Teresa’s of our own church who have made those open and embracing arms of the colonnade of St Peter’s square into a closed gate. What an arrogance of Harries to say that in Benedict XVI the Roman Catholic Church has missed its opportunity to bolster its relationship with the Anglican Church. Who should be coming home to whom?
Teresa and Harries, there is a bag marked ‘Unity’. Open the gate and stand aside!
Finding a leader
s we all know, there’s been some good and more than a little bad that’s come barreling down the pike since General Convention 2003, the Windsor Report and associated business. Those who want to stay on top of the news from an American perspective have only to read The Christian Challenge or the popular Virtuosity to get the blow-by-blow detail. The reporting has been exhaustive and several souls have expressed their weariness of it. Who can blame them? Yet another heterodox opinion from the big money Broad Church and an equally predictable reaction from conservative Evangelicals – who have finally decided to mobilise for orthodoxy. (Orthodoxy with the wimmin included, that is; which is not really orthodoxy at all, but something else again.)
Be that as it may, at least the Evangelical campaign has gained a certain critical mass. North American Anglo-Catholics, by contrast, have not enjoyed the same success and neither has their activist mouthpiece, Forward in Faith North America.
FIFNA does not begin to occupy centre stage in the current ecclesial manoeuvring, in the way that the AAC (American Anglican Council) and the Network do. Some of its members are exceptions, the bishops of Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin, to name but a few. With, at last count, under fifty paid up member parishes it could not be otherwise. Unless this unpleasant reality is dealt with, and soon, FIFNA will become an irrelevancy.
Some think that the point of no return has come and gone. Those with the courage of their convictions have packed their bags and gone, to whatever home seems best. Several former FIFNA Presidents have gone down this route; and I, for one, wish them the best. For them (and current lawsuits aside) the war with ECUSA is over. Some, Fr Edwards for example, would have everyone follow their chosen course of action. Without arguing the pros and cons of this position per se, it is worth noting that the rank and file has not rallied to this particular call in any great numbers.
And no wonder; the tone of the message is defeatist and hardly calculated to encourage growth. Yet growth is what FIFNA needs in order to force some kind of parallel province, or even alternate episcopal oversight, out of an unwilling ECUSA. If this remains its primary goal FIFNA needs a new message, one that actually energizes people, and this needs to be put into action with confident, positive enthusiasm.
A new leader
Bishop Ackerman, FIFNA’s new President, has the energy, he also has the necessary vision to supply the message. It is not a new message, but at least it has the advantage of not being heard in our part of the Church for quite some time. It is nothing more than the positive proclamation of the Catholic Faith and the incitement to holiness of life. With this goes a strong concern for unitive thought and action. Bishop Ackerman will continue and expand his already considerable work with the Network, the Communion as a whole, and all Anglicans regardless of jurisdiction, who see common endeavour in the faith as trumping denominational concern.
To English ears this may seem strangely irrelevant. But England, remember, still retains something like a Catholic Movement. By the same token, you have enough people, priests and bishops working under one banner to make for meaningful political action. North America has none of this and must therefore work to rebuild it. It will only do so by a return to first principles. The Bishop of Quincy understands this and more to the point, believes it with a degree of passion. That is doubtless one of the reasons behind his recent election.
That said, it is one thing to tell people what you stand for, and another thing to get them to do it. Bishop Ackerman has the unenviable job of rebuilding the fragmented Catholic movement in this church, and doing so as ECUSA itself moves further away from Catholic truth and order.
There are many who say that this is impossible. I think that the new President of FIFNA should waste no time in reminding them that you do not know if a thing will work until you try wholeheartedly – and that the same Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead has more than enough power to resurrect the Catholic Movement in North America.
lection fever grips the country! Well, hardly. And by the time you read this, it will all be over and we will know the result, one way or the other.
Elections should be exciting and fun; but they rarely are. The same feeling of apathy prevails whether it is the election of a government in the general election or the election of churchwardens and PCCs in our parishes. Certainly no election fever gripped Credo Cymru – Forward in Faith Wales last autumn, when the time came to replace our admirable and hard working chairman, Wendy Burdon. There was only one candidate: and that was me.
One of the difficulties with that was that there were no hustings, no comparison of policies and ideas or even personalities. I was elected unopposed – except by me! – and, like it or not, this is what the organization ends up with. So one of my first acts was to set some sort of agenda or plan of action for the limited time that I shall be the leader, so that people at least knew what they had got and what they could have avoided if they had had a proper election.
The international stage
My first priority is to make sure that Credo Cymru becomes much more involved with the rest of Forward in Faith. I am absolutely convinced that just as the ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate is but a symptom of a much deeper disease, so the cure of that disease can only be worked out on a world-wide basis. We need to work together on the international stage, and certainly smaller provinces like ours can only have hope for the future if we work with our brothers and sisters elsewhere, and especially in England where there is still the political know-how and the critical mass to pull things off.
In relation to that, we have to use the excellent material which the working party has provided in Consecrated Women? Here we have theology and scholarship of the highest quality – the best since the days of Michael Ramsey, one person said – and this knows neither national nor provincial boundaries. The truth – and what we hold and believe is the truth – is the same wherever we are. We need to study it and absorb it into our systems. The argument is not over as some fondly imagine: the truth still struggles to be heard and here it is in excellent voice.
What we in Wales need to do also is to take our own look at the proposals in the book on the draft Measure. Legislation will differ from province to province. And so we need to get together the best of our own legal experts to see what would need to be done if legislation for women bishops comes before our Governing Body. It is no use waiting until it happens and then trying to respond on the hoof. We need to know our bottom line and have a detailed plan of how to achieve it.
Above all else my manifesto, if there had been an election, and my agenda as there was not, emphasises the need to be joyful as we keep and proclaim the faith. To this end we have planned two festivals this year, which in their own small way will take up and echo the wonderful atmosphere of the Albert Hall on 9 April.
We will continue to Stand up for Jesus as we come together for a celebration of priesthood on 19 June in St Woolos Cathedral in Newport. On that day our Provincial Assistant Bishop, David, hopes to concelebrate Mass with all the priests he has ordained since his consecration. It promises to be a great day. I did suggest that the preacher should be chosen by lot from among the concelebrants as they walked into the cathedral, but I doubt if that idea will be taken seriously.
Then on 17 September we shall return to Brecon Cathedral where we had our first, very successful Festival of Faith last autumn. In these and many events – retreats, quiet days, pilgrimages, teaching days – all over Wales, we shall continue to follow the advice of our blessed patron saint, David: be joyful; keep the faith. As we do let us continue oremus invicem, to pray for one another.
Spooky, how fast our intellectual class agreed on a way to damn the much-mourned Pope John Paul without actually seeming to prance on his grave. In Australia, this new slur, this fashionable falsehood, was best put by the Women’s Electoral Lobby’s Sarah Maddison, ‘There is little doubt that under this Pope’s leadership the Vatican’s line, particularly on the use of condoms in Africa, has caused the death of thousands of people,’ she smirked.
The Pope. A murderer. How delicious. So delicious, that SBS and Fairfax journalists just had to repeat it, insisting the Pope killed thousands – wait, millions – of Africans by banning condoms in the fight against AIDS.
In Britain, the same false story. The cover story of the prestigious New Statesman magazine slavered how the dead Pope ‘did more to spread AIDS in Africa than prostitution and the trucking industry combined’. Gay activist Peter Tatchell, of Outrage, snapped, ‘Millions of people in developing countries are orphans, having lost their parents to AIDS because of the Pope’s anti-condom dogma.’ Ditto The Independent, ‘It should not be forgotten that millions have died in Africa as a result of this theological rigidity.’
In France, the Liberation newspaper declared, ‘Blindness in the face of AIDS.’ And so on and on. I have listed so many examples to show how common it is for the Left, particularly the Leftist press, to believe the convenient lie – the foul smear – even when that lie defies good sense and easy-to-find facts. Once again, the Truth is more vital than the truth to Leftists, which is why their own dogmas are so deadly.
It is a fact that Pope John Paul II opposed condoms, telling African bishops again not long before his death that ‘fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of AIDS infection’. So is this the advice that killed millions?
First, to believe this we must believe Africans are so obedient to the Pope that they won’t wear a condom, but also so disobedient that they’ll still have casual sex. We would also have to believe that more were killed by having unprotected sex outside marriage than were saved by doing as the Pope said and zipping up. We must further believe that most or very many Africans are Catholic, and are hit hardest by AIDS.
Naturally, the truth is the very opposite. The countries with the worst HIV infection rates in the world turn out to be Swaziland and Botswana, where more than a third of adults have the virus, but where only 5% are Catholic. Botswana, incidentally, is pro-condoms, not that it seems to have helped much.
In contrast, Uganda, where half the people are Catholic, is the one African country that has slashed its rate of infection, from a devastating 15% of all adults to ‘just’ 5%. And, heavens, it worked this miracle by doing much as the Pope had preached. Since 1986, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, backed by religious leaders, pushed his ABC programme – telling people to Abstain until marriage, Be faithful to their partner, and, if all else fails, to wear a Condom.
This morals-heavy message was not welcomed by the usual condoms-please AIDS experts, many the kind of folk now heckling the dead Pope. Yet it worked so well that Dr Edward C. Green, a prominent AIDS adviser and medical anthropologist from Harvard’s School of Public Health, was driven to write Rethinking AIDS Prevention, to warn us to learn this lesson.
‘I said it in my 2003 book that the single most important behavioural change (in Uganda) was fidelity, and most of that is marital fidelity,’ Green has explained. ‘The second change is the proportion of youth engaging in sex – that went down in a big way.’
Fancy that. Christian morality makes you safer. How scary is that to a progressive? And in case you’re wondering, Green says he’s a ‘flaming liberal’ who doesn’t go to church or even vote Republican. He just follows the facts. To make things worse, he adds, ‘Twenty years into the pandemic, there is no evidence that more condoms leads to less AIDS.’
The University of California’s Professor Norman Hearst, who has studied infection rates in condom-happy countries such as Kenya and Botswana, warns that pushing condoms and the safe-sex message so hard encourages people to be promiscuous, thinking they are protected. They’re not, of course. As Hearst says, condoms sometimes fail; so if you have enough sex with enough people enough times, you’re flirting with danger.
The moral of the story? The Pope was largely right: saving sex for marriage is the best defence against AIDS. Save sex, not safe sex. We have seen it work, as other leading AIDS workers agree. Last year, for instance, respected AIDS experts appealed in the British Medical Journal for more to be done to preach faithfulness instead of just condoms.
‘It seems obvious but there would be no global AIDS pandemic were it not for multiple sexual partnerships,’ said the gurus, from groups such as the Global Fund for AIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US Agency for International Development.
But progressives who read this will be angry. They won’t want this to be true, and so won’t believe it. Sadly, that’s how most people reason. And why their anger? Because Christianity, or any philosophy that preaches restraint, responsibility and a respect for facts, threatens their freedoms, such as their freedom to have sex with whomever they choose.
So, yes, the Pope was indeed the killer they fear – not of the poor and faithful in Africa, but of the cheaper pleasures of the faithless right here. And for those now slandering this holy man, that is by far the greater sin.
With kind permission from the
Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia
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