DISUNITED THEY STAND


Eureka Street is a smug little magazine of religious and general affairs, highbrow in aspiration but middlebrow in realisation. It is published (and subsidised) by the Jesuits, and represents their attempt to contrive an Australian version of the Tablet, that standard-bearer of Catholic anti-Vaticanism in England. Eureka Street is the name of a lane behind the Jesuit publishing headquarters in Richmond, Victoria, a thoroughfare that must have seemed to Eureka Street's begetters when thinking up a title conveniently close for reasons that have nothing to do with bringing the car round the back. Did the Eureka appeal to editorial hopes that readers opening the magazine and absorbing its wisdom would leap from their baths in transports of enlightenment? Perhaps. More probably though the appeal was as an allusion to an intended policy of dissent parallel to that of the Tablet, but with a flavour of Irish-Australian nationalism and the cultural larrikinism thrown in, in the spirit of the stockade and its rebellious heroes.

In selecting contributors the editors of Eureka Street exercise the Jesuits' well-known preferential option for leftish bien-pensant social workers, university teachers and journalists, the kind of people who see themselves as radicals fighting injustice like the miners in the stockade, but are themselves pillars of a liberal establishment that enforces its orthodoxies in all areas of public life. There is a stock catalogue of them on the magazine's website, where the cast list includes such luminaries of the left as Moira Rayner, Clive Hamilton, Frank Brennan and Paul Collins. At the editorial heart of Eureka Street the dual spirits of Vatican II and the Berrigan brothers still flicker falteringly after nearly half a century, like the fading flame on a liquescent tea light.

Naturally, as a mouthpiece of modern Aussie Jesuits, Eureka Street is no fan of Pope Benedict XVI and is especially disapproving of his efforts to clear away the dated detritus of post-Vatican II liturgical innovation. The Pope's rehabilitation of the Latin Mass is a particular cause of irritation. Vatican II enthusiasts have fought tooth and nail to keep the post-conciliar Mass the only Mass because its radical discontinuity with what went before symbolises their distorted and unhistorical notion of the Council as a "fresh start" for the Church.

Eureka Street article touching on this topic and subsequently the subject of a complaint and a retraction has afforded the following pleasing little illustration of the way in which opposition to a papal initiative is expressed by a member of an order once noted for its loyalty to the Pope, the opposer scuttling back behind a wall of apologies and protestations of having been misunderstood when called to account, like a child caught out playing knick-knock. The article was published in 2009 but I have only recently come across Eureka Street's retraction.

The article was headed "Disunity in the Year of the Priest" and came from the pen of the magazine's arch-liberal theological correspondent, Father Andrew Hamilton SJ. The complainant, a young Sydney priest called Father James McCarthy (son of the new Australian ambassador to the Holy See) drew attention to the fact that in his article Hamilton had "fairly explicitly" criticised three unnamed newly ordained priests, one of whom McCarthy felt might be taken to be himself, for having said their first Mass (an important event for every new priest) in - you can almost hear Hamilton's shocked little intake of breath at the thought - Latin (though whether Latin in the "old Mass" now authorised by Pope Benedict as the Extraordinary Form or in the normative text of the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo was not specified). In Hamilton's book this was an act of "disunity", as he explained in his article:

"The concerted choice of Latin suggests that many young priests share a distinctive vision of the Church, of priesthood and of pastoral priorities that older priests would not share."

Which being interpreted is, they don't go along with the desacralised, pottery-cup-and-ironing-board, cardboard-language liturgy that Hamilton's generation forced on their congregations, and the concomitant theology that demotes the priest from alter Christus to "presider" at a communally celebrated memorial meal.

Moreover, Hamilton admonishes, "the co-existence in the same church of priests who have a radically different outlook and preference for forms of worship ... would affect particularly the critical relationship between priests and the people they are ordained to serve. Will congregations be subjected to the conflicting styles of preferences of priests who succeed one another?" (And a pretty rich question that is, coming from a representative of the generation that, in order to release the "spirit" of the liturgy and let it float free, made ignoring the unifying rubrics in the Missal the core strategy of their ars celebrandi, so that from church to church no Mass is quite the same.) "Will there be a settlement by which individual congregations are reserved to Latinophile or Anglophile (sic) priests? Will Catholics be encouraged to shop around to find priests and congregations that offer congenial brands of Catholic life and worship?"

Talk about the boot being on the other foot. That last question describes exactly what Catholics are obliged to do to avoid the awfulness of the liturgy the Eureka Street mentality has imposed wherever it has been able. But that of course is fine, as long as it's only unreconstructed pre-Vatican II reactionaries and nutters who have to shop around. But what if liturgical liberals had to? Oh dear, it doesn't augur well, those three young priests ordained in Sydney saying their first Mass in Latin.

Except of course that they didn't. So keen was he to get in his snipe against Latin that Hamilton had rushed into print on the basis of hearsay or his own imagination. "I do accept that I was mistaken in saying that three out of four priests in the Sydney archdiocese celebrated their first Mass in Latin," he conceded in reply to McCarthy's letter. "I should have checked the facts before publishing the statement. And" - get this - "I apologise to Fr McCarthy for inferring" (sic again, he means implying) "that he had himself celebrated his first Mass in Latin, and for any hurt" (my italics) "that this inference" (sic yet again) "may have caused him." That phrase "for any hurt" is revealing of Hamilton's own attitude to the traditional Mass, I should say. He'd presumably be very put out in the unlikely event of someone accusing him of saying one.

Hamilton went on, still in unconsciously self-revelatory mode: "I should also emphasise that in my article I did not argue that it would be blameworthy for a priest to celebrate his first Mass in Latin," - blameworthy! What could be blameworthy in a Catholic priest doing something authorised by the Pope himself? - "nor that it would be divisive to do so." Why then did he write an article nominating the use of Latin as one of the contributing elements to this supposed disunity in the Year of the Priest? "I wanted only to argue that among priests there are quite different approaches to their priesthood, and that this must be recognised in order to ensure that these differences do not become divisive." Yeah, of course.

It might be argued that such disunity as there undoubtedly is in Catholicism can be laid at the door of those who in the fifty years since the Second Vatican Council have consistently misrepresented and defied the liturgical norms of the Church in the name of "renewal" rather than of those now seeking to return to the traditional Mass and to authentic Catholicism.

In this regard a young priest such as Father McCarthy represents the future. He describes himself as "pastorally formed and prepared to celebrate the Mass in whatever form and way the faithful desire and spiritually need." In other words he is happy to celebrate a Latin Mass if required and presumably at some point will. So will many if not most of the other young priests emerging from the seminaries. Eureka Street and the Hamiltons of this world will have to like it or lump it. They can either persist in their own anti-Latinate disunity or get with the programme.

31 January 2013


LET JUSTICE BE DONE


Not content with the "snail's pace" time frame of the federal government's Royal Commission into child abuse, the inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill ("proudly twinned with Pyongyang") is to set up its own commission of inquiry. "The three years the federal commission is going to take is far too long - half of the worst offenders will be dead by then," says Councillor Les Rhiannon, Mayor of Burchett Hill and leader of the Greens majority on the city council. "We want these evil deviates named and shamed as quickly as possible and shoved into the stinking dungeons where they belong." The Council has already let a contract to extend the "Burchett Hill People's Prison and Re-education Centre", at present a one-cell lock-up behind the police station, to accommodate hundreds of new inmates.

Unlike the federal Royal Commission, the Burchett Hill inquiry will have the power to impose sentences. "Our operating model will be the Moscow state trials of the 1930s, much maligned by reactionary historians but in truth a demonstrable exercise in juridical fairness," says Councillor Rhiannon. "Everyone charged will have five minutes to defend themselves, no on second thoughts maybe two at the most. We don't want to waste public time and money listening to a lot of self-serving blather when it's pretty well obvious that abusers brought before the commission are guilty, otherwise they wouldn't be there."

The Mayor "bitterly regrets" that the commission will not be able to avail itself of the power of the Moscow trials to have convicted offenders shot. "As a party, of course, we're in favour of gun control. We're also opposed to capital punishment, though I wouldn't mind making an exception in the case of child abuse."

Nor will the commission be "royal". It will be "a People's Commission in every sense of the word," says Councillor Rhiannon. "Judges and jury will be ordinary citizens with no axe to grind and absolutely disinterested except that as a qualification for membership of the sentencing panel they will already have been active in denouncing child abusers. In this regard I have invited some top people in the field to serve on the commission - names such as Hetty Ogre, founder of 'Protect Our Kidz' and Tom Peeping, chair of 'Prurient Rites', all absolutely impartial."

The "chair" of the commission will be the Mayor's "partner", Ms Drusilla Alitosis. "She knows at first hand the pain and hurt abuse can cause," says Councillor Rhiannon, "ever since her brother Georgiou was 'propositioned' at the tender age of twenty-three in a bar on Mykonos" (the Alitosis family is of Greek origin). "The offender was an Australian tourist and although he was dressed in holiday attire Georgiou suspects he was a Catholic priest, in fact he's pretty sure he was. The fact that the proposition was accepted only shows the malign power these abusers exercise over vulnerable people."

Georgiou, who is now fifty-one, has blamed the recent failure of his Blue Aegean fish shop in Burchett Hill on the "nervous damage" he suffered as a consequence of the incident, which had left him "utterly incapable of running a business."

The terms of reference of the People's Commission are wide-ranging. "We will be investigating abuse anywhere and everywhere by anybody," says the Mayor. "I want to make it very clear that this is not a witch hunt against any one section of the community."

For instance, all children educated in Roman Catholic schools will automatically be regarded as abuse victims, on the principle enunciated by Professor Richard Dawkins, who has said that a Catholic education is actually worse than abuse. "Indeed," added the Mayor, "it is indoctrination of the most insidious and vicious kind."

Councillor Rhiannon has dismissed claims by "right-wing nutters" that the compulsory three-hour municipally-mandated "civics" courses taught each day in Burchett Hill state schools and kindergartens, with units such as "Wicked multinationals: their role in causing Global Warming" and "Post-birth abortion: a better future for us all", also amount to indoctrination. "My answer to that is short and to the point. Balls!"

Among the many submissions already made to the commission, a number are in relation to accusations of abuse in Burchett Hill municipal children's institutions. "No, we won't be going there," says Councillor Rhiannon. "Take it from me that those accusations are not even worth investigating. Local government agencies are definitely not part of the inquiry's remit. The institutions in question are all run by respected members of our Greens Party, and if one of those guys has been having a bit of a fling with the kids, well, as you probably read in a recent Guardian Weekly, that's now OK as long as it's consensual.

"Besides," he added, the commission will be far too busy bashing, that is to say, enquiring into what the Catholics have been up to to bother about frivolous and vexatious claims from elsewhere." Referring to a book he has been reading on the Spanish Civil War, the Mayor said that "like those heroes of the Barcelona massacres, La Pasionaria and Santiago Carrillo, here in Burchett Hill our commission will not rest until every parasitical priest and so-called brother or nun is expunged from the face of the earth - from Burchett Hill anyway. Once we've done that we're going to get Geoffrey Robertson from London on the job - Dru and me used to watch him on The Hypotheticals, he's an Aussie though you wouldn't know it from the way he speaks. Anyhow he's worked out a way to arrest the Pope - and if we can get that leering old enemy of humanity here I think we can safely leave the rest to our People's Commission."

28 January 2013

There are other news stories from Burchett Hill in Argus here ("Municipal News"), here ("A Feast of Reason"), here ("On the Street Where You Eat"), here ("The One Day of the Year"), here ("The Glorious First of May"), here ("Support for the Arts"), here ("How May I Not Help You?"), here ("Our Very Own Olympics"), here ("Marriage Reform in Action"), here ("A School Story"), here ("A Voice in the World") and here ("A Blow Against Misogyny"). 

WHY IS NO ONE MAKING THE RETURN TRIP?


Australia Day, and bang on cue comes the usual tiresome and divisive bleat from the Melbourne Age about how dreadful it all is ("A national day of shame").

It was the day that marked the theft of a land (terra nullius), the day that marked the theft and abduction of a people, of a culture, the day that initiated the pathways to the Stolen Children and, to our ultimate shame, the deaths in custody. It is a day that stands as a reminder of massacres ...

etc. etc. You can write the script yourself. I don't know why the Age doesn't simply recycle the same piece each year and put a different name to it.

This year the bleat comes from a right-on old liberal called Peter Gebhardt, described as a poet, retired judge and former headmaster of Geelong College (he left "after a disagreement with the school council". You can just picture that). Why don't these people take their shame to its logical conclusion and clear out? A few years ago a Melbourne clergyman, Canon Peter Adam, announced that that was the only thing to do if we were ever to right the wrong of Aboriginal "dispossession": hand the country back to its rightful owners and repatriate ourselves to wherever our wicked forebears came from - though whether that would mean England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Scandinavia or a combination of any of them (Britain and Germany in the case of the Gebhardt) or anywhere else in Europe, or Asia come to that, is a moot point. But neither the canon nor any of the other wailers about white guilt has booked a ticket. It's far easier to relish the moral complacency of parading one's ersatz shame on 26 January, enjoy the comforts of living in this stolen country, pocket one's cheque from the Age and forget about "invasion day" until next year.

26 January 2013

VICTORIA CANCELS GRAND PRIX


BY OUR STATE POLITICAL REPORTER

The Victorian Premier, Mr Baillieu, has announced that Melbourne is to cancel the Grand Prix. He cited "budgetary constraints" as among the factors that had led him to "pull the plug" on the celebrated race.

Mr Baillieu said he had agreed a "variation" to the existing GP contract with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. The new deal states that the Grand Prix will be suspended though Mr Ecclestone will still be paid.

Mr Baillieu described the new arrangement as "a coup for Victoria". He said it would be "a marvellous step towards making the state greener."

According to figures released today, in recent years Mr Ecclestone has been receiving $30 million dollars in licensing fees per Grand Prix. Mr Baillieu said this figure would "naturally have to rise to keep in line with inflation, as Bernie very rightly points out." The diminutive race supremo has reportedly asked for a further $100 million to license the Grand Prix not to run.

Reacting to claims by critics of the race that he was "breathtakingly greedy", Mr Ecclestone was defiant. "We can all do with an extra quid or two, can't we?" he told reporters.

Mr Ecclestone said he was "disappointed" that the Grand Prix would no longer be run in Melbourne, but not half as disappointed as he would be if his demand for increased payment were not met. He did not think this would be the case, though, as he had found Mr Baillieu "a pushover - that is to say, a very flexible negotiator."

Mr Ecclestone said his disappointment at the suspension of the race would not be allowed to interfere with his business philosophy, which he said had always been "dog eat dog and take what you can get." His principles, he added, were based on "never giving sumfink for nuffink." After all, he continued, "it's a hard cruel world out there, innit?"

Mr Baillieu believes that up till now the Grand Prix has been "great value" for Victoria "but all good things must come to an end." Asked how increasing the licensing payment to Mr Ecclestone would accord with the "budgetary restraints" he had cited as a reason for cancelling the race, the Premier explained that "it is precisely because of that extra expense that we will have to exercise budgetary restraint in other areas."

Environmental groups and Albert Park residents have welcomed the decision to terminate the Grand Prix. Said one yellow-ribboned veteran of the "Save the Park" campaign: "It is wonderful to think that this beautiful stretch of public land can now be returned to its original function as a place for dog-walking, birdwatching, same-sex encounters and other community activities."

24 January 2013

OUR TOP TEN STUNNERS


Here they are, the Argus New Year list of Australia's Top Ten Bores. These are the public figures the very mention of whose names induces instant catatonia. Hear them hold forth and every syllable has the effect of a stun gun. A pity boring is not an Olympic sport. Australia would do very well indeed.

PHILLIP ADAMS
Advertising agent and radio windbag. Heads the list alphabetically but the nation's No. 1 Bore on any reckoning, the doyen of the species. Latterly less ubiquitous than when he was single-handedly setting up the local film industry or whatever he is supposed to have done.

JANE CARO
Advertising agent and all-purpose know-all with annoying accent.

JOHN CLARKE
Archetypical New Zealander now resident here. Believes himself a comedian. Known for his one-voice, one-silly-facial-expression-fits-all "impersonations" of politicians.

REV. TIM COSTELLO
Probably Australia's highest paid cleric. Tedious and utterly predictable pontificator on "social justice" from his executive suite at the charity World Vision.

MALCOLM FRASER
Ponderous and pompous ex-prime minister. Has never got over being an Eminent Person and sees himself as an international statesman. Much given to sententious utterances about how wrong the Liberal Party is compared to the days of his leadership. The only remotely interesting thing about his grey sludge-like persona is that he once lost his trousers in unexplained circumstances in an American hotel.

ROD QUANTOCK
Another soi-disant comedian. Tragically unfunny. Notorious as a climber-aboard every fashionable progressive bandwagon. His most celebrated role was as Cap'n Snooze in a commercial for beds.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON
QC living in London. Known for his sui generis DIY "English" accent and his very selective advocacy of "human rights", especially dodgy cases (e.g. Julian Assange, who is not on this list because, whatever else he is, he is not a bore).

DICK SMITH
Electrical-goods salesman who has recycled himself as an (albeit unqualified) authority on social and environmental issues.

MARGARET THROSBY
Radio interviewer. The apotheosis of the suburban housewives' book club member with a taste for Culture.

GOUGH WHITLAM
Now a spent force but for years a consummate and veteran bore and the leader of a whole tribe of myrmidon bores, mainly in education, media, "the arts" and the republican movement, still moaning on about his thoroughly merited dismissal nearly forty years ago and endeavouring to maintain their increasingly geriatric rage.

Do you agree with our selection? Like to nominate someone yourself? Christine Milne, Don Watson, Geraldine Doogue, the Dodson brothers? Please go ahead. There's a wealth of yawn-provoking talent out there, more than enough to turn the Top Ten into the Top Twenty.

22 January 2013

A SHAMEFUL BREACH OF PRIVACY


Distasteful though the Tom Knowles affair is, the Melbourne Age, splashing the "scandal" on its front page, has acted maliciously and possibly illegally in breaching Father Knowles's privacy as a citizen. He has done nothing against the law. There is no conceivable way the report serves public interest. There is no "news value" in it since before this few had ever heard of him. Reprehensible as his conduct as a priest has been, that is no business of the Age. Indeed, one strongly suspects that it is solely because Knowles is a Catholic priest that the Age carried the story at all. If he had been, say, a Greens senator or in some other Age-preferred walk of life we would never have heard a thing about it. The Age has deliberately acted as a publicity machine for an angry and, it would seem, vindictive woman. She is disabled, but she is not saying that Knowles raped her. That she allowed the "relationship" to go on for fourteen years hardly suggests that she found it utterly repugnant. She is described as "vulnerable"- well, not half as vulnerable as Catholic priests in the present wave of anti-clerical hysteria, whipped up by such publications as the Age and, as I have written before, all part of an ideological campaign to neuter the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion and other causes dear to the secularist heart.

Father Knowles should sue the Age for its unwarranted, unjustifiable and shameful intrusion into his personal life.

Talk about the media regulation deemed so essential by the Left. If anyone needs it it's not the Murdoch press but such impeccably Left-liberal organs as the Age.

22 January 2013

UPDATE

A copy of this post has been sent as a Letter to the Editor at the Age, where I somehow don't expect to see it in print.

THE NEW MISSIONARIES


For all the cant about cultural relativism preached in universities and elsewhere, many modern bien-pensants remain just as confident as any past colonialist or missionary that theirs is a culture superior to all others. Why otherwise would Western aid agencies, the activities of one of which I have had some opportunity to observe in the South Pacific, be so assiduous in seeking to impose on those they are "aiding" the secular West's obsessions with "diversity", "gender balance", "correct" language and condom use? I sometimes wonder whether the aid such entities ostensibly dispense is not the Trojan horse by which these "progressive" notions are to be introduced into cultures that still believe in traditional marriage and Christianity and the other things an earlier generation of colonialists instilled in them but which are sneered at and reprehended in the contemporary West.

21 January 2013

Argus has just returned from five weeks in Fiji.

WORDPOWER


There is a popular programme on television in Fiji called Spell Well. In each transmission two teams of two children, no older than about twelve and sometimes younger, compete to spell words that would be hard for many adults. Among the ones when I watched were jocose, halcyon, exacerbate, hilarity, indifference, respective, obsequious. There was a word I'd never heard - fartlek - apparently a Swedish term for a form of athletic training. The competitors didn't always know the meanings but from the sound of the words they were able to construct the orthography, more often than not.

How many Australian schoolchildren could spell such words - how many PhD students come to that, or their supervisors? My experience is that Australians are a bit patronising about Fiji - nice place to go to stay in a resort but hopelessly backward otherwise. Well, if its education system is backward, on the evidence of Spell Well it still has something going for it. Knowledge of the meaning of words and how to spell them is not the ultimate goal of education but it's a step towards the acquisition of articulacy which ought to be one of them. I suspect that learning in Fijian schools hasn't changed a great deal from the system bequeathed by the British, which would have been modelled on their own then excellent system. After independence Fiji was too small and unimportant to merit the attention (or be able to fund the career advancement) of the two generations of pedagogical experts who with their theories and ideologies have wrecked primary and secondary education in less "backward" countries such as Australia.

21 January 2013


THE ONLY QUESTION THAT REALLY MATTERS


Whenever I am confronted with the question of the existence of God - really the only question of any enduring consequence - I ask myself which is the more likely: that everything that exists (including much that I and everyone else do not know exists) came about by chance or that it was generated by the action of a creative force? I cannot but see that the latter is the greater probability. Probability is not certainty but it gives you something to, as it were, take a punt on, a starting point for faith. Accept it, and all the rest falls into place, philosophically, physically and theologically. This conclusion leads me to consider agnosticism a bit of a cop-out.

As to the evil of pain, suffering, cruelty etc. as obstacles to belief, these have no bearing on whether or not God exists, only on what kind of a God might exist. The Christian doctrine that God is Love most contend with these objections. I believe it does so convincingly, but once again my belief is based on probability - does the good in the world outweigh the evil? - and faith.

20 January 2013