Sauce for the goose

I had taken the children out for a walk when my wife, left on her own, started to miscarry – at 10 weeks. Weak and haemorrhaging, she staggered to the bathroom and baptised our baby, whom one day she will meet face to face. She has allowed me to tell the story. So you may understand why, in my philosophy group, I will not allow discussions on the morality of abortion.

I am unable to understand how decent people, my friends, can maintain that it can be right for one human being to take the life of another human being for their convenience. Yet, increasingly, our society takes abortion, effectively on demand, as routine, and indeed a human right for a woman to have such control of her body. The argument is often couched in terms of hard cases — such as an outcome of rape or a damaged foetus, and so reduces the issue to a matter of emotion. I am old enough to remember when abortion was generally regarded in our society as a great evil. Ironically the Suffragettes condemned abortion outright, claiming that human rights belonged to everyone. Today deaths by abortion grossly outnumber deaths by the Holocaust – and nobody seems to notice.

The tendency to conform to the opinions of the groups within which we move is well documented. One study, for example, described the brain mechanism which signals an error when we disagree with a value held by “people like us”. Others show how interaction, including social media, leads rather quickly to near universal acceptance. The triggers for abortion were The Abortion Act (1967) and the divorce of sexual intercourse from procreation. But if our cultures are naturally prone to such gross changes in public opinion, we would expect historical parallels.

Overlooking the Holocaust as a teutonic aberration, from the 17th century to the 19th the British Empire operated the slave trade. It was argued that it was essential for our economy and, in truth, it enabled the Industrial Revolution and the basis of our modern prosperity. When it was banned the perpetrators were neither punished nor condemned. On the contrary they were compensated. Some £17 billion in today’s money was distributed to 43,000 ex slave owners. Many of these were decent, middle class people; for others the compensation was the basis of family fortunes which exist today.

You will have read about the terrible things which occurred in slavery and you will, with me, wonder how our fellow citizens, in a country which has always valued freedom and the rights of law, could have lived with such evil for so long. You may take consolation from thinking that the Catholic Church was never entangled in such perfidy. But do not be too consoled. The Catholic Church patted the pillows of slavery and enabled it to be seen as an act of Christian virtue. Papal bulls in the 15th century gave the Portuguese the right to “invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property.” This was extended to Africa, and subsequently all of the Americas.

While this was reversed in the following century, the precedent for the slave trade was established. It was all the more effective because, until Vatican II, and confirmation by Pope Paul II, the Church did not accept that slavery was an offence to human dignity, and claimed that it was not prohibited by natural and divine law. Unsurprisingly, the movement for abolition came not from the Church but from the Quakers, with assistance from a handful of liberal Anglicans.

The first lesson to be learned from this bleak history is that such depraved values may not be seen as depraved by good people, or, if regrettable, are justified by perceived necessity. It challenges us to stand back from the values of our society and to review them with the same care which we might apply in a decision of conscience. Should we find that our resulting judgment is unpopular with general opinion – and perhaps causes us to lose friends — we may well be on the right track.

There are plenty of examples to consider, from the actions of government and opposition, to criminal law, to economic justice, to immigration, to the treatment of marriage, to the management of population growth. Make your own long list. Closer to home we might review the assumptions of Catholics like us on a number of issues. And, at a time when the Church itself is discussing important questions of possible development, we must consider for ourselves what we think is right. If we meet opposition, it is worth remembering that we can learn much from those who disagree with us and little from those who agree.

(published 13 November 2015)

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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51 Responses to Sauce for the goose

  1. Brendan says:

    Why seemingly ” decent people, my friends ” assent to abortion : at its core is the mystery of ‘ sin ‘ itself. Even if the nature of our world was quasi-utopian , free will would give rise to human weakness – its salvation was not/ will not be possible or needed otherwise. So I accept abortion in every case ( excluding action to save the life of the mother ) as a sin against the life- giving process of Gods will for our World. From that standpoint nothing now surprises me about opinions stated by friends and family , who even though Catholic, go against Church Doctrine.
    However, ‘ culture ‘ whether secular or religious is mutable and clearly has always had , morally speaking , the strongest influence on how one lives ones life. Over the past fifty or so years , there is no doubt in my mind that the ubiquitous dissemination of world information/news with accompanying ideologies ,directly into our homes conflicting with solidly held Christian morals and values of a nation ; has produced the moral relativism/ doubts we see prevalent today in Western Culture . Where political Marxism failed in smothering the life out of the religious component in national cultures ; ironically ,’ cultural marxism ‘ is doing its job in our materialist West today.
    ” Democracy needs religion more than religion needs democracy…..for without religion democracy will degenerate into demagogy by selling itself to the highest bidder .” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
    Quite frighteningly, then or overtime the moral cost to a nations people can be devastating.
    ” The worst thing is that we were living in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something from what we thought. ” Vaclav Haval , Catholic Poet and 1st President of The Czech Republic.

    • ignatius says:


      “Why seemingly ” decent people, my friends ” assent to abortion : at its core is the mystery of ‘ sin ‘ itself…”

      My young friend, as an insecure 19 year old Irish girl embarking on a sports career. She becomes pregnant after sleeping with a chap she knows from her neighbourhood outside Dublin. She is scared and isolated, she can’t face up to the responsibility, she can’t bear the thought of being trapped at home in a not especially healthy situation, she is lapsed as a catholic since her parents seperated many years before. So, alone and with an overnight travelling case she gets the boat to England and an abortion. She had no idea in advance of the impact of this action on her which she regrets nearly every day ever since and its been 10 years now.

      I don’t think that course of action is too hard to understand.

      • Brendan says:

        Ignatius – Of course it’s not hard to understand. I certainly would not judge anyone by the standards set by Gods Church – that’s for Him to Judge. I was quoting Quentins belief about those – who presumably may not have faced that terrible circumstance themselves – are so definite about eliminating new life ,so contrary to Catholic Teaching on the sanctity of human life. It is certainly difficult to get to the bottom in truth , of anyone contemplating having an abortion today ; but certainly the type of facts behind the story you relate and its outcome are heart- rending to hear. Gods infinite mercy is so much greater than worldly ( our ) condemnation.

  2. pnyikos says:

    To understand the attitude of the Catholic Church towards slavery, I propose that we begin with a look at Paul’s letter to Philemon. This has to do with a runaway slave of Philemon, named Onesimus, whom Paul had befriended and converted to Christianity. The climax of the letter comes in v. 15-16:

    “For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. ”

    I believe that Paul intended this to be an example to all Christians, not necessarily to end the master-slave relationship in the legal sense [for that could have adverse effects for the freed slave] but to transform it into a relationship that is essentially a familial one.

    And — politically incorrect though it is to say this — I believe many slave owners in each century looked upon their slaves in exactly this light, a sort of extended family bound to them by love. And I’d even dare to add, at the risk of offending someone here, that I believe that many [though perhaps only a small minority] of the slaves felt the same way about their masters down through the ages.

    The Papal dicta may need to be evaluated in that light. What vision of slavery did those Papal bulls have? Would the Popes issuing them have been as shocked at the actual treatment of multitudes of slaves the way Queen Isabella was shocked to see Native Americans being led to her in chains? Her reaction was: “Who dared to put my subjects into chains?” or words to that effect.

  3. Vincent says:

    “Closer to home we might review the assumptions of Catholics like us on a number of issues.” Quentin suggests. Well, there’s no shortage in this Blog of criticism of the Church or its members. And we all seem quite sure that the Church has changed much from the past centuries. So what happens routinely in the Church nowadays which one day we, or our successors, will view with regret?

    Some might hold that the loss of our beautiful traditional liturgy is damaging. Others might think that our condemnation of homosexuality, if not of homosexual themselves, is plain wrong. How does a Church which teaches one fundamental moral doctrine on sexual behaviour (contraception) to which few, even among the clergy, subscribe, ever continue to grow and strengthen? Many might suggest that we have lost our sense of a personal relationship with Christ. Plenty there, I think.

  4. John Nolan says:

    Slavery in one form or another has existed in most societies throughout most of human history. One modern state (Stalin’s USSR) had a peacetime economy underpinned by slave labour. In the ancient world it was taken for granted and is not explicitly condemned in either the Old or New Testament. St Augustine regarded it as a consequence of Original Sin, and St Thomas Aquinas declared it to be contrary to Natural Law, although by the time he was writing chattel slavery was no longer part of mainstream European society.

    It reappeared in the 15th century in the form of racial slavery, beginning with the Castilian conquest of the Canary Islands in the first decade of the century. This form of slavery was explicitly condemned by Pope Eugenius IV (Sicut Dudum, 1435) and again in the following century by Paul III (Sublimis Deus, 1537). These are usually overlooked in favour of a much-quoted passage from the Bull ‘Dum Diversas’ issued in 1452 by Pope Nicholas V (see Quentin’s post, above).

    This Bull was written following an appeal for military support from the Byzantine emperor whose capital was threatened by the Ottoman Turks (it was to fall the following year). Those who were to be condemned to ‘perpetual servitude’ were the ‘enemies of Christ’, not those who were merely ignorant of Christ, like the inhabitants of the Canaries. In addition to being a crusading Bull, it also attempted to designate spheres of influence for Spain and Portugal during an age of exploration, something that Nicholas’s successors also tried to address. The first voyage of Columbus was still forty years off, and to see the Bull as giving moral authority to the slave trade and racial slavery is stretching the evidence, not to mention applying a large dollop of hindsight.

    The quotation is usually cited by militant atheists and others who would have one believe that the Catholic Church initiated the slave trade, and by Catholic liberals who would have one believe that the Church ‘changed its mind’ about slavery and so could ‘change its mind’ about other doctrines. However, a perusal of papal pronouncements on slavery from the eighth century to the nineteenth show a decided bias towards condemnation of the practice.

    There is also, theologically, a distinction between ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ servitude. This still applies today. Few people would object if a notorious murderer were sentenced to ‘penal servitude for life’.

    • Quentin says:

      And there was a further bull, Romanus Pontifex, in 1455. But you are right to point us to a broader view. Writing about this (23 March 2007) I cited actions of the Church to alleviate slavery, and concluded that the Church put its focus on alleviation rather than condemnation. However I don’t expect anyone to remember back that far!

  5. Geordie says:

    From the small number of posts, I think we can draw the conclusion that very few of us are willing to criticise the Church openly. We have our complaints and we are happy to read condemnations of the Church in secular journals and in Catholic papers but we don’t want raise our heads above the parapets.
    This is obvious in parish meetings. If someone raises a controversial point, very little support comes from the floor. However after the meeting, people will come a say that they agreed with the point. I’ve been told that this happens in clerical meetings as well. Very few want to be seen as “not a safe pair of hands”, especially if the bishop is present.
    I have a number of criticisms of the Church as an organisation. My long standing bone of contention is our leaders’ attitude to money. For years, this has caused me great concern. Now two recent books have been published in Rome exposing some of the malpractices which have existed over a long period of time. The Vatican’s reaction is to arrest two whistle-blowers while the real criminals remain in post. This is only one example. There are financial malpractices in our own country but we mustn’t talk about them.

    • Quentin says:

      Geordie, you may well be right about reluctance. We need to remember that to be a communicating Church we do have to express our views — responsibly, of course. The Church may not always want to know, but it needs to know. One advantage of this Blog is that there are plenty of people to disagree with us!

    • Vincent says:

      There is an interesting psychological phenomenon which notes that people in virtuous authority — from policemen to ecclesiasts — feel that they are not as other men. Their credit is so good that they may then allow themselves a degree of corruption to, so to speak, even the balance.

  6. Alasdair says:

    A Politics student who I know showed me some statistics that he had compiled from a number of scholarly sources. In essence, during the recent year under investigation, 0.5 million people had died in all of the world’s armed conflicts, 1 million had died of HIV/AIDS, and 40 million (yes – 40 000 000) abortions had been carried out (yes – in one year) – the Abortocaust.
    In terms of protection of the innocent, it would therefore make sense to abandon all efforts to avoid wars through Diplomacy (which doesn’t seem to work anyway) if it were possible reassign the intellectual effort and resources to reducing the number of abortions.
    This is by no means a Catholic preserve. The Pro-Life movement has an even wider support base.

  7. Brendan says:

    Apropos Geordie ‘s feelings here ; and thanks to John Nolan demonstrating wide ‘revisionist’ knowledge , clearing the way for a balanced view of the Catholic Church’s position on ‘ slavery ‘ down through time : The film ‘ The Mission ‘ comes to mind , intelligently directed by Roland Joffe with the memorable music of Ennio Morricone. One of my favourite films of all time.
    How much of it is poetic licence and how much fact I can’t say . My own ‘ ad hoc ‘ knowledge overtime concurs with John Nolans nuanced view of the issue of slavery ; where in the film, The Church is trying to ‘ hold the Catholic line ‘ against the avaricious , expansionist ambitions of Catholic Spain and Portugal in the New World , and the good use or otherwise of an occupied peoples – benevolent slavery within the law ?
    For Geordie and us all ; what the film demonstrates is how with the blessing of the Church the best endeavours of its missionary purpose can often result in betrayal not just at the highest level but even by ‘ backstabbing ‘ from emissaries that carry the dagger from above. As the Cardinal ( eminence grise ) reluctantly weilding the fatal edict is heard to say ….. ” how easy this offends …….bringing paradise on earth .” – The Jesuit Missions in Paraguay.
    I suspect that at least some of us on this blog have felt our honest endeavours for the Church we love , at some time come to naught by some sense of betrayal. Very often the ultimate cop-out
    to hide weakness in speaking out by fellow Christians is the unspoken … ” sauce for the goose .” But as Quentin says , that will nor stop us from breaking all taboos to express feelings to our Church ( and that means all of us ) that ‘ needs to know ‘.
    I’ll leave at that for the moment.

  8. ignatius says:


    “From the small number of posts, I think we can draw the conclusion that very few of us are willing to criticise the Church openly. We have our complaints and we are happy to read condemnations of the Church in secular journals and in Catholic papers but we don’t want raise our heads above the parapets…”

    In the Diaconate I see plenty of things that concern me..the trouble is a good portion of those things reside in my own heart. So I tend to keep criticism as silent as possible, not because I’m afraid of raising my head but because I’m tempted to do it all the time. Generally speaking I’m not much happy about condemnations of the church anywhere because it is easy to condemn but harder to act rightly. I think that if there are issues one feels strongly about then one should take it up with the relevant persons and them only.

  9. Brendan says:

    I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly Ignatius.
    On today’s Feast of Christ The King our young assistant parish priest said the Mass . Commenting on the usual parallels of Christs Kingdom not being of this world and the turning of the meaning of worldly power on its.head ; at when point he said in his homily… ” we priests have a problem with power ”…. My own ears anyway pricked up at that !
    In conversation with him after Mass making the usual small talk I said I was glad to hear that he had made that statement. The fact that he looked a bit startled at that made me quickly relieve the situation by saying … ” I’m just teasing you , Father ”… which I was . His composure returned and we moved onto other issues.
    Questions arising then have now fermented. Was it the fact that, although he said it from the pulpit , it was not proper to face him with it head on as a parishioner however inoffensively. ?
    Are there residual shades of ‘ clericalism ‘ by differing degrees ( hinted at in our priests homily ) which are putting the laity off initially from raising important parish issues with their pastors.
    I must add that this young man as our assistant priest , has the makings of an outstanding parish priest in tune with the people/ parishioners of his time.

  10. John Nolan says:

    The problem with the word ‘power’ is that it has several connotations in English, some positive, others negative. A layman may know more about theology, about Church history, about liturgy, about Scripture, than his parish priest; this can make him more of an authority on these issues; but he lacks the sacramental power which a priest receives from his bishop who as a successor of the apostles receives this power from Our Lord himself.

    To be ‘in tune with the people’ sounds fine. But if it simply means giving people what they want (or think they want) and making them feel good about themselves, it’s no virtue. [Which word, incidentally, is derived from the Latin ‘virtus’ which can also mean ‘power’.]

    St John Vianney would have lasted about a week in a modern parish. One can imagine the complaints to the bishop: ‘He’s so confrontational … always talking about repentance … &c &c’.

    • ignatius says:


      I think you are right about this. When we sit or kneel at mass and we watch the process unfold we are, or should be, profoundly grateful that the man at the front, like him or not, can bear the load of his office.Yet soon afterwards we feel free to go about our ways muttering!

      Since putting on the collar I have received an object lesson in what I think is termed ‘projection’ or ‘transference’ in the psychologists lingo. One becomes a focus for the hopes. fears, dissatisfactions and neuroses of hundreds of people one barely knows whilst at the same time losing the safety valve of ‘grumbling’ about things in the company of others because of the awareness that one’s words will inevitably be twisted out of context and passed around the place to be chewed over.

      There is quite a bit written about how priests should behave but in the end it comes down to how they CAN behave and yet remain intact under the insidious pressures of parish life. Very often it seems to me that our reactions to Priests are in proportion to our own personal/spiritual development.

      Of course none of this ignores the fact that ‘many are called but few are chosen’ in other words there are quite naturally priests who, lacking self worth or genuine spiritual authority, feel the need to revert to secular power which usually manifests itself as bullying. There is no answer to this beyond compassion, counselling, careers advice, early intervention, therapy, laicising, or at the very worst, imprisonment. I think there are somewhere near 350,000 priests across the face of the earth today, certainly not all will be getting it ‘right’ in terms of their parish ‘ideal type’ which will, of course in any case differ according to ones view.

    • Brendan says:

      I agree with your description of …’in tune with the people ‘… and its negative connotation. I would term that ‘ the Vicar of Bray ‘ syndrome – among’st us all perhaps much too prevalent than it should be in today’s Church. The positive meaning I am alluding to is of a pastor knowing each individual person where possible , and watchful over them as a shepherd would his flock ; even to tending and directing them out of harms way. As we know , out of the mouth of The Master and by His actions – to truly love means to willingly take risks.

  11. Geordie says:


    Can you tell me how I can take up the issue of money with the Vatican? They just don’t reply to anyone who asks a question which they do not wish to hear. Bishops are the same. The only way to get a response is to bring issues out in the open; like the Vatican whistleblowers have done. Otherwise they are covered up and hidden from view.

    I have written to bishops about the poor state of Catholic education and have either been ignored or rebuffed.

    Most of “the relevant persons” are unwilling to discuss matters which, they think, may show them in a poor light. It makes one wonder what they have to hide.

    • pnyikos says:

      To which “issue of money with the Vatican” are you referring? I hope it has nothing to do with the Vatican selling all its treasures to get a one-time shot of money for feeding the poor, etc.

  12. Hock says:

    How I wish that there is a united view in parishes on abortion as being an intrinsic evil, condemned by the Church.
    The practice of this opposition to abortion is far removed from the Church’s teaching on the subject. Even our present Pope grave a muddled statement on it early in his pontificate which commentators were quick to latch onto as being grounds for the new Pope to promote abortion as being possibly open to interpretation and a subject for possible alteration to Church teaching. I cannot recall his precise words but I felt that the ‘rug was being pulled from underneath’ on those
    ( a minority I sense,) who had long campaigned for an end to abortion in line with Church teaching. He has since made stronger statements condemning it, (but not in the same terms as John Paul 11 did,) I do wonder if someone whispered in this Pope’s ear to bring this about.
    As for slavery there are lots of historical examples that would not stand up to much scrutiny. Even today the evidence is that there was widespread ‘cover ups’ of the child abuse scandals by the Church. The same Church was complicit in sending hundreds of children to Australia as recently as the 1970’s with scant regard for their welfare. Many were treated as slaves. As were the sorry women and girls forced to work in the Church’s Magdalen laundries.

    • John Nolan says:

      Hock, the notion that there was slavery in Australia and Ireland in the second half of the 20th century does not, in your words, ‘stand up to much scrutiny’. The problem with broad generalizations couched in emotive and hyperbolic language is that they rarely stand up to historical scrutiny which has (to many people) an annoying tendency to rely on evidence.

  13. John Nolan says:


    Vallejo Balda, his assistant Nicola Maio and Francesca Chaouqui, Pope Francis’s controversial poster-girl and PR guru, are Vatican employees who have been charged with stealing confidential documents and giving them to journalists. This is a criminal offence as well as being a breach of trust. Until the facts are established it is not a good idea to laud them as heroic ‘whistle-blowers’, presumably in the same company as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. We have been given to understand that the journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi who have simultaneously published books critical of the Vatican’s financial dealings actively solicited these documents; we don’t know if money changed hands, and like most journalists they refuse to divulge their sources (unlike historians who are obliged to cite theirs!)

    I can’t comment on the accuracy of these books, or presume the authors’ motives for writing them, since I haven’t read them. Their declared motives (to defend Pope Francis against his corrupt opponents) cannot be taken at face value and in any case do not suggest objectivity. Leaks of this kind actually damage Pope Francis, as they did his predecessor. However, Benedict pardoned the employee who stole confidential material, so we can assume that the merciful Francis will treat these three perpetrators similarly. Chaouqui was released after promising to co-operate with the investigation. Is this called ‘turning Pope’s evidence’? Meanwhile Nuzzi and Fittipaldi are laughing all the way to the bank, presumably not the Vatican Bank.

  14. Brendan says:

    Ignatius – You’ve about got it right…. ” our reactions to Priests are in proportion to our own personal/spiritual development.” I remember being in past parish meetings where the priest has been harangued infront of everyone by a person who obviously has some ‘ axe to grind.’ An earlier private discussion might have prevented such an ‘ over the top ‘ outburst. More light less heat.

  15. Hock says:

    Hock, the notion that there was slavery in Australia and Ireland in the second half of the 20th century does not, in your words, ‘stand up to much scrutiny’. The problem with broad generalizations couched in emotive and hyperbolic language is that they rarely stand up to historical scrutiny which has (to many people) an annoying tendency to rely on evidence.
    John Nolan,
    How much evidence do you need ? Children in Catholic orphanages were regularly separated from their families and siblings and sent 13000 miles to populate Australia in the first decades after WW2. There is an exhibition of the same in London at this time. It was widespread practice and of course involved other orphans too but shockingly many were not even orphans but in the care of the Church and local authorities because of various family issues. It is a heartbreaking story for many of them. Not just because of the sheer cruelty of the very act of separation but also because of what befell them when they arrived lonely and bewildered in a foreign country.
    Many were subjected to well documented sexual abuse by Catholic clergy for which there is ample evidence in court cases going on in Australia at this time. I repeat that many of the children were treated as little better than slaves. Some indeed prospered but the memory of what was done to them is a lasting legacy that haunts them and the Church.
    To add to the scandal the end of this transportation was never officially stopped. It just ‘died out,’ when the realisation of the evil being done slowly became apparent.

    What further evidence of the Magdalen laundries do you need? Did they not really exist ? Again the Church is facing , and has faced, legal actions against it for the abuse suffered by the females condemned to these institutions. Their very closure is evidence in itself. It was for the evils perpetrated there.

    Far from being ‘un-evidenced’ there are ample sources, one of which is readily available and you can read read all about it for yourself on the internet. This was not slavery of the 1600’s but of the twentieth century and the Catholic Church was complicit in it.

    • G.D. says:

      Hock, ‘Slave’ to some people would be the literal ‘a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them’.
      Other more liberal interpretations (no matter how true!!) not seen as such.

      • pnyikos says:

        If we take that literally, G. D., children are slaves to their parents. But the secular world is already changing that. In Austria, two decades ago already, children could report their parents to authorities for child abuse if they were spanked.

        Also, Germany is taking draconian measures against parents who try to home school their children, including taking children away from their custody. Ironically enough, the German prohibition against home schooling is a holdover from the Nazi era, where it was first instituted.

    • Brendan says:

      Many well-documented programs on television confirm these things post-war . Not a very auspicious chapter in the history of our Church.
      Veritas vos liberabit.

    • John Nolan says:

      ‘Their very closure is evidence in itself. It was for the evils perpetrated there’.
      ‘ … the abuse suffered by the females condemned (sic) to these institutions.’

      See what I mean about emotive language? Throw in a fictional movie and a couple of TV programmes and that’s evidence, yes? Unfortunately for the myth-makers, there is a 1,000-page report on the Magdalene laundries (the McAleese Report of 2013) which was the result of a judicial enquiry ordered by the Irish government. I posted about it on 15 February of that year and there were some useful follow-up comments.

      Read the report. If a thousand pages is too daunting, there is a useful abstract on the internet.

  16. G.D. says:

    ignatius says:
    November 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    “it comes down to how they CAN behave and yet remain intact under the insidious pressures of parish life. Very often it seems to me that our reactions to Priests are in proportion to our own personal/spiritual development.” ……. and visa versa in many respects, Ignatius.

    For me these words of yours encapsulate the root causes of NOT being able to live the ‘priesthood’ of Christ in the ordained ………. and non-ordained.

    If we all worked towards how we CAN behave in our relationships, accepting the foibles & idiosyncrasies we detest, and that we all have, with love! All be it in some cases firm love. (I don’t mean allowing or excusing the malicious criminal atrocities mentioned here, of course. And others). Everyday ‘sins’ we all commit against charity would not increase into maliciousness.
    In a self depreciating show of love we’d all be more supported and function ‘as one body’, within the ‘priesthood’ of Christ. Especially the ordained.
    They would gain so much encouragement and joy at seeing ‘their’ parish come alive, be encouraged to live more of the same. Suffer for it maybe ‘accepting transference’ and all that (as the parishioners would too!) but it would also be resolved as priests and people retract the transference in a generous loving acceptance of how we are warts and all.
    Through the real meaning of the Sacramental Presence of Christ.

    ( ‘there but by the grace of God go I’ should be above every door in every parish!! )

    Maybe idealistic to assume it can be done …….. but then so is the Kingdom of God, and that’s real enough. And amongst us NOW.

  17. ignatius says:

    Sorry but your meaning is obscure to me. Could you perhaps provide a couple of simple examples to illustrate your drift a little clearer?

  18. Brendan says:

    Just to chip in here. Do you mean G.D. ; that to really love as Christ loved means to take risks in casting all caution aside – ‘ CAN behave ‘ – for the sake of the Kingdom ?

    • G.D. says:

      Not casting ALL caution aside, that would be an excuse to do anything! But, yes, risks against the acceptable or expected ‘status quo’ need to be considered, and in all good conscience acted upon if need be – after LOTS of deep prayer, and discernment with trusted guides.

  19. G.D. says:

    ‘ Ignatius says: November 24, 2015 at 5:46 pm
    Sorry but your meaning is obscure to me. ‘

    Ignatius, not very good with words but will have another go …………

    None of us should expect, or indeed need, people (even Priests Bishops and Popes!) to be perfect, , only want people to be up front and honest, with themselves first and foremost, about their inadequacies. Which will enable the withdrawing of projections (of ‘failure’) , onto others, accept ‘weakness’ and hopefully entice growth, individually and as a community.

    If I don’t like the attitude, or actions (remember – I don’t mean allowing or excusing the malicious criminal atrocities mentioned) of someone, whatever office they hold or none, and i feel deeply offended by it, i can be sure it is against the unconditional love of God. And, probably, because I have something within my own personality that is similar, or a deep seated resentment from … wherever.
    (If a guy with a beard chased & traumatised me when i was a child – forgotten now, denial – I feel antipathy toward guys with beards, and likely to transfer that ‘resentment’ – transfer the unconscious trauma – onto them and what they do).

    Finding the ‘sin’ in myself first (if it’s there?) frees me from condemning the other. The plank in your own eye and all that.

    If there is no plank (and who can be sure of that!?) then i simply need to learn to love more!
    Then i am more able to relate with compassion (love and forgiveness) accept the other and ‘help’ them accept themselves. Then healing of ‘sin’ and growth in Spirit can happen.

    But …..!!!
    If the other is unable to remove the plank from her/his own eye …. i need to keep on loving!
    Healing can only happen when both ‘sides’ take on this attitude. Resurrection.
    When only one does, or at least tries to – Crucifixion.

    The reconciling of conflict (by compassion), rather than escalating situations (by rejecting the other, or denying my own ‘sin’) – ‘Sacramant’ of Reconcilliation.
    Father forgive us as WE forgive ….

    Being united with other members of the Body of Christ (even amongst sin(s)!) in thanks and Praise to God – Eucharist.

    We are all called to the above in different walks of life.
    And Priests are the Prime Movers of this – they ‘officiate’ at the Mass!

    Priests SHOULD EXPERIENCE this – Crucifixion Reconciliation Resurrection Unity (be ‘initiated’ spiritually) WITHIN themselves (plural) at seminary. Thus be more able to live it (not perfectly by any means, they are still imperfect humans after all is said and done) and extend it by example to ‘the flock’ to follow.
    I fear many don’t and are still given the ‘office’ to cope with, without the transformation needed to carry it as Jesus did. …… Lead to the slaughter like a LAMB …..

    Spiritual growth (living the Life of Christ in Christian terminology) is more than ‘trying to be morally upright’ ‘holding to ruberic and doctrine’ and ‘pointing out failure/failings to do so’. Which is mainly ‘cultural’ & ‘institutional’.
    ( And is often an acceptable plank in the most most uncharitable and arrogant of ways!! )

    It’s about taking on the attitudes of Jesus and living the Spirit he gave us. The above are the mere basics. And are for everyone to strive for.
    Have to say I see it well and truly alive in Pope Francis!

    Well over the limit for words … hope some make more sense than the last post …….

  20. G.D. says:

    Having posted and read through ……. I fear not!

  21. G.D. says:

    Sorry to go go on …. but i hasten to add I’m not very good at it myself! I see, and dig out the plank in my own eye, but mostly not courageous enough to ‘confront’ the plank in others. Mea culpa!

  22. Brendan says:

    G,D. No – do not be sorry. You have spoken from the heart . Just what Pope Francis wants the sacerdotal priesthood to encompass – in persona Christi . A tough call , but only ‘ do-able ‘ by the grace of God.

  23. Brendan says:

    Thanks Quentin for directing to John Nolan’s 2013 post. Just quickly as I’m off to Mass in a while.
    The Irish situation as regards treatment of Catholics in their care by The Church : I was not particularly condemnatory of that situation. But the historical background given by John Nolan was most welcome in mitigation of current methods/actions.
    In 2001 , The Australian Catholic Church officially apologised for the treatment meted out to innocent children , sent over to them in their care.

  24. ignatius says:


    “Priests SHOULD EXPERIENCE this – Crucifixion Reconciliation Resurrection Unity (be ‘initiated’ spiritually) WITHIN themselves (plural) at seminary. Thus be more able to live it (not perfectly by any means, they are still imperfect humans after all is said and done) and extend it by example to ‘the flock’ to follow.
    I fear many don’t and are still given the ‘office’ to cope with, without the transformation needed to carry it as Jesus did. …… Lead to the slaughter like a LAMB ….”

    Yes I think thats right. But when we consider the enormity of this inner transformation we realise that it cannot be prompted or called to any schedule. At 63 years of age I find myself barely beginning to understand this stuff which, fourty years ago, I seemed to make such rapid progress in!!! I think the crucible of transformation is the entire life, it was CS Lewis who said so memorably that pain was Gods chisel..he then retracted it all some years later as childish, he had suffered by then of course.. The tendency to put ‘old heads on young shoulders’ in terms of grace is the reason we are so tempted to discouragement and disappointment, because we think others should be better than they are.

    • G.D. says:

      Ingnatius, Yes, what you say is right and true. Except the ‘understanding this stuff’. It can’t be grasped with the understanding. It’s not an ‘intellectual’ thing.
      There is a cycle of the ‘rising and dying’ within the ‘soul’ (or person!) with the rising all is clear to the mind and heart and we progress in leaps & bounds (or ‘think’/feel we are).

      Then God gives us more grace, calls us closer to him. Our minds and hearts suddenly troubled and in turmoil, useless to ‘know’ what it’s all about. The ‘suffering’ internal or external takes away our self assurance and if we continue in faith leads us to rely solely on God. We let go & let God. Recognising ‘our own’ inability we allow the grace to be our Life. Then we rise and our understanding/feelings return to us afresh with deeper & different perspectives.
      The dark night of the soul et which i agree is a life long process – we will always die & rise, at least a little, if we sincerely seek more of God. Granted.

      But! …. The ‘initial’ entrance into this ‘life of Grace’ SHOULD make the above clear to the person prior to ordination (And baptism!) in a deep spiritually experiential way.
      I believe it did in the early church’s ‘Initiation’ of adult converts to the ‘mysteries’.
      The actual & personal spiritual experience of dying (to self) & rising (with Christ) was the initiation journey, however long it took an individual to ‘accept’ it. A journey that enlightens with the mind of Christ, emboldens with the Heart of Christ, and lives with the Spirit of Christ.

      Would be Priests, as future officiators of the ‘mysteries’ for others, need to take this journey – accompanied & guided by people (usually ‘elders’) who have ‘realised’ it in their own ‘souls’. But how many are ‘trained’ in this way? How many ‘elders’ do we have left that can accompany on this journey?
      It’s no wonder the priesthood is suffering.

      I could be totally wrong, hope I am, but it seems to me from my experience with ‘newly ordained’ priests that the ‘training’ for priesthood is concentrated on academic, doctrinal, rubrics(?) and ‘institutional correctness’.
      All of which can be accredited to any secular vocation. Contents vary but the means are the same.
      The church an Christ are much more than that as we know!

      • G.D. says:

        The above ‘spiritual journey’ into ‘mystical initiation’ of ‘the mysteries’ is given credence too, of course, but only in a perfunctory way it seems to me. If any priestly candidate (or parishioner comes to that) shows too much interest in the above spiritual activities …… don’t trust it/them, pack them off to a monastery, or just kick em out.
        Why? It SHOULD be the ONLY foundation. It’s dying and rise with the life of Christ!

        I’m NOT DENYING the sincerity of Priests to fulfill their vocation, or the fervour they have to answer that call to die &rise …… But we need to redress the ‘formation’….
        And Priests that do know the above are a great joy and blessing! I’ve met a few of those too, thanks be to God! Usually the ones that have suffered, and in faith overcome, some catastrophe. In the eyes of the institutionalised they have ‘failed’. But in faith they have died, and continue to do so – they LIVE the life of Christ!

        One last point …
        The ‘extras’ – academic rubric doctrine et – wouldn’t be done away but our way of practising them would be transformed! And the ways we use our minds and hearts. Then the church would be healed rise up and be heard by many more than it is now.
        Again, I see in Pope Francis, someone who is seeking this.

      • ignatius says:

        GD replying to both your posts as this is the only spot the reply button will let me in!

        During my 4 year part time attendance for diaconate it struck me that no one ever raised any conversation regarding the inner life. I’d trained as an Ignatian prayer guide and done a years retreat in daily life as well as prolonged silent retreats over the years and so was a bit puzzled about this. However I assumed that everyone had a spiritual director to talk to. But like you I have met all kinds of people, not just priests, who have: “‘realised’ it in their own ‘souls’” but equally I have met all kinds of people, including priests, who have simply not. “Realised” is a better word than “understood” because of the purely mental connotation of ‘understanding’

        You make the point:

        ” Usually the ones that have suffered, and in faith overcome, some catastrophe. In the eyes of the institutionalised they have ‘failed’. But in faith they have died, and continue to do so – they LIVE the life of Christ..”

        This is entirely true I think. But it simply proves the complexity of the issue. Jesus was put to death and so, somehow, must we be. The whole project of ‘dying to self’ cannot in my view be carried out as a kind of religious hobby; something must make it real. Often, sadly the thing which is real is the prolonged depression/ breakdown which follows when the priest is crushed by the demands of his parish couple with the inner knowledge that he cannot fulfill them. Most of the ‘shining’ priests I’ve known have in fact suffered some harsh blow or another in terms of health or failure; thats what it costs it seems. The Apostle Paul of course wrote all his ‘death to self’ stuff after his encounter with Christ, not before it. I don’t think there’s any way round it GD!

  25. John Nolan says:

    Post-war child migration to Australia was government policy in both countries. The main responsibility belongs to the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, which has also apologized. To shift the blame onto UK orphanages, whether run by local authorities or by charitable institutions including the Catholic Church, is to shoot at the wrong target. Fifteen years ago there was a comprehensive report which can be found on the website of the Australian parliament. Chapter 2 is particularly useful for giving the historical background. The issue of the treatment of such children in Australian institutions is really a separate issue, and there is documentary evidence of abuse. That some of the abuse occurred in institutions run by the Catholic Church is undeniable. By the time of the UK government sponsored investigation which resulted in the Ross report of 1956, children were no longer being expatriated under the auspices of the Catholic Church.

    Ross found that the standard of childcare in Australia fell below the standards required in the UK (in some cases far below) and was critical of the whole child migration policy; however for the sake of Commonwealth relations the British government did not abandon the scheme altogether. Apologizing for history is usually pointless, but in cases like this where events are within living memory I think the Australian Church and the Australian government (and indeed the British government) were right to do so.

    • Brendan says:

      Thanks again for your incisive points, John Nolan.
      I see that apologising for ‘ history ‘ is largely pointless . Individual apologies where necessary , at least to attempt to rescue the integrity of dominant institutions , are hard to come by in these cases of ‘ breaking trust ‘. The tragedy is that the phenomenon of child abuse is seemingly perennial and ubiquitous in daily life. I can’t think of anything worse than that of a child carrying the dreadful consequences of such abuse into adulthood , often to the grave.
      Out of this desperate situation , I personally take courage in ….” where sin abounds , grace [ freely given ] is in abundance .” Romans 5:20.

  26. Quentin says:

    St Joseph has told me that her cancer is on the march again. She was now started a three months’ course of chemotherapy. St J is a remarkable lady whose love of God has illuminated so many of our discussions. We will hope and pray that her current ordeal is bearable, and that the outcome will be successful.

    • Martha says:

      Yes, indeed. Amen.

    • John Nolan says:

      One assumes her choice of nom de plume betokens a devotion to the saint who delivered St Teresa of Avila from a chronic illness. Among the prayers to St Joseph is a litany given to the Church by St Pius X. The last six invocations are ‘Pillar of families, Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick, Patron of the dying, Terror of demons, Protector of Holy Church’.

      Ora pro ea et pro nobis.

    • Nektarios says:

      Sorry to hear St.Joseph’s cancer has started up again. We pray for her daily here.

    • Quentin says:

      St Joseph asks me to thank everyone for their prayers.

  27. Brendan says:

    If in contact with her again, please pass on to her our best wishes and prayers during her treatment.

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