Vol 39 No 1
God does care!
JOB AND THE TSUNAMI
INNOCENT SUFFERING AND THE CHRISTIAN GOD: SOME PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTIONS
SIXTY YEARS AFTER AUSCHWITZ: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY?
Idris Edward Cassidy
CATHOLIC DEVOTION AND THE UNITY OF CHRISTIANS
THE UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA AND THE FILIOQUE: A RETURN
TO EASTERN CHRISTIAN TRADITION
IN FEAR AND GREAT JOY: FORTY YEARS OF FEMINIST BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS
Harry Morrissey MSC, To Grow a Parish:
Unearthing the Human, Debut Publishing, Australia, 2004. (Paperback),
pp. 207. ISBN 1 876329 25 4.
(Available Debut Publishing order hotline 1800 625 399; email@example.com;
PO Box 213 Noosa Heads, 4567; also from Fr H. Morrissey MSC, 1 Roma Ave,
Kensington. NSW 2033, ph. 02 9662 7188.)
In the early years of Harry Morrisseys ministry, knocking
on doors was looked on as an essential part of a priests ministry
in a parish. It took up most of the morning, continued in the afternoon
and a visit or two in the early evening wasnt unusual. Through it
Father got to know his people, who in turn had little inhibitions about
telling their story and expressing how they felt about things in the parish.
Although delighted to see him they could even give a bit of a serve
to Father if they felt it was needed. This grass-roots ministry was very
dear to Harry Morrissey and from it he learned much about people, their
potential and their limitations, their Spirit inspired wisdom and gifts
and at the same time the compelling need for ongoing adult education.
He kept his ears to the ground, he listened and he noted.
His reporting of what they were saying is spot-on. It has an authentic
ring about it. His quotes from young and old would resonate with any pastor
who is really in touch with the grass-roots. He is a shrewd and intelligent
observer and is obviously widely read. He corroborates his observations
with interesting and apposite quotes from papal documents and an extensive
range of other reliable sources, including Cardinal Newman and Yves Congar.
His own long experience in parishes in various parts of Eastern and Central
Australia and the witness of his various authorities from John XXIII to
Marie Farrell RSM have convinced him of the importance of recognising
that this is the age of the laity or as Congar says, the hour of the laity
is now. Morrissey takes this important step forward as he outlines what
this could mean in treating the major problems facing our Church today.
Most people (apart possibly from the Roman Curia) are aware that our Church
is haemorrhaging and that major surgery is called for. The jury is still
out, however, regarding the type of surgery that may arrest the ailment.
In fact not many of our Church doctors or prophets or pastors
are game to come up with a radical and credible prescription. To his great
credit Morrissey has, and I think if the Church can be convinced to give
it a try, it could turn things around.
He believes the way the Church has been living and sharing the Good News,
parishwise and schoolwise, hasnt stopped the leakage. Although many
of our parishes and schools are a credit to their pastors and teachers,
they tend to be run on a model that is failing. The low percentage of
adult parishioners and Catholic youth who are committed to the Church
is getting lower. The signs of the times call for a new and radical approach.
Morrissey quotes John Pauls New Evangelisation: not a re-evangelisation,
not a recap of past good years and methods but a re-thinking from out
the roots of our tradition.
He is echoing the Holy Fathers call for the elemental turnabout
of a people of faith. Indeed people of faith, Catholic laity, who
are in touch with their own humanity, whose religion is integrated with
their culture, parents, families
are at the centre of Morrisseys
Do we (clergy) really trust that the Spirit is with the laity? If we
are not increasingly giving the laity responsibility for their communities,
and for their childrens faith too, then we need to examine our own
openness to the Spirit (56).
He has some probing and insightful things to say about our Catholic schools
and their relationship to the childrens parents and the parish community.
Aware that 95% of pupils (his figures) no longer go to Church after they
graduate (and many long before they graduate), he doesnt start by
pointing the finger at anyone.
Distinguishing Catechesis and Religious Instruction (RI) he
sees Catechesis as the original Yes to faith and the faith
experience, pertaining primarily to the home and the parish community.
The knowledge content is the primary responsibility of the schools
RI department which should present it with the same seriousness
and the same depth with which other disciplines present their knowledge
(General Directory for Catechesis). Notwithstanding the effort and the
money and the talent of so many dedicated people, the failure of the Catholic
School to deliver for the Catholic Church is analysed at length by Morrissey
who has diligently put together his own unique pastoral diagnosis. This,
I feel, needs to be studied by all stakeholders.
He sees the home, the parents and the parish community as the key but
neglected, elements in the Catholic scenario. The Church lost a legendary
resource in letting the parents go on being bypassed as the first and
best leaders of their children for experiencing and embracing the person
of Jesus of Nazareth (p.97). The essential place for giving (Catholic
school children) a true human focus for this way of living is home and
He goes on to say: when a school respects the inalienable priority of
the family and the crucial place of the local parish community for the
childs experience of Incarnation in our world, that school will
have a valued place
If a school is jealous of its sway with parents
or if it is content with being used by parents as a substitute for their
neglect, or being used by the parish as a labour-saver, that school, without
being aware, will diminish the faith of families (cf p.120).
He even questions whether the one hundred and more years of spoon-feeding
at Catholic schools have inadvertently led to Catholics losing their gift
for being creative in the formation of their children for life with faith
(cf p. 140).
Having placed all our RE eggs in the school basket, which, were
beginning to realise is just too small and too leaky to bring them to
life, we now need an adult basket, a new adult approach. Adult religious
education is the neglected element:
In the Australian Church we have never really had any tradition of on-going,
life-giving faith foundation for adults. As a result there has been no
pattern of equipping parents to lead their children into the ways of the
faith. Only a close family bonding and an articulate wise ecclesial community
around us will appropriately source this adult process (p.110).
Adult Catechesis must include human development, hence Unearthing the
Human (sub-title of the book).
The only realism left for us in a damaged world is to be unearthing the
human, those traces of God seen in our world if we take time to notice
and wonder. And those traces of God seen in people especially when they
come together (cf p. 148).
That coming together and being in conversation, he sees as an essential
element in adult religious education. We forget the ancient wisdom that
it takes a village to raise a child or as the Directory puts
it Catechesis is essentially ecclesial.
He sees Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) as the best way
forwardthe parish sub-divided into neighbourhood groupsa community
of communities! This process of changing what a parish is, compared with
what it has been, is not new. The Adelaide experience with the BEC model
and that of some parishes in other dioceses are referred to in the book.
Indeed Morrisseys volume is a mine of very helpful hints about how
BECs could work. He has some useful things to say about the steps a parish
community could take in preparation for the change to BECs, (information
that would have helped us in Kingsgrove, when we went down that road some
I believe this is a very important book. It addresses the fact that by
and large the power of the Word and Sacrament hasnt transformed
the lives of adult Catholics and consequently hasnt been absorbed
by our children
After years of trying to grow a parish in the wake
of Vat II, I found myself nodding approvingly to most of what Morrissey
has to say. I found pearls of pastoral wisdom in just about every page,
several in some pages.
These pearls are relevant to parents and parishioners, to those involved
in Catholic Education, adult and school, to the clergy and those involved
in parish ministry.
I have to say, however, that I didnt find To Grow a Parish as reader-friendly
as I would have liked. Fr Morrissey is a fine writer but I think he overestimates
the literary standards of his readers (including myself). If there is
a revised edition (and I hope there is) I would like to see Morrisseys
pastoral wisdom arranged in a more orderly and readable way. If there
is a group study edition (which there should be) I would like to see the
whole thing revamped without losing any of its precious ingredients.
John McSweeney PE
Dom David Bird OSB, The Royal Road to Joy:
The Beatitudes and the Eucharist. Chicago/ Mundelein, Illinois: Hillenbrand
Books, 2003, 249pp. ISBN 1 59525 002 6.
Dom David Bird is a monk of the English Benedictine Congregation. He studied
theology at Belmont Abbey in England and also at Fribourg University in
Switzerland. On completing his studies, he returned to Belmont Abbey,
where he taught both ecclesiology and fundamental theology at that Monasterys
Theological College. Besides his teaching duties, he was also engaged
in pastoral work in parishes and, over a period of years, served as Parish
priest of a number of local parish Communities. Prior to being sent to
Tamogrande in Northern Peru to begin a Monastic foundation there, he also
served as a member of the ecumenical panel advising the Angelo-Roman International
Commission (ARCIC). On his arrival in Peru, he quickly became involved
in pastoral work with local Christian communities in the diocese of Piura
and Carmarca and founded a number of local parishes, where he served as
parish priest. Since July 2002, he has been living in the monastery at
Tamogrande, where he helps with the formation of Peruvian monks.
His present book, The Royal Road to Joy was written high up in the Peruvian
Andes during the Summer rainy season, when the roads are all but impassable
and pastoral work grinds to a halt, because of the dangers involved in
venturing forth on narrow mountainous roads subject to sudden mudslides.
It began as a very personal project, when its author, Holed up in
the parish house in San Miguel de Pallaques, isolated from his flock
and with plenty of time on his hands, decided to write down all
the various strands and sources and experiences that contributed to
his own personal spirituality
to form them into a coherent whole
(x ). What started out as a very personal project has become a deeply
spiritual text, in which the author presents two detailed, but nevertheless
interrelated commentaries - one on the eight Beatitudes of Matthews
Gospel and the other on the Mass.
The first of these commentaries takes up nine chapters of the book. In
the first of these chapters, the author explains his reasons for combining
a commentary on the Beatitudes with a commentary on the Mass. His basic
thesis is that it is impossible to participate authentically in
the Mass without living according to the Beatitudes. For Dom Bird
the two form one single road to joy (p3)hence the title
of the book. The next eight chapters are devoted to an exhaustive commentary
on each of the Beatitudes, in which he traces their Old Testament roots
and then sets them in the context of Jesus proclamation and teaching
on Gods Basileia.
In this commentary, he draws upon his own experiences working with basic
Christian Communities in Peru and suggests ways in which modern disciples
of Jesus can invigorate and transform their own spirituality by living
out the spirit of each of the Beatitudes. He concludes this section of
the Book with two biographical sketches of two saints from two very different
religious traditionsSt Seraphim of Sarvo, a hermit of the Orthodox
tradition and St John Vianney. He cites both saints as examples of people
who lived out the spirituality of the Beatitudes, as Jesus envisaged.
He also believes that both have much to teach individual Christians and
the Church, as a whole, how to go about the delicate and complicated task
of evangelization in the twenty-first century.
The second half of the work is a commentary on the Mass, very much in
the style of similar commentaries prior to Vatican II, but completely
different in that it seeks to incorporate and explain the significance
of the Liturgical reforms that have taken place because of the Council.
Not only does Dom Bird explain the meaning behind what is said and done
in the Liturgical Action, but also why the Eucharistic Celebration is
structured as it is. These chapters reflect his own study and research
on the evolution of the liturgy and his knowledge of the history of both
Jewish and early Christian worship traditions. This section of the book
concludes with a challenging and thought provoking analysis of what the
author considers to be good liturgy and also what he regards as bad liturgy.
In the Introduction to the Book, Dom David claims that he thought he was
fully in charge of a project meant to develop and criticise his own spirituality,
but quickly discovered that the work had taken charge of him. He thus
found himself writing a book that took almost three years to complete
and which more or less developed its own logic (x). Nevertheless, the
book certainly does not strike one as something that grew like Topsy,
for it is a very ordered work, which makes clear the close connection
between spirituality and liturgical celebration. Its contents are informed
by the breadth and depth of the authors learning and a lifetime
of studying the scriptures, the writings of the early Desert Fathers,
the lives of the saints, and the evolution of the liturgy. Every page
of the work reflects the authors basic premise that the liturgical
reforms after Vatican II will only bear fruit, if there is a corresponding
renewal in spirituality. Thus, the book is a radical call to holiness
based on its authors conviction that liturgy will only become a
vital part of peoples lives, if and when they allow themselves to
be transformed by the Gospel. Indeed, Dom Bird is fully persuaded that
it is only by living the Beatitudes that the Christian deepens the understanding
of what it means to be a Eucharistic people.
The work is a very Catholic text, in the sense that it is
written for those who belong to the Catholic Church and are truly interested
in updating their understanding of their Catholic faith and their own
Catholic spirituality. While it reflects its authors breadth and
depth of learning, it is, nevertheless, simply written and in a style
that is readily accessible to lay people. All who read the book will find
it a valuable resource of information and inspiration.
Margaret Hannan sgs
International Theological Commission, From
the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles. Chicago: Hillenbrand
Books, 2003. ISBN 1 59525 000 X.
The restoration of the diaconate as other than a temporary phase on the
road to ordained priesthood was a significant achievement of Vatican II.
As with much of the Councils work, however, the decision to restore
the diaconate was an initial step, rather than a completed process that
left no open questions. Indeed, Vatican II did not even make it mandatory
for all dioceses to have deacons, but left it to the discernment of each
local church to decide whether to adopt the diaconate.
In the decades since the Council, the diaconate has had an uneven history
throughout the church. That unevenness reflects differenteven conflictingtheologies,
uncertainty about the relationship of deacons to priests, the lack of
clear processes and programmes of formation for deacons, and, not insignificantly,
resentment at what can seem to be another male-only ordained ministry
that devalues the contribution of baptised believers, especially women.
In the light of the complex situation of the diaconate in the contemporary
church, this book, a historico-theological research document
from the International Theological Commission, is a welcome resource.
The strength of the book is its historical research and its carefully
nuanced exposition of the history of the diaconate. The book provides
a detailed guide through the scriptural and patristic material relating
to the diaconate, including a helpful (read: non-polemic)
discussion of the vexed issue of deaconesses. The footnotes
to the historical discussions provide the basis for hours of fun for anyone
interested in trawling through the sources.
What is clear in the document is the open-ended approach to the diaconate
that emerged from the Council. Significantly, the document notes a shift
in the Councils understanding between the composition of Lumen gentium
and Ad gentes. All of this suggests that one-dimensional approaches to
the diaconate are unlikely to express the Councils intention.
In its review of the diaconate worldwide, the document captures well the
complex situation of the diaconate. This is particularly evident in the
division between first-world approaches, where deacons are often seen
as fill-ins as the number of priests declines, and the perception
in developing countries, where there has been a reluctance to embrace
the diaconate lest it compromise the contribution of non-ordained catechists.
The document is helpful in its rejection of flawed theologies: deacons
are not mediators between the baptised and the ordained. It
is useful too in specifying some of the challenges facing efforts to articulate
a comprehensive theology of the diaconate: Why is the diaconate not priestly?
Is the deacon defined by service more than by relationship
to the bishop?
For all its good points, the document might well leave readers somewhat
frustrated, as it tends to list the challenges rather than address them.
Perhaps addressing them was not the Commissions brief, but while
they remain unaddressedto say nothing of unresolvedthe place
of the diaconate in the contemporary church will continue to be problematic.
We had hoped to have been able to include
a review of the excellent book written by Richard Lennan, Risking the
Church. The Challenges of Catholic Faith. Oxford University Press, 2004,
[ISBN 0 19 927146 1], but time beat us. The book is a theology of the
church (ecclesiology) that emphasises the potential for creativity
with which the church is gifted.
For now we publish a description of the books contents in the authors
This book, then, is an attempt to highlight the possibilities for a more
effective presence of the church in the future that will result from our
particular present. The book proposes that the church is always a project,
one that is the product of Gods initiative and constant care, but
one that is also fully dependent on human responses and decisions. As
a project, the church is never finished. It will always be in need of
review and reform to ensure that all of its manifestations are indeed
about God. (pp. 9-10)