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Vol 39 No 2


Kristina Keneally


Jim Quillinan

Vincent Battaglia
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections

Lawrence Cross
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church

Anthony Arthur MSC

Mark Raper SJ
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life in Contemporary Australia?

Bruce Duncan CSsR
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church



A papal condolence motion


TONIGHT I JOIN in the condolence motion moved by the Premier and supported by members on both sides of the House, and express my sympathy at the passing of Pope John Paul II. In that I also represent the people of Heffron, including the large population of Catholics. More than 30 per cent of my electorate identify as Roman Catholic. I know that the communities of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Waterloo, St Bernard's, Botany, St Teresa's, Mascot, St Joseph's, Rosebery, St Mary's, Erskineville, and my own parish, Our Lady of the Rosary at Kensington, join me in that. Tonight many members have noted some of the accomplishments of this Pope: his role in the downfall of communism, his evangelisation efforts and his engagement with other religions and faiths, his respect for the dignity of human life from the point of conception through to death, and his revitalisation of the intellectual life of the church.

Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978—a year that coincided with my own feminist awakenings and intellectual curiosity. In 1978 I was in year 3 at St Joseph's Primary School in Ohio. I called the Bishop of Toledo on a call-back radio station to ask why girls could not be altar servers. He gave a very unsatisfactory answer, and started in me what became a lifelong quest and intellectual curiosity about the role of women in the church—a quest that eventually led to a master's degree in religious studies specialising in feminist theology. As I spent a great deal of my life before entering this Parliament as a person engaged in intellectual discussions about the faith, I appreciated the Pope's keen interest in that area of the faith.

Gregg Easterbrook, writing in the New Republic, said that Pope John Paul II was a student keenly interested in modern philosophy. Several popes had offered an uneasy truce with science. John Paul II was openly enthusiastic about science, declaring that he believed most modern scientific thinking on the Big Bang, the expansion of the universe, the age of the earth and especially Darwinian evolution. The Pope loved ideas and intellectual argument, and he encouraged others to love these, too. The effect was contagious, reviving the intellectual debate within the Catholic hierarchy and showing the world a pope with an inquiring mind, not just a rote follower of dogma.

In 1991 I was privileged to join seven other young Catholics as part of the United States of America bishops' official delegation to a three-day world youth congress in Czestochowa, Poland. Run by the Vatican, the congress gathered approximately 250 young people from around the world and served as a lead-up to World Youth Day. I was fresh out of university, and I had recently relinquished the presidency of a national organisation of student governments at Catholic colleges and universities. Being stridently feminist, I had more than a few arguments with John Paul II when I set off for Poland: women's ordination, celibacy in the priesthood, lifelong vocations and contraception topped my list.

The three days of the congress were challenging, fascinating and invigorating. A high point included a debate with a Lithuanian delegate on whether dissension to Papal teaching is detrimental to the church. I also met a lot of young adults who shared my passion for the Gospel, activism and social justice, including delegates from Sudan, Bulgaria and Australia. As official delegates, we were given roles in the Papal liturgies that shaped World Youth Day. As it was the first time that such an openly religious and international gathering of people had taken place in Poland, the atmosphere was electric, with an estimated 1.4 million young Catholics from around the globe joining the Pope in the land of his birth.

My job was to read the English version of the second reading in the vigil service. Speaking to one of the Australian delegates, Ben Keneally, before the liturgy, I remarked on how unsettling it was to see the euphoria and the near hero worship of the Pope that was displayed by many of the young people. For goodness sake, I told Ben, this was just a man. All the crying, the emotion and the adulation seemed a bit unwarranted. Ben agreed. I did the second reading and at the last minute, thinking I was quite clever, I made unapproved changes to the text to render it gender inclusive. Then, as I had been instructed to do, I turned to the Pope and bowed. At that point he looked directly at me, smiled and nodded.

I do not think it was because he approved of my gender-free rendition of Romans—I doubt whether he could hear it as he was sitting behind the sound system. I can only describe that moment as full of grace. At that point it was as if the love of God was focused solely on me, and I felt holiness. For the first time in my life I understood what it meant to receive the grace of God. When I got back to my seat I tried to explain the sensation to my Australian friend, Ben, who remained sceptical and convinced that I had caved in to the emotionalism of the moment. But I believed that something otherworldly had occurred. Despite myself, and for the first time, I truly believed that John Paul II was God's representative on earth.

I saw the Pope again two years later at World Youth Day in Denver, although this time, instead of being an official delegate, I was one of four young people being shadowed by the McNeill-Lehrer NewsHour as its token progressive, left-wing, feminist Catholic. Denver was not Czestochowa, and sitting half a mile from the Pope in the sweltering Colorado heat was not the same as being 10 feet from him on an altar in Poland. Though I yearned for that same sense of grace and love, I could not find it. I subsequently married my Australian friend, Ben Keneally, and moved to Sydney. We saw John Paul II again in Australia in 1994. I wanted to renew the sense of the Pope's connection to the divine but it was hard. He was already suffering the effects of Parkinson's disease, and the concept of attending Mass at the Royal Randwick Racecourse was just a bit too weird.

In the years since that first encounter with Pope John Paul II I have held on to my Catholic faith and my feminist convictions. In the Catholic Church I find community, love, grace and forgiveness. The Catholic faith is the first thing my husband, Ben, and I shared. It was our sustenance when our daughter died, and by choosing baptism for our children it is our gift to them. As a feminist I still advocate for the ordination of women and while I accept that children are a gift from God I find such fulfilment in serving my community as a member of Parliament that I have made a decision not to have any more children so I can channel my passion for social justice into other things. For the time being that is my job for the people of my electorate. My decision does not reflect a belief that women cannot be mothers and members of Parliament: I was elected when my own children were only two years and four years old. My point is that there is more than one way to be life-giving.

My response to the news that John Paul II had died arose both from the Catholic and the feminist in me—from the feminist, hopeful that a new papacy might bring a new approach, but from the Catholic my response is deeper, sadder and possibly disturbing. As the Pope lay dying last week I had to wonder how a person who radiated divine grace could be so wrong about God's intentions for women. If I accept that John Paul II is Christ's representative on earth, how can I believe that he has so grossly misunderstood what God wants for women? After all, faith is accepting what we cannot understand. This Pope came as close as possible to teaching infallibly that women cannot be priests, leaving future pontiffs with very little wriggle room. In good conscience I cannot accept that he is right.

Therefore, the life of John Paul II leaves me with the confronting question that perhaps I would rather not face: either a very holy man is wrong or I do not have enough faith. It is a challenging proposition no matter how I look at it. Perhaps the Pope was wrong about women. After all, the bishop of Toledo turned out to be wrong about girls as altar servers. Ultimately, the answer will come following faithful attention to church tradition and intellectual debate about men and women, drawing insight from anthropology, psychology and theology. Of one thing I am certain: the Pope's revitalisation of the intellectual life of the church leaves us, the Catholic Church, ready for such a discussion.

Kristina Keneally (ALP) was elected to the NSW Parliament as the Member for Heffron in 2003. She lives in South Sydney and is a member of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Kensington. She and her husband Ben have two sons, aged seven and four.

At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.
The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good. If we consider the tragic scenario of violent fratricidal conflicts in different parts of the world, and the untold sufferings and injustices to which they have given rise, the only truly constructive choice is, as Saint Paul proposes, to flee what is evil and hold fast to what is good (cf. Rom 12:9).
Peace is a good to be promoted with good: it is a good for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and actions inspired by good. We can appreciate the profound truth of another saying of Saint Paul: “Repay no one evil for evil” (Rom 12:17). The one way out of the vicious circle of requiting evil for evil is to accept the Apostle's words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).
—Message of Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January, 2005.