Father Nicholas Pearce, also known as ‘A Priest Down Under’ wound down his blog last month.
It was a long time coming of course. Posts were few and far between in the last year, but Fr Pearce blogged regularly and at length in the beginning. I remember well the blog’s genesis. Then-Deacon Pearce and I were labouring through a winter intensive course in sacramental theology, and he registered apriestdownunder.com during a coffee break. (He paid too much for it, but I had to admit: it was a great name!)
The blog was initially intended to document the first twelve months of a new priest’s life. At the end of twelve months, he envisaged someone else taking over — a new newly-ordained priest-down-under, who could then blog about his first twelve months.
Problem is, I threw a spanner in the works when I started my own blog seven months after he started his. I think he had me lined up to take over A Priest Down Under, though I wasn’t privy to his plans at the time. I could see the good Nick’s blog was doing, and since I was in already in the habit of exchanging long e-mails with friends about all sorts of ideas, I decided to blog myself.
I’ve always loved Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest and I was astonished nobody had thought to rip off the title. It was only a matter of time though, so I thought I’d better get in first — even if I had to blog as ‘a Country Deacon’ for the first six months!
It’s true to say that this blog exists only because Fr Pearce’s blog existed first. I can only echo and amplify the farewell from Fr Adrian’s Sharp (also known as A Secular Priest): “Thanks for leading the way!”
Catholic New Media Conference
A lot has changed online even in the few years since A Priest Down Under’s debut. Pope Benedict described the Internet as a “digital continent,” and called on a new generation of missionaries to evangelise its virtual inhabitants.
Later this year, Melbourne will host a Catholic New Media Conference which is intended to assist people in this undertaking. The conference will “explore the new ways the Gospel message can — and should — be shared.”
The finishing touches are being made to the program and final calculations made for the registration costs for CNMC Melbourne (Catholic New Media Conference) on September 2-3, but we wanted to share some news on a few of the great speakers we’ve already secured for the conference and also pass along some other information.
Father Roderick Vonhogen: Father Roderick has been involved in new media and social media since 1996, when his love of Star Wars and a blog on that topic introduced him to tens of thousands of fellow fans. After studying social communications in Rome, he started podcasting – initially from St Peter’s Square in the final days of Pope John Paul II’s life – and founded the Star Quest Production Network (sqpn.com), an international Catholic multimedia project. He has regular podcasts, hosts a TV show on Dutch television and is an international commentator of Catholic issues.
Bishop Julian Porteous: Bishop Julian Porteous is Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Episcopal Vicar for Renewal and Evangelisation. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Sydney on 7 September, 1974, served as Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Sydney from 2002-2008 and was named Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney by Pope John Paul II in 2003. Bishop Porteous is a keen advocate for the New Evangelisation, and in 2010, recognising opportunities presented by new media, he founded Cradio (cradio.org.au), an Internet radio and podcasting service for the Church in Australia.
Catherine Smibert Toomey: Cath has devoted her career to giving a voice to the voiceless, and especially to that of the Church and its values, utilising integrated marketing, media and communications. Her time as a journalist saw her travel to Europe where she was employed by Vatican Radio, Zenit, CTV and H2Onews across her almost 8 years there. She also worked as a Church correspondent for CNN and BBC in this time. For the last 6 years she has run an IMC Agency committed to quality and creative servicing of the faith-based and non-profit sectors.
James Bergin: James has been involved in digital ministry for over 15 years and is a director of Icon Media (iconmedia.co.nz), a Catholic new media company established in 2009. His projects include The 15th Station podcast network, of which he is the lead host, and the Being Frank blog, which he helped to establish in 2006. He has appeared on national television and radio in New Zealand speaking on Catholic issues. He works as a senior enterprise architect in the financial services industry, with a particular focus on strategy and innovation. He is married with three children.
I will be speaking at the conference myself, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still be going. Registration isn’t open yet, but it’s never too early to mark your calendar.
CNMC Melbourne will start at 1pm sharp on Monday, September 2. It will conclude at 5pm that day and run from 9am-5pm on Tuesday, September 3.
The conference venue has been confirmed as the Cardinal Knox Centre, on the corner of Albert and Lansdowne Sts, next to St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Details to follow.
An interesting photo appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. It’s a detail from a new R.E. poster presumably designed in and for the Melbourne Archdiocese.
The photo was accompanied by this cryptic caption:
One of the images on the new R.E posters going up in all the classrooms at school! Is someone taking the piss?!!
Hover your mouse over the image and you’ll understand why:
It’s probably worth noting that the photo — and caption — were posted by Dave Gallacher, who is Fr Michael Gallacher’s brother!
There’s a lot to love about the Internet. Blogs for one thing. (I can only presume anyone reading this is inclined to agree!)
But I suspect the overall impact of the Internet on the world is negative. Take a look at these statistics on online pornography, which are nothing short of horrific but all too believable:
There’s no doubting porn addiction is a huge cultural problem. The masters of satire at The Onion have painted a crude but poignant portrait: ‘Carpe Diem,’ Says Man Who Spent Previous Day Masturbating In Darkened Room (reader discretion advised).
Of course, from my point of view porn addiction is also a pastoral problem.
Addiction has a spiritual element. I advise Catholics who are addicted to pornography — or masturbation, or sex — to commit themselves to an intense plan of interior life: daily meditation and spiritual reading, and if possible daily communion and frequent confession. Apart from that, I recommend fixed Internet hours, and accountability software like X3watch.
But it’s important to note that addiction to online pornography is a neurological disease, not a moral failure. A friend of mine — a professional counsellor whom I’ve blogged about before — has written at length about the neuroscience of pornography addiction and recovery.
So spiritual remedies need to be accompanied by psychological treatment. Grace builds on nature. Porn addicts need to ‘unlearn’ neurological pathways, and rewire billions of connections. The process can be compared to getting over a failed romantic relationship. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Lest anyone believes the only victims of porn addiction are the addicts, think again. The online porn industry depends on human trafficking.
Online pornography is every bit as destructive and evil as heroin.
Yesterday was not only the Feast of St Charles Lwanga and companions, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bl John XXIII.
(His feast is 11 October — the anniversary of the opening session of Vatican II.)
This anniversary, I must confess, took me by surprise. I think I’ll add Journal of a Soul to my 2013 reading list.
Four and a half years ago, I wrote an article which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of his papal election. It incorporated several memorable anecdotes and quips of his, which I have reproduced here.
In 1944, then-Archbishop Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli, was appointed papal nuncio to Paris. In the post-war reconstruction, his residence received much-needed attention. One day, an irate carpenter, who had hammered his fingers, cursed the Lord’s name. The nuncio’s reply was quick: “Well now, what kind of language is that? Can’t you say merde! [shit!] like everyone else?”
In 1956, Cardinal Roncalli was Patriarch of Venice when he briefly but graciously played host to Cardinal Wyszyński, Primate of Poland. Wyszyński was aboard a Rome-bound train to visit the Pope after three years of prison in communist Poland. The train was stationed at Venice for 45 minutes, so the Patriarch of Venice suggested to the Primate of Poland a short sight-seeing tour of the floating city.
Several hours later, Cardinal Wyszynski realised how much time had got away from them, and groaned that he had missed his train. Cardinal Roncalli told him not to worry. “Do you see that man sitting at the back of our boat? He’s the engineer of your train. I kidnapped him, and while he is with us, your train cannot leave the station!”
A few days after his election, Pope John took a stroll through the Vatican gardens in the company of the ever-vigilant Swiss Guards. A pair of his gardeners approached the Holy Father to kiss his ring, but the guards told them to keep back. “Why do that?” the pope asked.
“Security, your holiness.”
“But I would not have hurt them.”
There are three ways a man can ruin himself: women; gambling; and farming. My father chose the most boring way.
Latin stuck in my head at the rate of about one clout per word.
It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.
And the Holy Father’s final words:
I had the great grace to be born into a Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the Lord. My time on earth is drawing to a close. But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church.
Souls! souls! Ut omnes unum sint.
Between 1885 and 1887, King Mwanga of Buganda (in modern-day Uganda) executed several dozen royal pages for who refused to renounce their Christian faith.
The king nursed many grievances against Christianity, but one of them stands out. Mwanga was a pedophile and ephebophile who resented the sexual mores of the new Christian religion. The Christians among his court — which was basically intended to be a harem — consistently refused his sexual advances. In the months leading up to the ‘Namugongo holocaust,’ Charles Lwanga is reputed to have protected several boys from the predatory king.
On the morning of Thursday 3 June 1887 — the Feast of the Ascension — Charles was cruelly burnt to death. Several dozen young men and boys joined him in death, though the means of execution varied: some were burned alive, some speared, and others hacked to death.
In light of today’s feast, I offered all my prayers and sacrifices for the survivors of clergy abuse.
When I sat in the gallery of the Parliamentary Inquiry a few months ago, one of the most heart-rending testimonies I heard came from a man who grieved his loss of faith. He cited two reasons for this loss:
1. The Catholic religion had become repugnant to him, because it was so closely related to the abuse he suffered from ‘men of God.’
2. Even more tragically, in his darkest hours, he is still susceptible to the lie that the abuse he suffered is his sin. The rapes he endured are his crimes, which causes God to turn away from him in disgust.
Would that he and others survivors had a Charles Lwanga who could have shielded them. But I am sure St Charles’ prayers, and the prayers of Charles’ companions, intercede for him and other survivors.
UPDATE. An iPad and iPhone friendly version of the same:
When I started at the University of Melbourne in 2000, the Pro-Life Society was all but defunct.
The requisite sum of on-paper members ensured it stayed on the Union’s books, because if its registration ceded there was no way the Union’s office-bearers would permit its revival. But there were no active members. The club was a spent force. Why? Because the radical feminist groups on campus had realised that if they ignored the Pro-Life Club, its raison d’etre — not to mention its profile — would wane.
By the time I graduated in 2005 the Pro-Life Club was resurgent. Why? Marcel White — a savvy (and über-provocative) law student — had become president and goaded the radical feminist groups to such an extent that the Pro-Life Club was roundly condemned at student protests and repeatedly attacked in the pages of Farrago. The number of members dutifully multiplied.
There’s a lesson in this. An online advertising campaign started this week, which is embarrassingly transparent in its attempt to rouse religious ire.
Catholics could oblige and raise their voices in indignation. That’s a great way to make ourselves feel better, but it also ensures the campaign’s success, and could even encourage similar endeavours in the future.
Or Catholics can ignore it. That doesn’t feel so good, but it will do more good.
In the meantime, I’m gonna go buy some Vegemite. There’s nothing better than a load of butter and a scrape of Vegemite on toast!