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Hickey calls for unity, end of political labelling in local Church


In an unusually lengthy personal reflection in the Australia Day weekend edition of The Record newspaper, Perth Archbishop, Barry Hickey, has made a strong call for unity and an end to labelling in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Pell used his Australia Day column in the Sunday Telegraph to argue: "a nation needs goals other than money making and sporting achievement to remain good and healthy".

Cardinal Pell in his column puts forward the suggestion that perhaps one goal our nation might consider is to populate the Northern parts of our nation. The full text of his Australia Day comments can be found on the Archdiocese of Sydney website.

It is likely though that Archbishop Hickey's reflection on this occasion will cause the most debate within the Church as he has dipped his toe in the difficult subject of internal Church political alignments. He suggests the "many" voices who "have been calling for a thorough overhaul of the Church, to make it more democratic and less hierarchical, to change its teachings on human sexuality, and to accept lifestyle practices clearly against Christian moral standards, favouring personal choice over revealed truth as the determinant of right and wrong" have been "fairly quiet lately. One hears laments about their failure to win the day, but the fight has gone out of them."

Having given the liberals in the Church a further good serve with his view that "compromise with the world produces no vocations, no missionaries, no evangelisers, no martyrs, only disaffected critics." The Archbishop of Perth concludes his reflection by suggesting "Now is the time to abandon disrespectful labelling and to try to discover and live the full Gospel as announced by Jesus in whom we are all one."

Unfortunately The Record newspaper are still rebuilding their website and the article is not available on-line from that source. As a service to our readers we republish the full text below:

Some personal reflections by Archbishop Hickey

People today have different expectations of the Church's role in society. Some want the Church to be active in socio-political causes. Others want it to be entirely about spiritual things with no public profile in world affairs.

Most, I believe, would want the Church to do both, to form people spiritually and to have an impact for good on society.

I would like to share some of my own experiences since I became Archbishop and offer some understanding of why my priorities shift from time to time in response to perceived needs.

When I began my appointment as Archbishop of Perth twelve years ago, I felt that my years in the social welfare field could be useful in calling for a better deal for the poor, for refugees and for disadvantaged people of all sorts.

It was a real pleasure to be involved in advocacy for refugees, for people with disabilities and for the homeless, as they still occupy my time and energies. Even now, living in the city, I come across the most tragic situations of homelessness, where people are held powerless through addictions of various sorts, unable to cope with the demands of normal housing. My verandah is their last resort.

Shortly after my arrival in Perth, I was confronted with a spiritual challenge of substantial proportions, that included an unstoppable drift from the practice of the faith and a frightening loss of young people from active parish life. My priorities changed from social concerns to the internal problems of effectively passing on the faith. The current emphasis on making schools and parishes active centres of evangelisation is only the last of a series of initiatives to improve the situation.

To that end, St Charles Seminary was reopened, and later Redemptoris Mater Seminary was begun, to give us a plentiful supply of spiritual guides. The oft quoted Ten Point Plan outlines many other initiatives, some still underdeveloped.

Not unconnected with this trend is the increasing secularisation of society which undermines the message of the Church and its ability to hold our people, especially the young.

Part of the secularisation of society is evident in the series of legislative moves to liberalise laws on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, destructive human embryo research and prostitution. This has led to public demonstrations and private letters to parliamentarians to minimise the harm of these moves. Some positive results were achieved but overall the tide went against us and we now have, with legal support, the destruction of fife and the official recognition of lifestyles that do not conform to the Christian moral code.

In the Church at present we have an odd situation. To be concerned about social welfare and social justice is considered "liberal", and to be concerned about Christian morality and matters of religious adherence and orthodox teaching is considered "conservative".

This is a false and harmful distinction. No one who seeks to follow Christ could be indifferent to the poor or their living conditions. At the same time no one who chooses Christ could ignore his teachings about sin and holiness. We should be wary of such labels because they are simplistic, reductive and misleading. They also promote unnecessary divisions within the Church.

What one would consider "conservative" another would consider "radical".

To preach Christ and his way is radical, not conservative. It is a radical notion to say that God's Will is more important than our own. It is radical to say that the way of love is better than the way of violence, greed, selfishness and domination.

It is radical to say that outside marriage one has to exercise self control, and within marriage, too. Unfortunately, some want the Church to change her teachings to accept their lifestyle, instead of changing their lifestyle to fit the teaching of the Church.

If conservative means preserving the "status quo" in our society, I have no desire to do that. To do so would mean accepting a lukewarm Christianity that easily succumbs to the ways of the world. As Chesterton said, we don't want a Church that changes with the world. We want a Church that changes the world.

The whole point of the Pope's call to re-evangelise is to offer the world the radical solutions of the Gospel. This requires a real change in Christians, a new fervour and a new sense of mission, not the "status quo" where we can so easily dilute our Christian commitment to accommodate the world's values.

Over recent years, many voices have been calling for a thorough overhaul of the Church, to make it more democratic and less hierarchical, to change its teachings on human sexuality, and to accept lifestyle practices clearly against Christian moral standards, favouring personal choice over revealed truth as the determinant of right and wrong. Oddly enough, these voices have been fairly quiet lately. One hears laments about their failure to win the day, but the fight has gone out of them. They used to say that when the present Pope dies their day would come. We don't hear that much now, possibly because the Pope has not complied with their wish and conveniently passed away. He still lives with all his moral power intact.

Or it may be - and Us certainly is a radical thought - that those same people who enthusiastically looked forward to a Church more in tune with modem values, are beginning to sense that the way of the world is rapidly disintegrating, caught up in violence and the loss of human dignity to such an extent that the counter cultural message of the Church may, after all, be the way to go. Please God this is the real reason for their silence.

But this I do know. Christianity is a radical call to live to the fullest the moral and spiritual potential of the human person. Fervent Christianity continues to produce Christ like people, loving and generous hearts who reach out to all, especially the poor. Compromise with the world produces no vocations, no missionaries, no evangelisers, no martyrs, only disaffected critics.

Now is the time to abandon disrespectful labelling and to try to discover and live the full Gospel as announced by Jesus in whom we are all one.

SOURCE - FULL TEXT OF CARDINAL PELL'S REFLECTION:
Archdiocese of Sydney - Australia Day

SOURCE OF ARCHBISHOP HICKEY'S REFLECTION:
The Record - (Text is not available online from this source at present)



27 Jan 2004