At the Vatican conference on Just Peace, held in April, I was so pleased to meet Fr. Claude (left), a leader in Catholic social justice movements in Australia-Oceania. He has a delightful artistic eye and brought a stunning image of the Aboriginal Christ by Richard Campbell into our gathering.
Fr. Claude is working with Asylum seekers in Australia who are living in brutal conditions under the anti-immigrant policies of the government. On the eve of ANZAC day, an event marking Australian and New Zealanders involved in military action in World War I, Fr. Claude participated in a discussion on national radio about how we can “rethink just war.” See more below and listen to the podcast.
The three day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from many conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The goal of the conference was to explore ways in which their positive experiences of non-violent activism can shape theological thinking and Catholic teaching in schools, universities, seminaries and parishes, moving away from ‘Just War’ towards the concept of a ‘Just Peace’.
In a message sent to the meeting Pope Francis praised the initiative of “revitalising the tools of nonviolence”.
Around the world it raised headlines suggesting that the Catholic Church was moving to shift ground on one of it’s most venerable teachings, the Just War Doctrine.
So on this eve of ANZAC day, marking Australians participation in the War to End Wars, we are taking a look at just what sort of new thinking may be on the horizon.
He’s a Sunday school teacher. He’s funny and a little shy. But he’s got a big problem.
He just got a job from God — and it’s not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill’s been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation. It’s his job to warn us that we have “grieved the Lord in his heart” and that the flood waters will rise again if we don’t get back to working within our “original contract” and reverse climate change.
Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah’s neighbors didn’t think much of him, and Noah himself didn’t know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.
Bill’s like that.
Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit’s whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill’s article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.
So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can’t seem to grow a spine about it.
What I liked about Bill’s article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there’s still time.
If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.
Here’s the plan:
1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.
2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.
3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.
The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It’s been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.
And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.
This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we’ve got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.
More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric Roy Bourgeois, who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony ordaining a woman as a Catholic priest, in defiance of church teaching.
More than 300 priests and deacons in Austria – representing 15% of Catholic clerics in that country – last month issued a “Call to Disobedience,” which stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass.
And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of William Morris, the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.”
In the 22 July 2011 New York Times, Laurie Goodstein writes:
While these disparate acts hardly amount to a clerical uprising and are unlikely to result in change, church scholars note that for the first time in years, groups of priests in several countries are standing with those who are challenging the church to rethink the all-male celibate priesthood.
The Vatican has declared that the issue of women’s ordination is not open for discussion. But priests are on the front line of the clergy shortage — stretched thin and serving multiple parishes — and in part, this is what is driving some of them to speak.
A press release from Call to Action spells the whole situation out more clearly. In an unprecedented move, 157 Catholic priests have signed on to a letter in support of their fellow embattled priest, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who has been told to recant his support for women’s ordination or be removed from the priesthood. The letter that supports Roy’s priesthood and his right to conscience was delivered, Friday, July 22nd, to Fr. Edward Dougherty, Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Maryknoll, NY.
“We can no longer remain silent while priests and even bishops are removed from their posts simply because they choose to speak their truth,” said Fr. Fred Daley, a spokesperson of the effort and a priest of the Syracuse Diocese. “Together, we are standing up for our brother priest, Roy, and for all clergy who have felt afraid to speak up on matters of conscience. “We hope that our support as ordained priests in good standing will help give Fr. Dougherty the support he needs to make a decision that is fair and just.”
This stance of priests from the United States follows a series of recent actions where priests collectively have taken a stand for justice in the Church. Last year, priests in Ireland formed a union aimed at organizing the 6,500 priests there in response to the clergy abuse crisis.
I was glad to see the blog post by Australian Christian Jarrod McKenna with a video of four Christian peace activists who entered Swan Island, one of Australia’s most secret military installations near Queenscliff, Victoria, in March seeking to disrupt the supply chain for the war in Afghanistan. “Both Swan Island and the war on Afghanistan are out of sight, out of mind. It’s time to end further suffering of the Afghan people and our soldiers by bringing our troops home,” the group said.
Said McKenna, “The kairos moment during Holy Week is a moving meditation on a man who taught and lived the nonviolence of the cross in ways that socially witnessed to resurrection. This is made all the more potent for those of us in Australia given the courageous actions of The Bonhoeffer Peace Collective who yesterday with a fierce nonviolent love exposed further connections of the Australian government with the war in Afghanistan.”
Rev. Simon Moyle (Baptist Minister), Jacob Bolton (Community Worker), Jessica Morrison (University Lecturer) and Simon Reeves (Social Worker) have called themselves the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s favorite theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also an antiwar activist.
Male violence is not a new thing – but treating men for it (rather than only bandaging up the victims) is taking on a new look. The U.K. and Australia have launched a number of male-oriented violence-reduction programs that use Gandhian theories of nonviolence (ahimsa) to address issues of domestic abuse.
The Ahimsa Project in Plymouth, England, is a new breed of domestic violence projects (others include A Man’s Place in New Zealand and the Men’s Resource Centre in Lismore, Australia) that offer transformational programs in nonviolence rather than “correctional” programs for perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. The REPAIR (Resolved to Ending Power and Abuse in Relationships) Project in the north of England grew out of the AHIMSA Project.
The current issue of Resurgence magazine has an excellent interview with Peter Rosser on his work with the REPAIR Project and his training in Gandhian nonviolence. Here’s an excerpt:
Why are we in denial about domestic violence which, in the UK, is on the rise? I’m talking with Peter Rosser. He turned his back on the Probation Service, fed up with, (old story), the paperwork, but also the absence of informed supervision, and the apparent inability of the Service to enable change in the violent men who were his clients – even those who wanted desperately to escape their propensity for violence. “So are we living in a violent society?” I ask him. He shakes his head and smiles dryly.
“The Press,” he says, “focuses on President Karzai’s legislation in Afghanistan, which it sees as tantamount to legalising rape in the home, when in Britain, according to The Independent, 300,000 children live with serious domestic violence. We are in denial – and the chief denial is that almost all violence starts at home.”
Ultimately, of course, what is billed as domestic violence is simply another aspect of the violence epidemic in the air that our human society breathes. “And the cause?” I ask. “Back to Cain and Abel?” Peter shrugs. “You tell me. What my experience tells me is that the effect is the cause: violence always furthers and fathers violence, unless some form of ‘repair’ intervenes.”
To look for the source is to become entangled in a loop of cause and effect: fear, alienation from our true nature, absence of belief, values, possible fulfillment. It is a climate of violence which humans currently are born into, and it constitutes in itself an abuse of the human child – abused by the first breath he or she breathes. And the poison of that abuse the child seemingly has no option but to take in, and then no option but to visit it on his or her own children.
Peter left probation to become the manager, facilitator and group worker of an alternative approach to domestic violence and abuse called the Repair Project. The programme is grounded in the work of Paul Wolf-Light [read Wolf-Light’s The Shadow of Iron John] and his Ahimsa project in Plymouth. Peter trained with Wolf-Light for two years, working primarily on himself. Ahimsa is a Gandhian practice, Jain in origin, and is based on four principles of nonviolence. … —by John Moat
David MacGregor, a pastor the Uniting Church in Australia, recently posted a wonderful sermon on Jesus touching and healing the leper (Mark 1:40-45). He used a spirituality column I wrote in January 2005 called The Sense of Touch to examine the experience of touch alongside the powerful images of people embracing each other amid the Victorian bushfire tragedy. Please continue you prayers for all those affected by the fires.
David serves at Indooroopilly Uniting Church in Brisbane and serves on the UCA’s National Working Group on Worship. Below is an excerpt from David’s sermon:
When the leper approaches Jesus, he is, in fact, going against the Law. This said that he should have called out to warn Jesus and the disciples that he was unclean and that they should keep away. Instead, in desperation, he comes to Jesus and speaks directly to Him. In his wretched state, he has seen in Jesus someone who could heal him – the question was did Jesus want to heal someone who was ritually unclean – who, some said, was leprous because of some sin?
Jesus, of course, wants to and reaches out and touches him – strictly speaking, making Himself unclean in the process. At once – immediately (how often do we hear that word in Mark’s gospel?! the leprosy leaves the man and he is healed. Jesus reaches out and touches him …
This past week, night after night on our TV screens we’ve watched footage of devastated bushfire victims hugging another victim close, folk – Kevin Rudd included, placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of a bushfire survivor. There’s something about touch.