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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

World Youth Day « Previous | |Next »
July 14, 2008

I do not understand the purpose of World Youth Day. What are the Catholic pilgrims coming for? There are no sacred sites in Sydney. The media go on about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, the organizers talk in terms of numbers, and the NSW Government thinks in terms of major events and tourist dollars. What is the Church trying to achieve with World Youth Day in terms of needing God and combating religious indifference and disenchantment?

Benedictvisit.jpg Petty

The Catholic youth on Radio National Breakfast talk in terms of expressing their living faith, yet we have a church that reckons the only Christian Church is that of Rome. Sinners can be absolved of their sins with penance indulgences if they attend the traveling journey of the cross, yet the Church deals with dissent in its own ranks (eg., that of liberal Catholicism) with a heavy repressive hand.

That implies the Catholic Church has a narrow kind of religious awakening in Australia in mind in this historical moment, when the signs are interpreted by Benedict as faith and belief returning and taking new forms in a secular liberal society.

I hope that we will be spared the sermons from an authoritarian leadership about the spiritually dead, the soulless, secular uncaring, of a liberal Australia society violating the sacredness of life etc etc, as well as the repeat of the attacks on Islam and Muslim-Australians for undermining western civilization. The recent messages from Australian bishops and Benedict have been about an aggressive "new secularism" that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair.

Can I suggest a theme? Sermons on reconciliation with a liberal Australia and secular humanism instead of ones on a heartless and godless liberalism that the seeks to establish atheism as the de facto established religion. It is about time the Catholic Conservatives started some sort of reconciling process with liberal Australia, rather than seeing political liberalism as an attitude of rebellion against the confinements and restraints of the traditions and power of the established authorities.

The history of conservative Catholicism is that democracy is a challenge to be overcome, rather than a plausible form of politics for the City of Man; and that they saw fascism, as a necessary evil to save Catholicism from Communism. It was only in 1963 with Pacem in Terris that the Church finally acknowledged the plausibility of political democracy.

One way to begin this process is through the principles of subsidiarity, which is the Catholic Church's understanding of federalism. This principle is usually unpacked in term of the best government is that which is closest to the people---that is, central government should delegate as much power as possible to local authorities who are clearly more aware of local needs and conditions.

Therefore, the leviathan size and continual growth of the national government in Canberra should be decried by conservatives, because this is in direct contradiction with the principle of subsidiarity as taught by Catholic social teaching. We rarely hear that kind of argument from Catholic conservatives. What we get is a narrative about beleaguered Christian religion, which the very foundation of western civilization, being under siege from an intolerant new secularism.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:14 AM | | Comments (24)


Benedict XV1 says that young people today lack hope and are perplexed by the problems of a confusing world. Presumably the Catholic Church is there to give them guidance and restore their hope. To be happy we need God. We need God to create a better world.

A difficult message to sell, given the problems of sexual abuse in the Church and its tardiness in dealing with it, despite the Church's moral teaching being very clear that sexual abuse of children is wrong.

Catholicism aside, the Pope is still a Head of State and should be afforded the respect that comes with it.

It won't be long before the conservative movement in Catholicism starts running the line that hope comes with chastity. Chastity is the way to deal with being perplexed and confused in a secular world. Chastity is the way to live out your Christian faith.

In other words, pre-martial sex is bad in a sex soaked consumer culture. Those who engage in are blind etc etc.

I don't think that anyone is suggesting otherwise. Benedict XV1 is as welcome in this country as a President of the US. I haven't heard anyone say that he is not welcome.

My concern is how the conservative Catholics will use this event to sell their message about proving hope and guidance. It is the content in the message that worries me.

The conservative claim that a godless secularism tries to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair has been outsourced to the Australian.

Paul Kelly's column in the Weekend Australia is full of it. He says that the celebration of Christianity is being:

resisted by many who seek a radical change in the status quo. They represent an aggressive "new secularism", a philosophy much discussed by Benedict, that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair. In terms of governance, such advocates want not a traditional secular state to enshrine religious freedom, but the creation of atheism as the de facto established religion to drive real religion from the public domain. This constitutes one of the most radical and intolerant projects in Australian political history.

Really? It is not even ironic as Kelly goes on to say that:
Our secular state was never designed to deny God in the public square. The rise of an aggressive new secularism, if a serious movement, threatens Australia's social unity and religious tolerance.Mostly though, it is not a serious movement offering intellectual argument but old-fashioned prejudice disguised because it comes from the educated.

He then goes to assert that secular humanism has no ethics:
This raises the question: what is the source of a nation's moral values? Where is the social consensus for such values when all truth is deemed to be relative? Benedict warns the state cannot be "the source of truth and morality". Society needs a core of shared truth to survive, yet this core is under sustained assault in the West. His conclusion is predictable: the key to social stability is a "moral order based on the dominion of God". He believes the demise of this idea will see "human beings destroy themselves; we see this with our own eyes".

Kelly doesn't even bother to question Benedict's claims that the key to social stability is a "moral order based on the dominion of God", despite the separation of Church and state being an integral part of the culture of Australian political liberalism.

A rarely enlightened (Jansenist?) priest writing in one of the Fairfax op ed sections a week or so ago described WYD's sort of narrowist right wing theology as "Restorationist".
Sounds very Canute-like, it doesn't want to wipe the bad factors of progress since the Age of Enlightenment, just the humane bits.
Will never get over how grateful am to have had the chance to read Stendhal's classic from the 1830s about reactionary ultraist( restorationist, actually!) France.
The down side is how familiar the events of this novel read in a time nearly two centuries further down the track.
This sense is reinforced by the astoundingly ignorant, arrogant braying from Pell on the theme of "populate or perish".
With its ugly, racist Hitlerian and absolutist undertones it is clumsy widow dressing for rampant Medievalism full of meanness, conceit, fear and hate.

Theocrats just love obedience and stability.

One could read anything into anything if one sets a mind too. For me they all look like nice clean cut kids singing, planting trees and being nice to others. I don't care what they beleive in.

Pell is starting to warm up in his comments. He is saying that there are two great challenges facing the Catholic Church in Australia.

First, there is the breakdown in family life and issues of sexuality, marriage and family as among the two greatest challenges. The other great challenge was the Australian temptation to believe that you can have a good, happy life without God. The first one is dealt with by having more kids. And the second?

Gerard Henderson is winding up. He is talking in terms of Catholic bashing by "sneering secularists" who are creating the "new sectarianism".

it does matter what Cardinal Pell says. He is a sceptic about the claim that human activity is likely to produce a man-made catastrophe.

In contrast, the pontiff speaks of the need to find the ethical capacity to change environmental practices and face the challenge of ''our responsibility towards creation''.

Gary, I couldnt resist this.

What is the pope?
A sinner--that is a self-possessed mortally afraid human being, just like the rest of us. And as such a self-possessed meat-body personality he is therefore infinitely godless, just like everybody else. And as such he doesnt know anything more about Real God, the Divine Conscious Light, than my CAT.

Some point to him being the "vicar of christ" via "holy" apolostic succession. Which is a grotesque joke because the various popes were always chosen by the dominant very worldly power faction of the times. Saintliness or truly human maturity had nothing to do with it. Some of the popes didnt even have any ordinary redeeming human qualities. Some were outright psycho-paths and as such were unfit for human company, and should have been locked up.

The event in Sydney is pure PT Barnum---a showbiz circus with thousands of suckers being fleeced. PT Barnum would have marvelled at it---all those suckers being fleeced of their dollars for a fake plastic product.

And besides which the pope has become the centre of a groteque personality cult---look at me, look at me.

What has that got to do with anything that Saint Jesus of Galilee may have taught and demonstrated while he was alive?

The "resurrection" didnt, and could not have happened. Such an idea is the equivalent of a modern urban myth/legend.

Saint Jesus of Galilee was without any worldly power. He road into town unannounced on a donkey. He threw the money-lenders out of the temple and was execued by the Imperial Roman State with the connivance of the then religious establishment.

Benedict comes into town via a vast propaganda apparatus.
He is feted by the money-lenders and given the best of everything.
He hobnobs with the rich and famous (the money-lenders) and effectively gives his seal of approval to the now dominant Empire.
His installation was effectively a celebration and assertion of Imperial power. It was even celebrated as such by right wing catholics---especialy in the USA---and also effectively by mister Pell.

All the money-lendes, the generals, and the psycho-paths who govern us were in attendence.

He IS the "religious" establoshment. A very worldly power and control seeking establishment that has inevitably murdered countless millions its its HIS-story.

Do you think that saint Jesus would be welcome at such a circus?
Or even invited?
Or that any living saint would be found anywhere near such an event?

Also it is NOT a "world" youth day. The name/title of the event is itself an exercise in power assering propaganda.
It is a day for catholic youth. The overwhelming majority of the worlds youth are not catholic.
Or that any living saint

I wonder if more than 10% of the attendees even understand what you are saying there. Historically followers don't tend to be a bright lot. But still these youth are the future of the religion and I would expect them to be much more eco and politically savy.
Out with the old farts and in with the new I say and until they start strapping bombs to themselves they and I will go on pleasantly ignoring each other. I have a sign on my door that reads "If you knock on my door preaching your religion I will squirt you with the hose"
Seems to work.

To respect the Pope, you have to respect his followers too whether you agree with those beliefs or not. It's just like Bush bashing being considered anti-american which we know isn't true. At least this site delineates between the conservative catholic and other divisions.

Kelly's piece should have been printed with a clear acknowledgement that it's advertorial. If the Age can be held accountable for spruiking Earth Hour, The Oz should be held accountable for spruiking the Pope.

Henderson's objective is more personal. He's trying to counter his irrelevance in the abatement of the culture wars.

"The other great challenge was the Australian temptation to believe that you can have a good, happy life without God." Somehow I can't see the Pope being able to do anything about beer and sport.

this blog also makes a distinction between Cardinal Pell and the ordinary pilgrims who have come to Sydney. They are more than welcome and I read, and reflect on, what they say about the chaste way of life and its rejection of sexual liberty.

Since Pell clearly makes me an enemy--for the lefty views I stand for--it is unclear why I should respect him--other than grant him the respect for an antagonist.

What repect I have there is mitigated by the way he has handled sexual abuse in the Church. Benedict is much more honest in his moral conservatism on this issue and on climate change. Pell comes across as more of a cultural warrior who uses his ethics as a weapon.

The Australian spruiking the Pope and pilgrims? All the tourists coming to Sydney on their package tours for the event are defined as pilgrims. Where are the sacred sites? Or is the journey of the cross the sacred event?

It's a very hard sell by the Australian. They are supporting the Catholic festival to further the momentum of Australian conservatism as a political movement. The Australian is Australia's equivalent to Fox News in the US.

I personally dont have anything against the gathering and celebrations or whatever they are doing but I do have a problem with the name. I think that they shouldnt call it 'World Youth Day'. Firstly it doesn't involve all youths, many, like me, are not religious and others are of a different religion to caltholism. Secondly, because it does not involve the whole world. Different parts of the world are also different religions therefore it does not include these people. For those reasons i feel it should not be called 'World Youth Day'. Maybe 'Catholics Day' or something along those lines.

good point. It is really a Catholic festival day--a celebration of Catholicism.

Apparently News Ltd is a WYD sponsor.

None of it seems particularly sacred to me. A bunch of kids running amok around the closed streets of Sydney, singing, dancing, yahooing. It's like schoolies without drugs, alcohol and decent bands.

Wow!What a contrast to all the negative,unhappy talk on this site when you see and meet the people of WYD.I guess the word Witness goes both ways.Cheer up

odd you say that since the negative plays such a big part in Catholic Theology. Don't you agree? The devil tempting us and turning us into sinners etc etc.

The negative is so strong that we poor fragile humans needed Christ, the son of God, to sacrifice himself--- his body tortured on the cross--- to save us and so help us to overcome our bad fleshy nature.

Catholicism is not a very joyful religion, despite all the festivity in Sydney. A lot of that looks to be pretty secular.

Gary,Actually it is an extremely joyful inner strength and peace that comes to us through our faith.Understanding the Triune God and his church here on earth is the a great challenge.It takes what Christ told us,'Trust in Him','Go out into deep waters'.As its been said of faith,'for believers, no explanation is necessary.For those who dont believe ,none is possible.'My prayers each day include that all hearts find such strength and inner peace.

Fair enough. There is a festival air to World Youth Day that is good to see. It would appear that you can have faith in the Trinity with little of the dogma and theology associated with Aquinas.

I presume that "explantion" in your comment refers to Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and your faith that in the mystery of God there must be a wondrous community.The death of Christ and the eucharistic representation of its salvific significance is the heart of the triune God.

For those who do not have faithor are not believers there is no explanation for the way the one name of God in also “the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”; or the way they are so different that they are named successively, yet bound together with the conjunction “and.”

I have nothing against people celebrating religion, but is it really necessary to hijack the title "World Youth Day"?? I'm sure there are also non-Christian or non-religious youths around the world.

The title "World Youth Day" should be reserved for a non-religiously affliated world youth day.

For ALL youths! Leave religion out of it.