Catholic in Yanchep

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Anne Mazzella – a life well lived

Anne MazzellaOur dear friend and fellow parishioner of many years, Anne Mazzella, passed away on 12 January.  Today I want to share with you the eulogy written by her daughter, Kavisha Paola Mazzella [slightly edited by me].

Anne, little sister of Michael and John, was born into a privileged family in Shwebo, Burma on 23rd December 1933.  Her father, G. D. Stewart, was a Buddhist by faith and District Commissioner of the Upper Chindwin area.  Her mother, Doreen, was a Catholic and the head of the Girl Guides in Burma.  They lived in a big wooden house with servants, dogs and horses – and Mum had a nanny.  Mum and her brothers went to Saint Joseph’s in Maymo. Grandfather was a member of the polo team and was often called out to hunt with the Burmese to catch a man-eating tiger. It was the life of a Rudyard Kipling novel: a life we can only imagine.
Anne Burma

This life was to be rudely interrupted when the Japanese invaded Rangoon in 1942 and the family fled to India as refugees on what would be fearfully called “The Trek”.  They were lucky to make it out alive as many died on the rough impenetrable jungle terrain, starving to death or dying of fatal illness.

Somehow with God’s grace, they made it to India and for the next eight or so years lived in India in the Himalayan Foothills in the hill station town of Derhadun. During this time, unfortunately, Grandfather and Grandma split up.The children all boarded in Darjeeling, being sent to live there for nine months of the year, having three months home on holiday.  Mum went to Loreto Convent and her brothers to Northpoint Jesuit College.

Mum was a popular girl, talented in acting, singing and sport. She broke the all-India record for a while in the long jump at 16 feet 6 inches. She even played hockey for the national team. She was also capable of getting the whole assembly at school giggling contagiously when she giggled.  She remained friends with the Loreto girls till the end of her life.

When Mum graduated she went back to Burma briefly working as a typist for the Rangoon Electrical Company. Uncle Cecil, an English gentleman who was the head of the company and a friend of Grandma’s, recognised that Anne had a good brain and suggested she should go and study nursing in England.

So off Anne went again on a steamship all the way to England to study midwifery where she met another group of fine young women who were also to become loyal friends. They were Dora Madisetti, my godmother from the French Carribean island of Dominique, and Alexia Kazamia from Greece.  Together they had many adventures, travelling to Germany, Spain and France on their nursing holidays .

It was there, one fateful afternoon at Stoke Mandeville  Hospital, Aylesbury, at Wednesday afternoon social dancing she met our Papa, a handsome young Italian ward-orderly from the island of Ischia.  His name was Giovanni Mazzella, and he looked like Perry Como, the famous singer who was very popular at the time. They fell in love and after a courtship of three or so years got married.

Soon afterwards they left the hospital life and went into business together. Thanks to an inheritance of some money from Uncle Cecil and with papa’s advice they bought a business:  a small workers’ café called the Penguin Lounge in Surbiton, Surrey.  They lived on top of the café and were joined by Papa’s family from Italy.  Everyone worked together in the kitchen or front of house. They were also helped by members of Mum’s family from Burma.

The twins, Paola and Giancarlo, were born, followed by another little one Francesco, and soon Papa and Mum were thinking seriously of settling in a warmer country. In the Sixties, the Australian Government were offering opportunities to people in Britain to settle in Australia, paying most of their fares as long as they stayed and gave it a go for two years.  After much bureaucratic hassle, they became “10 pound poms” ( except Papa who had to pay full fare of 67 pounds) and set off on a four week cruise down to the Southern Hemisphere on the good ship, The Orion, arriving in Perth in December of 1962.
Ann Mazzella

At first Papa worked as a waiter in Riverside Lodge and Mum was at home looking after us.  After many hours of double shifts, Papa had saved enough to buy a business, a café in the ten pin bowling alley, Fairlanes, in Adelaide Terrace, next to the ABC Radio Station.  Two more babies arrived – Antonio and Marco.  Mum and Papa worked in Fairlanes, balancing that with parenting five growing children.  After that Mum and Papa branched out and had another café with Zio Isidoro in The ten pin bowling alley in Mirrabooka, eventually selling both and going into business with Mum’s in-laws, Frank and Franca Danze at Quickstop Deli in Mirrabooka and finally retiring in the nineties.  After their retirement they got to enjoy some travel interstate and overseas to visit relatives and friends. 

In later years, Mum and Papa rescued a little feral kitten who was called Momo.  Momo was very fearful of everyone but was not afraid of Mum and used to sit on the chair next to mum listening to her playing the piano.  And when papa wanted to find Momo he would ask mum to play and like clockwork Momo would run in and sit next to Mum.

There are so many words to describe Mum and I won’t be able to tell them all but will try to do my best to open a small window to her qualities.

  1.  WORKED HARD

Mum wasn’t one to shirk. She threw herself in with gusto.  But no matter what she had to do and how hard it was, she would counter it with the words “Oh well, just b$#*y get on with it!”

2.  EARTHY SENSE OF HUMOUR

While she was stoic she equally had a naughty sense of humour and liked the odd dirty joke. Her favourite TV shows were things like Benny Hill Show, Two Ronnies and Little Britain. 

3.  COMPASSIONATE

Having been a refugee and knowing what it was like to lose everything, Mum was very good with people, always making sure they felt welcome and at home. In fact she even brought people home. One day we were amazed to come home and find a tall dark handsome elderly gentleman all dressed in a white linen suit and a pith helmet! His name was Monsieur Lavontue and he was a french Mauritian Avon lady travelling salesman.  She had met him on the bus home and started to talk to him, enquiring about his pith helmet.  She thought he would be a good person for Grandma to have as a friend as they could converse in French.  In the seventies when the Vietnamese refugees were fleeing to Australia, under the guidance of Archbishop Hickey, Mum and Papa sponsored two families as part of the host family scheme, helping them settle down and adapt to their new homes.  Mum and Papa became godparents to Diep who was born in the Malaysian refugee Camp and was only six months old when she arrived. 

4.  MUSICAL

I think Mum was born for singing and was excellent at doing harmonies.  Uncle John tells a charming story that describes that when the family were escaping through the jungle to India, Grandma and Mrs Gombes were in the Bullock Cart and the boys were on their ponies whilst Anne was being carried in a sedan chair. She kept them all entertained by singing nursery rhymes and by the time they got to the Nagaland Refugee Camp, the bearers all knew the tunes and were singing along by heart.  They had been taught well by their tiny choir mistress.  She studied classical piano at school.  Later she played piano by ear and even at the end of her life was playing for the fellow residents at Bethanie Aged Care facility.  She built up quite a fan base and had everyone waiting for her after she had been out for the day with Papa.

5.  MUM WAS CONSTANTLY EDUCATING HERSELF

Having been a midwife she was very interested in the latest health issues. One day she came home and said, “Right! No more rubbish lemonade and Coco Pops for you.  From now on, we are drinking orange juice and having muesli or boiled eggs for  breakfast! What a shock that was! But now we can see she was ahead of her time.  We had vitamins every morning and some sticky stuff called IRADOL where she would line us up and we’d be fed our daily spoonful!  She even made up a little song “Iradol, Irradol, Irradol, A, makes you bright and healthy. Happy all the day!”

  1. Mum loved READING.

She often had a pile of up to 30 books on her bed! One of her favourite books was “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas which tell the story of what happened to Jesus’s robes after his death. She also had books in Italian as well. 

  1. MUM was deeply SPIRITUAL

Until her illness prevented her from going along, she and Papa were members of the local Rosary Group.  At school she was a member of the Sacred Heart Sodality.  Mum even studied the Enneagram at the Redemptorist Monastary in North Perth when we lived at Dumbarton Crescent in Menora.  [Editor’s note: the enneagram is discouraged as a New Age practice, incompatible with Christianity.]  She was interested in people like Bede Griffith, the Christian mystic monk who lived in India.  She used to wear a black lace mantilla veil and bow her head praying and contemplating, and I wondered what was going on in there.  Also she had great respect for other religions, having been bought up in India where she was surrounded by folk from Hindu and Buddhist faiths.  She taught us not to fear them. In later years she was a devout member of the local Yanchep congregation and went to Mass in the tiny Saint James Anglican Church in Yanchep.  In ecumenical spirit, the Anglican community shared the space with the Catholics until the Anglicans built their own church in Alkimos.  After that time, the Catholics moved to the Yanchep Community Centre. 

  1.  PLAYFUL

She loved to throw Bad Taste Parties, getting everyone to dress up in silly costumes. She loved having the Tamil Servite Sisters over to dance Scottish Sword dancing, celebrating her Scottish heritage. We lived in a Jewish neighbourhood having friends such as the Roses and old Mr and Mrs Goldberg. With our Italian Nonna, uncles and aunts close by down the road and various Indian and Burmese friends and relatives visiting and with our Anglo- Burmese Grandmother, Doreen, living in the granny flat at the back, the house was a veritable League of Nations. 

  1. LOVED ANIMALS

She loved birds and kept finches and canaries.

Then there were cats: Timmy, Miccio, Henry and Momo – but particularly she liked dogs: George the bitser, Cho Cho, Mimi, Gigio the pugs, Pepe the silky terrier-chihuahua cross, Bruno, the silky terrier and Ruby the dingo.

Mum loved them all, but I think she had a special connection with Bruno and was often seen sharing a morning coffee (Instant) and condensed milk with Bruno. Mum would drink from the cup and Bruno from the saucer on the patio whilst overlooking the view of the beautiful Indian Ocean. 

  1. MOTHER, AUNT, MOTHER-IN-LAW AND GRANDMA

Mum was a strong mother with strict boundaries.  She encouraged us to do our best.  She and Papa noted our talents and were very supportive in nurturing them.  Mum’s taxi drove Antonio and Marco to rehearsals for the Saint Mary’s Cathedral Choir and school musicals. She could also be fierce and was handy with the wooden spoon to get us under control when she needed to! By the time the grandchildren came along, she had mellowed and they were spoilt! Mum was very supportive also to the partners of her children. 

11.  GRACIOUS

Mum was gracious till the end.  Even when she was in pain, she would thank the doctors, nurses and carers.  When they tended her, she complimented them and would often say things like, “What lovely eyes you have!” or “What lovely skin you have!”
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12.  SHOWED GRATITUDE

Later in life, Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst she lost her short term memory, this didn’t stop her from living and giving thanks.  I think in a way it made her less worried, as she truly lived in the moment.  One day as the sun was setting, I saw her outside gazing in wonder at the sky saying out loud  “Thank You, God for such a beautiful sunset.” 

  1. CONCIOUS TO THE END

Mum has always had a strong inner life.  In her last days she knew she was dying and said “Thank you, goodbye. Goodbye. Thank you. I’ve been so lucky to have my life. I’ve been so lucky to have had such good friends. Goodbye, good luck to you and my boys. I will miss Gianni”. 

Mum and Papa were a team who complemented each other truly and trusted each other. Once I asked Mum what was the most important thing she had learnt from Papa.  She said, ”Oh, he taught me about family. He is so dedicated to the family.” Papa also taught Mum a lot of practical things like cooking and even sewing.  When I asked Papa what was the most important thing he learnt from Mum he said, “When I met your mother, I was very narrow minded. She opened my mind to the world.” Mum often remarked that although she and Papa had come from east and west, it didn’t matter as it was their faith that kept them together.

Mum left Bethanie on New Year’s Eve just past, to go to Joondalup Private Hospital as the pain was too great for her to bear.  In the last nine days of her life, Papa, her children and grandchildren took turns and camped there with her so she would have company and feel safe in the hospital. On the evening before she died, eight white flowers bloomed on her beloved Moonflower Cactus like a bouquet of stars. She passed away quietly the next morning on Friday 12th January, 2018.

Being a genuinely modest soul, Anne would not like us to be publicly praising her but giving credit where credit is due . I hope this eulogy reminds you of your own special memories you all have with Anne and how she touched your life . As Michael Leunig, the Australian Artist says, there are only two feelings, Love and Fear.  There were many moments when I think Mum could have succumbed to Fear but Love won in the end. 

I think she really appreciated Life because she had nearly died a couple of times, surviving “The Trek”, having the childhood disease of Diphtheria, and nearly drowning.

Thank you, Anne, for being a lover of Life.  We, family, friends and neighbours give thanks for your great example of living a life well lived and generously shared with us all. You will live forever in our hearts.

              Thankyou   …Chesu Thimbadeh… Shukriyaa… Merci…Grazie!
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Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May she rest in peace.

 


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GK Chesterton and Anglo-Catholicism –a forerunner of the Personal Ordinariates

This week we have a guest post from Simon Dennerly. Simon, on behalf of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, has got together with the Dawson Society to host a series of talks on Chesterton’s fictional works. Our local literary expert, Daniel Matthys, gave us a spellbinding introduction last week. If you haven’t yet attended, it’s not too late to start.

Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

Chesterton PosterChesterton and the Ordinariates

by Simon Dennerly

What do G.K. Chesterton and the Ordinariates have in common? In a sense, everything.  This has lead to a project to promote the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, by promoting G.K. Chesterton: using a model that is easily replicable.

Many people are aware Chesterton was an Anglican writer who converted to the Catholic Church: but that is only half the story.  To a vast majority ‘Anglican’ automatically means ‘Protestant’, but while Chesterton wrote many of his great works while a member of the Church of England, few are aware he was a member of the Anglo-Catholic section of that institution and critical of Reformed Theology. Faith shapes one’s world-view, and Anglo-Catholicism is more than just liturgy, it is also an intellectual school. So when we talk of Chesterton’s conversion: it was not to ‘Catholicism’, as he already held Catholic…

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When God sends someone alongside

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The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1637), oil on panel, The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

There are times in my life when I am astounded by the generosity of God.  Today’s Gospel  – the Parable of the Talents – shows God as an investor who expects us to be doing something with the gifts he gives us.  And the more we give ourselves away, the more he repays us: “everyone who has will be given more”.  Over the past year or two, I have had example after example occur in my life.

How do we become a gift to someone else?  I know I have experienced this only recently – although in this first example, I was not the gift, I was on the receiving end.  About fifteen months ago, I was at a particularly low point in my life, worse, even than when my husband died.  For that, I had been prepared – spiritually prepared even, before the cancer had been diagnosed.  But when I was at this low point, and in terrible agony of spirit, angry at the Church, angry at the passivity of others, and constantly calling on God to ask what in the world he thought he was doing, some friends invited me to a quiz night at a neighbouring parish, and I went along, still ready to tell my story of frustration to anyone who had an ear to listen.  And God sent me someone to sit next to me this particular evening and be interested in my complaint.  This was one of the deacons who was ordained to the priesthood last Friday, along with five others from the Archdiocese.

If Deacon – now Father – Mariusz is anything to go by, these new priests are a bumper crop, and I expect great things from them.  May God use them abundantly in his service.

There is a prayer we say at Opus Dei recollections, which goes (in part),

My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here; that you see me, that you hear me. 

When God sends someone alongside you, as he did in my case – over several dozen cups of long macchiato no sugar taken at Brewed Awakening  – you realise that God indeed does see you and hear you, and that the God you have spent so much time kneeling before in the Blessed Sacrament, has been looking back at you all along, and smiling, no doubt quizzically.

Since this time, I have been making more of an effort to be a gift to others, or to come alongside them.  This is what the Holy Spirit does: he is the Parakletos (παράκλητος) – literally, he who comes alongside.  This doesn’t come naturally to me as I am by nature a selfish person, but we all have to start somewhere.  Only yesterday, I was able to sit down with a woman in another coffee shop, and listen to her talking about the tremendous mental pain she and her family are in.  It sent a quiver of shock and awe through me when she described me as being like an angel God had sent to her in her time of need.  Sometimes people just need you to ‘see’ them and to ‘hear’ them.  I put those in quote marks to emphasise that I am talking about a different kind of seeing and hearing from the everyday – there is an extra dimension and it is rather like tuning in to someone’s soul.

And when you do this, giving of yourself, God surprises you with unexpected events.  Like the time I helped out a friend by paying his airfare for a trip he needed to take, and the very next day my neighbour turns up and offers me an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa because she has a spare ticket.

Of course you don’t go into this for the reward.  But virtue is its own reward, as they say.  And all we have to do is take Him seriously when he asks us to do something with whatever gift he has given us – keep paying it forward.  God is never outdone in generosity.

 


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With One Heart Joined Constantly in Prayer

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Promise of the Elect from last year’s Ordination to the Diaconate

A wondrous thing is happening in Perth on 17th November. Six young men are giving their lives to God and will be ordained as priests.

It behoves us all (yes, that word may seem archaic, but I need to use some lofty language to express the grandeur of this event) – it behoves us all, as a praying, united, Catholic community, to spend some time supporting these men in prayer.

Joanna Grzech, sister to one of the ordinands, has suggested that we all join in a Novena – starting tomorrow, if you can, so that we can reach the end point on the day prior to the big event.  Joanna says …

I ask that you join me in a novena dedicated to the futures of these men. A novena is a set of prayers that we pray over 9 days with a special intention. A novena to St. John Vianney may be fitting given he is the patron saint for Priests.

Please pray this novena for these men to be steadfast to the will of the Lord during their vocation. Let us pray that they be prayerful, devoted and faithful to spreading the Good News and the teachings of Mother Church. 

Three men are lucky enough to be locals and have their close family and friends around to celebrate this joyful occasion, but please keep in your prayers those whose family cannot be here for their ordination due to health or financial reasons, that that they feel the love of their Perth Catholic community like they would from their own families. 

These men’s lives will no doubt be tough, but they have been called at this time to do God’s work, and we thank them for listening and answering God’s call. Please keep them in your prayers now as they prepare for their Ordination, and throughout their lives.

You can find and download the words of the novena here:
St John Vianney Novena.

The six deacons are: Mariusz Grzech, Konrad Gagatek, Joseph Laundy and Tung Vu from St Charles Seminary, and Patricio Carrera Morales and Kenneth Acosta Garcia from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

Our sincerest congratulations to all of you for your perseverance and gift of self.

 


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Remembering Two Precious Children, Lily and Dre Headland

Hero-ImageWritten in consultation with Lois May.

One year ago, on 20 October 2016, residents of Yanchep awoke to the shocking news of the callous murder of two local young children, Zaraiyah-Lily and Andreas “Dre” Headland, of the Golf Course Estate, Yanchep.  I was recently privileged to be invited to the one-year-on Memorial Service for Lily and Dre at their grandparents’ home in Wanneroo.

Without going into the details of this tragic event, which you can read about in the mainstream media, I would just like to share with you some of the positive impressions I came away with that day – and I say positive because where I had been expecting to feel quite depressed just thinking about the loss of these children’s lives, the atmosphere at their home was overwhelmingly warm, welcoming and altogether embracing of family, friends and invited guests.  Lois, the children’s step-grandmother, who works as an Aboriginal Cultural Officer for a community services agency, and her partner, Doug, and other family members had been hard at work for several weeks, preparing for this event.

Lois

Lois May welcoming family and friends.

Although I had never known the children during their short earthly lives, I was impressed with a sense of the reality and ordinariness of their all-too-brief lives by the presence of a row of childcare workers from Great Beginnings, where both Lily and Dre attended daycare, and two teachers from Lily’s school, Brighton Catholic Primary, as well, of course, as the cousins, aunties, uncles and extended family, several of whom got up to talk about the children and tell stories of their lives.

Lois recounted how Lily would teach her brother to pray, as she had been shown in school.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Thank you God for the day,
For our work and for our play.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Lily-and-Dre-Praying

Their cousin, Kyron, spoke about his pet names for the children: ‘Silly Lily’ and ‘Bully Boy’, and how Bully Boy would always try to boss him around.  Eric, an older cousin, sang, most movingly, a song he had written shortly after their deaths,

Sometimes I see them in my sleep
Then I wake up and weep,
Wishing they would come back to me,
so we can play happily.

Eric humbly describes himself in this video as having ‘the voice of an alpaca’, but who would care?  Better to have a real song, written in the rawness of tragedy, and sung a bit rough, than an impersonal one performed to perfection!  Even the presence of Nick and Val from next door (who make themselves useful by bringing in Lois and Doug’s bins!), added a simple homeliness to the proceedings that warmed my heart.  Lois, who led the service, made a point of acknowledging practically everyone present and describing how they had been involved with the children or supported the family.

Ann and her Angels from “Angel Hands” who were there for the day to do what they do best – volunteer their help to families that are experiencing tragedies such as this; these people themselves know what it is like to go through this amount of trauma as they have been though like scenarios.  Also present were the children’s older cousin, Keely, her mother and brother who had come from Broome, Keely’s boyfriend, Terick who had travelled all the way from One Arm Point in the Kimberley.  Isaac, Kevin, Sandy, Glenda, Rachel, Vicki … and more names than I had time to write down.

Even I was acknowledged –  I who didn’t know the children, but merely organised a prayer vigil and a Mass for them on the Sunday following their death.  And I can hardly take credit for that, for it was Phil Hickey, reporter for the Sunday Times, who had phoned me and asked, “So what is the Church doing for this family?”  And, of course, I haven’t yet mentioned those most affected, the children’s mother, Anatoria, and their big sister, Kayleesha, who were being heroically brave throughout the morning.  To them, I would say,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18)

Anatoria-Alicia

Anatoria and Kayleesha Headland

But while I am thinking of that question: “What is the Church doing?” it strikes me that we could have helped this family more, had we been aware that they were in the area.  It’s easy to say, “If only, if only …” after the event, but tragedies like these should cause us to ask what we are doing to prevent a disaster like this from happening again.  At present, there is no structure in place to allow the sharing of information between Catholic Schools and Catholic Parishes, because of Privacy legislation.  All it would take, would be a simple extra check box on school enrolment forms which says, “We, the parents/guardians, agree that our contact details may be shared with the local Catholic Parish.”  This would then enable Parish outreach teams to visit local families and offer support, so we can actually be a church with the sort of Communio I was talking about last week.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start an outreach initiative called The Lily and Dre Project, so that we would know their deaths had not been in vain?

Lois is now raising funds for a headstone to honour the children.  If anyone would like to donate to help out, please send me a message and I’ll put you in touch with the family.  Apart from this, Lois has also rounded up the children’s school friends, childcare workers, friends and family, to paint remembrance tiles for a memorial wall in their garden to honour the children.

Finally, please pray for the healing of Anatoria, Kayleesha, Lois, Doug, their families and all those affected by this tragic loss.

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Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Officer, and James Danaher, Principal at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

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Tiles for the Memorial Wall.

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Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Staff Member at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

In-Loving-Memory

Lily and Dre Headland, may God grant you eternal blessedness with him in Paradise.

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The memorial wall.

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The grave showing the children’s Maori burial.

 


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Can Catholics think for themselves?

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Assumption of the Virgin, Giovanni Lanfranco, 1625-7, Cupola, Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome.

Someone who is near and dear to me recently asked me this question:  “Why is it that you always have to bring God or the Church into the conversation?  We don’t want to hear what a bunch of men in Rome think about everything. We want to hear the real you.  Sometimes we think we don’t know who you are.  Why is it that you can’t think for yourself?”

At first this question took me rather aback.  Firstly, it’s not true.  I talk about many topics without referring specifically to my faith.  Agreed, my Facebook page is full of Christian commentary, but all day at work, I generally avoid explicitly bringing up my faith, and tend to let the John 10:10 quote at the bottom of my emails and the Columban calendar art above my desk speak for themselves.  Nevertheless, the question is an important one, and the answer essential to understanding the Christian worldview.

I can see that, looking at my friend’s question from her point of view, it must appear that my faith is some sort of enthusiasm of mine, in the same vein as an addiction to, say, Warhammer fantasy battles.  To her it must seem, if I drop into the conversation some mention of archangels, thuribles, Palestrina, St Servatius the Ice Saint, The Enchiridion or, come to think of it, that spitting gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral – like just so much jargon-bombing by a Warhammer-maniac about the Necrons or the Eldar, the Ordo Hereticus, and the parallel dimension of the Warp.  To my friend, I must come across as one of those ghastly bores who cannot stop talking about their favourite hobby and inflicting it on all comers.

Add to this the perception by outsiders that the Church is just another organisation, in much the same way as Games Workshop is the organisation behind the Warhammer brand, and you will understand my friend’s incomprehension.

This is what she doesn’t get.  The church is not an organisation.  Rather, it’s an organism.  There is a unique relationship between the baptised and Christ, that has to be entered into in order to be understood.  Serious Christians are not just following Christ, as one might follow a great leader.  Serious Christians have a living and active relationship with Him as a person, strengthened by his Word and, on a physical level, by receiving his physical Body into our physical body under the form of the Holy Eucharist.  Each one of us becomes a cell in His mystical body; the Holy Spirit is the lifeblood: He empowers us by delivering the spiritual equivalent of gluose and oxygen to each cell.  At the same time, all the cells are implicated in each other – each of us cooperates in the plan of Christ, who is the head of this mystical body.  And the body functions most harmoniously when all the cells are carrying out their appointed tasks in alignment with the direction of the head.

In fact, when I receive Holy Communion, I make a point of meditating quietly on asking Christ to be absorbed physically into my body, to insert himself into my DNA, as it were, so that I can become more like Him and be his presence in the world.  For I want to be able to say like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20).”  Yes, I know I haven’t perfectly actualised that statement yet, but I’m working on it.

The cells of this body do not only include us, who are alive on this planet right here, right now – the Ecclesia Militans, who are engaged in the present struggle against sin and evil, but also those who have passed beyond this life: those who have arrived in heaven – the glorious Church Triumphant – and those who have died but are going through a final cleansing to rid themselves of any remaining attachments to sin – the Suffering Church in Purgatory.  So the body of Christ is not limited by space and time, and all the cells are united in Communio as a family.  There is also a communication system, a spiritual nervous system called prayer that unites all the cells with one another, and using this method we can ask the other cells to intercede for us to the head or, using our prayer superhighway, we can talk directly with the head ourselves.  The loving friendship with God developed in prayer is something so real, so palpable, so experienced, so immersive, that it would be an act of disloyalty to pretend that this intimate interaction does not exist.

So when my friend asks me to stop ‘referencing religion’, essentially they are asking me not to talk about the deepest core of my being and my closest familial relationship.  I think that, far from the person’s claim to want to know the real me, this sort of request doesn’t respect who I am at all, and reveals a mind closed-off to genuine communication.  To them, Christ is perceived as a threat to their personal freedom, someone who is so other to them that they experience Him as an oppression, someone whom they have to ward off by setting boundaries on conversation.  But if one really wants to get to know someone, to show communio with another person in a genuine and Christ-like way, one has to be sincerely interested in them, and we can only do this in conversation by drawing the person out of themselves, and listening to them attentively, while at the same time sharing from one’s own experience in return, so that the conversation doesn’t give the impression of an interrogation.  Christ-like love is generous and not self-protective.

Returning to the original question, I would have to point out that the person who proposed it is embedded in a worldview that centres everything around her ego.  That is why my way of expressing myself sounds so alien to her, since Christianity tends to play down the ego and focus outward, on the mission of the Gospel, with its two-pronged love of God and love of neighbour.  Typical of Christian thought are self-deprecating phrases such as “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Mt 10:39) or, John the Baptist’s, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30).  My friend’s Nietzscheanism, however, is replete with self-aggrandizing statements: “Ego is the very essence of a noble soul” (Beyond Good and Evil, Ch. 9) or “There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He.” (Wenn es Götter gäbe, wie hielte ich’s aus, kein Gott zu sein! Also gibt es keine Götter.)  (Thus spoke Zarathustra, Part II, ch.24)

So I would encourage my friend to be more aware of the effect her worldview is having on her soul.  Is it helping her to grow in unconditional love and respect for the other, or is it narrowing and confining her in a prison of her own making?

**********************************************************************************

This is an expanded version of the short introductory talk I gave on day three of the WBC conference.


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Respecting the science: why a NO vote is not bigotry

Mother-and-child

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Liderina

This week, I would like to address the claim that Christians are bigoted towards people with same-sex attraction, somewhat in the same mould as people who thought interracial marriage was wrong in times past.  One of the comments I received on my Facebook page for last week’s article implied this:

Mike-Linney-Comment

Just for the record, Australia is somewhat different from the United States in that it has never had any laws prohibiting interracial marriage (sometimes called anti-miscegenation laws).  Moreover, the official teaching of the Catholic Church has consistently underlined our common humanity – that we are all made in God’s image and likeness.  Pope Paul III was quite clear on this to the colonisers of the New World:

The enemy of the human race [i.e. Satan], who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service … notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect. 

Pope Paul III, Sublimus Dei – On the Enslavement and Evangelisation of Indians, 29 May 1537.

In fact the Catholic Church has African and Asian saints aplenty, celebrated down through the ages (most of whom I have never heard of, as it happens).  These people are venerated for their wonderful example of faithfulness under trying circumstances, and we believe that they are part of the Church Triumphant – those of our church family that are already with Christ in heaven.  I merely mention this, because so many people seem to be under the impression that Catholicism equals bigotry.

I now want to talk about same-sex attraction and explain from a biological perspective why the accusation of bigotry does not apply in the same way it applies to race. Having grown up in South Africa under an apartheid regime, I am perfectly well aware of what racism does and how much work the Churches did to bring equality and reconciliation (except for the NGK which was a prominent supporter of apartheid and eventually expelled from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for that reason).

Let’s say we take a racist person who thinks a male of African descent should not marry a woman of Anglo-Saxon descent.  The racist looks at the different physical features (known in genetics as the phenotype) of the African and the Anglo-Saxon and decides that they are sufficiently different to make the two people incompatible as marriage partners.  The Christian, on the other hand, looks at the African and the Anglo-Saxon as both being God’s children and therefore a perfectly acceptable match, all other things being equal.  The question is – is the racist correct about there being real differences between the two people?  Of course he is: and we can find the phenotypic differences reflected in the genetic makeup of the parties.  Every time someone has their DNA profiled in hopes of finding out their ancestral roots, they are relying on the presence of ancestry-informative markers.  These are single nucleotide polymorphisms – what biologists call SNPs (pronounce that snips), which are typical of certain populations.  SNPs are sites in genes where one may have different variations of a particular nucleotide without the changes necessarily affecting the phenotype – although sometimes they can.  For example, if a DNA profiler finds the SNP (FY*0) in a person’s DNA, this will usually mean that the Duffy antigen system (a membrane protein found on red blood cells) is non-functional – and this particular SNP is (barring novel mutations) 100% likely to show that the person is of African descent, either wholly or partially.  Indeed, the International HapMap Project has created a map of SNPs that can identify haplotypes (sets of SNPs) that can be used to determine geographical origin.

So we can safely conclude that race is not a figment of our imagination, or a human construct, but a phenotypic manifestation of an underlying genetic reality.

What about sexual orientation?  Is there any underlying genetic reality to the human phenomenon of same-sex attraction?

The answer is both yes and no.  Contrary to what popular culture and the ‘born this way’ slogans tell us, there is scant evidence that SSA is genetically determined.  However, there is some evidence that there are genetic predispository factors in play.  If homosexuality were genetically determined, then there would be 100% concordance between identical (monozygotic) twins; however, recent studies show only between 5.3 and 24% concordance (Bailey, Dunne and Martin, 2000, Bearman and Brückner, 2002); therefore environmental causes are a significant factor. Scientists like William Rice, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at UCSB, have already confirmed that there is no ‘gay gene’.  Some scientists have also postulated that homosexual proclivities have been caused by epigenetic factors – chemical changes to DNA, usually involving DNA methylation.  These epigenetic marks are reversible and usually caused by environmental factors.  But so far, epigenetics studies on people with same-sex attraction are inconclusive and no clear link has been established.  Andrew Gelman, Professor of Statistics and Political Science at Columbia University, kept me amused with his discussion of the dodgy statistics, and his comments have been noted at the science magazine, Nature, which was initially too keen to jump on the epigenetic bandwagon.

One interesting observation that Science has produced, is that the Xq28 chromosome band  on the X chromosome and the pericentromeric region of chromosome 8 may have some effect in predisposing males (and not females) to same-sex attraction (Sanders, Marcham and Beecham, 2014).  But when we look at what these particular genes do, we find that Xq28 is associated with anxiety disorders, and the pericentromeric region of chromosome 8 is intriguingly associated with signalling in the nervous system.  A review of current research at Scientific American notes that:

… Twin studies additionally point to genetic explanations as the underlying force for same-sex partner preference in men and neuroticism, a personality trait that is comparable to anxiety.  The research points to childhood separation anxiety as a culturally universal correlate of androphilia in men. This has important implications for our understanding of children’s mental health conditions because subclinical levels of separation anxiety, when intertwined with male androphilia, may represent a typical part of the developmental life course.

(Scientific American, 25 April, 2017)

So there seems to be a connection between anxiety disorders, nervous signalling, childhood separation anxiety and male androphilia.

Which blends in nicely with my next point: the evidence from psychology.  Psychologists who work with male and female SSA people have found significant correlations between childhood separation anxiety, attachment issues with one or both parents, and same-sex attraction.

Dr Janelle Hallman, who specialises in counselling females with (usually unwanted) same-sex attraction, writes the following:

Over the years, I have observed several broad categories in terms of common historic and developmental themes within the lives of women with same-sex attraction: 

  • A strained, detached or missing bond and/or attachment with mother without an available mother substitute, resulting in a need for attachment;
  • The presence of sexual abuse or trauma typically at the hands of a male, or disillusionment and profound disappointment in relationships with males, resulting in a dismissal, fear or hatred of men;
  • Few if any girlhood/adolescent same-sex friendships, resulting in a need for acceptance and belonging;
  • Gender non-conforming skills and interests often combined with a sense of emptiness or identity moratorium [a crisis state] in lieu of a full and rich identity as a feminine person, resulting in a need for self/identity and gender identity. 

While the presence of these elements is not a direct predictor or determinant of female same-sex attraction, they are nevertheless the most common and frequently reported facets of a woman’s story. These elements are sequential in order of development or experience, boast of other associated common themes, and often predispose a girl or young woman to the next sequential element and are therefore interrelated. 

Within many of my clients is a deep deprivation of “motherly” love. Absent in their story is a sense of being nurtured and cared for by an attentive and sensitive mom. This does not mean that “mother” was not loving or offering the best to her daughter in terms of emotional support, it means that the girl was unable to take-in, receive or appropriate her mother’s loving intention. 

One of my clients was separated from her biological mother at birth and was unable to form a warm attachment with her adoptive mother. Many of my clients report that during the time of their birth or within the first two years of their lives, there was substantial stress, difficulty and chaos in their mothers’ lives due to moves, depression, alcoholic husbands, several other children, undue pressure from perfectionistic family members, mandatory adoption of additional children due to abandonment by or death of relatives, etc., all disallowing the mothers to enter into restful and nurturing moments with their young daughters. 

            It is also common to hear that a “pre-lesbian” girl was very “close” to her mother because mother “needed her” by depending on her to do the housework, care for and protect siblings, deal with an alcoholic father, be a confidant for mom, while mother hid her self away in bed most of the day. One daughter even had to call 911 whenever her mother was suicidal. This type of relationship is very deceiving in that it holds the appearance of closeness but in essence, totally lacks the actual nurturance and care that the little girl needed. 

            There may be no greater trauma in a girl’s life developmentally, than one that interferes with her primal relationship with mom.  Mom is not only the first bond and attachment for a little baby girl, but is also the relational object with whom this little girl will form her first sense of self and eventually rely on to complete her identification process as a female. If a little girl experiences disruption in this most primal and ideally ongoing essential relationship, it will not only create a need in her for the by-products of such a relationship, such as affection, touch, suckling, eye to eye gazing, etc., but will affect all future attachments as well as her developmental process of identity formation. 

(Janelle Hallman, Developmental, Relational and Emotional Etiology of Female Homosexuality, 2003)

Similarly, Dr Joseph Nicolosi, who works with same-sex attracted males, has some fascinating comments about the family dynamics between fathers and SSA sons.  Read it all at Fathers of Male Homosexuals, a collective clinical profile.

In my own observations with SSA people who are friends of mine, I have found the female family situations to have involved these factors: sexual abuse by close family members or neighbours, absent or deceased fathers, distant, alcoholic or drug-dependent mothers and even SSA women who have suffered from a generationally iterative attachment deficit due to a grandmother’s early death.  I’m not saying it’s necessarily the parent’s fault.  Sometimes, as Hallman notes, the child is ‘unable to take-in, receive or appropriate her mother’s loving intention’.  I have limited experience with male homosexuals, but one friend of mine, who is now ex-gay, lacked an affective relationship with his biological parents during the early stages of his development, as he was adopted out and lived in institutional care during his infancy before being taken into a loving foster home – and was then sexually abused during his teenage years by his male teachers.  Public homosexuals like Milo Yiannopoulos also draw attention to being sexually abused during the crucial adolescent years, the fifth stage of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  We can see that, together with the effects of the Xq28 gene which may predispose a male towards anxiety disorders, a problem with parental attachment during Erikson’s 0-23 month stage can have a life changing effect and send him down a path of psychological adaptation to these unfortunate events by seeking attachment in a ‘father substitute’, or for a lesbian, a ‘mother substitute’.

The question then for us is, how do Christians behave towards SSA people?  Obviously further rejection of SSA people by Christians is going to feed in to the already existing perception of rejection; the constant accusations of homophobia and bigotry are merely the manifestation of the Rejection Meme writ large upon an uncaring society.  On the other hand, Christians have to be faithful to the Gospel – which means that we do not see same sex ‘marriage’ as being a solution to the gay person’s attachment issues.  Primarily we see marriage as something oriented towards providing children with a natural link with their biological parents, which I have spoken about previously here, and that changing the definition of marriage will have societal consequences which do not just affect people who are same-sex oriented.

Christians have another option altogether.  We think that same-sex attracted people can find ultimate fulfilment in Christ, who loves them with an all-encompassing love.  We would like to invite more gay people to get to know the person of Christ, because a living and active relationship with him is just that – living and active!  Christ is not just a historical figure, but a person who gets intimately involved in our lives, once we open the door to him.  If you are a lesbian who is somewhat repelled by involvement with males because of past abuse, get to know the Mother of Christ – she is the ultimate and ideal mother (Rev. 12:17) and I can personally attest that she has accompanied me gently and lovingly through many trials.  These things are not well explained theoretically, but if one opens one’s heart even the smallest amount to the possibility of relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will find a way in through the smallest of cracks and fill your soul with His illumination and love.  We also need to send a strong message to heterosexual Catholics: do not use insulting, demeaning or unloving language around SSA people.  This is a hard course to steer, because even the mere suggestion that a person with SSA might not be ‘born this way’ can trigger a strong emotional reaction and be perceived as a lack of acceptance.  I have discovered this through experience because there are people who now find it difficult to talk to me because of my strong views on this, and will do anything to stay in their comfort zone.

Lastly, I would like to let gay people in Australia know that we in the Catholic Church have an active support ministry for same-sex attracted people (Courage) and for their families and friends (EnCourage).  If you would like more information on either of these groups, please get in touch with me and I will refer you to the appropriate person.


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Tell me again? How does my gay marriage affect you?

 

Jeremiah Michelangelo_Buonarroti

Jeremiah (detail), 1508-1512, Michelangelo Buonarotti, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.

Heard these slogans?

Tell me again? How does my gay marriage affect  you?
OR
Don’t like my gay marriage? Don’t get one.

The activists who dream up these slogans are relying on people being either ignorant or credulous.  Fortunately the Australian public are cleverer than that, and there are plenty of examples showing how a redefinition of marriage might affect Australians.  In this post, I want to provide examples of the curtailments to freedom of speech and freedom of association that have arisen, either already in this country, or following the redefinition of marriage, in other countries.  There is still time for Australians to petition their members of parliament about the likely outcomes, whichever way the vote goes in the (so-called) plebiscite.

Despite all the claims, almost all discrimination in respect of same-sex couples has already been removed – in fact the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby themselves admit this in their Invited Submission to the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs on the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012. 

where they say,

In 2008, the Federal Government made a commitment to ending same-sex relationship discrimination and amended 85 federal laws to recognise same-sex de facto couples [my bold]…

At a state and territory level, in the space of seven years (1999-2006), de facto recognition has expanded comprehensively to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples in state laws.  At the end of 2008, the Federal Government passed a series of reforms to largely mirror the recognition offered by states and territories. Same-sex couples were recognised in taxation, parenting, superannuation, veteran’s affairs, social security and immigration laws.  The effect of the reforms was to give same-sex couples the same rights, entitlements and responsibilities as heterosexual de facto couples.

(Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby All Love is Equal Submission 2012) 

We now need to look at what will happen to the rights of everyone who disagrees with changing the definition of marriage – particularly those who are committed to religious beliefs regarding the nature of marriage.  These particular areas are most likely to be affected if comprehensive religious freedoms are not protected by law – to all citizens, not just clergy:  Christians may be slapped with a court order or fined for refusing material cooperation with the new laws.  They may also be compelled to pay damages to individuals who feel offended, including their court costs.  They may be refused employment positions or lose accreditation because of their religious beliefs.  In the examples below, I will list some cases of infringements to religious liberty that have already occurred both overseas and in Australia, and I divide these into five subject headings: compelled association, compelled provision of benefits, speech punishment, de-accreditation and loss of employment, and removal of tax concessions.

  1.  COMPELLED ASSOCIATION

This includes situations such as government compulsion of religious bodies to retain as employees (or members), staff who – in direct conflict with ethics code of the organisation – take part in a same-sex ‘wedding’;   the compulsory provision of services to same-sex ‘couples’ by businesses involved in the provision of wedding-related or spousal-related goods and services, or the enforcement by the State of children attending classes in highly contentious gender ideology.

  • 2008.  Christian doctors, Dr Douglas Fenton and Dr Christine Brody, were found by the California State Supreme Court to have violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, when they refused to provide intrauterine insemination to a lesbian woman.
  • 2016.  The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled, in E.T. v. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, that Steve Tourloukis could not remove his children from the radical sex education programs being conducted at their school.
  • 2013.  MP Alex Greenwich introduced a bill (which was ultimately unsuccessful) to remove the exemption in the Anti Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) which allows religious schools to engage staff with beliefs consistent with the values of the school.
  • 2014.  Donald and Evelyn Knapp, of The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, fell foul of the antidiscrimination ordinance of the City of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho which stated that its purpose was ‘to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation based upon sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and providing that a violation of this ordinance is a misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or by imprisonment not to exceed 180 days or both.’  – and this fine was for each day they continued in their non-cooperation.  Their crime was to decline to perform same-sex weddings.
  • 2012.  A same-sex couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission against Jack Phillips, of the Masterpiece Cake Shop, when he declined to make them a wedding cake.

An administrative law judge ruled against Jack in December 2013, saying that designing and creating cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies are not speech protected by the First Amendment. The commission also ordered Jack and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a “re-education” program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Jack has completely eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.  (Alliance Defending Freedom)

  • 2013.  Aaron and Melissa Klein, of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, declined to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple and were ordered to pay restitution of $135,000 by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.  Their company went out of business.
  • 2016.  Lorie Smith, of 303 Creative Graphic and Web Design, is a graphic designer who wants to be able to create work consistent with her core beliefs.  A ‘Colorado law would force her to create websites celebrating marriages that violate her deeply held religious beliefs if she creates websites celebrating one-man, one-woman marriages. The law even bars her from expressing her religious views about marriage on her website. ADF is filing a lawsuit on Lorie’s behalf asking a Colorado court to prevent government officials from enforcing the law against Lorie so she can run her business consistently with her faith without fear of government punishment.’  The Alliance Defending Freedom is proceeding with a pre-enforcement challenge to help Lorie obtain a ruling about whether she would be liable for the penalty of $500 per violation, including investigations and court costs, and mandated re-education programs, which the current law requires.
  • 2006.  Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, of Elane Photography, were asked by Vanessa Willock to film her same-sex wedding.  They declined.  Ms Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The Supreme Court ruled against the Huguenins.  They were fined nearly $7,000.
  • 2017.  72-year old Baronnelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, Richland, Washington, is being sued by Washington State and the ACLU because she refused to make a wedding cake for the same-sex wedding of a long time customer, Rob Ingersoll.  In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against her. She stands to lose in the region of a million dollars in her battle with the ACLU.
  • 2005.  Dr Neil Clark Warren’s online dating service, eHarmony, was sued by Eric McKinley of New Jersey, for failing to provide dating services to same-sex attracted men.  eHarmony agreed to pay restitution to McKinley of $5,000 plus a year’s free membership.  They were also required to restructure their business to include opportunities for same-sex dating and include pictures of same-sex couples on their website.  Further to this, eHarmony was sued in California by a lesbian woman, Linda Carlson, in 2007, for a similar reason.
  • 2006.  Catholic Charities of Boston MA, Catholic Charities of Rockford IL, closed down their adoption services due to the conflict between faithfulness to Church teaching and the requirements of State law.
  • 2005.  David and Tanya Parker of Lexington, MA, requested from their son’s school that they be notified when their 6-year old son was going to be exposed during class to homosexual curriculum materials.  David was arrested for trespass during a meeting with the principal and Director of Education.  He was held overnight in jail, and not given permission to call his lawyer.  The episode was followed by court appearances, vilification by LGBT activists and the non-resolution of his complaint.  In 2006, David’s son, Jacob, was surrounded at recess, and beaten and punched in a mass-assault by a group of children from the school.
  1. COMPELLED PROVISION OF BENEFITS

In this scenario, the government compels religious institutions to include same-sex ‘marriage’ partners in any schemes involving benefits to traditionally married couples.

  • Yeshiva University limits its married housing facilities to students who are married. In 2001, prior to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in New York State, the university was fined in Levin v. Yeshiva University for declining to provide Sara Levin and her partner accommodation in the housing reserved for married couples.
  1. PUNISHMENT FOR SPEECH

Merely expressing opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’, becomes punishable by law.  Public and private preaching, political activism or even conversation might be construed as ‘hate speech’, ‘harassment’ or ‘discrimination’.

  • 2014.  The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, subpoenaed sermons which mentioned gender identity or homosexuality.
  • 2015.  Transgender advocate and Greens candidate, Martine Delaney, lodged a complaint with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, in respect of Archbishop Julian Porteous and the Australian Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Don’t Mess With Marriage.  She claimed that the material in the pamphlet contravened the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas).  Ms Delaney subsequently withdrew her complaint, but not before a large amount of money and time had been spent preparing a defence.
  • 2016.  Four Spanish Bishops, Juan Antonio Reig Pla, Joaquín María López, José Rico Pavés and Demetrio Fernández are being threatened with prosecution by LGBT activists for criticising Madrid’s new law with the cumbersome name, Law of Integral Protection against LGRBIphobia and Discrimination for Reasons of Orientation and Sexual Identity.  The law attempts to prohibit speech concerning homosexuals and transsexuals which might be regarded as discriminatory or offensive.
  • 2016.  Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Archbishop of Valencia, was charged under article 510 of the Penal Code for publicly fomenting hostility towards the LGBT movement, when he said, “We have legislation contrary to the family, the acts of political and social forces, to which are added movements and acts by the gay empire, by ideologies such as radical feminism, or the most insidious of all, gender ideology.”  The charges were later dismissed by the Superior Tribunal of Justice.
  1. DE-ACCREDITATION AND REMOVAL OF LICENSES; LOSS OF EMPLOYMENT OR BOARD POSITIONS

Members of professional associations and Businesses which do not acknowledge same-sex ‘marriage’ may have their accreditation revoked, or people who support traditional marriage and oppose same-sex marriage may lose their jobs or be subjected to vitriolic social media campaigns.

  • 2017.  IBM Managing Partner, Mark Allaby, was targeted because of his association with the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, which provides internships to high achieving Christians pursuing careers in politics, law, journalism, research and the public service. A social media campaign involving a barrage of LGBT-lobby organised twitter messages, forced Mr Allaby off the board of the Australian Christian Lobby.  Mr Allaby was also forced to resign his position from the board of PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), following a social media campaign.
  • 2017.  The private Jewish Orthodox  Vishnitz Girls’ School, in Hackney, North London, is facing closure because of its refusal to teach radical gender theory, gender reassignment surgery and homosexual content to the young ladies who are aged between three and eight years old.  It has failed its Ofsted Inspection three times in the past two years – an inspection which compels compliance with the Equality Act 2010.  In England, schools which do not meet Ofsted Standards will be de-accredited as independent schools.
  • 2014.  Brendon Eich, the creator of the JavaScript programming language, and CEO of Mozilla Corporation, made a donation in support of the Californian anti-same-sex marriage law, Proposition 8.  Following a media firestorm, he resigned from his position with Mozilla in April 2014.
  • 2015.  Atlanta Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochrane, was suspended without pay and ultimately fired, because of a book on Biblical morality that he had written for his men’s Bible Study group in his Baptist Church.
  • 2017.  Tim and Melanie Cooper, Directors of Coopers Brewery, following the release of the Bible Society’s ‘Keep it Light’ video in which their Beer was being drunk by two members of Parliament engaged in a friendly chat about the two sides of the same-sex marriage debate, eventually bowed to the over-the-top social media campaign to destroy their brand, and released a statement in support of ‘diversity and equality’.
  • According to Miranda Devine of The Daily Telegraph, ‘Christian employees of organisations which have signed up to the same sex marriage campaign, now feel frightened and intimidated at work. Some have anonymously contacted the ACL and Marriage Alliance and the few journalists they feel might take their concerns seriously. One Telstra employee says: “Even though I declined to attend the “Wear It Purple” Day meeting, I have since been re-sent the meeting invite by an Executive Director 6 times. The meeting invite says staff are “required” (not “optional”) attendees.”  One former Qantas pilot says: “What caused me to resign is the company’s… active campaigning for the redefinition of marriage. [There] was a cultural pressure to conform, from the internal media and company culture.  “We’d be sitting in our cockpit, and receive an email expecting something operational, only to find it was another email about the [LGBTIQ] agenda. We were bombarded with this stuff.  “We got at times 4 emails a week about it. I knew I had to go, because I didn’t belong there… People are so afraid of being shouted down as a bigot.”’
  • Twelve Catholic Adoption Agencies in England (including Catholic Care) have been forced to close down in England since the introduction of the Adoption of Children (Scotland) Act 2007, due to the commitment of Catholic Adoption Agencies to place children with heterosexual couples only.
  • 2012.  The group Christian Concern arranged to hold a conference titled, One Man, One Woman: Making the case for marriage for the good of society at a venue owned by The Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in the UK.  The Law Society subsequently cancelled the booking, citing ‘diversity policies’ as a reason.  A rescheduled booking with the QEII Conference Centre was also cancelled the day before the conference, for the same reason.  Christian Concern sued both parties for breach of contract, and an agreement was subsequently reached
  • 2012.  The Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, Aryeh Ralbag, was temporarily suspended from his position after signing a document that restated the orthodox Jewish position on homosexuality, calling on leaders to ‘guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their sexual inclinations’.
  • 2012.  Kuruvilla George, the Deputy Chief Psychiatrist was pressured to resign from his position on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, following his signing of a petition against same-sex marriage drafted by Doctors for the Family and signed by 170 doctors.  The petition stated that natural families were the most conducive to happiness for children and, citing numerous academic peer-reviewed research papers, suggested that families with same-sex parents were not ideal for raising children.
  • 2015.  A Catholic psychologist, Philip Pocock, was barred from practising in the ACT, even though no patients had complained against him.  Pocock had stated that sodomy and masturbation were acts that were distortions of sexuality.
  • 2015.  The Law Society of Upper Canada has refused the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s Law School, because the University insists that sexual intimacy should occur only within the bounds of heterosexual marriage.
  • 2017. The Catholic non-profit organisation tackling the effects of family breakdown, The Ruth Institute, has been targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a ‘hate group’, because of its teaching of Catholic Doctrine.  The inclusion of The Ruth Institute on the SPLC’s ‘hate map’, has prompted The Ruth Institute’s online payment provider, Vanco Payment Solutions, to withdraw their provision of services.
  • 2017.  Sydney doctor, Pansy Lai, was subjected to vicious social media attacks when she participated in an advertisement for the Marriage Coalition presenting the case for the no vote in the Australian plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage.  A petition facilitated by the leftist activist group, GetUp!,  to have Dr Lai deregistered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority gathered around 5,000 votes before it was pulled by GetUp!, after they realised they were damaging their own brand.
  1. EXCLUSION FROM GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND TAX CONCESSIONS

Tax-free status and government funding or grants might be withdrawn from organisations which uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

  • The Evangelical Child and Family Agency in Illinois was at risk of closure due to the removal of State funding several years ago for agencies which refused to allocate adoptees to same sex couples; however, it seems they have had an alternate source of funds and still specify on their website that potential applicants must be male and female.
  • 2007.  The Methodist-run Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, lost its eligibility for a real estate tax exemption because it had declined permission for two lesbian couples to celebrate their civil unions at the Boardwalk Pavilion on their New Jersey property.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it gives a sufficient tour of the post-marriage-redefinition landscape to give legislators pause.

May the Holy Spirit in his mercy bless Australia with wisdom and a love of truth.  And may I not have to say with Jeremiah in today’s first reading,

I am a daily laughing-stock,
everybody’s butt.
Each time I speak the word, I have to howl
and proclaim: ‘Violence and ruin!’
The word of the Lord has meant for me
insult, derision, all day long.
I used to say, ‘I will not think about him,
I will not speak in his name anymore.’
Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones.
(Jeremiah 20:7-9)

 

 

 

 


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A Toolkit for Explaining the Christian View of Marriage

Peter Walks on Water Philipp Otto Runge

Peter Walks on Water, Philipp Otto Runge, 1806.

With the Marriage Plebiscite being distributed to all Australians on 12 September, and a count of the results being collected in November, it is crucial for Christians to understand and moreover, be able to explain to others, the reasons for their position on marriage.

Because Marriage is foundational to society, the government has agreed that the whole nation has a right and indeed a duty to provide feedback via a voluntary plebiscite on the proposal to allow same-sex “marriage”.

Many people find it difficult to articulate and defend their core beliefs on marriage, especially if they are on the “no” side, because the media are generally heavily in favour of the “yes” vote and the “no” case is not publicly being well made.  The problem with the way this issue is being discussed in Australia is that it is being defined as an “Equality” issue.  The assertion is made that same-sex attracted people are being discriminated against.  What I would like to do here, is reframe the issues at stake so that we can see more clearly the way to defend what most Christians instinctively know is right, but are not sure how to explain, especially when faced with angry and emotional others accusing us of being ‘haters’ or ‘spewing filth’ as I have seen in some online commentary.

The first thing we need to say is that this is not about hating people with same-sex attraction.  God loves all people and wants them to enter into a deeply fulfilling relationship with Him.  However, if we love God, we love Truth itself and therefore we need to seek the Truth about what Marriage is.

The second thing to say is that it’s no use discussing marriage with non-Christians by quoting the Bible.  Non-Christians do not regard the Bible as authoritative, so we need to find another area of common ground.  Fortunately, the Catholic Church has a very rich history of philosophy grounded in a respect for reason, so in my discussion below, I will not be talking about God, but about philosophical positions that both Christians and non-Christians can share.

Thirdly, we cannot possibly start this discussion without defining what Marriage is.  And it is when we look at this, that we discover that the “no” and “yes” cases have a fundamentally different way of looking at Marriage.  The problem with the “equality” argument, is that it doesn’t say exactly what we want to treat equally – or rather, it’s not marriage as a concept that it wants to treat equally, but rather self-defined and infinitely adjustable minority groups.  In the words of Ryan T. Anderson, Marriage Equality depends on Marriage Reality.  And Marriage Reality depends on describing Marriage correctly.  Essentially, there are two competing views on marriage, and I will describe them below.

The #1 View of Marriage.  In this worldview, marriage is that relationship which unites a mother and father with the children that their relationship produces.  Some 2,400 years ago, Aristotle said that we can analyse any community in terms of the ACTS that the community engages in, the GOODS that they seek, and the NORMS or COMMITMENTS that they live by.  Looking at marriage, we can see that there is one ACT engaged in by the husband and wife that defines their marriage.  This Act is grounded in the Anthropological truth that the bodies of men and women are complementary.  All of our bodily organs can function correctly on their own – the heart can beat on its own, the kidneys can filter the blood on their own, the eyes can see without recourse to another individual – but the sexual organs require input from another human being of the opposite sex to complete their function.  Together, the man and the woman form a one-flesh union.  And so complete is this union, that within the 24 hours following, a baby might be conceived and subsequently born nine months later.  So the GOODS produced as a result of the marriage are the children.  This is based in the biological truth that human reproduction requires both a man and a woman.  This tells us that the love-making Act that makes the marriage relationship marital, is also the life-giving act that produces the Goods that are the result of that union.  The act is not only unitive because of the love between the spouses, but also generative.  This then leads to the COMMITMENTS arising as a result of their Act – the Commitments to raising the children arising as a result of the love-making life-giving Act.  This is why spouses make commitments that are comprehensive both in time and in exclusivity and are declared as part of the marriage ceremony: “till death do us part”, “forsaking all others I take you to be my lawful wedded spouse”.  You don’t do that with your business partner or your flatmate.  Marital exclusivity is about the sexual act itself – it doesn’t include activities like who you can play tennis with or join a choir with.  These commitments are grounded in the social reality that children deserve both a mother and a father.  A large body of research data shows that the well-being of children in two-parent, intact families significantly exceeds that of children in single-parent families.  And research is increasingly showing that genetic differences between males and females are important for providing balance in child-rearing.  I’m not saying that same-sex attracted people are bad parents, but with the best will in the world, two dads or two mums do not replace a mum and a dad.

The #2 View of Marriage.  There’s a competing vision of marriage that sees it rather as an intense, emotional, romantic and care-giving relationship.  The determining factor is that of all your relationships, this one relationship is your most intense, your most romantic, your BFF par excellence, where you have an exchange of care-giving between the partners, who are not differentiated by sexual preference.  This view has as its motto “love is love”.  Everyone who does not subscribe to this view may be consequently regarded as a “hater” or a “homophobe”, despite the fact that any opinion on homosexuality is irrelevant to the #1 Vision of Marriage.

But the second definition of marriage can’t explain all the marital norms, i.e. the life-long commitment and the exclusivity – and it certainly can’t explain the history of marriage legislation over time.  If the second view is true, then why can’t someone just abandon the marriage when they fall out of love, or when someone more exciting or attractive comes along?  If the second view is true, then what is to prevent it being exclusive – why not have the occasional secret ‘fling’ for the sake of a few moments of ‘love’?  What is there to prevent this sort of relationship being monogamous – why not make it a throuple or allow polygamy?  Why not say, like the Mormon polygamist, “I love them all!”  There is nothing in the #2 definition of marriage which grounds the relationship in monogamy, exclusivity and permanency.

For this reason, I see the second view of marriage leading to the complete erosion of the concept of marriage over time, as those things that currently make marriage special (monogamy, exclusivity and permanency) would become irrelevant.  Of course, it is only the sexual revolution of the 1960s that has made the #2 view of marriage possible – with easy contraception eroding the link between the unitive and generative aspects of marriage and leading to the hook-up culture with its consequent explosion of non-marital childbearing, and no-fault divorce eroding all three pillars of marriage: monogamy, exclusivity and permanence.  So it’s no surprise that some people come to the conclusion that sexual preference is no big deal either.  The subtext of the marriage debate is that heterosexual people have made such a mess of marriage that there is no reason any more to restrict access to marriage across a wider spectrum.

Neither does the second definition of marriage explain why the State takes an interest in marriage.  Obviously the State has an interest in creating a stable society.  And stable societies are made up of smaller units of families.  When families are dysfunctional, everybody is affected.  With a decreased commitment to the traditional understanding of marriage and family, there will be an associated increase in anti-social behaviour, depression, anxiety and other mental-health disorders, and diminished societal cohesion.  There is no reason for the State to have any interest in people’s personal love lives, apart from the fact that the State is interested in the welfare of children, since neglected, abandoned, dysfunctional, depressed and anxious children are a burden on the State.

I haven’t yet addressed the other flow-ons from the re-definition of marriage – limits to freedom of speech and freedom of association, as well as persecution for sincerely held religious beliefs, but will return to them in the coming weeks, along with a discussion of why this is not an “Equality” issue.

I would just like to acknowledge my indebtedness to Ryan T. Anderson, Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Michael Quinlan, from whose work I have borrowed heavily.

In the meantime, here is a copy of a Facebook conversation I conducted with a friend of a friend, to assist you in having your arguments ready to defend the Catholic position.

Facebook-discussion

Further reading and watching:

 

 


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Raising Mentally Healthy Children with Melinda Tankard Reist

Melinda-Tankard-Reist-20170804_190843

Melinda Tankard Reist speaking at St Stephen’s School, Duncraig, Western Australia on 4 August 2017. Photo: Deirdre Fleming

If these facts about our children don’t give you pause, then you’re not paying attention.

  • More than a quarter of 16-24 year olds have a mental disorder.
  • One in sixteen of 16-24 year olds have depression.
  • One in six have an anxiety disorder.
  • There has been a 90% increase in older adolescent self –harm (mostly girls, but some boys) in the last 10 years – cutting themselves, pulling out hair, pulling out eyelashes, pulling out eyebrows.
  • There has been a 60% increase in 12 to 14-year-olds hospitalised as a result of self-harm between 1996 and 2006. (Patrick Parkinson, Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People, 2011, Vos Foundation)
  • One in 100 adolescent girls are anorexic.
  • One in ten girls are bulimic.
  • One in four teenage girls wants to have plastic surgery, mostly breast implants,  with a 50% increase in girls between 15-23 wanting labiaplasty or genital surgery (when there is nothing wrong with them).
  • Among boys, body image dissatisfaction for Western men has tripled in the past 25 years.
  • Up to a quarter of people suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia are male, and almost equal numbers of males and females suffer from binge eating disorders.
  • A ‘reverse anorexia’ condition is occurring among men who are dissatisfied with their body image: body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also called bigorexia, or muscle dysmorphia. In their quest for cheap, muscle-building steroids, these men often travel overseas, but don’t come back alive.

These were just some of the introductory points made by Melinda Tankard Reist, author and media commentator, at a presentation she gave last Friday at St Stephen’s School, Duncraig.  A passionate defender of our children’s right to be children, Tankard Reist links our culture’s obsession with sex with the dysfunctional behaviours now becoming common among our youth.  Drawing our attention to the sexualisation of our culture, she took us through a visual tour of the porn-invaded advertising and industry landscape.  Who hasn’t heard of high-heeled shoes for babies, children’s shirts that say “SL_T, all I need is U”, Trashwhore shorts, Playboy baby clothes (with front-and-centre statements like “Future Player: Lock up your daughters” and “Future Playmate” on their baby onesies), and the not-to-be-missed Cotton On/Typo “Porn is my Saviour” mugs?

Boys, in particular, are at risk from the pornification of the internet, and are exposed to a myriad of sexualised images from advertisers seeking to groom them for a life addicted to their products.  Some advertisers have even cleverly linked the pop-ups featuring their sex-products to common spelling mistakes made by children when searching the internet for completely unrelated material.  Tankard Reist points out that the male brain is not fully developed until age 25 to 30, and that this oversaturation with sexualised images distorts the perception among teenage boys who think that porn presents what is normal.

It has been demonstrated elsewhere, that porn addiction has serious implications for the happiness of both men and women in later life, with porn-addicted men no longer being able to have normal sexual relations with their wives – resulting in an associated increase in treatments for impotence.

Melinda Tankard Reist 20170804_203120

Melinda Tankard Reist in conversation at St Stephen’s School, Duncraig, Western Australia. Photo: Deirdre Fleming

At schools across the country, Tankard Reist is busy engaging children and teenagers in conversation about issues such as teenage self-perception.  Crucial to the discussion is whether the young person understands that they are so much more than just their physical appearance.  Tankard Reist encourages parents to develop in their children a wider sense of their own value, and praise their children for things other than their appearance in order to help them develop a well-rounded view of themselves as people with intelligence, people of faith, with the ability to love unselfishly, and possessing virtues like kindness and self-control.   She helps young women to navigate ways of answering the question, “How do I say no without hurting his feelings?”

Her organisation, Collective Shout, has been instrumental in achieving a number of wins for children. Zoo magazine, the ‘rape manual for boys’, was removed from sale at Coles, and subsequently went out of production, while Grand Theft Auto V, a video game in which you can earn health points by sexually abusing and murdering women, has been withdrawn from sale at Kmart and Target.  Another  campaign resulted in the removal of billboards advertising local brothels, previously positioned overlooking the playground of a Brisbane boys’ school with the obvious intention of grooming future customers.

Melinda was also one of the first to expose the porn sites connected to the Safe Schools Program.  Ostensibly anti-bullying, Safe Schools was developed by Roz Ward, a Marxist LGBTI activist, and former lecturer at La Trobe University (she has now been booted out for alleged misconduct).  More and more people are coming to see the Safe Schools program for what it is, an attempt to sexualise and confuse our children about their bodies and challenge ‘heteronormativity’, at an age when this is the last thing they should be thinking about.  I recommend everyone read Miranda Devine’s article in the Daily Telegraph, critiquing the Marxist agenda of deconstructing the family.  The alternate universe of LGBTI activists sees the traditional family not as the core of a socially cohesive nation, but as something from which we should be liberated.

To smooth the operation of capitalism the ruling class has benefited … from oppressing our bodies, our relationships, sexuality and gender identities alongside sexism, homophobia and transphobia (which) serve to break the spirits of ordinary people (and make us) feel like we should live in small social units and families where we must reproduce and take responsibility for people in those units. (Roz Ward)

Ms Ward is quoted in The Australian as saying:

It’s more like 40-50 per cent of young people who are not ­exclusively attracted to the opposit­e sex.  That’s how fluid sexuality is headed.

I will have more to say about the (so-called) Safe Schools program in a future post, so stay tuned.

There is much that we as Catholic parents can do to help our children.  We can teach them their value in God’s eyes – their dignity as humans created in God’s plan, with a particular vocation and purpose in this life, one which it is our sacred duty to discover and cooperate with, if we want to live a life of joy and abundance.  Instead of teaching them that most malleable of words, ‘values’ (HT Iain Benson), let’s teach them actual virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and love.  At the same time, let’s draw their attention to the seven deadly sins, so they can know what not to aim at: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.  Let’s teach them to pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord), and to be able to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  When my children were still living under my roof, we prayed for these things every night and they memorised the lists, and although they’re not perfect (but who is?), I can see the fruit in their lives today.  For our culture and for your children’s present and future happiness, keep the faith.

Further reading and listening: