By Paul Dobbyn
CAIRNS Bishop James Foley felt a “little bit of a cheat” as he “waltzed in” to receive his honorary doctorate at Banyo’s Australian Catholic University recently.
“I was the centre of attention and gave the main speech whereas everyone else got ‘real’ awards after toiling away at their qualifications for many a year,” he said.
Bishop Foley said he had been “a bit sceptical about awards such as knighthoods and so on” but that he had been really “chuffed” when he received the award.
“In the end I felt it would be somewhat churlish to turn the honour down,” he said.
Bishop Foley also reminisced on his involvement with the university during its transformation from McAuley College of Teacher Education at Mitchelton to its eventual relocation to the former Pius XII Provincial Seminary site at Banyo.
“The move to this much bigger more accessible site was a great achievement for Catholic education and Catholic universities in general,” he said.
“It has been an honour for me to be involved with ACU over the years.”
Bishop Foley made the comments after attending the ACU’s 2014 graduation ceremonies held in The Great Hall at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 19.
The citation, read out as Bishop Foley received ACU’s highest honour from Pro-Chancellor Ted Exell, outlined the reasons for the award.
“Bishop Foley has been a loyal and generous supporter of Australian Catholic University since its establishment in 1991,” the citation said.
The citation gave an outline of Bishop Foley’s academic achievements and priestly ministry, which included studies at Belgium’s Louvain University where he gained a Licentiate and Doctorate in Philosophy.
He also served as chaplain on United States and British military bases in West Germany, working with soldiers and families.
Returning to Australia in 1982, Bishop Foley began teaching philosophy at Banyo seminary.
He was spiritual director to students at Banyo seminary from 1985 to 1992.
The complex nature of truth was among topics Bishop Foley covered in his address to the awards gathering.
“To establish the truth is the goal of any serious study,” he said.
“The Truth is the reason for existence of institutions such as universities.”
The bishop held up a Rubik’s cube to illustrate to the graduation gathering “that truth is only ever partial – never fully perceived”.
“I have never been able to have all the colours lined up.
“However I hold it – this way or that way – at any one moment/instant I can only ever see three sides.
“Or even if I cheated with a mirror, I am only ever going to see at most five of the six sides.” Bishop Foley said that “God – as all-seeing and all-pervasive – is not limited by time or space”.
“God may instantaneously see or know all six sides of the cube,” he said.
In his address at the graduation ceremony, he also sounded a note of caution about “those who know”.
“Beware of ideologues of every stripe either of the right or of the left – Fascists or Communists; beware fundamentalists of any shade or age – people who too readily believe their own propaganda,” he said.
“We never know, at least in this part of our existence, this life, the whole truth, we are never in possession simultaneously of every perspective on an issue.
“That though should not lead us to a deep scepticism or agnosticism; because I cannot know all sides and everything – then I can know nothing.
“Rather that I cannot reliably know everything, rather should lead us to keep looking, to keep turning over and to keep searching for the Truth.
“It is that which keeps us humble, human and humane.”