CONCERNING the several responses to my letter (CL 13/8/00), which was itself a response to the proposition by Fr Ryan that without a priest there could not exist either community or Church, I am grateful for the interest given to the subject, but disappointed that my letter has been somewhat misread.
Initially the group is not proposed as an ideal community, but on the contrary, a castaway group deprived of their beloved Mass and connectivity with their people. Clearly they are fortified by faith as they set about coping, and effectively making the most of what they have. An Agape is not a Mass, but through it they bring to mind the Eucharist and recall that it continues around the world, and ask God to let them share in it. Using a powerful female image from the rich writings of St Alphonsus Ligouri, I tried to show our need of grace and God’s greater need to give it to us. Unless we receive it, it is frustrated in its purpose. I argued from this that we could reasonably expect that God would not leave them short of any grace they thus asked for.
Because of the female image I used, I am taken to task by Peggy Nijam (CL 27/8/00), as just prior to presenting it I use the male pronoun for God. When the Church uses this pronoun it is not proposing that God is male, but that God is person, as opposed to the non-personal. There being no non-sexed personal pronoun, one had to be used, and tradition going back to earliest Judaic times has had it as the male pronoun. It ought to be observed also that when the Jews used the patriarchal image of God they had no intention of sexing God. However there can be no doubt that this usage has greatly contributed to male chauvinism over the centuries. Further, it is generally held that whatever God makes to some degree reflects God. Therefore whatever the sexes are essentially, which includes complementarity and mutual interdependence, can be expected to be present in God.
My letter spoke of “when and if” communication was re-established with the group. I was thinking of the passing of a generation or so. By such time the group would have increased and, hopefully, been well integrated which stresses their community character – and would have strong variance from their parent culture. It would be highly insensitive not to be conscious of this and to appoint a priest in the same way a priest would be appointed to any parish. However, they would need to be open to the outside world, as Wayne Rose suggests (CL 27/8/00), but hopefully not culture shocked and blown apart by it, as has been the case with isolated tribal cultures, which such a group would be closer to, as I was seeing them. The Church insists on raising an indigenous hierarchy as soon as possible. I apologise for any lack of clarity in my former letter.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.