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Anna's Blog

There is distinct air of both surprise and hope at the announcement this week that Father Paul Bird, the regional head (provincial) of the Redemptorists will be the eighth Catholic Bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat.

It is interesting that commentators and bloggers from different theological quarters in the church have been united in their positive reception of the news.

Often the ethical, cultural and legislative campaigns for euthanasia are so unremitting that those many people defending the sanctity of life suffer a type of campaign “fatigue”.

Symptoms of this fatigue can include existential burn-out and a type of ethical depression. We can start to believe that those campaigning for euthanasia and assisted suicide have all the celebrities, all the progress, all the funding, all the media headlines and all the emotional energy. It is worth discussing just a few of the reasons for this experience.

In April this year, an independent and cross-party U.K. Parliamentary group released the Report of its Inquiry into Online Child Protection. The Inquiry was conducted not only with the working team of Conservative, Labour and cross-bench members, but was supported by 60 other British Parliamentarians. It was prompted by some of the findings of the 2011 Report Letting Children Be Children: Report of the Independent review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood (October 2011).

annasblog20120530 100The last few decades have witnessed a rising tide of societal outrage and grief over the neglect or evasion of cases of child sexual abuse within once trusted institutions—the scouts, schools or churches. People question why it is that time and time again those in authority prevaricated, ignored the evidence or were simply too perplexed to face their suspicions squarely. These questions are justified.

At the same time, there is evidence of a disturbing double standard within the same sections of the public who would lynch all priests and school teachers for the crimes of a few.

photowithprofbenson 100Academics, media commentators and even ordinary members of the public increasingly assume these days that the population is divided into two distinct camps—those who are “believers” on one hand and those who are “unbelievers” on the other. The increasingly belligerent “new atheists” use this misconstrual to argue for the exclusion of the “believers” from public discourse and at the same time argue for the benevolent “neutrality” of the “non-believers”.

The Journal of Medical Ethics recently published a paper titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” that, as the title implies, explores the ethics of killing newborn children. The authors argued that there’s no difference between aborting an unborn child and killing newborns.

Was it an act of cynical ethical kite flying or was it a rather clever exercise in satire?

Amidst all the outrage and horror that greeted the publication, it is understandable that some readers of the venerable British Journal of Medical Ethics simply did not believe that the article in this year’s March 2nd edition, entitled bluntly: “After-birth Abortion: why should baby live?”, was for real.

Associate Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini is something of an Australian landmark.   He is currently the Associate Dean and Head of the Bioethics Department at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about a series of seminars that Professor Tonti-Filippini has organized in different parts of Melbourne, in order to outline his concerns about end-of-life decisions.

toloveuntiltheend 100“Told that I would die within five years (in 1977) and having become interested in philosophy, I saw no harm in making the latter my principal interest rather than following a career-orientated path.” So writes Associate Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, with disarming understatement, in the introduction to his timely new book titled: “About Bioethics: Philosophical and Theological Approaches.”

The book itself is a very rare event—a very readable and at times very personal reflection on the pressing “life issues” by one of the most recognizable and active public ethicists in Australia. It is doubly rare, since it represents the thinking of a bioethicist who says: “For me the central concept of Bioethics is respect for every member of the human family” and who has defended and articulated this universal norm in the public square, while making no secret of being “primarily motivated by Christ’s instruction that we should love God and one another.”

A compelling and confronting new book, Big Porn Inc, was recently  launched in both Melbourne and Perth. The publishers, editors, some of the Australian contributors and those endorsing the book spoke of the launch of this book as a “landmark publication”.

“Big Porn Inc: exposing the harms of the global pornography industry” (published by Spinifex) is a sharply up-to-the-nano-second analysis of and protest against the “colonization” of the world’s markets, cultures and interpersonal relationships by exponentially violent, dehumanized and dehumanizing pornography.

There is no longer any debate about the ease of access to and speed of distribution of pornography via cyber-technology. Pornographic images and scripts can be viewed and downloaded easily and even inadvertently via iphones or computers.

The pornification of women and children is no longer hidden under brown-paper wrappers or in the corners of grimy peep-shows. Yesteryears titillating soft-porn has become normalized and serves as the template for current advertising, fashion design and pop music campaigns. Meanwhile the hard-porn/sex industry has become one of largest, most powerful and globalised profit making markets in the world.

Sometimes it is the unwelcome passage of years, or the banal paraphernalia or the unbridled consumerism of children's birthday parties today which make us dread or despise birthdays and anniversaries.

In fact birthdays, and the real celebrations they betoken, are central both to the Christian year and to the ethos of life which Christians share with so many people of good will.

22-16-thefirst-pg27 100For several decades, sociologists and psychologists have identified the key contribution made by engaged, tender and stable fathers (and father figures) to the academic, sexual and character development of girls. The importance of fathers in the maturation and sociological integration of children has also been a lively question in the wake of the recent London riots.

The current Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the “Options and Mechanisms to Increase Organ Donation in Victoria” has been seeking submissions to inform its investigation of ethical, community and legal measures which will assist in increasing the rates and efficiency of organ donation in the State.

It is worth noting that there seem to be deep emotional and ethical concerns which prevent Australians, many of whom approve of organ donation in theory, from agreeing to donation for themselves or their deceased family members.

Mary-Glowrey-Obstetrics-Training 100Gifts of feminine genius: Protecting nascent faith and nascent life

In the 8 December issue of The Record (“Mary Glowrey and Pope Benedict fought same battle for culture of life”) we began to highlight some of the interesting and timely themes emerging in Pope Benedict’s Advent preaching for the new Church year.

Mary-Glowrey-Treating-patients 100Red-Letter Advent: Awakening consciences to nascent mystery

“Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord,” so Pope Benedict XVI opens a new Church year and the liturgical season of Advent 2010 (Homily 27 November 2010). This Advent marks two very notable “beginnings” for Australia, the Church and the World.

On the Feast of St Francis Xavier (3rd December once the patron saint of Australia and now the Missions) the Archbishop of Melbourne announced the preliminary phase of the cause for canonization of the extraordinary Dr Sister Mary Glowrey.

Pope Benedict draws together very skillfully the biblical, liturgical and spiritual themes which evoke the patient waiting and yet the fierce wakefulness of the expectant mother. "During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church which takes us by the hand- and in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her motherhood..."