the ghosts of religion in a secular political world...
The Bishop of the Australian Defence Force has been charged with a sex offence dating back to 1969.
Bishop Max Davis is believed to be the most senior clergyman in the Catholic Church, and the first bishop, to be charged with a child sex offence.
The alleged incident took place when Bishop Davis was teaching at St Benedict's College in New Norcia, north-east of Perth.
The Church said Bishop Davis was not an ordained priest when the incident is alleged to have occurred, and that he "emphatically denies" the charge.
"An allegation has been made to the police that in 1969 Bishop Max Davis abused a student at St. Benedict's College in New Norcia," said a statement from the Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia.
"At that time - 45 years ago - the bishop was not ordained. The bishop emphatically denies the allegation and the charge will be defended."
Holy Trinity Abbey
We are saddened to learn of the recent charge against Bishop Max Davis relating to an allegation of abuse during his time at New Norcia in the 1960s.
This allegation was brought to our attention some time ago and we have taken it seriously which we consider to be our moral and legal obligation.
We have fully cooperated with police investigations and will continue to do so.
We think it is in the best interest of everyone concerned not to make further comment during legal proceedings.
John Herbert, Abbot
29th June 2014
New Norcia, for those who don't know is a school/seminary/brotherhood "town" situated in a semi-desert plain not far from Perth. It had been created to look after destitute children, in the late 1800s. It was segregated into four section: the white boys, the white girls, the aboriginal boys and the aboriginal girls. It still has its chapels and most of the schools (now mostly unused) for the different groups. Unlike many religious real estate, the place is owned by the brotherhood, not by the Catholic Church.
New Norcia is cut in half by a main road, on which heavier and getting heavier trucks are badly shaking the foundation of some buildings. For a few years now, the community has been looking for ways to create a by-pass for the traffic. The small brotherhood has made the land available on the edge of its estate, but no government nor church office has been coming with plans to build the new road, until the brothers "sell the place". The small community is "self-sufficient" for produce, including wine and beer, and building materials.
But today, we are reminded once more about allegations of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church and the ghosts past may have been set in New Norcia. Pity.
Though it was a place for strict education for boys and girls and still is a place of religious fervour, It has a very unique character and history in the Australian landscape. Its Spanish revival buildings, the eucalyptus, the bird life (especially the corellas) and its cemetery have a weird arcane aura in which the illusion of god seeps out and is also inscribed in all the walls and the dirt paths.
But sex and the codification of sex has always been one of the main bedbug (or bugbear) of any society, big or small... Please visit : of women's lot...
There is of course, things such as wrong accusation, imaginings of compensation gains and things such as regrets of bad deed and decided forgetfulness fermenting in the mind of people. A court has no way of knowing the truth, unless there are credible witnesses or admission of "guilt".
The greater problem here is the shaping of the mind of people to believe into god and its associated stories of angels, demons and virgin Mary, mostly designed to make us accept the concept of sin. Including the sexual sin, imagined or acted upon.
Which leads me to a rant by Stanley Hauerwas, published by the ABC, on its religion and ethics pages. Nowhere is sex mentioned in the essay. Only the structure of "power" and control.
I have always assumed that any theology reflects a politics, whether that politics is acknowledged or not. The crucial question is: what kind of politics is theologically assumed?
In the tradition in which I was educated, it was assumed that democratic politics was normative for Christians. Because I do not share that presumption, some think I have no politics. In truth, I have no stake one way or the other in being counted among those doing what is often called "political theology."
I have always resisted modifying theology with descriptors that suggest theology is the possession of certain groups or perspectives. For me, nothing is more important than the fundamental task of theology to be of service to the church; it belongs to the church. I am well aware that time and place make a difference for how theology is done. But too often I fear when theology is made subservient to this or that qualifier, it has inadequate means with which to resist becoming a mere ideology.
It is true, however, that there is no "method" that can protect theologians from engaging in ideological modes of thought, even when they claim to be doing theology. Theology stands under the permanent temptation to "choose sides," which means theology can become ideological long before anyone notices. I have no objection to calling theology "Christian," but that description does not insure that theology that bears the name will be free of ideological perversion. "Christian" is no guarantee that theology can be safeguarded against being put at the service of political loyalties and practices that betray the Gospel.
Absent the Kingdom, Christians failed to emphasize the three commitments that the Kingdom entails:
All of which can be summed up by Rauschenbusch's claim that the social gospel is the religious response to the historic advent of democracy. For Rauschenbusch, the social gospel sought to put the democratic spirit which the church inherited from Jesus and the prophets once more in control of the institution of the church. Another word for salvation, Rauschenbusch asserts, is democracy because Jesus's highest redemptive act was to take God by the hand and call him "our Father." By doing so Jesus democratized the conception of God and in the process, not only saved humanity, but "he saved God."
The Christian's task is to work to extend this democratic ideal. Rauschenbusch thinks largely achieved in the political sphere, but now the same democratic ideals must be applied economic realm. That means Christians must work to see that the brotherhood of man common possession of economic resources of society. They must also seek to secure humanity by insuring such a good is set high above the private profit interests of all materialistic Rauschenbusch was convinced, moreover, that these were not unrealizable ideals, but Christians could bring to fruition if the gospel was recognized to be a social gospel.
Gus: Here we have a view that explores the concept of a religious communism.
Scott's defence of anarchy, therefore, turns out to be a defence of politics itself. He observes that, "if there is one conviction that anarchist thinkers and non-demagogic populists share, it is faith in the capacity of democratic citizenry to learn and grow through engagement in the public sphere." Yet he argues that the formation of bodies wrought through populist politics is often defeated by something as simple as an SAT exam. For that exam serves as a way to convince middle class-whites that affirmative action is a choice between objective merit and favouritism. As a result, the SAT robs us of the public dialogue we need to have about how educational opportunity ought to be allocated in a democratic and plural society. Cost-benefit analysis often functions in a similar way to make the conflict needed seem petty.
Scott ends his book by directing our attention to the role of "history" in modern politics. The purpose of such histories is to summarize major historical events by making them legible by a single narrative. As a result, the "radical contingency" of history is domesticated in an effort to underwrite the assumption that the way things turned out is the only way they could be. Such condensations of history, the needs of elites to project an image of control, creates a blindness to the fact that the "emancipator gains for human freedom have not been the result of orderly, institutional procedures but of disorderly, unpredictable, spontaneous action cracking open the social order from below."
I confess it is with some hesitancy that I use Scott's account of anarchy to exemplify what a Christian politics might look like. I worry that "anarchy" may suggest that I have no use for institutions that inevitably involve hierarchies of authority. I assume it is never a question of whether hierarchies of authority should or should not exist, but rather how authority should be understood as an aid for the discovery of the common good of a community. Indeed, I am in deep agreement with Victor Lee Austin's argument in Up With Authority that because the common good of communities is not one isolated goal, "authority is needed because it is desirable that particular goods should be taken care of by particular agencies." The irony is that such an account of authority stands as a challenge - a challenge that may appear to threaten anarchy - in a liberal social order in which common goods by design are reduced to common interest.
The church is rightly a hierarchical institution. It is so because the church is a community that believes the truth matters. Accordingly, the saints and martyrs stand as authorities necessary to test the changes necessary if the church is to remain faithful to the gospel. Those singled out for the offices in the church to insure that the church attend to the saints must recognize that the exercise of their authority can never be an end in itself. But it is "political" in the most basic sense of what it means to be political and accordingly can serve as an example for the exercise of authority beyond the church. If that is a Constantinian strategy, then I am a Constantinian.
I have already I referred to Alex Sider's suggestion that Yoder's anti-Constantinianism is best expressed in terms of the church being the true meaning of history. That is an extraordinary claim, requiring a people to exist who know how to drag their feet when confronted by those who think they know where history is headed - which, I hope, is one way to say that the church does not have a politics, but rather the church is God's politics for the world. If Christians are well-formed by that politics, they hopefully will serve the world well by developing an "ecclesial squint." By doing so they might just be able to serve their neighbour by helping us see "it did not have to be." That, moreover, is the most radical politics imaginable.
Stanley Hauerwas is Senior Research Fellow at the Duke University Divinity School. His most recent books are Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics and Life and Without Apology: Sermons for Christ's Church.
Though Hauerwas is most well known for his work related to Christian ethics, the relationship between Christianity and politics, and ecclesiology, Hauerwas has written widely on a diverse range of subjects, such as systematic theology, philosophical theology, political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, law, education, bioethics, and medical ethics. Hauerwas is known for his outspoken advocacy of pacifism, as well of his fierce criticism of liberal democracy, capitalism, militarism, American civil religion and both Christian fundamentalism and liberal Christianity. Among his most important contributions to modern theology are his advocacy of and work related to virtue ethics and postliberal theology.
Gus: I thought it was necessary to show a big slab of what Stanley Hauerwas was talking about in order to grasp where he swings and roundabouts without giving us a clear statement of what he really thinks. He assumes the absolute truth of certain dynamics which have only been created and sustained by ignorant beliefs in specific times of the history of humankind, now weirdly adapted to include contradictory scientific discovery.
Hauerwas would have quite a lot of philosophical enemies for his outspoken advocacies and criticsm of everything that seems to relate to cash and to ideas that are fundamentalist. Hauerwas does not need Gus to play against him from the other side of the ledger — the atheist view point. Good for him to be a committed pacifist, though.
But in some way Hauerwas is also a fundamentalist by holding onto "Constantinian views" of hierarchy, which end up somewhat quite confusing for a simple guy like me, when in contradiction, he parallels these with his "radical political" values and those of Rauschenbusch.
For me, the purpose of either church and state, separately and together, has always been to control the behaviour of people who, for some historical accidental flotsam and jetsam, saw (or were imposed) value in sharing a space — a territory. Animals protect their territory. This sharing of space came with a management value to rationalise the relationships that soon became dictated by the group or by a group chieftain who, by better management of his own relationships or by sheer brute force, became thus. I would hope that this would be the anthropological groundwork in understanding societies, small and large.
In all the early social decisions, there was also a lot of ignorance about natural processes, but not necessarily any ignorance about the tempo of nature. The seasons, the moon, the sun had recognisable patterns. Matter behaved in certain ways that could be used to build huts, houses and temples. Fire had influenced a dynamic development of cooking, of metal-making and of clay hardening. There was some "magic" in the air to provide an explanation to this interaction with the natural world and there was some secrecy to provide assurance of superiority of knowledge...
Small groups unified possibly for protection against other groups, or for sheer need of numbers in the newly acquired skill of cultivation, which could have started by removing "unusable" and unwanted plants from plains, which also also ended up providing food for a greater number of people. This accumulated wealth of goods could then be capitalised into more structured social interactions including hierarchy to maintain order, because...
From this point onwards, the concept of anarchy or of communities with equal individuals could not survive well, because basically, within each and everyone of us lurks the ability to be a psychopath or be ruthless. There cannot be a sense of superiority or inferiority in anarchy, nor in proper communistic system. And we have to admit, there are various level of intelligence in society, meaning that all being equal some people understand complexity better than others.
I hereby describe psychopathy as our ability to care less about other people than ourselves which is derived from a natural trait of survival for most individual in most animal species, especially when under threat. In the animal world, it's desperate aggression in defence. In human this ability reaches new heights when even not under threat, the psychopath will hurt others to promote his/her own self... The group tends to temper this psychopath tendency in individuals because it seems that overall, this trait can be a threat to the group — or can appear "unfair", can lead to pandemonium — though a group might become aggressive against another by need or by simple historical hate, which is a form of group fomented psychopathy.
Thus the group devised rules in which everyone should be protected and provide for the group's survival and participate to the newly acquired faculty of entertainment, even as spectator or "actor" (singing the dirge), a faculty which was soon highjacked by "secreteers" such as sorcerers and priests. Even today, our societies abound with thieves, con-artists, liars, "secreteers" and psychopath. "Political theology" is part of the "secreteers" work, with devised hocus pocus, in which the "secreteers" might or might not believe in, themselves, but will use a certain arcane trickster technique to bamboozle the people into beliefs that will make the secreeters gain a special place in the group — a sub-propriety often used as a scarecrow by the leader(s) of the group, to control the group....
Psychos, con-artists, liars, "secreteers" cannot be eliminated entirely from any groups, thus any reach for an orderly anarchy in which no-one gets hurt is difficult.
Competition without rules becomes a form of social psychopathy.
Brute force was (and still is) the way to conquests, a way to acquire more than others. Most brute force has no understanding of facts, nor of sensitivities and has no empathy: the subjects of brute force are victims. There has been some refinement in the process of brute force, as social rules were designed to minimise its influence within the social network. A new form of psychopathy was devised: deceit.
Brute force thus is not just about slash and burn, but also about the ability to control the mind of people and to impose a format that demands submission. Thus a device of the successful discreet brute force is deception: saying something, doing something else... and it can become very sophisticated. Religion can be brutal in his application, say stoning for adultery or with the inquisition for non-believers, but at best or worst, all religions are a deceiving mechanism to remove our ability to see reality as truly observed, and to give us a meaning when there is no meaning to be found in reality.
For Christians, religion and politics have long mixed till about the age of enlightenment (around the 18th century), which propelled the age of scientific examination of the world beyond the simple acceptance of dogma.
The industrial revolution was the child of this enlightenment.
In some way, science then created its own present problem — global warming... But the industrial revolution brought far more comforts than it took away, even when this "advancement" was taken over by psychopaths for their own end, creating world wars and so forth.
The process of social psychopathy still exists in the battle between rich and poor. The present Australian government is a child of Christian psychopathy in which unfair competition is being revived through wrong mechanisms that encourage psychopathy for survival under various ill-thought out decrees such as "the end of the entitlement"...
And then societies can be infected by individual sickness that affects the common dreams... It is not by chance that most of the nasty sorcery paintings in Aboriginal art are quite recent, painted soon after the arrival of the "white man". The interface between blacks and whites had a devastating effect on the health of Aboriginal people and their beliefs. Mostly because new diseases were introduced, new diseases that inflicted new fever and associated strong feverish dreams. The "sorcery" paintings of Arnhem Land are thus associated with such diseases as small pox and others which were unknown on this continent's populations. The images are wrenching in their depiction of nasty spirits, which till then had been absent in Aboriginal culture.
Thus Hauerwas seems to be burdened by the general religious guilt of having chosen its own memory of history — in which a set of rules were devised to achieve a structure then, in the Constantine era, that absolved itself from anthropological constraints. It was an evolution that, sort of, wiped out the past — especially deleted the evolution of the natural human — and fancified the history of Christ by choosing and embellishing the narratives to suit the carrot and the stick that kept the masses under foot.
James C Scott is far more enlightened, more open and more idealistic about the human species. Though idealisation of such can only happen when we manage to find the chip that eliminates our own psychopathic ability. I cannot see this happening in the near future, even in thirty years from now, when the reality of global warming will hit hard.
.. All identities, without exception, have been socially constructed: the Han, the Burman, the American, the Danish, all of them.... To the degree that the identity is stigmatized by the larger state or society, it is likely to become for many a resistant and defiant identity. Here invented identities combine with self-making of a heroic kind, in which such identifications become a badge of honor....
James C Scott...
In some ways, Scott notes that there is a "struggle" between "ordinary" people and their rulers — and modern democracy does not escape this struggle — though our revolt is subdued by our submission to entertaining fairy-floss.
The definition of the "common good", of course, is a contested ground, mostly because we, ordinary folks, are at the whim and fancy of the brutes, the tricksters and the thieves. And we also become victims of our own dopiness that we cultivate through this entertainment that included advertising, theatre and religion. Of course, the teaching of Christ has been to turn the other cheek, but this often encourages the sadists amongst us to rise above the crowds. I have not seen one single ruler yet to turn the other cheek. Revenge has been on the boil ever since "Cain killed his brother Abel"...
Often, the mix of religious and political brute force ends up in strong theocracy or in dictatorship — which for whatever means of processes are basically the same thing when they apply brute force to control people — or use some chosen scapegoats to make others feel good.
Constantine was a brute force using deception, wars and religious adoptive decree to rule over people. Suited the times, I suppose, but I hope we can do better.
In the battle of anarchy versus democratic despotism there are shades of rules in which we can try to maintain better fairness.
The present "theocratic" Abbott regime is eliminating all the social process of fairness, in order to create more cash for the rich. All it does is engender a growing discontentment. There is so much that people can take, despite this grand deceit also being promoted as "common good" by the leader of the MMMM, Mr Murdoch. Ugly.
As Bob Ellis would say, we shall see.
Religion in politics, whether it's Constantinian, Islamic or biblical, is a crock.