John Lilburne's journal about the Pope on divorce and Chaplain Fleming's letter to The Australian.



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1115 L Sat 2 Feb 2002

I am very impressed with the article "Caught off guard: Pope's divorce comments draw vociferous outcry" by John Norton on It provides the context for the Pope's recent comments on divorce.

Today in The Australian there is a letter from a Catholic priest who is a Chaplain in the army: Martin Fleming. Perhaps if he had read the article he would not have felt the need to write the following about what the Pope said:

... This pronouncement is a dead weight for priests like myself who have to deal at the coalface with people's struggles with their humanity. ...

He concludes the letter:

Working with people at the coalface continues to be very rewarding. A number of priests would say that a lot of effort, however, goes towards providing "top-cover" to the people we serve; someone has to keep the detritus which fall from above away from them. This pronouncement sadly enforces in a lot of people's minds that generally the hierarchy of the church is not relevant to their lives.

Looking up "detritus" in the dictionary it is "matter produced by erosion, such as gravel, sand, silt, rock-debris, etc.; debris".

Unfortunately I think his observation about a "number of priests" is largely correct. Rather than presenting the official Church teaching, performing the official Roman Rite, or observing and insisting upon the Code of Canon Law, there is a tendency to keep it away from people. "I'm at the coalface, I know better, I will do it my way. This teaching about marriage/instituted lectors, that is in the Catechism, liturgical books and Code of Canon Law. I don't think that is a good idea. I will do things differently, I will teach something else."

Of course it undermines the Catholic Church. It is like a mutinous coal miner who wants to dig his own tunnel, regardless of what his boss says about dangers or where he should dig.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 2 February 2002.

Links to other sites: on the Pope's statement on divorce