Keep the press free

28 Responses

  1. Martin Keenan says:

    Section 16(1) of the national Constitution:- “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; [etc]” These rights are subject to, inter alia, the limitations in sub-section (2).

    From this, we can see that even in secular society, media freedom is not an absolute value. It is worth protecting only to the extent that the media are a source of information otherwise it degenerates into mere sensationalism or propaganda.

    In fact, the Constitution is defective at this point because the right to receive and impart “information” is worthless without reference to the over-riding value of truth. The presentation of “news” (in a general sense) must also be “balanced” in order to avoid the curse of half-truths and to cancel the bias with which even the truth can be imparted.

    One of the main concerns of the ANC’s recent discussion document on “Media Transformation, Ownership and Diversity” is the lack of balance provided by local media. Those who own and operate the media are often blind to the extent to which their own bias slants the news. To this extent, the document raises fair and reasonable concerns, and a national Media Tribunal subject to parliamentary oversight offers one model for re-dressing the balance. It deserves calm consideration.

    Take “The Southern Cross”, for example. The selection and presentation of “Letters to the Editor” in the print and online versions, together with the sub-editor’s tags identifying the content of the letter, are all factors which bear significantly on where the newspaper “stands”; how it positions itself as a “Catholic” newspaper.

    The privileged position of regular contributors (the editor, especially) also plays a major part in moulding the thinking of readers by creating a certain climate of opinion. Where those contributors hold important positions, the more likely it is that what they write (facts as well as views and ideas) will impress and convince. The burning questions are always: looking at the totality of the content, are we getting a “Catholic” newspaper, and if we are not, what is our recourse?

  2. Gnther Simmermacher says:

    You could feed multitudes of strawmen with the red herrings your presenting here, Martin.

    There is nothing unethical about a newspaper having a political or cultural bias; the ANC is setting up its own daily mouthpiece, so surely even the sponsors of the media tribunal idea there is no problem.

    The ANC is proposing to counteract the truth. The proposed law and tribunal can be used to stop the dissemination of facts. The M&G might not have been able to break the Selebi story under those circumstances. The truth you seek to defend may very well be compromised by the ANC’s proposed tribunal and information law.

    What the ANC and you fail to disclose is exactly where the problem with the media as it currently operates resides concretely. In other words, where are these supposedly widespread breaches of ethics that require intervention and effective control by the ANC?

    The whole idea smacks of tearing down a house to get rid of mice.

    I’m not sure what your points referring to The Southern Cross have to do with all this. But your inference that there is a bias in the selection of letters is inappropriate and unsupported by facts.

    The insinuation that The Southern Cross is somehow not “Catholic” is just silly. What is our recourse if it isn’t? The newspaper is published independently. The reader has recourse in not buying the newspaper. If circulation decreases disproportionately, then the board of directors would surely investigate whether this would relate to editorial content.

    In the event, The Southern Cross is one of the very few newspapers in South Africa that is holding its circulation, making it one of the top performers in the country (according to Marketing Mix). I think that suggests that the Catholic readers of the Catholic newspaper believe it is sufficiently Catholic.

  3. Martin Keenan says:

    You seem to me to be having a conversation with yourself, Gnther – just as I seem to you to be having a conversation with myself. It might help to advance the discussion if you indicated whether or not you agree with the first three paragraphs in my post.

    As for paragraph 4, I am not adopting wholesale the ANC’s argument, nor is it up to me to defend their policy. One of the complaints in their discussion document concerns media bias, and bias can be overt or covert, it can be exercised consciously or sub-consciously. Surely this is a legitimate area for discussion: how to analyse and address bias in the media. Or are you saying that the reader has a sufficient remedy – to cease buying the paper? What, however, if there is no competitor to turn to?

    Turning now to my remarks about “The Southern Cross”, it is perfectly obvious what they have to do with the topic I isolated in the ANC’s discussion document: media bias. Now, it would help if you read in a less defensive manner what I actually wrote.

    [1] The Letters page is eminently susceptible to bias in the areas and to the extent I indicated. The same goes for opinion articles. These are eminently “appropriate” topics for discussion in the context of your editorial, and no doubt we will disagree about the extent to which bias can be identified. You already have some indication of my views on that.

    [2] The paper claims to be “Southern Africa’s national Catholic weekly”. This means the reader is entitled to keep under review the extent to which the paper maintains its Catholic identity. Circulation figures tell us nothing about that.

    [3] Finally, I sincerely hope that the board of directors of a “Catholic” newspaper (meaning a paper which asserts that it has a “Catholic” identity) do not wait until the circulation falls before asking themselves the very necessary question whether the content continues to justify the claim to a Catholic identity.

    The name “Catholic” has an objective meaning and your notion of “sufficiently Catholic” indicates that the process of discernment must be vigilant and continuous. What the name “Catholic” does NOT mean is: whatever happens to please those people who – being, or claiming to be, Catholic – buy the paper. A Catholic newspaper is a vital resource for every Catholic, not only for those who buy and read it.

  4. Malcolm says:

    Christ and the Media
    Future historians will surely see us as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster which no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence. Malcolm Muggeridge

  5. Martin Keenan says:

    The problem, Gnther, is that you do not, apparently, even accept the possibility of bias arising from the multitude of choices that are made by the editor and sub-editors of any newspaper regarding (a) content and (b) its manner of presentation. The processes at (b) also make a considerable contribution to forming opinion.

    If you do accept the possibility of bias, the question to be answered is how these biases are rectified or compensated for.

    My particular anxiety with “The Southern Cross” is the prevailing idea that everything which has not been dogmatically defined is open to free debate in the pages in the popular press. Such an attitude is unacceptable in a Catholic newspaper.

  6. Gnther Simmermacher says:

    Of course there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism. But there are shades of bias. You seemed to insinuate that we at The Southern Cross give some letters preference over others in selection and placement. I dispute that; I think that the letters page is as representative of the correspondence we receive.

    So, our inevitable biases are balanced by a consciousness of these, and a deliberate effort to be fair in the publication of letters.

    The vague limits you seek to place on debate are impossible to set without a heavy dose (overdose?) of bias, Martin. Aren’t you contradicting yourself?

  7. Martin Keenan says:

    The discussion inches forward. You accept the existence of bias, but you assume that the editorial team is always and everywhere conscious of such bias and that it can, therefore, be counter-acted. Your “deliberate effort to be fair in the publication of letters” is at least a recognition of a struggle, so you would be nothing more than human if the team erred. Granted the possibility of error in judgement that even your partial admission implies, the next question is how errors are to be corrected – who, in other words, has effective oversight (and the emphasis is on “effective”).

    The newspaper’s own Editorial Charter sets out certain limits to debate which (in my opinion – and as you know) are inadequate. Bias in favour of the Church’s teaching is not, I should have thought, an unreasonable to stance to require from a newspaper which professes to be “Catholic”. To adapt your own words: “There is nothing unethical about a newspaper having a confessional bias”. Who, then, is contradicting himself?

  8. Vincent Couling says:

    The Holy Father, and his curial team, when exercising their ordinary magisterium, are capable of erring in their teaching*. (The teaching in Humanae Vitae on artificial contraception would be a possible contemporary case in point.) After all, they would be nothing more than human if they erred. Granted the possibility of error in their judgement, the next question is how errors are to be corrected – who, in other words, has effective oversight (and the emphasis is on “effective”)?

    Could part of the answer have something to do with the People of God? And a Catholic press that has the integrity to publish their concerns without fear of favour? In fact, might this not constitute a valuable learning experience for our bishops and theologians, who might otherwise not be aware of the trials and tribulations that the magisterial teaching might unjustly impose? After all, if we take the case of artificial contraception, many of our bishops and theologians are celibate, so their experience on this matter is derived either purely from abstraction, or from asking sexually-active Catholics to share their experience and insight. In light of this observation, were the Editorial team of the Southern Cross to avoid printing the letters from such Catholics in our Catholic weekly, surely this would be a profound ethical and moral lapse! A missed opportunity to bring into the light of day the very real lived experience of members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

    I am reminded of the pearl of wisdom given by Frederick Franck, who served as a doctor on Albert Schweitzer’s staff in Africa (one could hardly accuse him of being out of touch with the concerns of the “little people” on the ground, so to speak). Franck was also the only official artist for the Second Vatican Council!

    Here is the pearl: “When logic follows experience, it is likely to be valid. When experience derives from logic, it is bound to be self-deception: delusional, spurious, false.

    Now the abstract “natural law” arguments against artificial contraception, for example, are ultimately based on a flawed Aristotelian biology and the abstract principles which flow from it. As the great Jesuit philosopher-theologian Bernard Lonergan pointed out: “I would note that the traditional Catholic doctrine on the sexual act followed rigorously from the position adopted by Aristotle in his ‘De Generatione Animalium’.” **

    Let us not forget that although Aristotle might have been a great philosopher, but he was by all indications a very poor scientist! For him, making scientific observation was a task suited to a mere craftsman or slave. Philosophers like him could reach correct conclusions by reason alone: and we know that many of his conclusions were utter bunkum, be they on the earth being unmoving and at the centre of the universe, or on the male seed possessing the form of the new life (the soul), the woman only providing the matter (like the ground providing earth, nutrients and water to a mielie seed).

    Unfortunately, the manualist (or essentialist) theological tradition is much in the Aristotelian mould, reaching moral conclusions from abstract principles: manualists have no need to hear the insights of the lay faithful in the letters pages of the Southern Cross, for example. Whereas the personalist tradition starts with the human person and his/her relationship with other people and with God: personalist moral theologians and hierarchs would, on the other hand, be very much interested in the UNCENSORED insights of all Catholics.

    I sincerely hope that the editorial team at the Southern Cross will continue their excellent tradition of keeping the letters pages as representative of the correspondence which they receive. It is clearly in the interest of the common good.

    *As is amply illustrated in the magisterial and scrupulously-researched book by renowned Catholic ethicist, historian and circuit-court judge John T Noonan Jr: A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching. (I suppose that part of Martins censorship ideal would be for a review of such a scholarly work never to see the light of day in the Catholic press. Maybe lets even suggest to Pope Benedict that he bring back the Index Librorum Prohibitorum [list of prohibited books] as part of the reform of the reform?)

    **See the Lonergan Studies Newsletter 11 (1990) pp 8-9 for a copy of Lonergans brief but excellent letter tackling this moral issue.

  9. Vincent Couling says:

    I should have mentioned a curious observation that flows out of Noonan’s study of the development of Catholic moral teaching: almost all (if not all) of the developments arise from pressure brought by the laity, be it simply through their ignoring a particular moral stricture (like the teaching forbidding usury), or through their writing letters to the editor!

    It is quite astonishing to reflect that it wasn’t all that long ago that if a Frenchman voted in a democratic election, he was considered automatically excommunicated by Holy Mother! (I suppose if you have to excommunicate almost your entire flock – thereby cutting off their all-important plate contributions – you will think very carefully about the veracity of your moral abstractions. It brings to mind a delightful Andy Capp comic strip, where the vicar bemoans the shrinking size of his congregaion: “you know your congregation has become very tiny when, by starting off your homily with ‘my dearly beloved,’ you are thought to be getting fresh!”)

  10. Vincent Couling says:

    oops … please forgive the unintentional grammatical blemishes: should be “fear or favour,” and the “but” most certainly does not belong in the sentence about Aristotle being an awful observational scientist.

  11. Malcolm says:

    In the secular press when covering events, it would be doubtful that they would argue the need for fair and accurate reporting from the point of verifiable evidence. What seems to happen in the world of competing media houses is the ethical nature of the establishment is ejected through the doors and windows , in the pressure to be first in selling a product that has not been fully established, that is slanted specifically for the credulity of an audience.

    Briefly, a story was recounted by a priest who when a seminarian and on holiday with fellow students in Rome, where they were given a talk by the Pope on the value of a Vacation but warned that it could be an occasion for sin, then leading to the point, a priest is never really on vacation. The headlines the next day was Pope Condemns Vacation as Occasion for Sin.

    Regarding the tragic death of Fiona Coyne (R.I.P) the media put out totally misleading stories, insensitive to friends and family.

    This is the type of reporting, a headline that the press put out on a daily basis, that twist the facts for market consumption. There is very little one can do or prove that this is deliberate or malicious on the one story and an innocent error on the other. There is a need to prevent this from happening.

    In Catholic Newspapers or a Sermon by a priest, private opinion that goes against Church Teaching is bound to cause confusion.

    Without a living teaching Authority there would be chaos, and so it is in the Church.
    When the divinity of Jesus is believed, a set of logical consequences follow regarding the structures: of Church, Succession, Bible, Tradition and Authority. This is confirmed by the sequence of events since the origins of Christianity to what Jesus said, did, and instructed, which in parallel has always been undermined by private opinion, no less to-day.

  12. Martin Keenan says:

    Vincent wrote:- “Could part of the answer have something to do with the People of God? And a Catholic press that has the integrity to publish their concerns without fear of favour? In fact, might this not constitute a valuable learning experience for our bishops and theologians, who might otherwise not be aware of the trials and tribulations that the magisterial teaching might unjustly impose?”

    The first error is that the “People of God” is the laity (although he seems to contrast the “People of God” with bishops and theologians). The second is that Gnther and I were debating (a) journalistic integrity as disclosed (or not) by (b) his publishing (or not) “concerns” expressed by the laity. The third is that bishops need to rely on newspapers to discover the pastoral concerns of their flock, and the fourth is that the magisterium is capable of imposing “unjust” trials and tribulations on the faithful.

    All this, within a mere 10% of a single post. I forbear to enter upon the usual farrago trailed by Vincent propos his perennial obsession, the Church’s constant and ancient teaching of the immorality of artificial contraception.

    Nor does the Letters page of “The Southern Cross” deserve the cachet Vincent attributes to it. A small nucleus of disaffects employ the newspaper as their house organ; nobody but a member of that group could believe that their interventions are valuable or informative in themselves.

    If the tedious, repetitive, and frequently ill-informed, badly argued and misconceived effusions so pertinaciously deposited there (and here) teach us anything, it is of the dismally low standard of thought exhibited by those who abuse the Church they claim to love.

    Vincent (please, God) holds no position of authority or influence within the Church. What alarms me is when clergy and the staff of Catholic theologates and other institutions use “The Southern Cross” to launch crude and ill-founded attacks on the Holy See and the magisterium. Is it any wonder that, almost alone in Africa, South Africa has a vocations crisis?

  13. Vincent Couling says:

    The usual (fulsome) ad hominems abound. Yawn.

  14. Martin Keenan says:

    Nowhere have I made any personal attacks. All my comments are directed against false opinions.

  15. Vincent Couling says:

    When critiquing Martin’s florid and ostentatious fandangle which he posted above, my use of ad hominem was clearly intended as in appealing to feeling rather than reason. See – I can also do it!

  16. Martin Keenan says:

    Dear Vincent, all this arguing and logic-chopping (there is a difference, as you know); all these debating points; this quarrelsomeness;- what is the point of it all? Well, it’s clear enough: you think you are right on a whole raft of matters (for now, it doesn’t matter what they are, how many, or how serious) and that the Church is wrong; but you generally end up acting as if the point of it all is to prove I am delusional or wrong or even poor me not as clever as you.

    But proving me wrong doesn’t prove the Church is wrong, and your fight isn’t with me, it’s with the Church and her teaching authority. Has it never occurred to you that there is an element of presumption in all this? Pride, even? What is it, beyond your own considerable but necessarily limited intellectual talents, which allows you to think you are closer to the truth than the Church is? From where does your “authority” come? The issues are not such as can ultimately permit you to “prove” you are right, for they concern God, His will, our nature, and His plan for us. The intellectual cannot answer these questions.

    So why are you so stubborn? Because there is a part of you that you will not yield to the Majesty of God? Why claim allegiance to the Church if you are not convinced that she is the repository of the truth about God and about the nature and destiny of Man? This is what activates Malcolm and me. For sure, he and I make a poor fist of it sometimes but we are not trying to prove we are right in the same way that you are forever trying to prove you are right.

    The only life that matters is the life of Christ in us poor humans. Joined to Him we have life; cut off from Him, we are useless to ourselves and to others: this is the meaning of “Christ the vine” and “we the branches”. If you are right in all your argumentation, then you will have done nothing but cut off the branch. What’s the point? Instead, think humble. Think with the Church, not against her.


  17. Malcolm says:

    Martin I do enjoy reading your post, they are well thought out, it is rather I that make a fist of it, though I do take pleasure in nudging Vincent, which is quite mean. He has much to offer the Church and do pray that we all can benefit our Church in our own way, and I agree not to work against Her.

  18. Malcolm says:

    Her referring to Church, Vincent.

  19. Martin Keenan says:

    Thanks for the comment and the compliments, Malcolm. We are not proclaiming or defending ourselves.

  20. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear Martin,

    Your post is more than a little disingenuous.

    As you well know, it is not I that think I am infallibly right on ANY particular question God knows that NO individual is likely to arrive at truth without the wisdom of the collective. The Council Fathers of Vatican II recognized this when they spoke of the holding of councils in order to settle conjointly, in a decision rendered balanced and equitable by the advice of many, all questions of major importance, (Lumen Gentium no 22).

    Indeed, it is the relatively recent dogma of papal infallibility, and the question of whether or not the dogma itself is a fallible pronouncement, that seems to be the core issue here. Are theologians, and Catholic newspapers, for example, there to explain (infallible) magisterial pronouncements to the laity, and nothing more? I get the impression that you would unhesitatingly answer in the affirmative. And has creeping infallibility rendered even controversial “third-level” teaching beyond error or reform?

    Fortunately, as concerns contemporary moral issues, Vatican II cautioned of the need to be aware of the changeable circumstances which the subject matter, by its very nature, involves, and that it happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter (Gaudium et Spes no 43).

    As I keep trying to make clear, the Church is the entire People of God. Your sweeping phrases such as small group of disaffects need qualification. I suggest that you inquire into the existing empirical surveys of the People of God try, for example, the recent one commissioned by the Knights of Columbus – . Small groups, I think not!

    And I don’t really think it appropriate to claim “allegiance” to the institutional church … I hate the implications of the word allegiance. I am a member of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, by virtue of my Baptism (freely and consciously entered into at the age of eighteen). I cannot even imagine life without regular transformative encounter with Jesus in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. But to blindly accept all church teaching without having the maturity to first own it for myself, in conscience – that is someting that I find impossible!

    I believe that our collective insights into such questions as the dignity of gay and lesbian Catholics, including those in loving unions, are gradually evolving, and that there is no need to hastily arrive at premature answers to complicated social questions. Again, the Council Fathers put it far more eloquently than I ever could: The Church, as guardian of the deposit of Gods word, draws religious and moral principles from it, but it does not always have ready answers to particular questions. (Gaudium et Spes no 33). I am open to change, based on the persuasive insights of the social and physical sciences, of scripure scholars, of theologians, etc.

    In this I am again reminded of the words of Pope Pelagius II (words drafted by the man who was to become Pope Gregory the Great): Dear brethren, do you think that when Peter was reversing his position, one should have replied: We refuse to hear what you are saying since you previously taught the opposite? In the matter [at hand] one position was held while the truth was being sought, and a different position was adopted after truth had been found. Why should a change of position be thought a crime ? For what is reprehensible is not changing ones mind, but being fickle in ones views. If the mind remains unwavering in seeking to know what is right, why should you object when it abandons its ignorance and reformulates its views?

    And I find a strong resonance with the beautiful words of Judge John T. Noonan Jr., who distinguishes between the deposit of faith (core, unchanging revealed truth) and areas where the moral teaching of the Church has changed definitively: change is not a thing to be ashamed of, to be whispered about, to be disguised or held from the light of day, as grave guardians sometimes think it is a way of teaching celebrated in the Gospel itself (Mt 13:52).

    I am, of course, guilty of much tedious repetition in this post (as in many others) … but I feel that repetition is often one of the most useful teaching tools, since it can help the penny to finally drop.

    I honestly have no more to say on this thread, and will out of necessity refrain from commenting on this site for some time to come – I simply cannot afford the time and energy away from far more pressing matters.

  21. Malcolm says:

    Vincent you say: “I believe that our collective insights into such questions as the dignity of gay and lesbian Catholics, including those in loving unions, are gradually evolving, and that there is no need to hastily arrive at premature answers to complicated social questions”.

    Brings to mind that silly King, who was lawfully married and wanted a loving union with another, whom he lusted for and asked the Church what the Church could not give , that is to set aside his legitimate wife.

    He also set about using his influence to turn bishop, priest and academics to his view with promises of position, the collective wisdom fell for it, however the Church stood its ground on the principle revealed, based on truth.

  22. Malcolm says:


    1:8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.

    1:9. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.

    This moron of a King wanted to hear a message that suited his perverse passions, what new teaching would suite your passion Vincent?

  23. Martin Keenan says:

    Dear Vincent,

    I am not conscious of having been disingenuous in my posts or of having misrepresented you. I have never said that you claim to be infallible. You never admit you are wrong, however, or concede any point in argument even when it is obvious that your position is untenable. Just consider what I actually wrote if you are going to respond to it.

    As for your inordinately long post, I must confine myself to the first three of your points.

    (1) Your quote from Lumen gentium n.22 does not say what you appear to think it says or mean what you appear to think it means. The text you used is certainly at fault in giving “all questions of major importance” as a translation of “altiora”. In any event, (a) the passage you quote is part of an historical review dealing with provincial councils which have never been possessed of the charism of infallibility, and (b) the Council Fathers at Vatican II expressly acknowledged the Papal charism of infallibility (n.25).

    (2) As for the status of the dogma of papal infallibility, I am aware that Fr. Kueng and other fractions dispute its validity, but that (as we say) is their problem. The teaching, of course, is ancient although it only attained formal and solemn dogmatic status in 1870. See also my reference to Lumen gentium n.25 above.

    (3) Your quote from Gaudium et spes n. 43 is similarly unfit for the purpose to which you seek to bend it, for it is part of a discussion arising from the fact that the Church “has no proper mission in the political, economic and social order” (n.42). The following article (n.43 from which you quote) addresses the obligations of lay people in the world and the discharge of their temporal responsibilities. It has nothing to do with the Churchs moral teaching which has never been and never will be directed by majority opinion. The Church as “the people of God” cannot be understood, and cannot and does not operate, as a sociological or quasi-political entity.

    The Holy Father has often observed that those most vocal in crying up “the People of God” as a medium for change generally ignore the “of God” element as well as the fact that the “People” in question are not just the faithful here and now. The very idea that the Knights of Columbus were engaged in taking a poll of the “People of God” is just laughable. Their February 2010 survey is no more than a snapshot of those who self-identify as”Catholic” in the USA on the day or days in question.

  24. Martin Keenan says:

    Having now read the survey to which a link was given above, I find that the total sample was 2,243 persons (p.38). The number of those sampled who self-identified as “Catholic” is not given, but a distinction (not very clearly flagged) is made between “Catholic” and “practicing Catholic”. Nor are any numbers given for the sampling as among the four adult generations isolated in the survey save for the information that 1,006 were aged between 18 and 29 (ibid.).

    The results, so far as concerns morals, are (not altogether surprisingly) incoherent where not positively self-contradictory.

    For example, 82% of Catholics aged 18-29 in the survey (two hundred at most if the survey was representative of American demographics) claimed that morals are relative (p.13). Within the same group, however, 82% considered that commitment to marriage was under-valued in American society and 75% considered that honesty and integrity were under-valued (p.15). For what it is worth, 60% of this same sub-group thought the morals of the USA were “headed down the wrong path” (p.11).

    Then again, and still with the same sub-group of American Catholics aged 18-29, moral disapproval was reported (p.17) against a range of behaviours including marital infidelity (87%), abortion (66%), euthanasia (63%), homosexual acts (35%), giving birth out of wedlock (35%), divorce (35%), and embryonc stem-cell research (33%). Significant minorities were recorded within this sub-group for the view that these behaviours were not moral issues at all. Since 36% of this sub-group reported no or little interest in learning more about their religion, we can confidently posit a correlation between deformed moral opinions and lack of catechesis.

    No details are given for the views of the sub-set of “practicing Catholics” on this range of moral issues, although we are told that 54% of practising Catholics in the survey (of all ages) considered morals to be based on unchanging standards (p.13).

    The survey is rather a long way away from bearing out what Vincent claims for it.

  25. Fr. John Keough says:

    Dear Martin,

    I share your and the Holy Father’s views on the Church as “the People of God.” Most who use it as a warcry forget that there is not just one model of Church (i.e. “People of God”), but rather many. (They also seem to leave out the “Pilgrim” that must go in front of “People”). Furthermore, one model of Church cannot be held as the only one or as superior to others. If we take the notion of Church as “People of God” to its ultimate end, don’t we then also have to acknowledge that those outside of the Church are therefore “NOT the People of God”? Patently absurd, of course! To hold onto only one model of Church to the exclusion of others is to devalue that model. What about the Church as Hierarchy, Church as Sacred Institution, Church as Bride of Christ, Church as Body of Christ, Church as Perfect Society, Church as Communion of Saints, etc, etc? The Church is described by all of these models. (For a very good overview of the different models of Church and what they mean I would recommend Avery Dulles’ “Models of the Church”).

    Obviously none of the above mentioned models of Church should be held to the exclusion of others. Take, for example, the Church as Hierarchy (this is seemingly the one against which the “People of God” model is often used). When we talk about the “Church as Hierarchy” we are not just talking about deacons, priests and bishops. Instead, what we are saying is that everything is ordered and everyone has a specific role and function. However, the Church is more than just a hierarchy and to just stare blindly at the “Church as Heirarcy” to the exclusion of other models of Church is also to do a disservice to the Church! It is the same with the “Pilgrim People of God” model. ALL models of Church have to be held in creative tension with one another.

  26. Martin Keenan says:

    I agree with you, Father. The overview of all these “models” of Church in Lumen gentium n.5 offers the best possible standpoint from which to attempt to comprehend this unfathomable mystery. Let’s not forget, either, that she is Mater et Magistra.

  27. Dear Fr John K
    I like so very much your inference that ALL people are the ‘pilgrim’ People of God!

    However, although those with the need to analyse or categorise or slot into some sort of ‘system’ have verbalised various “models” of Church – do you honestly think God gives a hoot about any ‘model’ devised by even the most profoundly intellectual believer? I mean look at St. Augustine and how he excluded Woman as Model of Church!! – despite Almighty God approaching Mary for the REALITY of incarnation… just to begin with…!

    To me, what your are really saying is that the Church, Holy Mother that she may be, is dead wrong when she excludes women from full ministerial participation!!

    Wow.. I just have to say that I love Vincent Couling’s contribution but we have come a long way from the core — the heart of the editorial and our concern as South Africans for this proposed ‘muzzling’ of the media. Perhaps it actually all began with someone like St. Augustine or some other very fearful male in the “Body of Christ” who needed certitude and security against valid criticism.

  28. Dear Rosemary,

    We cannot rightly say what God gives two hoots about, except those things that he has revealed to us. However, the various models of Church give our human intellect a way of understanding the great mystery that is Church. The very first of these was given to us in Apostolic times by the great St. Paul himself – Body of Christ. If you look at his conversion story in Acts, it is clear that this image of Church is linked to Christ’s revelation of himself to Paul (“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” and not “my Church”). This seems to me that Jesus himself revealed to his followers a certain model of Church. And “Church” is such a rich mystery that no one model describes it, and to use only one model to the exclusion of others is to do damage to that great mystery of Church. There is, in my opinion, an often unhealthy overemphasis on the Church as “People of God” – as I mentioned before, this does imply that those who are not part of the Church as “not the people of God.” And there IS a female model of Church – we always refer to her as “she” (in opposition to the “it” that I have seen used in the Southern Cross by various people – Catholics sould know better), we call her “mother,” and never forget that Mary is also considered an image or model of the Church. That hardly strikes me as excluding “woman” as a model of Church!

    You also say “To me, what your are really saying is that the Church, Holy Mother that she may be, is dead wrong when she excludes women from full ministerial participation!!” Uhm, actually I did not enter that quagmire in what I touched on in my post about models of Church at all!! I prefer to refrain from commenting on my views on this issue, which is why I am astounded that you make that connection at all!