The Importance of a Comma in Humanae Vitae

As a result of a faulty translation, the message of Humanae Vitae was weakened. Both the unitive and procreative dimensions of marriage are necessary for growth in charity. The failure to teach the full force of bl. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical has brought about the crash of paternity and male egoism. The Church has been furnished with supernatural tools that can heal these dire consequences, but they have to be received in faith and their meaning has to be articulated.

— Fr Wojciech Giertych, O.P

Fr Wojciech Giertych, O.P is the Theologian to the Papal Household and Professor of Moral Theology at the University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.


 The Faith of Paul VI

Pope Francis’ evident frustration with Curial officials is part of a tradition that goes back to the times of Pope Paul VI. Though Pope Paul VI was often blocked and ignored his writings remain - and they provide a key to how we should approach our own times.

Though we live in the age of the internet, and are experiencing epochal change, there is much published thought from the 13th and 18th centuries that bears upon our present situation of hyper individualism, nominalism & subjectivity that imbues our institutions and teaching. Pope Paul VI in his Credo of the People of God provides us with a way of understanding aggiornamento. 

I then look to where we see fruits in today’s Church according to this vision of Pope Paul VI.

— Bishop Richard Umbers

Richard Umbers PhD is an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Bishop Richard is widely published in the area of philosophy, regularly addresses gatherings of youth, has an interest in social media and has a library of his own podcasts.


Strange Fire: The Gospel According to James Baldwin

1968 is popularly commemorated as a year of revolutionary upheaval, a time when all manner of liberatory energies were unleashed – some anarchic, others utopian, but all reflecting a desire to escape from various forms of political, religious, cultural or economic oppression. So the story goes. But in fact, 1968 represented a moment, not of liberation, but of what W.H. Auden, twenty-five years earlier, called an ‘absolute contradiction between clarity and despair’, a time in which people would have ‘no choice but either to accept absolutely or to reject absolutely’. (On this count, Auden shares with C.S. Lewis an ‘illiberal’ conception of time: that its progression isn’t ameliorative, but rather is marked by a gradual constriction of moral possibilities, a contraction of the space afforded to cultural and aesthetic expression.) The violence, the brutal political partisanship, the internecine warfare and the vulgarisation of language should thus be seen, not as a striving after liberation, but as the foreclosure of the very conditions of possibility of freedom itself.

Of all writers during this period, James Baldwin – whose fame, tellingly, collapsed in 1968 – represents the most perceptive, and the most relentlessly critical. And it all has to do with his careful attendance to language. For Baldwin, the language of equality and rights and democracy gone stale; such words had begun to function like palliatives - desperate, dissimulating alibis that conceal a deeper, disavowed knowledge: that those that think of themselves as ‘white’ continue to live at the expense of their brothers, all the while knowing that they are brothers. For Baldwin, the language of sin, blood and brotherhood is central to his critique of the idolatry of ‘whiteness’.

And yet it is not only inaccurate, but profoundly dishonest, to claim that Baldwin remained in some sense a religious writer. To so claim is to emasculate his words of the very power they have to unsettle, to upturn, to alienate the language of Christianity from the very church that had been complicit in racial idolatry and grave injustice. It is Christianity that afforded Baldwin’s language a certain moral muscularity that outstripped even that of Martin Luther King, Jr. But it wasn’t so much that he retained the trappings of Christian oratory, of the distinctive cadence and vernacular of Black churches, while abandoning its content. Rather, for Baldwin, it is the language itself that bears an unmistakable power – which must be freed from its Christian context if it had any hope of regaining its authenticity, much less its moral force. To crib Marx's judgment of the anti-Christian philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, Baldwin is the fire of purgation through which the church must now pass.

And yet, the language of sin and judgment, of penitence and reconciliation, along with a novelist’s love for the most compromised, flawed characters, also allows Baldwin to hold out of vision of loving, reconciled community that defies the form of grubby partisanship that was forged in 1968 and continues with us still.

— Scott Stephens 

Scott Stephens is Editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics website, and specialist commentator on religion and ethics for ABC radio and television. He has published widely on moral philosophy, theology and political theory, and is currently writing a book on whether public ethics can survive in a media age. He has spoken at dozens of international conferences on issues ranging from theology and aesthetics through to education and mental health. He has also co-edited and translated the selected works of the philosopher and cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek, which was named by The Guardian one of its 'Books of the Year' in 2007.


Moral Maximalism: Seeds for the Renewal of Moral Theology

Following the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, the reappraisal of the authority of the Magisterium in matters of morality by a significant number of moral theologians led to confusion and a general crisis in moral theology. Arguably, the crisis provided theologians seeking to be faithful to Christian revelation with the impetus to rearticulate the foundations of Christian moral life. The themes embraced by these writers, including Saint John Paul II, Servais Pinckaers OP, Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, can be analysed as the renewal of a perennial Christian moral maximalism. In this presentation, I will firstly introduce the concept of moral maximalism as defined by a team of Polish sociologists and outline the four criteria required for behaviour to be considered morally maximalist. Secondly, I will show how this definition fits the Christian context and provides a schema that accords with biblical morality. Finally, aspects of the thought of the above listed theologians will be analysed in light of this framework, with the hope of highlighting some of the seeds for a renewal of moral theology with which we have been gifted over the past fifty years.

— Helenka Pasztetnik

Helenka Pasztetnik is an associate lecturer at the University of Notre Dame. She is currently completing graduate studies at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, with a particular focus in moral theology.


 Stonewalling? Gay liberation and the Catholic Church

The Stonewall Inn riots in New York in mid-1969 were the crucible of the gay liberation movement, building on the unrest of the previous year. ‘Stonewalling’, an unrelated term, also describes the process of refusing to engage with another person or organisation by using uncooperative and sometimes delaying tactics. 

What did gay liberation really bring to same sex-attracted Catholics? There is a mass of publicly-available historical evidence to show that the Church’s capacity in the 1960s and 1970s to create a genuinely pastoral response to same-sex attracted people was neutralised by specific bishops, senior clergy and religious. Most of these individuals were also directly involved in the cover-up of clerical child sexual abuse.

So what became of those same-sex attracted Catholics who wanted genuine gay liberation – who wanted the Church’s help to live chastely, with or without a change in orientation? Who helped them, and how?

— Dr Philippa Martyr

Dr Philippa Martyr is a historian, writer, researcher, and part-time psychology student. She lives in Perth, and currently teaches at the University of Western Australia.


 1968: When Rebellion Went Mainstream

The rebelliousness of youth is hardly a new phenomenon, yet within most traditional cultures it is but a stage of a person’s maturation, curtailed and guided by a compelling overarching vision of communal life. However, as a result of modernism’s break with tradition—and the subsequent collapse of the modern project into the horror of Auschwitz and the gulags—the West was left with little in the way of a convincing cultural narrative by the late 1960s. As widespread disenchantment with the institutions of Western culture took hold within the emerging baby-boomer generation, it was rebellion itself that filled the cultural vacuum, leading some to rage and others to tune out. While this did not result in sustained political revolution, its cultural impact continues to be felt.

This presentation will highlight some of the contradictions that have emerged from an ethic of rebellion becoming a mainstream position (e.g. it’s hard to “stick it to the man” when you are the man). It will then explore implications of such developments for the Church, and argue that such prolonged disenchantment is actually fertile ground for a full-bodied Christian response, if one can be mustered. Such a response might acknowledge the following: 1) the Gospel’s destabilising impact on Western culture; 2) the Church’s mission to embody a real counter-culture; and 3) the genuine progression that unfolds within salvation history, which leads not to a this-worldly utopia but to eschatological fulfillment.

— Rev. Fr. Mark Baumgarten STL

Fr Mark Baumgarten is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Perth, engaged in both parish work and youth ministry.  He was ordained in August 2014, and has a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (Dogma) from the Pontifical University of St Thomas, Rome (Angelicum).


Two Freedoms: Herbert Marcuse and Romano Guardini

In the 1966 political preface to Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse notes that “Today, the fight for life, the fight for eros is the political fight.” This call to arms, taken up by the student radicals of 1968, was formulated upon Marcuse’s conception of freedom and his emphasis upon an unrestrained individual authenticity. For Marcuse, the technological advancements of industrial society, manifested clearly in mass consumerism, ushers in the voluntary servitude of the modern man. To overcome this self-imposed false consciousness, Marcuse stresses not only economic liberation (à la Marx) but more importantly the recovery of psychological freedom, namely the ability to identify, pursue and fulfil one’s true desires unencumbered. In a similar critique of modern society and technological prowess, yet with a radically different diagnosis, Romano Guardini offers a notion of freedom centred upon the return to a “spiritual consciousness,” grounded in the relationship of the human person with the transcendent source of being. For Guardini, the autonomous self (cut off from the “I-Thou” relationship with God) is unable to escape the servitude of a seemingly meaningless existence. Thus against the more promethean conception of the self offered by Marcuse, Guardini presents man’s freedom as the ability to participate in the authenticity of God through relationship. This paper will seek to explore the rival conceptions of freedom in the thought of both Herbert Marcuse and Romano Guardini. More specifically, the anthropological presuppositions of both thinkers will be examined in light of their respective intellectual descendents and the degree of hope each can provide to the human person in the twenty-first century.

— Lawrence Qummou

Lawrence Qummou has a MA in Theology from the University of Notre Dame Australia as well as Bachelor and Masters degrees in Education from Western Sydney University. He is an educator in the Parramatta Diocese and a sessional tutor at UNDA Sydney and is currently completing further postgraduate studies in the area of theological epistemology


Del Noce and Ratzinger on the Significance of 1968

In a recent article in Commonweal, Carlo Lancellotti presents the unusual and prescient perspective of Italian-Catholic philosopher Augusto Del Noce on the social and political trends that manifested themselves across the West in the tumultuous events of 1968. In this paper I shall support Del Noce’s thesis in two ways. In Part One I shall summarize then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger’s reactions to 1968 and relate them to the conclusions of Del Noce and others Lancellotti cites. While Lancellotti does not cite Ratzinger, what motivated the latter’s shift away from “progressivism” toward a more conservative reception of Vatican II well illustrates Del Noce’s thesis. In Part II, I shall argue at greater length than Lancellotti, whose purpose is primarily expository, that Del Noce’s perspective, while needing qualification and expansion in light of what’s happened since his death, is essentially correct.

— Dr Michael Liccione

Dr Michael Liccione earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in philosophy and religion from Columbia University. He has taught in a number of institutions, mostly Catholic, including the Catholic University of America, the University of St. Thomas (Houston), Bryant & Stratton College, and Catholic Distance University. His publications have appeared in The Thomist, First Things, Intellectual Takeout, and Mind & Spirit.


Sex and the city: the sexual revolution and why you’re better off raising a family in the country

The protests of May 1968 in Paris unleashed the real face of both the sexual and industrial revolutions in a cultural moment that united ‘sexually frustrated’ university students and economically oppressed factory workers. Five decades on, the continued expression of these same attitudes has come to shape global culture in a way that has ultimately poisoned both sex and the city. The claim of this paper is that many Catholic families today are, as a result, being called by God to go back to the land. That is, the economic, social and moral context of family life in the West is directing new families to a rural, agrarian life. The argument behind such a literally ‘out-land-ish’ claim begins with an analysis of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The proliferation of the oral contraceptive pill has caused the dominant family arrangement to be a dual income few kids/no kids household. As a result, housing affordability and cost of living is pegged significantly to this kind of family. A drastic increase in women’s participation in the labour force fueled by contraception has thus turned out to be a major economic (and ultimately moral) threat to new families open to life who struggle to live out traditional ideals while gaining a secure place in society. The sexual revolution and the culture of death which has ensued, however, can be better understood in light of the industrial revolution: women leaving the home to work only eventuated once men left the homestead to earn a wage. If the only way left to participate in urban and suburban life is to sacrifice children and authentic family life on the altar of unbridled capitalism, then the reverse may prove true: the only way to honour traditional family life today may be for many women to return to the rural home, and for many men to go back to the rural homestead. Then might Pope Benedict XVI’s summons be answered: “The rural family needs to regain its rightful place at the heart of the social order.”

— Mark Aarts

Mark is husband to one beautiful woman and father of two cheeky girls. He is currently teaching theology to both primary and high school students. He holds a Bachelor of Theology from the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, as well as a Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) from the University of Notre Dame Australia. He is completing a Master of Theology degree (by Research) on the subject of the inspired authorship of sacred Scripture. 


Walter Kaufman and Modern Manichaeism

In 1969, Walter Kaufmann published an essay, Beyond Black and White: a Plea for Thinking in Color, in response to an idea from the third century that seemed to be gaining credibility on American and European university campuses. That idea was Manichaeism, the belief that there are two opposing principles, one good and one evil, operating in the world. Kaufmann was ideally placed to make his observations: he was a professor at Princeton University from 1948 until his death in 1980. He saw the growth, the flowering and the dissemination of the 1960s counter-culture. Also, he was a personal friend - and firm critic - of Herbert Marcuse, hero of the young radicals who became, through Marcuse, as Kaufmann said, unwitting disciples of Mani, a Persian prophet. Why were these idealistic students embracing an updated version of a heresy that was discredited centuries ago? Kaufmann answers. They were attracted by simplistic answers delivered in terms of good and bad; liberal or repressive; Left or Right, that provided an obvious agenda for activism. I want to focus on 2 features of contemporary culture that derive at least in part from Manichaean thinking: 1. the 'pre-emptive censorship' of certain views; and, 2.the absolutising of a select group of relative values. A principle highlighted by G.K. Chesterton could have saved the counter-culture - and remains to save our culture - from the distorting simplifications of Manichaeism.

— Gary Furnell

Gary Furnell, a librarian by profession, is a member of the Australian Chesterton Society; he presented a paper on The Value of Violence in G.K. Chesterton and Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction at the 2016 Australian conference; and another paper on Mystical Merriment at the 2017 conference. He is a frequent contributor to the Australian intellectual and cultural journalQuadrant, publishing multiple essays on Chesterton, Soren Kierkegaard, Jacques Maritain, Alexander McCall-Smith and Flannery O’Connor, as well as individual essays on Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Charles Bukowski, and other literary figures. Gary has also published 15 short stories in various journals.


Humanae Vitae made Credible: An Ecclesiological Proposal

In this paper, I intend to outline the ways in which Humanae Vitae can be made intelligible to the church and to the world without compromising its radical witness. I argue that this can only be achieved through re-imagining what it is for “the church to be the church”. To arrive at this conclusion, I will briefly sketch the widespread rejection of Humanae Vitae, from the initial dissidents to the everyday Catholic that is primarily formed by today’s secular culture. In doing so, I attribute the failure of Humanae Vitae to be received by the church (then and now) to the ascendancy of capitalism, individualism and insistence on atomistic accounts of the family. These modern visions of the good life present rival narratives that carry implicit accounts of what it is to be human and what it is to be a family. These narratives are incompatible with Humanae Vitae and such visions render the teaching unintelligible to both the church, that has largely absorbed these visions, and the secular world from which they proceed. If the church is to make the instruction of Humanae Vitae a viable option for everyday Catholics and a witness to secular culture, exploration of alternatives to the isolated nuclear family and creative reimagination of Christian community needs to be explored. This new form of community would draw upon reinvigorated pre-modern sources and embrace practices such as adoption, economic interdependence and would embody “life together”. These practices place the Christian in a story that holds a mirror to the nihilistic secular narrative of sexual liberation and makes the hard teaching of Humanae Vitae intelligible to the church at large.

— Thomas Meagher

Thomas is an evangelical-raised philosophy/theology undergraduate that has recently entered the Catholic Church. He spends most of his time studying and engaging every Christian tradition he can, with a broad passion for ecumenism


It's a Mad House! 1968 In Genre Film and Television

“I'm a seeker too. But my dreams aren't like yours. I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be." – Planet of the Apes, 1968

In 1968 film and television creators in the US and the UK released some of the most innovative and bold screen content of the 20th century. Their reactions to a rise in disillusionment and cynicism against formally revered institutions such as the news media, the government, the family and organised religion led to the development of such classic genre films as 2001: A Space OdysseyRosemary's BabyNight of the Living Dead and Planet of the Apes. On the small screen, Doctor Who evolved from lighthearted educational children’s content to dark social criticism while Star Trek criticised US government intrigues under the mantle of science fiction.

It was a period in which key producers found an unusual level of creative freedom. Patrick McGoohan, the Catholic actor who became famous for his role as a spy in the successful TV series Danger Man, wrote, produced, created and starred in the 17 part cult classic television series The Prisoner, in which a former spy is abducted and imprisoned under mysterious circumstances. The Monkees, a television show about a Beatles-like musical group that evolved into a band with its own album releases reached the end of its heyday in 1968 with the release of Head, a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness critique of their own rise and fall amidst the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Through the examination of key notable scenes from film and television, this analysis of the creative landscape in 1968 explores some of the classics of the period and the socio-political climate that inspired them.

- Bridget Curran

Bridget Curran is a history curator, producer, researcher and writer. She is the author of The Miracles of Mary and various critical essays, reviews and interviews on film and literature for publications such as Screen Education and The Record.

 The Church and the World in 1968

This paper will be divided into two sections: the first will offer a panoramic retrospective “snap-shot” of the events of 1968, the second will focus on how these events were mere epiphenomena of underlying seismic movements in the fields of philosophy and theology.  Particular attention will be given to the influence of Frankfurt School philosophy on Catholic theology, changes in the field of Catholic eschatology, the secularisation of Catholic social teaching and the rise of the New Age “nun”.

— Prof. Tracey Rowland (UNDA)

Professor Tracey Rowland holds two doctorates in theology, one from the Divinity School of Cambridge University (the civil PhD) and one from the John Paul II Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University (the pontifical STD) in addition to degrees in law and philosophy. From 2001-2017 she was the Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne. In 2014 she was appointed to the International Theological Commission. She is currently a member of the ITC's sub-commission on religious freedom.


 ‘De la présence, seulement de la présence’: 1968 in the experience of Luigi Giussani

‘Has the Church failed mankind’, asked T.S. Eliot, ‘or has mankind failed the Church?’ Italian priest Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) answered Yes to both questions. During the 20th century, modernity sapped mankind of the thirst for ultimate meaning, and Christianity itself risked becoming an ideology – a system of beliefs, values and practices cut off from the experience that generated them and thus unable to speak to the human heart. By 1968 Giussani was leading a Catholic movement of thousands of students and young workers, only to see his numbers decimated by the promise of social justice and political liberation. After 1968 he began again, with a rather 68-ish name ‘Communion and Liberation’, based on the conviction that the only antidote to the seduction of utopia is a presence. In the words of one of the early 1968 slogans scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne: ‘De la présence, seulement de la présence’.

— Prof. John Kinder OSI FAHA (UWA)

John Kinder is a Professor of Italian at the University of Western Australia. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the Accademia della Crusca and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has written extensively on Italian language and culture especially in migration contexts. During the first years he spent in Italy, he had the good fortune to encounter the charism of Luigi Giussani and the experience of culture that it generated.


The PLO and the internationalisation of terrorism

In his seminal work Inside Terrorism (p63-64), Bruce Hoffman observes that, “The advent of what is considered modern, international terrorism occurred on July 22, 1968.” While terrorism has existed in different forms for many centuries, terrorism’s internationalisation changed terrorism in four crucial ways. (i) It turned terrorism from a tactic of achieving small-scale concrete objectives to a strategy of making notorious political statements. (ii) The “rules” of terrorism changed in which citizens of non-involved nations could be attacked. (iii) It forced de-facto recognition and concessions from governments. (iv) Terrorists found that they could gain recognition through major events transmitted by mass media. This presentation will explore the changes to terrorism as we know it today that were fermented in the pivotal events of 1968. It will examine the tactics and strategies used by terrorists, the changing “ethics” of terrorism, and the way that 1968’s internationalisation of terrorism fostered a radicalisation of religion that we see in groups such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic State. The presentation will also reflect on how these developments have promoted changed tactics in fighting terrorism, along with the ethical questions prompted by the “war on terrorism.”

— Prof. Matthew Ogilvie (UNDA)

Professor Matthew Ogilvie holds a PhD in theology from the University of Sydney. He is Professor of Theology at University of Notre Dame Australia. He has also served at University of Dallas and Boston College. In 2008 Professor Ogilvie was made an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which enabled him to travel to Israel to study counter-terrorism. He has taught and published on violent extremism in both radical Islam and Christianity.


Education and Cultural Marxism

The emergence of the cultural-left in education can be traced to the late 60s and early 70s. In addition to the 1968 Paris riots, Vietnam moratoriums, Woodstock and the Hippy movement this was a time when the status quo was attacked as repressive, obsolete and guilty of reinforcing capitalism. Underpinned by the writings of Marxist intellectuals including Antonio Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu, Louis Althusser and Paulo Freire a rainbow alliance of theories emerged including Neo-Marxism, postmodernism, deconstructionism, feminism and gender, queer and postcolonial theories. Central to the cultural-left’s attack on the status quo is the argument that education, instead of being inherently worthwhile and beneficial, is a key part of the ideological state apparatus employed to subjugate and dominate those less privileged in society. The British sociologist M F D Young goes as far as arguing that as knowledge is a social construct it is impossible to objectively weigh the validity of different truth claims as all reflect power relationships. As argued by Ratzinger and Pera in Without Roots the cultural revolution beginning in the 1960s championed secular belief systems characterised by relativism and subjectivism. Such theories undermined the significance of Judeo-Christianity in the evolution of Western civilisation and its commitment to objectivity and universal truth. The liberal view of education based on Matthew Arnold’s “the best that has been thought and said” and Cardinal Newman’s ideal of a university education based on wisdom and truth are condemned for promoting false consciousness. A commitment to meritocracy and competition, for example, instead of being beneficial simply disguises an inequitable system that reinforces privilege and wealth by denying the less advantaged in society the right to achieve success. The grand narrative associated with Western civilisation is also condemned as Eurocentric and inherently inequitable and exploitive.

— Dr Kevin Donnelly AM

Dr Kevin Donnelly AM is a Senior Research Fellow at the ACU and one of Australia’s leading conservative authors and commentators.  His recent book is titled How Political Correctness Is Destroying Australia (Wilkinson Press).  In 2016 Kevin received an Order of Australia for services to education.


1960s Psychologists: Beguiling Ideologues and Smiling Assassins.

The growth of cultural Marxism in the west during the 1960s is usually associated with iconic Frankfurt school figures - Marcuse, Fromm, Adorno and Horkheimer - who saw psychologists Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm as allies. But few analyses of this period see the smiling assassin of western culture, psychologist Carl Rogers and his peers, as equally deadly examples of the Frankfurt school, Critical Theory, its ideas and methods. Even fewer know that there were Christian psychologists who confronted the spread of this seductive, political/psychological influence. This paper will look first at how Rogers' thought, even more than that of Freud, was a natural, effective evolution of the Frankfurt School; and second, how this was resisted by a solidarity of Christian psychologists, one in particular Paul Vitz, who from the late 1960s, challenged the entire cultural Marxist project. Vitz was to psychology what Dawson was to history. Both clarified, exposed and deconstructed the twentieth century in perceptive analyses which have outlasted its delusions.

— Dr Wanda Skowronska

Wanda Skowronska is a psychologist and writer. She has done sessional lecturing at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, after completing a PhD there in 2011, on the integration of psychology and Christian anthropology. Author of  To Bonegilla from Somewhere (2012), Catholics from Downunder (2015) and Angels, Incense and Revolution: Catholic Schooldays in the 1960s (2018).


 Christ in Hyperreality: Cultural Marxism, Kulturkritik & Fake News

In this paper I will put forward a partial response to the derision of “Cultural Marxism” occurring in, often Catholic,commentary. I argue that, despite the clear limitations of the Frankfurt School, Cultural Marxism in its technical usage has been a salient mode of interrogating the material foundations of what we now call postmodern culture, providing in particular an unusually insightful descriptor for contemporary forms of consumer behaviour, including the consumption of images. More importantly I argue that some aspects of cultural critique describe consumer behaviour as a form of soulcraft, thus providing a useful complement to a distinctly theological critique of postmodern culture as the normalisation of idolatry. This becomes a particularly salient path of critique of what Jean Baudrillard called “The Age of the Simulacra”, where simulation is now the primary reality by which consumers engage with an evaluate the world around them, the hallmarks of which include the rise of the phenomena of “fake news” and “alternative facts”. To establish my case, I will outline the salient thread of Kulturkritik dealing with simulation, with particular reference to the work of Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard. I will highlight how this thread of Kulturkritik not only provides a compelling description of a person’s relationship to simulation, but also how simulations have significance in fusing divinity with history, a fusion that ends up dissolving the real for the sake of the simulation. Before concluding, I will also look at the limitations of this Kulturkritik which should temper theology’s full partnership with this thread of the Frankfurt School, in spite of the useful evangelical inroads for the former carved out by the latter.

— Dr Matthew Tan

Dr Matthew Tan is the private secretary of Bishop Tony Randazzo of the Archdiocese of Sydney and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Prior to this, he was the Felice & Margredel Zaccari Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy and Director of the Centre for the Study of Western Tradition at Campion College Australia. He received his Doctorate in Theology at the Australian Catholic University and his License in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He is the author of two books, his most recent being Redeeming Flesh: the Way of the Cross with Zombie Jesus (Cascade 2016). He is the editor of the theological blog, the Divine Wedgie, which is part of the Patheos Catholic blog channel.


Narratives of non-violence: Catholic responses to the political violence of the late 1960s and the Italian Red Brigade Terror of 1970s.

Throughout the 1970s, a type of radical left-wing terrorism took root in Italy. It was led by a violent organisation named The Red Brigades. Urged by a sense of dissatisfaction with what they saw as a corrupt and unjust Italian government, a number of young Italian men and women took their 1968 student protests and belief in popular radical ideologies a step further and opted for armed struggle against the state. Many of the individuals who took up arms had come from a Catholic upbringing. For those who turned their back on the teachings of the Church, it had become a matter of rejecting a set of “outdated principles” that they felt had become irrelevant in a world filled with malice and injustice. For others, it had been a matter of “transition” from the parish to the violent revolutionary organization; the sense of justice was still there, but the means by which to achieve it had changed. Witnessing a number of its subjects join the ranks of terrorist organisations, and called to ‘take action’ by families of kidnapped victims, or by kidnapped victims themselves, the Catholic Church attempted to mediate with terrorists through methods of non-violence. This talk will analyse the Church’s response to the extremist left-wing political violence in the so-called Italian “Years of Lead”.

— Dr Marco Ceccarelli

Dr Marco Ceccarelli is the Director of the Centre for Faith Enrichment – the adult faith formation agency of the Archdiocese of Perth. He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, where he teaches Church History. Marco has taught European history, literature and culture at The University of Western Australia, where he obtained a PhD on Catholic intellectual responses to terrorism. Marco was a former journalist and Acting Assistant Editor at the Archdiocesan Communications Office. His research interests include Church history, Catholic social doctrine, interfaith dialogue, Catholic political thought, Jesuit scholarship, history of modern Europe, Western philosophy and literature.


A Curran Affair: Academic Freedom and Catholic Higher Education

The 1960s were a tumultuous time in the world of Catholic Higher Education and the events occurring during this time have had a significant impact on the nature of Catholic higher education the world over. While 1967 saw the issuing of the Land O’ Lakes statement, which effectively dissociated Catholic Universities from the institutional Church, and the faculty strike at the Catholic university of America, 1968 witnessed hitherto unconceivable displays of public dissent from Papal teaching by Catholic theologians, priests, bishops and even bishops conferences.

The promulgation of Paul VI’s encyclical on 29 June 1968 was followed the subsequent day with a ‘Statement of Dissent’ led by Fr Charles Curran. He  and many of his colleagues at the Catholic University of America brought to a head the overwhelming tensions operative within the Catholic academy in the US around academic freedom and the role of the Catholic magisterium.

This paper will explore competing notions of academic freedom in light of the events of 1968 and the responses of academics in Catholic higher education to the document Humanae Vitae. It will highlight not only the open demonstration of disobedience to the Church’s magisterium and the ensuing response, but more particularly it will look to examine these events as examples of particular conceptions of the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the Church’s openness to culture/the world.

— Tom Gourlay

Tom Gourlay is the president of the Dawson Society for Philosophy and Culture Inc., and the manager of Campus Ministry at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Tom has a Masters of Theological Studies from The John Paul II Institute (Melbourne), and holds Bachelor and Masters Degrees in education from the University of Notre Dame Australia where he is pursuing higher studies in theology. He has been published in a variety of peer reviewed and popular publications.


Bodies of Death

We cannot understand the present without understanding the past, but sometimes connections between the past and present are hastily assumed or formed. One possible result is that the moral theologian misses an opportunity for fruitful discourse with secular theorists. Take, for example, the influential gender (and queer) theorist, Judith Butler, whose theory is often regarded as fruit of the sexual revolution because of its decisive theorised letting lose of conceptions of sexuality and gender from traditional conceptions of the body. This paper argues that Butler’s thought does not represent fruit that is typically identifiable with the sexual revolution, because her principal concern is not autonomy and individuality, but the hypocritical administration of the “law.” This is patently a Christian concern that opens up avenues for productive dialogue. In this paper I will take up Butler’s question “What speaks when ‘I’ speak to you?” and her “ontology of vulnerability” to interrogate Christian thinking about gender and sexuality. The moral theologian is provoked to reflect upon “the law of Adam and Eve” and the doctrine of the fall as theological equivalents to Butler’s offerings, by which some are justified, and others condemned. The “law of Adam and Eve” is not the remedy to the social malaise that is often construed as the result of the sexual revolution. Rather, the new Adam and his bride—Jesus Christ and the church—are paradigmatic for learning how to embrace the body.

— Dr Daniel Patterson

Daniel is lecturer in theology at St Trivelius Christian Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria. He holds a PhD in theology from the University of Aberdeen. While he finds immense enjoyment in the pursuit of knowledge, Daniel’s greatest earthly joy is his wife and two daughters.


A Catholic Tragedy: The rise of secular influence in the Democratic Party

John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the first and only Catholic to be elected President of the United States in 1960. The New Deal Coalition of north eastern liberals and southern conservatives which held since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 had secured Kennedy’s New Frontier victory. He carried 78% of the Catholic vote at a time when the Democratic Party was the undisputed political home for Catholics. However, the coalition would fracture over the decade against a back drop of significant social change and disagreement over the military involvement in South East Asia. By the 1960’s the secular liberals had begun their long march through the institutions. The rise of this group was evident when they both marched in and outside the Democratic National Convention convened in Chicago, 1968. As the influence of secular liberals increased within the Democratic Party, many Catholic voters switched away with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan holding Catholic voting majorities in 1972 and 1984. I will explore how the Democratic Party moved away from a coalition of southern conservatives, northern liberals, blue collar workers and Catholics to a new base which is influenced by affluent and secular liberals.

— Michael Quinn

Michael grew up in the Hills of Perth before attending the University of Western Australia where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics. After graduation Michael started work at a Big 4 Accounting Practice in Perth. He is now based in Sydney working for a Media and Publishing company in the Corporate Finance team. Michael is a keen follower of politics and AFL Football(especially the West Coast Eagles).


Germain Grisez and the ethics of non-instrumental goods

In the lead-up to the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, the Catholic moral theologians on Paul VI’s commission on birth control were already sharply divided over the ethics of contraception. In the decades following, ethicists within and without the Church would engage in wide-ranging debates over the value of human goods such as life, marriage, and the pursuit of truth. Germain Grisez (1929-2018) participated in and made landmark contributions to all of these debates. In this paper I identify and evaluate one aspect of his contribution: his critique of ethical instrumentalism. Grisez's views on this score have received much attention vis-a-vis the engagements of his colleagues (the so-called New Natural Lawyers) with positions such as utilitarianism and proportionalism. This paper focuses on ways in which Grisez's anti-instrumentalism functions as a potentially wider critique of the mainstream Catholic theological tradition, insofar as it critiques (standard readings of) Thomas Aquinas' moral theology. I argue that Grisez's critique of instrumentalism stands as a challenge deserving of further attention from Catholic moral theologians.

— Br Reginald Mary Chua OP

Reginald Chua is a simply professed friar and clerical candidate with the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans). He is currently a graduate student at Catholic Theological College (University of Divinity). His research is on the metaphysics and ethics of St Thomas Aquinas.


The 1960s Crisis in the Priesthood and the Melbourne YCW

As Pope Pius XI’s ‘perfect’ method of Catholic Action, the YCW headed-up the Church’s response to the modern world. The flourishing movement consequently influenced Vatican II, which recognised its inductive engagement with ‘life’ (or ‘the world’) in Christian formation and social transformation. The Melbourne YCW organised large sporting competitions, intensive Christian formation of thousands, and transformative actions such as Victoria’s credit co-operative and ‘pre-cana’ movements. From its mid-60s peak, in the early 1970s the number of parish branches collapsed catastrophically, evidently victims of the decline of localism, and the advent of tertiary education, structural analysis and the explosive ‘youth’ culture. Painstaking personal ‘formation’ in small parish groups struggled to compete. Historian Edmund Campion suggested an additional contributory cause: ‘a national meeting of YCW chaplains in 1972 drew 38 priests; within ten years only six of them remained in the ministry.' Rapidly declining seminary numbers were also shrinking the pool of potential chaplains. 

The term ‘crisis in the priesthood’ was commonly used by the late 1960s. Alight with Vatican II expectations, and the radical, disturbing, spirit of the 60s, priests asked fundamental questions about the priesthood (its role amid new specialised social professions, its association with social activism, its sacramental-pastoral nature); the church (its just dealings with priests, the effectiveness of its parish-based pastoral strategy); and the gospel itself (how Christianity should look today).

This paper considers the quantitative and qualitative nature of the 1960s crisis in the priesthood, through the 1968 ‘Propaganda Fide affair’, the seminal magazine ‘Priest Forum’ (launched 1968), priest memoirs, and interviews.  Many of the priests’ searching, sometimes angry, questions, went unanswered.  Curiously, some – for example church engagement with the world, and the role of the laity – had been the essence of the YCW.  Its methods are now being revised with a view to addressing the lost opportunities and forgotten questions of the 60s.

— David Moloney

Since leaving Melbourne’s diocesan seminary (1982-83) David has worked as a public historian, mainly in the field of heritage. He is presently a part-time PhD candidate at Melbourne’s University of Divinity; the early working title of his thesis is ‘The YCW in Melbourne 1960-1993: Formation and Transformation’.


Rahner’s Last Gambit: The Idea of Christianity in a World of Pure Ideas

In the second half of the 1960s Catholic theology took a substantive turn towards experiential philosophy. This paper aims to explore how this philosophical turn created an impression of the impending collapse of the distinctions between the disciplines of theology and philosophy. This exploration shall be done by the examination of the context and content of Karl Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, with a particular engagement with the justification in its own terms of theological inquiry. I contend that Foundations presents an apologetic defence of not just Christianity itself as a valid idea, but the entire praxis of theoretical theology. This defence was intended to pre-empt the collapse of the study of theology entirely into the study of philosophy as a consequence of the collapse of academic knowledge that Rahner described as the Gnoselogical Concupiscence. I would further contend, that Foundations in being presented as a philosophical treatise is intended to justify faith by reason, not for any theological purpose, but entirely to enable theology to maintain its independent truth claims in a rapidly post-modernising world. Rahner achieves this by the development of an anthropological definition of Christology from which subjective truths can be derived about the individual person from the objective template of the last Adam. This inversion of the theological anthropology is intended by its anthropological theology to act as the justification for a potentially objective God in the increasingly subjective world.

— Maddison Reddie-Clifford

Maddison Reddie-Clifford is a historian and a post-graduate student of the University of Notre Dame. He holds honours and bachelors degrees in history from Murdoch University and a bachelors degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. He is a former contributor to a Prosopographical study of British Combat officers killed on the Western Front, funded by the Australian Research Council. His current area of focus is the application of historical methodology to the practice of theological research.