Ashley Beck

In 2013 a colloquium was held at Heythrop College, University of London, entitled ‘Ronald Knox Man for all Seasons’, featuring a number of papers about the influence and writings of the twentieth century Catholic apologist, Bible translator, writer of detective stories and chaplain to Catholic students at Oxford, Monsignor Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Knox. These papers have now been published,1 and one of them asks if we can think of Knox as a theologian. Ashley Beck is Assistant Priest of Beckenham, and Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Harold Macmillan’s biographer wrote of Ronald Knox that, as a Catholic, he became ‘the most influential Catholic theologian of his generation.’2 Knox himself would have dismissed this claim: he never studied for a degree in theology or for a doctorate. In both the Anglican and Catholic Churches, he was told to prepare himself for ordination rather than become a seminarian. His biographer Evelyn Waugh remarks:
‘There are those who have said that Ronald subsequently suffered from the lack of a full, formal theological training. Certainly, to the end of his life, he tended to refer theological problems to others, but that was in accordance with his temperament’3

Knox was very self-effacing, and people had a much more rigid idea of what a theologian was than nowadays.

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January-February 2017

Anne Inman

For some time, there has been a significant body of evidence that women were once ordained as deacons in the Christian Church. Anne Inman lectured in Theology at Birkbeck College, London and St Mary’s University, Twickenham

As I write at the end of November 2016, the first round of meetings of the papal commission is taking place, to examine the ministries undertaken by women in the early Church, with particular reference to the diaconate. In the early medieval period, Latin words like ordinare, and ordo were common in connection with the commissioning of women to a variety of ministries. The discussion turns on whether the same words mean something different when applied to a woman. So, for example, a woman is ‘blessed’, while using the same word, a man is ‘ordained’. The way in which the history of the first millennium has been written is littered with examples of the way in which women’s participation in the mission of the Church has been similarly downgraded.

Women’s ordination and hierarchy
To be ‘ordained’ in the proper sense, traditionally there must be the laying on of hands. Norman Tanner compares Canon 19 of the Council of Nicea, 325, with Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon of 451:

Canon 19 regulates, among various matters, the role of deaconesses.

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January-February 2017

Daniel Ang

This is the first of two articles based on the keynote address at the PROCLAIM 2016 Conference of the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay in Sydney, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. It explores principles for parish renewal through sharing the evolving experience of parish life in the Australian context. Daniel Ang is director for the Office of Evangelization in the Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia.

On 24 November 1999, on a drizzly Wednesday evening, I was baptised and confirmed in a parish in the north-western suburbs of Sydney. Heralding from a family of Buddhist and Taoist heritage, I entered the Church at the age of twenty, gathered with a priest, sponsor, fellow catechumens and a mixed group of close friends, mostly of no religious background. A small but powerful group had accompanied me through the process of initiation and I was fully conscious and grateful for the fact that in God and this community I had been granted something which I would spend the rest of my life learning to be faithful to, learning to enter into, learning to trust.

Beneath the everyday rhythm of this local parish, this was for me a time of great consequence, of vital, spiritual breakthrough into the life of God to discover Christ as the total meaning of my life.

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January-February 2017

Martina Vuk

Here we publish an interview in which Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, talks about dialogue, mercy, justice and forgiveness. The interviewer was Martina Vuk, a postgraduate student at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Jean Vanier, known worldwide as founder of the international network of L’Arche communities, the inspiring spiritual writer and humanitarian was born in Geneva in 1928, son of Canadian Governor General Georges-Philias Vanier and Pauline Archer. At the age of 13, he joined the British Royal Navy during World War II. He left the Navy in 1950, seeking his own path and responding to an inner call within himself. He earned a doctorate at the Catholic Institute of Paris and shortly after that he taught philosophy at the University of St Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada. In 1964, through Dominican priest, Father Thomas Phillippe, he met with a few people with learning and developmental disabilities who had been living in a mental institution in northern France. This was the beginning of what would later be called the L’Arche community. Although the core of Vanier’s doctoral thesis questioned the notion of happiness as the beginning and the end of Aristotle’s ethics of friendship between equals, in L’Arche, Vanier began to build friendships between ‘unequals’. He started to share life with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose lives were spent in social isolation and in institutions. Very soon this modest co-existence would shape the character of communion and friendship. Without certainty, but with confidence in God’s providential plan, the L’Arche community began to grow around the world. Today there are about 149 communities in nearly 37 countries. Vanier saw the gospel passage Matthew 5.1-12 as the driving force and meaning behind L’Arche.

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January-February 2017

Stephanie MacGillivray

How can we address our disconnection with an experience as fundamentally human as dying and death? This article looks at contemporary attitudes towards the acceptance of death, and reflects on how Catholic theological perspectives can positively change the way we think about these subjects. Stephanie MacGillivray is project officer for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

It is more likely than not that at some point in our lives, many, if not all, of us will inevitably ask and grapple with the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ This is a question which arguably has unified humanity throughout the ages, and while we might not be able to come to any particular conclusion, it does not mean we should not try.

One way of looking at this existential question could be by asking: What is the meaning of death? From a Catholic theological point of view, it is precisely because we are to die that every act and human life has meaning at all. Recognising this can be an illuminating and meaningful act in itself. Indeed, the Catholic Church’s two-thousand-year old Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) states that, ‘“He who always thinks about death is very much concerned with a good work.”

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January-February 2017

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