The latest Brisbane Thomas More Centre Winter School was a resounding success, with over one hundred people gathered at St Leo's College, University of Queensland, between 20-22 July 2001 to hear an impressive line-up of speakers.
The theme of the Winter School centred on the Pope's recent apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte. The words, "Put out into the deep", call for us to put our faith in Christ and become part of his evangelising mission.
The opening address, given by this writer, dealt with Church Architecture, underlining the importance of churches as "icons of heavenly realities" and physical examples of God's dwelling with Man. Coupled with this is the realisation that the way we use our churches shapes our understanding of God. It was pointed out that the majority of changes to churches since Vatican II have been unwarranted and did not reflect the Council's intentions.
Dr James Hitchcock tackled the concept of Modernism in his talk on "Being Catholic in a Hostile Culture" (see pp 10-11). He explained that Modernism is opposed to Catholic belief because it rejects tradition and the existence of God based on revealed truth. Referring to the events of the 1960s, Dr Hitchcock noted how an explosion of scepticism had led to widespread repudiation of institutions such as the family, education, government and, of course, the Church.
Martin Fitzgerald explained how society's understanding of moral and objective truth has moved from an acceptance of absolutes to the creation of truths whose end result is power over others. Philosophical nihilism predominates today.
The problems associated with nihilism have impacted on many areas, including modern science. Dr Amin Abboud discussed genetic manipulation and cloning, highlighting the ethical dilemma in which the scientific community finds itself given that the dignity of humans throughout their lives is no longer guaranteed. Dr Aboud reminded us that therapeutic cloning, if proceeded with, will create a "human industry that will abort millions of people. If we are worried about abortion, we have to be far more worried about this".
Fr Anthony Mastroeni further developed this picture of contemporary society facing widespread unbelief. Fr Mastroeni warned that much of the Western world is moving towards a "quiet apostasy". He reminded us that faith is not just a personal experience or knowledge of God, but a love affair that is totally unconditional and open to the will of God.
The dignity of human life emerged as a common theme in many of the speakers' addresses. Martin Fitzgerald explored another aspect in his commentary on the social doctrine of the Church. This does not offer "technical solutions" to social, economic and political questions, but rather the principles on which a just society ought to be built. It then urges that these be put into practice.
Helen Hull Hitchcock spoke about progress in the reform of the liturgy. She argued the ideals of Vatican II are yet to be achieved and needed to be realised: "If we can't get the worship of the Church right then we can't get anything right".
This call for a restoration of the liturgy was realised at the Sunday Mass, which saw the use of Latin for parts of the liturgy such as the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Canon, with English for the changeable parts, such as the responsorial psalm and the readings. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Gregory Jordan SJ of St Leo's College in the "eastern position", i.e., with priest and people facing in the same direction. The Gregorian Chant workshop held earlier in the morning by Tony Vaughan of Schola Cantorum enabled the congregation to participate in the singing of chant during the Mass.
Br Chris Pritchard provided an inspirational conclusion with his talk on the encyclical Novo Millennio Ineunte from which the theme of the Winter School was drawn. He highlighted the Pope's call to holiness for all Christians. He reminded the group of Pope John Paul II's words to the World Youth Day crowds as he headed towards the Holy Door, that we must "make a radical choice for faith and life" and accept the stupendous task of becoming "morning watch-men at the dawn of the new millennium".