Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bishops Page Two, Critics Front-Page

On the 5th of June 2013 the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced that South Africa’s five metropolitan archbishops had released a new book. The book is entitled “God, Love, Life and Sex”. According to Lynn Harrison of the publishers, Mariannhill Mission Press, the book is intended as a “guide and resource for Christian living, marriage and family”.

This is of course really exciting news. It is good to see the work our bishops are doing in this regard. This should, in my humble opinion, make the front-page of our local Catholic newspaper. In addition, I would think that our local Catholic newspaper would make every possible effort to continue to help the bishops to promote this book to Catholics in South Africa.

The Southern Cross did publish an article about the publication of the book. It appeared on the second page of the 29 May 2013 edition of The Southern Cross and was entitled “SA Bishops Publish New Book”. What appeared on the front-page? An article about e-Tolls in South Africa.

I would normally provide you with a link to the article so that you can read it for yourself, but unfortunately the article is not available on the website of The Southern Cross. The Southern Cross normally makes some of its printed articles – probably the more important of those – available online about a week or two after the printed publication.

Since the article about the bishops’ book was published as far back as 29 May 2013, I really would have thought that by now it would definitely be available online on The Southern Cross website. I am wrong! After a period of 7-weeks it is still not available online at the newspapers website. Why would this be?

The editor of The Southern Cross’ own book, The Holy Land Trek, is right there in plain view whenever you enter the newspapers website. Yet our bishops’ book is sadly nowhere to be found on the newspapers website.

This is of course not the first time this newspaper has not given our bishops pride of place on its website. I wrote some months ago about how the same thing was done with a series of articles written by Cardinal Napier. Thankfully later they were eventually published online, after I had made some noise about it.

Okay, you may be saying, we get your point Mark. The newspaper placed the news of the bishops article on page two and it forgot to make it available online. There is nothing sinister to the decision. The editor simply made a choice.

I disagree. Let me tell you why.

This week The Southern Cross has published an article about the criticism that a Catholic priest – Fr. Christopher Clohessy – has levelled at this book of the bishops’. The article in The Southern Cross is entitled “Mixed Reaction To Bishops Book On Sex”. It appears, surprise, surprise, prominently on the front-page of The Southern Cross.

Not only does it take up about one third of the newspaper’s front-page, its title is also splashed boldly right across the top of the front page of the newspaper. Impossible to miss!

Why, I have to ask, was this article also not placed further back in the newspaper – say on page two? Why has it been given such a prominent place in this week’s edition of The Southern Cross? Especially in comparison to the place that was given to news of the books publication. 

Of course I also have to ask, was it even necessary to actually tell this story of Fr. Clohessy's criticism?

The article appears to suggest that it was written because Fr. Clohessy’s criticism of the bishops’ book went viral on social media. 

Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything about Fr. Clohessy’s alleged critique that had gone viral, even though I specifically looked for these on the Internet.

What I did find was on about page 8 of my Google search results. It was an article in the Rapport, dated on 29 June 2013, which wrote about Fr. Clohessy’s criticism of the South African Catholic Bishops’ book. You can find that article here.

So, did this priests comments really go viral and require immediate front-page coverage by our Catholic newspaper? 

If it did go viral, it seems it went viral in a different cyber world to me. My Internet search engines certainly haven’t found them. Still looking though. Maybe someone can send me the link to these criticisms of Fr. Clohessy.

In the mean time, if you didn’t know about Fr. Clohessy’s critique before this, thanks to The Southern Cross you know exactly what Fr. Clohessy has to say about the bishops' book, even if you missed news of the actual publication of the bishops' book on page two some weeks ago.

To end on a positive note. Here are links to the bishops God, Love, Life and Sex website as well as to their  God, Love Life and Sex Facebook Page.


  1. Only lip service is paid to being supportive of magisterium. They are never going to change because the bishops are terrified of liberals because they are vocal, vicious and, in South Africa, they control the only Catholic media. Better for your health Mark if you just ignore them. Let this fight go. It's the bishops, not you, who will have to answer one day. People see their silence. Why don't you write about the other many good things I have seen you write about and have heard you speak about. It's not in your nature to fight and they are just making you unhappy. Let it go. God bless you my friend.

  2. I have read the Bishops' book & applaud their efforts.
    Their book should be required reading for all - not just Catholics. As for the criticism you refer to it - is the rantings of someone who is a disgrace & a source of scandal. The man needs our prayers.

  3. Agree. I have now read the actual document written by Fr Clohessy and it seems to me there is a deeper problem that he needs to address, which has nothing to do with the quality of the content of the bishops book. I also see that another priest, a Jesuit, has written an email in which he dismisses, not only this new book of the SA bishops as abysmal, but even expresses his misgivings with the Theology of the Body course. Definitely a case of sad lost priests.

  4. Hi Mark
    I would like to ask a question on another matter,
    Do you Know who owns "{The Southern Cross"?
    Is it a company, a trust, the property of the Archdiocese of Cape Town? Does it have shareholders? Who is responsible for paying the bills at the end of the day?

  5. Hi James,

    I was asked the same question on another post. Here is the link and you will find my answer there. Hope it helps.

  6. have read this book and still think its the right way???? The section I found most entertaining is where they profess that people who refrain from sex before marriage are happier than those who don't. Tests of the brain have proved this. Which tests? By who? When? Utter nonsense that science can prove this. As for Father Clohessy, he is a highly intelligent, educated and modern thinker who deserves to be applauded, not ridiculed. The Church needs to keep up with the times, no wonder the youth are so disillusioned with what they teach. Father Clohessy simply approached their teachings with a critical mind. After all, criticism is healthy and that makes us progress. He has my full support and a lot of support from other Catholics. When is it ok to call a man of Clohessy stature a disgrace?

  7. It is interesting, Janice, that you consider it unacceptable for James to criticise Fr. Clohessy, yet you think it is acceptable for Fr Clohessy to criticise the five bishops who wrote the book. How come it is okay for a priest to insult the bishops and call their work a disgrace, but it is not okay to call the priest a disgrace? This, in my opinion, reveals that you only believe criticism is healthy when it conforms to your beliefs and ideas.

    You seem to forget that the bishops have written a book that is aimed at all Catholics in South Africa. This book conveys the teaching of the Church in a way that all Catholics, even those with basic reading skills, can comprehend. It is time to stop paying lip service to the idea of loving our neighbour and reflecting this in our actions. Criticising the bishops and demanding a book that is aimed at a higher level reflects just how selfish, narrow minded and egotistical Fr Clohessy and his supporters really are.

    Finally, you are completely wrong in suggesting the Church must keep up with the modern world. Are you seriously suggesting that what was immoral yesterday is moral today? If you are, and it seems obvious that you are, then I would suggest you have it wrong.