Can transgender persons who became men be priests? Are there rivalries among bishops? What is the hardest thing about being a cardinal?
These are a few of the questions young Kiwi Catholics put to Wellington Cardinal John Dew, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn and Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe.
The bishops and the cardinal each held a workshop called “Bishop’s Banter” at the Aotearoa Catholic Youth Festival held at St Mary’s College in Ponsonby on December 2-3, 2017.
Bishop Lowe responded with an unequivocal “no” to the first question. “It certainly is a different world today from the one I grew up,” he remarked.
Bishop Dunn was asked the second question to which he humorously replied, “not that I’d admit to”.
Then, he explained that unlike other bishops conferences in the world, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference is a very small one and that the New Zealand bishops work really well together.
Cardinal Dew said the hardest part of his job is when people get upset because of the parish priest and he has to talk to said priest. “We are supposed to accompany them (parishioners) and not cause injury,” he said.
The prelates were asked about same sex marriage and homosexuality, ecumenism, why women can’t become priests as well as about the sex abuse scandal in the Church.
Bishop Lowe said he thinks young people are leading the way in terms of relating with the LGBT community.
“I think young people are prophets of the Church. They always have something to say to the Church. And that’s what has come up. Young people want the Church to be more engaging with them (LGBT people),” he said.
He said the issue of homosexuality may be a “Galileo moment” for the Church. Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by the Church in 1633 for teaching that the earth is not the centre of the universe but actually revolved around the sun.
“The psychology is still up for debate but the Church has got to engage with the science and engage with the experience of couples with same-sex attraction,” he said.
Bishop Dunn said he wrote an editorial in NZ Catholic a few months ago about this topic. “We need to make the LGBT people feel welcome. They are beautiful people but they feel rejected by the Church,” he said.
The bishops stressed the teaching of the Church is that Christian marriages are always between a man and a woman.
When asked how Catholics can engage with people who believe in same-sex marriages or abortion, Cardinal Dew advised them to look at Pope Francis and see what he (Pope Francis) is doing.
“He (Pope Francis) does say that when people are caught up in a situation like that, we don’t condemn them. We try and walk with them and make sure they know Church teachings so they can make wise and discerned decisions themselves,” said Cardinal Dew.
Cardinal Dew said Pope Francis has not changed the Church’s teachings on these matters.
“But he does say if people are in a difficult situation or in a situation that isn’t in accord with Church teaching, you listen to them, you accompany them, you try and get them to understand. And even if they don’t fully understand, you don’t dismiss them,” the cardinal added.
Bishop Dunn, towards the end of his workshop, called on young people to talk to their priests or bishop.
“Don’t be shy to ask your priests and bishop your questions,” he said.