Below is a review of the book Our Fathers: What Australian Catholic Priests Really Think About Their Lives and Their Church by Chris McGillion and John O’Carroll that I wrote for our diocesan magazine, entitled Aurora, and originally published in the June 2011 edition of that magazine, and appearing on page 22.
At their ordination, deacons – including those who will later be ordained priest – are presented with the Book of the Gospels accompanied by the words “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach”. And while we might gain some insight into the faith they hold over the years as we listen to their homilies and other teachings, do we really know what they think about the things that impact on their lives?
Now thanks to the work of Chris McGillion and John O’Carroll, both faculty members of Charles Sturt University, we have the opportunity to delve into the private views of priests working in parish ministry across Australia. Based on a written survey (the details of which can be viewed in Appendix 1) and some interviews, the insights provided in Our Fathers make for interesting reading, and also provides some interesting grist for reflection by those who our priests serve and minister with.
As the subtitle suggests, the areas covered by this book canvas opinions on two broad areas: priesthood, and how the respondents understand a range of issues surrounding priesthood (including compulsory celibacy, which not unsurprisingly the media has latched onto); and the Church, and how the respondents feel about how the Church and its impact on their lives. While it certainly could not be considered definitive, the contents of Our Fathers makes it clear that the ordained priests of the Australian Church have a wide variety of views on the topics that McGillion and O’Carroll have surveyed.
Some readers might not be surprised by what they read in Our Fathers; others might be shocked to their very core to think that priests of the Church might hold some of the views expressed in this book. Regardless of their reaction however, this book should almost be compulsory reading for those who love the Church, and indeed who want to support our priests as together they work to further the mission of the Church.
Chris McGillion and John O’Carroll, Our Fathers: What Australian Catholic Priests Really Think About Their Lives and Their Church (Mulgrave, Vic: John Garratt Publishing, 2011). ISBN: 978-1-920682-26-2.