It begins rather provocatively. A big surprise from Pell, I know:
Catholics have always been the most significant and interesting minority in Australian history. Whether the long established Irish-Australians are more interesting than the Maronites or the recently arrived Vietnamese is a moot point as is the unanswerable question of whether race or religion is more powerful.
He continues with a fascinating trip through Australian Catholic history, his point being, I think...small numbers, but big influence.
He even brings in some pop culture..
There were many Catholics in Moonee Ponds where Dame Edna Everidge was born. She, of course, was not herself a Catholic but Sir Les Patterson was!
He goes on to look at the post-Vatican II development of the Church. It is nuanced and honest - both about pre-and post-Conciliar life.
This talk is much more than what was reported. What was reported was the juicy parts about how the Old Boy fussed about the Young Folks. There's a lot more - it's interesting and rich and typical Pell - expressive of a brilliant mind working seriously to bring the truth of the Gospel into the world as it is.
The most profound changes emanated from the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, the most problematic of all the Council documents at least in its implementation. This constitution quite properly called for dialogue with the surrounding culture rather than condemnation and urged us to emphasise what was common rather than to begin immediately with our differences. This is fundamental to the way we now see ourselves as an integral part of Australian society, the main reason why the majority accepts us as such and why all educated Australians now automatically and rightly presume that they have every right to comment publicly on distinctively Catholic teachings on e.g. the impossibility of womens’ ordination, or contraception or the mandatory celibacy of priests. Most Australians are much slower to do this with e.g. the Orthodox or the Jews and Moslems.
The two principal motifs of the Council were “aggiornamento”, bringing things up to date and “ressourcement”, a return to the genuine sources i.e. New Testament and the Fathers. The tension between these two approaches still lies at the heart of the differences today between gospel Christians in every denomination (sometimes called conservative or traditional) on the one hand and the liberals or radicals on the other.
Many of my contemporaries in the seminary saw the Council documents as a starting point for further reforms. Most were not ordained and others left after ordination. Unfortunately very few remain as priests now, an enormous loss to the Church.
Movements for reform are difficult to contain and direct, often developing into a revolutionary itch requiring more and more changes.
Many of my contemporaries were naïve and optimistic like myself, expecting a new Pentecost with all this sensible modernization. Many others, older and wiser, who should have known better also seriously overestimated our capacity to influence and change events as we scrambled to escape from our Catholic ghetto, real or imagined. We forgot that nearly everywhere in the West, and certainly in Australia, serious Christians of any sort are in a minority.