An ozzie saint

I’m sure most of you have heard that the Roman Church has finally declared they will canonize Mary MacKillop, who will become the first officially recognized Australian saint.

It’s great that such an honor has gone to a woman who genuinely worked hard all her life for the welfare of others. And the minor detail that she was excommunicated for alleged insubordination just adds relevance to the mix. The Church realized its mistake and undid the excommunication (is this “de-excommunicate” or “re-communicate”?), but the episode starkly shows the battles that reformers undergo when they try to extend the comfortable boundaries of religious conventions. Adelaide people still remember how she was supported by local Jewish and Anglican benefactors during her period of excommunication, an example of Adelaide’s proud history of social harmony.


17 thoughts on “An ozzie saint

  1. It’s also lovely that Australia’s first saint will be a woman. Within the Catholic Church, nuns seem to be the ones who are often at the forefront of social change. This may be becuase they are so excluded from the running of the church as a whole. I think this exclusion often means they have less invested in the hierachy of the Church, and often are more in touch with ordinary folk and their day to day lives.

    I wasn’t so keen on nuns when I was having 13 years of Catholic education inflicted upon me – but I now have a few friends who are nuns and have so much respect for their intelligence and wit.

    As an example of this wit, when Pope Benedict was elected I asked one nun, “So, what do you think of this new, conservative Pope?” and she replied, “Well dear, all we can do is pray that God takes him quickly.”

    Hilarious! I nearly fell over laughing.

  2. Since it is often misunderstood, I quote here from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “Excommunication (Latin ex, out of, and communio or communicatio, communion — exclusion from the communion), the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it supposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offence. It is also a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness.”

    That being said, I note the following: here we have a woman wrongfully treated on the basis of a mistake by the larger religious establishment, sustained during this time by compassionate others within said establishment.

    I suppose we can hope to be in the midst of just such a happy story, but as pertains to bhikkhunis.

  3. It would have been funny if Jews or Anglicans decided to canonize (or equivalent) her before the RC decided on it 🙂

    • Nah, instead of saints in Judaism you have the Tzadikkim. The Talmud suggests that 36 hidden tzadikim are living among us at any one time and that it is solely because of their perfect morality that the world is not destroyed.

  4. Excommunication is really an intense form of ostracism; “the act of a group (or individual) ignoring and excluding an individual (or group)” because it excludes the individual not just physically and emotionally but also at a much deeper level…spiritually. Research has shown that the act of ostracism has been found to be as painful (if not more) as being inflicted with physical pain itself. It is an extremely psychologically, emotionally (and spiritually) painful experience for the person who is being ostracised (or excommunicated in the religious sense).

    So when it is well known that ostracism (by excommunication) is an extreme act of psychological violence towards the person being ostracised, why on earth would the leaders of a spiritual organisation that has dedicated itself to practising acts of loving-kindness and compassion over the years, do such a horrible act and inflict such a painful penalty onto one of their own kind? (We’re not talking about the RC church anymore).

    My question is, what did the Buddha say about disagreements in the sangha and the resolution/mediation progress of resolving conflict? What is the CORRECT and dhamma approach? Surely, given the intense pain it inflicts, ostracism (excommunication) would not have been the answer?

    • As far as I know, the worst censure in Buddhism is running afoul of a parajika offense and having to leave ones robes immediately; everything else offers various second and third chances before such a decision is made.

      I suppose the most obvious difference is that Catholic excommunication applies to both religious and lay, whereas Buddhist excommunication only applies to those gone forth. (There is no communion ritual in Buddhism, but in Catholicism being barred from this ritual is severely damning for a lay.)

    • OK, but these offenses entail a monk either having sex, stealing, killing, or statements of grandiosity that lead to expulsion from the sangha. No where do I see the ordination of a woman as an act worthy of excommunication.
      Good website btw David 🙂

  5. Sainthood, or “human par excellence”, called in different names by different cultures, knows no gender. It is a shame that in the Buddhist world, there is still stubborn resistance to the fact that “human par excellence” is human-centered, nothing to do with gender. It saddens me each time I hear negative pronouncements like ” woman cannot be Englightened “, or “bad Karma made you born a woman so you need to work hard first to become a man before you can attain Nibbana”. There exists even a Mahayana Sutra called “transforming woman to man in the next life” sutra which discriminates women for past bad karma ! All very sad false teaching.

    • Hehehe. If TS is the TS that I know, he’s a not a sister, but a brother. Gotta love the internet.


    • “What does womanhood matter at all
      When the mind is concentrated well,
      When knowledge flows on steadily
      As one sees correctly into Dhamma.

      “One to whom it might occur,
      ‘I’m a woman’ or ‘I’m a man’
      Or ‘I’m anything at all’ –
      Is fit for Mara to address.”

      Bhikkhunisamyutta: Soma [SN 5.2]

  6. Anagarika Jason Chan :Hehehe. If TS is the TS that I know, he’s a not a sister, but a brother. Gotta love the internet.

    Oops, my apologies TS. The fact that you are a guy and have such empathy for your sisters on the path, makes you really, really cool 🙂

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