In search of the authentic Catholic mind…
At first blush this interview might seem a surprising inclusion in our occassional series of interviews with Catholic leaders and thinkers. The subject, Barry Sinclair, in many ways could be described as your quitessential Aussie bloke. In fact he is related to one of this nation's legendary renegades, the bushranger, Captain Thunderbolt. Barry himself comes across as a guy without any great pretensions. Behind this facade of "ordinariness" over his own quite remarkable life Barry has been associated with, and often the brains behind a number of quite remarkable initiatives that have either done enormous good for a lot of people and in a couple of instances at least he has been a lay leader who has contributed to significant initiatives that have changed the perceptions of large numbers of people.
Today's interview happened by chance. Barry dropped in on the editor of Catholica, Brian Coyne, for a social chat and catch-up. In the course of what was primarily a social conversation he started telling Brian about the enormous change that occurred in Catholic thinking in Australia towards divorced Catholics which began to occur in the mid-1970s. Brian stopped th conversation and asked Barry if he might get his recorder and tape an interivew on what he was speaking about.
This issue was not a personal one for Barry. He has never faced divorce. In fact he and his wife, Morna, have been a remarkable team associated with a whole range of lay initiatives down through the decades of their marriage. Barry though happened to be standing in the right place at the right time as Assistant Director of The Paulian Association in New South Wales when he became aware of the increasingly difficult position of people caught between failed marriages and the attitudes of a largely pastorally unsympathetic Catholic community. The lack of sympathy did not just exist at the hierarchical level. As he explains in the interview, his first involvement in this area of pastoral need was triggered by a group of lay Catholics physically ejecting a newly divorced 25-year-old from a meeting for single Catholics in the early 1970s.
Today's interview is valuable at a number of levels. Firstly it is simply an important episode in Catholic social history in Australia. It needs to be recorded and archived somewhere. At a second level it provides a remarkable insight into how Catholic thinking does change in time. One area of follow-up discussion we might have at Catholica is on the subject of how popular attitudes actually reflect the authentic teachings of the Church. In this particular issue, there was probably not been great change in the actual Canon Law understanding of divorce. The attitudes of the ordinary people in the pews, even of the priests, for a long period probably did not actually reflect what the real teachings of the Church on this subject were. Certainly in recent decades there has been a sea-change in how the theology and canon law has been interpreted and applied pastorally. Thirdly this interview might be valuable pastorally for many people today who find themselves struggling through the emotional and mental turmoil created by the breakdown in marital relationships. Nobody enters any relationship in the expectation that they want it to breakdown. Some relationships do break down and when they do tremendous pain is unleashed not just on the immediate players but amogst all the friends of the people at the centre of the relationship and in the children of the relationship. Those who find themselves in that situation might find much heart in the experiences of others who have already travelled this road.
In the interview there is a small section towards the end where Barry and Brian are searching for a technical term. The technical term they were seeking is called "The Internal Forum". It is term used in Canon Law, little understood by the average priest or person in the street, which can be of great assistance to a Catholic person caught in marital breakdown where their former partner does not want to cooperate in an application for nullity. A Google search of the term "Internal Forum" will lead you to authoritative websites with further information. To listen to the interview use the media controller below.
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