- A transcript from The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David Quinn
- Dominic Kelly - third year student at the Catholic Seminary at Banyo, Brisbane.
- Clyde Cosentino - second year student at the Catholic Seminary at Banyo, Brisbane.
David: Hello everyone. I'm David Quinn and this is The Hour of Judgment - the thinking man's radio program. This is part of a series of radio programs put together by Kevin Solway and myself for the sole aim of promoting wisdom. We try to do this by inviting people along to the program every week, people who are serious and passionate about the great issues of life, and with them Kevin and I will try to discuss, debate, reason, argue, interrogate, cajole, and otherwise do all we can to get to the very bottom of things, and produce genuine thoughts about reality. Now, tonight, we have two fellows from the Catholic seminary over at Banyo. They are students studying to be priests, and their names are Dominic Kelly and Clyde Cosentino. Welcome, both of you.
Dominic: Thank you very much.
Clyde: Thank you.
David: And also, of course, we have our resident expert, Kevin Solway. G'day Kevin.
Kevin: How are ya.
David: To start off, perhaps we could find out a bit about you two. Take you, Dominic, first. You're studying at the seminary. It's a seven year course. At the end, there are vows and a life in the priesthood. Can you give a bit of background and tell us what you were doing before, and what made you become a theological student at the seminary.
Dominic: Okay, thank you. Well, actually, theological student was probably the second thing that I thought I'd be doing - the first thing was simply going to the seminary and studying to be a priest. However, my main role at the moment is probably a theological student, because being in the early stages of my time at the seminary it's mainly academic, and the main focus is theology at this stage. A little bit about myself: I went to St Edmond's at Ipswich, a Christian Brothers school, finishing there in 1985. I started a degree in mathematics at the Queensland Institute of Technology. But I took a bit of time off my degree and managed an RSL club in Ipswich for a while, before deciding to get into the workforce and work for the AMP Society. Although I went back and started studying again, trying to finish off my mathematics degree, I in fact got more or less carried away with my career at AMP, and my last position there was as a superannuation consultant. But I decided that there was something I've always wanted to do, that has always been on my mind, and that was priesthood. I wanted to investigate that and discern that fully, and the best place for discerning priesthood is at the seminary. So I left my job, went to the seminary at Banyo, and that's where I am now. I'm currently in third year.
David: You went to the Catholic seminary, but why not another type of Christianity? Why Catholic? I suppose you were brought up as a Catholic?
Dominic: That's a fair question. Basically, I've been given a Catholic faith from an early age, and I guess as I got older this transferred from a child-faith to an adult-faith. I guess that when I really established it as an adult-faith I made the decision to investigate priesthood. It's always been on my mind. When I was a child, I would often admire the priests, and I would follow them around. Of course, I was an alter boy - for many of us at the seminary, our origins stem back to being alter boys - and I think that when you are an alter boy, you're given a certain perspective of the priest's life that most people don't have. You see his private life, you see the man behind the vestments, and I guess that it was a role I've always admired. I saw a great need for priests in our society. I guess that, given my character and my interests and my passions, I suppose, if I was brought up in the Anglican church, I would probably have gone on to be an Anglican minister.
David: Okay. When you leave at the end of seven years, you become a priest. Is that correct?
David: Do you have any ambitions. Do you want to be a Bishop? What do you want to do?
Dominic: That's an interesting question. No, basically, I think the only ambition you should have when you come to a seminary is simply to serve. You shouldn't be looking upon becoming a Bishop as like a power base, or as a promotional position. I think you'd find that most people who are Bishops more or less . . . I don't think it's a job that most priests would love to have, actually. I think it's one that Bishops usually accept reluctantly. It is a tough job. I guess that what I would do when ordained is become a diocesan priest - meaning, I will go out into a parish and I'll be given a certain territory and I'll be a presiding priest in that territory . . . say, for example, the suburb of Banyo or I could go back to Ipswich. I think I'd just like to be a simple diocesan priest.
David: Okay then. Clyde, what about yourself?
Clyde: Well, I suppose my Catholic background goes right back to my early days. I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy at Lourdes Convent at Ingham, in North Queensland. And then I had the opportunity of being taught by the Christian Brothers at Cardinal Gilroy College. Then I was taught by the Marist Brothers at St Augustine's College in Cairns and then came down here to Brisbane in 1985 to study law. In my first year I stayed at St Leo's College at the University of Queensland, which was run by the Jesuit priests. So I've had the opportunity of being with people from the church right since my early days. I studied law at the Queensland University of Technology, starting in 1985 . . . My history went from law for three years to a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland in 1988. Then I applied for an associate diploma in Community Welfare at the James Cook University in Townsville. Following this, I went back into law again when I was offered a job as an Article Clerk in Ingham. I worked five years in that position, and here I am now. By way of my vocation in the priesthood, I've thought about it for approximately ten years - probably more, ever since I was in primary school. I remember a priest, a young priest friend, who has since died of cancer, one day pulling me over after asking the question in class, "What do you want to do for the rest of your lives?" And I put up my hand and said that I wanted to be Catholic priest. And, of course, I got a ribbing from the rest of my class, and so I sort of backed down from that. But I remember him pulling me aside one lunchtime and saying, "Clyde, don't ever, ever put that out of your mind". And that stuck with me ever since. Like Dominic, I treat the seminary as a place of discernment; my end- goal is to be a presbyter back in my diocese in Townsville. However, where I am at now, I'm struggling with the issues and . . . I'm praying every day.
Kevin: I'd like to ask a difficult question - after hearing your interesting stories. Obviously, both of you have decided that the priesthood is the best way of life. Now, I'd like to analyse it on a more psychological level, and ask: are you choosing this career path because it is what you are familiar and comfortable with - both of you have had a long history in this particular form of religion - or are you doing it because it's true?
Dominic: Well . . . I think I'd like to answer that, Kev. I think, basically, as I said before, I was given a faith as a child and then I progressed into an adult-faith. Now, I guess, basically . . . I'm not actually comfortable in it, and I think if I was comfortable in it, then I would probably question what it was I was doing at the seminary. Because in my life, when I was working at AMP Society, I was comfortable there and life just seemed a little bit too easy for me. I felt that I was ignoring something deep inside me which was asking me to do something more with my life. The only way you can really fully investigate this is through deep prayer, and take the time out . . . and I've got a faith, so I can pray to a God that I believe in and can share with many other people in my community.
Kevin: Let's examine this aspect of faith. This seems to be central to becoming a priest. Can you explain what you mean by the word "faith"?
[ Silence ]
Kevin: It's a difficult one.
Dominic: It is a difficult one. To explain what faith is is a bit like trying to explain what God is, and to explain what God is like wrestling with a big blob of jelly - you can't actually get a handful of it. Once you get a handful of it, it's around behind you - it's all over the place. But faith is, basically, having a belief in something. I think that at the end of the day we've all got to believe in something. Some of us believe in our job, our wife, our children, our house, but if we lose those things then what do we believe in? If we start to fail ourselves, if we start to let ourselves down, what is it that we actually believe in?
Kevin: This amorphous idea of God that you believe in . . . can you give us some explanation of what is God to you?
Dominic: Well, to me, God is a divine mystery, first of all, a guiding hand in my life. God is something that drives and pushes me in life, and has created the earth and has created me and is very much in love with me. And through my faith, I've come to love God myself. And that's something which helps me get through life.
Kevin: So you would see God as some kind of intelligent being, in the way that we are intelligent. We can intelligently create a radio station, for example, so God in the same way intelligently creates, what, the world, the universe . . . ?
Dominic: Well, yes. I believe in an all-loving God . . .
Clyde: I think Dominic has just hit it on the head there. I tend to look at God as an all-being in love. My perception of God has always been influenced, I suppose, by people as well. I've always had a love for people. And so when I look at people, I also picture God. And I suppose it stems back to my early childhood, because we learnt about Jesus Christ and we learnt about Jesus's presence here on earth two thousand years ago, where God, through the Incarnation, became flesh and blood, became one of us, and therefore was able to experience love, anger, sorrow, etc. So knowing this has just made it that much easier. So when I see people, I see Christ; so I have that relational thing.
Kevin: Can I ask, when you see people and you see Christ, what is it that you see in people that you give the name "Christ" to?
Clyde: Hmm, I suppose that's a difficult question, because in people, of course, you see imperfection, you see sadness, you see suffering--
Kevin: Quite right. Dishonesty.
Clyde: Exactly. You see all those vices and you think, "How can God be in these people"? I suppose it helps to know that Jesus also suffered from the temptations and weaknesses - I don't know whether he actually exhibited the vices which we see around us - but he still experienced these weaknesses. I see in people love. No matter what vices they might have, I always look at the positive things in all people.
Kevin: Well, people love their vices, don't they? They certainly have love! They love their football; they love being violent; they love being dishonest.
Dominic: Kev, I'd just like to say that when you meet people like that - who talk about their football, who talk about their vices - if you spend enough time with them, you notice that these are all on a shallow level with them, and that there is a deeper side to them. I think that when you actually get to tap into that deep side of an individual, you start to see that there is something very similar about that person as there is to yourself, and to other people. You can start seeing a similarity between all individuals that you meet every day, and you can start to see that there's something very pure and very loving about that person.
Kevin: Okay, let's look at this area - with the purpose of coming to some understanding of what God is and what is significant in life. This underlying love in people, if we can call it that - let's try and ascertain exactly what it is. What is it that people love which has this deeper significance? Have you any ideas about that, David . . . ?
Dominic: Well, I think, Kevin, that this love which people have is simply an interest in the world around them and where they came from and what life is about. At the end of the day, they're less interested in their jobs and in the problems of their relationships, and they are searching for a deeper meaning to life. Life must be more that this.
Kevin: A deeper satisfaction? A deeper belonging? A deeper security or permanence?
Dominic: Yes, a dependence on something which is very real. It is a dependency which, I think, comes through faith, where we become dependent on God. We stop becoming dependent on things which fail and which have limitations, and we start having a dependency on something which is limitless - like God, the divine mystery.
Kevin: Okay, but what I see, though, is that . . . yes, there's no denying that everyone wants more satisfaction. We have a deep love of permanent bliss and permanent happiness. This is probably the driving motivation behind everything - behind people wanting great wealth, behind people wanting to commit great crimes. Everything, if you take it back to it's core, comes from a very deep hunger for belongingness, for satisfaction, for approval, for a feeling of homeness. Everybody has this - from the so-called best of people to the very worst. So I'm wondering where in this is spirituality? Where, in this desire for satisfaction, is God?
Dominic: I think that it all comes down to people's values. What you said about comfort and efficiency is very true. I mean, look at the way our advertising agencies work. Basically, there are two underlying things to modern thought, which influences all our media and what we read from day to day - basically, it's stressing comfort and efficiency. And I think both of those go against Gospel values; and people, at the end of the day, think that it's very shallow and empty. And I think this feeling of comfort and efficiency has a corroding effect on our lives. And because it's a corroding effect - like salt-water that destroys cars which are parked over a long period of time at, say, Broadbeach - we don't really notice it until the damage is done.
Kevin: Okay, let's go from there, from the fact that we are looking for something which is permanent and lasting, and ask ourselves what it is exactly that is permanent and lasting. What is it we are all looking for? You, no doubt, would say it is God. So let's examine the idea of what can be permanent. Can an intelligent being be permanent? You were speaking before about God being an intelligent creator. Is it possible for such a being to be permanent? Now, I would say that the only thing that can be permanent is reality itself - meaning, everything, the totality of all existence. The totality must necessarily be permanent because by definition there can be nothing other than the totality. And the totality includes you and me and every insignificant, little thing on the planet - and it is permanent, because it's total.
David: You're not talking about something physical, are you? People might think this is a pagan, atheistic kind of view. But, really, it's something different, isn't it?
Kevin: It is physical - and any other word you might wish to describe it. It's everything. The totality includes the physical, and the non-physical, and the abstract, and the emotions - everything. So I'm saying that this totality must be permanent, by definition, because there can't be anything more than the totality. I'm questioning whether the concept of God as a being who can intelligently create - and who is not the totality, who is not every little, insignificant thing on the planet . . . how can such a being can be permanent? It is not possible. Any thoughts on this?
Dominic: Well, I just simply think that what's not possible for us, is possible for God. I mean, basically, I think the mind of God is far greater than the mind of man, and I can think of nothing greater than God.
David: Okay, Dominic, how important is the truth of your conception of God, or the truth of your religion? Is truth an important factor? I mean, it would be a shame if, after having gone into the priesthood, this God of yours doesn't exist. So have you investigated precisely what this God is that you worship, and whether He actually exists?
Dominic: Well, yes, I do investigate it, and I investigate it everyday. It's not uncommon for a seminarian to wake up one morning and think, "Oh my God, are You really there?" I mean, sometimes you feel totally abandoned, just like Christ felt abandoned when he was on the cross. That just showed the human side of Christ and it shows the human side of ourselves. We do doubt and we do fail to believe from time to time. We like to see something physical; we like to look around and use the five senses that we can name, as intelligent beings, and we may ignore what we don't know and see, but what we do nevertheless feel inside and what we have been born with. I think there's something very innate inside us which is screaming out for a relationship with God.
David: So, in other words, you're saying that it is not possible to ascertain the ultimate truth of God. You're basically saying that it is unknowable.
Dominic: Yes. But I believe that God is Truth. We can never totally grasp or totally know it, but it's something that we need to strive for. I look at it this way: we can never ever come to "know" the mystery, but we can certainly come to know "the mystery".
David: The only problem is, there are millions of Gods in the world, and many religions. So we have the Buddhists, for example, who profess a spiritual life and are interested in Truth, who claim to make Truth the centre of their lives - but they don't have any conception of God at all. So we have all these millions of people in the world who follow Buddhism and all these millions of people who follow Christianity - and, obviously, at the very least, one of these religions must be wrong. So it's fraught with danger, don't you think, to just merely accept--?
Clyde: Well, David, I'd say you have to be careful in saying that Buddhists don't follow a God, and Christians do. I mean, we'd be arrogant if we said that we follow the only God there is. What I mean by that is . . . that when Buddhists . . . I'm sorry, is it Muslims? No?
Clyde: Or Islam? Yes, Islam. When they worship God, is it the same God as ours that they are worshipping? The same principles? The same values? I don't know enough about Islam to go on; I don't know enough about Hinduism to go on. But the principles and the values behind their living and their lifestyles is very much similar to ours.
David: I disagree, actually. When you look at the Buddhist lifestyle . . . for one thing, it is a very rational philosophy. It is something which is very reasoned out. And as well, it is a discipline. There is a path which one gradually advances along, towards a specific goal. There is a faith that the Ultimate Truth can be known - it's called enlightenment. But in Christianity, you don't have this at all; they think that such an ultimate knowledge is impossible. So we have these two completely different conceptions of life, with no similarity at all, even though on the surface there might appear to be.
Kevin: The Buddhists don't really require faith in their ultimate knowledge. They arrive at this ultimate knowledge through a series of reasonings, and once they've reasoned it, well then, they know it. They have a full understanding of Ultimate Reality - if you go along with this way of thinking - and so faith is not something you ever find Buddhists talking about. You could go to a hundred lectures on Buddhism and never once hear the word "faith". So it seems that there are different religions . . .
Clyde: . . I suppose . . . I suppose . . I would almost have to retract what I said before. I'm not knowledgeable about other religions. All I can talk about, I suppose, is my own faith in my God. And you spoke before about a Truth, and here we are in the seminary studying for the priesthood and our one goal, our one aim, is to love and to serve Jesus Christ - and if there is no Jesus Christ at the end of it, then where does it leave us? In a pretty sorry state, I might say. Sure, faith is something which is developed right from our very early experiences and is developed as we go through life - and I must say that my background has helped me towards that - but after a while you start to realise that it is not just a background thing. It's not just experience, it's something more. It develops into something which cannot be explained.
Kevin: Well, there is one concept of faith I can understand, and it's something that I have to practise myself. It's the kind of faith where you know something to be true, but the knowledge of that truth is difficult to integrate into your being - because that truth makes you unhappy, perhaps. You require faith in some things that you know to be true, you see. Take, for example, a wife who has discovered her husband has been unfaithful. Now this is something you might like to suppress; the wife might want to suppress this knowledge. But she would require faith in her reasoning and in what she's seen to actually accept the knowledge. So this is the kind of faith I can understand - a faith in something you know to be true. But this doesn't seem to be the faith that Christians practise. There are very few Christians who would claim to actually know, with one hundred percent certainty, that they know God, and then, from that point, having to have faith in what they know to be true. Is this the kind of faith that you practise? Do you know with one hundred percent certainty that God exists, or that God is like "this" or like "that", and then you have faith in what you know to be true? Or is your faith more of a hoping, a hoping that God is like "this or "that"? What do you think?
Clyde: Again, all I can say is that if I was to say I know God, or that people know God is "this", then that makes us God Himself, and I don't think any single person can say what God is. But, yeah, faith . . .
Kevin: Well, let's take Jesus, for example. Now, as far as I know, Jesus was a human being - I don't think he was an alien from another planet or anything like that.
Kevin: Okay, so he was a human being and I think he claimed to know - God! And not only that, in a sense, he regarded God to be himself. He spoke with the authority of God, and I think that he regarded God to be in the human person - in the sense that we are all Sons of God. So if it is true that we are similar to Jesus, if he was to be any kind of example to us, if he wasn't a totally different being to us, if he was like us, then it means that we are like him. If he was God, or had God in him, or if he was a part of God, then it means that we too are a part of God. If Jesus can know God - one hundred percent know - then it should, by rights, be possible for every individual person to know God - one hundred percent know - in exactly the same way as Jesus knew God. Do you think this is possible? Do you think that we are like Jesus in this sense?
Clyde: No, because one thing is missing there. Jesus wasn't a part of God; he was God. Jesus forms one of the three of the Blessed Trinity - and people say, "How can you have three persons in the one God?" That has been a mystery people have been trying to explain for two thousand years, and not even the great Doctors of the Church - like St Augustine, St Athanasius and so on - could fully grip the concept. So Jesus was fully God and fully human, and so people say, "How? How can you believe in a person who was fully God and fully human? How do you explain that?" We can't explain it.
Kevin: What about us? Do you think that we are fully God and fully human? Or are we just fully human?
Clyde: We're definitely not fully God; we are definitely fully human. We have . . .
Dominic: We are certainly made in God's image, though. That is what we believe as Christians.
Kevin: So, we're mostly human, but a little bit like God?
Dominic: Well, we are created in God's image. So we are human beings, simple as that.
Kevin: But what I'm striving at is that if I decided I wanted to be like Jesus, then not only do I want to follow in his footsteps, but I want to become in every possible way like Jesus. I don't think I've met any Christian who's actually tried to do this; he'd probably be a laughing stock if he did. But do you think this is a reasonable course for a human being to take? To become like Jesus and actually know Ultimate Truth and know everything that can importantly be known?
Dominic: I believe that that's the goal which most Christians should adopt. I mean, that's it.
Kevin: They should adopt it!?
Dominic: They should adopt it. We wish to be like Jesus Christ. But the thing is, though, we have to be aware of our sinfulness and our limitations. We will never become Christ, but it is in the search of Christ that we will receive salvation. That's what Christians believe in.
Kevin: Let me put something to you. I presume you had to be interviewed to be admitted in your seminary?
Dominic: That's right.
Kevin: During the interview, if you were asked what your goal was in entering the seminary, and you said that your goal was to be like Jesus, that you wanted to become so much like Jesus that you can speak with the full authority of God, do you think they would actually let you into the seminary? That you wanted to speak with more authority than the Pope, with more authority than any Christian alive on the planet.
Dominic: But, Kevin, I think that the priest interviewing you would ask what your purpose was for saying that. Are you on about power, are on about--?
Kevin: No, you would explain quite politely that this was your conscience speaking, that you wanted to become so perfect because it satisfies your conscience, because you wanted to become perfectly truthful. And this requires you becoming so much like Jesus that you become equivalent to him - that you wanted to become God.
Dominic: Okay, I think that you would be encouraged in that endeavour, but you'd also be encouraged to be aware of your limitations as well - and that you will never be Jesus Christ, but certainly that is the path to adopt.
Kevin: Do you think it is possible that we could become better than Jesus? Let's say you--
Dominic: No, definitely not!
Kevin: Let's say you told them that you wanted to become so good that you actually wanted to become better than Jesus, to become more like God than Jesus was - if that's possible.
Clyde: It's just not possible, because we are talking about Jesus Christ, who was God, and we are not God.
David: Okay, if that's the case, you seem to be speaking with authority here about what is possible and what isn't possible. I mean, you'd have to be perfect yourself to be able to speak with utter conviction that perfection is impossible. No?
Dominic: Well, basically, I think that this just shows that you have a conviction in your faith. I mean, that's it. You're putting your life into God's hands. You've got faith there, and this is where the Christian belief emerges from.
David: When you look at the various sayings of Jesus, his one tone is very urgent. He urged us to urgently strive for perfection. He says somewhere, "Be perfect like your Heavenly Father is perfect". He stressed that we should strive to give up everything we hold dear for the sake of this goal. So, obviously, Jesus seemed to imply that perfection is a possibility, and that it should be the number one goal for the human race to strive for.
Clyde: To strive for.
David: But not achieve? So, what, he's holding up this illusion? He's just kidding you at bottom?
Clyde: No, because in the end we all aim for the ultimate goal which is to be with Jesus Christ and with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . at the end of time, or after our life here on earth, anyway. That's not to say, "Oh my goodness, we're locked up in this prison for the next sixty or seventy years and we just want to break out!" This here is reality; this is life. However, there is something beyond death, and that is Jesus Christ.
Kevin: Well, I'd like to examine this idea of Jesus Christ as well, actually, because David just mentioned how you were saying that perfection is not possible. We can strive for perfection but we can never achieve it, no matter how hard we strive - a bit like dangling a carrot in front of the donkey. And it's part of being human, you were saying, that we can never be perfect. But you do say that Jesus was actually perfect, so we have someone - who has this something that no human being can achieve - encouraging us to be like him! But I would like to question first of all the supposed perfection of Jesus. How can we say that Jesus was perfect? It seems that a person called Jesus did exist two thousand years ago and, judging by what was recorded under his name, we can say that he was possibly a very wise man. How do you come to the determination, as you have, that this man alone was perfect in all world history?
Dominic: I think, basically, my belief personally comes through faith and reason, and reason and revelation. It comes through what I can perceive through my senses, through what I perceive to be true, and also through the revelation of Christ - when Christ was here on earth. This has always been a debate among theologians - was Christ actually perfect while he was fully Incarnate here on earth? But, the thing is, God is perfect, and Jesus makes up one of those three persons which is God - the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God the Father, as Clyde was saying before. Now what we are doing is that we are striving for the Kingdom of God. I mean, once everything is perfect then the Kingdom of God is here, rather than in Heaven.
Kevin: But it seems to me, though, that the idea of Jesus in your mind is more of an abstract thing, more of an absolute. So if you can think of an absolutely good person, then you are allotting the word "Jesus" to this conception. It's like you're saying, "Jesus is my conception of the absolutely perfect person" - which is perfectly okay. But I'm asking about the physical person called Jesus. Based on the records we have of him, can we come to a real conclusion - a scientific conclusion, if you like - concerning the degree of Jesus's goodness? Or are we going to say, "No, Jesus is just an abstract conception of perfection"?
Dominic: Well, we can't say that he was an abstraction, but we also can't scientifically prove these kinds of things either. Because what we do now is we draw into the debate the concept of faith, which is what we started our conversation with.
Kevin: So this is "faith" as hope, rather than "faith" as knowing.
Dominic: Well, there's three theological virtues - and these aren't just theological virtues, as they are also adopted by many Christian churches, and also by many Non-Christian organizations as well - and these are faith, hope, and charity. Charity is love, and hope stems from faith. Having a faith in something gives you hope, and hope is what drives us from day to day. And I think that, basically, this is what links us all as human beings - this urge inside us. There's more to life than just me; there's my neighbour. If I look out for my neighbour, my neighbour looks out for me. I think this is what links us all. We were talking before about Islam and Hinduism . . . basically, when the Council of Religious Organizations meet, there is only one thing that really links all the religions and beliefs in the world, and that is simply we need to be good to one another. We all believe in the common good.
Kevin: I think we should get back, though, to this idea of Jesus. You said that we can't prove scientifically that Jesus was perfectly good.
Dominic: That's correct.
Kevin: And Jesus is not an abstraction of the perfect person, so by what means do we arrive at the knowledge that Jesus was perfectly good? You no doubt say that you take this on faith. But we must have some reasons for taking it on faith in the first place.
David: Or else it becomes purely arbitrary.
David: I mean, there are other men in the world who have claimed perfection - like the Buddha, for example, or Krishna. So there is a whole series to choose from. Why Jesus, and not somebody else?
Dominic: I think, basically, it comes back to our childhood faith. It was what we were brought up and handed down to us through our tradition. But also too, we have great thinkers in the world who are highly recognized by our society and who proclaim themselves as atheists as well. I mean, you've got a very intelligent debate there as well. I believe that God touches their lives, though they may name it differently or they may choose not to name it at all.
David: It still doesn't answer the fundamental question, though. I mean, presumably, travelling the spiritual path is the most important thing in life. To take a mundane example, if you were going to buy a car, you wouldn't just go to the nearest dealer up the road and buy the first machine you see. Instead, you'd shop around and try to pick the best model at the best price. So, in terms of the spiritual path, you would want to be absolutely certain of your direction, because it is the most important thing a person can do.
Clyde: That's what makes it so different, because it is a spiritual path. We talk about reason, but reason is something that we do by way of human understanding and, remember, human understanding is limited. If we were to go through life using human understanding as a gauge, we would be a very poor people. I think we cannot just say that if there is no reason to it, then there is no answer.
David: But there is nothing else, you see. If there is no reason for your behaviour, then it just becomes arbitrary. Your point about how human understanding is limited, this is a reasoned out view on your part--
Clyde: That's right.
David: It is a conclusion reached by human understanding. Do you see? It turns back on itself and undermines itself. So if you're not just going to act arbitrarily, if you're not just going to have a whim and say, "Hmm, I think I'll become a Christian!", then there must be good reasons.
Clyde: Have you ever followed a gut feeling? Have you ever followed something that just burns inside of you, something that just cannot be explained? Why is it that when I take myself, for instance, where I had the opportunity to become a partner in a law firm, of marriage, of security, of many things, where reasoning would say that there is the place to go, and yet something deep down inside, something burning, some great desire, some great love, which cannot be explained, has put me here in the seminary. Although I am still discerning and questioning why I am still here, it cannot be reasoned out. And yet I am still here. And how many times in life do we see people who honestly give up their lives for someone else, even for a complete stranger! Where is the reasoning behind that? There must be something above reason.
David: Well, you could say there is reasoning involved in deciding whether to submit to this gut feeling in the first place, as opposed to submitting to some other thing. But you still haven't answered the fundamental question. Okay, you may decide to submit to a gut feeling and become a Christian; people in India submit to a gut feeling and become a Hindu. I mean, why choose one over the other? Your gut feeling doesn't help you in this.
Dominic: Well, okay, this stems from the tradition you come from as well. When you look at Clyde and I, we both study through the Brisbane College of Theology. Even though we are studying to be Catholic priests, when we do our theological degrees we train with Anglicans and with people from the Uniting Church faith. Now we have three different faiths here, but we all believe in the one God. We might name God differently and we might explain God differently and we might theologize about God differently, but we all believe in the same God. And you have the ecumenical movements, which have been a force since the turn of the century and which are striving towards uniting these Churches together. I mean, this shows that there is a nagging urge in all of us, which I believe is very similar. I think that, yes, countries are very different to one another, but once boundaries start being broken down and the communication gap starts to narrow, you'll start to see the one belief emerge, which is the true belief.
David: Right, I should just say that if there is anyone out there who has tuned into 4RPH and is wondering what the hell is going on, this is a program called The Hour of Judgment, which is a program dedicated to Truth. My name is David Quinn and I'm talking to Dominic Kelly, Clyde Cosentino, and Kevin Solway. Tell me, Dominic, did you shop around? You know how I gave the example of the car dealers . . . did you look at Buddhism or Hinduism? Did you look at the various philosophies from around the world so as to determine what is true?
Dominic: Not in any great detail like that. You don't have time to investigate every single faith in your life. You need to adopt one. Most of this thinking occurred with me when I went through that transition from an child-faith to an adult- faith. Now, I see the limitations within the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we acknowledge that once upon a time, in the Middle Ages, our Pope would have announced that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church. That is now changed and we now believe that there is salvation outside of the Catholic Church. Basically, we live our lives in line with the Gospel - that is the correct way of living. I guess what I'm saying is that the tradition which I knew as a child was the tradition handed down by my family. Now, I see the Truth within the Catholic Church, and just as we have our limitations, the Church has its limitations as well. There is a very human element to the Church - I mean, the Holy Spirit is very much alive within the Church, but there is also a very human element as well. I think that rather than shop around and pick the best faith - "Oh, this faith seems to be the most advanced" - stay with the faith that you do know and try to be an active part of it. I mean, even though I am not yet ordained, and so still a lay person, I am nevertheless the Church.
David: Alright, but take a person who has been brought up in, say, the Ku Klux Klan environment. As you know, it is a very racist organization - they're against the blacks and so forth. Now what would you say to this person if he took the attitude you just described. "There is no point in shopping around. I'll just stay within the Ku Klux Klan and try to improve it!" It's not very convincing, is it?
Dominic: Oh, well, I think that through a discernment process . . . I mean, there are a lot of things that I haven't accepted without discernment. There are a lot of things which I do accept within the Church, like on a Sunday we would all stand there and say the Creed together - I mean, that's something which links us all together, including all the beliefs that we have within the Church. But that's something which I haven't just accepted and just rattled off every Sunday. That's something which I have discerned about and said to myself, "Well, if I'm going to say these things on a Sunday, then I've got to really believe in it". And if there is someone within the Ku Klux Klan, then they need to discern and ask themselves, "What is the Ku Klux Klan really on about?", and really look into it. And they shouldn't just look at the authoritative figures within the organization, but they should work out just where it is that they themselves are coming from and what part they play in all of it. And I think that through a discernment process - an honest, sincere, genuine discernment process, which is not on about power or selfish gain - then I don't think we can go wrong. I think that you fellows would go through this as well. I mean, it seems to me that you both don't believe in organised religion. Would that be a fair comment?
David: Yes, and that's because the most important thing in life is to come to genuine understanding of reality oneself. In other words, before you can even choose which religion to follow you have to become wise. Take the Gospels, for example. You have to become wise yourself before you can even understand them, otherwise you'll only misinterpret them.
Dominic: Okay, but the thing is, there are a lot of things which we can't do on our own. We have to acknowledge our own limitations. We are not perfect beings . . .
Kevin: Speak for yourself!
Dominic: . . . would you say that you are perfect beings, Kevin or David?
Kevin: Well, I'm not fully aware of my own limitations . . . No, I think a lot of limitations are self-imposed.
Dominic: That's probably correct.
Kevin: For example, I can't get up out of this seat and fly around in the air. This is a limitation. I haven't got wings.
Dominic: But you wouldn't say it was a self-imposed limitation, surely, that you haven't got wings?
Kevin: That's right. But as far as knowledge goes, as far as my understanding of the nature of Ultimate Reality is concerned, my mind is not limited. A lot of people's minds are limited, but those limitations are self-imposed.
Dominic: Okay, but I think a lot of people have the idea that when you are part of an organized religion, you almost lose a freedom there - a freedom of discerning yourself, or something. But the thing is, within the Catholic Church, there are many forms of devotion, and different ways of praying, and certainly different spiritualities. There is room for all those spiritualities there.
Kevin: Is there room for Buddhist spirituality as a Catholic priest? If you decided that the Buddhist philosophy was the best one and believed that there was no God, that nothing can ever be created, that there's no free-will, that everything is a matter of karma or cause-and- effect . . . all this is totally incompatible with everything the Pope teaches, isn't it? Do you think that this would be accepted within the Catholic Church?
Dominic: No. I mean, if you're a priest and you believe there's not a God, then you've got to really question what you're doing there.
Kevin: They're doing that in the Anglican Church, aren't they? There are some priests who have actually decided that there is no God and they are still Anglican priests. The Catholic Church hasn't quite reached this level of advancement. Maybe in the years to come . . .
David: It comes down to your values. If it's your goal to become perfectly truthful and if you want to gain a perfect understanding of reality, then joining a Christian Church will not help you. This is why I speak against Christianity, or indeed, against all the organized religions, because they don't encourage people to strive for perfection.
Dominic: Okay, could I just say that . . . you and Kevin certainly share some ideas which are common. I mean, would you not say that there is something organized between the two of you? You both come together, you share in something which is real to yourselves . . .
David: Yes, but there are no rituals or anything of that nature. We are just two individual thinkers--
Dominic: But there could be a ritual there, in the sense that you, say, gather on a Saturday afternoon and have a sausage and a beer together.
David: Yes, but we are still two individual thinkers. This is the main thing. We don't submit to any doctrine, or any authority, or anything at all, except our own reasoning processes. Do you see? There is a complete difference.
Kevin: I think it's to do with the acceptance of authority. Organized religion, as we've been calling it, can be characterized as respecting an authority. This is where the traditional idea of faith comes in - they have faith that what the authority says is true. And this is what individual thinkers never do. Individual thinkers do not respect any authority other than their own mind and their own intelligence. And they do this because they believe that their own mind and their own intelligence are not limited.
Dominic: Okay, but surely, though, in your individual thinking, there must have been a stage where you wanted to share your information with somebody else - just to see if you're not alone.
Kevin: Yes, but the more faith that you have in your own mind, the less need you have of approval, or to share. You have less need for external things. You become self- sufficient, in a sense, just as the Universe, for example, or the Totality, is self-sufficient. An individual thinker becomes like the Totality; he becomes, I would say, like God. When you become like the Totality, and you realize that there is nothing other than your own self, you become self-sufficient. When you realize that there is nothing beyond the grasp of your own intelligence and your own reasoning . . . even saying this, the statement that there is nothing beyond the grasp of my own reasoning, I'm grasping everything that could possibly be.
Clyde: And what influenced your reasoning, Kevin?
Kevin: The desire for perfection.
Clyde: What about experiences? What about your experiences since your early childhood, the people you've met . . . ?
Kevin: From very early on, I was brought up as an idealist. I decided that I wanted to achieve something great. I had many opportunities and been successful in various fields, but they didn't satisfy me. The one thing that satisfied me, and the one thing which was permanent, was this knowledge of Ultimate Reality.
Dominic: Okay, but can't we say that that is simply your journey from childhood and that it reflects the Christian journey? Except that the Christian names God as this . . .
Kevin: Authority. This is the difference. A religious person submits to an authority - whether it be the Bible or a guru. He has somebody telling him something of which he has no full knowledge himself, but which he accepts on faith. It may be that a whim, or a gut feeling, is telling him that this is the right direction to take. He can smell something in the air and so he follows it, and it may take him to a hamburger or whatever. He doesn't know where it's taking him; he's just following the smell. But this is not the way that an individual thinker does things. Or, in a sense, he does have a nose for what is true, but he follows his internal guide. He has no books to tell him what is true; he has no guru and no teacher. I would argue that a truly spiritual person - a true priest - is such a person. He can speak with his own authority and his own knowledge. So if you want to go out into the community as a priest and be a good example to the general public, then I would argue that the totally individual thinker is the best priest.
Dominic: Yes, but the thing is, don't we . . . but as human beings, don't we . . . look, there's a great line out of Shadowlands by C.S. Lewis which says, "We read so we know we are not alone". Don't you think something like that is true? We pick up books and we read them and we go, "My God, this person has travelled this journey like I have!". So we read to know that we are not alone, and we are helped along on our journey there. And then all of a sudden we pick up the Bible, and we think, "This rings so true with my life, and with where I want to be and how I want to live my life. To me this is Truth". As an individual thinker, I think there is a stage where you need the contact of other people and you need the contact of people who have travelled before you.
Clyde: And I just want to say that if we think we have reached a certain stage, and are individuals at a certain stage, isn't it the case that we've actually acquired all our information through books, through people, throughout our journey in life, and what we have in here now is through the contact of people. So, really, it hasn't been individual at all. It has been with people. And so this goes back to organizations as such.
David: Well, again, it comes down to your goal in life. If you want to have this perfection of knowledge, this knowledge of reality, then you have to get rid of attachments. And so with things like books and people, although they can be stimulating, to get attached to them is to actually turn away.
Clyde: Let me just end by giving you a saying by a great thinker of the Church, St Anselm, back in the twelfth century, and it goes, "Faith seeks understanding"; and since then scientists, great scientists, have qualified this by saying, "Understanding seeks faith".
David: Assuming, of course, understanding is possible. Anyway, I think we'll have to leave it there, gentlemen. Thanks Dominic Kelly and Clyde Cosentino.
Dominic: Thanks, David. Thanks, Kevin.
Clyde: Thank you, David and Kevin.
David: And we'll be back next time on 4RPH. Bye for now.