Frank Brennan, SJ: Aboriginal Lawyers of Australia…and much more

What have you learned from your association with the indigenous peoples that could be useful to other Jesuits around the world working for reconciliation with indigenous peoples?

Be an attentive listener. Before you speak, be sure to listen again more deeply to those whose rights you are standing up for. Build and maintain trusting relationships with indigenous peoples, who have experienced many instances of breaches of trust in postcolonial societies.

As a priest, you sometimes intervened in controversial issues, sometimes defended the traditional positions of the Church, and sometimes expressed your desire for change. What is the leitmotif of your pastoral approach?

In the public arena, one must be humble, but also strong and resolute. Since the church pedophilia scandal broke, we have less power to say what is the common good or public interest. But we must do it for the voiceless and marginalized who have so little power. The Bible is good news even for a secular society. Why? Because it puts the poor and marginalized at the center, and upholds the truth at every opportunity.

What resistance and obstacles have you encountered along the way?

Politics always involves compromise. If there was an easy and clear answer, the problem would not need a political solution. Some do not want to hear about these issues from a priest. Others believe that we should only embrace abstract ideals. Still others think we are only meant to advance our causes or the public stance. Some distrust the Jesuits, and that includes some people in the Church.

Earl Warner

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