Monday, 29th January, 2001: in which I cross the Rubicon, if not the Tiber, and Anthony Fisher gives me good news and bad news.

Okay. I am telling people now that I may not yet have crossed the Tiber, but I have certainly crossed the Rubicon. “Elea iacta est”, as Ceasar said.

I rang my seminary mentor to tell him I wouldn’t be coming to this next round of Commission on Worship meetings, because I was taking leave of absence to determine whether I would join the Catholic Church. He tried to encourage me still to come, but I said it wasn’t worth paying the airfare. For a start, I could have a job by then, and be unable to come (hence, it would be a waste of the church’s valuable money); secondly, I didn’t think I should be away from Cathy and the kids at this time; finally, I thought it was not valid for me to be involved with something that I am no longer fully committed to. He accepted all this with genuine sadness.

On Friday there was a ‘Pastor’s Wives’ lunch at Holmes, but really it was just Holmes’, Brook’s, and ourselves there. Still, it was a good opportunity for the two of us to talk to Andrew, and for Jodie and Cathy to talk with Susie. Andrew is one of those who listens, understanding that the issues we have dealt with are serious, and not just us “doing our thing”.

After this, I had an appointment with Anthony Fisher. He had rung me to say that he had something he wanted to tell me after his interview with the Vicar General (Bishop Denis Hart) and the Archbishop (George Pell). It was a bit of a “good news” / “bad news” interview. The good news was that I would not need to worry about employment; that when I needed something, there would be something. Anthony said, “for instance, if you last out to Easter, we will have something for you.” But it did not matter if I found a secular job in the meantime, and that if I needed something sooner, he would put the pressure on the guys at the top to do something. Basically, my CV has been circulated among the various personnel offices of the Catholic Church and its agencies and schools, and they will contact me if there is anything going. A job will not simply be created for me, however.

The “bad news” on the other hand was that Anthony did everything he could to discourage me from thinking that ordination is anything other than a far shot for me. He said that the Vicar General seemed distinctly uneasy about the suggestion of ordination in my case, because of my “messy” marital situation. Furthermore, there is the problem of Cathy not being a Catholic. None of these reasons mean definitely that I will not be accepted for ordination, but they raise question marks.

Then we finished by talking about P. Anthony said: “It is bizarre that there is this figure there who is ushering you into the church and who isn’t going in himself.” And after I had made some reference to “bloody P.”, Anthony said: “Tell “bloody P.” that he had better come and see me soon; he might die tomorrow.”

The rest of the day was a bit of a daze, as I tried to take all this in. I had a wedding rehearsal at Moorabbin after seeing Anthony, and I think I drove all the way there and back home without really concentrating on my driving.

Tuesday, 23rd January 2001: In which I turn down the call to Hope Valley, and realise I need to focus on my family

Today I visited Anthony Fisher in his office in the Theological Halls of the Catholic Church in Victoria Parade to take in my curriculum vitae. Anthony was meeting at 12:30pm with the Vicar General (and probably also the Archbishop) concerning my future and what they could do for me. Maddy came with me (and scoffed down five jam biscuits that Anthony placed on a plate before her). I took Maddy in to give Cathy some free space, but I think a part of me was showing her off. We talked about several topics, although I really had little to talk about since we are going to meet again on Friday. The two things Anthony wanted to be sure of were that I had turned down the Hope Valley appointment and was feeling okay about this, and that Cathy was also okay about it. We talked a little about the possibility perhaps of doing extra study (with a scholarship from the Archdiocese), perhaps in the John Paul II Institute of which Anthony is the Director. I said I was applying for secular jobs also, and hoped that this would not prejudice my final consideration for the priesthood. Anthony assured me that it would not; that many convert priests have to work in secular jobs for a while; and that if the vocation to the priesthood is still there even when I have a comfortable secular job, this would actually count in my favour.

When I got home, I called my district president. I told him that I had reached a decision not to take Hope Valley, and that therefore, I would need to consider the consequences of this in regard to leave of absence. I said that I was applying for other jobs (I didn’t mention that the Catholic Church is working towards helping me), and that we needed to talk ASAP. We have an appointment for next Wednesday morning. He handled this information very straightforwardly and “matter-of-factly” as if there was nothing particularly surprising in what I was saying. I think he must have expected this.

I was going to call JH (head chaplain at Hope Valley Homes) and the South Australian President this afternoon, but didn’t have the psychic energy for it. I am also dealing with a funeral of a Martin Luther Homes resident at the moment, which is complicated in a number of ways. I have the wedding on Saturday, and then services on Sunday. It doesn’t feel much like a holiday at all anymore. I will have to make up for it later. I am still concerned that Cathy is not using these days for what she intended, namely her annulment application. I have asked Anthony to enquire regarding Fr Tony Kerin’s advice about the order of annulment/profession/communion, which he will do. He said that the sticking point is likely to be that although the Tribunal could give an indication of the expected result in my case, Cathy’s application is not advanced enough for them to form an opinion on it.

Mum had rung earlier and left a message to say she wanted to talk with me and see how things were going. This evening I heard Cathy say to Maddy: “Do you want to talk to Grandma on the phone?” while I was out hanging out the washing, and so I came straight inside and listened in on the other line. Of course, I immediately began to tell Mum about my own situation and developments, and Cathy objected that she was talking and I had interrupted. So I let her and Mum speak until Mum asked how things were going for me. Then I launched into the full story. Then Maddy started crying and Cathy dealt with her while I kept speaking. A minute or so later, Cathy came in to say to me “Let me know when you're finished”. Mum and I spoke for a while longer—she says I am “making it hard for myself” by attempting to enter the Catholic church—and then I said to Cathy that Mum was ready to speak to her, and she said “Not now, I’ll call her back”. After Maddy was put to bed, Cathy said to me: “I called your mother, and I wanted to talk to her about the children, but you turned the whole thing around to yourself. It just shows how self-absorbed you are about this whole thing.” I pointed out that I thought Mum was calling me back from earlier, and that I was only answering Mum’s questions. But she is right. I am really far to self focused. As I was watering the garden (preparing for tomorrow’s 37 degree heat), I thought to myself that I really have to re-enforce my commitment to Cathy in some way.

As she was feeding Mia latter tonight, I sat down on the bed and said that God had his reasons for only allowing me to consider the Catholic question once I was securely married to her with our two children. Our marriage and our family therefore take priority over everything, even if it seems that I am “absent” from them so much. Cathy was disappointed about how our holiday at Cowes turned out, and how this week is turning out (what with the funeral, wedding and all). Another pastor [a cousin of my father's and the one who eventually accepted the call to Hope Valley in my place] had said to me just before I went on holidays that a call can really spoil things over a holiday. I said to Cathy that I was really feeling frustrated too, that my holiday had turned into a combination of work and attempting to carve out a future for us. I will have to do my best to organise for a few days off next week or the following week to make up.

Monday, 22nd January, 2001: In which I call myself a Catholic, and look to future employment

The past week has been very good for me in coming to terms with my chosen direction. As I was going to Mass on Saturday night down at Cowes, I realised that I was no longer a Lutheran in any real sense at all. I am a Catholic in every sense except officially. The lack of official reception into the church is important, but so is the fact that in my faith I identify with the Catholic Church, not the Lutheran Church. Given all that, the time has definitely come for me to resign my parish and take leave of absence. Only one thing is keeping me from resigning from the ministry altogether and that is that if I am offiicially a Lutheran pastor, I may have a better chance of consideration for ordination as a Catholic priest.

There were several good librarians’ jobs advertised in Saturday’s Age, so I have begun reworking my resume (it is rather out of date). I received several messages from Anthony Fisher saying he needed a c.v. for the Archbishop and Vicar General, so I have been working on producing such a document as well.

I asked Anthony two questions on the phone this morning:

1) should I be applying for secular jobs while I have thrown myself on the mercy of the Church? Answer: “Yes, there will be no offence. If you can get a better job than the Archbishop can provide, by all means, go for it. I will tell him I told you to do so.”

2) What about Fr Kerin’s information regarding the order of annulment, profession and communion? Answer: “It surprises me, but there may be some canonical possibility there that I am not aware of. I will talk to the Vicar General about it.”