Home' The Wellingtonian : April 26th 2012 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, APRIL 26, 2012
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Inside the Catholic Church
Archbishop John Dew: ''The church is catching up in some areas, such as use of the internet.''
Joseph Romanos talks to Archbishop John Dew
about meeting Pope Benedict XVI, studying
horticulture and whether he wished he had a
You grew up in Waipukurau.
Was it a farm upbringing?
My father had a transport com-
pany business, but I spent a lot of
time on farms. I had cousins who
lived on farms and would visit
them during holidays.
Was your household particu-
Dad wasn t a Catholic, but Mum
was. She was very involved in the
parish. We went to the local con-
vent school and to church, but
religion wasn t an overly domi-
What did you think you
might be when you grew up?
Entering college, I had thoughts
of teaching, and also the medical
profession, but they were really
What college did you attend?
St Joseph s in Masterton. It did
cross my mind then that I might
like to be a brother. The sugges-
tion was always put to you. How-
ever, I went back and did a horti-
culture course in Napier, then
worked in a nursery.
So you didn't go into the
seminary straight away?
No, I was nearly 22 when I went
in.Once you were in the semin-
ary, were you conflicted about
whether it was the right
No. I knew it was the right
thing. At times I might have
wished it wasn t, but I knew it
How does it work in the
priesthood -- do you set out to
advance through the ranks?
Most priests set out to be avail-
able to serve the people. I knew I
wanted to be a parish priest, but
you don t really plot a career path.
So how are talented priests
identified and promoted?
Your ability to get on with
people and be efficient in what
you do is important. The selection
of bishops is guided by how they
relate to people, how they cel-
ebrate mass, their administrative
ability and so on. When he needs
to, the bishop approaches the
papal representative and says we
need a new bishop . There is a
questionnaire that looks at
qualities and achievements. Three
names are supplied, with a lot of
background information, and the
decision is made in Rome.
You spent three years in
Rarotonga. How was that?
Well, it was 30 years ago, but it
was a great experience. To experi-
ence the church in a different
place and live with people of
another culture was wonderful.
We decided to build a parish hall
and the whole community got
involved. That was typical of the
There was a bit of fuss in
2005 when you went to the
Bishops' Synod on the Euchar-
ist in Rome and suggested
people who had divorced and
remarried might be able to
receive the eucharist. How
was that received?
I just put it out there as a sub-
ject that might be discussed. Some
agreed, others did not. I still stand
by what I said. Many people s
marriages break up when it s not
their fault, so why should they be
deprived of having the ability to
Do you think the Catholic
church makes things difficult
for itself with its rigid attitude
to such issues as birth control
and premarital sex?
The Church is catching up in
some areas, such as use of the
internet. The Church is always
looking for ways to relate to the
modern world. In some areas
there are opportunities to be a
little less black and white. How-
ever, there are principles and
moral issues that make perfect
sense and the church upholds
them. They may cost a bit [in
terms of popularity], but the
reasons behind them make people
stop and think.
Do you ever reflect that it
would have been nice to have
had a family?
I ve often seen that I would not
have been able to do the things I
have done if I had the commit-
ment to a wife and family. Of
course, sometimes I wonder what
it would have been like, but I ve
been very happy how it has
Do you have performance
reviews or annual reviews?
Not formally, but we do peer
review with other bishops. I have
a spiritual director and super-
visor, so I can talk about how I m
going or what I need to do
Have you met Pope Benedict
Yes, several times. I first met
him several years before he
became the Pope.
Did he strike you as a poten-
He was a really good man. he
welcomed us very generously and
had the ability to sit and listen. I
didn t think of him as a potential
pope because of his age, but he
has been outstanding. His guid-
ance in the form of writings has
been excellent. He is naturally
quite introverted, but the way he
has made a point of meeting
people has been impressive.
Coming from Hawke's Bay,
what do you think of Welling-
I feel I qualify as a
I was in an Upper Hutt parish
for three years, and had five in the
youth ministry in Hill St, and now
I m here. I m even a Hurricanes
I enjoy the city. There are lots of
opportunities to walk around the
hills and the waterfront, and for
sport and cultural activities.
I go along with those who say
you can t beat Wellington on a
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