Invert of Luke Cornish's Archibald portrait of Bob Maguire.

Father Bob is not deadly serious

Who am I not? Oh I suppose normally socially-connected…whatever the hell that means these days. I was born in 1934 and I ended up with no parents and lost a sister all in the 1940s… I mean the normal social connections then would have been family and friends! We never had them as a person, so it has taken us all this time to try to develop those relationships, because you’ve got to have them otherwise you end up with the Aurora Shootings.

Now that’s complicated enough now isn’t it!

How wouldn’t you describe your relationship with God?

The preferred view of God is that he’s almighty and all-powerful and ever-living and he looks after us, and he’s always there and we can put our hand in the hand of the man who walked on the water and all that, but my view has always been that it’s not god all powerful and almighty and me who is the totally and permanently vulnerable one, in fact it’s God that’s totally and permanently vulnerable. I’m saying you know when situations arise like asylum seekers, I’m saying that God is an asylum seeker.

Based on my view of the universe, that in fact I was delighted when they found Higgs Boson, because it simply meant to me that there’s a bit whirring around looking for something to do, and we wouldn’t be talking on the phone this morning if Higgs Boson hadn’t jumped onto the other useless particles and turned them into useful particles. It’s the same as far as I’m concerned with God, that in fact God is the asylum seeker. So that’s that. He’s the vulnerable one!

You see you’ve got the current view I’m reading from my friend Mr Skegg or whatever his name is on Twitter who’s the atheist, constantly blaming God for being the one who’s stalking the human race and doing bad things to it, whereas I’m saying that my view of God is that God is the mysterious particle that can’t find hospitality. He’s got hospitality in the Cosmos but he hasn’t got it amongst the human race! Bad press for God has meant that people do not easily understand that God’s on their side, and therefore a victim.

What isn’t being a good Christian?

Not being a good Christian? What are you being facetious with the word Christian as a praying worshiping person? Whereas my view would be that you’ve got to do good things first and that will lead to you thinking good things and maybe even worshiping. In other words to good first is to do God, whereas “the view” would be that you do God first and then if we’re lucky, you’ll do good things.

I prefer the other way to go from the known to the unknown. The X-factor! Let us call God X! And my authority for that is Paul the Apostle, who did it in…wherever he was when he went into the Greek temple in Athens, and every pedestal was full of statues. Statues, statues all over the place, all the gods were there. And there was an empty [pedestal] and he said what’s that for? And they said that’s for the unknown God. In case there’s another one. And he said, well I’ll go for that one. Now to me that’s the X-factor which drives my understanding of Christianity. Whereas “the view” is that we do know. We know, therefore it’s all panned out and planned and it’s this and it’s that and it’s organised and there’s creeds and all this. Nup. It’s creatively chaotic.

The Father Bob Maguire Foundation aka the Bob Squad do a lot of good work in your name. How shouldn’t charity work?

I said I’ll try and get the Catholic Church to put others first and itself second. And [the poor] loved it after a while, it took them a while because they got shocked they said: “What the? The bloody Church is putting us first!” Terrible shocked they were. And then of course Mother Church herself… had to do whatever she could to get rid of the experiment.

So now it’s gone back to being conventional Roman Catholic church with the peripheral task of looking after the poor who stayed behind after we left. So my Foundation simply was to make the Church practice what it preached.

Now we’re the Father Bob Maguire Foundation looking like a bloody business. So I’ve got to try to kind of, we’re in the process of it now, got to try to make sure that the more business-like we look, we run the risk of becoming less of a spiritual movement. Doesn’t have to be a religious movement as long as it’s spiritual. So we’ve got to sort that out very quickly, to put it to the boys that are working on the street with the poor, and say listen boys and girls, don’t forget we’re a movement first, a respectful movement that puts the clients first and we’re not a bloody business that puts ourselves first.

You’ve done a number of successful television and radio programs with comedian John Safran. What’s something that you and John don’t see eye to eye on?

Well he thinks I take too many risks with regards to going into the secular, I suppose the bogan secular sector. Whatever the bloody word is it’s probably not bogan – George Pell calls us Cafeteria Catholics, he calls his lot authentic Catholics. But I suppose Safran would be warning me not to kind of turn into a media tart, but I believe in it I don’t care. Someone calls up and says “I’m from channel this,” I say yeah righto. Driven by the same motivation of St Paul in the beginning who went everywhere doing everything for everybody and ended up getting his bloody head cut off!

How about your biography The Postie and the Priest, by Ron Burrows. How wouldn’t you describe it?

It’s not a conventional book about a priest, a Catholic Priest. There’s not many books, the Aussies are not very keen about writing books about their bloody selves. But I certainly wouldn’t write a book about meself and I wouldn’t write a book about me life. I wouldn’t. Apart from being lazy and not being capable of doing it, I don’t think, I can’t see that it would be the best way… I’d rather somebody else’s interpretation of what I’m doing and then disappear into the ethos…ethos? Not the ethos, the eth-er. So I mean his book The Postie and the Priest, it’s the exact opposite of – the Catholic Bookshop won’t stock it – they said no bugger it we’re not going to stock this book, because if you read through it, it sounds as though it’s anti-Catholic, because they can’t unscramble the code, see? Now I cant do anything about that, I can’t convince them because the bloody thing is in code. Even Ron is starting to talk like me after a while, and he’s got a second volume for God’s sake!

Thank God he wrote the bloody book. Penguin was ringing up and saying “We’ve got a lovely author here..” I said, oh darling, well you can do it if you want to but the Postie and the Priest was my first choice simply because the bloke who started out was a lovely name, you’re going to say what’s his name Monagle, Monagle what’s his first name… Terry. Terry started off writing a book about us, it was pretty serious, and then he died God rest his soul. And then up popped the bloke who used to deliver the letters to us, Ron Burrows the postie, I said look it’s probably better you and I write it, you’re the author and I’m not and you’ve been hanging around here delivering letters for that long that you’ll have a special “through the letterbox view” and it will be more fun, it’ll more of a graphic novel, you know what I mean? I’d rather have that than have it deadly serious, because I don’t think it is deadly serious, I mean my life hasn’t been deadly serious.

It’s risky, once again like Safran would warn, this whole business info-tainment, I’m satisfied, and the best way of getting anything across if you’ve got anything trembling on your mind would be get the info across through entertainment. It’s a risky business apparently but that’s what I’ve ended up being an entrepreneur of, the bloody infotainment.

Like some bloke said to me in Sydney yesterday he was listening to me for 40 minutes [and] he said “I think I know what you’re talking about”. And I thought well don’t be insulted, it’s my own fault because I threw the whole bucket of feathers all over them, and well they can get out of it what they want. I think my point is that it’s got to be open ended, so I chuck the bucket of feathers and OH GOD they react because they think its going to be water and they’re all jumping around trying to avoid it and next time they say oh there’s one stuck to me.

In other words they’ve got the message. But there may be some, well there will be some I presume who don’t get the message and I feel sorry for them but I can’t do much about it because the alternative methodology would be to lecture with a Q.E.D at the end.

I’m not really setting out to prove anything, because the thing out there is there to prove itself and it depends on whether a person opens their mind and heart, and it’s got to be tailor made for them so if there’s 400 people there’s going to have to be 400 tailor made versions of the thing that you’re pointing in their direction. I cant give them a one-size-fits-all which I think religion at it’s worst does.

Interview by Max Opray, transcribed by Carly Nason. Top image is an invert of artist Luke Cornish’s Archibald portrait. For more Bob  and to get behind a good cause check out the Father Bob Foundation website

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Helen August 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Great interview, Father Bob! Love the term media tart.

    • Max August 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      He does have a way with words…

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