The bishops of Australia have announced a national plenary council (a national synod) for 2020. Regrettably this synod is shaping up as both a means of deferral of the immediate governance problems facing the Church and of being ill-informed.
Catholics for Renewal has been proposing synods in Australia since our inception in 2011 (see Open Letter 2011) so, in principle, we are pleased that the bishops of Australia have committed to a national plenary council. However, a national council will be of little value if every Australian diocesan bishop is not prepared to consult with the people of his diocese in every parish regarding the issues to be addressed, and if serious governance failures that could easily be addressed immediately are deferred for three years.
The bishops in Australia are “circling the wagons” in a defensive response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse rather than responsibly considering the damning evidence of the dysfunctional governance of the Church.
Only those in blind denial could fail to realise that the Catholic Church in Australia is now in the midst of a massive and existential crisis, a crisis which the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, has called “the biggest crisis in its history”. It is, above all, a crisis of governance, and the Australian bishops’ main response to it has been to propose a Plenary Council for 2020. Yet the planning for the plenary council is already suffering from the very poor governance that the council needs to address. As yet, the bishops have announced no plans for consulting the people of their own dioceses on the issues. Not surprisingly many Catholics continue to desert the Church as they witness its substantial problems being kicked down the road to 2020 with little prospect of solution.
Image: Circling the Wagons, Wordpress