Catholics for Renewal


News 2020

A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
     Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.

5th Australian Plenary Council: Has the diversity of voices been called?

Limited Extract, March 2020   - full Editorial HERE
The President pf the Plenary Council, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, has now 'called' 256 persons to participate in the forthcoming Plenary Council and announced their names. The question now is: Will the so-called 'delegates' represent adequately the voices and voiced concerns of the people of God in Australia?     Image:Antonio Mirales.     - full Editorial HERE

- 4th 'Summary Document   "Clericalism " ....(Document No. 93.   Here)
Editorial (February 2020) The Rights and Responsibilities of Christ's Faithful in Australia?  HERE

Earlier  Editorials Here
1. Live in Melbourne - Joan Chittister osb:  The Time is Now - Getting Back On Mission, 8 September  (Details and bookings HERE)
2. Joan Chittister osb: Adelaide Town Hall 11/9 Adelaide Mercies; Sydney 15/9 Monte S, Angelo College, Catalyst For Renewal ;
Brisbane 23 or 24 /9  a collective, Alice? t.b.c. 27/9
The 4th of a progressive series of 8 Summary Documents 'Clericalism' published, 31 March 2020
As part of set of brief, accessible, referenced summary  documents relevant to issues identified by those making submissions to the 2020 Plenary, the fourth document, Clericalism, has been published under "Document 93" on this website HERE. Other documents already published in this series include Sensus Fidelium, Synodal Governance for a Pastoral Church, and Co-Responsibility. Others to be published include Women and Ministry, Priests and Celibacy, Subsidiarity, and Signs of the Times.
As coronavirus keeps parishioners homebound, Christian clergy debate online Communion
Extract from Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 30 March 2020
As Christian churches cancel in-person services to avoid contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, many have rushed to embrace "virtual" Communion: Some celebrate via livestream; others encourage parishioners to bring their own bread to Zoom videoconference meetings; and at least one United Church of Christ minister is upping the frequency of his online Communion because "our people need normalcy."          But with churchgoers still holed up in their homes to avoid infection for weeks and even months to come, Christian leaders are starting to ask: Is Communion appropriate for cyberspace?        Clergy have expressed a variety of opinions on the topic in recent weeks, sparking debates — including among leaders within the same tradition.       Some challenge whether it should (or can) occur at all. For traditions such as Catholicism, where physically engaging with the Eucharistic bread and wine has long been a core part of the faith, parishioners have mostly taken to watching livestreams of priests celebrating Mass alone with the expectation of eventually returning to church to participate in the sacrament.      In the meantime, the Archdiocese of New York is encouraging believers to recite a prayer as an act of "spiritual communion," which leaders defined as "an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embrace him at a time or in circumstances when one cannot receive Him in sacramental Communion."     Similarly, on March 20, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued guidelines discouraging online Communion, suggesting instead that parishioners "fast" from the practice during the pandemic....(more)    Photo: Eucharist Robert Cheaib Creative Commons NCR 20200330
Number of consecrated men and women decline, Vatican statistics show
But number of baptized Catholics increases by 6 percent between 2013 and 2018, reaching 1.33 billion
Limited extract from subscription journal La Croix International staff (with Catholic News Service)
Vatican City 27 March 27, 2020
The decrease in the number of religious men and women is "worrying," according to the Vatican statistics office.       While the number of religious brothers in Africa and Asia continues to increase, the number of religious brothers worldwide experienced an 8 percent drop between 2013 and 2018.      During the same period, the number of women religious fell 7.5 percent globally, the Vatican Central Office for Church Statistics reported.       The figures are presented in the "Annuario Pontificio 2020," the Vatican yearbook. The statistics are based on figures valid as of Dec. 31, 2018.       The number of baptized Catholics increased by 6 percent between 2013 and 2018, reaching 1.33 billion or almost 18 percent of the global population, the statistics office reported March 25.       The region with the highest proportion of Catholics, the yearbook reported, is in North and South America with "63.7 Catholics per 100 inhabitants," followed by Europe with 39.7 Catholics, Oceania with 26.3 and Africa with 19.4 Catholics for every 100 inhabitants.        Asia has the lowest percentage of Catholics in the general population, making up 3.3 Catholics for every 100 inhabitants due to "the great spread of non-Christian denominations in the continent."        The number of bishops of the world continued to increase in 2018, reaching 5,337 worldwide compared to 5,173 in 2013.       The report also stated that while the total number of priests - diocesan and religious order - around the world increased slightly - by 0.3 percent in the 2013-2018 period - the numbers "appear rather disappointing overall."             Europe, it said, showed a decrease of more than 7 percent in 2018 alone, while the decline in Oceania was a little over 1 percent. The decline in both continents account for the low numbers worldwide.        However, the 14.3 percent increase of priests in Africa and 11 percent in Asia over 2013-2018 "is quite comforting," while numbers in North and South America "remain stationary," the report said.        The yearbook also said that the number of permanent deacons is "rapidly evolving," noting a significant increase from 43,195 in 2013 to 47,504 in 2018.....(more)
Lack of resources, a priest shortage and the merging of dioceses in France
Catholic bishops in France agonize over best way to structure the Church for mission
Limited extract frpm Claire Lesegretain, subscriptional journal La Croix International, 27 March 2020
Retired Archbishop Jean Charles Descubes of Rouen is opposed to the reduction in the number of dioceses.
Catholics in rural France -- especially bishops, priests and religious — bristle every time there's talk about reducing the number of dioceses in the country.        "That's the view from Paris!" they say with annoyance.        And, yet, many wonder if 100 dioceses aren't a bit too many, given the serious priest shortage. Couldn't some of these places be merged, those that are poor in terms of human and financial resources?     "Out of the question," retorts a priest from a "small" diocese in southwest France.     "I am against it," says Jean-Charles Descubes, Archbishop-emeritus of Rouen.          He recalls when the bishop of Le Havre reached retirement age in 2011. There was talk that the diocese, which had been created in 1974, would be suppressed and reattached to the Archdiocese of Rouen.....(more)
Coronavirus indulgences evoke Francis' 'ridiculously-pardoning' church
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, NCR Online, 26 March 2020
Rome — Announcement of the Vatican's offering of new plenary indulgences to those around the world affected by the coronavirus may have left some Catholics asking, "We still do that?"        The answer is yes. And theologians say the move, made in a March 20 decree from the apostolic penitentiary, shows a seemingly unprecedented level of pastoral care for those who suffer from the virus — especially those who may die in isolation without being able to receive final rites.      Jesuit Fr. James Corkery, an Irish theologian at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said the decree fits with Pope Francis' vision for a "merciful, welcoming, 'ridiculously-pardoning' church."       "He wants people to be 'received back,' to be forgiven, above all to be loved," said Corkery, who has written extensively on the church after the Second Vatican Council.      In Catholic teaching, an indulgence is the remission of the eventual punishment due for sins that have been confessed and forgiven. A plenary indulgence, which can only be granted in various ways outlined by the Vatican, involves the remission of all of a person's eventual punishment.      The penitentiary's new decree offers special plenary indulgences to any Catholic affected by the virus, to health care workers and their families, to those who pray for the end of the epidemic, and to those who die without access to the sacraments.      For those in the first three categories, the indulgence can be obtained if the person is sorry for their sins and prayerfully watches a celebration of the Mass, a recitation of the rosary, a practice of the Via Crucis, or some other devotion.    For persons near death from the virus and unable to receive the sacraments because of isolation measures, the decree says they can obtain the indulgence "at the point of death, as long as they have recited some prayers during their life."     Jeremy Wilkins, a theologian at Boston College, said he sees "something new" in the offering to those who are dying.       "The conditions there are waived. It says ... the church fulfills the conditions for you," said the theologian. "That's quite amazing."       "It really is tender," said Wilkins, who has focused his work in the areas of Christology and grace. "I think the church very tenderly wants to say, 'Be sorry for your sins, and know that you're not alone, and it will be OK.' "Jesuit Fr. Peter Folan, a theologian at Georgetown University, said he found the decree's treatment of the dying "especially moving."          "There's just a deep theology behind that, and just a deep understanding of who God is, that God doesn't ever turn God's gaze away from anybody, especially those at that most important event of their life, which is our death," said Folan.      Both Wilkins and Folan said that it appeared that the penitentiary had two primary objectives in offering the new indulgences: to show mercy to Catholics facing a severe time of trial, and to encourage them to think of their suffering in relation to that endured by Christ, and all the saints who have come before us.....(more)   Photo:Pope Francis confession. NCR Online 20200326
Women petition Cardinal Gracias for more decision-making roles
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, 10 March NCVR Online, Republished 26 March
About 150 Catholic women in India have delivered a petition to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, asking that he take concrete steps to better include women in decision-making roles in the global church.           The women are partly responding to a February NCR interview with Gracias, in which the cardinal acknowledged a bias among the members of the Catholic Church's all-male hierarchy against giving women more leadership roles. In that interview, he also said he and his peers must "shed this prejudice."        The three-page memorandum praises Gracias' words in the interview, but asks for "changes in the policies, practices and structures of the Church so that women can participate fully in … leadership."      Gracias is the archbishop of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and one of six members of Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals.      The petition was partly drafted* by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a medical doctor and scientist who has served as a consultor to the bishops' conference and helped draft the organization's gender policy.       Some of the strongest language in the petition refers to that policy, passed in 2010 and the first of its kind in the global church. The policy said the Indian church "rejects all types of discrimination against women as being contrary to God’s intent and purpose," according to the memo.       "Women continue to be discriminated against by keeping them out of decision-making bodies of the Church, which are controlled by clerics," states the memo. "Women have no say in the policy making that shapes the liturgy, worship, theology and practices of the church, including those that affect their own lives."       In the February NCR interview at the Vatican, Gracias said he had become a "convert" to the cause of women seeking more opportunities for responsi  the February 2019 Vatican summit of bishops' conference presidents in Rome on clergy sexual abuse, where several women spoke.          "Women in India have been asking for places at the decision-making table since the early 1980s," she said. "It seems almost as if he has not been listening to us." ....(More)   Photo:  IndianWomen c Astrid Lobo Gajiwala CWC NCR Online 20200310 
Melbourne’s Plenary Council delegates announced
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Communications Office, 23 March 2020
Today, more than 250 people have been called to attend the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, which will be held over two sessions.       The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has announced the names of four delegates to the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, to attend both the assembly in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021).        The chosen delegates for Melbourne are Nimmi Candappa, Jonathan Antony, Vivian Alamo, and Michelle Goh RSM.         Archbishop Peter A Comensoli offered his congratulations to the four. ‘I have been humbled by the willingness and prayerful discernment expressed by so many in our community as we prepare for the Plenary Council.’          The role of the delegates is ‘not simply to represent particular causes, groups or issues,’ the Archbishop reminded those chosen, ‘but to act as delegates in service to the Gospel mission.....(more)

A Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Victoria
Wednesday 18 March 2020

Prayerful greetings to the people of God across Victoria,

This morning, the Prime Minister announced that non-essential indoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people, and outdoor events of more than 500 people will be disallowed, effective today. Given the seriousness of COVID-19, we support this measure as being responsible and sensible, and we encourage everyone to follow public safety guidelines respectfully.

The Bishops of the Province of Victoria have given this prayerful and considered reflection, and have determined the following actions:

• Immediate suspension of public liturgies, celebrations of the Mass, until further notice.
• All other gatherings are suspended. For clarification of any concerns, please contact your local diocesan authority.

We are very aware that this restriction will be particularly difficult for families who are planning liturgies such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. At this time, so long as appropriate precautions are able to be put in place (such as distancing between participants), it may be possible for these liturgies to proceed with a carefully limited congregation. Deferring these liturgies may also be an option that is offered to families.

In light of this, all Catholics in Victoria are dispensed from their Sunday obligation until further notice (canon 1248). We encourage you to continue active participation in the life of the Church, through activities such as time in personal and family prayer, reflecting on the Scriptures, making a spiritual communion, or participating in a Mass online ( or or ........Full letter HERE


Australian Catholic Plenary Council delegates to be announced next week.
Edited extracts on 3rd March from Melbourne Catholic, Friday 13 March 2020
All delegates selected to participate in the 5th Australian Plenary Assembly  in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021) will be announced this week.   The Melbourne Archdiocese received 78 applications from which a Selection Panel recommended eight people to Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who accepted the recommendations.         Chair of the CAM Selection Panel, Mark Edwards OMI, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, said that each one of the 78 names submitted could have easily been put forward as a delegate for their example of Christian wisdom and faith. He stressed that delegates are not ‘representatives’ of particular causes, groups or issues, but ‘delegates’ in service to the Gospel mission.         Of the 78 applications received, 44 were women and 34 were men—all with active participation in the various areas of the Catholic Church across the Archdiocese (e.g. parish life, education, healthcare, social services, etc.). Many of the growing ethnic communities were represented and the ages of applicants ranged from 18 to 82 years old. It was also encouraging to have received applications from all four regions of the Archdiocese.     The following criteria were used to assess the applications:  a commitment to living the Gospel through prayer, sacramental practice and work;    An informed awareness of the broader context and challenges of the Church in Australia;   an evident ecclesial practice in Melbourne;    potential for leadership in the Church and/or her ministries; the diversity of cultural identity, age and gender balance in the local Church.
Full bench reserves decision in Cardinal Pell case
Extract from Chip Le Grand CathNews, The Age,  13 March 2020
The High Court will decide the fate of Cardinal George Pell on a date to be fixed after the full bench reserved its decision on whether he was wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting two choirboys.         A two-day hearing in Canberra ended with counsel for Cardinal Pell, Bret Walker SC, savaging the “improvised and rickety construction of a Crown case to make something fit that will not fit” and Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC urging the court not to acquit Cardinal Pell even if he wins his appeal.        Ms Judd said if the court found that Victoria’s Court of Appeal had erred in law when it upheld Cardinal Pell’s conviction for child sex offences, it should send the matter back to the court to be heard again.      This was rejected by Mr Walker, who said it would be an injustice to send the case back to the Court of Appeal “to have another go".      “We win this argument, we wish the matter to be over,’’ he said.     It was a testing day for Ms Judd, who was rebuked by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel for failing to take the court to the necessary material.      However, it appears unlikely this case will be decided by the strength of the advocacy. Rather, it will come down to whether the High Court believes that the Court of Appeal majority placed too much weight on the credibility of Cardinal Pell’s accuser, the surviving former choirboy, and not enough on the witness testimony which threw up multiple obstacles to the crimes taking placed as alleged.     A critical question before the court is whether Victoria’s Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell's majority decision, which upheld the verdict against Cardinal Pell, in effect forced the defence to prove that it was impossible for the sexual assaults to have occurred, instead of requiring the prosecution to eliminate all reasonable doubt.      Cardinal Pell was jailed for six years for four counts of child sex offences and is serving a minimum term of three years and eight months. The High Court reserved its decision on whether to grant Cardinal Pell special leave to appeal and the merits of the appeal....(more)
'Synodal way' could call for women deacons
Extract from CathNews, 12 March 2020
The new chairman of the German bishops’ conference has said that calling for the ordination of women could be a conclusion of the two-year “synodal way” being undertaken by the Church in Germany. Source: Catholic News Agency.      Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said in a radio interview this week for International Women’s Day that such a conclusion would require Roman approval.     In an interview with WDR5 on Monday, Bishop Bätzing answered questions on the role and future of women in the Church. He said that if the “synodal way” calls for the ordination of women to the diaconate, Rome would have to grant an indult to allow German bishops to begin ordaining women. In that event, he said, it would be important that the synodal assembly call for the change with “a very strong voice”.     Bishop Bätzing said that if bishops and laity united to present a “strong appearance,” Rome would be more likely to respond positively.      Speaking after his election last week, he said that the role of women “is the most pressing question we have concerning the future” of Church.      “That is where the Church really has a backlog. We won’t be able to wait. Women must be given equal rights,” the bishop said.     Bishop Bätzing also said that Pope Francis “did not take a position” on the possibility of ordaining women to the deaconate, which last year’s Synod on the Amazon recommended for further consideration, and that the subject was open for further discussion.     The two year “binding synodal process” is being conducted by the German bishops in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). Its first full assembly convened in January and its working groups are preparing proposals for reform on matters of Church teaching and discipline on marriage, ordination, clerical celibacy, and sexual ethics.     Bishop Bätzing has said he “fully supports the synodal way,” calling it “at the centre of our considerations” for the Church in Germany”.....(more)    Photo: Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing CNS Harald Oppitz
Broome bishop voluntarily stands aside amid allegations
Extract from CathNews, Victoria Laurie The Australian, 12 March 2020
The Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders has stood aside amid claims of serious but undisclosed sexual abuse allegations.         The Catholic Church in Perth issued a communique from the Vatican, dated March 10, indicating that Bishop Saunders, 70, had “voluntarily stood aside from the ordinary administration of the diocese.”       The Church move was in response to a Channel Seven TV report that police have been investigating historical allegations by two men that they had been victims of sex abuse by Bishop Saunders.     According to the Seven report, WA police have interviewed past and present members of the Bishop’s staff, including priests, who allegedly laid complaints against his behaviour. No charges have been laid against him.     WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts confirmed she had “directly referred correspondence in relation to Bishop Saunders to police.”       When confronted by a reporter in Broome outside his church, Bishop Saunders said: “Without any reservation, without any doubt whatsoever, that has never happened, and it never would happen.”...(more)

2020 Plenary - what's ahead
Extract from Melbourne Catholic Podcast: Lana Turvey-Collins
CAM, Communications Office, 11 March 2020
Last month, Catholic Social Services Australia held their biennial national conference, ‘Serving our Communities with Courage and Compassion’. During the conference, Melbourne Catholic caught up with the national facilitator of the Plenary Council, Lana Turvey-Collins.      In this episode, Lana reflects on how the idea of taking time out to pray and discern is deeply counter-cultural—even for an institution as old as the Catholic Church. ‘It’s a courageous decision,’ she explains. ‘Since the Second Vatican Council this (Australian Plenary) Council is only the third to be held (in the world).’       ‘The Australian psyche is very action-oriented,’ she says. ‘…we're doers, so three years of preparation and talking is something people are not used to ... The initial stage of dialogue was the first time there was a national formal invitation for all to come and share. When you do this for the first time in a country after 80 years of not doing it, then it takes time for people to move on from what they're angry about … and then the deep stuff comes through; the really beautiful golden nuggets that can be transformative. And that's what discernment is about: it's about finding the depth of the idea.’       She says discernment has to be an act of faith. ‘Discernment is not comfortable … we need to learn how to do that well; learn how to be “uncomfortably comfortable” in the mess.’      She cautions against people raising their hopes too high for a fix-all solution. ‘I don’t think these council assemblies will answer all of the questions that people want answered,’ she says, maintaining that the Church is simply ‘too big and too complex’ for that to happen. However, the message is a hopeful one, reasoning that through this process we can create ‘a pathway that will set us in the right direction of good things being nurtured and nourished’ and to ‘move and change and be responsive in culture’.        ‘This whole process has been designed to activate our baptism,’ she says. ‘The council assemblies are important and historically significant, but so is every time a group of people gets together to make a decision ... the transformation that has happened because small groups of people rely on one another and on God and the Holy Spirit to make a decision has power beyond belief. So it was very deliberate to have two parts to respond to your discernment—locally and nationally.’      The body of delegates ‘is a group of people that we will need to pray for,’ Lana says. ‘They are charged with a huge responsibility.’ Lana says the delegates coming from their local places will be carrying their local story, ‘but with a heart and mind that is open to discern with all the people of God in Australia to finish this three and half year discernment process.’....(more)

Synod of Bishops to take up theme of synodality in 2022
Extract from Christopher Wells,Vatican news, 8 March 2020
Pope Francis has chosen “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission” as the theme for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.      In a formal declaration released on Saturday morning, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, announced that Pope Francis will convene the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2022, with the theme, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”.       Synodality: the path of the Church in the third millenium.      Pope Francis has chosen “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission” as the theme for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.         The topic of synodality has been an important feature in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In October 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops by St Paul VI, Pope Francis said, “From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I sought to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council…... it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church in the third millennium”.        More recently, speaking to the International Theological Commission in 2018, the Holy Father said the theme of synodality “is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”..........More recently, speaking to the International Theological Commission in 2018, the Holy Father said the theme of synodality “is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”..... (more).  Photo: Bishops at Synod of Bishops Pan Amazon  Vatican News 20200308
Bishop backs local fight against crime
The Bishop of Townsville has thrown his support behind a local anti-crime group, blessing the “meaningful” members in their fight for action.
Extract from CathNews, Shayla Bulloch Townsville Bulletin, 6 March 2020
Catholic Bishop of Townsville Tim Harris has spoken out in support of Townsville One Community the day after well-known veteran Lieutenant General-retired John Caligari announced his support.       The regional advocates join the group’s leader, Jeff Adams in lobbying all levels of government to amend the Youth Justice Act to allow alternative sentencing options to be made available to judges, and long-term funding to be secured for rehabilitation programs.      Bishop Harris said he had noticed a surge in crime in this three years living in Townsville.     “I think the feeling is that things are too loose – the justice system is limited, as (are) the powers of police,” he said.      Bishop Harris said the current youth crime solution was “failing” and he feared a vigilante mentality may be brewing.     “Every day there is a drama and our streets are not as safe as they should be,” he said.     “These youths are not only destroying themselves and the community, but it destabilises the families and the fabric of our society.”.... (more) Photo: BishopTim Harris Jeff Adams Uncle Russell Butler Diocese of Townsville CathNews 20200306 
Speaking the truth to power dangerous but important
Extract from CathNews, CSSV,  05 March 2020
Holding firm to faith and having the courage to speak truth to power are among the distinguishing characteristics of Catholic organisations, Ursula Stephens told a national conference in Melbourne last week.            Ms Stephens, the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, was delivering the Mary MacKillop Oration at the 2020 national Catholic Social Services conference dinner.       In the oration, titled 'Mary MacKillop; the authenticity of speaking truth to power', she spoke of Mary MacKillop’s courage, faith and strength in serving both the oppressed and the oppressors.        “Speaking truth to power is dangerous and usually has consequences for the speaker,” Ms Stephens said. “Such danger didn’t stop Mary MacKillop – throughout her life she recognised truth-telling as a duty. What can we learn from her courage and determination? How can we too have the courage to speak truth to power and accept the consequences?”       Ms Stephens said the first lesson from St Mary of the Cross was to hold on to your faith.        “Faith in God’s will and his love for us is what empowered Mary MacKillop. It gave her, as it can give us, the ability to lift our eyes above the drab landscape of what is, and imagine what could be. Her faith was constant at the beginning and the end of her life’s journey, as it should be for all of us.       “As organisations, if we were without faith - what would make us any different to any other organisation? Without the principles of Catholic Social Teaching underpinning our very existence, many of us might never do anything of consequence, because we’d lack any reason to dare the uncertainty that always comes when we seek change from the way things have always been.”       Ms Stephens said the second lesson from Mary MacKillop’s life was the “importance of choosing your own course” and not being distracted by the many voices trying to divert you. And the third lesson was to “rise above the limitations of others”.....(more)    Photo:  Ursula Stephens delivers 2020 Mary MacKillop Oration in Melbourne (Fiona Basile/CSSV) CathNews 20200305
Leading Catholic figure Francis Sullivan calling for changes after sex abuse crisis
Francis Sullivan: “We need to dream of an engaged, vibrant and relevant church that is reflected not just in its outreach but more importantly in its manner, disposition and basic humanity.”
Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, 5 March 2020
LEADING Catholic figure Francis Sullivan has criticised Church authorities for a “glaring lack of moral leadership” over the child sex abuse crisis and has called for the Church to change its “terms of engagement” if it is to remain relevant and engaged in Australia.       “Unless we break the shackles of entitlement and cronyism, become inclusive and more representative in our decision-making we risk losing any claim to renewal and reform,” Mr Sullivan, former chief executive officer of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference in Melbourne on February 27.       “In a society that regards religion as just another lifestyle choice at best, we need to resist trying to pump air into old tyres that have run their course.               “We need to dream of an engaged, vibrant and relevant church that is reflected not just in its outreach but more importantly in its manner, disposition and basic humanity.”        In a keynote speech to the conference, Mr Sullivan lamented the state of the Church in Australia, and pinpointed a way forward, particularly for Catholic social service agencies aiming to serve the most vulnerable.       “If the Church is not primarily missionary then it will become ossified as a propositional institution, out of touch and out of time,” he said. “Taking the side of impoverished and disenfranchised people is not an option for Gospel-inspired organisations. It is a mainstay of the mission.”        Mr Sullivan (pictured) is qualified to speak out after five years leading the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council during the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.        Prior to that, he was secretary-general of the Australian Medical Association following 14 years as chief executive officer of Catholic Health Australia.      In his keynote address, he spoke of the reputational damage suffered by the Church after the royal commission, and by service organisations with no direct link with the abuse scandal.     “The sex abuse scandal made it abundantly plain that when the institution is threatened it closes ranks, manages its risks and does not act and speak out of its heart but strategises out of its head,” he said.     “Only a heart-driven Church will have any chance of relating beyond its increasingly narrowing base.....(more) Photo: Francis Sullivan CSSV 2020 Catholic Leader 20200305
Plenary Delegates in Service to the Gospel Mission
Extracts from CAM Communications Office, Wednesday 4 March 2020
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne (CAM) has submitted the names of eight possible delegates to the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, from which four will be chosen to attend both the assembly in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021).          A total of 78 applications were received by the Archdiocese, from which a Selection Panel recommended eight people to Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who accepted the recommendations.        Chair of the Selection Panel, Mark Edwards OMI, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, said that each one of the 78 names submitted could have easily been put forward as a delegate for their example of Christian wisdom and faith. He stressed that delegates are not ‘representatives’ of particular causes, groups or issues, but ‘delegates’ in service to the Gospel mission............. Of the 78 applications received, 44 were women and 34 were men—all with active participation in the various areas of the Catholic Church across the Archdiocese (e.g. parish life, education, healthcare, social services, etc.). Many of the growing ethnic communities were represented and the ages of applicants ranged from 18 to 82 years old. It was also encouraging to have received applications from all four regions of the Archdiocese.           The following criteria were used to assess the applications received:........The announcement of the final list of delegates will be made in the week of 16-20 March 2020. Soon after that, the final papers from the six Discernment and Writing Groups – one for each of the six national themes for discernment – will be published. These papers will be central to the preparation of the instrumentum laboris, or working paper, for the Plenary Council—with the first assembly scheduled for October this year.....(more)
Synodality and basic ecclesial norms
A group of US bishops use 'ad limina' visit to undermine Pope Francis
Limited extravt from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 4 March 2020
Pius XII, who reigned as pope from 1939-58, is said to have used this peculiar greeting to welcome certain bishops when they came to meet him:      "Monsignor, please feel free to kneel wherever you want."                 How times have changed! In the years since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Throne of Peter has been put into mothballs.        There is now a much more fraternal and informal atmosphere whenever the pope meets other bishops. That is particularly true during the "ad limina" visits, which bishops are required to make to Rome every five years in order to give a report on the state of their dioceses.        But as Chaucer said in the 14thcentury, "Familiarity breeds contempt." And perhaps that helps explain why some prelates have felt they can take advantage of the Bishop of Rome by putting words in his mouth.      Badly behaved US bishops       This happened recently after the bishops of Region XIII in the United States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) made their "ad limina" visits.      Two unnamed members of their group sought to manipulate the meeting by claiming Pope Francis had told them he was furious with Fr. James Martin SJ and his ministry to LGBT Catholics.     It was an ecclesiastical-journalistic hit-job against the American Jesuit that came in an article published on Feb. 20 by the editor of the Denver-based "Catholic News Agency" (CNA).         But the operation was mismanaged in such an incoherent and inarticulate way that it quickly backfired.        Two other prelates who were at that meeting with the pope – Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe and Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne – spoke on the record and denounced the anonymous account as having never happened.        Although these two bishops set the record straight, there is a serious problem that remains. It is clear that some US Catholic leaders are trying to weaken Pope Francis' authority and damage his credibility......(more)
Plenary Council - some issues discussed during the Catholic Social Services Vic conference from 23-24 February 2020, Melbourne
Brief Notes from conference participant and presenter Emeritus Professor John Warhurst, 3 March 2020
John's conference paper "Governing - Walking the Talk" is available for download HERE.
It was a shock during discussion when members of the Plenary writing groups were told they were consequently ineligible to be Plenary Council delegates. Some said they would not have performed the job if that had been made clear beforehand.

The following updates on Plenary Council composition were given in response to a question:
1. March 18 is the day when the delegates will be announced.
2. 63% of the 72 names are women. Most dioceses when asked for four names chose three women and one man. That won't of course by a long shot fully balance the male official clerical and episcopal delegates. Outcome in Rome still unclear.
3. Average age is 49.
4. 16 or 18 'young' delegates.
5. Indigenous delegates and agreement this is not enough, hence the need for adjustment at the national level.

Lay woman gets seat at Council of Priests' table
Extract from CathNews, Felicity de Fombelle Catholic Voice, 28 February 2020
A lay woman has been invited to attend meetings of the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Council of Priests, in what is believed to be a first for the Church in Australia.            In a move to boost women’s decision-making powers, Archbishop Mark Coleridge has invited former ABC journalist Cathy Uechtritz to join him, his vicar-general and 20 priests and deacons on the council.           The key decision-making body represents the clergy in a diocese and advises the bishop. It meets every two months.         In a statement to the Catholic Voice, Archbishop Coleridge said he was convinced women needed a bigger decision-making role in the Church. The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference revealed he had also invited two women to join the College of Consultors, which is a smaller group of priests advising the Bishop.        “It is up to other dioceses to make their own decision but I find it hard to see how any diocese wouldn’t benefit from having women more closely and consistently involved in its decision-making processes,” Archbishop Coleridge said.         Ms Uechtritz, who joined Archbishop Coleridge as Director of Government Relations last June, said she was “a bit stunned” when he invited her to join the council.         “I feel very humbled. It is significant. It shows that women have a voice. The most interesting thing for me is that we are being listened to now, more so, perhaps. I see this as a great opportunity not just for me but for the clergy and the whole Church.”        In his statement, Archbishop Coleridge clarified that he had not appointed women as members of the Council of Priests or the College of Consultors. “That would be impossible since by Church law all appointed members of both bodies must be clergy," Archbishop Coleridge said.     “What I have done is invite women (two in each case) to attend the meetings of the two bodies as observers, but with the right to participate fully in all discussions.        “I decided to do this because I became convinced that women needed to be more part of the decision-making processes of the Archdiocese, and even at this early stage I would say that the move has shown its worth.....(more).       Photo Cathy Uechtritz Catholic Voice Cathnews 20200228
Sullivan lays out challenges facing Church
Extract form Cath News, David Halliday Melboiurne Catholic, 28 February 2020
“Taking the side of impoverished and disenfranchised people is not an option for Gospel-inspired organisations. It is a mainstay of the mission,” according to Francis Sullivan. Source: Melbourne Catholic.
Mr Sullivan is the former chief executive officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council and Catholic Health Australia. He delivered the opening keynote address at the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference, titled Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion, in Melbourne yesterday.    More than 200 community leaders gathered for the three-day conference, held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne, which seeks to study a range of key issues facing society and the Catholic service sector, and explore new ways for the sector to address social challenges and create a more just society.     Mr Sullivan presented a challenging overview of the state of the Church in Australia, alongside an uplifting affirmation of “good works by good people for the good of others”.    According to Mr Sullivan, Catholic social services’ function in aiding society’s most vulnerable is an inherently Catholic exercise.     As former chief of the national body that oversaw the Church’s engagement with the 2015-17 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Sullivan explored the reputational damage not only suffered by the Church but also by service organisations with no direct link with the abuse scandal....(more)
New Wine, New Wine Skins.
Extract from Francis Sullivan, John Menadue website, 26 February 2020
Why it is worth staying active in the Church?       Can I find in the practice of Catholicism a way to do life that is legitimate, transformative, relevant and effective? Or, like for the vast majority of Catholics, is it best that I look elsewhere for pathways to a moral, happy life, free of judgement and hypocrisy?      I acknowledge that there are many Catholic identities these days. People come into contact with the Church in formal and informal settings, parishes, schools, hospitals, small prayer groups and regular social get-togethers. There are many understandings of being Catholic and how to associate as a Catholic.      The strict, rules based, obligation-laden Church of my youth, no longer holds any appeal. Not even when our times can appear to be so confusing and even confounding. That rigid Church doesn’t do it for me. Not only that, it actually is a definite turn off in an age where personal autonomy, freedom of conscience and self actualisation are in my mind the fruits of the Spirit that should be nurtured for the good they bring to our lives.     Yet there are too many reactionary noises in our Church that bedevil this individualism and caste it as the signs of decay and demise for our world. Neither can I muster any enthusiasm or even tribal excitement for an institution that stubbornly resists calls to be more representative of the communities in which it exists. I find no confidence in institutional structures and processes that exclude lay people, women particularly, but also openly excludes gay people and even those divorced and remarried.      How will it be possible for the Church to teach on intimate life issues to people who don’t even get a mutual voice at the table? What practical value do their lives bring to the life of the Church? Why do we have to cop the tired assertion that the Church is not a democracy and participation by the baptised is conditional within a hierarchical and demonstrably dysfunctional structure?         Why do we have to be publicly associated with inane, even incompetent, statements from Church officials and spokespeople that fuel the flames of social division, demonise particular social groups, and present our Catholicism as just another socially conservative reactionary grouping?       Why should we tolerate Church finances being directed to dubious political and media campaigns that inevitably ostracise opponents and only further exacerbate the culture wars in which our voice so often is heard as being harsh, unbending and out of touch?......The simple answer to all this is that.....(more).  Photo: Francis Sullivan
Abuse scandals could 'destroy' Church
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt , Martha Pskowski, The Tablet, 25 February 2020
The clerical sexual abuse scandal is threatening the very existence of the Catholic.      Speaking at a theme day on “Escaping from Power, Seduction and Abuse” in Dresden, he said the revelation of countless cases of abuse by clergymen had hit the Church like an “earthquake”, had made the hierarchy and the Pope open to attack and rendered them powerless.      “The institution is threatened existentially but at the same time its coping capabilities are overtaxed,” he said.     He had discerned a systemic inability to act, he said. Some churchmen were still trivialising and denying the abuse and the Church’s responsibility for it. In his eyes, the Church was traumatised, he said.   There was a connection between spiritual power, power which was attributed to theology and power which was sanctioned by canon law, Zollner explained. It was therefore easily possible for priests, under the pretext of pastoral or spiritual care, to abuse their power for their own sexual gratification, he explained.      One of the reasons why this was possible was that there was no such thing as accountability in the Catholic Church. It was therefore easy to “pass the buck” and refuse to cooperate or communicate.....(more)  Photo: Hans Zollner Fr The Tablet Haring Picciarella Ropi Zuma Press PA Images 20201225
Church governance needs to walk the walk
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street, 25 February 2020
Catholic church governance suffers considerable dilemmas. The clue to its problems comes from the challenging recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to review ‘the governance and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women’.        In doing so the RC noted with some approval the approaches to governance of largely lay-led Catholic health, community services and education agencies.              Approaches to governance are in flux within church agencies, sectors, dioceses and at the national level, either driven by the demands of state regulations or in response to the challenging new situation the church finds itself in. There is so much change going on that it is difficult to follow.        Some big national agencies, like Caritas Australia and Catholic Social Services Australia, are rethinking their governance structures. Incorporation is now common. The governance of diocesan Catholic education across Australia is being reshaped significantly. Some dioceses have embarked upon new approaches to consultative governance, like synods and assemblies, leading into the Plenary Council 2020.          The Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons, with eleven members, has emerged as a potentially strong third peak body in the church alongside the bishops and Catholic Religious Australia.         Catholic Professional Standards Ltd, set up in 2017, has taken responsibility for oversight of new child safety systems. Simultaneously the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has undertaken an enormous restructure of its staffing, funding and governance.         Most recently a new body, Catholic Emergency Relief Agency, has emerged to play a potential ‘whole of church’ agency coordinating role in response to the bushfire emergency.        'The church must not just talk 'good governance' talk but walk the walk. That is the responsibility of individuals with leadership roles across the church. In dioceses and parishes those individuals exercising formal authority are bishops and priests.'....(more)
Reflections on the issues of Mandatory Celibacy for Ordination in the Latin Rite of Catholic Church
Extract from Dr Kevin Treston,
The issue of mandatory celibacy for ordination to priesthood in the Latin Rite has become a significant topic for the process of church renewal. During the listening phase of the Plenary Council in Australia, the current Synod of Germany, the Amazon Synod and the public church media in many countries have highlighted the growing movement to seriously address this issue in church life. The global exposition of sexual abuse by clergy, such as the finding of the Royal Commission in Australia (December 2016) sharpened the debate about mandatory celibacy for priesthood. Clericalism with its association to mandatory celibacy has been identified by many church leaders, including Pope Francis, as a major impediment to church renewal.      It is important to begin this reflection by emphasising that the issue briefly addressed here is not about the charism of celibacy which has been and continues to be a sacred gift of the Spirit that has been lived and is now lived by billions of Christians including monks, Religious and dedicated lay groups  throughout the ages.    The issue considered here is whether mandatory celibacy should continue as a dictum for future ordinations in the Latin Rite church.....(more)
Are Asian theologians still feeling Rome's sting?
Fr Michael Kelly, UCA News, 25 February 2020
Engaging with Asia's great religions requires a keenly honed sense of what makes Christianity unique.  Just over 100 years ago — 1919 to be exact — the Vatican made its most decisive move beyond using colonialism to foster Catholicism outside Europe and North America. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV published the first encyclical in the Church’s history on missionary activity — Maximum Illud.        Evangelii Gaudium (2013) is seen as the map or plan for the pontificate of Francis and in it this most evangelical of popes outlines what he sees as the meaning and purpose of the Church — mission. For that, he brings together many other contributions to the understanding of mission made by several of his predecessors, especially St. Paul VI.         But now he has taken that line of thought even deeper in his response to the Synod on the Amazon — Querida Amazonia — which some have called his “love poem” to the region.          It is a further development of a theme that used to be part of the reflections and programs of the Church in Asia — inculturation — until any progress on that subject was stalled at local levels by Rome during the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.       There had been many voices urging this move for centuries, initially and most notably Francisco de Vitoria, the Spanish Dominican (1483-1546). It was de Vitoria who asserted that invading colonial powers Spain and Portugal had no right to the land and property of local people whom they colonized.       However, the Church across the world was still led mostly by Europeans. It took until 1926 for the first Chinese-born bishops to be ordained and the same applied across Asia and Africa —  locals were overlooked, foreign missionaries became bishops, and sometimes imports from the colonial country whose government claimed the territory were made bishops. Now indigenous bishops are in office everywhere in the world.          But as even Vasco da Gama found when he rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, a lot more happened than a change of direction —  from heading south to heading north. He entered a completely different world of peoples, cultures, languages, habits, beliefs, histories.        Europe and the Catholic Church have been coming to terms with that for the last 400 years. And at times in those centuries, church leaders have been colossally self-destructive. The mess the Vatican made of the Chinese Rites controversy (about respect for ancestors among the Chinese) is well documented. Two aggravating and mutually uncomprehending parties met and both sides lost.      But there are other less visible instances of racism in church policies — the reluctance in many countries to ordain local candidates for the priesthood, the imposition of European habits and even dress codes on Asian Catholics, the complete failure to believe that Asian catechumens already had a sense of God and of right behavior in their own native belief systems and ethical codes. These failures all coalesced to make Christianity an alien intrusion into many Asia societies.....(more)
High Court weighs details of witness testimony
The High Court is weighing up the importance of watching the testimony of Cardinal George Pell’s victim compared to just reading the transcript.
Extract from CathNews, Tessa Akerman, The Australian, 21 February 2020
The court requested submissions on the issue this month and released the response from Cardinal Pell’s legal team on Wednesday.    Cardinal Pell’s barristers, Bret Walker SC and Ruth Shann, argue the majority opinion of the Victorian Court of Appeal last year took the wrong approach in assessing the impact of the demeanour of witnesses whose evidence was viewed.     The Court of Appeal sought submissions on this topic last year indicating it intended to view video recordings of the trial evidence of the victim and three other witnesses.    “The applicant submitted that … there was no necessity to watch any video recordings because the complaint of the applicant on appeal did not depend on the manner in which any witness gave evidence,” Cardinal Pell’s counsel said in their High Court submissions.     “In particular, it was submitted that no matter how favourable a view was taken of the manner that the complainant gave evidence, it was not open to the jury, acting rationally, to conclude that the prosecution had eliminated all reasonable doubt due to the combined effect of the unchallenged evidence of other witnesses.”      The appellate court ended up conducting a view of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where the abuse took place, and video recordings of 12 witnesses.....(more)    Photo:The High Court of Australia in Canberra, High Court website

Time to bury the clergy-centered Church
Limited extract from Robert Mickens. Letter From Rome, subscription journal La Croix International 20 February 2020
Vatican City.    What's the greatest threat to the Roman Catholic Church today – a schism? Or the rise in power of fundamentalist clericalists?      José María Castillo, himself a priest, believes it's the latter.      The 90-year-old Spaniard was one of the most influential theologians in Latin America and elsewhere during the first couple decades following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). His books, published in the dozens, were mandatory reading in many Spanish-speaking seminaries and universities immediately after the Council.     Then they weren't.      Not long after his election in 1978, John Paul II put the breaks on the push for further ecclesial reform (as theologians like Castillo were advocating) and began his restorationist project of carefully narrowing the interpretation and application of the Vatican II documents.     One way the Polish pope did this was by appointing compliant and doctrinally conservative (and unimaginative) bishops. They, in turn, with the support of the Vatican's doctrinal office, began silencing and marginalizing theologians like Castillo.    A return of the early post-Vatican II theologians.       These theologians have found a new lease on their ecclesial lives since Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ was elected Bishop of Rome in 2013....(source)

Archbishop Coleridge in Rome for meetings on seal of confession, Plenary Council and Cardinal Pell
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader. 19 February 19 2020    
BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has started a two-week-long trip to Rome that will include high-level Vatican talks on the Plenary Council 2020, Cardinal George Pell and the Holy See’s response to Australia’s Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.      Archbishop Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, found himself under a global media spotlight when he visited Rome a year ago for a summit on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.      He described the crisis as “a global emergency” and advocated “concrete action” to address issues of law, accountability of bishops, and the formation of priests and religious persons.     “I think the Church has failed lamentably and therefore we have to cop whatever criticism comes our way, deal with it in a way that doesn’t cause paralysis and paranoia but does prompt us to action,” Archbishop Coleridge said during the February 2019 meeting.      Before jetting to Rome this week, Archbishop Coleridge made his 2020 agenda clear: “We’ll be discussing the Plenary Council, the situation of Cardinal Pell, the Holy See’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, and the controversy surrounding the seal of the sacrament of Penance,” he said.     “Other topics will inevitably come up. But they will be where we start in our meetings with the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Bishops.”     The High Court of Australia has set March 11 and 12 for the final appeal of Cardinal Pell, who was convicted in 2018 on five charges of child sexual abuse.     The Holy See could initiate canonical proceedings once a final court outcome is reached in Australia.....(more) 
The growing pains of a Church that's both local and universal
How Pope Francis is working to develop synodality at every level of Catholicism
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 19 Feb. 2020      
United States. A butterfly's sneeze can actually change the weather thousands of miles away – or so they say. It's not very different from the dynamics of synodality in the Catholic Church today.        The impact of what happens locally can have an effect on the universal Church, especially when it is in a state of transition.     Since the very beginning of its history, the Christian Church has held numerous local synodsor councils. Despite the difference of terminology, both were assemblies of bishops and included the limited presence of non-bishop participants.    Local conciliarity paved the way to ecumenical councils, the official list of which began in the year 325 when (Roman) Emperor Constantine convoked the Council of Nicaea.     But synodality is somewhat different from conciliarity......(Source)        Photo: Pope Francis Synod of Bishops La Croix International AP Alessandra Tarantino 20200219
Another US Catholic diocese seeks bankruptcy after abuse deals
Extract from Mark Scolforo, Crux, Matt Rourke AP, 19 February 2020
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, six months after disclosing it had paid millions of dollars to people sexually abused as children by its clerics.      The diocese joins at least 20 others across the United States in seeking protection from creditors through the federal bankruptcy system, but it is the first diocese in Pennsylvania to take such a step.     In August, the diocese said it paid 106 people a total of just over $12 million to compensate for claims of sexual abuse they suffered as children from its clerics, deacons and seminarians. Six others did not accept payment offers from the diocese....(more).
Deciding not to decide… for now
Why the pope has not ruled on married priests or women deacons
Limited extracts from Robert Mickens, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 February 2020
Vatican City. In his new apostolic exhortation on the Church in the Amazonian region, Pope Francis has refused a request by bishops at last October's Synod assembly to formally approve the ordination of married priests and women deacons.            In Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) the pope pretty much ignores these two issues all together.           And this, of course, has provoked predictable responses throughout the variegated world of Roman Catholicism.                Traditionalists and doctrinal conservatives, for the most part, are breathing a sigh of relief. Some are even jumping for joy......Most progressives, reformers and Vatican II types – on the other hand – are deeply disappointed. Some, especially women, are extremely hurt and angry. .........But if you've read some of the commentary on Pope Francis's decision not to change the discipline of priestly celibacy or approve women deacons, you probably have the impression that this is a "win" for old-time Catholicism and a "loss" for the Church's reformers.    Actually, it might be just the other way around.......(source)  Photo: EPA LUCA ZENNARO MaxPPP La Croix International 20200213 
Querida Amazonia has much to offer the Church in Australia
Extract from CathNews, ACBC, 13 February 2020
Archbishop Mark Coleridge says Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia is not just for a distant and alien part of the world, but has much to offer the Church in Australia.          “The Amazon is remote from us but the issues are not,” the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said.       “All papal documents are highly anticipated, but this one holds a special interest not just for the peoples of Amazonia with all their needs, but for the Church around the world,” Archbishop Coleridge said.       He said two critical issues addressed during the Synod and in the Pope’s exhortation – indigenous culture and an integral understanding of ecology – must be front and centre in the Australian context as well.       “The Amazon has a unique place in the planet’s ecological footprint and its abuse in various forms is having and will continue to have an impact on the connection between humanity and the planet, our common home,” Archbishop Coleridge explained.      “Here in Australia we see, at times dramatically, the damage done by abuse of the natural world – not only to the environment but also to wildlife, to communities and countless individuals.       “The Church has a God-given duty to care for our common home, made clearer than ever in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’.     Querida Amazonia builds on the papal teaching and applies it boldly in one particular situation.”       Pope Francis’ focus on indigenous cultures in the Amazon speaks strongly to the Australian context, Archbishop Coleridge said.      “It’s good that the Pope’s words on indigenous peoples come as we in this country consider the woeful lack of progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in key areas,” he said....(more)
What’s in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon synod?
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America - The Jesuit Review, 2020
Pope Francis has again surprised the world with his long-awaited document (“Apostolic Exhortation”) in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod.      He does not address the question of the ordination of mature married men to the priesthood as many had expected. Instead, in the text known as "Querida Amazonia" (“Beloved Amazonia,”) he pitches hard for justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests, against the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.          He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them. He devotes almost half of the document to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organization, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” that gives a greater role for the laity, and especially for women.          He emphasizes the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, at the same time, highlights the disturbing fact that this is not regularly available to so many communities; some do not have the Eucharist for months or years, others not “for decades” because of the shortage of priests.     However, notwithstanding widespread expectations, Francis does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of suitable and esteemed married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod.    He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it, not even in a footnote.....(more).    Photo: Pope Francis Amazonian indigenous, CNS,
‘Querida Amazonia’: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation
Extract from Antonio Spadaro, SJ, La Civilita Catolica, 12 February 2020
Splendor, drama, mystery: with these three words Pope Francis offers to the people of God and all persons of goodwill his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), on the special synod for the Amazon, which took place in Rome, October 6-27, 2019.[1]          With this synod, held at the heart of catholicity in Rome, the Church set out in search of prophecy, shifting its center of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic area and looking to a land full of gigantic political, economic and ecological contradictions.    Francis is seeking solutions that consider the rights of the original peoples, and that defend the cultural richness and natural beauty of the earth. And he seeks to support Christian communities with suitable pastoral solutions. In this regard, the engine of the exhortation – we immediately anticipate – is in the tenth paragraph of the fourth chapter, entitled “Expanding Horizons Beyond Conflicts.” When there are complex issues, the pope asks us to go beyond contradictions. When there are polarities and conflicts, we need to find new solutions, to break the impasse by looking for other better ways, perhaps not imagined before. Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff. It is always good to keep this in mind.....(more)
Disappointment, outrage over papal document on the Amazon
Extract from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 12 February 2020
Vatican.     Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the Amazon disappointed those hoping for an opening of clerical roles to married men and women, with many noting that the pope failed to extend his prophetic voice about environmental injustice to injustices in his own house, the church. Many women were especially outraged over the document's language of complementarity.     Querida Amazonia ("Beloved Amazon"), the pope's response to last October's Synod of Bishops, did not grant the bishops' request to open priestly ordination to married men and the possibility of women deacons, both in an effort to address the severe lack of ministers in the nine nations of that region.      Reading the document was "demoralizing" and "painful," especially given the pope's lyrical language about his dreams for the region, said Casey Stanton, who works in parish ministry and said she is called to the diaconate.     "But then you get to the paragraphs about women … and it just feels like the dream stops short of including them and including me," said Stanton, a minister of adult faith formation at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, North Carolina.     She admitted that she did not expect a change in church teaching from the papal document, but "just wanted him to keep the conversation open in this slow-moving church."      "Instead, I think what the pope has done in this document is to close the door," she said.     After the testimony of women at the synod, the pope's response is "willful blindness," Stanton said, adding, "I can't imagine what the women in the Amazon feel."....(more)
In Germany, the synodal path takes a first step forward
Bishops and lay people will spend the next two years looking at four themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality
Limited extract from Claire Lesegretain (with, Subscription journal La Croix International, 5 February 2020
Germany. The Catholic Church in Germany has begun its Synodal Path in an atmosphere of free and respectful dialogue. It held its first plenary assembly from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 in Frankfurt.      The process was launched on Dec. 1 and over the next two years some 230 bishops and lay delegates will engage in dialogue around four main themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality.       After the assembly's opening Mass in St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, the delegates began their work in the former Dominican convent in Frankfurt that is now property of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.      "The first image that struck me was the sight of the bishops wearing civilian clothes among the laity," said Klaus Nientiedt, former editor-in-chief of Konradsblatt, the weekly paper of the Diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, and an expert on the German Church.     A space without hierarchi        In fact, the delegates were seated in alphabetical order. "This clearly showed that bishops and priests are participants like anyone else," Nientiedt told La Croix.       Karin Kortmann, vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) also welcomed the "space without hierarchy".          She is one of the co-presidents of the assembly along with Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German Bishops' Conference, and Thomas Sternberg, the ZdK president.       During this initial gathering of the Syondal Path the four commissions reported on opinions gathered via the Internet on each of the four themes.       "These results are not really representative, because groups that are numerically small expressed themselves massively," said Nientiedt.      This is particularly the case on sexual morality, where opinions from conservative groups seem to be over-represented.             Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen described this first synod assembly as a "witness to the true catholicity of the Church in Germany". He said the meetings and discussions were "characterized by an intense spiritual atmosphere and the search for God's will".       "The discussions showed how much we live in a world of freedom," Bishop Overbeck said.       For his part, Bishop Felix Genn of Münster welcomed "the willingness to listen to each other and to treat each other fairly, despite the diversity of positions". He expressed "confidence" that the synodal process will continue "without harming the unity for which we as bishops are responsible"....(source).  Photo:   Synodal Path Mass Frankfurt Cathedral January 30 LaCroix Intermational ANDREAS ARNOLD DPA PICTURE ALLIANCE MAXPPP 20200205
Rewriting History?
Extract from Opinion Piece, Tom Smyth, 3 February 2020
I don’t want to appear to be overly negative but after reading the announcement in the recent Plenary Council Newsletter that ‘The origins of the Council go back almost 20 years, as the Australian bishops considered St John Paul II’s call in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte for the Church to consider its place in contemporary society,’ I find it hard not to be.     This statement is a little rich. Yes, there may have been some consideration given to holding a Plenary Council to consider the apostolic letter, but I think the reality is that the Royal Commission that exposed the litany of “ sins" of the Church in Australia highlighted the need for a close examination of the practices of the Church, not to consider the place of the Church in a modern Australia, but as a means to engage with people in order to keep the ‘boat afloat.’ The Church is in crisis.         My concern is that with the little time that has passed since the Royal Commission, the existing oligarchs of the Church have regained a sense of authority and feel confident enough to reassert their power positions, perhaps with some small concessions to the laity.     The choice of the Plenary Council as the implement to make decisions for the future, the lack of enthusiasm shown by many clergy and dioceses, and the lack of publication of the submissions indicates to me that it is business as usual amongst the hierarchy of the church. Using St John Paul 11’s apostolic letter as justification for calling the Plenary Council is unfortunate. St John Paul 11 was hardly the model of a consultative leader that the hierarchy should be following. His notion of a Synodal Church was at odds with Francis’s vision. His unwillingness to address the pressing issues of the time have contributed to the place the church is in at present.          I hope I am wrong but are we being prepared for some peripheral change and substantive change will be avoided at all cost.........(more)
Australian Catholic Women still listening for leadership from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Extract from  Eleanor Flynn et al. Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 3 February 2020
As a group of women who seek the equality of Women in the Australian Church, Women’s Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) are appalled by the recent abolition of the stand-alone Council for Australian Catholic Women, and the closure of the Office for the Participation of Women in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).         The Bishops have stated that they wish to focus on evangelization. However, by disbanding and downgrading these organisations they demonstrate that they have no plan to engage actively with the women of the Church.       This is an egregious error. Women are not a special interest group in the Church; we make up more than half of all Australian Catholics and 70% of many congregations and keep most parishes running on a day to day basis.      This restructuring ignores the pleas of national and international renewal groups across the world who understand that full equality for women in the Catholic church, including ordination of women, is central to ridding our Church of crippling clericalism.      The ACBC’s move is particularly bewildering given the closures were announced just after the launch by two bishops of “Still Listening to the Spirit: Woman and Man Twenty Years On”.....(more).
Sydney archbishop: Synodal process doesn’t mean ‘everything is up for grabs’
Extracts from Inés San Martín, Rome Bureay Chief, Crux, 1 February 2020
.......Crux: What brought you to Rome?     Fisher: I’m here for the plenary of the CDF. It happens every two years, all the members gather, and we go through a number of doctrinal and moral messes being considered by the Church. We get a report from all the bodies that report to the CDF - the International Theological Commission, the Biblical Commission, the section dealing with the Anglicans who have become Catholics, the section dealing with the Latin Mass, and the disciplinary section that deals with grave crimes, including above all child abuse - so we get the reports on that and discuss the processes around that.         It’s quite a wide range of things the CDF has responsibility for, and they are actually very good meetings, surprisingly. It’s a meeting where I think, you have something to contribute, you are heard and it’s achieving something.      Next week I have the council for the synod, which I was elected for at the end of the Synod for Youth, and the new synod council is organizing the next one. We don’t yet know what the topic of the next one will be, nor when will it be held........Have you heard about topics being proposed already?         I have heard talk for synodality… A synod on synod seems to me a bit too referential. I always laugh about TV shows that are about TV shows. It’s like this kind of endless mirrors, and there would be useful things to say, but … A bit like some of the national synods that are happening, there is a great risk that it will all become inward looking. “It’s all about us, about our structures, in a language that almost no one else understands.”        Pope Francis often calls us to get out of the sacristy because there’s a whole world out there. I would be a bit wary about just being all internal stuff. Synodality is a very internal concern. But, as I said, there might be some useful things to say about it.......And I think all these Church assemblies have to be mindful of the risk of creating unreal expectations.         This is an issue for the German synodal path and it’s also an issue for the plenary council in Australia. If you say to the world, everything is up for grabs, say anything you want to say, anything could happen; that is not true. We are recipients of a precious tradition, we have the revelation from God, not everything is up for grabs.      If you give people the impression that some proposals or changes are going to happen or could happen, but actually can’t or won’t, that would lead to more disillusionment at the end of that process.      I rather we went down a more constructive line.....(more).   Photo:Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Crux 1 Feb 2020, Simon Caldwell CNS
An Italian bishop goes rogue and blows the whistle
Doing what no other bishop in Italy has ever done, Giovanni Nardini reported a group of priest-pedophiles to civil authorities
Linited Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 30 January 2010
Vatican City
More cracks are appearing in the teetering edifice of Italy's once invincible Catholic hierarchy.    For the first time ever, it seems, a bishop has gone to the country's civil authorities to denounce priests and religious brothers accused of sexually abusing minors. And by doing so, he's broken ranks with the men who lead Italy's other 225 dioceses.    His name is Bishop Giovanni Nerbini.    The chrism oil from his episcopal ordination was barely dry when Nerbini, who is bishop of the Diocese of Prato just 16 miles (25.5 km) north of Florence, contacted police in late December to report abuse allegations against nine members of a controversial religious community called the Disciples of the Annunciation.    The bishop took the action on his own initiative since – amazingly – neither the State of Italy nor the Vatican requires clerics to report sexual abuse to civil authorities.    Unprecedented action        Nerbini's retired predecessor, Bishop Franco Agostinelli, had already learned of the alleged abuse early last summer, but he reported it only to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which opened an administrative penal process....(source)
Synodal Governance for a pastoral Church
Thursday 30 January 2020
On the verge of the 2020/2021 Plenary Council, the Australian Catholic Church's  5th Plenary Council (the last was 83 years ago), Catholics for Renewal has just published its 2nd brief 'Summary Document' as part of an incremental series of brief resources  on key terminology, phrases and issues  fundamental to, Australian Catholic faith, Church renewal, and objectives of the Australian Catholic 2020 Plenary Council.     This 2nd resource is titled 'Synodal governance for a pastoral church'.   The first Summary Document published December 2019 is titled 'Sense of faith of Christ's Faithful - Sensus fidelium'.      These and a list of planned further incremental resources over the next six months are published under Document No. 93  on the website's Documents page   HERE.  
About the National Themes for Discernment - What happens Next
Extract from Plenary Council 2020 Website, 29 January 2020
.....What happens next?      The six National Themes for Discernment are inspired by the data and call us toward the future. As we move into this second stage of preparation for the Plenary Council, we continue to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.    In coming months, through the discernment process and drawing on the six National Themes for Discernment, we will develop the agenda for the first session of the Plenary Council.      This discernment process involves establishing Writing and Discernment Groups for each National Theme for Discernment while people in faith communities across Australia are called to participate locally in their own communal Listening and Discernment encounters and to send through their submissions to the Groups.       The fruits of what is discerned during this time will shape the agenda of the first session of Plenary Council in October 2020....(more).
Photo: ACBC
Australian bishops have a transparency problem
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  28 January 2020
Australia's bishops have yet to demonstrate the new openness to the Catholic community necessary for a successful Plenary Council 2020. Their inclination to secrecy remains an impediment. They just don't get transparency as a virtue and they have twice demonstrated their adherence to old ways of doing things in recent months. Whether they realise it or not secrecy runs deep in episcopal culture.       The first example came in the conduct of the restructuring of the central apparatus of the Australian church, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), which was decided last November at the biennial ACBC meeting.       This restructuring involved an overall cut of 50 per cent to funding of the national church administration based in Canberra and some capital cities. Grants to national agencies have been cut, including total removal of the long-standing central funding of Catholic Social Services Australia, and jobs have been lost in a shake-up of the general secretariat. One of the most notable casualties has been the stand-alone Council for Australia Catholic Women with the consequent loss of the Office for the Participation of Women and its executive officer, Andrea Dean.       There is much more, including the disappearance of many jobs in executive support, research and journalism and funding cuts across many offices and commissions. The whole package is so substantial that both its general contours and its administrative detail deserves wider debate beyond the ACBC. The bishops should take the wider Catholic community into their confidence and share the financial difficulties which have led them to take what ACBC President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, has described as 'a difficult but unavoidable path'.       National church administration is funded by diocesan levies and many dioceses are clearly feeling the pinch. Revenue is falling because of well-known problems such as falling attendance and an ageing church membership. Expenditure is rising, including the significant contributions to the National Redress Scheme and Catholic Professional Services Ltd, the church body set up to implement the new child protection regimes. All Catholics need to own these problems, but to do that we need to know about them.       The second example is.....(more)Image:  Ojimorena / Getty
‘the world has changed and so must the Church’
Extract from Brian Hoban, Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland, 22 January 2020
Overworked priests can blame their bishops.      Pope Francis keeps on beating the same drum, but is anyone listening? His Christmas message was that ‘the world has changed and so must the Church’.              If you wouldn’t mind, dear reader, could you please read those two short sentences again?      Is there anything complicated about them? No. Is there anything that any Catholic, ordained or non-ordained, could possibly misunderstand? No. They simply sum up what Francis has been saying since he was elected pope. And saying again and again and again.     So if Catholics see something that needs to change, what should we do?      A template emerged a few years from a chat Francis had with his friend, Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who worked most of his life in the Amazon basin. Kräutler lamented the scarcity of priests in his area and the resulting fact that so few could attend Mass. Francis told him to work through the Brazilian bishops. The result was the discussion at the Amazonian synod and the expectation that by March of this year, Francis will announce the ordination of married men for specific regional areas.      Here’s another question. At what stage will it become clear that Ireland qualifies as such a regional area and have the help of a married priesthood?....(more)
Germany’s  'synodal assembly'  a step to rebuilding Church’s credibility
Extract from Catholic News Service, 20 January 2020
FRANKFURT, Germany - Catholic leaders in Germany have compiled responses from lay Catholics in areas related to who holds power in the Church, sexual morals, the role of priests and the place of women in church offices in preparation for an upcoming synodal assembly to debate church reforms.       More than 940 suggestions and questions had been submitted by early January in advance of the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 assembly in Frankfurt, reported KNA, the German Catholic news agency.      The synodal assembly is one segment of the synodal path, which the German bishops agreed to stage at their annual meeting last March.       The synodal assembly will include 230 members. It is the highest decision-making body of the synodal path, an effort by the bishops’ conference and lay Central Committee of German Catholics to restore trust following a September 2018 church-commissioned report that detailed thousands of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy over six decades.       Comments will continue to be accepted through Jan. 23 at the website of the German bishops’ conference.        The bishops and the lay group are collaborating in planning the synodal assembly. During a September plenary meeting, the bishops approved statutes to guide discussions at the assembly.          The bishops’ conference and the committee each will send 69 members to the assembly. Decisions of the assembly must be passed by a double two-thirds majority: two-thirds of all participants as well as two-thirds of all members present from the bishops’ conference.       German church officials say the synodal assembly is not meant to be a synod in the classic sense.        In describing the synodal path, KNA reported that the inclusion of the term synodal in the name of the reform process reflects that the dialogue, initially limited to two years, is more than a nonbinding conversation. As with a synod, each respective local bishop will determine whether the decisions reached will be implemented......(more)
2020 could see major Vatican shakeups
Extract from Elise Harris, Senior Correspondent, Crux, 18 January 2019
ROME - At the beginning of the week, the insider Catholic universe imploded when news broke that retired Pope Benedict XVI and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah had co-authored a new book defending priestly celibacy just as Pope Francis is considering an exception to the rule proposed during the Amazon synod.        In the fierce and polemical debate that ensued, the role of a pope emeritus was questioned while Catholicism’s conservative and progressive camps exchanged arguments over Benedict XVI’s intentions with the book, titled From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, which hit shelves Jan. 15 in France.      The saga culminated with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary for Benedict XVI, saying the emeritus pope had asked that his name be withdrawn as a coauthor and removed from the book’s introduction and conclusion. Citing the Chicago Manual of Style, however, the English-language publisher, Ignatius Press, said it considers the publication “coauthored.”      Though unprecedented is perhaps the wrong word to describe the bizarre episode, it was certainly odd, as Sarah, an active sitting cardinal who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office, took to social media to defend his credibility, issuing several statements and publishing correspondence between himself and Benedict - things that heads of Vatican departments don’t typically do.....(more) Photo: Cardinal Robert Sarah, Crux, Paul Haring CNS
Francis finishes work on Amazon Synod text
Extract from CathNews, Joshua McAlwee, National Catholic Reporter,  17 January 2020
Pope Francis has completed work on his highly anticipated response to last year’s Vatican gathering of Catholic bishops from the Amazon. Source: NCR Online.             Catholic bishops around the world are receiving a letter from the Vatican this week, advising them that the document, which may allow for the ordination of married men as Catholic priests in the nine-nation region is nearing publication. The document is also expected to lament devastating environmental destruction in the region and may detail new ministries for women in the Church.       “The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated,” states the letter, which is signed by retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes and was obtained by NCR.        "Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” writes Cardinal Hummes, who served as the synod’s lead organiser.        Francis’ response to the October 6-27 Synod of Bishops, is among the most awaited documents of his nearly seven-year papacy. The text is expected to address a request from the 185 synod members that he allow for bishops in the Amazon region to ordain current married deacons as priests, in order to meet sacramental needs in the vast, hard-to-traverse area.        The as yet unpublished text received additional attention this week, with unexpected news that retired Pope Benedict XVI had co-authored a volume defending the Church’s practice of clerical celibacy.        Benedict’s intervention touched off fears among theologians that the former pope might be trying to tie Francis’ hands, effectively preventing the reigning Pope from approving the synod’s request.     Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has since claimed that the ailing, 92-year-old ex-pontiff did not mean to co-author the volume, and has asked that for the removal of Benedict’s name as a co-author.....(more).    Photo:  CNS Paul Haring CathNews 20190117
Committee to recommend Australian bishops give laity certain controls
Extract from Michael Sainsbury, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Yangon, Myanmar — A six-person committee charged with reviewing church governance and management is expected to present Australia's bishops with a plan to overhaul the management of the church in the country.     The plan would cede control over financial, human resources and governance functions to professional laity, Jack de Groot, a member of the review committee, told Catholic News Service. The committee, established by the Australian Catholics Bishops' Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in May 2018, expects to present the plan by late March.           It is the latest in a series of responses by the Australian church to the country's Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which uncovered and documented the tragic history of abuses in religious and secular organizations, including Catholic-run schools and orphanages across the country.         The commission found the Catholic Church, the denomination in Australia with the most followers, to be the worst offender and, since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation to victims. Dozens of offenders, including many clerics, have been imprisoned.           In June 2018, the government established a National Redress Scheme to provide support and compensation to survivors, although many have still chosen to pursue perpetrators through the courts. Catholic bishops and religious have been working to act on the series of recommendations handed down by the commissioners in August 2017.         "The past year has seen steady and significant progress made across a range of areas, including in education, in governance reform and in responding to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse," Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said in a progress report in mid-December. "Clearly, any institution that engages with young people must always be vigilant, working to ensure that strong and effective protocols and procedures are in place, generating a culture committed to prompt and decisive action when allegations arise."      De Groot said the governance review was now the church's key priority.         "We have a draft plan," he said, although he admitted it had been delayed from its original October target by the need to finalize an update for the Australian government on the church's response to the Royal Commission recommendations.      A review of the governance of the Catholic Church was one of commission's central recommendations.....(more)Photo:     NCR NS Maria Grazia Picciarella
Francis appoints first woman to managerial role at Vatican's Secretariat of State
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Vatican City — Pope Francis appointed an Italian woman as an undersecretary in the Vatican's Secretariat of State Jan. 15, in the first such appointment of a woman to a managerial role in what is traditionally considered the city-state's most important office.      Francesca Di Giovanni, who has worked for the Secretariat for 27 years, will be one of two undersecretaries in the Section for Relations with States, which is essentially the Vatican's foreign ministry.      The section is led by British Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Di Giovanni joins Polish Msgr. Miroslaw Wachowski, who had been appointed an undersecretary to Gallagher in October.      In making the new appointment, Francis appears to be elevating what normally would be called a capo ufficio, or department head, to a full undersecretary position.      In an interview with the state-run Vatican News shortly after announcement of the appointment, Di Giovanni explained that she will be responsible for the Vatican's multilateral relationships, such as with international institutions, while Wachowski will focus on its bilateral ones, such as with individual countries.     Both roles had previously been filled by one undersecretary, now-Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, who Francis appointed the Vatican's ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti last September.       In the Vatican News interview, Di Giovanni, 66, praised the pope for appointing the first woman to such a role.       "The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women," she said. "But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman."     There are now about half a dozen women serving in undersecretary or equivalent roles in the Vatican's sprawling bureaucracy.....(more)
Benedict XVI distances himself from new book on celibacy
Limited and edited extract from Nicolas Senèze and Clémence Houdaille, subscription journal La Croix International, 15 January 2019
Vatican City.........The book, written in French, opposes ordaining married men as priests and has raised many eyebrows in the Vatican.       It was seen as a challenge to Pope Francis, but not because of the arguments the two theologians put forth in defence of ecclesiastical celibacy.     'Benedict XVI did not write the book'.   Apart from the fact that the retired pope is breaking his self-imposed silence on the Vatican government and Pope Francis' papacy, the signature that appears on the book is "Benedict XVI" and not "Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger" as had been the case with an earlier book he wrote.    It was done to distinguish his personal writings from that of the papal magisterium.      A person close to Benedict XVI told several Vatican reporters that the Pope Emeritus "did not write the book with Cardinal Sarah."    On the other hand, on Jan. 14, the Guinean cardinal stated that "Benedict XVI knew our project would be published as a book."      "I sent the complete manuscript to the Pope Emeritus on Nov. 19, including the cover, a joint introduction, conclusion, Benedict XVI's text and my own text," wrote the cardinal, who has on many occasions crossed swords with Pope Francis.       "On Nov. 25, the Pope Emeritus expressed his satisfaction, and said, "I agree for the text be published," said the 74-year-old cardinal, whom Pope Francis appointed to head the office of liturgical matters in 2014.         'Delete Benedict XVI's name'.      On Jan. 14, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict's private secretary, went public against the book and Cardinal Sarah.        "On the instructions of the Pope Emeritus, I asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the publishers of the book and ask them to withdraw the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book, and also to withdraw his signature from the introduction and conclusions," he told the German agency KNA and the Italian agency Ansa.....(source)
Plenary Council 2020-2021
Nomination as Delegate, 12 January 2019
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has requested that each Diocese nominate four people, who may be laypersons, members of religious orders or Clergy, who are willing to be called as delegates for the Plenary Council Sessions in October 2020 and June and July of 2021.

As a delegate, you will participate in the process of discernment and contribute to a variety of forums before, during and after the Plenary Council Sessions. This is an important and critical role for the life of  Catholic Church in Australia.

To apply, please fill out the following form and submit by the deadline of Friday 24 January 2020. Please note that the application process requires two referees including one active Priest (on appointment).      Delegate Nomination form HERE
Pope Benedict XVI breaks silence to reaffirm priest celibacy
Extract from Nicole Winfield, Crux, 13 January 2019
ROME - Retired Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence to reaffirm the “necessity” of priestly celibacy, co-authoring a bombshell book at the precise moment that Pope Francis is weighing whether to allow married men to be ordained to address the Catholic priest shortage.       Benedict wrote the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, along with his fellow conservative, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office and has been a quiet critic of Francis.       The French daily Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Sunday; The Associated Press obtained galleys of the English edition, which is being published by Ignatius Press.        Benedict’s intervention is extraordinary, given he had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope. He has largely held to that pledge, though he penned an odd essay last year on the sexual abuse scandal that blamed the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.          His reaffirmation of priestly celibacy, however, gets to the heart of a fraught policy issue that Francis is expected to weigh in on in the coming weeks, and could well be considered a public attempt by the former pope to sway the thinking of the current one.        The implications for such an intervention are grave, given the current opposition to Francis by conservatives and traditionalists nostalgic for Benedict’s orthodoxy, some of whom even consider his resignation illegitimate.       It is likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the wisdom of Benedict’s decision to remain an “emeritus pope,” rather than merely a retired bishop, and the unprecedented situation he created by having two popes, one retired and one reigning, living side by side in the Vatican gardens.       In that light, it is significant that the English edition of the book lists the author as “Benedict XVI,” with no mention of his emeritus papal status on the cover.       The authors clearly anticipated the potential interpretation of their book as criticism of the current pope, and stressed in their joint introduction that they were penning it “in a spirit of filial obedience, to Pope Francis.” But they also said that the current “crisis” in the Church required them not to remain silent.....(more)
Meeting of Church heavy-hitters calls for ‘adjustments’ to priestly formation
Extract from Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, 7 January 2019
NEW YORK - A major gathering of ecclesial heavy hitters focusing on the future of the priesthood concluded with a call for a reimagining of priestly formation - one that incorporates the laity and women in the process and better reflects the racial and cultural diversity within the U.S. Church.      The two-day symposium at Boston College took place January 2-3 and was organized around “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry,” a document first published in December 2018, which was the result of a series of seminars sponsored by the college’s Department of Theology and School of Theology and Ministry.          “All consideration of priesthood and ministry must flow from the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the Church’s living tradition as it has been received and developed by Pope Francis,” said a communiqué from the conference released on Monday. “He has called the Church to missionary discipleship that goes to “the peripheries” and is responsive to the gifts and challenges of contemporary cultures.”        The document goes on to outline ten pastoral recommendations, among them greater human formation in seminaries to “foster authentic psychosexual maturity and integration,” an evaluation process for candidates that allows i      Some of the strongest language is reserved for the role of women in priestly formation, where organizers noted that women should be included in the faculty of seminaries.....(more)
Pope Francis begins the most important year of his pontificate.
Extract from Robert Mickens*, Pearls and Irritations,  John Menadue website,  4 January 2020
When the history of Pope Francis’ time as Bishop of Rome is finally written, there is a good chance that the Year of Our Lord 2020 will be recorded as the most important of his entire pontificate. Some are wondering whether it may actually be his last.          The pope’s recent decisions to “retire” the powerful Italian churchman Angelo Sodano as dean of the College of Cardinals and to make Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines head one of the most powerful Vatican offices – Propaganda Fide – are being read as signs that Francis is beginning to prepare for the election of his successor on the Chair of Peter.          The 83-year-old Jesuit pope will also be issuing two major documents in 2020, and probably a few others. He’ll continue to travel the globe, possibly going to places where his predecessors had hoped to visit but were denied entry. And there’s no doubt he will add more men to the illustrious red-hatted group from which will emerge the next Bishop of Rome.       So any way one looks at this new calendar year, it will almost certainly prove to be pivotal.        The Synod paves the way to reform        Pope Francis is to publish at least two extremely important documents already in the initial weeks of 2020.         The first of these texts is an apostolic exhortation on last October’s special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Francis has already hinted that he will endorse a number of changes in pastoral practice that the Synod participants proposed to him.        One of these is the priestly ordination of the viri probati (married men of proven virtue), specifically those who are already permanent deacons. Another is the establishment of a new papal commission to study the possibility of instituting the diaconate and other ministries for women. And a third is the compilation of a new liturgical rite to incorporate cultural elements particular to the native peoples of the Amazon.      This highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation is likely to open up other avenues for reform, as well. So its importance should not be underestimated..........No one can read the future, but the Year of Our Lord 2020 looks like it could be one of the most crucial and important for the recent history of Roman Catholicism.....(more)     *Robert Mickens is Rome Correspondent for La Croix International. This article was first published on Jan 2, 2020. Photo: Pope Francis and Akubra hat with Abp Mark Coleridge, June 2019 ad limina.
Expressions of interest for Diocesan Plenary Council 2020 delegates
Extract from Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, the Bishop of Parramatta, has invited the faithful of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to express their interest in being a delegate for our local Church to the Plenary Council.    Our diocese will be sending a delegation of people to the Plenary Council and this includes    -   Two (2) delegates called from our diocese from the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful”         These two people are to be called from among the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful” of our diocesan Church, that is: from among the clergy and the laity.       Some characteristics of the delegates to be called to consider are:          The person’s demonstrated commitment to leadership in the Church and/or her ministries (e.g. an active parish ministries leader, Catholic Education staff member, Catholic Social Services worker or ecclesial movement leader, etc.);      The person’s living of the Gospel in their life through both prayer and deeds              Their awareness of ‘the bigger picture’ of Catholic faith, community and works in context of contemporary Australian society;       Previous participation in / leadership of listening and dialogue, or listening and discernment encounters with people in the person’s community, workplace or family.         Ultimately, the foundational characteristic to be considered is the person’s ability and capacity to discern with an open heart, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Australia.        Any person who expresses their interest in being called by our diocese to be a delegate to the Plenary Council must be available for the following dates....(more)   Photo: Diocese of Parramatta Plenary Council 2020 delegates 2020103 Catholic Outlook
Submission to Plenary Council Phase 2 Working Groups
Catholics For Renewal, 1 January 2020
The Catholics For Renewal submission to the Plenary Council phase-two Theme Working Groups was submitted on 28 November 2019 and is available HERE. It complies with the 1,000 character limit for each of the themes.   The Plenary Working Groups comprise: 
1.Missionary and Evangelising;  2.Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal; 3. Prayerful and Eucharistic; 4. Humble, healing and merciful;   5. A joyful, hope-filled and servant community; and 6. Open to Conversion, renewal and reform.  
It is also published at Document 94 on the Documents page.  Details in support of this brief submission, and further major actions are included in our Plenary Council submission/book Getting Back on Mission (details here)