Catholics for Renewal


News 2021


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.
Editorial: 5th Plenary Council: what hope for success?

Limited extract:
Just days away the 5th Plenary Council of Australia will open on Sunday 3 October 2021 with a Solemn Mass and mixed expectations. For over it hangs a critical question: can it deliver the much-needed renewal of a drifting and wounded Church gone off mission?

While many are optimistic, many others are sceptical, doubting the determination for renewal, especially among the bishops.  There is now universal agreement that the Church in Australia has gone ‘off mission’ and is in crisis.....

Full Editorial HERE             Image:  Plenary Council image as modified               Previous Editorials  HERE

Exploring Australian Indigenous Culture, Mission and Spiritualities

On the Agenda for the 5th Australian Plenary Council is this question:  How might the Church in Australia open in new ways to indigenous ways of being Christian in spirituality, theology, liturgy, and missionary discipleship? How might we learn from the First Nations peoples?  Fortuitously, a special webinar examining some of these issues has been organised by the Divine Word Missionaries and the ecumenical Australian Association for Mission Studies to take place on Saturday 2 October 2021, the eve of the Council Opening. 

The webinar is FREE to attend.  Details, Flyer and Registration  on our EVENTS page

News 2021
Historic gathering with bland agenda unlikely to stem decay in the Catholic Church
Extract from Opinion Piece, Paul Collins, The Age, 27 September 2021
Like it or not, Catholicism is still enormously influential in Australia. It is Australia’s largest non-government employer through its schools, hospitals and aged care with around 230,000 people working directly for the church. It also runs many voluntary organisations, like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society with some 20,700 members and 41,150 volunteers with a huge impact on social welfare.        Despite this, Catholicism’s reputation has been effectively trashed in the media and wider community by the sexual abuse crisis and church leaders’ appalling, long-term failure to deal decisively with clerical abusers. The revelations of the royal commission reinforced the church’s toxic reputation.         The result: people are abandoning Catholicism in droves. The percentage of self-confessed Catholics in the population has dropped from 27 per cent in 2001 to 22.6 per cent in the 2016 census. Of the 5.3 million Catholics in 2106, only 11.8 per cent attended Mass regularly.        In an attempt to respond, Australia’s 46 bishops are gathering with 99 invited priests, 25 religious sisters and around 110 laypeople from across Australia in a Plenary Council in early October to try to sort out the church’s future.             To prepare for the plenary, a nationwide consultation was held with Australian Catholics. The response was enormous: more than 222,000 people participated, with 17,457 written submissions from groups and individuals. Issues emerging from the consultation focused around clerical control, lack of leadership, accountability, marginalisation of laypeople in decision making, election of bishops, gender and sexual issues, ministry, especially that of women, married priests, the church’s role in a secular culture and relationships with the wider community.        But that’s where democracy and consultation ended.....(Source).  Photo: Catholic Numbers in decline, Simon O'Dwyer The Age 20210927
Increasingly bitter polarisation is a problem: Cardinal Pell
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic Weekly, 27 September 2021
Honest and open debate about different points of view in the Catholic Church are fundamental, but Catholics should not be demonising the individuals with those views, Cardinal George Pell said.       Asked about the different polarised positions among Catholics that can be found online, he said that many of the issues being discussed are “very important, and I don’t think there can be any compromise on the fundamental issues of what is the apostolic tradition”.       The church’s stance on issues should be clearly explained, but there is “a hierarchy of truths, not everything is equally important,” which means Catholics “should not be disagreeing violently over too much at all but certainly not over matters which are of less importance,” he said in an interview in Rome streamed live on 23 September and uploaded the next day by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.       As Catholics try to choose among many sources and offerings online, what they should be looking for and contributing to “is regular courtesy, a regular commitment to the truth, to dialogue, debating, arguing about the issues” themselves and not attacking the people who hold a different point of view, said the cardinal, who is the former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and retired archbishop of Sydney.      The interview was part of the university’s biennial “The Church Up Close” seminar offered to journalists who report on the Catholic Church. This year’s seminar was held online and focused on “Covering Catholicism in the Age of Francis”.     Wide-ranging discussion         The interview with Cardinal Pell covered a wide variety of topics, including Cardinal Pell’s experience in an Australian prison for 13 months on child sex abuse charges until he was cleared by a unanimous decision of the High Court in 2020 and the vital importance of due process for both victims and the accused.       “Denouncing somebody in the press so they’ve got almost no chance of defending themselves is, I think, a violation of due process,” he said.           “Everybody has a right to the truth, and in the long term it is the best protection for the victims too,” because any manifestly false accusation “poisons public opinion against the genuine victims,” he said.         “We need to follow the commandments, we need to practice what Christ taught, if we did that there would have been no sexual abuse. The authorities would have faced up to the problem in truth,” he said. “What the church was doing in terms of muddle and cover-up 20 years ago was generally done in all of society — now that is not excusing it, but it is setting it in context,” he said.........(source)
George Pell returned to Australia ahead of church reforms
Limited Extract from Mike Secombe, Subscription journal The Saturday Paper, 25 October 2021
The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, the man who replaced George Pell as leader of the conservatives in the Australian Catholic Church, began his homily during last Sunday’s Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral with a very pointed story from the gospels.      It related to “bickering” between Christ’s disciples, not over “crucial questions of Christian doctrine, identity and mission” but over power. It was fuelled, the archbishop said, by “jealousy, ambition, the desire always to get one’s own way”.       Fisher was talking days after Cardinal Pell left Sydney to return to Rome. The former Vatican treasurer had been in the country for several months, ahead of key reforms being discussed by the local church.       In his homily, Fisher quoted Mark’s gospel on how Jesus taught his disciples the error of their ways: “If you really want to be first, put yourself last … Among the Gentiles the rulers lord it over them … but it must not be so among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must be the servant …”         The lesson, said Fisher, was this: “No more squabbling over power … For Christians, authority is about service not control.”         There was no mistaking the point of the parable. It was a warning shot directed towards would-be Catholic reformers who will push for greater accountability, inclusion and transparency, and less “clericalism” from the church hierarchy, at the Plenary Council that begins on Sunday, October 3.         It’s been 84 years since the Australian church engaged in such a collective, formal act of self-examination, and considered changes to some of the laws that govern its operation. A great deal has changed since the 1937 plenary – in the broader society, at least. Divorce and same-sex relationships, for example, are now widely accepted, as are women in leadership roles and consultative management. People worry about different things, such as overpopulation, climate and the environment, the nuclear threat.      Much has changed for the church, too, although the changes have been mostly for the worse. It is in long-term decline by any measure. But Fisher was quite clear: reforms that dilute the power of the ordained men who run the show and give greater responsibility to lay members will be strongly resisted......(source).   Photo:george_pell_home_vatican  AP, The Saturday Paper 20210925

Is it time to re-think seminaries?
We need seminaries to be places that train new generations of clergy to be servant leaders who can pastor — not rule over — the faithful
Extract from Gideon Goosen, Australia, National Catholic Reporter. 25 September 2021
The Catholic Church in Australia has reached a critical point in its journey where a total re-generation of the church is required.        The findings of the sexual abuse of children in the Church has been the main catalyst, documented in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.       The Final Report identified clericalism as a significant contributor to abuse across religious institutions Australia-wide.        Clericalism is rooted in a theological belief that the clergy are different to the laity, having undergone an 'ontological change' at ordination (a change to the very nature of their being on receiving Holy Orders) and feeds the notion that the clergy may not be challenged. And according to the report, the culture of clericalism is on the rise in seminaries in Australia.         According to the report, 'Clericalism is the idealisation of the priesthood, and by extension, the idealisation of the Catholic Church. Clericalism is linked to a sense of entitlement, superiority and exclusion, and abuse of power.' A person suffering from clericalism sees himself as special, superior to others and worthy of greater respect.       This could lead to arrogance and the belittling of others. Lay people can also be guilty of clericalism if they support this attitude.....(more) Photo:Seminaries-is-it-time-to-re-think NCR 20210925

Cracking open the Plenary Council: Helpers wanted for Mark Coleridge and the Holy Spirit. Part 2
Extract from Terry Fewtrell, Pearle & Irritations, John Menadye website, 24 September 2021
Mark Coleridge will be a pivotal figure in the plenary “summit” on reforms in the Australian Catholic Church. But will the support of Pope Francis, many lay Catholics and possibly the Holy Spirit be enough to shift the Pell acolytes?        Mark Coleridge, archbishop of Brisbane and president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is ultimately the captain of the Australian church’s vessel that is in seriously troubled waters.        Following the scathing royal commission report he was the key advocate among his brother bishops urging they convene a Plenary Council. Coleridge describes the decision to go ahead with the council as “the work of the Holy Spirit”. That might well be accurate, given the known resistance to the idea of any review forum that went beyond the limits of current episcopal members.      Coleridge has consistently “talked up” the Council as a one-off opportunity and a forum that should not produce “business as usual” outcomes. Refreshingly he starts with the fact that the Australian church faces serious issues and needs to confront its realities.          Such views are clearly at odds with the attitudes of those senior clerics who have been strong acolytes of Cardinal George Pell, and who in most cases owe their positions to the influence of Pell with the Curia and Rome. Coleridge, on the other hand, owes his position as president of the bishops’ conference to the fact that he was seen as an acceptable alternative to the Pell push.       But Coleridge is not directly in charge of the plenary planning group. That role belongs to the archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe, president of the Plenary Council. One wonders therefore just how comfortable Coleridge is with the published agenda and its lack of focus. Perhaps he views it as the best that could be hoped from a process heavily influenced by traditionalist churchmen, many of whom never wanted such a forum. While Coleridge has been relatively quiet in recent times in the Australian media, internationally his positioning has been quite different......(more)
Pray with us and for us: Archbishop Costelloe
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 23 September 2021
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB is inviting Catholics across Australia to pray with and pray for Council members during the upcoming first general assembly. The Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will open on Sunday, October 3, with Archbishop Costelloe celebrating the opening Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth at 2pm AEDT. The Mass will be livestreamed on the Plenary Council website.     Masses during the week will also be broadcast publicly at 9.30am AEDT, with the Mass to close the first general assembly livestreamed from Brisbane at 11am AEDT on October 10. Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge will celebrate that Mass.     Archbishop Costelloe said the Masses being celebrated online allow people across the country to join in common prayer and worship with the Plenary Council as its focus.     “With millions of people living in locations where public Masses can’t be celebrated, this online option will help Council members and the wider faithful unite in liturgy,” he said.     “Where people can gather for Mass, the same prayers, readings and musical suggestions used for the Plenary Council Masses can be downloaded for use in each parish across the country.”     The prayers provided to members for their nourishment, including a range of prayer experiences such as lectio divina and the Examen, are also available for download and use.     In addition to the Masses, opening prayer for each day of the first general assembly will be livestreamed, offering another time of shared encounter for those wishing to join online....(More).
Cardinal Pell says he 'never really approved' of Benedict XVI's decision to resign
Australian cardinal maintains he's not a climate change denier, but skeptical of solutions
Extract from Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter, 23 September 2021
Rome — Australian Cardinal George Pell said Sept. 23 he "never really approved" of Pope Benedict XVI's shocking decision in 2013 to resign the papacy.       Pell, who was the prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 to 2019 and a member of Pope Francis' advisory Council of Cardinals from 2013 to 2018, said that among the recent popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis — he was closest to Benedict.     Pell described John Paul II as "one of the greatest popes in history, of course," and praised Benedict's "prodigious intellect," adding that "I knew him better than all of the other two popes."       The cardinal's remarks came during a webinar as part of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross' "The Church Up Close" virtual series targeted to journalists around the world to help them better understand the dynamics of the Vatican.      Pell was archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, from 1996 to 2001 and then led the Sydney Archdiocese from 2001 until Francis tapped him to oversee the Vatican's financial reforms in 2014.       Despite working closely with Francis for five years, Pell has often been perceived as at odds with key initiatives of this papacy, including the pope's more welcoming approach to divorced and remarried couples and LGBTQ Catholics, and his prioritization of fighting climate change.      During the interview, Pell said that Francis has the "great gift of empathy and sympathy."       When asked to respond on why some conservative Catholics are hostile to Francis, the cardinal said he believes some "wonder just what is being taught" at the moment, although he did not elaborate on specific issues.     "Pope Francis has a great gift, like Jesus did, of reaching out to those on the peripheries and sinners," Pell said, "and that can and has confused people."....(more)
Conversations on Church governance continue
Extract from CathNews, 23 September 2021
“Synodality and co-responsibility” is the theme for Catholic Religious Australia’s second online conversation exploring The Light from the Southern Cross report on Church governance.         To be held on November 1, the event aims to provide an opportunity for reflection and engagement with the report at a significant time in Church history and in light of the Plenary Council.       Australian Catholic University associate professor Fr Orm Rush, moderator for the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese’s synod working party Teresa Brierley and Plenary Council vice-president Bishop Shane Mackinlay will participate in the conversation.       “My hope is that the Plenary Council will show prophetic courage, not only in its reform of the Church’s inner life, but also in the way it addresses the urgent issues facing Australia and the world,” Fr Rush.        The speaker presentations will be followed by a series of interactive group discussions and speaker responses, which will open the way for questions and for group and individual reflection.       The first conversation in the series was held in July, with about 150 people from across Australia logging on for the conversation on “ Mission and Church”.                 CRA national executive director Anne Walker said the conversation series “seeks to be personally formative – a catalyst for change and renewal that leads us towards a transformed Church, changed and revitalised through our hearts, words and actions”.)....(more)   Photo: Teresa Brierley, Fr Orm Rush and Bishop Shane Mackinlay (Supplied), CathNews
Synodality involves everyone
Pope sees no alternative to synodality as the way forward for the Church.   In the run-up to the preparation phase for the next Synod assembly, Pope Francis shares his vision of synodality in a long address to Catholics of the Diocese of Rome
Limited extract from Céline Hoyeau | Vatican City, Subscription journal La Croix International, 21 September 2021
.........Francis noted that synodality comes from the Greek word synodos, which means "to journey together".        One the one hand, this means it involves everyone.       "Everyone is a protagonist," the pope repeated, insisting several times that "no one can be considered a mere extra".      On the other hand, he said this "common journey" implies that "immobility cannot be a good condition for the Church".           He said the Holy Spirit "is the director of this story" and our "movement is the result of docility" to the Spirit.       The pope pointed to the story of Peter and Paul, as recounted in Acts.             The two apostles embody different visions of the Church, he noted, but Acts shows that they were both moved by "an impulse that put them in crisis".       In other words, it forced them to "dare to question, to change their minds, to make mistakes and learn from them, and above all to hope in spite of difficulties".       This is better than being stuck in the past, the pope said, because "if the water does not flow and is stagnant, it is the first to putrefy".       "A polluted Church begins to rot," Francis warned.       "It may be necessary to leave, to change direction, and to overcome beliefs that hold us back and prevent us from moving and walking together," he said.       What must prevail is what is illustrated by the story of Peter meeting the centurion Cornelius, a "pagan".       "Christianity must always be human, humanizing, reconciling differences and distances, transforming them into familiarity and closeness," the pope said.      Synodality is opposed to clericalism.               "One of the evils of the Church, even a perversion, is this clericalism that detaches the priest and the bishop from the people," Francis said.        He lamented that there is still "much resistance to overcoming the image of a Church rigidly distinguished between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn......"No. We are the Church, all together," the pope reiterated.......(source)     Photo: Pope Francis 2018 M MIGLIORATO CPP CIRIC CATHOLIC PRESS PHOTO La Croix 20210921
At the Table of the Lord
Further work is needed to truly implement the deep liturgical renewal mandated by the Second Vatican Council
Limited extract from Thomaas O'Loughlin, UK, Subscription journal La Croix International. 20 September 2021
The great Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan once described those nostalgic for the pre-1970 liturgy as a group "that is determined to live in a world that no longer exists".        The phrase came back to me recently when I read of another Jesuit, Pope Francis, who spoke about finding "new languages for handing on the gospel".        But this is not an easy task.          The pope – and the fact that it is clear to anyone who looks around at the age-profile on any gathering in the developed world – is clear that we need new language.         Each generation, in a rapidly changing world, is like a new continent. We have to learn the new language – and such learning is always difficult.         I often tell young theological students that learning the language of a new generation is harder than learning all the parts of the Greek verb, but they think I am exaggerating.         Sadly, many like to imagine that they do not need to learn a new language but simply need to shout out louder in the old language. It is an easy mistake: more noise equals more communication.....(more): Image: The table of the Lord, La Croix, 20210920
Advisers and chairpersons named for Plenary Council
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 16 September 2021
Some of the country’s leading Catholic thinkers have been engaged to support the members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia when they gather for the first general assembly early next month.             As happens with international gatherings, including at the Second Vatican Council, participants are able to seek guidance from a group of advisers. Their expertise covers a broad range of disciplines, including theology, philosophy, ethics, ecclesiology, education, liturgy, governance and social justice.         Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said while there are experts across many fields within the approximately 280 members, the additional advisers – sometimes known by the Latin term periti – will be there to nourish and deepen the existing knowledge base in a special way.         “The members of the Plenary Council are responsible for discerning concrete proposals in answer to 16 questions for the Church in Australia, so having as much support on call as possible makes sense,” he said.         Archbishop Costelloe said there will be a diversity of skills and experience, as well as ministerial and working contexts, represented among the advisers.      The list of advisers can be found on the Plenary Council website.         The chairpersons to guide the work of the Plenary Council and facilitate members’ conversations when they gather as a full group have also been confirmed.         They are: Jacinta Collins (National Catholic Education Commission); Nichii Mardon, Catholic Education South Australia, Diocese of Port Pirie); Fr Thomas McDonough CP (Passionists); Br Paul O’Keefe FSP Patrician Brothers); Fr David Ranson (Broken Bay Diocese); and Theresa Simon (Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Australia)....(more)
Pope Francis: ‘I have never denied Communion to anyone.’
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, Aneruca the Jesuit Review, 15 September 2021
“I have never denied Communion to anyone,” Pope Francis revealed in answer to one of my questions on the flight back from Bratislava to Rome, Sept. 15.  It was a significant revelation coming at a time when a group of bishops in the United States are pushing to deny Communion to pro-choice politicians, including President Joe Biden. Francis appears to be sending a very different message—and it was not the only one.        He sent a second strong message in answer to my other question about the heated discussion regarding denial of Communion to pro-choice politicians, when he called on bishops to be “pastors,” not politicians. I was struck by this because over the past year, I have heard several Vatican officials ask: “Why can’t the American bishops be pastors not politicians?”        On the plane, Francis elaborated on this when he said, “if we look at the history of the church, we will see that every time the bishops have not dealt with a problem as pastors they have taken sides politically. ” He cited examples where their taking sides politically has cost lives such as in the case of the Dominican Friar, Giacomo Savonarola, in Florence in 1989, and the Huguenots (Protestants) in France in 1472.       “When the church, in order to defend a principle, acts in a non-pastoral way, it takes sides on the political plane, it has always been so,” Francis said.  He asked, “What must a pastor do?” and responded: “Be a pastor. Don’t go condemning. Be a pastor because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.”  Bishops, he said, should be “pastors with God’s style, which is closeness, compassion and tenderness.”.....(more).     Photo:Pope Francis answers Qs Slovakia CNS Paul Haring, America, Jesuit Review 20210915
The world’s smallest army - just 140 soldiers - considers the ‘unthinkable’
Extracts from Nick Squires, The Age, 14 September 2021
Rome: Resplendent in their striped knickerbockers and clutching murderous-looking halberds, they have faithfully defended popes for more than 500 years.     But the Swiss Guard, the world’s smallest army with just 140 soldiers, is considering the previously unthinkable - opening up to female soldiers.     A bastion of conservatism even by the standards of the Vatican, the Swiss Guard has been a celebrated institution ever since its foundation in 1506. Recruits to the ancient corps must be single, practising Catholics of Swiss nationality, aged between 19 and 30.       They must serve for a minimum of two years, protecting the Pope and standing ramrod straight in sentry boxes outside St Peter’s Basilica.       Now comes a potential revolution - the tiny corps has announced that it is having new barracks built within the walls of the Vatican and that it will be able to accommodate female soldiers...........Adapting the guardsmen’s helmets and breastplates to female soldiers should not be too challenging - these days they are made not of beaten metal but plastic, produced by 3D printers.......(More). Photo: Vatican Swiss Guards, AP, The Age, 20210914
In Slovakia, Pope Francis calls for freedom in both civil society and Church
Extract from Inés San Martín, Rome Bureau Chief, Crux, 13 September 2021
.......To the Catholic hierarchy: The center of the Church is not the Church.            “Living within the world means being willing to share and to understand people’s problems, hopes and expectations,” he said during a meeting with the bishops, priests and religious men and women in Bratislava’s Cathedral of St. Martin.  “This will help us to escape from our self-absorption, for the center of the Church is not the Church!”       He urged those present to leave behind the “undue concern for ourselves, for our structures, for what society thinks about us,” and instead become immersed in the lives of peoples and try to address their spiritual needs and expectations.         Answering his own question as to what people expected, he said freedom, creativity and dialogue.           Freedom, Francis said, is the key to humanity, as human beings were created free, and as Slovakia learned during the years of Communist rule, whenever freedom is attacked, violated or suppressed, humanity is disfigured and violence, coercion and the elimination of rights follows.        The Church too can fall into this temptation, believing it’s “better to have everything readily defined, laws to be obeyed, security and uniformity, rather than to be responsible Christians and adults who think, consult their conscience and allow themselves to be challenged.”       “A Church that has no room for the adventure of freedom, even in the spiritual life, risks becoming rigid and self-enclosed,” he said.  “Some people may be used to this. But many others – especially the younger generations – are not attracted by a faith that leaves them no interior freedom, by a Church in which all are supposed to think alike and blindly obey.”                Speaking about creativity, Francis argued that faced with the loss of the sense of God and of the joy of faith, it is useless to complain and “hide behind a defensive Catholicism, to judge and blame the world.  We need the creativity of the Gospel.”        Lastly, speaking about dialogue, he said that a Church that forms the faithful in interior freedom and responsibility is able to be creative by tapping into their history and culture, capable of engaging in dialogue with the world:  “Those who confess Christ without being ‘ours,’ with those who are struggling with religion, and even with those who are not believers.”.......(More)  Photo: Pope Francis Slovakia Petr David Josek AP, Crux 20210913
The Plenary Council: Consulting the faithful
Extract from Bill Uren*, Pearls & Irritations, 12 September 2021
......I am not suggesting that such manifestations of division between clergy and laity should be entertained at the upcoming Australian Plenary Council.  Nor am I even contemplating that some of our bishops may be in schism.  But I am suggesting, in line with Newman’s essay, that the episcopal and clerical members of the Council should be particularly attentive to the voices of the laity when they address the Council’s agenda. This is all the more necessary because, inevitably, in view of the canonical structure of the Council, the laity will be in a very significant minority. An overwhelming majority of clerical members is appointed ex-officio, and in some instances bishops have seen fit to choose further clerics, rather than laity, to fill what vacancies remained.        Indeed, one might submit that a Plenary Council is a cumbersome instrument to ascertain the genuinely representative views of the Catholic Church in Australia.  Many of the canonical strictures regarding the membership, agenda and process of the Council will dampen the original enthusiasm for the Council that provoked over 17,500 submissions. Second thoughts might have suggested an extra-canonical assembly after the German or Irish model as a better way to convoke a more representative, less clerical, meeting. On the other hand, a canonically structured council does have the advantage that its recommendations are more likely to be taken seriously by the Roman authorities.       Whatever the outcomes of the Plenary Council, let us hope that this consultation entered upon by the clergy and the laity will be regarded as a first, rather than a final, step. Pope Francis has already indicated that further consultations of this nature should be conducted in every diocese prior to the Synod on Synodality in 2023.  If the Australian Plenary Council were to prescribe in preparation for this Synod that in each parish a parish council should be instituted, and that in each diocese a diocesan council should be established, and that in both instances the laity should be significantly represented on these councils, that might seem to compensate, at least to some degree, for the disparities of membership that more or less inevitably attend the Plenary Council.......(more)  Image:Unsplash, Pearls & Irritations, 20210912
*Bill Uren SJ AO is a Jesuit Priest, Scholar in Residence at Newman College at the University of Melbourne.
Synods and synodality take center stage
From "How Sept. 11 inadvertently paved the way for the future election of Pope Francis"
Limited extract from Christopher White, United States, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 9 September 2021
............In many respects, the themes of the 2001 synod, which focused on "The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World," foreshadowed many of the same touchstones and tensions of the Francis papacy.         Papal biographer and collaborator Austen Ivereigh told NCR that, historically, a persistent "sticky issue" of synods has been the question "of the authority of the college of bishops itself, and its role in the universal governance of the church" and navigating "the right balance of collegiality versus primacy."          "The 2001 synod was a key moment in surfacing this call to collegiality, because there was a sense the John Paul era was at an end and that centralist governance had become a major obstacle to the church's mission," said Ivereigh.         He pointed to the 2001 consistory — when Pope John Paul II created a number of cardinals, including Bergoglio, from Latin America — as a tipping point.          "Because that consistory was made up of so many Latin American cardinals, there was a sense that the Catholic heartlands — Europe and Latin America — were pushing for collegiality that was being resisted by Rome," said Ivereigh. "Bergoglio saw all this, and took note."         During the 2001 synod, the issue emerged again, with one in five speeches among the synod fathers raising collegiality, according to Ivereigh. By contrast, collegiality was only mentioned twice in the synod's working document and Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte had it excised from the final report.         "At his first press conference as relator following Egan's return to New York, Bergoglio was asked about collegiality," Ivereigh recalled. "Sitting next to Schotte, he said a proper discussion of this topic 'exceeds the specific limits of this synod' and needed to be dealt with elsewhere and with adequate preparation."        "Looking back, he was clearly signaling that collegiality could only be introduced through a thorough reform of the synod itself, to make it an instrument of collegial governance and ecclesial discernment," he said.          Piqué offered a similar assessment, telling NCR that Bergoglio's experience at the 2001 synod was "essential also for him to understand better the need of real consultation, with discussions, in the church, because he saw that those kinds of meetings were already pre-fabricated."         "It was all already carefully managed by Rome," she added. "The bishops were not really free to discuss any subject and to express their opinions. They knew that if they expressed an opinion that Rome did not like, their future career would be blocked."        And after being elected pope, Francis himself has not minced words about what he learned in the synod process and his belief reform was needed.          "I was the rapporteur of the 2001 synod and there was a cardinal who told us what should be discussed and what should not," he told La Nacion in 2014. "That will not happen now."........(source).  Photo: Broken steel from 9/11 Museum World Trade Center Museun THOMAS A  FERRARA UPI MAXPPP La Croix International 20210909
Vatican releases Synod Preparatory Document
It points out some concrete steps on listening without prejudice; speaking out with courage; dialoguing with the Church, with society, and with other Christians
Limited extract from subscriptional Journal La Croix International, 7 September 2021
The General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops has released the Preparatory Document and "vademecum" – or handbook – to indicate the guiding principles that will direct the path of the Synod on Synodality.            The opening of the Synod will take place in Rome on October 9-10, and in the particular Churches on October 17. It will conclude in the Vatican in 2023 with the assembly of bishops from around the world.              The Preparatory Document, released September 7, is intended to facilitate the first phase of listening and consultation of the People of God in the particular Churches, which will take place from October 2021 to April 2022.       "It constitutes a sort of construction site or pilot experience that makes it possible to immediately begin reaping the fruits of the dynamic that progressive synodal conversion introduces into the Christian community," the document reads.       The text begins with a question:.........(Source).   Image: vatican-releases-synod-preparatory-document-14850-30 La Croix International, 20210907
Pope at Angelus: Healing of the heart begins with listening
Extract from Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta, Vatican News, 7 September 2021
In his reflections before leading the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis recalls in Sunday’s Gospel when Jesus restores the hearing and speech of the deaf man. He says we can ask Jesus to touch and heal our own interior deafness, since the healing of the heart begins with being able to listen.        Recalling Sunday’s Gospel reading which presents Jesus who heals a deaf man with a speech impediment, Pope Francis observed the many actions Jesus took in healing him: putting his finger into the man’s ears, touching his tong with saliva and looking up to heaven and then saying to him “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened!”. Perhaps, the Pope suggested, it was because the man’s condition of deafness had a special symbolic value and can say something to all of us, since we all have ears, but “very often we are not able to hear”.       Healing Interior Deafness             The Pope described this as an “interior deafness” that we can ask Jesus to heal today. And “the healing of the heart begins with listening”. He pointed out that the deafness of the heart is worse than physical deafness, because we can become impervious to everyone and everything in our haste and busyness, sometimes closing ourselves off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters. By listening and letting ourselves be touched by people’s lives we can learn to live and grow in faith. ....(More)
Catholic Church must overhaul power structures
Extract from Christopher Lamb , Scarlett Sherriff, The Tablet, 7 September 2021
New guidelines for the forthcoming synod process are calling on the Church to overhaul its power structures while encouraging Catholic communities to play their part in reconstructing democracy.              Next month, Pope Francis will open a global synod in Rome marking the beginning of what some theologians have described as the most ambitious project for church renewal since the Second Vatican Council. The hope is that the forthcoming “synod on synodality” will offer a roadmap for the church's future by asking each diocese to hold a synod.           The synod office in Rome has now published a preparatory document and handbook to assist Catholic communities in the process, explaining that the synod is “a journey for all the faithful, in which every local Church has an integral part to play”.       Traditionally, synod gatherings bring together bishops from across the world for a three-week summit in Rome. Instead, the forthcoming synod will begin at the local level and culminate with a meeting of bishops in October 2023.....(more)

Don’t blame the boomers for decline of religion
Extract from CathNews NZ,     2 September 2021
The generation born in the two decades after World War II has long touted itself as the revolutionary religious demographic that grew up dutifully sitting in the pews before rebelling — as they did in music, politics, art and the bedroom — and freeing American culture from its hidebound superstitions.      OK, boomer.       Examining the data from the General Social Survey, it turns out it’s not the baby boomers who were the last vestige of a highly religious, very Christian era of American history.              Instead, Generation X — born between 1965 and the early ’80s — is the last to come of age and even perpetuate an overwhelmingly Christian and largely devout religious landscape in terms of church attendance and beliefs about God.       The GSS has been asking people about their belief in God since 1988, when the oldest members of Gen X were moving into adulthood.       The Silent Generation, the baby boomers and Generation X show up in its findings as just as likely (if not more) to have a certain belief in God in 2018 compared to 1988.      That’s clearly not the case for millennials, who dropped about 10 percentage points in 20 years in reporting their certainty about a supreme being.     It’s still very early to come to any firm conclusions about Generation Z, but there’s ample reason to believe that they are half as likely as Gen X to express a certain belief — leaving millennials as the generation that was the great divide.....(more).  Photo: CathNews NZ

Lay Catholic to represent Poland in Rome at Synod opening
Extract from CathNews NZ, CNA, 2 September 2021
In a first-ever appointment of its kind, a lay Catholic will represent the Church in Poland at the official opening of the synodal process next month.         The two-year synodal process is a consultative phase involving Catholic dioceses around the world.      Chosen by the Polish bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Professor Aleksander Bańka is the first lay person to represent the Church in Poland at an inaugural session.        He is one of 10 representatives from Europe at the official opening. The others include the president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, two bishops and seven lay people.           The Vatican says immediately after its official opening in Rome next moth, the two-year “synodal path” will begin in dioceses throughout the world.       Continental assemblies will follow the diocesan consultations. The process will culminate in the October 2023 synod of bishops at the Vatican.        The synod theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,”.....(more) Photo:   Professor Aleksander Bańka first lay representative of Church Poland at an inaugural session of Rome Synod.

Holiness does not come from following rigid rules, pope says
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, 1 September 2021
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Redemption is the work of God, not of human beings, so be careful and do not listen to “fundamentalists” who claim holiness comes through following certain laws, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.       The belief that holiness comes by observing particular laws “leads us to a rigid religiosity, a rigidity that eliminates that freedom of the Spirit which Christ’s redemption gives us. Beware of this rigidity that they propose,” he said Sept. 1 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.       God’s saving grace is received through faith in the Gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection, and God invites people to rejoice in the righteousness received through that faith in Christ, he said.      The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians by looking at the apostle’s explanation of justification by faith and of graces flowing from the Spirit, not from works of the law.      However, before beginning his catechesis, the pope spoke off-the-cuff to explain the context and purpose of the weekly audience talks, which are usually in-depth reflections on many aspects of church teaching.       The pope said the teachings in St. Paul’s letter were not anything new or “my own thing.”         “What we are studying is what St. Paul says during a very serious conflict” in Galatia. “They are not things that someone invented. No. It is something that happened at the time and that can repeat itself,” he said, referring to the apostle’s attempts to correct those who were tempted to believe a person is justified through works of the law, not faith in Christ’s redemptive action.       The pope said, “This is simply a catechesis on the Word of God expressed in the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians. It is not something else. Always keep this in mind.”....(more).
New women deacons commission to meet with unclear agenda
by Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter, 31 August 2021
First, the bad news: two officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have told me, in person, at lunch, that women cannot be ordained deacons because women cannot image Christ.         The good news: At least one no longer works there. I am not sure about the other.             Now, the London Catholic newsweekly The Tablet reports that the new commission for the study of women in the diaconate will meet for one week in Rome, beginning Sept. 13. One may assume the meetings will take place in the CDF's vaulted meeting room. The coming commission constitutes the fourth discussion group in recent history to discuss women deacons there.      Two subcommittees of the CDF's International Theological Commission reviewed the question over 10 years. In 1997, the first subcommittee reportedly found no problem with restoring women to the ordained diaconate. However, the CDF prefect at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, refused to promulgate their report. He named a new subcommittee, which produced a much longer report five years later. That 2002 report concluded that, while male and female deacons did not perform the same tasks and duties, there is a clear distinction between the diaconate and the priesthood. Therefore, they wrote, the question is up to the magisterium to decide....(more).   Photo: sign supporting women deacons Vatican Nov. 6, 2019,CNS Paul Haring, NCR 20210831
Pope replaces Australian bishop in alleged misconduct probe
Extract from APNews, 29 August 2021
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday replaced an Australian bishop who stepped down amid a Vatican investigation into what Australian media have described as allegations of sexual misconduct.           The Vatican said Francis accepted Bishop Christopher Alan Saunders’ resignation as head of the Broome diocese in Western Australia state. Francis appointed another prelate, Bishop Michael Henry Morrissey of the Geraldton diocese, to temporarily administer the sprawling Catholic diocese in Broome.      The Vatican, in keeping with its custom for announcing bishop resignations, did not cite a reason for replacing Saunders. At 71, he is four years younger than the age when the Vatican requires bishops to offer their resignations to the pontiff.      Australian media have quoted Saunders as strongly denying any wrongdoing and voluntarily offering to step aside. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported earlier this year that police and prosecutors decided against filing criminal charges.     Parishioners in the diocese were informed in May that the Vatican investigation was ongoing, according to Australian media reports.         Details of the case weren’t immediately available. Saunders has reportedly been on sabbatical.       After decades of sexual abuse scandals in many nations, Pope Francis has vowed to root out predator clergy. Cases involving bishops who systematically covered up for such priests also led Francis to try to rebuild the collapsed trust of many faithful by pledging to bring accountability to the church hierarchy.....(more)
Pope Francis' "attitude adjustment program" is gaining traction
Two phrases the pope casually threw out at the beginning of his pontificate now look like seeds that have begun to bear fruit
Limited extract from Robert Mickens,  subscription Journal La Croix International, 27 August 2021
The widespread negative reaction to the latest pronouncement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) -- that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions -- clearly surprised many people.      Pope Francis was probably among those who were taken back a bit, especially by the fact that more than a few bishops voiced displeasure with the CDF text. After all, he did authorize its publication.        It's fairly normal for theologians to speak out against documents that come from the Vatican's doctrinal office. But it's not so normal when bishops do so -- especially when it means "dissenting" from a clear Church teaching or discipline.       But that is what has happened. A number of bishops stepped forward (and others continue to join them) to say they disagree with the latest CDF statement, which was merely a re-iteration of the Church's official teaching on homosexuality.       And let's be honest. Except for its stinging line that God "cannot and does not bless sin", the authors of this statement seem to have tried -- though ham-handedly -- not to intentionally repeat the offensive language used in previous texts on homosexuality.      Bishops signal desire to "develop" teaching on homosexuality.          In fact, for the first time ever, we have a CDF document actually acknowledging that there can be "positive elements" in homosexual relationships, elements that "are in themselves to be valued and appreciated".        Of course, the authors of this badly argued text basically admit just one line later that they really cannot appreciate this because -- well, you know -- these "positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator's plan".      So, in the end, this latest CDF statement has not changed anything in the Vatican's longstanding, official line on homosexuality. Not a thing.       And yet, there was criticism and outrage -- even from bishops.       This is very significant, because it means that the Church's "official teachers of the faith" believe this teaching needs to be re-evaluated and developed.....(more)
In Ireland, the national synod will be organized by a lay woman
"The synodal pathway is an important and hope-filled development in the life of the Catholic Church in Ireland and I am grateful for the opportunity", says Nicola Brady
Limited Extract from Nicola Brady, subscription Journal La Croix International, 25 August 2021
The Catholic bishops of Ireland are promoting the "synodal pathway" by setting up an organizing committee headed by a woman under whose authority two assistants, including a bishop, will be placed.            After announcing their desire to hold a national synod, the Irish bishops have created an organizing committee responsible for carrying out the various stages leading up to the synod which should take place by 2026.       To chair it, they chose Nicola Brady, a laywoman who is General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches and co-secretary of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting.       Nicola Brady has expertise in the field of faith-based peace-building on the island of Ireland and at the international level, according to a statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference.        "The synodal pathway is an important and hope-filled development in the life of the Catholic Church in Ireland and I am grateful for the opportunity to help guide and shape this work", Nicola Brady said.        The vice-chairs of the synodal steering committee are Andrew O'Callaghan, a lay partner at the consulting firm PwC, and Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick.       The Irish bishops say they have been helped and greatly encouraged by Cardinal Mario Grech and Sister Nathalie Becquart, respectively secretary general and undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.        The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference has identified seven areas for "listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in Ireland', one of which is "honoring the contribution of women".         Women often feel undervalued by the Catholic Church. A study found that 74% of Irish Catholic women believed that the Church did not treat them with "a lot of respect", compared to 6% of Protestant women.        Former Irish president Mary McAleese has described the Catholic Church as "a primary global carrier of the virus of misogyny". A 2018 poll found that 55% agreed with McAleese that the Church does not treat women equally....(more).   Photo:  Nicola Brady N Brady Irish Council of Churches La Croix Int 20210925
A closer look at synodality and its promise for a more inclusive church
Extract from Hosffman Ospino, Opinion Piece, National Catholic Reporter, 23 August 2021
My colleague Rafael Luciani is one of the world's leading experts on the topic of synodality, the experience of "walking together" rooted in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council that Pope Francis has called on the Catholic Church to embrace.         Luciani, a native of Venezuela, serves as a theological expert for the regional Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and the Confederation of Latin American Religious (CLAR).       He is also one of three Latin American theologians invited as expert advisers for the theological commission of the secretariat for the next Synod of Bishops. Earlier this year, Francis expanded the upcoming synod: It will begin with a diocesan phase this fall, followed by continental meetings next year, and will conclude with a general assembly at the Vatican in 2023.      Luciani is professor extraordinarius at Boston College and a full professor at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Venezuela.          We spoke earlier this month about synodality, why some Catholics seem reluctant or unwilling to consider this way of being church, and what it means that Xavière Missionary Sr. Nathalie Becquart, his former student, will be the first woman serving as a voting member at a Vatican synod.        Following is our interview, which I translated from Spanish and edited for length and clarity.      Ospino: We hear much about synodality these days.      What do you think needs more clarity to understand this topic better?           Luciani: Above all, synodality is a way in which the church is and acts in history. It is not a method of doing things. It is an ecclesial way of proceeding grounded in the ecclesiology of the people of God described in Chapter 2 of Lumen Gentium.........(more).  Photo: Rafael Luciani NCR screenshot YouTube Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education, NCR 20210813
Archbishop Coleridge urges PM to increase Afghan intake
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 20 August 2021
The Australian Government should provide at least 20,000 humanitarian places for Afghans in the wake of the Taliban takeover, Australian Catholic Bishop Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge has said.     In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night, Archbishop Coleridge noted there has been “an outpouring of concern for the people of Afghanistan” as that country’s government has collapsed and the Taliban seized control.      He said the 3000 places offered above and beyond 8000 places over the past decade “is a substantial commitment, but more is needed”.      Based on estimates from key humanitarian organisations and pledges from other countries, Archbishop Coleridge proposed that at least another 17,000 places be made available.      “Australia has stepped up before in response to significant humanitarian crises, and I urge your government to be generous,” he wrote, adding that Catholic agencies “stand ready to assist your government with resettlement of refugees as an expression of our great concern for the people of Afghanistan”.      Archbishop Coleridge said many Afghans would find themselves vulnerable under Taliban rule, but he made particular mention of those who supported Australia’s defence personnel who served in Afghanistan, some of whom lost their lives, as well as religious minorities and women.    “It would seem our moral duty to stand with those who supported Australian military forces as interpreters or in other capacities, who it seems likely will suffer reprisals and even death for their work,” he wrote.     “We should also offer refuge to other Afghans who are likely to suffer persecution or risk being killed because of their opposition to the Taliban, or because of their beliefs, values and way of life, including members of the Christian community.         “There is a particular risk to women, and Australia's humanitarian response should recognise and support their dignity and human rights.”...(more). Photo: Archbishop Mark Coleridge ACBC CathNews 20210820
Pope Francis has said some interesting things about Vatican II in last several weeks.
Limited extract from from subscription journal La Croix Internmational, first published March 3, Republished 20 August 2021
On January 11, in a letter to the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accompanying his motu proprio allowing women to become lectors and acolytes, the pope described his decision in terms of the "horizon of renewal traced by the Second Vatican Council" and "in line with the Second Vatican Council."         Then came these remarks in his January 29 speech to the national catechetical office of the Italian bishops' conference:      This is the magisterium: the Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church. We must be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated in order to have more of these.... No, the Council is as it is. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity with respect to the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils.              As with all other teachings by Francis, these statements speak in a particularly direct way to U.S. Catholicism.       In recent months, some bishops and clerics have tried to advance a theologically defensible conservative interpretation of Vatican II, something to counter the extremist views of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and a group of like-minded quasi-schismatics, who in addition to rejecting the "Bergolian" magisterium have taken a position that's hard to distinguish from pure and simple rejection of the council's teachings.        Bishop Robert Barron, for example, has spoken of attacks on Vatican II as a "disturbing trend," and Thomas Weinandy, former executive director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the USCCB, has chastised Viganò for challenging the council's authenticity.       But there's more than theological interpretation to consider......(Source)  . Photo: Pope Francis. La Croix International, 20210820
Excommunicated or not, Call to Action leader served his church, community
Extracts from National Catholic Reporter, 19 August 2021
John Krejci has died in Lincoln, Nebraska.    It really wasn't his intent to die. Just no other options. For 15 years, he had outlasted the cancer that was supposed to take him in a year. All the while, he protested on street corners, testified for or against legislative bills, wrote countless letters, went fishing, rode his bike all over town and played ice hockey. Attitude, he said, was everything.         A daily communicant, John was a person of faith and action who took "Love your neighbor" seriously. Even if the cause he championed was unpopular or ahead of its time or iconoclastic, he persisted. He'd challenge the powers-that-be because he simply expected them to do their best. He thought that if one were reasonable and direct and grounded in love, the challenge was worth the effort.     John grew up in the Omaha Czech community, went to seminary in Missouri and studied in Rome. Marching on March 7, 1965, at the second crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was his call to a life of activism. John never stopped marching.     He left the priesthood in good standing to pursue graduate work at the University of Notre Dame, studying social work — and capped it off with a doctorate in anthropology and sociology. There, he and former Benedictine nun Jean Gettelfinger met and married.....John also worked among the Omaha and Winnebago tribes, served on the board of Nebraskans for Peace, was active in the local NAACP and supported the United Nations Association's Model UN.         He was a frequent letter writer to newspapers, heads of church and state, and anyone else who he felt wasn't fully informed. He was on the street in vigils against the death penalty or protesting this or that war or liquor sales in communities bordering Indian reservations.....(more).  Photo:  John and Jean Krejci, Jennifer Krejci, NCR 20210819
Two Homilies:  i) next weekend (21st Sunday in OT) Insights into the challenge of 'hanging in there',
and,  ii) from last weekend (Assumption)  "Mary the person".
Extracts republished below with permission, 18 August 2021
A Homily for next weekend is republished with permission below from the WA Cyber Christian Community. Another Homily, for last weekend, from Wayne McGough presented at Inclusive Catholics is similarly republished underneath.
Homily extract, 21st Sunday OT: How hard it is to 'hang in there'
I was born into a traditional Irish-Catholic family and community. The latter comprised a minority in Northern Ireland. That fact reinforced my identity and it was further cemented by having a Catholic education all the way through to university and seminary.          For the most part I was comfortable in that milieu: being Christian was a great privilege and 'Catholic' was, by far, the best way to live out my faith. I really didn't have to make any life-changing conversions/ decisions.        But that attitude didn't last. It was when I began to really read and study the Bible and then moved into and encountered new cultures, languages, and a Vatican II 'way of being church' that I entered into a 'story' much bigger, older and wiser than the one I was cocooned in for years. I became so much more aware of the richness of tradition, sacrament and liturgy. I moved/leaned away from the personal and into the communal. These changes in perspective have deepened my faith. I feel more rooted - but not without struggles, failures and that 'Irish-Catholic guilt'.....(source)
Homily extract, Assumption: Mary the Person
.....The Catholic Church has 4 teachings about Mary. She was conceived without original sin. She was an eternal Virgin prior and after Jesus Birth. She is the Mother of God. She was assumed body and soul into heaven. While Luther and Calvin had no issues with her status later branches of Protestant belief rejected her exalted status due to the lack of scriptural evidence to justify these doctrines. Of the four teachings , the Assumption is the most interesting because it flowed out of the ordinary faithful’s beliefs as there was no grave and a strong traditional belief in her final home at Ephesus with St John who makes a alleged reference to her fate in a metaphor in Revelation.        However what was has been lost until the last 75 years is the real person. Her experiences are clearly described in the four gospels but our perception has always been directed to God or Jesus not from Mary’s perspective......(source)  Image (edited):Pixabay Tan Chen Chen
Technology in place for first Plenary Council assembly
Extract from ACBC, Melbourne Catholic, 16 August 2021
Despite large parts of the country being in lockdown, those planning the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia say all is in readiness to deliver the first assembly in October wholly online. Bishop Shane Mackinlay, the Plenary Council’s vice-president, said the Council journey has adapted to changing circumstances because of COVID-19 – and it is adapting again.         'With most of the country’s population currently in lockdown or having experienced lockdowns in recent weeks, we have plans in place to ensure the first assembly opens on October 3,' he said.        'Just as there was disappointment in needing first to postpone the assembly and then to move to regional hubs, the likelihood that most members will now join the assembly from their home is not what we had planned and hoped for.       'We know, though, that the Holy Spirit can and will work through this assembly, just as the Spirit has led us over the past three-and-a-half years.'        Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said a huge amount of work had been done to prepare for the Council to be held in hubs, with each member participating on their own device.            'As a result, this shift to most people participating from home is a pivot rather than a major detour from what we were planning,' she said.        'We are receiving exceptional support from technical experts within and beyond the Church to ensure that we can make the virtual assembly one that allows for the prayer, conversation, listening and discernment we’ve hoped for all along.'       Teams working on liturgy, communications and the assembly’s program are also altering existing plans for the new format.      Bishop Mackinlay said the approximately 280 members of the Council gathered online in four groups in recent weeks to continue their formation, including from a technology perspective.     'While there has been greater exposure to videoconferencing in the past 18 months, the Microsoft Teams environment was new to some,' he said....(more)
Unnecessary red tape aimed at silencing charities
Extract from Fr Frank Brennan, CathNews, Eureka Street, 18 August 2021
If the Morrison Government is going to add another layer of red tape to the operation of charities, it needs to provide a coherent, transparent explanation about what it is up to, writes Fr Frank Brennan SJ.          Last Wednesday, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation chaired by the Government’s Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells tabled a report highlighting problems with a proposed new regulation affecting charities.       Australia’s 59,000 registered charities are the backbone of the voluntary sector assisting citizens in all manner of situations, particularly in times of emergency and particularly in situations of ongoing economic deprivation. Think only of Vinnies and the Salvos.     The Morrison Government has a strong commitment to reducing government red tape. But at the same time, it has moved to tighten the supervision of charities.       The proposed new regulation would place a charity at risk of losing its registration if one of its staff or volunteers were to do an act (or omit to do an act) that may be dealt with as a summary offence under an Australian law relating to real property, personal property or causing personal injury or harm to an individual.      Vinnies chief Toby O'Connor gave the example that if a Vinnies member participated in the annual Palm Sunday protest rally against the Government’s refugee and asylum policy and disobeyed a police direction at one of these protests, it could impact on the ongoing registration of Vinnies as a charity....(more).
The challenge of Church leadership
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 12 August 2021
Two recent books set out the size of the challenge and the kind of leadership for meeting it envisaged by Pope Francis in his Synodal process.  As its title suggests, Wrestling with the Church Hierarchy takes a critical view of the leadership of the Catholic Church. It comprises annotated articles and talks of John Warhurst, a political scientist and long-standing columnist in Eureka Street. The collection gathers together descriptions of the Australian Catholic Church and its relationship to the State, correspondence, advocacy and personal views.        It begins with the findings of the Royal Commission on Sexual Abuse, which offered a study of an organisation whose operative values differed sharply from its professed mission both in the action of some of its officers and the cover up of their crimes.  It led a group of Canberra Catholics to which Warhurst belonged to advocate for church reform in response to this event, and later to the announcement of the Plenary Council.          Warhurst brings to this work his extensive participation and experience in Catholic agencies concerned with social justice. In his engagement with Catholic leaders about the Plenary Council and its processes he found them generally intent on avoiding engagement. The overall tone of his writing is not polemical but explanatory and persuasive, respectful of persons and positive in proposing necessary reform. He was clearly frustrated by the difficulty of persuading Church leaders to engage in ways that are recognised commonly as good governance.  He sees the defects of Catholic hierarchical leadership as structural, leading to a lack of transparency, accountability, consultation, inclusivity and humility, and a surfeit of clericalism. In that sense the tone of the book is elegiac.        Warhurst’s work is helpful in illustrating in great detail the difficulties of promoting needed change in the face of structural paralysis.  The short book of Anne Benjamin and Charles Burford complements it by presenting an attractive and detailed understanding of leadership in the Church which might free the energy needed for reform.  Leadership in a Synodal Church is informed with familiarity with contemporary theories of leadership. It provides the background for understanding Pope Francis’ concept of a synodal Church.....(more).     Image: Eureka St 20210812
Encounter with Jesus is more important than all of the commandments
Extract from Pope Francis, America-the Jesuit Review. 11 August 2021
Brothers and sisters, good morning!     “Why the law?” (Gal 3:19). This is the question that we want to deepen today, continuing with St. Paul, to recognize the newness of the Christian life enlivened by the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit exists, if Jesus exists who redeemed us, why the law?  And this is what we must reflect on today. The Apostle writes:  “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). Instead, Paul’s detractors sustained that the Galatians had to follow the Law to be saved. They were going backward. They were nostalgic for times gone by, of the times before Jesus Christ. The Apostle is not at all in agreement.  These were not the terms he had agreed on with the other Apostles in Jerusalem. He remembers very well Peter’s words when he said: “Why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The dispositions that had emerged in that ‘first council’ – the first ecumenical council was the one that took place in Jerusalem – and the dispositions that emerged were very clear.  They said: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us [the apostles] to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols [that is, idolatry] and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity” (Acts 15:28-29). Some of the things touched on worshiping God, and idolatry, and some things regarding the way of understanding life at that time.         When Paul speaks about the Law, he is normally referring to the Mosaic Law, the law given by Moses, the Ten Commandments. It was in relationship to, it was on the way, it was a preparation, it was related with the Covenant that God had established with his people.  According to various Old Testament texts, the Torah – that is, the Hebrew term used to indicate the Law – is the collection of all those prescriptions and norms the Israelites had to observe by virtue of the Covenant with God.  An effective synthesis of what the Torah can be found in this text of Deuteronomy, that says......(more)  Photo:  Pope Francis smiles general audience 2021 CNS Vatican Media, America the Jes Rev 20210811
The bishops must hear the laity for synodal process to succeed
Limited extracts from Frank Callus, The Tablet, 9 August 2021
....Religious practice evolves. It is not the norm for rapid and dramatic change. These times are far from normal, however. One thousand nine hundred and fifty years after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Church faces its own significant moment. The pandemic has closed churches, interrupted the ebb and flow of liturgical services and caused profound anguish to people of faith and people of none......The papacy of Pope Francis is the one that spans the pre- and post-Covid-19 eras. In many ways his sense of mission is perfectly in tune with the spirit of the age. He has been shaped by a global pandemic and seeks to shape a global response. Even before the first cases in Wuhan, his papacy has been characterised by a renewed interest in and commitment to the principles of a synodal Church............. It was Pope St Paul VI who developed the concept of a Church that was in dialogue with itself. The establishment of the synod of bishops has become an integral part of the governance of the Catholic Church for the last half century. For the Church, in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, synodality was a process that engaged the clergy in general and the episcopate in particular........Like the Jews in Jerusalem in the first century, we need to find our new place in a community where the Church will need to be alive to the needs of the local area, where the domestic issues are at the centre of our concern and where pastor and people journey together. The synod is a call to the people of God to consider what they need from the Church and how they are to be Church to the rest of the world.....(full article HERE).     Photo: Bishops, Pope Francis closing Mass Amazonia Synod Robert Harding Alamy, The Tablet 20210809
Vinnies National President to participate in Catholic Church's historic Plenary Council meeting
Extract from St Vincent de Paul Society,  Media Release, 9 August 2021
Speaking just weeks before the first assembly of the historic 5th Plenary Council in Australia, National Council President and Plenary Council Member, Claire Victory, said she hoped the Plenary Council would lead to greater inclusion and an urgent recasting of church leadership and governance at every level of the Church in Australia.        ‘The Plenary Council process is one opportunity for urgently needed cultural and systemic change identified not just by the recent child sex abuse royal commission, but by faithful lay Catholics for decades.       ‘As the largest lay-led Catholic organisation in Australia the St Vincent de Paul Society has a crucial role to play in the restoration of our church’s credibility’, Ms Victory said.         ‘Our mission as church is not to fill buildings, but to reach people where they are, not where the church wants them to be.  This is what Vincentians do when we offer care and support to people who are disadvantaged, voiceless and in need of a hand up.       ‘This calls for a paradigm shift – from an authoritarian, hierarchical, patriarchal model to a communion of communities engaged in dialogue, discernment and decision making around both ecclesial and social concerns.             ‘To transform itself, the Church must strive to be more representative of the entire community it seeks to serve. We want our Church to be known for its commitment to the poor, not as passive recipients of our benevolence but as people central to the Church’s life and mission.         ‘The Society strongly advocates for a Church that condemns clericalism and promotes a more transparent and accountable model where hierarchical structures give way to shared leadership, where wisdom is sought through a process of genuine dialogue and inclusive vision.       ‘We don’t know how successful the Plenary Council process will be in enabling the voice of lay people to be heard or what will come out of this historic opportunity, but we choose to remain optimistic about the potential for the genuine engagement of lay Catholics.                 ‘Do we want the smooth path to completion or are willing to engage in the radical and confronting work of transformation to make room for the new?         ‘As Vincentians, we hope that this Plenary Council (and the significant hard work that follows it) will lead to a Church that has a more deliberate, inclusive and intentional focus on its fundamental mission of following Christ by serving the poor,’ Ms Victory said.....(More). 
Statement on disagreement between Irish Government and some members of Catholic Bishops
Extract from Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland, 8 August 2021
The leadership of the ACP believes that the recent disagreement between the Government and some members of the Catholic Bishops offers an opportunity to reflect on a number of issues that are pertinent to both Church and State. There is some truth in the cliché that a good crisis must not be wasted.          Some bishops expressed disappointment that they were not consulted by the politicians.  This could prove useful in providing the bishops with the experience of powerlessness and, from it, they may gain a better understanding of what it is like for certain groups within a church that teaches that we are all equal by virtue of our Baptism. Women, gay people and those in second relationships, could tell bishops a lot about being powerless when it comes to Church teaching and practice.        The pattern of celebrating both First Communion and Confirmation has been troubling for many priests and people in recent years.  Children are presented for both sacraments even though many of them rarely, if ever, attend any celebrations of the Eucharist, either before or after the big day.        The ACP believes that the current model whereby the bulk of sacramental preparation takes place in school, in a partnership involving school, parents and parish, is no longer fit for purpose.  This way of doing things has to change. It is the role of the family and parish to nurture faith and introduce children to the sacraments.
       The ACP is not aware of any discussion taking place with priests or pastoral councils by those bishops who stated that they were allowing parish celebrations of the sacraments in contradiction of the stated position of both medical and civil authorities.  Such lack of consultation is a far cry from the approach to decision making envisioned in the Synodal Church promoted by Pope Francis, and being launched here in Ireland this year.....(more)
Church urges action to care for the earth, the poor
Social Justice Statement, Australia’s bishops commit to a seven-year journey towards seven Laudato Si’ Goals
Extract from CathNews, 6 August 2021
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has made an historic commitment to work towards a more sustainable Church in its annual statement promoting social justice.      In the Social Justice Statement 2021-22 launched online yesterday, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, the bishops commit to a seven-year journey towards seven Laudato Si’ Goals.      “We are facing an ecological crisis and Pope Francis wants the whole Church globally to act with a greater sense of urgency,” said Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service.      “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been caring for country from time immemorial. The rest of us need to listen, and to learn how we can walk together to care for the whole of creation – including one another.”       The statement explains that the Laudato Si’ Goals “aim to put Pope Francis’ [2015] encyclical into practice, making communities around the world sustainable in the spirit of the integral ecology of Laudato Si’”.      The statement urges families, schools, parishes, dioceses and organisations to join the bishops in signing up to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.      The platform, an initiative of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will gather ideas for action from around the globe to help participants in their journeys.      The Bishops Conference’s Office for Social Justice has been involved in developing the platform.      At the statement’s launch, Bishop Long also announced a new name for that agency – now known as the Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace – affirming “social justice, ecology and peace are inseparable”.......(more) Photo: SJS_Cry_of_the_earth-ACBC_2021-22 CathNews 20210806
Bishops Conference names deputy general secretary
Extract from CathNews, ACBC, 6 August 2021
Jeremy Stuparich, who for 10 years has been the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s public policy director, has been appointed to a new role as the Conference’s deputy general secretary.      Mr Stuparich will retain his public policy responsibilities while working closely with the general secretary, Fr Stephen Hackett MSC, in the new role.      Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Bishops Conference, said the role was established following an analysis of the responsibilities of the general secretary, which have grown significantly in recent years.       The role will occupy about half of Mr Stuparich’s workload. He will continue to handle the Conference’s government relations and oversight of political and social matters, with the Public Policy Office to receive additional resources to assist with other policy and research work.      Archbishop Coleridge said Mr Stuparich has been a major contributor to the work of the Conference and the Church in Australia for many years.      “Jeremy is among the longest-serving staff members in the Conference and someone the bishops know, trust and respect,” he said.       “Jeremy has seen significant changes in the life and work of the Conference and understands well our current mission and purpose. He will very capably work with Fr Hackett in a range of important areas which will help the Conference to function even more effectively.”        Mr Stuparich said he looks forward to taking on the additional responsibilities as part of the Conference’s senior leadership.      “My new role will be to help support the work done by the bishops commissions and their executive secretaries, to foster the ongoing professional development of Conference personnel and to support the improved governance and operations of the Conference.”...(more)Photo: Jeremy_Stuparich-ACBC_CathNews 20210806
What we might hope from the Catholic Plenary Council!
You are hopeless. You are not listening to me.
Extract from Jim Jones, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 5 August 2021
When my disabled son was about 22 years old he had a big list of medical problems and a correspondingly big list of medical specialists whom we consulted once every two or three months. On one such occasion he and I sat side by side in a space not unlike an old fashioned milk bar booth. We sat on a bench with a wall behind us. I sat against another wall while Nathan had a passage way beside him. Across the table from us the doctor had a bench to himself. In front of me I had a manilla folder containing some notes I wanted to mention to the doctor.        As soon as we had exchanged “good mornings” Nathan picked up my manilla folder and dropped it on the floor, well out of my reach. I said: “this is not what you promised”. “Sorry Dad”, he said. He then eyeballed the learned professor – for such the doctor was – and said: “you’re hopeless”. I felt it was my turn to say something but before I found my first word Nathan continued: “you don’t listen to me”. I didn’t think then and I still don’t think that the doctor was hopeless but “you don’t listen to me” was right on the money and I was not going to say anything that might weaken it. We departed and our GP found us a more congenial specialist.      If ever I’m sitting across the table from our Australian bishops I should start the conversation off with: “you’re hopeless”. I would be applying this to the bishops as a team, not to individual bishops. A modern bishop has almost two jobs to do and for some the two may be irreconcilable. The bishop has been selected, educated, mentored, to be the undisputed monarch of his little kingdom. At the same time he is given the job to lead his subjects away from this pattern of community to something more like the secular aspects of modern life – a job that can only be done as part of a national team of bishops; it is this second job at which our bishops are hopeless. In my fantasy conversation with our bishops I will not say: “You don’t listen to me”. I will say that you don’t listen to the 90% of Australian born Catholics who wordlessly but with penetrating eloquence tell you every weekend that you are failing; they do this by not coming to Mass.....(more)
Rebel Irish Bishops defy government’s Covid Communion ban
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet, 5 August 2021
Rebel bishops in Ireland plan to defy the government’s ban on First Holy Communions and Confirmations by recommencing the sacraments in their dioceses later this month.      The move was first announced by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran, who said he had made the decision after consulting senior priests in his diocese. He said the ceremonies would be held in line with public health regulations for general religious services.      Currently the rules for such ceremonies allow 50 worshippers in smaller buildings and pods of 50 spaced out by four metres in bigger premises.      Writing in the Irish Independent, Bishop Doran says: “The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely.”      Following his decision, the bishops of Clogher, Meath, Raphoe and Waterford and Lismore said they would also be recommencing Communions and Confirmations....(more).   Photo: Irish rebel Bishops defy Communion ban George Sweeney Alamy
Crises are signs that church is still alive, pope says
In a video message released by the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network Aug. 3, 2021, Pope Francis offered his prayer intention for the month of August and prayed that the church "may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel."
Extract from Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service.
Difficulties and crises within the Catholic Church are not signs of a church in decline but one that is alive and living through challenges, just like men and women today, Pope Francis said.      “Let us remember that the church always has difficulties, always is in crisis, because she’s alive. Living things go through crises. Only the dead don’t have crises,” he said.       In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network Aug. 3, the pope offered his prayer intention for the month of August, which is dedicated to the church’s mission of evangelization.      At the start of each month, the network posts a short video of the pope offering his specific prayer intention.      The church’s call to evangelize and not proselytize, he said, is more than just a vocation; it is a part of the Catholic Church’s identity.      “We can only renew the church by discerning God’s will in our daily life and embarking on a transformation guided by the Holy Spirit. Our own reform as persons is that transformation. Allowing the Holy Spirit, the gift of God, in our hearts reminds us what Jesus taught and helps us put it into practice,” the pope said.      Catholics can renew the church only by “discerning God’s will in our daily life” and putting Jesus’ teaching into practice, he added.       “Let us begin reforming the church with a reform of ourselves, without prefabricated ideas, without ideological prejudices, without rigidity, but rather by moving forward based on spiritual experience — an experience of prayer, an experience of charity, an experience of service,” the pope said.      Before reciting his prayer intention, Pope Francis expressed his hope for “an even more missionary option” that “goes out to meet others without proselytism.”       “Let us pray for the church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel,” he said.....(more)   Photo: Pope Francis prayer church recs from Holy Spirit grace and strength to reform in light of Gospel CNS screenshot Vatican Media 20210803
Grappling with Patriarchal Constructs of Women in the Lectionary and Bible.
Rev. Wil Gafneym Ph.D, Women Erased Series, Future Church,
2 August 2021

Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney's presentation on the Lectionary. 
Her masterful, imaginative, and comprehensive approach to Scripture and the Lectionary is a gift to the entire church.

Video: YouTube, HERE

Consultation prompts diverse responses
Extract from CathNews, The Southern Cross,  30 July 2021
More than 600 responses have been provided as part of the consultation phase of the Adelaide Diocesan Assembly since a video message was shown at every parish and community in the diocese last month.           In the video, Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan invited people to participate in the consultation by reflecting on the community and diocesan family, and answering the Diocesan Assembly question, “What do you think are the most important things to be discussed at the Diocesan Assembly?”        The gathering is scheduled to take place at Cabra Dominican College on September 17 and 18.      Diocesan Assembly coordinator Peter Bierer said while the number of responses received via the website and postage-paid postcards was “not insignificant” he was still hoping for more people to share their “thoughts, ideas, feelings and hopes”.       “The responses from this consultation phase, along with the local responses from the Plenary Council listening and dialogue process from a few years ago, will guide the development of the agenda for the Diocesan Assembly,” he said.      “So the more responses we receive from a wider diversity of people, the better the discussions will be at the Assembly.”      Mr Bierer said the responses so far touched on a wide range of topics, from the length of homilies and quality of music in parishes, to global issues such as the priesthood and the sacraments.       He added that some of the responses were things that could be passed on immediately to specific communities and parishes to address. The global issues could be discussed and sent to Rome.       The Diocesan Assembly co-ordinating team has produced a short video with a sample of the responses received to date. The video can be viewed at www.adelaidediocesanassembly......(more).    Image:Adelaide Diocesan Assembly, Adelaide Archdiocese, CathNews 20210730
Let’s go to where the people are: Archbishop Comensoli
Extract from CathNews, The Weekend Australian, 26 July 2021
A mission renewal process in the Melbourne Archdiocese has reinforced a shift in city populations, with the once-dominant inner-city parishes being overtaken by outer suburban churches in the city’s growth areas.       The archdiocese is undertaking a major internal review of how it sells the Gospel in a changing society, with moves to set up a series of missions that will attempt to serve more than one million mainly Melbourne Catholics.        Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli is overseeing a process of renewal that includes a reordering of resources and an expectation of considerable changes to the way the Church functions in the future.          He said a key aspect of the mission renewal was making sure that resources were allocated to growth areas without forgetting inner areas; six of the top-10 parishes with the smallest Catholic population are now in the inner city.        “I’m saying let’s go to where the people are,” Archbishop Comensoli said. “Where do you go to plant the seeds? Go plant them where the people are.”         Census data shows that five of the top-10 parishes are in Melbourne’s north and the other five in the west, which coincide with some of Australia’s highest population growth, fuelled by cheaper housing and immigration.        The mission renewal process is being greeted with concern by clergy, many of whom are ageing and facing uncertainty over their futures and how they will spend their final years as priests.....(more).   Photo: Archbishop Peter Comensoli with Fr Fabian Smith and the Samoan Divine Mercy Choir at outer-west parish of St Anthony CathNews 20210726
Who are our Plenary Archdiocesan members?
In the lead-up to Australia’s Fifth Plenary Council, the Catholic Voice sought the views of some of our Archdiocesan members. They discuss their Plenary journey, reflections, expectations.
Extract from Catholic Voice, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, 6 July, republished here 25 July 2021
John Warhurst          What has your role been?      In terms of the official plenary process my role hasn’t been to do very much yet. I have a set of core beliefs about greater equality for lay people in the church especially women. I am a believer in increased transparency, accountability and co-responsibility in the church. I am an open-minded good listener. I believe the church is at a crisis point and there has to be some bold reforms taken.        What do you expect to come out of the plenary process?      The honest answer is, I don’t know. It’s a process that has been made much more difficult by the fact that we aren’t all meeting together, we are in multimodal hubs and online so in terms of the logistics that’s difficult and we haven’t had our training sessions yet and the agenda hasn’t been published yet. The aspirations have been set very high and I think there has to be something substantial across several areas in terms of the church’s internal operations and the church’s relationship with the wider world.        What do you believe are the perceived expectations from those in the Archdiocese?        Some people are more or less happy with business as usual with some tinkering around the edges, but a whole lot of people are unhappy in terms of the place of women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the church, dealing with the ageing of the church, and it’s a necessity to do something about those.     What do you tell people who believe nothing will change?       I tell them that this is a great opportunity and try to put your scepticism on the backburner for a while to give the process a chance.       How confident are you that the outcomes of the plenary will represent the changing demographic face of the church?          The church is changing around us and in my own parish it is more multi-cultural than ever. The church has to engage with the hopes and aspirations of recent immigrants and the multicultural community. That depends on a willingness and confidence of the multicultural community to speak up for themselves and to engage and also listen to other delegates.        Do you feel you are a voice for a particular group of people in the Archdiocese?         I hope to be a voice for everyone. Having said that there’s no doubt because of my background and age I am a Vatican II Catholic and I hope to speak for the aspirations of Vatican II Catholics who have had a lifetime of hoping for church reform including a voice of the laity................(More  - including from Sally Fitzgerald,  Brigid Cooney).     Photo: Canberra Goulburn Archdiocesan Plenary members L R Monsignor John Woods  Brigid Cooney  Archbishop Prowse  John Warhurst  Sally FitzGerald  Fr Tony Percy VG
Parishes: Leadership and other issues associated with clustering and mergers
Extract from Brendan Daly*,  CathNews NZ 23 July 2021
Today the most common experience of church and Christian community is in a parish. In many dioceses and archdioceses, parishes are being clustered into pastoral areas,2 and often the number of Masses in these pastoral areas is being rationalised and timed so that it is easier for neighbouring priests to celebrate Masses in the other parishes for which they are responsible.      When parishes are clustered, priests sometimes find it difficult with the number of meetings they now have to attend, because there is a parish council and a parish finance committee in each parish.        Also, throughout New Zealand and Australia, parishes are being combined or merged with other parishes. Major questions arise concerning leadership and the role of priests. Church buildings are sometimes being sold for profane use or used as educational facilities, rather than as places of worship.      These changes in parishes raise a number of pastoral and canonical issues concerning leadership, ownership of property, consultation and the procedures required. In fact, suppressions and alterations to parishes elsewhere in the world have been successfully challenged by recourse to the Holy See.       Scripture.........(more)
*Brendan Daly is a priest from the diocese of Christchurch and a Doctor of Canon Law. He taught at Holy Cross College, Dunedin and then at Good Shepherd Theological College, Auckland. In 2002 he became principal at Good Shepherd College and is now a Lecturer at Te Kupenga. Brendan is a judge on the Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand.
Nathalie Becquart explains synodality
In lengthy interview in Germany, the first-ever woman undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops says Church decisions must involve listening to as many Catholics as possible
Limited extract from  Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 22 July 2021
Nathalie Becquart, the French religious sister who was named undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops last February, says Church leaders need to include a plurality of opinions in decision-making processes to avoid endorsing one limited view of the world.        The 52-year member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters is the first-ever woman to be appointed to an executive position in the Synod secretariat.             And when the Synod of Bishops holds it next plenary session in October 2023, she will make history again by being the first woman ever to vote at such a gathering.        Becquart is keenly aware of how greatly symbolic that will be for many Catholics.      But in a 12-page interview published by German Catholic Podcast Himmelklar, she insisted that if the decision-making process is truly synodal, then the vote at the end will be "more or less a formality".      A Church in which everyone has a voice       "To put it quite simply, synodality means walking together along a common path and being an itinerary Church in which all the baptized work together," she said.       The undersecretary said a synodal Church is one in which everyone has a voice. She called it an inclusive Church concerned with relationships.         And she explained that the people in the secretariat in Rome have made efforts to be in contact with as many different Catholics as possible in order to really listen to what they have to say.             They had already arranged meetings with bishops' conferences and Catholic associations on the continental level.       "Pope Francis has made it clear that the coming Synod must result from a process that emanates from the very roots of the Church," she noted......(source) Photo: Sister Nathalie Becquart in Rome, ALBERTO PIZZOLI AFP, La Croix Int 20210722
Women believers changed the Roman Empire — now we must change the Roman Church
Extracts from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, 22 July 2021
On the feast day of the "apostle to the apostles," St. Mary of Magdala, I want to reflect on something I suspect this first witness to the Resurrection and foremost leader in the early Jesus movement might find puzzling. Namely, what is the big deal about recognizing women's leadership in today's Catholic faith communities?        We live in a very different cultural context than did Mary of Magdala and other early Christian women, but our own times are no less in need of Christ's healing energy than the ones in which they lived.         The Jesus movement spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire because of the initiative of female prophets, evangelists, missionaries, heads of house churches and widows, and financial support from Christian businesswomen such as Mary of Magdala and Joanna (Luke 8:1-3) as well as Lydia (Acts 16:11-40), Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), Olympias, a fourth-century deacon (whose feast day is July 25) and others.       Pope Benedict XVI himself acknowledged as much on Feb. 14, 2007, when he said the "the history of Christianity would have turned out very differently without the contribution of women" and noted the "female presence that was anything but secondary."          Church historians tell us that the domestic networking and evangelizing efforts of women led to the remarkable expansion of early Christianity. Early house churches were led by women of status such as Grapte, a second-century leader of communities of widows and orphans in Rome. Through the house church, early Christians gained access to social networks that brought them into contact with people from diverse social classes.           When a female head of household, perhaps a wealthy widow or freed woman, converted to Christianity, Christian evangelists such as Prisca (Romans 16:3-5) or Paul gained access not only to her domestic household but also to her patronage network. This meant that her slaves, freed persons, children, relatives and patronal clients would convert as well. ...........In their exhaustively researched book A Woman's Place, Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Y. MacDonald demonstrated that within their Christian social networks, these lower-class Christian women had money, high status and freedom of movement, especially throughout the extended household of antiquity.        This is affirmed by a notorious critic of the early church, Celsus, who took a dim view of women's evangelizing activities.....(More)  Photo:Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov CNS Wikimedia Commons, NCR 20210622
The challenges of representing Catholic Australia
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  20 July 2021
The Plenary Council First Assembly is only two months away, but uncertainty still remains about the role that its 282 members will play. Not just about what work they will do but what conception of the role they will bring or will be imposed upon them by the authorities. Their designation has changed from delegate to member, freeing them somewhat from the expectation that they will be tied to the views of their diocese or other ‘sponsoring’ body. But it has not resolved some perceived role confusion both among the members themselves and within the wider Catholic community. This confusion has important consequences.             My member formation session last month was told, in the context of discussion about the part that connection with the wider Catholic community would play in the assembly, that the Plenary Council Assembly should ideally be a community but not a bubble.  I was struck by this description because it nicely encapsulates the possibilities.  There is a sense in which the membership should bond together to do its “job”, but not to the extent of shutting out the general community. This leaves room for individual members to be a bridge to the broader Catholic community and raises expectations that the Catholic people have a right and duty to communicate with them.                 My impression is that the Plenary Council organisers have always leant towards a narrow vision of the assembly.  Members have been advised that they have no responsibilities beyond official PC duties. The PC authorities have also not tried to take obvious steps towards encouraging connections between members and the community. For instance, they have not provided public contact addresses, such as email addresses, which would enable the community to contact PC members directly.  They have also allowed several members to continue in their role although they have left their dioceses temporarily for travel or study. This breaks the desirable link to community as they are no longer present among “their people”....(more).   Image: Woman in church face mask praying Gabriella Clare Marino Unsplash Eureka Street 20 July 2021

Pope Francis announces a requiem for the Old Latin Mass
Francis boldly overturns Benedict XVI's most significant legislative act, takes steps to eventually eliminate use of the Tridentine Rite
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter From Rome, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 16 July 2021
In a truly gutsy move, Pope Francis has overturned one of the most significant (and many believed enduring) pieces of universal Church legislation that was issued by his still-living predecessor, Benedict XVI.        The 84-year-old pope on Friday severely curtailed the exclusive rights Benedict gave priests in 2007 to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at will and without permission from their superiors.       In a new "motu proprio" called Traditionis custodes (Guardians of the Tradition), the Jesuit pope nullified almost every key provision set forth in Benedict's own "motu proprio" of fourteen years ago, Summorum Pontificum.       The bishops are to limit use of the Old Mass.....(source).   Image: La Croix International 20210716

On the Latin Mass, Pope Francis pulls off the Band-Aid
Extract from  Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 16 July 2021
Pope Francis is a patient pastor. Until he isn't.     His new apostolic letter, Traditionis Custodes, in which Francis communicates "the firm decision to abrogate all the norms, instructions, permissions and customs that precede the present [document] and declare that the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II … constitute the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite" is the ecclesial equivalent of ripping off the Band-aid in one pull. It was also the only real option.      Four years ago, on the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter granting greater access to the Tridentine rite, I noted that it was clear the pope's hopes had not been realized. I wrote:        There are those who have made the extraordinary form the symbol of an ecclesial agenda that certainly runs counter to much of what Vatican II achieved. If you spot a bishop who likes to don the cappa magna, or a seminarian with a biretta, you can bet that they likely are inclined toward a triumphalist view of the church and a more rigid theological stance than the council required.          I also noted that Benedict:            totally failed to perceive the potential for the development of websites with a kind of cult following, sites that are ostensibly devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass but that also serve as a conduit for a crimped, theologically unsophisticated form of Catholicism, combined with right-wing political agitprop. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Church Militant and Rorate Caeli all traffic in this nasty brew.        It turns out that I was not the only one who perceived that the situation had miscarried..........(MORE)
Francis reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass, reversing decision of Pope Benedict
Extract from Nicole Winfield, Vatican, The Associated Press, National Catholic Reporter, 16 July 2021
Pope Francis cracked down July 16 on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI's signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on the ancient liturgy.         Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict had relaxed in 2007. Francis said he was doing so because Benedict's reform had become a source of division in the Roman Catholic Church and used as a tool by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 event that led to wide reforms across the global church.      Francis issued a new law requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, and requiring newly ordained priests to receive explicit permission to celebrate it from their bishops in consultation with the Vatican.          Under the new law, bishops must also determine if the current groups of faithful attached to the old Mass accept Vatican II, which allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin. These groups can no longer use regular parishes for their Masses; instead, bishops must find an alternate location for them.      In addition, Francis said bishops are no longer allowed to authorize the formation of any new pro-Latin Mass groups in their dioceses.      Francis said he was taking action to promote unity and heal divisions within the church that had grown since Benedict’s 2007 document, Summorum Pontificum, relaxed the restrictions on celebrating the old Mass.....(More).  Photo:Latin Mass, Immaculate Conception Seminary NY CNS Gregory A Shemitz, NCR 20210716
Pope Francis and women's (church) work
Is the Jesuit pope paving the way towards women deacons or stopping it in its tracks?
Limited extract from Phyllis Zagano, subscription journal, La Croix International, 15 July 2021
Legions of female church workers at every level in parishes and chanceries, at episcopal conferences -- and even at the Vatican -- welcomed and welcome Pope Francis' efforts to eliminate clericalism.        The general perception that "they" (clerics) do not need "us" (women) seems to be fading. Or is it?          The great diversity of the "church workers" on which the Catholic Church depends fall into two main categories: paid and unpaid.        The great majority of paid professional positions are held by clerics. The great majority of volunteer, unpaid positions, whether professional or not, are filled by women.       Of course, there is cross-over, but the exploitation of women in what is loosely referred to as "church work" is a scandal that Francis seems ready to repair. For sure, restoring women to the ordained diaconate may be part of the answer, but it is not the only one.      Let us look at three points: 1) Francis' emphasis on lay involvement in the Church; 2) the problem of clericalism; 3) the possibilities for women deacons......(source).   Photo: Pope Francis and womens Church work, La Croix
Pope has a golden opportunity to substantially re-make the US hierarchy
As many diocesan leaders in America reach retirement age, Francis has a chance to select more bishops who enthusiastically support him and his vision of Church
Limited extract fron Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter, Subscription Journal LA Croix International, 15 July 2021
If personnel is policy, then a vote last month by the U.S. bishops to draft a controversial document on Communion that the Vatican had cautioned against reveals Pope Francis may have considerable work ahead of him in his efforts to get the American Catholic hierarchy to embrace his priorities.        Although the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken great efforts to walk back its own mixed messaging and now insists the eventual document will not address whether pro-choice Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden can receive Communion, the vote of 168-55 to move forward appears to indicate that, after eight years of the Francis papacy, the U.S. bishops' conference is still controlled by a majority of bishops out of sync with Rome.      "I thought that they had made more progress than that vote showed," said Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, a veteran Vatican observer and senior analyst for Religion News Service. "I was expecting the vote to be about 50/50."       While Reese noted that it is hard to know what was motivating each individual bishop, especially given the conflicting messaging about whether the document would address Catholic politicians, he told NCR it was still significant that a supramajority voted to move forward in light of the Vatican's doctrinal office urgingthe bishops to tap the brakes on their plans.       Yet if Francis, who turned 84 in December* and was hospitalized last week for the first major health scare of his papacy, is seeking to pick up the pace of episcopal appointments with bishops more aligned with his agenda, he does have a number of opportunities on the horizon.       To date, three dioceses in the U.S. are currently vacant, another nine bishops have already passed the age of 75, when bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope, and there are several other dioceses that will soon open......(source).   Photo: Episcopal hierarchy US La Croix International 20210715
Cardinal Parolin says Vatican reform document is ready
Limited extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville, Vatican City, Subscription journal La Croix International, 12 July 2021
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the man Pope Francis chose earlier in his pontificate to be his Secretary of State, says the long-awaited constitution for a reformed Roman Curia is basically finished and is now undergoing a legal review by the Church's canon lawyers.       Curia reform is just one of a number of topics the 66-year-old Italian cardinal spoke about in this exclusive interview with La Croix's permanent Vatican correspondent, Loup Besmond de Senneville.      He also looked at how the Catholic Church continues to deal with the clergy sex abuse crisis, bioethical issues in society and the upcoming Vatican maxi-trial on financial corruption......(Source)
Much Ado About Nothing
Response from a Biblical Perspective to the themes of the Plenary Council, 12 July 2021
Video (20 minutes) of a paper on the 6 themes of the Plenary Council from a Biblical Perspective, presented to the Catholic Biblical,Theological and Moral Association Conference 2021 by Professor Mary Coloe pbvm, University of Divinity......(HERE).
Pope leads Angelus from hospital room balcony
Extracts from CathNews, Catholic News Service,12 July 2021
Pilgrims and well-wishers gathered at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital to greet Pope Francis as he made his first public appearance in a week after undergoing intestinal surgery.             Appearing on the 10th floor balcony of his suite of rooms at the hospital yesterday, the Pope was greeted with applause and shouts of “Viva il papa” (“Long live the Pope”) from the crowd that stood under the scorching midday sun to see him.      “I thank you all,” the Pope said. “I have felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you very much.”.......Pope Francis said that his time in the hospital gave him the opportunity to experience “once again how important good health care is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit (that) must not be lost”.       Before praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful, Pope Francis expressed his “appreciation and encouragement” to the doctors, nurses and staff at Gemelli hospital. He also asked for prayers for the patients, especially the children, at the hospital, several of whom stood on the balcony with him.....(more)  Photo: Pope Francis Balcony Hospital CNS Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters, CathNews 12 July 2021

Real opportunity for radical change in the Church

Limited extract from Chris McDonnell, United Kingdom, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 10 July 2021
There has been much talk in recent weeks about facing up to our responsibility in the Church.   The offered resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, which Pope Francis declined (thankfully), was one high profile instance.   It has brought to our attention issues that many of us have been avoiding for too long, often through concern with the possible consequences.      But there comes a time when we must face reality and ask the difficult question: where do I stand?           With the Synod of Bishops' next assembly now due to open in 2023, there is a real opportunity for radical change.       Do we wait for an invitation to contribute to the preparation for the Synod or do we open wide the door that is ajar and make a worthwhile contribution?        Maybe now is the time for individuals to approach their bishop and raise pertinent questions.           The question is, how? Where communities have functioning parish councils, there already exists a structure for formulating opinion that might offer a way forward.     It beggars belief that there are still so many places where there is no recognized structure for parishioners to have a voice, where the management of parish life is centered on one person.   What is the emerging Church going to look like?          We are paying the price for our casual acceptance of clericalism over so many years. You take people with you by offering the option for real participation, by hearing their voice and responding to their concerns.      Whether we like it or not, circumstances have changed. The monolithic structure that has been accepted for so long deemed by many to be no longer fit for purpose.       What will replace it? What is the emerging Church going to look like? How will we sustain continuity with the faith that has nurtured our lives?     The question of faith is ever-present in the Gospel narrative. The challenges that are so often posed by Jesus the Nazarene ask for a response that demands confidence and trust in his word. Sometimes that seemed too much to ask.      We are told when the gift of the Eucharist is first mentioned that many turned away from him. Rather than explain that they had misunderstood him, he turned to those near him and asked if they wished to leave him as well.     The reply given by Peter in the Gospel of John is well known: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life".            Without doubt, what would faith really be?.....(Source)

Pope, recovering well after surgery
Extract from  Nicole Winfield, National Catholic Reporter, The Associated Press, Jul 7, 2021
Rome — Pope Francis’ recovery from intestinal surgery continues to be "regular and satisfactory," the Vatican said July 7, as it revealed that final examinations showed he had a suffered a "severe" narrowing of his colon.     The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the 84-year-old pope was continuing to eat regularly following his Sunday surgery to remove the left side of his colon, and that intravenous therapy had been suspended.      Bruni said final examination of the affected tissue "confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis."        Francis underwent three hours of planned surgery Sunday. He is expected to stay in Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, which has a special suite reserved for popes, through the week, assuming no complications, the Vatican has said.      Among those offering get-well wishes was U.S. President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has cited Francis in the past. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing Tuesday that the president "wishes him well and a speedy recovery."         Bruni said Francis appreciated all the prayers coming his way.      "Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer," he said.       Francis has enjoyed relatively robust health, though he lost the upper part of one lung in his youth due to an infection. He also suffers from sciatica, or nerve pain, that makes him walk with a pronounced limp....(more)
New Qld law forces priests to report child abuse
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Leader, 7 July 2021
A new Queensland law requires priests to report to police any information about child sexual offences heard during confession.      According to the law, all adults will have a legal duty to report to police sexual offending against children, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.      The law came into force on Monday. It passed through the state’s Parliament with support from both major parties last September, despite the Church defending the seal of confession.      In a formal submission to a parliamentary inquiry, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge explained that stripping Catholics of the seal of confession made priests “less a servant of God than an agent of the state”.       The new law arose as a result of recommendations from the royal commission into child sexual abuse. The maximum penalty for failing to report belief of a child sexual offence is three years’ imprisonment.       Queensland joins South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to have already enacted laws that make it a criminal offence for a priest to withhold abuse disclosures.     A Brisbane Archdiocese letter sent to all parish employees explained the changes “should be noted by all Queenslanders, including those within our parishes and schools and similar institutions”....(more)  Photo: Confession CNS CathNews 7 July 2021
Transgender group get COVID vaccinations at Vatican
Extract from CathNews NZ, 6 July 2021
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, July 1, confirmed about 50 transgender people were invited to have their COVID vaccinations at the Vatican. Their first shots were on 3 April and their second on 24 April.     The group came from a parish near Rome, where Fr Andrea Conocchia has been ministering to a transgender community for several years.      Last year Francis asked Krajewski to provide food and financial support to members of the transgender community who were struggling without work due to the pandemic.      “Life is life and you must take things as they come,” Francis says. Each situation is unique and must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated.     “This is what Jesus would do today,” Francis said another time when asked about meeting a transgender man who said it would be a consolation to come and see him with his wife.      This Easter,  the papal almoner invited Conocchia to bring the transgender people under his care to the Vatican to have their COVID vaccinations.         The group reacted with “surprise” and “emotion” to the experience of entering the Vatican for the vaccination, Conocchia says.        Many are undocumented and unable to access Italy’s free health care services, he says.        “They were moved to tears and felt remembered, having experienced once again and in a tangible way the closeness and tenderness of the pope’s charity.”....(more)   Photo: Transgender people COVID vaccinated at Vatican CathNews NZ 20210706
Pope Francis' Herculean efforts to clean up Vatican finances
The announced trial of 10 people connected to risky investments, including a cardinal, is just one part of a long series of internal reforms that has provoked fierce opposition
Limited Extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville, Vatican City, Subscription journal, La Croix International,  5 July 2021
The scene is the medieval-looking tower of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), more notoriously called the "Vatican Bank".   It was here in March 2019 that a request for a 150 million euros loan landed before IOR's board of directors.     The applicant? The Secretariat of State of the Holy See.       Located in the Apostolic Palace and headed by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, this is the Vatican's equivalent of a combined ministry of the interior and of foreign affairs.       It is here that the Vatican's finances, in particular its real estate investments, are managed.       And it was precisely to cover an investment in a building in London that the Secretariat of State sent the request for a loan to the IOR.      However, according to La Croix's information, officials at the so-called bank immediately balked.        First, because the reason for the request was more than vague: "institutional purposes".         Then, because one of the consequences of the profound financial reforms Pope Francis began in 2014 is that the Vatican Bank no longer grants loans, at least in theory.        In recent years, the operation and structure of the IOR have been considerably cleaned up. For example, nearly 5,000 suspicious accounts were closed there in 2016.         But in the case of the Secretariat of State's request, the board of directors -- under pressure -- made an exception.       It asked for documents justifying the reason for the requested loan.       This was just the beginning of a struggle that would last several months.       The first documents that arrived at the IOR were four photocopied sheets of paper slipped into an envelope. The Vatican bankers were far from satisfied.         They quickly realized that the real estate investment in London was based on a series of holdings stacked on top of each other.        Several trips back and forth followed, during which the IOR-mandated auditors did not succeed in obtaining the necessary documents.       One of them, in charge of compiling the file, was even threatened. This IOR employee resigned a month later.... (source)  Photo: Pope Francis attends IOR board of directors AP La Croix Int 20210705
Bishop Vincent: ‘My hope for the Plenary Council’
Extract from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Dom Helder Camera Lecture, Catholic Outlook, 30 June 2021
Plenary Council: Abundance of goodwill or the last throw of the dice?         With a few months to the first session of the long-awaited Plenary Council (PC2020), we are finally headed down the home stretch. The initial phase of listening drew nearly 220,000 people across Australia and 17,500 individual and group submissions. These submissions were distilled into the six national theme papers and then further distilled again into the working document and finally the agenda. Momentum for the Plenary Council ebbed and flowed during this process, which has been disrupted by the pandemic.       By and large, there has been considerable goodwill, enthusiasm and even a sense of hope for the future of the Church in Australia in the post-Royal Commission period. Robert Fitzgerald who – among other prominent roles – is the new Chair of Caritas Australia, once enthused that the Plenary Council is the only game in town. For a country of about five million nominal Catholics, the initial response was quite remarkable. Perhaps, for many of the disenfranchised, it is the last throw of the dice. I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket, though.        Some of you might have heard or even attended the first of the three convocation series organised by the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR). There were 3,000 participants, including myself. We heard a powerful and inspiring address by Sr Joan Chittister. Catholicism “must grow up”, she said, “beyond the parochial to the global, beyond one system and one tradition, to a broader way of looking at life and its moral, spiritual, ethical frameworks.”       That is the kind of stretching of the imagination and dreaming of the transformation of the Church that many Catholics are thirsting for. Few Catholics have any appetite left for cosmetic changes, mediocrity or worst, restorationism dressed up as renewal. We have struggled under the weight of the old ecclesial paradigm of clerical order, control and hegemony with a penchant for triumphalism, self-referential pomp and smugness. We yearn for a Church that commits to a God-oriented future of equal discipleship, relational harmony, wholeness and sustainability.       The revitalisation and convergence of many lay reform groups in response to the Plenary Council is no small development for the Church in contemporary Australia. It is a sign of the “growing up” that Joan spoke about. Australian Catholics are growing up beyond the passive, subservient to the co-responsible agents for the transformation of the Church. In Germany, there is a lay body called Central Committee, which plays a key role in their Synodal Assembly, including having one of its members as co-president of the said structure. Perhaps this unique feature is part of the legacy of the Reformation in the German Church.        Is the Church in Australia in pole position for deep reform?....(more).   Photo: Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Diocese of Parramatta 20210630
US priests' association looks toward a synodal future
"We have to help the Church in the United States to be a listening Church"
Limited extract from International Staff, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is helping members with a strategic planning process to focus on the future.       "It's our tenth anniversary assembly, but our focus is on the future," said Father Greg Barras, chair of the leadership team of the AUSCP, the country's largest group of Catholic priests, in a statement.      "Where do we go from here?" was the theme of the assembly, held June 21-24 in Minneapolis.     Part of 'the assembly was to delve deeper into the synodal model called for by Pope Francis, Father Barras said.       "The next synod at the Vatican will be on synodality itself, with diocesan, continental and universal phases over the next two years. We have to help the Church in the United States to be a listening Church."      Speakers to help the group with its strategic planning and to focus on the future included......(source)
Pope Francis' demanding program for new archbishops
At the annual pallium-blessing Mass, the pope warns recently appointed archbishops to avoid "hypocritical outward show" and "dubious associations with power"
Limited extract from Loups Besmond de Senneville, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
Pope Francis has told the 34 metropolitan archbishops he appointed within the past year that the Church's pastors "need to be set free time and time again" from worldliness, rigidity, dubious associations with power and fear of being misunderstood.      "For only a free Church is a credible Church," the pope said Tuesday as he celebrated Mass at the Vatican on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul and blessed a "pallium" for each of the new metropolitans.     The woolen ban signifies authority and the special bond of communion with the Bishop of Rome.      During the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, which was almost back to its pre-pandemic atmosphere with a thousand faithful spread throughout the massive church, Francis exhorted the archbishops to let themselves "be set free" by Christ in order to better accomplish their mission.....(Source)

The Italian Church needs to find itself in a synodal state
Do we not feel the need for a kick from the Spirit today, if only to wake us up from our torpor? asks Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, Editor-in-Chief, La Civiltà Cattolica
Limited extract from International Staff, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
From May 24 to 27, 2021, the Italian Episcopal Conference held their 74th General Assembly. Pope Francis opened it with a prayer and a dialogue with the bishops present.      The work of the Assembly, under the guidance of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, focused on the theme: "Proclaiming the Gospel in a time of rebirth.      Starting a synodal journey." In his introduction Cardinal Bassetti defined this journey as "a necessary process that will allow our Churches in Italy to continue to adopt a better style of presence in history that is credible and reliable."      The pontiff urged the bishops to take up the challenge proposed at the Florence Ecclesial Convention, and to improve a path that starts from below and puts the people of God at the center.      He has always complained of a certain "amnesia" regarding the directions he gave during his speech to the bishops in the Tuscan capital on November 10, 2015.       Clearly, the overlap between the calling of the Synod of the Universal Church – about which we will speak later – and the start of the synodal path of the Italian Church will be a unique opportunity to harmonize these paths.      The General Assembly then voted on the following motion: "The Italian bishops should initiate, with this Assembly, the synodal journey as indicated by Pope Francis and proposed in a first draft of the Charter of Intent presented to the Holy Father."     The Permanent Council of the Italian Episcopal Conference will establish a working group to harmonize its themes, timetable and forms.       The measured words of the motion summarize and relaunch a debate that has lasted six years.          It was the pope who opened the debate in Florence, suggesting the synodal method: "The nation is not a museum, but is a collective work under permanent construction in which the very things that differentiate, including political or religious affiliations, are to be shared," Francis said.      "I like a restless Italian Church," he added, "ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect."

The clericalist Church must be reformed root and branch
A lay-led initiative to re-define ministry, embrace diversity, re-think moral theology and share authority
Limited extract from Jon Rosebank, United Kingdom, subscription journal LA Croix International, 29 June 2021
In January 2020 the Catholic journalist Joanna Moorhead called for a synod that began with women rather than one that ended with them -- or excluded them altogether.        In retrospect she was just one in a growing chorus of voices calling for a new understanding of synodality. As we now know, Pope Francis would be another.      It seems that the Spirit has moved with exceptional agility. The pandemic led rapidly to new Catholic communities popping up on Zoom. They connected prayer and thinking, not just between parishes but across continents.       This made it possible for a movement to grow out of Moorhead's call – progressing quickly beyond the question of women's role in the Church to a much more profound consideration of ministry and authority, diversity and moral theology within the Catholic Church.      "Root and branch reform is necessary," states its website......(source)

The Vatican confesses: the hierarchical Church has lost the people
Holy See makes ill-fated, last-ditch attempt to alter proposed anti-homophobia law supported by most people in democratic Italy
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Vatican City, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 June 2021
Call it the Vatican or call it the Holy See.      It hardly matters anymore because the difference and nuances between the two terms (or entities) are lost on most people. That includes the majority of Catholics.       Increasingly, it seems, people don't care whether a distinction even exists.      Holy See and Vatican mean only one thing to most folks -- headquarters of the Catholic Church or bureaucratic center of a two-millennia-old religious behemoth.        And that behemoth, as I argued last week, continues to experience an implosion that dates back to at least the Reformation. Certainly by the time of the Enlightenment in the 17th century, this implosion became an ongoing process.      As the ancien régime arrangement of "throne and altar" in Old Europe was giving way to democracy, the Church -- especially the part tethered to Rome -- tried mightily with every weapon in its spiritual and worldly arsenal to barricade itself and its subjects against the modernizing trend.      The Church's futile attempt to make peace with modernity.          From time to time "enlightened" Christians raised their voice to warn the Church's hierarchs that this was futile. Then, finally, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) sought to make peace with "modernity", including democracy.        It is now obvious that the Council did not succeed, at least not completely. One need only observe the the continued attempts by Catholic bishops in various parts of the world to dictate to democratically elected governments and heads of sovereign states the course of political action they should pursue.....(source).   Photo: Vatican La Croix  International 20210625

Poland seeks Vatican's data for its church sex abuse probes
Extract from by Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press, National Catholic Reporter, 25 Jun 2021
Warsaw, Poland — Poland’s state commission for fighting sex abuse of minors said June 24 it has asked the Vatican for data on abuse by the clergy in Poland because Poland’s church is not providing the requested information.         Commission head Blazej Kmieciak said some 30% of cases of abuse of persons aged under 15 that the commission is analyzing relate to the clergy.         He said, however, that despite written requests made earlier this year to regional leaders of Poland's Catholic Church and of other churches, only one bishops' court made its files available to the State Commission for Cases of Pedophilia.         "We are receiving no documents, no information from Poland's Episcopate Conference that would allow for a substantive analysis of the cases that we need to clarify," Kmieciak told a news conference.       As a result, the commission sent a letter to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking, among other questions, how many cases of alleged abuse by the Polish clergy it reviewed in 2000-2020, how many ended with convictions, what the punitive measures were and how many clergymen have been removed from the church......In recent years the Vatican punished and suspended a number of Poland’s Catholic bishops and archbishops over neglect of reports of abuse of minors by the clergy in their area of responsibility.      The commission was established in 2019 and endorsed by parliament in 2020 with the task to review reports and cases of abuse of minors under the age of 15, ensure punishment for the perpetrators and work out preventive and educative measures. It is reviewing the cases of 330 individuals and has also analyzed files of over 260 court cases that have led to convictions.         Meanwhile, a retired archbishop who was punished by the Vatican in March for failing to properly react to reports of alleged abuse of minors in his Gdansk diocese has successfully run for the lay office of the head of a district in the village of Bobrowka, where he was born 75 years ago.....(more) Photo:   People awalking to Mass in Kalinowka, Poland, CNS Kacper Pempel, Reuters NCR 20210624
The Church should learn from democracy’s spirit of equality and participation
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  22 June 2021
Democracy is a modern ideal, still fighting for acceptance in some parts of the world. It has had to be fought for by brave advocates. The church by contrast is an ancient pre-democratic institution, which shows in its hierarchical organisation and undemocratic internal processes.        Yet now Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, insists that the days of monarchical and autocratic leadership in the church must be consigned to the past.  Co-responsibility and synodality, alternative ideas expressed in distinctive church language, are the suggested way forward. But the democratic ideal of equal participation by all members of a society still has much to offer the church.      The hierarchical church’s aversion to democracy is shown in the way the term is used in ecclesiastical discussion. A clear example came in the recent announcement of Pope Francis’ declaration of new world-wide diocesan synods in the lead up to the 2023 Synod of Bishops on the theme of synodality. Quick as a flash this announcement was followed by an instinctive insistence by the Secretaries of the Synod of Bishops that these new processes were not to be mistaken for democracy or populism. Even by linking democracy and populism in the same breath the church betrayed its confusion of a virtuous model of community organisation with its dysfunctional abuse. The instinctive reaction against democracy treats it as a virus which the church must strenuously avoid.       This is to its own cost. Democracy has many virtues. Its principles and processes incorporate equal representation in assemblies and parliaments while guarding against both the abuse of executive power and the danger of the misuse of majority parliamentary power. The latter is done by the incorporation of democratic checks and balances.      There is already a strictly limited form of democracy within the church, though top-down appointment is the norm. Some leaders, including popes, presidents of bishops’ conferences and congregational leaders, are chosen by a vote. Even a limited number of members of the 2021 Plenary Council, including leaders of religious institutes, were chosen by their peers.      But at the basic level of democratic principles the church continues to fall short by embracing its traditional hierarchy and by failing to ensure equal representation of the People of God in the life of the church, including in its decision-making processes. The Plenary Council fails to adequately represent lay Catholics, although they make up the vast majority of church members.....(more)
Vatican Secretariat begins discussing new synod process with bishops
Extract from CathNews NZ, Vatican News, 21 June 2021
In preparation for the next world Synod of Bishops, leaders of the synod’s general secretariat held online meetings to discuss the process with the presidents and general secretaries of national and regional bishops’ conferences.       Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary of the synod, and the office’s two undersecretaries, Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, held the meetings June 14-18 in sessions divided by language.     Revisions to the synod process were announced May 21. Pope Francis asked that it begin with consultations with lay people on the diocesan level. The discussion and discernment would then move to a national level and then the 2023 synod assembly itself.    “Without this consultation, there would be no synodal process, because the discernment of pastors, which constitutes the second phase, emerges from listening to the people of God,” Grech had explained in May.    After the first couple of meetings with leaders of bishops’ conferences, the cardinal said the reaction was “surprising, very positive, and there is a lot of enthusiasm among the bishops we have heard.”      Grech told Vatican News, not much is set in stone. “We have some general ideas, but we are open, as this is not a fixed process. We are listening to our partners because the synod is not a project of the secretariat but of the church.”       The expanded consultation, listening and discernment, he said, is the desire of Francis. But it is based on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the church is the people of God.        The Synod, which presents itself as a real “synodal time”, will be opened by Pope Francis on 9-10 October 2021.     The synodal journey will then be marked by three phases:      - a diocesan phase (October 2021 – April 2022) during which each individual faithful can participate in the diocesan consultation. This phase will end locally with a pre-synodal assembly: the culminating moment of diocesan discernment; – a national phase during which discernment will be entrusted mainly to the Episcopal Conferences;  – a continental phase (September 2022 – March 2023) which will discuss the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris.          Finally, the synodal journey will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”....(more)  Photo: Synod of Bishops preparation CathNews NZ 21 June 2021
US bishops flout Vatican request
Extract from CathNews NZ, National Catholic Reporter, 21 June 2021
Pope Francis has not commented about America’s Catholic bishops’ vote to deny US President Joe Biden Holy Communion because of Biden’s political support for abortion.      The US bishops are drafting new guidance on the abortion-communion issue, which they expect to release in November.      Their decision to vote about this matter flouts a letter from the Vatican in May.        The letter explicitly urged the bishops to avoid the vote.        The decision also disregards Francis’s pleas for them to de-emphasise culture war issues and expand the scope of their mission to climate change, migration and poverty.       The US bishops’ vote resulted in a large majority – 168-55 – agreeing to begin drafting guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist at the bishops’ virtual meeting last Friday. Six bishops abstained from the process.      Although the guidance’s details have not been divulged, it is assumed that conservative leaders in the U.S. church will use it as a vehicle to deny communion to prominent Catholics who support abortion rights. Biden is one such Catholic.      Church law, however, says for the bishops to pass a doctrinal declaration on banning communion, the conference needs either unanimous support – and at this stage not all US bishops are in agreement. The alternative is for the bishops to have two-thirds support and the Vatican’s approval.      Vatican approval seems unlikely.       “It’s not going to get to that point,” says a senior Vatican official with knowledge of the thinking inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog.        Biden, who attended Mass on Sunday (pictured) and was named several times during the bishops’ debate, says whether he is allowed to receive holy communion is a “private matter”.        He agrees with the Vatican that it’s unlikely to happen.       The grave issue of Friday’s vote is that it particularly threatens the unity of the American church itself.....(more)

Plenary Council, 18 June 2021

As children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are called to develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time.

‘I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.’     -  Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 27             

Download  Agenda  HERE

Church implosion right on schedule
Pope Francis' push for synodality has further opened a process that will allow for the deconstruction of a long-outdated and anachronistic Church structure
Limited, edited, extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 June 2021
Nearly nine years I spoke to a civic group in Cleveland, Ohio, about the "Vatican implosion" and, as a result, the long and gradual collapse of the Catholic Church's monarchical structure of governance and ministry.      I argued that as the last absolute monarchy in the West (and almost anywhere else in the world) the organization of the Roman Church has become an anachronism.     It made sense when monarchies were a fundamental feature of human society. But no longer.      This outdated model of the Catholic Church's structure no longer incarnates the reality of the lived experience of believers, the staggering majority of whom live in societies that are becoming more and more, and to varying degrees, participatory and representative democracies.     A Church where the most important decisions are made almost exclusively by a celibate male clergy, and where bishops are held to little or no accountability, is unsustainable in a world where patriarchal and monarchical societies – begrudgingly, but steadily – are ceding rights and duties to those who are not part of the nobility, the clergy or one specific gender.     My talk in November 2012 came during the height of the so-called VatiLeaks scandal.      For more than a year the leaking of sensitive Vatican documents and the private papers of Benedict XVI had caused deep embarrassment to the still-reigning German pope and his top aides – especially Tarcisio Bertone SDB, the Cardinal Secretary of State at the time.      Pope Francis hastens an inevitable collapse.       It was a mess. And today one could look back and say: "Sure, it was easy back then for someone to spout off about a supposed Vatican implosion."       Indeed, some people have since told me that the election of Pope Francis has revealed that my analysis was way off base.       But nearly a decade later, I'm convinced that the thesis argued on that November morning on the shores of Lake Erie still holds. Because it was not based on what did or did not transpire in Benedict's pontificate.      Even despite the kairos – the special, providential moment – that many Catholics believe we've been experiencing since the election of the first-ever Jesuit pope, the Church continues to implode.       In fact, in some ways, Francis seems to be deliberately hastening its inevitable collapse by implementing the principles and methods outlined in Evangelii gaudium (EG), his vision and blueprint for Church renewal and reform.     Let's be clear, we're not talking about the demise of the Catholic Church.     God is not dead and the Holy Spirit will never leave Christ's faithful people. This we all believe.     Changing structures and mentalities through synodality       No, it's about the crumbling of the present governing and organizational structure, which continues to mirror certain features of the Roman Empire more than it reflects the organizational model of ecclesial life that is found in the New Testament or was experienced in the first couple of centuries of the Christian Church.     Francis is effectively laying the foundation for the "deconstruction" of the current model by patiently planting the seeds for the Church's structural conversion by "baptizing" and employing four, key sociological principles (EG 222-237): -Time is greater than space;   -Unity prevails over conflict;    -Realities are more important than ideas,   -The whole is greater than the parts.     Ultimately the pope's goal is to make the structures and mentality of the Church more reflective of the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ and to liberate it from a codified system of rules and philosophical ideas still deeply wedded to the culture of the ancient Greco-Roman world.     Through the process of synodality, he is opening up spaces for dialogue and discussion that involve all the Holy People of God and not just the male clerics.     He is not democratizing the Church, but he is creating a large and indispensable forum for all voices to be heard through the classic, but too often forgotten, process of discernment....(Source)
Pope Francis endorses Cardinal Marx and his ‘manifesto’ for Church reform
By Robert Mickens, Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta, 16 June 2021
The pope’s refusal to accept the German cardinal’s resignation further strengthens moves towards a substantial reform of the Catholic Church.         Cardinal Reinhard Marx tried to resign but, in the end, Pope Francis rejected the move and instructed the 67-year-old German to continue leading the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.        The news is a major blow to doctrinal hardliners and neo-traditionalists, and everyone else who is a part of the Catholic Church’s “no change” crowd.         Because Marx is not just any bishop or cardinal. He’s one of the most energetic and forceful proponents of ecclesial reform through synodality, a process of wide-ranging consultation of all the Church’s members that Francis is trying to make constitutive of Roman Catholicism.        And the cardinal’s an extremely influential papal aide as member of the Council of Cardinals and moderator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.        He’s also served from 2012-2018 as president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (COMECE) and until last year as head of the German Bishops Conference (DBK).      In short, Reinhard Marx is a big player.       And the Pope’s refusal to let him resign, has only made him all the more imposing as a leading figure in this current moment of Church history.        From this point forward, everything is now different.       By keeping Marx in place, Francis has endorsed the cardinal’s push for bold ecclesial reform and his desire to change a Church “system” that helped spawn the worldwide clergy sex abuse “catastrophe”.       Marx said he agreed to withdraw his resignation “in obedience” to the Pope, but he made it clear that, from this point forward, everything is now different.       “Simply going back to the previous agenda cannot be the way forward for me or for the Archdiocese,” he said on June 10, the very day Francis wrote him a warm and brotherly letter (in Spanish and German) telling him to continue in the post he’s held the last thirteen or so years.     “For me and our joint work in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, this also means considering which new paths we can go — also in the face of a history of various failures — in order to proclaim and testify to the Gospel,” Marx said.       A “dead end” Church that needs to be reformed        The Cardinal revealed on June 4 — with the Pope’s permission — that he had sent in his resignation on May 21 in order to “share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades”.       He insisted that beyond any personal failures, the abuse crisis was also the result of an “institutional or ‘systemic’ failure”.          Marx said this “requires changes and a reform of the Church”, a Church he described as being at “a dead-end”.        The Cardinal called out those in the Church who refuse to admit this and who “disapprove of discussing reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual abuse crisis”.        “A turning point out of this crisis is, in my opinion, is only possible if we take a ‘synodal path’,” he said........(More)   Photo: Pope Francis and Cardinal Reinhard Marx File Image Vatican News, Catholic Outlook 20210616
US bishops vote to limit debate on controversial Communion document
Pope Francis' US representative urges dialogue and unity
by Christopher White, Vatican,  National Catholic Reporter, 16 Jun 2021
On the opening day of a closely watched and at times chaotic virtual meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops on June 16, a majority of U.S. prelates voted to limit discussion on whether to proceed with drafting a contentious document regarding Communion and pro-choice Catholic politicians.       Following months of open discord among the bishops about the necessity of such a document, the prudence of advancing it in a virtual format and a Vatican intervention urging caution, Pope Francis' U.S. representative encouraged unity and dialogue, telling the U.S. bishops that "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together."       "The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist," said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who has served as the papal nuncio to the United States since 2016.        "We are not a church of the perfect but a pilgrim church in need of the mercy offered generously by Christ," the nuncio said.....(more)
 Stage One of the Synod: Listening to the Faithful
Senior ecclesiologist warns that things could go terribly wrong at the Synod of Bishops next assembly if the listening stage is not carried out properly
Limited extract from George Wilson, US, Subscription Journal LA Croix International. 16 June 2021
In the large body of literature on the theme of leadership it has become almost trite to say that a good leader's first task is not to teach but to listen.        That same wisdom applies to synods and synod-like projects. In Church language it is called "consulting the faithful".        So it is encouraging to read that those designing this preliminary stage of the coming assembly of the Synod of Bishops have determined that "listening to the people of God" is the synod's first objective.        Much depends, however, on (1) what such listening is designed to discover; (2) who is to be listened to; and (3) what processes are employed in that discovery.         And the answers to those questions depends, first, on being clear just what a synod is.        What is a synod? Pope Francis offers the mantra: "A body walking together."        That is an attractive metaphor, to be sure. But if the three questions above are not carefully weighed before designing the first listening stage, "walking together" can be reduced to a warm fuzzy feeling, open to much mischief.       How this first step is designed and executed can determine the success or failure of the whole venture.           The fundamental issue        Long years as a consultant/facilitator for several diocesan synods and many synod-like projects have led me to view a synod as a wisdom-seeking effort undertaken by the people of God under the guidance of the Spirit of Jesus at a particular era in its engagement with surrounding society.       A synod is an assembly of the Church -- the People of God. That embraces persons who happened to be called to differing states of life within the community—ordained, lay or vowed religious. But they are all there by virtue of their baptism, in solidarity.       Baptism is the only ticket of admission. The Spirit is poured out upon the entire baptized community. Any structuring of the synod that diminishes the sense of equal agency of all its participants will insure the failure of the enterprise.....(Source).   Image: Lz Croix International 20210616       

Dead end or no end?   could synodality really be the "turning point"?
Limited extracts from Justin Stanwix*, Australia, Subscription Journal LA Croix International. 16 June 2021
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany made a noble gesture when recently he tendered his resignation to Pope Francis.              He stated his impression that the Church is "at a dead end". Quintessentially, he allowed the potential of a "turning point".        That is the essence of Jesus' message.         Thankfully, the cardinal's offer has been refused and for good reason. The pope reminded him that it remains time to tend the sheep. Probably more urgently than ever.         The generosity and undoubtedly prayerful discernment that preceded the cardinal's offer must be acknowledged.        The inherent rectitude and personal penalty involved as he shouldered vicarious responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, in the interest of the whole Church, may appeal to many.           A missionary Church that has made many mistake throughout history       But his offer raises the question about how we see ourselves as Church.        Even for a reason of generous proportion is it acceptable to offer to quit in such circumstances?         No cavil about the sinful situation in which we find ourselves. My issue is about how we should respond, move forward and give example. How we live the Gospel message now.        We are not solely individuals in our Church, the institution is not only human and its fundamentally divine nature is not of our making.       We are a missionary Church and a pilgrim people. The People of God have accumulated plenty of missionary mistakes, repeated atrociously sinful behavior and have failed to learn even obvious lessons.       We wasted no time after the death of Jesus in Beatitudes-absent behavior. Given the history of the two thousand years since, we are highly likely to engage in some lamentable repetition.        At some point we must move beyond the sexual abuse crisis. Obviously, I don't mean ignore it or avoid the guilt, the shame and the ongoing responsibility we have in many ways to victims and families.       The Holy Spirit is in charge        As Church we have a rugged history. Our missionary Church has faced division, scandal and an abundance of challenge.       The whole while we have been blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. No doubt at times the Spirit has shuddered but the promise of Jesus to be with his Church until the end of time is no mean promise.        We may never gainsay that certainty because it is the Gospel message.        We can celebrate prayerful and beautiful liturgies for the great occasions of our Church – or not. But we cannot ignore the Holy Spirit in our lives and his presence in our Church and in the world............The pope seeks to encourage a synodal Church where we work together collaboratively at all levels, abandon clericalism and monarchical structures and operate much differently from the way we do at present.         In this context, the decision to defer the Synod of Bishops' assembly on synodality, while a world-wide consultation of the international Church takes place, must be embraced for the quantum change it represents.............(Source)     *Justin Stanwix is a deacon at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in the Diocese of Wollongong (Australia).

Melbourne Archdiocese Parishes Restructure
Set of recent papers associated with proposed restructure of Melbourne Parishes, 11 June 2021
The set of linked papers below relate to recently proposed arrangements for restructuring Melbourne Parishes in response to changing demographics of parishes and the priesthood in the Melbourne Archdiocese.      On 28 April Archbishop Peter Comensoli first spoke on this to a gathering of Archdiocesan clergy “The Way of the Gospel, Families of Communities” on restructure of Melbourne Parishes.      His paper is linked below. On 22 May and supported by others from the Archdiocese office the Archbishop spoke on the same topic to a meeting of Lay representatives (one from each Parish).       His presentation in text and slides are linked below together with a Pastoral Letter on the subject published on 23 May (Pentecost), together with a new  Vatican Instruction from the Congregation for the Clergy “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church” launched by the Vatican Press Office on 20 July 2020).       Across the Church this Vatican Instruction has received mixed responses, including  criticism by Robert Mickens (reflecting that of others, also  linked below), Editor, La Croix International, 24 July 2020 “Not worth the paper it’s written on”, concluding from his analysis that "this new instruction on Catholic parishes is latest proof it will be hard to wrest control from the clericalists": (Image: manorparish co uk)

Cardinal Marx: Pope’s decision a ‘great challenge’
Limited extracts from Staff Reporter, Subscription Journal, Catholic Herald UK 11 June 2021
“In obedience, I accept [Pope Francis’] decision, as I promised him,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx in a statement following the pope’s decision to reject his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.      Cardinal Marx offered to resign his See in a “confidential and personal” letter to the pope that was later made public with the pope’s permission. In his letter, Marx said, “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”        Cardinal Marx acknowledged that his own silence, neglect, and overemphasis on the reputation of the Church made him “personally guilty and responsible,” but also stressed the importance of accountability for “institutional and systemic failures.” In a personal statement released when the letter was made public, he added, “As a bishop, I have an ‘institutional responsibility’ for the acts of the Church in its entirety as for its institutional problems and failures in the past.”         Although agreeing with Cardinal Marx’s characterisation of the sex abuse crisis as “a catastrophe,” and on the importance of accepting responsibility for the crisis, Pope Francis refused to accept his resignation, instead asking him to stay on as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, confirming his mission and asking him to continue to work for “a spiritual renewal” in the Church.”.......... He described the pope’s decision as “a great challenge” and insisted “after that, simply going back to the agenda cannot be the way for me, nor for the Archdiocese.” He said that, with the faithful of the Archdiocese, it was necessary to consider “which new paths we can travel,” saying that “in the next few weeks about how, together, we can contribute even more to the renewal of the Church here in our diocese and as a whole,” especially as the pope essentially agreed with his analysis, as well as providing “important impulses” for reform....(Source)
Pope refuses Cardinal Marx’s offer to resign
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet, 11 June 2021
Pope Francis has refused Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s offer to resign over the sexual abuse crisis, saying although the German prelate had been courageous in taking responsibility for past scandals, he should stay in office.       Cardinal Marx has not been accused personally of mishandling cases but in a decision that sent shockwaves across the Church, he submitted his resignation to the Pope over institutional failings. The 67-year-old cardinal, who is eight years off retirement age, set out his reasons for stepping down in a letter on May 21.       In his response, Francis agreed with the cardinal that the abuse crisis has been a “catastrophe” and that “each Bishop of the Church must take it up and ask himself what should I do in the face of this catastrophe?” This includes, the Pope said, making a “‘mea culpa’ in the face of the many historical errors of the past … and before the many situations, even if we have not personally participated in that historical situation.”      The Pope praised Cardinal Marx’s offer to step down which he says displays a “Christian courage that does not fear the cross” and that reform in the face of the abuse crisis cannot consist merely of “words” but putting one’s life on the line. Jesus’ reform, Francis pointed out, is not contained in a particular religious project but is witnessed to “with his flesh on the cross”. Francis went on: “And this is the path, the one that you yourself, dear brother, assume when you present your resignation.”        Nevertheless, the Pope said he would not accept Cardinal Marx’s offer.      “That is my answer, dear brother. Continue as you suggest, but as Archbishop of Munich.”........(More).   
church's complicity in dehumanizing the LGBTQ community in Ghana
Extracts from Daniel P. Horan, National Catholic Reporter, 9 Jun 2021
The West African country of Ghana is one of the most homophobic countries in the world today. It not only refuses to recognize same-sex unions, but it also criminalizes consensual same-sex acts with imprisonment of up to three years. Those who are arrested for being gay are then often subjected to further physical, psychological or sexual abuse as a result of their captivity.      A 2018 Human Rights Watch report documents numerous accounts of horrendous anti-LGBTQ abuse and "corroborates that LGBT people are often victims of mob attacks, physical assault, sexual assault, extortion, discrimination in access to housing, education and employment, and family rejection on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In an environment in which homophobic views abound, and few are willing to publicly come to the defense of LGBT people, it is easy for violence to flourish."      Not only have LGBTQ individuals been targeted, harassed, denied basic human rights and assaulted because of their sexual orientations or gender identities, but those who have sought to advocate on their behalf through education programs or resource centers have now become the target of comparable treatment and discrimination. In February, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, a member of parliament and the Ghanaian minister for information, went so far as to propose formal legislation that would make advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ persons illegal.......According to the 2010 census, more than 70% of Ghanaians identify as Christian, making the rampant homophobia and anti-LGBTQ attitudes, laws and violence an inherently Christian problem. In an interview with the BBC, Anima Adjepong, a Ghanaian sociologist who is based in the United States, said: "The church also advances this argument that queer people in Ghana are abhorrent. And really the church promotes violent discourse against queer people about 'throwing them into the ocean', about how they 'don't belong here', about how they're 'bringing the downfall of the society'."....(more).    Photo: business area Accra Ghana, CNS Luc Gnago Reuters, NCR 20210609
The abuse crisis and the elusive horizon of a repenting Church
Words of regret and acts of penance are not enough to heal the wounds and right the Church
LImited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 June 2021
The Catholic Church enjoyed a bit of a renewed honeymoon with the global media after the May 21st announcement of the "synodal process 2021-2023".       But the love fest lasted only about a week.         It was brought to an abrupt and ugly end when law enforcement officials in Canada discovered 215 unmarked graves of indigenous children at a former Catholic-run residential school in British Columbia.        International organizations quickly demanded that the Church in Canada and the Holy See admit responsibility for the tragedy.      Pope Francis expressed his "closeness with Canadians traumatized by the shocking news", as he addressed pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at last Sunday's Angelus. But he stopped short of issuing a direct apology.     June 4th, that fateful day        Canada's Catholic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, insisted that the Church and the Holy See must take responsibility for what happened at the school.        In a video statement on June 4 he even alluded to the possibility that Church officials could be taken to court.       That just happened to be the very same day that German Cardinal Reinhard Marx made the shocking announcement that he had asked the pope several days earlier to accept his resignation as archbishop of Munich and Freising......... The future will continue to be an elusive idea in the Church if the elevation of the existential dimension of the faith becomes just verbal esthetics; and if the pastoral dimension becomes clerical mannerism and thus the instrument for an institutional apologetics, a defense of the status quo, as Italian theologian Marcello Neri has noted in his latest book.      But that very well could happen to the synodal process if it is not open to institutional and theological reforms in response to the abuse crisis.       It is not clear whether courageous reform will get the Church out of its current predicament. But it is certain that, without such reform, the Church hardly stands a chance....(Source).  Image: La Croix International, 20210608
Pope Francis’ reforms the Church’s disciplinary system in response to royal commission
Extract from Kieran Tapsell,  8 June John Menadue website, 8 June 2021
One of the main reasons for the Catholic Church shifting around abusive priests was because its disciplinary system was dysfunctional. Far more children were abused than would have occurred if it had a decent one. The Royal Commission made recommendations for change, and Pope Francis has adopted some of them, but he has retained two of the most harshly criticized canons.        In its 2017 Final Report, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made recommendations for the reform of canon law, including the abolition of the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse by clergy, initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1922. In December 2019, Pope Francis abolished it.         The Royal Commission also criticized the canonical disciplinary system which made it virtually impossible for abusive priests to be dismissed. On 1 June 2021, when announcing the changes to that system in Book VI of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a Vatican spokesman said, “In many places, punishments were mentioned only as a possibility, and the whole text gave the impression that it was almost merciless to apply punishments…Today…due to the examination of the abuse of minors, the atmosphere is different.”      The purpose of this article is to examine how much has changed.        Child Sexual Abuse as a “Moral Failure”          The Royal Commissioners were baffled by evidence given by Church leaders that they considered child sexual abuse to be just a “moral failure,” a view reflected and reinforced by the Code of Canon Law which included it in a section dealing with breaches of celibacy, as if it were no different to masturbation or a consensual affair with an adult. The Royal Commission’s Recommendation 16.9a was that child abuse should be “articulated as canonical crimes against the child, not as moral failings or as breaches of the ‘special obligation’ of clerics and religious to observe celibacy.” The Vatican has adopted this recommendation and has now listed child sexual abuse in the section for “offences against human life, dignity and liberty.”..............(more)
Cardinal Marx submits resignation to Francis, citing church's 'systemic failure' on abuse
"I would like to show that not the ministry is in the foreground but the mission of the Gospel,"
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Jun 4, 2021
Rome — German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of Pope Francis' closest advisors, has asked the pontiff to allow him to resign as the leader of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising as a sign of responsibility for the "systemic failure" of Catholic Church leaders over decades in responding to clergy sexual abuse.        In a shocking letter to Francis, which Marx released to journalists June 4, the cardinal says he wants to "share the responsibility" for the way priests and bishops mishandled abuse cases. He also admits he feels "personally guilty" for trying to protect the reputation of the church when dealing with victims.       "To assume responsibility, it is … not enough in my opinion to react only and exclusively if the files provide proof of the mistakes and failures of individuals," writes Marx in the letter, dated May 21. "We as bishops have to make clear that we also represent the institution of the Church as a whole."       In resigning, states the cardinal, "I may be able to send a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the Church, not only in Germany."        "I would like to show that not the ministry is in the foreground but the mission of the Gospel," Marx tells Francis. "I therefore strongly request you to accept this resignation."         Marx has led his archdiocese since 2007. He also serves as one of only seven members of Francis' advisory Council of Cardinals and as the coordinator of the Vatican's Council for the Economy, which supervises the financial activities of both the Vatican city-state and the offices of the Holy See.       The cardinal is 67-years-old, eight years shy of the traditional retirement age of 75 for bishops. His decision to resign over the actions of the church as a whole on clergy abuse, and not because of any known investigation into his personal actions, appears without precedent............In a personal declaration to journalists sent alongside the copy of Marx's letter to Francis, the cardinal said the pope had authorized him to release his letter and told him to "keep performing my service as bishop until [Francis'] decision is made.".....(more).   Photo:   Cardinal Reinhard Marx CNS photo Harald Oppitz KNA, NCR Online 20210604
Synodality is not a walk in the park
Extract from CathNews NZ, CNS, 3 June 2021
There are many ideas about what synodality means, says Pope Francis.        “It’s not a walk in the park”.         It is “an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no synodality,” he explains.        Francis is promoting a synodal process that involves the whole church. It will focus on listening to one another and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.        Last month, he approved major revisions to how the Synod of Bishops will work. It should begin with a bottom-up full diocesan-level process of consultation, he says.          “This will require patience, work, allowing people to talk so that the wisdom of the people of God will come forth …           “A synod is nothing other than making explicit what ‘Lumen Gentium’ says:           “The whole people of God — all of them, from the bishop on down — is infallible in belief. They cannot err when there is harmony among all.”        Listening and consultation may require managing a range of expectations or fears.         It may involve explaining to people who want immediate, radical change that discernment takes time and requires fidelity to God’s will.        It may involve explaining to those scandalised by the questions they are being asked that perhaps there are better ways to explain church teaching and live the Gospel.        Francis often underlines that a synod is not a parliament, but a process of discernment. St. Paul VI, who revived the Synod of Bishops for the universal Catholic Church, also made this point.       Over the past five decades, that special nature has increasingly involved laypeople, religious and priests. They are now consulted before bishops are elected or appointed to attend the synod assembly.       To support the pope’s wish to imbue the church with a synodal spirit, the International Theological Commission published a document in 2018: “Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church.”        It explains that synodality promotes the baptismal dignity and call of all Catholic and values the presence of different gifts given by the Holy Spirit.       It also recognises the specific ministry entrusted to pastors and bishops in communion with the pope for the preservation of the faith and the renewal of the church.......(More).        Photo: Pope Francis and people synodality Crux Now, CathNews NZ 20210603
Aussie Bishops name three priorities for work of Bishops Conference
Extract from The Record, Archdiocses of Perth, 3 Jun 2021
Formation, becoming more missionary and fostering collegiality have been identified as the top three priorities by Australia’s Catholic bishops.      In a recent week-long process of prayer and discernment, the three priorities were identified as a means to guide the work of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and arose following a structured review of Conference operations and financing in 2019.
     Earlier this year, the bishops were guided through a process of shared discernment, punctuated with prayer and conversation, by Br Ian Cribb SJ. Br Ian had earlier led the retreat the bishops made together immediately before their 2019 Ad Limina Apostolorum visit.        Following the three sessions, which involved the identification and ranking of possible priorities, the bishops approved the three priorities at their recent plenary meeting.         “It is important to note that these are priorities for the Bishops Conference to pursue, which includes the various bishops commissions, the work of the general secretariat and the biannual plenary meetings,” Bishops Conference President, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.        “These were not developed to be priorities for the Catholic Church in Australia, though many dioceses, parishes and other ministries are no doubt focusing on one or more of these priorities.”        The Conference’s ongoing priorities are also reflected in the work of its nine bishops commissions and two episcopal panels, which will take on new focus in light of the new priorities named.       Archbishop Coleridge said the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will have an important role in shaping priorities for the Church nationally.        “We’ve already seen during the three years of the Council journey so far how key topics and concerns are being identified, and the Council assemblies will help refine those further,” he said.        “These priorities we have developed specifically for the Bishops Conference will help the work we undertake as a college of bishops, to make important decisions and to tread a path that pursues formation, collegiality and a missionary disposition.”......(More).  Photo: Australian Catholic Bishops 2019 Ad Limina, CNS, The Record 20210603    [Ed: are formation, becoming more missionary and fostering collegiality all there are to hope for in renewal of a declining Australian Catholic Church?]   Photo: Australian Catholic Bishops Pope Francis 2019 Ad Limina, CNS, The Record 20210603

All New Zealand Catholics will get a say in upcoming synod
Extract from CathNews NZ, 3 June 2021
The NZ Catholic Bishops’ Conference says the views of all New Zealand Catholics will be sought during an expanded Synod of Bishops’ process announced by the pope.       Pope Francis has frequently called for the bishops, priests and people to walk together in a common mission of the Church,” says Conference president Cardinal John Dew.        “He believes it is imperative to listen to the People of God, which means going to local churches to hear what they say.”          Francis wants all Catholic dioceses to consult with parishioners from 17 October to get local-level views on the topic for the next synod, entitled a “Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.         “The Holy Father wants to hear the voices of all the baptised,” Dew says.......Most of these people consider they are no longer regular parishioners and wonder how limiting the process to going to parishes and consulting parishioners will work.        Jerome De Rosario is a 40-year-old Wellington professional. A “retired catholic”, he thinks the Church needs a different strategy and fresh ideas and hopes the Synod might accomplish this.         However, he expressed surprise the Church did not factor in what it already knows, that most Catholics don’t belong to parishes and do not go to Mass.         Alex Jordan, a university student from Massey, Auckland, also picks up on the parish emphasis.       “The voice of the bulk of baptised Catholics won’t be heard because they don’t belong to the outdated parish structure, he said.        “At most, they’re gathering 5% of the baptised.         “The data will be skewed from the outset”, he said.        “If this is worth doing it’s worth doing well. I hope the Church gets good advice.”         Non-parishioners also need to be considered says Richard McKenna, a 30 something manager in Wellington.          “By focussing on parishes many people who are still fringe Catholics but not regular parishioners, and may feel excluded. This statement seems to confirm our exclusion”.        He hopes it is not the ‘last word’ and the criteria and methodology will also consider non-parishioners may wish to contribute and have valuable ideas.         “I much prefer the Vatican’s focus, consulting with ‘The People of God'”, he said.....(more).   

See News 2021 Jan - June HERE