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gwa3141
Jun 16, 2022
In General discussion
By the Sense of the Faithful Editorial Committee*, 12 June 2022 1. Introduction This document, released by the Plenary Council secretariat in late May 2022, is a truly critical one in the story of the Australian Plenary Council. It is the final document to shape discussion in what is to. be the last meeting of that Council, in July 2022. In many of its general, interpretative statements the Framework for Motions document is an impressive one. For example, paragraphs 8–11 start by noting that the Australian Church is facing ‘a time of both crisis and hope’ (para 8). The crisis arises not only from the sins of sexual abuse of minors but also from issues concerning the ‘sustainability of diocese, parishes, religious institutes and ministries’ (para 9). The hope arises from ‘a stronger awareness of the presence of the Lord Jesus and his life giving Spirit’ (para 10), as evident in the journey of the Plenary Council as ‘a way of spiritual. conversation and discernment’ (para 10). ‘This process of listening, reflecting, speaking and listening again … informs decisions about practical action that furthers the mission of the local Church’ (para 10). The authors also note that it is necessary to follow Vatican II in ‘scrutinising the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel’ (para 11). Even so, when it comes to the motions themselves, that is to the ‘decisions about practical action that furthers the mission of the local Church’, the document is disappointing, with the exception of the recognition with our first peoples and of the reality of climate change. It particular we note that: It is an inward looking document, with little sense of the wider world or of the Church’s responsibility to serve it; In discussing the ‘signs of the times’ there is no sense of the intellectual or moral challenge, and hence the learning opportunity, which the new era provides to the Church. Rather, the prime response is to educate the people better in the Church’s traditional teachings. While the crisis is mentioned in para 8, this sense of the real, existential crisis facing the Australian Church does not pervade the document, and indeed there is little discussion of the issues about the ‘sustainability of dioceses, parishes, religious institutes and ministries’ cited in para 8; There is very limited coverage in the document, or in the motions, of some key issues – such as clericalism, the role of women, the inclusion of currently excluded groups, the future of parishes and the service of the poor; Apart from the discussion of Laudato Si’ Action Plans (para 103), there are no programs to systematically plan, implement, report on and review plans for change. There is little doubt that, if the program outlined in this Framework for Motions document is implemented at the Second Assembly and this is the conclusion of the Plenary Council, this will be viewed by many of the faithful as a disappointing outcome. Even as parishes are trying to rebuild their communities after the COVID-19 pandemic, it will reinforce the exodus of priests and laity from the Church. Given the very tight constraints on considering this Motions document, with members permitted to submit amendments only to existing motions by 15 June 2022 for consideration by the Drafting Committee, we suggest that a Third Assembly in 2023 is clearly necessary to address the many items of unfinished business and to do so in a more transparent and synodal manner. We also respectfully urge members to submit amendments to strengthen the existing motions, and provide below some suggestions about possible amendments. 2. The Motions: some suggested changes 2.1 Reconciliation: healing wounds, receiving gifts The recognition of, and apology to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is one of the most important parts of the document, but should be strengthened to become a more powerful statement, giving effect to the underlying intent. The following amendments to the motions are suggested (suggested amendments in red): 23. Motion: That the Plenary Council adopt the above introductory statement of Part 1, and in doing so express support for a National Referendum and other appropriate action to give effect to the Uluru Statement. 24. Motion: That each Catholic school, parish, diocese, eparchy or organisation respond to the recommendations contained in the NATSICC position paper Embracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Life of the Catholic Church in at least the following ways: a. acknowledging in an appropriate manner the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which their buildings stand; b. including the online Cultural Competency in a Catholic Context course developed by NATSICC and approved by the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the orientation and/or ongoing formation of staff and volunteers to enable more effective and appropriate ministry; c. ensuring that any retreats and other formation activities offered are culturally appropriate; d. seeking to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on its committees, boards and decision‐making bodies; and e. put in place appropriate processes for Catholics to come to understand, and to learn from, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality. 2.2 Choosing repentance – seeking healing The expression of sorrow to the victims of abuse is also vital. We suggest that this motion could be strengthened as follows: 32. Motion: That the Plenary Council adopt the above introductory statement of Part 2; whereby the Plenary Council: a. says sorry to the survivors of abuse and their families, and commits the Church to make this sorrow evident in many events covering all regions of Australia; b. commits the Church to continue to respond with justice and compassion to survivors of abuse and their families, and to ensure that all payments required by law for crimes of sexual abuse against children are met promptly and generously; c. reaffirms the commitment of the Church in Australia to the work of implementing and improving safeguarding standards and practices; and d. invites all Catholics to commit to ensuring that Church environments are safe and respectful. 2.3 Called by Christ – sent forth as Missionary Disciples This is a critical section of the Framework for Motions document, addressing as it does key issues for the Church’s role as being missionary to the world, to serve the poor and disadvantaged and to be a full inclusive community. However, the motions are very limited, being the establishment of an education forum to enhance the vision and vocation of Catholic education as an instrument of evangelisation and also setting up a triennial national forum of service, disadvantage and justice and peace organisations. There is also a welcome motion to strengthen inter‐faith dialogue. We have no suggestions about amendments to these motions that could make them a more effective response, because they fail to address the central issues. 2.4 Witnessing to the equal dignity of women and men While the heading to this part refers to the ‘equal dignity of women and men’ in the Church, the discussion and the motions are very limited. We suggest the following as an amendment to the only substantive motion in this section: 56. Motion: That the Plenary Council requests Pope Francis to endorse the ordination of women as deacons. As steps towards full equality for women, each Australian diocese and eparchy should foster new opportunities for women to participate in ministries that are stable, publicly recognised, appropriately resourced with theological education and commissioned by the bishop. These ministries should engage with the most important aspects of diocesan and parish life and have a real impact on those communities. Each Australian diocese and eparchy should set up a process for monitoring on progress on these issues, and report the results publicly on an annual basis. 2.5 Communion in grace: sacrament to the world This section is a natural place for discussion of the inclusion of those groups excluded from some of the sacraments, such as divorced and remarried people and the LGBTQIA community. But these issues are not touched upon here, or elsewhere in the document. This a serious and disappointing omission. The main recommendations here are to establish guidelines for a ministry of preaching, to request that those involved be permitted to preach in the Eucharistic assembly and to request the Pope to allow wider use of the Third Form of the Rite of Penance. We have no amendments to suggest. 2.6 Formation and leadership for mission and ministry With the continuing decline in the number of ordained male priests and the rising role of the laity, it is necessary to give serious attention to both the criteria for ordination as a priest and to the formation of lay and ordained leaders. Unfortunately, the Framework for Motions document does not addressed married male priests or the ordination of women, but it does address leadership issues. We suggest the following amendments to the motion at para 82: 82. Motion: That each diocese establish or strengthen strategic policies that identify and support ministry and leadership formation. These will: a. acknowledge the generational, cultural and ethnic diversity of the contemporary Church in Australia; b. recognise the changing community profile of many parish and faith communities; c. commit to a major strengthening of biblical studies throughout the dioceses, to provide a deeper shared understanding of the Word of God and of the mission of the Church; d. establish broader consultation, dialogue and representation within local Churches’ structures and decision‐making processes; e. include strategies for ongoing formation and appropriate forms of mentoring and accompaniment (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral); f. consider avenues for financial support through scholarships, sponsorships and grants; and g. set up a process for monitoring progress on these issues, and report the results publicly on an annual basis. 2.7 At the service of communion, participation, and mission: governance The issues of synodality, clericalism and governance are crucial to the Australian Church and to the Plenary Council, and this section contains the main coverage of these issues. In this area we have the powerful and widely acknowledged The Light from the Southern Cross report (LSC) to provide a powerful basis for motions, but the motions actually offered are limited. Dioceses are required to conduct a Diocesan Synod within five years, and are asked to assist the flourishing of Parish Pastoral Councils. A new body (the National Catholic Synodal Roundtable) is to be set up, to ‘foster and assess the development of synodal leadership’ and the NPRC is directed to review the recommendation of LSC ‘to enable further implementation of those reforms judged helpful and practicable’. These are very limited outcomes on matters of central interest to the faithful, and on which we have a major report. They should be strengthened considerably before going to the Second Assembly. One example concerns Diocesan Pastoral Councils (DPCs). A central recommendation of is that every Diocese has a DPC (Rec 50), and this is at the heart of their recommendations about synodality. The Motions document presumes the operation of such Councils, but does not mandate them. A recent report to NCPR found that, as at September 2021, no archdiocese in Australia had a DPC and fewer than half of other dioceses had DPCs. That is, a small proportion of Australian Catholics are covered by DPCs. If the motions in this Part are to make sense the motion at para 92 should be amended as follows, to ensure that every diocese establishes a Pastoral Council or equivalent: 92. Motion: That every diocese in Australia establish a Diocesan Pastoral Council (or closely similar body) within the next two years, and that dioceses and eparchies support parishes to establish and strengthen appropriate synodal structures by developing guidelines and providing resources for the flourishing of Parish Pastoral Councils. We also note that the motion at paragraph 93 to establish a national synodal roundtable on synodality does not propose a working group that is itself synodal. The working groups consists of representatives from the three large groups (ACBC, CRA and MPJP) but no members of the faithful outside these three groups. We suggest the following amendment: 93. Motion: That representatives from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia, the Association of Ministerial PJPs, from lay organisations and from existing local Pastoral Councils form a working group to develop and establish a roundtable structure, with the proposed name of the National Catholic Synodal Life Roundtable, to foster and assess the development of synodal leadership across the Church in Australia. The roundtable will bring together representative members of those groups with Diocesan Pastoral Councils and other key national bodies of the Church. 2.8 Integral ecology and conversion for the sake of our common home While the motion on requiring every parish to have a Laudato Si’ Action Plan is welcome, we suggest that the requirement should be brought forward to 2025 and that the reporting be public. That is: 103. Motion: That, witnessing to their communal ecological conversion, by 2025 each Catholic parish, diocese, eparchy or organisation either develops its own or participates in an established Laudato Si’ Action Plan which includes the following elements: a. a public commitment; b. a governance model, processes and procedures; c. a mechanism for listening to the ecological wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; d. regular public reporting on progress towards and accountability for defined goals and objectives; and e. co‐construction of those goals and objectives with the people they are meant to support and serve. 3. Unfinished business: a Third Assembly The Framework for Motions document rightly note the hope engendered within the faithful that the Holy Spirit is inspiring real renewal within the Australian Church. It is important that this hope is sustained by real outcomes from the Council. This does not seem possible if the Council concludes with the Second Assembly, and so there is a powerful case for a Third Assembly in 2023. We suggest that key items on the agenda for a Third Assembly would include: i. Unfinished business from motions considered at the Second Assembly; ii. A serious discussion of the ‘signs of the times’ and of trends in society and in other countries, with their bearing on the Australian Church; iii. Detailed consideration of the challenges facing the Australian Church, and of the ‘sustainability of dioceses, parishes, religious institutes and ministries’ cited in para 8; and iv. Most sustained discernment about some of the key issues largely excluded from the Framework for Motions document, such as such as clericalism, the role of women, the inclusion of currently excluded groups. One way to bring the question of a Third Assembly forward is by an amendment to the motion in paragraph 104 as follows: 104. Motion: That the Plenary Council agree to holding a Third Assembly of the Council at a date to be determined in 2023, and following the conclusion of the Council adopt the following steps for ensuring the effectiveness and accountability of the Implementation phase, to take place after a period of five years: e. the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council will be responsible for establishing terms of review for the Plenary Council’s implementation; f. a roundtable body such as that proposed in the motion at paragraph 93 will be responsible for coordinating the review; g. interim reports will be published in 2024 and 2026; and h. the final review report will be published five years after the Second Assembly, in 2028. *For details of the Editorial Committee see https://www.senseofthefaithful.org.au/the-editorial-committee
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gwa3141
Sep 30, 2021
In General discussion
By Richard Curtain, The Sense of the Faithful Editorial Team The first Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council (PC) of the Catholic Church in Australia is to start on Saturday 2 October 2021 and be conducted online until 10 October 2021. The second Assembly is to be held in Sydney on 4-9 July 2022. The Assemblies will have 278 members (formerly called delegates) who have been nominated by diocesan bishops. The members include ordained clerics, leaders and members of religious congregations. Lay members will include those who are paid employees of church affiliated service providers in areas such as education and health as well as ordinary parishioners. A key issue the Plenary Council (PC) will have to address is how to manage conflict. One approach used in large group meetings is to focus on finding common ground. However, the ground rules set by Canon Law, the diverse composition and online format of the PC will militate against this. It is quite possible that the first Assembly will achieve little in terms of positive outcomes. Indeed, it may have the opposite effect by highlighting the sharp divergences in views about the changes needed. This latter outcome may be a necessary step to encourage PC members to make concerted efforts to provide a more effective and open process for the second Assembly. The purpose of this note is to outline what elements need to be in the processes the PC uses to conduct its business. I am proposing, from my experience, how a bottom-up process has been successful in producing productive outcomes. The problem of an unrepresentative membership The selection of members was done by the bishops in an opaque way, without reference to public available selection criteria. The profile of members is strongly clerical with no consistency between dioceses in the numbers of Catholic laity PC members. Of the 17 PC members nominated to represent Australia’s largest diocese, Melbourne, only four are lay members. In contrast, from Sydney, a smaller archdiocese, has 22 PC members, 10 of whom are from the laity. The Archdiocese of Brisbane has half of its ten PC members who are lay. The Archdiocese of Adelaide has five lay members of its contingent of eight. A major objective of the PC process must be to establish a common ground among the members. This is required sothat differences between members in terms of their backgrounds, goals, self-interest (i.e., whether or not their livelihood depends on Church funding) and their expectations about what they can achieve can be managed to achieve productive outcomes. The PC facilitators will need to adopt a process so that potential conflicts that thesedifferences are likely to generate can be aired and addressed productively. Two recent Vatican documents explain well what the synodal process is Austen Ivereigh’s article in LaCroix International (18 September) entitled ‘The Spirit in the Assembly: Preparing for the Synod of Bishops' gathering on synodality’ confirmed my fears about what I saw as missing from the Australian PC’s synodal process is. That article, well worth a read in itself, alerted me to the publication of two new Vatican documents in early September. One is For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission: Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality: ‘Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches: First Phase (October 2021-April 2022) in Dioceses and Bishops' Conferences Leading up to the Assembly of Bishops in Synod in October 2023’. The other related document is the preparatory document for the Synod of the Bishops with the title: Preparatory Document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 07.09.2021. The first document offers advice on how a synod should be conducted. I was gratified to see that many of therecommended attitudes for participating in the synodal process (Para 2.3) and the pitfalls to avoid (Para 2.4) are remarkably similar to those that I have highlighted in this note. Attachment 2 is a four-page extract from the Official Handbook, highlighting in colour those parts that I think have relevance for the points I am making here. The rest of thedocument is worth a close read as well. The need for an agreed process to find common ground and resolve conflicts This note draws on my experience of being involved in search conferences on workplace reform in the early 1990sand in writing about and conducting public consultations on proposed public policy changes. These experiences have highlighted for me the value of following a group process based on having a clear objective and focusing on identifying future trends in a global context as a means of finding common ground (see Attachment 1). As Weisbord and Janoff note in their 2010 book, discussed below, this approach reduces a group’s tendency to fight or flee. Exploring the whole before acting on any part helps participants to manage their anxieties about differences. ‘Keeping the focus on the task rather than on interpersonal exchanges enables progress on emotionally chargedissues’. Also crucial to the success of the future search process is the emphasis placed on self-managing groups within theprocess. This refers to the importance of allowing small groups of six to eight to organise their own deliberations without a facilitator and sharing key tasks in rotation such as discussion leader, recorder, reporter and timekeeper. This means that the role of facilitators is a narrow one, standing back from any involvement in small group discussions, other than to encourage the group to keep going. Their role is to encourage a dialogue about theparticipants’ common ground. These and related issues are discussed below in more detail. I am not suggesting that this specific format used in future search conferences can be used for the plenary council assemblies. It is a process that would be more appropriate at a diocesan or parish level, where the participants have a strong sense of a collective identity and common purpose. It is also important that canon law does not apply to how the meeting is to be conducted. However, it is worth spelling out what the key elements of a fair process should be forthe PC. Before doing that, it is important to discuss what appears to be the proposed process for the PC. Facing up to the differences in the status and expectations of PC members Having a fair process is a crucial element in any consultation involving participants with widely differing viewpoints,knowledge of and understanding of the issues and willingness to change. As Pope Francis notes in his discussion of the tensions with the synodal process: Synods produce intense discussion, which is good: they involve different reactions and responses to those who think differently or have particular positions. We do not all react in the same way. We have also seen in many cases how, faced with disagreement, different groupings attempting to interfere in the synodal process try to impose their ideas, either by applying pressure inside the synod, or outside of it, by distorting and discrediting the views of those who do not think as they do. (Pope Francis, 2020, Let us Dream: The path to a better future. Simon and Schuster London, p 84.) Need to acknowledge PC Members expectations will change as the PC progresses It is likely that PC Members will go through a series of stages. They will start with high expectations about change or alternatively have expectations about not wanting to change. Then they will become aware of opposing viewpoints as they engage in discussions. This will lead to confusion, anger and disillusionment, creating a state of high anxiety among participants. It is often this anxiety that creates the pressure to find a way out by looking for ways of bridgingthe gap that are not obvious at first. This can result in breakthroughs to achieve agreed outcomes based on what is common to those involved. Frances recognises that this tension and confusion is part of a healthy process: The danger of becoming trapped in conflict is that we lose perspective. Our horizons shrink and we close off paths the spirit is showing us. Sometimes working together means continuing to endure the disagreements, leaving them to be transcended on a higher level at a later time. (Pope Francis, 2020, pp 91-92.) It is my concern that a process or series of steps are needed to help people deal with these differing expectations and frustrations that will not inevitably emerge during the meeting. An agreed process is needed to establish a common ground and resolve conflicts. The process should also include setting the ground rules for working together andexplaining what methods will be used to make it easier for such a large group to work together. The importance of having an agreed fair process However, to reach this desirable result, the initial problem of a lack of trust, or its reverse - too much trust, by the Members in the PC’s appointed leaders (ie the bishops) has to be acknowledged. A way to do this used in workplacesand in public policy consultations is to put in place a fair process for conducting the meeting or consultation. This greatly increases the chances that participants will accept the deliberation’s outcomes, even if they disagree with the content. What is the process planned for the PC? The most recent PlenaryPost 36 newsletter provides some details of the preparation of PC Members on how the PC will be conducted. Of note is the reference to ‘formation on discernment and the practice of Spiritual Conversations for decision-making, teaching and learning on conscious and unconscious bias when working in groups’. The newsletter goes on to state that: In future editions of PlenaryPost, we will include some of the formation, tools and resources with you all -- in particular the online approach to practising Spiritual Conversations, which could be wonderfully rich for many of our parishes and local groups right now. The reference to Spiritual Conversations appears to be to the method outlined in the book by Fr Brian GallagherMSC 'Communal Wisdom: A way of discernment for a pilgrim Church' (revised 2019). I have read the book and found this description of his approach on the MSC website here under the heading Communal discernment a goodsummary: As in individual discernment, the starting point is the conviction that God can and does enter into arelationship with a group, the conviction that there can be a group experience of God’s presence and guidance. An essential prerequisite is the desire to focus outside one’s own wants, or rational thought, and a desire as a group to seek the wisdom of God. In this he looks at ways a group comes to a decision: simply seeking by vote, what the majority consider the correct way working towards consensus, so that the group, as a whole can accept the final decision,even when there are some for whom this is not their preferred decision but can accept the group position discernment of God’s spirit working in the group. This third method requires a facilitator experienced in discerning and able to help the group nametheir experience of God’s Spirit. This approach calls for a willingness to give time for personal and group discernment, for waiting on God, and having sufficient maturity to recognise the inner movement of the Spirit, from other distractions such as the desire to make a quick decision, resistance, lack of trust. Is this process up to the task? The approach proposed in 'Communal Wisdom …' has only been used for parish groups and religious congregations. It assumes a high degree of underlying agreement about the group’s common purpose. A review by Fr Andrew Doohan (4 November 2019) notes: To be sure, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the task of communal discernment and thuscommunal decision making. It is, however, a guide that would assist any group — parish, religious community, sub-parish group — to take a more deliberate approach to the task of listening to what God is asking of them. The approach outlined in Communal Wisdom would be a good place from which to start the practice of giving more attention to a wise, Spirit-inspired, and communal approach to decision making, particularly in light of the issues now facing the Australian churchand in the lead-up to the Plenary Council 2020. A key question is whether this proposed approach is suitable for the Plenary Council? What should the PC process include? Pope Francis offers three principles to guide the synodal process. In walking together, reading the signs of the times, open to the new things of the spirit, we might take some lessons from this ancient church perspective of synodality which I have sought to revive. First, we need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas. The aim is not to reach agreement by means of a contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God's will allowing differences to harmonise. Most important of all is the synodal spirit: to meet each other with respect and trust to believe in our shared unity and to receive the new thing that the Spirit wishes to reveal to us. Second, sometimes this new thing means resolving the disputed questions through overflow. Breakthroughs happen often at the last minute, leading to a meeting of the minds that allows us to move forward. But the overflow might equally mean an invitation to change our way of thinking and our lenses, to shed our rigidity and our agendas, and look in places we never notice before. Third, this is a patient process, which does not come easily to our impatient age. But perhaps in lock down we've learned better to approach it. (Pope Francis, 2020, p 93.) See also Attachment 2, para 2.3, for further insights from Pope Francis about the synodal process. Conclusion How the Plenary Council is conducted was going to be difficult enough in a face-to-face meeting. But a key benefitwould have been the opportunity for people to meet informally and to reflect on what was happening or nothappening. Now that the PC is to be conducted online, the scope for informal exchanges at tea and meal breaks is not there. The problem with online meetings is that they are devoid of emotion, due to their limited form of personal encounter. An online mechanism for informal exchanges needs to be set up but even this will have severe limitations. The online format is likely to produce a clash between top-down directives on how to proceed and allowing bottom-up discernment processes to be used. The institutional history of the Church strongly suggests that the top-downapproach will be the preferred approach. However, many examples also exist in the Church’s formal deliberations, such as at Vatican II, and in recent church synods, as Francis notes, where the imposed agenda was dismissed by the meeting’s participants in favour of an entirely different approach. If the first session of the PC is seen by most PC members as too controlled from the top, the second PC session may be an opportunity for a very different approach. ********************************* Attachment 1: Future Search Conferences The following description is slightly adapted from an article by Herb Stevenson. Future search is an interactive large group planning meeting that enables people to find common ground, create a shared vision and devise an implementation strategy, all in less than three days. It is used around the world to transform systems' capability for cooperative action. One reason for its popularity is that future search has turned out to be a remarkably effective and flexible methodology. These methods have helped people act on issues they cared about when they had previously beenstopped by any of a number of barriers, such as: not enough of the people with information or passion or decision-making authority involved; don’t know how to begin the change process; or people didn't understand the issues and consequences well enough to want change. Future search helps overcome those barriers because it brings together people with information, authority, resources and passion, helps them find common ground and purpose, and enables them to plan action. The Success Principles: four key principles are the foundation of the success of future search. Get the 'whole system' in the room. Ideally, a cross section of stakeholders is needed who, together, have theresources, authority, skill, and knowledge to act, if they choose, without asking permission from anyone not present. This criterion alone guarantees reality about whether a desirable action plan will be taken. Explore the whole before seeking to fix any part. In future search two thirds of the conference is spent in joint exploration, of the past, present trends, future aspirations, where people learn from each other and create a portrait of the whole that no one person can put together alone. No action is attempted until everyone has been involved in this whole systems assessment. Focus on the future and common ground rather than problems and conflicts. Nothing is swept under the rug … treat conflicts and problems as information about what is, not as action items. The action agenda is thediscovery of common ground and what people are willing to do right now. No time is spent seeking to reconcile deeply held opposing convictions, only to validate them. Self-manage small groups and action planning. People manage all small group tasks without expertfacilitators. They take responsibility for what they are ready, willing and able to do. By 'voting with their feet' (e.g. signing up to act, rather than prioritising as a group what they think should be done) they create de facto priorities likely to be carried forward. The Meeting Design: The meeting can involve 60-80 people working in one room at one time, all contributing to the same agenda. In the meeting, people explore together their shared past, present, desired future, and common ground. Participants supply all the content. That's important because participants realise that they do have everything they need to make decisions, set priorities, and act. Action planning is put off until every person has a picture of the whole that none had at the start Leadership is shared. Anyone who wishes can take leadership roles in small groups, public reports and whole groupdialogues. The key to success is matching purpose and participants so that those with authority, resources, and need are in dialogue the whole time. This enables people to be as realistic as humans can be about their aims and potential. The role of a facilitator: A philosophy and theory of whole systems change undergirds the practice of future searchfacilitation. Facilitators help people stay whole and task focused. They do not attempt to make up for perceived groupdeficits, nor to teach skills people do not already have. Facilitators observe the following precepts in managing futuresearches: each participant is an expert on his/her own experience, thoughts and feelings; all ideas are relevant, everyone is doing the best they can with what they have; people only do what they are ready, willing and able to do; people choose for themselves whether and how to join in. The facilitator's task is to provide a structure that enables people to cooperate and commit if they wish, not to diagnose behaviour, or inquire into motives. Diverse groups come together more fully when they discover their own meanings and interpretations rather than have facilitators summarise for them. Future search facilitation centres on giving instructions, observing time boundaries, and making space for anyone who wants to speak. Facilitators become active only if a group abandons its core task or a member is at risk of being scapegoated. Attachment 2: Extract from For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality. The Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches: First Phase [October 2021–April 2022] in Dioceses and Bishops' Conferences Leading up to the Assembly of Bishops in Synod in October 2023, dated 7 September 2021, pp 11–13. 2.3 Attitudes for participating in the Synodal Process On various occasions, Pope Francis has shared his vision for what the practice of synodality looks like concretely. The following are particular attitudes that enable genuine listening and dialogue as we participate in the Synodal Process. Being synodal requires time for sharing: We are invited to speak with authentic courage and honesty (parrhesia) in order to integrate freedom, truth, and charity. Everyone can grow in understanding through dialogue. Humility in listening must correspond to courage in speaking: Everyone has the right to be heard, just as everyone has the right to speak. Synodal dialogue depends on courage both in speaking and in listening. It is not about engaging in a debate to convince others. Rather, it is welcoming what others say as a way by which the Holy Spirit can speak for the good of all (1 Corinthians 12:7). Dialogue leads us to newness: We must be willing to change our opinions based on what we have heard from others. Openness to conversion and change: We can often be resistant to what the Holy Spirit is trying to inspire us to undertake. We are called to abandon attitudes of complacency and comfort that lead us to make decisions purely onthe basis of how things have been done in the past. Synods are an ecclesial exercise in discernment: Discernment is based on the conviction that God is at work in the world, and we are called to listen to what the Spirit suggests to us. We are signs of a Church that listens and journeys: By listening, the Church follows the example of God himself,who listens to the cry of his people. The Synodal Process provides us with the opportunity to open ourselves to listenin an authentic way, without resorting to ready-made answers or pre-formulated judgments. Leave behind prejudices and stereotypes: We can be weighed down by our weaknesses and sinfulness. The firststep towards listening is freeing our minds and hearts from prejudices and stereotypes that lead us on the wrong path, towards ignorance and division. Overcome the scourge of clericalism: The Church is the Body of Christ filled with different charisms in which each member has a unique role to play. We are all interdependent on one another and we all share an equal dignityamidst the holy People of God. In the image of Christ, true power is service. Synodality calls upon pastors to listen attentively to the flock entrusted to their care, just as it calls the laity to freely and honestly express their views.Everyone listens to one other out of love, in a spirit of communion and our common mission. Thus, the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in manifold ways in and through the entire People of God. Cure the virus of self-sufficiency: We are all in the same boat. Together we form the Body of Christ. Setting aside the mirage of self-sufficiency, we are able to learn from each other, journey together, and be at the service of one another. We can build bridges beyond the walls that sometimes threaten to separate us – age, gender, wealth, ability, education, etc. Overcoming ideologies: We must avoid the risk of giving greater importance to ideas than to the reality of the life of faith that people live in a concrete way. Give rise to hope: Doing what is right and true does not seek to attract attention or make headlines, but rather aims at being faithful to God and serving His People. We are called to be beacons of hope, not prophets of doom. Synods are a time to dream and “spend time with the future”: We are encouraged to create a local process that inspires people, with no one excluded to create a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel. The following dispositions will help participants (cf. Christus Vivit): An innovative outlook: To develop new approaches, with creativity and a certain audacity. Being inclusive: A participatory and co-responsible Church, capable of appreciating its own rich variety, embraces all those we often forget or ignore. An open mind: Let us avoid ideological labels and make use of all methodologies that have borne fruit. Listening to each and every one: By learning from one another, we can better reflect the wonderful multi-faceted reality that Christ’s Church is meant to be. An understanding of “journeying together”: To walk the path that God calls the Church to undertake for the third millennium. Understanding the concept of a co-responsible Church: To value and involve the unique role and vocation of each member of the Body of Christ, for the renewal and building up of the whole Church. Reaching out through ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue: To dream together and journey with one another throughout the entire human family. 2.4 Avoiding pitfalls As on any journey, we need to be aware of possible pitfalls that could hamper our progress during this time of synodality. The following are several pitfalls that must be avoided in order to promote the vitality and fruitfulness of the Synodal Process. The temptation of wanting to lead ourselves instead of being led by God. Synodality is not a corporate strategic exercise. Rather it is a spiritual process that is led by the Holy Spirit. We can be tempted to forget that we are pilgrims and servants on the path marked out for us by God. Our humble efforts of organization and coordination areat the service of God who guides us on our way. We are clay in the hands of the divine Potter (Isaiah 64:8). The temptation to focus on ourselves and our immediate concerns. The Synodal Process is an opportunity to open up, to look around us, to see things from other points of view, and to move out in missionary outreach to the peripheries. This requires us to think long-term. This also means broadening our perspectives to the dimensions of the entire Church and asking questions, such as: What is God’s plan for the Church here and now? How can we implement God’s dream for the Church on the local level? The temptation to only see “problems.” The challenges, difficulties, and hardships facing our world and ourChurch are many. Nevertheless, fixating on the problems will only lead us to be overwhelmed, discouraged, and cynical. We can miss the light if we focus only on the darkness. Instead of focusing only on what is not going well, let us appreciate where the Holy Spirit is generating life and see how we can let God work more fully. The temptation of focusing only on structures. The Synodal Process will naturally call for a renewal of structures at various levels of the Church, in order to foster deeper communion, fuller participation, and more fruitful mission. At the same time, the experience of synodality should not focus first and foremost on structures, but on the experience of journeying together to discerning the path forward, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The conversion and renewal of structures will come about only through the on-going conversion and renewal of all the members of the Body of Christ. The temptation not to look beyond the visible confines of the Church. In expressing the Gospel in our lives, laywomen and men act as a leaven in the world in which we live and work. A Synodal Process is a time to dialogue withpeople from the worlds of economics and science, politics and culture, arts and sport, the media and social initiatives. It will be a time to reflect on ecology and peace, life issues and migration. We must keep the bigger picture in view tofulfil our mission in the world. It is also an opportunity to deepen the ecumenical journey with other Christian denominations and to deepen our understanding with other faith traditions. The temptation to lose focus of the objectives of the Synodal Process. As we proceed along the journey of the Synod, we need to be careful that, while our discussions might be wide- ranging, the Synodal Process maintains thegoal of discerning how God calls us to walk forward together. No one Synodal Process is going to resolve all ourconcerns and problems. Synodality is an attitude and an approach of moving forward in a co-responsible way that is open to welcoming God’s fruits together over time. The temptation of conflict and division. “That they may all be one” (John 17:21). This is the ardent prayer of Jesusto the Father, asking for unity among his disciples. The Holy Spirit leads us deeper into communion with God and one another. The seeds of division bear no fruit. It is vain to try to impose one’s ideas on the whole Body through pressureor to discredit those who feel differently. The temptation to treat the Synod as a kind of a parliament. This confuses synodality with a ‘political battle’ inwhich in order to govern one side must defeat the other. It is contrary to the spirit of synodality to antagonize others or to encourage divisive conflicts that threaten the unity and communion of the Church. The temptation to listen only to those who are already involved in Church activities. This approach may be easier to manage, but it ultimately ignores a significant proportion of the People of God.
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In General discussion
The Sense of the Faithful Team Preamble: Towards substantive additions to the agenda for two sessions of the Council We propose in this paper substantive additions of the kind we consider should accompany the six sets of excellent questions that constitute the published agenda for the Plenary Council (PC). In doing so, we address the call in the present draft “to develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia” (emphasis added). Our concrete proposals for insertion into the PC Agenda arise from our reflections and discernments on: (a) the published agenda questions, (b) the published results of the consultations which have been at the heart of preparations for the Council, and (c) the issues distilled by the Sense of the Faithful team from consultations with and between 26 parishes in Victoria, which it organised. These issues are: • greater recognition and inclusion of women in a persistently patriarchal Church, • greater recognition and inclusion of indigenous Australians in an Australian Church still reflecting its colonialist origins, • the need to respond, at all levels of the Church, to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Sí, and • the need to reform structures and processes in the Church to become more truly synodal and less clericalist. In the lead up to the PC, extensive initial consultations were undertaken with the People of God in each diocese in Australia in Phase I of the consultation process. This was followed in Phase II of the consultation process by a more focused, small-group, often parish-based, listening and discernment process. The Phase I consultations produced over 17,000 individual and group submissions. Next came the six thematic discussion group reports followed by the Phase II consultations in response to these reports. The form of the Phase II consultations involved a communal discernment process, often from parish groups, which produced 114 group responses, involving in total over 1,700 individuals. The combined reports from this most recent Phase II consultation process came to 186 pages and 108,000 words. The references in this paper to the results of the Communal Discernment process refer to the outcomes of the Phase II consultations. These consultations over the last two years have given rise not only to many concrete proposals for the PC to consider, but also raised the important issue of how the proposals should be addressed in the PC. The purpose of this paper is to highlight concrete proposals for change which reflect the spirit of these consultations. Many of these proposals outlined below will not gain ready consensus among all or most PC members. This will require the members of the Assemblies to acknowledge and address deep conflicts in the Australian Church and elsewhere. As Pope Francis has urged, such conflicts call neither for blank compromise nor mere assertion of authority, but for the exercise of discernment and dialogue about God’s Spirit at work in the world. Pope Francis explains in some detail on how the synodal process should work to find common ground and agreed outcomes on p83-94 of his 2020 book Let us Dream: the Path to a Better Future (Simon & Schuster, London). Here is one quote from his discussion: 'Synods produce intense discussion, which is good: they involve different reactions and responses to those who think differently or have particular positions. We do not all react in the same way. We have also seen in many cases how, faced with disagreement, different groups attempting to interfere in the synodal process try to impose their ideas, either by applying pressure inside the Synod, or outside it, by distorting and discrediting the views of those who do not think as they do ...' (p85). One such issue, about which there are strong differences, is the position of women in the Australian Church. The Phase II communal listening and discernment process referred to ‘women’ or ‘female’ 419 times, compared with 478 references to ‘priest or priests’. The failure of the published PC Agenda to address this issue stands out, as the word ‘women’ occurs only once. By contrast, the importance of this issue was highlighted in several of the Thematic Discernment papers produced for the PC and in all of our consultations with concerned Catholics. It will be a major failure of the PC if the position of women in the Australian Church is not addressed directly in the Agenda and specific recommendations for change are not made. Inclusion of concrete proposals in the working agendas of the Assemblies will be required if the Plenary Council is to deliver the tangible, meaningful and actionable outcomes clearly hoped for and expected by all, laity and clergy, who have responded to the calls to participate in the PC process. We therefore urge Assembly members to formulate and discuss their own discernment of connections between the Agenda’s questions and the most important substantive issues they and their communities see confronting the Australian Church as it develops its evangelising mission. 1. CONVERSION PC Agenda questions. (Note: We have only selected two key questions for each topic from the Agenda to illustrate how we think the Agenda needs to be expanded and to avoid producing a lengthy document.) • 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? • How might the Church in Australia respond to the call to ‘ecological conversion’? How can we express and promote a commitment to an ‘integral ecology of life’ in all its dimensions, with particular attention to the more vulnerable people in our country and region? Reflections The detailed reports from the Phase I consultations in the dioceses of each of the major cities shows that indigenous Australians or related terms were mentioned a total of 278 times as an issue for the PC to address. Climate or climate change was raised 133 times as an issue for the PC to address. Both questions call for conversion in the simple sense of a turning away from old ways of seeing and doing toward new ways. In the case of Australia’s Indigenous population this means definitively turning from colonialist ways of seeing our First Nations People in terms of what they were supposed to lack – Western civilisation, and the Good News which we were assumed to possess in full. In the case of the ecology, the turning away is from white settler ways of seeing the land as having no value unless developed with European know-how, assessing it exclusively for its exchange value, and exploiting it for food and trade products. In both cases the conversion/turning is towards seeing value, worth, and dignity where little or none was seen before. In both cases conversion is well underway in the Australian Church. The creation of Catholic Earthcare Australia by the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service was a landmark in the Church’s conversion to ‘an integral ecology of life’. Likewise, the establishment of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) in 1992 as a peak advisory body to the Australian bishops has been a landmark in practical conversion of the Church towards the engagement of First Peoples in the development of its wider mission. The online Cross-cultural Competency Course and the development of the Brisbane Archdiocese Reconciliation Action Plan are signs that the conversion continues. The PC Assemblies, by acknowledging, endorsing and supporting these instances of conversion may contribute to ‘an integral ecology of life in all its dimensions’. They might also consider ways of ensuring that the conversions noted here continue at all levels in all Australian dioceses. Substantive proposals 1. That the PC endorse NATSICC’s ‘new indigenous ways of being Christian’ as expressed in the NATSICC submission to the PC. 2. That the PC consider how other sections of the Australian Catholic Church might join with NATSICC and connected entities in realising their own missions. 3. That the PC endorse the recent call by the Australian Bishops for the Australian Government to move quickly to hold a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament once a model for the Voice has been chosen. 4. That the PC consider how the call to ‘ecological conversion’ in Laudato Sí, and previously in Pope John Paul II’s ‘Eco-spiritual Audit of Planet Earth’, might be better heard and implemented in all Australian Catholic communities. 5. That the PC urge the Australian Government to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in response to Pope Francis’ plea on Earth Day 2021 for urgent action. 2. PRAYER PC Agenda questions: • How might we become a more contemplative people, committing more deeply to prayer as a way of life, and celebrating the liturgy of the Church as an encounter with Christ who sends us out to ‘make disciples of all the nations’? • How might we better embrace the diverse liturgical traditions of the churches which make up the Catholic Church, and the cultural gifts of immigrant communities, to enrich the spirituality and worship of the Church in Australia? Reflections In the Phase II communal discernment process based on 114 small group responses involving 1,700 individuals, prayer was mentioned 360 times, compared with 462 references to the Mass. ‘Liturgy’ or ‘liturgies’ were mentioned 231 times. ‘Translate’ or ‘translation’ was mentioned 28 times. The ‘gospel or gospels’ and the ‘bible’ or ‘biblical’ were mentioned 93 and 44 times respectively. The PC Agenda questions call the Church to examine connections between Catholic prayerlife, the everyday lives of the faithful, and the vocation of all Christians to bring the living Christ into their worlds. They ask us to consider: (a) how meaningful our available liturgical prayer might be to our culturally diverse Catholic population, and (b) how well our available liturgical prayer is geared to preparing the practising faithful to become evangelisers in their everyday lives. The Sense of the Faithful team consider that that there are serious deficiencies in liturgical prayer on both these counts. We urge that the following proposals, designed to address them, be inserted into the Agenda. Substantive proposals 1. That the PC consider an immediate return to the English translation of the Missal (1998), setting aside the presently over-Latinised authorised translation. The current translation carries with it the ethos, spirituality, and theology of the pre-Vatican II Church, hinders the integration of our Catholic prayer life with our everyday work and family lives, and is very difficult to understand for those with English as a second language. 2. That the PC set in motion steps towards the development of new forms of public prayer, including hymns composed by and for young people. 3. That the PC set in motion steps (including widespread consultation with the practising and non-practising faithful) for reform and diversification of liturgical prayer to better reflect the theology, ecclesiology, spirituality and lexicon(s) of the post-Vatican II Church. 4. That the PC encourage all Australian dioceses and parishes to assist the faithful to develop a range of modes of prayer with the goal of enriching the spiritual lives of all the faithful, and therefore their liturgical experiences. 3. FORMATION PC Agenda questions: • How might we better form leaders for mission – adults, children and families, couples, and single people? • How might we better equip ordained ministers to be enablers of missionary discipleship: the Church becoming more a “priestly people” served by the ordained ministry? • How might formation, both pre-and post-ordination, better foster the development of bishops, priests and deacons as enablers of the universal Christian vocation to holiness lived in missionary discipleship? Reflections In the communal discernment process, the issue of ‘training’ was mentioned 89 times but the ‘formation or training of priests’ was only mentioned ten times in total. The word ‘laity’ was mentioned 237 times. Of the three questions under this heading in the PC agenda, two of the three refer to the formation of the ordained. None of the questions refer to the roles of women and their specific needs in formation. This provides evidence of the kind of thinking that must be challenged. It is vital that those dealing with formation in the PC recognise that focus needs to be on the ninety-nine percent of parishioners, while not neglecting the less than one per cent who are ordained. Among the reasons for this is that most of the mission work of the Church in the world is carried out, potentially at least, by lay people, and especially laywomen, in their families, workplaces, and networks. Their formation is paramount firstly to understand and deeply appreciate their missionary vocation, and secondly to envision how it might be carried out. The challenge for the PC will be to move beyond lip service about the role of the laity in the Church to making concrete changes. The mission of Jesus has given birth to the Church and must frame all its theological and formational endeavours. The formation of ordained ministers and other Church leaders needs to have a stronger mission content both in the formal studies dimension and in the area of spiritual formation. In the past half-century a corpus of official Catholic teaching on evangelising mission has emerged out of mission praxis and theology, and has been made available to the faithful via the magisterium. The formational challenge is to unpack this missionary impulse at every level of Church life. As Pope Francis describes it, it is an endeavour with the potential to transform everything. Substantive proposals 1. That the PC take on board the challenge to bring the Biblical renewal and the mission renewal of Church life together in the formation of Church members. The Gospels are at the heart of formation. A way forward would be for the PC to call on dioceses and parishes to encourage reconnection with the Gospels in an intelligent and deeply spiritual way. 2. That the PC strongly recommend the practical proposal on the Biblical formation of the faithful made by the world-renowned Australian Biblical scholar Fr Frank Moloney SDB. His submission to the PC is called The Plenary Council and the Word of God, available on the Sense of the Faithful website. 3. That the PC encourage the Australian Church communities to prioritise work with families where the primary formation of children and young people takes place. It is here where they learn to grow in their sense of ‘ownership’ of the mission of Jesus in the world. We need to disown the belief that mission belongs to someone else, and is to be enacted some place elsewhere – an approach that is deeply embedded in Catholic culture. 4. That the PC commission each theologate and each faith community – parish, small faith community, etc – to consider how to put into effect in some way the contemporary Church’s connection to the wider world, and so begin a more concerted process of change. 5. That the PC recognise that the formation of lay leaders for parishes is a pressing challenge. These formation processes must be well planned, and dioceses encouraged to exchange ideas and processes at a national level, as well as to learn from work done in other countries such as New Zealand and elsewhere. 6. That the PC recognise that many members of the Australian Church, as represented by members of the PC, believe that the ordination of women as deacons and priests would help to renew the Church in Australia. The communal discernment process in Phase II produced ten direct references to ‘women deacons’ 14 references to ‘women priests’ and 11 other references to ordaining women to the diaconate and priesthood. Many also believe that there are no good reasons – whether biblical, theological or historical – for not doing so. While acknowledging that this is a matter for the Pope and is not within the discretion of the Australian bishops or the PC, we urge the PC to raise the issue so it can be conveyed to Pope Francis for his urgent consideration. 4. STRUCTURES PC Agenda questions: • How might parishes better become local centres for the formation and animation of missionary disciples? • How might the Church in Australia be better structured for mission, considering the diocese, religious orders, PJPs [independent ministries under canon law] and new communities? Reflections The word parish was mentioned 1,058 times in the communal discernment process. This clearly shows how important these communities are in the life of the Church. In comparison, the words ‘diocese’ or ‘diocesan’ in whole or in part were only mentioned 261 times. Both these questions draw attention to the interdependence of the Church’s hierarchical and geographical structures on the one hand and its evangelising mission on the other. They remind us that the structures are always to be seen and evaluated as a means to realise the Church’s evangelising mission. The questions also invite us to focus on the basic local structural unit of the Catholic Church in Australia – the parish. This has been for most Catholics the main place for worship of God, for maintenance and development of their Catholic Faith, and for evangelisation in and service to the wider community. However, it is hard to retain this focus on the parish and its supposed and mandated functions because actual parishes are so varied demographically (e.g., in age and ethnic profiles) and vitality. Further, the shrinking and ageing of congregations in most parishes, and the shortage of priests to serve parishes have threatened their social and material viability. Amalgamations alone, especially if designed and executed without consultation with the local faithful, may not offer a solution. Though vital parishes are to be found, it is not too strong a claim to say that the basic unit through which the Church has realised its mission in Australia is withering away in many dioceses, as shown by the increasing number of parish mergers and amalgamations. Substantive proposals The following proposals for consideration by the PC are advanced in the belief and hope that they will contribute to the restoration and revitalisation of the Church’s basic local structure. It is worth noting here that the communal discernment process mentioned the term ‘pastoral council’ 51 times and ‘lay leader or leadership’ 22 times. 1. That Pastoral Councils, composed predominantly of lay women and men, be established at all levels – and especially the diocesan level – in the Australian Church. This requirement has been more honoured in the breach than the observance. Councils at the various levels should be required to remain in frequent conversation with one another. Pastoral Councils should be required to do all they can to encourage membership of the under-forties and to set up sub-committees strongly including the under-thirties. All Pastoral Councils should be required to plan and provide for community service projects as an essential part of their remit. 2. That lay-led parishes be encouraged, following (flexibly and creatively) the model developed in the Archdiocese of Wellington NZ and, as there, designed to enhance the Eucharistic role of ordained priests. 3. That basic training for lay leaders be developed at diocesan and inter-diocesan levels, with better resourced dioceses lending support to partner dioceses in need. 4. That formal recognition be given to a range of ministries to be exercised by qualified lay women and lay men. These ministries should include preaching, liturgical planning, various forms of counselling, and community service provision, and should be coordinated by Diocesan Pastoral Councils. 5. GOVERNANCE PC Agenda questions: • How might the People of God, lay and ordained, women and men, approach governance in the spirit of synodality and co-responsibility for more effective proclamation of the Gospel? • How might we recast governance at every level of the Church in Australia in a more missionary key? Reflections The proposals from communal discernment process mentioned ‘open’ and ‘change’ as a noun or verb 151 and 171 times respectively. ‘Renewal’ and ‘reform’ were mentioned 80 and 83 times respectively. ‘Consult’ was mentioned 34 times, ‘transparent’ 32 times, and ‘accountability’ 19 times. ‘Synod’ or ‘synodal’ were mentioned 72 times. The principles and tools of good governance are widely known and discussed within society. At a minimum, the leaders of Catholic institutions and organisations need to provide evidence that these principles are operating in the institutions they are responsible for. These include being inclusive, equitable, accountable, participatory, and transparent. Within the Church charged with the mission of Jesus, however, we would want to go further, to include a spirit of synodality and co-responsibility. There must be serious discussion at the PC and beyond as to what is implied by these principles, and about how we demonstrate belief that the Holy Spirit works in and through each person of goodwill. Such discussion must also be addressed to how we dialogue and come to consensus in governance matters. In the submissions to the PC, the lack of equal inclusion of women at every level of Church life was named as an area that must be addressed, as it is one of the Church’s great areas of weakness, and a cause of scandal within and beyond the Church. A key question is: What should a truly synodal Church, one which drew equally on the gifts of women and men, look like? Substantive proposals 1. That the members of the PC undertake a major visioning exercise aimed at specifying requirements for an inclusive synodal Church. This should involve close reference to Pope Francis’ agenda in this regard. 2. That the PC call upon the bishops of each diocese to ensure that all governance bodies in their dioceses are balanced and inclusive regarding membership. 3. That those who establish governance arrangements for education, parishes, social service and other ministries, be held accountable to ensure that these arrangements meet the requirements of both Church and state. That the practical work to assist this should be commissioned by ACBC as an outcome of the PC. 4. That the PC ask the bishops to come to agreement about the essentials of governance arrangements for parishes seeking to adopt new leadership models. 6. INSTITUTIONS PC Agenda questions: • How might we better see the future of Catholic education (primary, secondary and tertiary) through a missionary lens? • How might we better see the future of Catholic social services, agencies and health and aged care ministries as key missionary and evangelising agencies? Reflections The mission of Jesus takes in every aspect of human life. If this mission is to be the lens through which service – education, health, or welfare, etc., – is viewed, then the issue is: What difference would/should it make to the way leaders are selected, the formation programs they experience, the way the institutions they lead ‘market’ themselves, the kinds of choices they make about services and service delivery, and to whom? A major issue here is the understanding held by leaders and personnel of the term ‘missionary’. There is considerable confusion regarding this. Some see it solely as ‘purpose’, whereas in a Catholic institution, mission denotes religious purpose viz the mission of Jesus extended into our world. It is necessary for leaders and staff to become imbued with the understanding of mission as it has developed over the past half-century in the Church. There is a formidable agenda facing the Church in this regard. If educational, health and welfare institutions are to carry out the mission of Jesus, they have to resist the temptation to become immersed in institutional survival and maintenance. Whilst operating within the broader service delivery sector, their ultimate goal is fundamentally different. Substantive proposals 6.1 Education 1. Because the Catholic worldview impacts all areas of knowledge, the PC is asked to consider how educational institutions can be held accountable for how this is manifest in projects undertaken, staff selection and the mandate given to them, the design and delivery of curriculum, the pastoral care of students etc. 2. That the PC consider: (a) how institutions may avoid the potentially secularising tendencies that can accompany necessary practices associated with risk management and legal liability, (b) how Catholic institutions need to work to achieve the correct balance and integration for their core vision and mission, whilst also attending to necessary institutional safeguards and generally accepted good practice. 3. That the PC encourage dioceses, educational systems and tertiary institutions to regularly share reflections and insights in the areas of formation, leadership, curriculum, pedagogy, and specific programs, with a view to ensuring that the mission of Jesus frames and drives all their educational endeavors. 6.2 Social services, health, aged care 1. That the PC ask the Catholic bishops to establish and make public the criteria that they expect to be used in the recruitment and selection of leaders in these ministries. 2. The issue of suitable staff to be employed is a pressing one and must be the focus of deliberations across the specific sector. The PC needs to consider the practicalities, and provide advice to the bishops and faithful. 3. That the PC consider how leaders of these sectors, and indeed across the whole of Church life, be held accountable as to whether or not the service provided is experienced as Jesus’ healing ministry.
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In General discussion
By the Sense of the Faithful Editorial Committee The Working Document (Instrumentum Laboris) ‘seeks to offer an account of what the People of God have expressed’ in what it describes as the National Consultation. It also aims to provide a guide to delegates for the forthcoming Plenary Council of Australia (PC) but ‘it does not seek to be the final word’. The authors state that the document ‘offers a broad, but by no means exhaustive, perspective on the present-day situation of the Church in Australia’. The Working Document covers a lot of ground relevant to the PC, including a theological reflection and a note on Sister Mary MacKillop as a model of Australian discipleship. However, in our view, whether as an account of the views expressed by the faithful or as a guide to PC participants, the Working Document falls seriously short. The sense of urgency conveyed in many of the submissions from the faithful has been lost. This urgency was better conveyed in the six Working Group reports (here) which were inputs to the Working Document. The issues are never sharply defined, in a way to inform a serious discernment process at the PC. This is a compromise document from a complacent Church, pretty comfortable with itself, and not a document for a gathering of a Church in crisis. The document is replete with general statements of intent and avoids identifying specific issues that the PC participants need to discuss and act on. As a result no view emerges of the priority or relative importance of the various matters discussed. It is hard to see how a well-defined agenda can emerge from this document, as it stands. The document’s lack of focus presumably reflects the fact that there are major divisions within the People of God in Australia, and within the episcopate, about what the key issues are and what reforms are needed. A crucial issue for the PC is how to manage this conflict, through working with the Holy Spirit, to generate real renewal of the Church within Australia. Pope Francis on Dealing with Conflict in Discernment In his 2020 book Let Us Dream: The path to a better future[1] Pope Francis distinguishes two common ways of dealing with conflict in a discernment process. One is for the participants to wrap themselves in the banner of one side or the other, which only exacerbates the conflicts. The other is to avoid engaging in conflict altogether, denying the tensions involved and washing one’s hands of them. In our view, the Working Document largely adopts the second approach. By contrast, Francis argues that the best course of action in a discernment process is for reconcilers instead to ‘endure’ the conflict. They should face the conflict head on, and through discernment, see beyond the surface reasons for disagreement to help others to see the possibility of a new synthesis. This synthesis does not involve destroying either pole but preserving what is good and valid in both sides in a new perspective. In this way, Francis notes that solutions to what have been intractable problems can come forth in ways that are unexpected and unforeseen. This is the challenge facing all PC participants, but especially the bishops. In Let Us Dream Francis offers a simple framework for the discernment process. The book is organised around three processes: a ‘time to see’, ‘time to choose’ and a ‘time to act’[2], and the Working Document acknowledges the value of this process (para 156). For creative discernment to work at the PC, the real challenges need to be clearly documented, to help the members to see the realities facing the Australian Church. A range of responses need to be defined, covering a range of conflicting perspectives, as a basis for judgement. Finally, there needs to be a truly synodal discussion, in which the members ‘endure’ the tensions in the search for new ways forward. Only then can the Council ‘speak and act with that parrhesia, that boldness and courage, which are a gift of the Holy Spirit’ (para 197), and for which Pope Francis has often called. The limits of discussion at the Council The Working Document acknowledges that many submissions raised issues where ‘people of faith and goodwill find themselves, or those that they love, in conflict with the teachings of the church’ (para 108). The paper suggests that ‘the Council participants may need to distinguish which matters touch on the universal doctrine and discipline of the Church and are, therefore, beyond the competence of a Plenary Council or individual dioceses to determine’ (para 110). Some matters are a settled part of the Church's magisterium. Others would require a change of universal law or practice. Other matters again might be referred to the Holy See as recommendations, or for determination (para 110). Pope Francis has stated in his recent book in 2020 that ‘tradition is not a museum, true religion is not a freezer and doctrine is not static but grows and develops ...’.[3] He goes on to say that those who claim that ‘God spoke once and for all time’ hear the word ‘discernment’ and ‘worry that it is a fancy way of ignoring the rules or some other clever modern ruse to downgrade the Church’ (p 57). The Working Document has a strong tendency to say that, in areas where there is such a 'settled' position (e.g. ordination of women, married clergy, LGBTI, divorced people attending the sacraments), we should accept the Church's position but deal nicely with the people involved. All this leaves it unclear what limits for discussion at the PC are being proposed. The reality is that true renewal will require some changes in the existing teaching and discipline of the Church. Clearly the limits of action of the Australian Bishops must be recognised and a central focus given to matters on which immediate action is possible. But discussion on other matters should be encouraged, with the Australian position on these issues conveyed to the universal Church for consideration. Conclusion For the PC process to work, difficult issues must be brought out into the open, backed by solid evidence to show what the nature and scale of the reality is. This will generate tensions among the PC participants, because some have expectations of major change and some resist real change. Genuine discernment requires that PC participants experience this tension based on stark differences. We suggest that the agenda for the PC must bring the real issues to the fore, so that the conflicts can be addressed and genuine discernment take place. References 1. Pope Francis, 2020, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future in conversation with Austen Ivereigh, Simon & Shuster UK, London. 2. This is a variant of the Cardijn principles for Catholic Action of ‘see, judge and act’, widely used in the Australian Church in earlier times. 3. Pope Francis, 2020, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future in conversation with Austen Ivereigh, Simon & Shuster UK, London, p57.
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