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The last Plenary Council held was in 1937… 81 years ago. Times have changed, let’s move forward together.

The Plenary Council is upon us all.

What is a Plenary Council? Why a Plenary Council?
A Plenary Council is a formal meeting of the bishops and other representatives of all the dioceses and eparchies of the Catholic Church in Australia. Its purpose is to discern what God is asking of us in Australia at this present time. While the church should be asking that question continually, a Plenary Council is a particularly graced instrument for seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And it has the authority to make church laws on the results of its discernment.
Although in the end it will be the bishops who will vote on any future directions for the church in Australia, they will be making those decisions in the light of a long listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through the voices of any of the faithful who wish to speak around Australia. This makes the Plenary Council 2020 different from the last one in 1937. Everyone has a chance to participate and to express whatever the Spirit is saying to them in their heart.
Vatican II spoke of how God, who spoke in the past, “continues to converse” with the church (Dei Verbum, 8). Through our Plenary Council 2020, the Catholic Church hopes to enter more intensely into that divine-human dialogue.
source: https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/pages/about-us/theology/

Submissions were accepted until Ash Wednesday, March 2019 and have now closed.

Please read the final submission from St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe. 

Announcement of National Themes for Discernment opens next phase for Plenary Council

  • 9 June 2019
The Plenary Council 2020 moves into its next phase of preparation today with the announcement of the National Themes for Discernment that emerged from a historic process of listening to the voices of more than 222,000 people.
Between May 2018 and March 2019, almost 17,500 submissions, from individuals and groups of all sizes, addressed the Plenary Council’s central question: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
Over several days of listening to what the people of God said, with intense moments of prayer and discernment, the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council and its Executive Committee, joined by the Facilitation Team, considered what people were longing for. Six National Themes for Discernment emerged.
“The National Centre for Pastoral Research was able to pinpoint more than 100 recurring subject areas from those 17,500 submissions,” said Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, president of the Plenary Council.
“In some ways, those subject areas described what one might call ‘the messy reality’ of Catholic life in Australia today. The voices of the faithful help all of us to understand something of the historical experience and the current reality of the Catholic Church in Australia.
“We worked to discern what people were yearning for as we move into this next stage of preparing for the Plenary Council.”
Archbishop Costelloe said there was a clear desire expressed for the Church to renew herself and focus on the person of Jesus Christ.
“Accordingly, the six National Themes for Discernment flow from that primary goal of being a Christ-centred community of people,” he explained.
The six National Themes for Discernment invite people to reflect, to pray and to consider how God is calling the People of God to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is:
  • Missionary and Evangelising
  • Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal
  • Prayerful and Eucharistic
  • Humble, Healing and Merciful
  • A Joyful, Hope-Filled and Servant Community
  • Open to conversion, Renewal and Reform.
Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said many topics relate to one or more of the National Themes for Discernment and this next stage of preparation – “Listening and Discernment” – is a time of prayerful consideration of the “big” questions that have been raised by the faithful.
“The emergence of the National Themes for Discernment is an important moment in our journey towards the Plenary Council. It is an expression of the sense of the faith from the faithful and, from this, we can proceed in our discernment of what the Spirit is saying to us in Australia,” Ms Turvey-Collins said.
Part of that progression will take place later this month, when the Australian bishops gather for a retreat prior to their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit in Rome.
Archbishop Costelloe said: “We will take the opportunity to reflect carefully on the National Themes for Discernment and share our reflections and conclusions with the Plenary Council’s Facilitation Team and the Executive Committee, based on our own prayerful discernment and pastoral experience.”
Ms Turvey-Collins said those reflections and conclusions will be supplemented by a period of several months, beginning in August, when people across the country will again be asked to engage locally with the Plenary Council process.
“This discernment process will involve establishing working groups for each National Theme for Discernment. People in faith communities across Australia will also be called to participate locally in their own communal Listening and Discernment encounters,” she said.
“The fruits of what is discerned during this time will shape the agenda for the first session of Plenary Council in October 2020.”
More information on the National Themes for Discernment can be found on the re-launched Plenary Council website: www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au
With thanks to the Plenary Council and the ACBC.
 
source:https://catholicoutlook.org/announcement-of-national-themes-for-discernment-opens-next-phase-for-plenary-council/

Plenary2020 Update: Submission statistics show Council’s national reach

The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), which is currently conducting the analysis of individual and group submissions, has released a summary of statistical data covering the period from May 2018 until March 2019. 
NCPR director Trudy Dantis advised that the listing of topics that were discussed in people’s submissions should not be seen as pre-empting the National Themes for Discernment, which will be announced on June 9 — Pentecost Sunday. Those themes will emerge from the qualitative analysis, while the report just released focuses on quantitative data. Some of the largest groups to participate in the Listening and Dialogue phase included Catholic Social Services Victoria, a large parish in Canberra’s growing northern suburbs and the Passionist Family Movement. The top five countries of birth for respondents, after Australia, were the United Kingdom, the Philippines, New Zealand, India and Ireland.
 
A joint initiative  After the St Kevin’s parish submission was made to the Plenary Council on 6 March 2019, representatives of the parish have been working towards a joint parish statement by 20-30 parishes in Melbourne. Following a meeting of over 60 people from 22 parishes on 13 April 2019, a drafting group has prepared a draft joint statement which has gone to 35 parishes for consideration.  This statement is consistent with our original parish submission, and is intended to show that there is strong support for the themes of that submission across parishes. 
 
 
Here at St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, we thought we’d do things a little differently. So we constructed an online Survey using ‘SurveyMonkey’ to ask our Parishioners their thoughts on ‘The Church’ and the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.
 

 

The Plenary Council is upon us all.

Here at St Kevin’s Parish, we are having our say. A group of parishioners have come together, constructed and sent a letter to Archbishop Peter Comensoli to voice our thoughts, worries and hopes regarding the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.
 
 
 

Structure of the Plenary Council

On behalf of St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, concern about the structure of the Plenary Council has initiated an insightful proposition in the format of ‘some discussion notes’. This short, powerful document opens our thoughts to perhaps another way for everyday concerned Christians to have their voices be heard. It explores Canon Law 443- which has perhaps allowed a loophole to possibly opening the Plenary Council to others… not just the Bishops.  A very interesting read indeed….
Has a wealth of information, latest news, resources.

To Speak Boldly, But to Listen Humbly

by Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Plenary Council Facilitation Team

Pope Francis, talking to the Bishops before the first session of the Synod on the Family told them: “You need to say all that you feel with parrhesia” [boldly, candidly and without fear]. He encouraged them to speak up even if they thought he would not want to hear what they wanted to say. However, he also exhorted them: “And at the same time, you should listen with humility and accept with an open heart what your brothers say.” Parrhesia or speaking boldly, listening humbly and always with an open trusting heart is Francis’ prescription for synodality and discernment. To a certain extent, we have been in “speaking boldly” stage for the past year. More than 68,000 people had contributed to the Plenary Council by the end of January. From Ash Wednesday, those contributions will be analysed by the National Centre for Pastoral Research to identify major themes or topics, which will then be fed back to the people of the Church in Australia. People have spoken boldly. It is the first Council for more than 80 years… Read the entire article

Philip Wilson’s dead letter day

 
The show trial of Archbishop Philip Wilson has backfired badly causing hurt to many people, most especially victims of child sexual abuse who thought the law was being rightly applied to put an errant Catholic bishop in the frame.
Philip Wilson, pictured prior to his resignation as Archbishop of Adelaide
 
Wilson was charged under a provision of the New South Wales Crimes Act, section 316, which has hardly ever been used.
 
It’s a provision which was introduced in 1990. It was reviewed by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in 1999 and comprehensively trashed. Some commissioners thought the provision should be abolished. Others thought it should be retained. But even they said, ‘It must be accepted that the present provision is seriously flawed; to be brutal about it, it is in several crucial respects virtually meaningless. In our view, the essential problem is not that the section’s underlying philosophy is mistaken but that it breaches the fundamental rule that the criminal law be unambiguous.’ For all practical purposes, the provision has now been replaced by a much more sensible and workable provision, section 316A, which is designed to deal with failures to report child sexual abuse. Robert Stone, the magistrate who tried Wilson’s case, failed to apply the cumbersome section 316 appropriately. But it’s hard to blame Stone too much as the provision is so badly drafted that even a bench of Supreme Court judges would have trouble making sense of it. And Philip Wilson was always the wrong test case for this cumbersome, unworkable legislative provision.
The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions decided to charge Wilson with a very convoluted offence under section 316. The charge related to the Archbishop’s alleged failure to report information more than 33 years after an alleged child sexual assault by a priest Fr Fletcher, and 28 years after it was alleged that the victim Peter Creigh had told Wilson about the assault. This was the charge: ‘Between 12:01 am on 22/04/2004 and 11:59 pm on 07/01/2006 at East Maitland. Whereas James Fletcher in 1971 committed a serious indictable offence, namely, indecent assault of a male, aged 10 years old, Philip Edward WILSON between 22 April 2004 and 7 January 2006 at MAITLAND and elsewhere in the State of New South Wales, believing that Fletcher committed that offence and knowing that he had information which might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of Fletcher for that offence, without reasonable excuse, failed to bring that information to the attention of a member of the New South Wales Police Force.’  By 22 April 2004, Fletcher was already before the courts, having been convicted of historic child sex offences. He was in jail until his death on 7 January 2006.
All these years later, Wilson had no recollection of any such conversation with Creigh, saying that he thought he would have recalled such a graphic conversation if it had occurred. Wilson had legal advice from an expert in the law on child sexual abuse that any information he had would not have been of material assistance to the police all these years later. After all, the police had already detained and charged Fletcher with offences for which they had more than hearsay evidence. Wilson argued that he had reasonable excuse for failing to bring any information to the attention of police. “Everyone, including the victims of abuse and church officials like Wilson, is entitled to be governed by laws which are clear, sensible and practical. Section 316 is not, and never has been.” Read the entire article here
 

From Collegiality to Synodality

Pope Francis’s post-Vatican II reform

Massimo Faggioli                        United States November 28, 2018
 
 

On October 17, while the bishops’ Synod on Young People was underway, the Jesuit-run and Vatican-vetted magazine Civiltà Cattolica published the transcript of a dialogue between Pope Francis and the Jesuits he met during his trip to the Baltic States in late September.

 

One passage from the pope’s remarks stands out.

“What needs to be done today is to accompany the church in a deep spiritual renewal. I believe the Lord wants a change in the church. I have said many times that a perversion of the church today is clericalism.”

“But fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council said this clearly: the church is the People of God. Read number 12 of Lumen gentium. I know that the Lord wants the council to make headway in the church.”
 
“Historians tell us that it takes a hundred years for a council to be applied. We are halfway there. So, if you want to help me, do whatever it takes to move the council forward in the church. And help me with your prayer. I need so many prayers.”
 
This remark exemplifies the situation of the church under Francis’s pontificate.
 
After three pontificates that were more concerned with controlling excesses and extravagances in the implementation of the council than with deepening its reception and application, Francis is trying to unleash the potential of Vatican II in a church and a world that are both, in certain important respects, post–Vatican II.
 
This is both the hope and the constraint of Francis’s pontificate.
 
Fifty years after Vatican II, Catholicism has moved beyond it. Some Catholics simply take for granted what Vatican II said and did—seeming to forget how much and how quickly the church has changed in a few decades—and demand further progressive developments in both doctrine and discipline.
 
Other Catholics want to roll back the reforms of Vatican II for a more traditionalist version of Catholicism.
 
Vatican II either ignored or failed to….to read the whole article click here
 
 
 
Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta Address to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn
 
Forum 11 September 2018

“The Role of the Faithful in a post-Royal Commission Church in Australia”

Dear friends,

I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place, and also pay respect to Elders both past and present.

Thank you for the invitation to speak at this forum and to have the opportunity to listen to the voices of the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn in the spirit of genuine synodality.

The events in these last few weeks, including the sensational accusations against Pope Francis himself by the former nuncio to the U.S. has caused great turmoil in the Church. The sexual abuse crisis is inundating the whole Church like a tsunami and it has the potential to cause long-term damage, chaos and even schism. (Mind you, there is already a silent schism in that the majority of Australian Catholics have simply walked away from the practice of the faith.)

It is the biggest crisis since the Reformation and it exposes the ideological conflict that runs deeply through the length and breadth of the universal Church.

The anti-Pope Francis forces who have accelerated their frontal attacks against him in a coordinated and virulent manner. The gloves are clearly off and they have seized this moment of turmoil as an opportunity to undermine his papacy and derail his reform agenda. How time has changed in the Catholic Church!

Only until recently, criticisms against a sitting pope were deemed absolute anathema. Now the shoe is on the other foot and papal sniping is becoming quite a sport among some Catholic circles. (We are after all in the capital of sniping of a different kind!) They might even agree with Paul Collins’ view on papal power but for different reasons I would suspect.

What is interesting, too, is the number of bishops who have chosen to sympathise with these forces and therefore shown their not so subtle disapproval of the way the Pope is leading the Church. Clearly, Captain Francis will have to weather both the storm and the mutiny onboard. I just hope and pray that he stays the course because nothing less than a deep and comprehensive reform will restore confidence and trust in the Church.

To read more from this article please go to https://catholicoutlook.org/bishop-vincents-address-to-the-concerned-catholic-of-canberra-and-goulburn/

Photo: Mark Bowling
Wrestling with tradition: Richard Gaillardetz believes the work of the Plenary Council 2020 offers hope to the Church across the world.

Catholic world has eyes on Australia’s Plenary Council, US theologian says

August 17, 2018 By Mark Bowling
THE entire Catholic world is watching as the Church in Australia moves towards the Plenary Council 2020, according to one of America’s leading theologians.
 
“I think this is one of the most important things that is going to happen in the Church – universal – in the next four or five years,” Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology, Boston College, Richard Gaillardetz, said. Prof Gaillardetz, author of 18 books, is visiting Australia, and is one of the keenest international observers of the plenary process.
 
“If the plenary council is done well it could have a marvellous revitalising effect, both in the Church in Australia and give some hope to other churches in other parts of the world,” he said. “I also fear that it could go in the other direction. There will be a great temptation for the bishops to sanitise the whole process – to say ‘well, we’ve made these mistakes in the past, we have to put that behind us and move forward’. “I think that would be the worst thing they could do. “If the plenary council can muster the courage to take a genuine act of ecclesial repentance it has a chance of restoring the credibility of the Church. “I fear that they’ll not have the courage to do that though.”
 
Attending the Holy Spirit Seminary in Brisbane on August 4, Prof Gaillardetz delivered a day-long lecture and workshop session entitled “Reflections on power and authority in today’s Church”. He described the vision of Pope Francis in re-imagining the power balance within the Church, recovering one of the most radical teachings of the Second Vatican Council, namely, the Church as pilgrim people of God, always journeying. “Vatican II called us to become an adult Church and that means it called us to a kind of spiritual and ecclesial maturity – which is a stretch for most of us,” Prof Gaillardetz said. “I think that Pope Francis is all about this. “His starting point is you’ve got to be mature in order to embrace what discipleship is demanded of us.”
 
In considering Church doctrine in today’s world, Prof Gaillardetz questioned, “What does it mean to wrestle with our faith?”
 
 

The Participation of Women in the 2020 Plenary Council 

A paper was prepared by the Council for Australian Catholic Women as a basis for a discussion with Archbishop Mark Coleridge June 2017.
The Social Justice Sunday Statement in 2000, the Bishops’ response to the Woman and Man, included nine decisions of national significance and 31 proposals for implementation at local diocesan level.  Decision number 8 recommended that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) establish a Commission for Australian Catholic Women to facilitate the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the ACBC in response to Woman and Man.
It was accountable to the Bishops’ Committee for the Laity and would have role monitoring the development of strategic planning and evaluation of the ACBC recommendations.The Commission for Australian Catholic Women (CACW) would have an Office, known as the Office for the Participation of Women (OPW), to support its work.
 
In 2006, the Bishops determined that the Commission would be replaced with the Council for Australian Catholic Women.
The Council would now provide advice to the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry about women and their participation in the Catholic Church in Australia.
Questions have been raised as to whether this move has resulted in a downgrading of the voice of women in the Church.  Reduction in staffing and the need for the Director to also support the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry raises the concern that the scope of responsibilities for the Director of the OPW has become much too wide.
 
A CASE FOR THE PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN THE 2020 PLENARY COUNCIL
The intention of the bishops’ decisions in 2001 was to give women a better platform for contributing their talents, gifts and wisdom to the service of the Church. This would enable their voices to be more readily heard, recognised, reported and brought to the attention of the hierarchical/institutional Church in a positive, respectful and consultative way. The pioneering and spirit-led decision by the bishops of Australia taken in 2001 should be respected in the decisions about the agenda and participation of women in the 2020 Plenary Council. Some progress has been made, but the Plenary Council provides renewed opportunity to hear and respond to the voices of women. The need to be open and responsible to diverse voices, including that of women, has been reinforced by the deliberations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
 
The need for continuing engagement between the ACBC and women remains relevant and is in fact more compelling in 2017.
 
 
source: https://www.opw.catholic.org.au/