But I seem to be back up and running (OK well not actually running or even walking much due to a continuing unhealing fractured foot problem, but metaphorically speaking anyway!). And I have a few pieces stored up for this week.
But the ACBC have put out a media release on their meeting from a week or so back and a few items will be of interest, so here are some highlights.
A strong step in the direction of transparency....
The media release represents a refreshing step towards greater transparency, and so I welcome it. This seems to me to contain a lot more substantive information than has previously been released about these meetings, so do go and read it, and thank your bishop for allowing it to be provided.
Of course there is a cost to transparency and that is that it brings greater accountability. And given that some of our bishops are talking up the "co-responsibility of the laity", they will no doubt welcome some constructive feedback on the actual decisions in line with the canonical injunctions for the laity to make their views known to their pastors, so I encourage you to do that too....
Some of the results of the discussion seem to me at least rather disappointing. They talked about euthanasia, for example, but don't seem to have agreed on any co-ordinated strategy. Similarly, the response to the Greens push on homosexual marriage seems pretty weak (see below).
Prudence or timidity: the bishops on same sex civil unions and 'marriage'?
On one topic, 'Bishops discuss safeguarding the institution of marriage', I'm a little ambivalent.
The media release states that "Bishops held a lengthy discussion on issues relating to marriage and same-sex relationships and their recognition in law, in response to recent moves by governments to change these laws.
The Bishops’ discussion touched on a number of important areas, including the motion in Parliament that local members consult their constituents. In response to this invitation the Bishops agreed on the wording of a petition which could be used in parishes to make their views known to their local members.
As a parishioner of ............ (within your electorate),
Please consider my position on the meaning of marriage.
Given the variety of domestic arrangements available in Australia, I request that you protect the unique institution of marriage as traditionally understood and actually lived as the complementary love between a man and a woman."
Well any positive action at all must be welcomed and supported I think.
But that reference to 'a variety of domestic arrangements' sounds awfully like an implicit endorsement of civil unions.
I assume it represents a compromise and a pastoral judgment. The ambivalence may help to get signatures on a petition and holding off a great evil by providing a middle ground on this issue in the face of a relentless assault, and maybe that is as far as the line can be held given Australian laws recognition of de facto relationships of all kinds, and the state of catholic belief in this country.
Maybe we have to fight one battle at a time.
But really, shouldn't we hold the line at actual truth, and reject all these 'variety of domestic arrangements', most of which amount to the legitimization of living in sin, as well?
Shouldn't the Church take this opportunity to really catechize Catholics on the subject of homosexuality in particular and marriage in general?
Perhaps at least some individual bishops will take stronger initiatives in this area; certainly there are at least a few scattered references to initiatives to promote the (traditional) family listed in the media release, so maybe there is actually some serious strategic thinking going on....
***Fr Z has drawn attention to some recent remarks of the Pope condemning the legal recognition of non-marriage relationships.
Some other snippets:
In between the discussion of topics such as the state of Sudan, the Middle East and other topics of note that you can read about in the release, a few items that may be of particular interest:
- a proposal for Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop to be Patron of Australia and for her feast on 8 August [Note: The media release has been corrected from December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conceptipn is safe!] to be a Solemnity for Australia is being sent to the Holy See for approval;
- the final manuscript for the new Missal is in preparation for publication (though those interested in the debate on this might want to read this piece on the leaked missal text) and a two day meeting in June in Melbourne is planned to further the work of preparing resources for the implementation of the new translation. Additional resources for parishes and other Catholic institutions that will be web based and will be available from the beginning of 2011;
- Bishop Peter Elliott, the Bishops’ co-ordinator for the Anglican Ordinariate made a presentation on the present circumstances of the Anglican Ordinariate and the steps he is taking to assist those who may wish to participate. There is a fairly vague (in terms of timing, numbers, etc) article in the Catholic Weekly on this you can read if you are looking for a little more;
- the Apostolic Signatura has issued a decree approving the new structure for the Appeal Tribunal for marriage cases in Australia;
- a project to supply audio catechetical material to each prison across Australia that is suitable for people with low levels of literacy is being developed in response to requests.