Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Bishops Plenary wrapup

The media release for the Australian Catholic Bishop's Plenary held on 22-25 November is now (finally!) out, so I thought I'd highlight a few items and point you to the full report and related links for those interested.

Transparency and lay engagement?

A few general points perhaps need to be raised though.

First, it is great that the bishops are actually getting out some kind of statement of what was talked about, even if somewhat belatedly!  So a thank you to all concerned.

That said, what we are getting is clearly highly sanitised.   I do think it would be possible to go just a little further in sketching out main lines of debate on at least some items in the interests of transparency.

Take this item on the Ordinariate for example:

"Archbishop Denis Hart, chair of the ad hoc Commission for the Personal Ordinariate, provided a verbal update on the present state of preparation for the introduction of a Personal Ordinariate to be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross."

Well, I guess knowing its name is something new!  But what about likely timing? Will it be in this century?! And are there any practical steps that can be announced (it has been reported elsewhere for example, that the list of those to be ordained has been submitted and approved.  In the UK, the lists actually appeared on the Ordinariate website...).

Secondly, once again two members of Catholic Religious Australia attended as observers.  If religious get to have observers, why not the laity? What about rotating through some of the members of the assorted boards and Commissions?  And is Catholic Religious Australia really all that representative of religious anyway, given that many of the orders that are actually attracting vocations don't seem to actually support the liberal line it typically takes!

Thirdly, if the write up really reflects what took up the time, these must be amongst the most tedious meetings ever!  The report is full of purely information pieces that could surely be dealt with offline rather than taking up the valuable time of our bishops, along with assorted information presentations (though the one from a representative of the Vatican Bank on the state of the world economy sounds like it might have been quite interesting and pertinent) and feel good resolutions on subjects such as Indigenous Australians, Coptic Christians in Egypt,  Caritas, the Bali Nine, and so forth...

Year of Grace

Presumably though, in reality some of the bland writeups belie some substantive discussion and debate, for example on the Ordinariate, mentioned above, and the coming Year of Grace:

"Fr. Peter Brock, Project Officer for the Year of Grace, attended and led a discussion on arrangements for the Year of Grace. More information on the Year of Grace can be sought at"

Social Networking protocols
There are also a couple of press release out on new Social Networking Protocols for those in the Church. 
I have some doubts on some of these, given the scope for them to be overly broadly interpreted.  Take, for example, the instruction that Church workers who blog should:

"...should try to consistently represent the Church in a positive light and communicate evangelically using this medium."

Would Fr Z's blog, probably the most widely read Catholic blog around, pass this test?  Well, on one view of evangelization certainly.  But I suspect not in the view of most of our bishops, given that he is frequently critical of bishops who fail to teach or make odd pastoral decisions, pseudo-catholic newspapers that promote heresy and the like! 

On this topic, those who live in Sydney and/or have the money (or someone to bankroll them!) might wish to consider going along to the Catholic Media Congress 2012 (they have a facebook page), which will include as keynote speaker Mons. Paul Tighe of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.  Early-bird registration opens in January.

Internet and pornography and the clergy

A few recent cases in Australia and overseas no doubt promoted this timely item:

"Sr Lydia Allen RSM, from the staff of Good Shepherd Seminary, gave a presentation on issues relating to internet pornography and clergy. The Conference resolved to establish a working part to consider policy and action on this. Archbishop Philip Wilson, Bishop Peter Ingham, Bishop Brian Heenan, Bishop Eugene Hurley and Bishop Peter Comensoli will comprise the working party."

New evangelization website and newsletter
The report does highlight a new website for the National Office for Evangelization together with a new newsletter, both of which look (at a very quick glance!) quite good and useful.
Schools and school funding
There was also evidently some attention given to schools funding issues and the current reviews in progress.  The lobbying has already started with a website aimed at parents.
Pity more effort couldn't have been made to ensure that what is actually taught in those schools is actually Catholic - certainly the new Together as one at the altar website, providing resources for children in years F-12, will perpetuate the poor catechesis of recent years. 
According to the website, the purpose of the Mass, for example, is not to offer sacrifice (indeed if the word occurs anywhere in the website it certainly isn't obvious, it doesn't even make the glossary), but rather is about "remembering that Jesus is present with us". 
Vatican II, instead of being treated in a hermeneutic of continuity, one of a stream of Councils of the Church of relevance, is given pride of place as befits a spirit of revolution.  Its purpose, apparently, was liturgical reform (pity about all those documents apart from Sacrosanctum Concilium!).
And the key effect of its liturgical reforms was "recovery of the role of the congregation and restoration to them of the responses, songs, acclamations and prayers".  Hmm, firstly totally inaccurate in as much as the dialogue mass existed before Vatican II.  And really, can you actually find this as a key theme in SC?!  Talk about Spirit of Vatican IIism. 
It gets worse.  Consider for example our "fundamental Catholic values" - such as inclusion, liberation, reconciliation...yep, you've got the flavour.  

Some may be interested in assorted bureaucratic appointments - including the reappointment of Fr Brian Lucas as General Secretary to the Conference, the appointment of Mr Jeremy Stuparich as Public Policy Director, and the appointment of  Dr Paul Taylor of the Archdiocese of Melbourne as Executive Secretary of the Bishops Commission for Liturgy and Director of the National Office for Liturgy.

So if you are interested in the membership of Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, and the activities of assorted other Catholic bodies, and various upcoming meetings and conferences, do go and read the media release.


A Canberra Observer said...

so CathNews will continue to publish 'articles' critical of the Church, funded by ACBC money, and thumb their noses ...

Victoria said...

Personal Ordinariate to be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross."

Our Lady Help Of Christians not PC enough?