Thursday, 6 December 2012

The bishops promoting fasting? Well only if you're a Muslim!

The public version of the outcomes of last week's Australian Catholic Bishops Conference plenary are now online.

As usual, they are pretty bare bones, just notes of outcomes rather than much indication of what was actually discussed or debated.  So if you read them, you'd be forgiven for thinking these things must be the most boring meetings ever (well, maybe they are...).

Praying for the conversion of Muslims?  Of course not!

But there are a few crumbs of interest in there, as well as a few bizarre curios, such as a suggested prayer for Muslims during Ramadan.

You might have thought a prayer for their conversion might be appropriate, since the Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation for all those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and have the opportunity to ask for this sacrament (CCCC 261).

That surely means pretty much everyone living in Australia, and if that isn't the case then our bishops are surely failing in their duty to evangelize.

But no, instead it is suggested that we pray for their good work of fasting so that they might receive God's approval (!):

"For our Muslim brothers and sisters, that by the bodily discipline of fasting and the spiritual devotion of their hearts, they find grace and favour in God’s eyes."

Really? How can the works of a false religion find favour in God's eyes!  It is one thing to recognise that there might be a few positives mixed in with the false teaching.  Quite another, I would suggest, to suggest that their religious practices could find favour with God.

Indeed, I thought the Church's view was that natural good works, that is, those performed by the unbaptised and/or those not in a state of grace, are not efficacious for salvation.  The Council of Trent, for example, said:

"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Canon I)

And anyway, why are we being urged to praise the fasting of others rather than seeing Ramadan as a spur to reintroducing some of the fasting disciplines of our own tradition?

Cardinal Pell recently suggested that the abuse crisis should encourage us to shore up Catholic identity and practice.  In England and Wales, the bishops's recently formally reintroduced Friday abstinence for example.

So why not here too?  Was it even raised at the plenary as a possibility?  And why can't we, the laity, be allowed to know whether or not such things were considered?

The Royal Commission

One of the more useful crumbs of information in the report on the plenary is that the bishop's representatives on the new body being formed to manage the Church's input to the Royal  Commission are Archbishop Coleridge (Brisbane) and Bishop Wright of Newcastle.

Syro-Malabar Epachy?

The other item of note is discussion of a proposed Syro-Malabar Eparchy with Cardinal George Alencherry, who attended the Plenary meeting for the item.  No indication, however, of where the bishops came out on the idea, though my guess would some would have reservations at the potential loss to dioceses of all those Indian priests...

1 comment:

Collin Michael Nunis said...

Last Sunday, I attended a Liturgy celebrated by His Beatitude Cardinal Alencherry and concelebrated by priests from the Syro-Malabar, Ukrainian, Melkite, and Roman rites. In his welcoming speech before the Liturgy, Archbishop Hart spoke about the creation of a new Eparchy (should be Exarchate first) for the Syro-Malabars.

I personally, am in favour of this, as the Syro-Malabar community is rapidly growing in Australia. When I was last in Perth, there were easily 700 families on record; with Masses being celebrated in 4 different locations. They are not short of priests in each Australian diocese, and I believe that they will continue serving the faithful in the Latin Church for awhile.

They are a faithful Church, and I wish only the best for them.