National Plenary Council Discernment Reports.

National Plenary Council Reports

Title: National Plenary Council Discernment Reports.

Author: Terry Fewtrell and Andrew Phelan

Publisher: John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

Date: 29JUN2020

The purpose of the Discernment reports is, seemingly, to inform the development of an agenda for the formal sessions of the Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church. The documents are important in determining the success or otherwise of the PC. However, the six papers fail to bring together a coherent picture of the real issues confronting the Australian church and provide little confidence that an incisive and meaningful agenda will emerge.

The papers acknowledge the very strong desire of Australian Catholics for major reform of the church, but either through timidity or intent, fail to translate or marshal those reform ideas into initiatives and frameworks that the Plenary Council could consider. They bring forward a collection of ideas that could be categorised as ‘slightly different business as usual’.

They lack the courage to break open key issues to enable honest consideration of meaningful reform ideas. They lack imagination, relevance, urgency and cohesion.

The only positive exception is a strong recognition and support for governance reforms, summarised by calls for transparency and accountability and appropriate support frameworks. The report, The Light from the Southern Cross should reinforce this momentum and provide a vehicle to drive these reforms.

In other major reform areas, the papers are less than supportive and unlikely to facilitate a meaningful agenda that would ensure relevant discussion and productive outcomes. They fail significantly in relation to women, clericalism, opening of priesthood to married men and women and seminary reform. In some cases, there are blatant attempts to park issues to the side.

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