Over the past year in particular, Australian Catholics have become convinced that their bishops, with some exceptions, are playing games with them in the lead up to the national Plenary Council which is now scheduled to start in October 2021. Some believe, not unreasonably, that important stages in the process have been closely micro managed and that the outcomes of the Plenary may have been determined already.Australian Catholics have also expressed concern that their measured, but serious and theologically sound calls for systemic reform and renewal in the Church have been dumbed down, trivialized and even ignored. As time passes, they are becoming convinced that their bishops have not really listened to them, that they are being given the run around, and that they are not being taken seriously.
So far, few bishops have spoken publicly, clearly, and in detail about what kind of substantive reform and renewal they want the Plenary Council to achieve. One obvious reason is because they are hopelessly divided. They show no united leadership, and little by way of common vision, except to maintain ‘business as usual’. Collectively, Australia’s bishops, like the institution they have been appointed to lead, are drifting, with little real sense of mission. You could even say they have lost their way. Furthermore, according to the Bishops Conference president Mark Coleridge, their credibility has been ‘shot to pieces’.