The first sessions of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will take place between 3 and 10 October 2021. There has been a great deal of chatter about the Council within Church circles, Indeed, the rhetoric about ‘deep listening’ and ‘discernment’ and the ‘Synodal Church’ has been thrashed to death. But who started all this? Where did it all come from?
Well, Barb Fraze for (liberal) online CRUX tells us the originator was Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who recently announced his support for a separatist voice of Aboriginals in the Australian Constitution. Coleridge, a Francis devotee, is a supporter of such progressive causes.
In 2015, the archbishop was attending the Synod of bishops in Rome when he was illuminated by what seemed to him ‘the work of the Holy Spirit.’ Why not a Plenary Council for the Church in Australia in which the Synod’s mode of ‘discernment’ could be put into action ?
And so, it came to pass that after much organisational work, the first sessions of the Plenary Council were set for early October (3-10 Oct.) Barb Fraze projects much enthusiasm about the Plenary Council’s prospects, no doubt shared by Archbishop Coleridge and the organisers. But let me focus on several important elements in Ms Fraze’s report.
First, the Plenary Council will not be any old Council with a lot of boring unapproachable clerics, adding more bricks to the fortress of clericalism. No, it will involve the laity – women, the young and other marginalised people.
Second, it will be synodal in form. ‘Synodality’, says Fraze, is a buzzword these days in Catholic circles.’ It certainly is. But don’t pass over the word too quickly. Synodality, announced Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, quoting Francis, ‘is not so much about deeper reflection on this or that theme as it is about learning a new way of living as church’ and this deep reflection is to be “marked at every level by mutual listening and by a pastoral attitude, especially when faced with the temptations of clericalism and rigidity.”
There you have it – the glorious new church, ripped from the ruins of clericalism, sexual abuse, and people lost in stone-age ‘rigidity’. The rigid ones are to be counselled and failing counselling are to be cast into the darkness where they will not interrupt the free and open dialogue of discernment and deep listening.
In Plenary Council, Australians search for ‘a new way of living as church’
By Barb Fraze Sep 26, 2021 Catholic News Service.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As part of the listening and dialogue phase of the Australian Catholic Church’s Plenary Council, 220,000 Australians answered the question, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
In 2015, Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge was asking himself something similar. Australia was in the midst of a government-mandated investigation into sexual abuse in the church. Australian Catholics were leaving the church.
The Brisbane archbishop was at the Vatican, attending the Synod of Bishops on the family. It was there he had an idea that “seemed to me at the time and still seems to me the work of the Holy Spirit.”
“For the first time — certainly at a Roman synod — I saw discernment in action,” Coleridge wrote earlier this year. “It was messy and unpredictable; at the halfway mark it looked very unlikely that we would achieve anything worth achieving. Yet at the end we did produce something which wasn’t the last word, but which was a real contribution to the ongoing journey of the church.