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Media matters for the good of the Church

  • 19 November 2020
The Christian faithful have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful. (Canon 212 §3) Eureka Street columnist John Warhurst suggests Australian bishops prefer to deal with individuals rather than Catholics who organise themselves independently of official church structures. An increasing number of Catholics have low expectations that significant reform will be adopted at the Plenary Council in 2021.

Issues such as inclusion and the role of women were prominent in the original 17,457 Plenary Council submissions but have been obscured in the discernment papers. The selection of diocesan delegates has been opaque, and most tellingly only bishops have a deliberative vote. Following a dark period of sexual abuse in the Church, coupled with declining Church membership since the 1950s, there is clearly a case for urgent reform. Only 8 per cent to 10 per cent of those who identify as Catholics are regular mass attenders; and almost a third of these are aged between 60 and 74. The Catholic Church in Australia is in crisis.

A number of bishops have already expressed public views critiquing reform agendas in ‘The Catholic Weekly’. Bishop Umbers, for instance, is concerned about ‘the effects (or grumblings) of mere sociological change.’ Archbishop Porteous has noted the creeping ‘clericalisation of the laity,’ and the blurring of ecclesial borders.

Author Gideon Goosen estimates the percentage of those involved in reform groups in Australia is 5 per cent or less. Given the passivity of the laity, his view is that reform proponents should seek to engage the 40 to 45 per cent who might change their thinking.

What forums or media, with sufficient audience reach and influence, facilitate respectful discussion of change in the Catholic Church?


'Concerned Catholics are establishing networks across Australian dioceses, gathering membership momentum and proposing a vision for the Church of the future in Australia. Their dilemma, in a media or communication sense, is that they are unable to engage with Catholics leaving the Church.'  

An examination of The Plenary Council site indicates enormous effort and professionalism by the Facilitation Team in Phase 1 (Listening and Dialogue), Phase 2 (Listening and Discernment) and Towards Assembly 1 which incorporates the development of the six thematic discernment papers as well as the selection of delegates. More than 222,000 participated in the