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Movement for Church renewal keeps growing

  • 11 December 2019


The wider community should be aware that the Catholic renewal movement in Australia continues to grow. It has been stimulated by Vatican II teachings and more recently by the inspiration of the vision of Pope Francis. Within Australia the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's recommendations helped generate special interest in reform of church governance, structures and culture. Then the preparations for the Plenary Council 2020 (PC2020), a national gathering to discuss the future of the Catholic Church in Australia, opened up more possibilities for local and diocesan discussions mandated by church leadership.

What's going on within the Catholic Church always matters more widely given its size and power. Lay participation in leadership, especially of women, is a major social issue. Observers of social trends should watch this space for its wider public policy implications.

Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn was created in April 2017, a newcomer to the renewal movement. Our motivation was a desire to press the Australian bishops to implement the royal commission recommendations at the meeting the following month of the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference. We act as a ginger group within church circles and a public lobby group from without.

Driven by a desire for lay co-responsibility and greater leadership, especially for lay women, we run public forums and workshops, make submissions to church leaders and to PC2020 and connect with priests and religious. We are perceived by those holding church authority as at best 'just one voice' and at worst 'unrepresentative old, white grandparents'. But we meet a need in the church and have developed a model which can be replicated and adapted to suit other circumstances.

Recently Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn has been privileged to play a part in two further church renewal developments. On 24 October we provided three speakers at a public meeting to launch Concerned Catholics Wagga Wagga Diocese (CCWWD), under the general heading of Accountable, Inclusive and Transparent: A Better Church for Australia. In a notably more conservative diocese than Canberra-Goulburn, CCWWD is determined to extend the message of renewal to other centres in the diocese, including Albury and Leeton.

More recently, on 7 December I addressed a meeting in Launceston of parish representatives from across Tasmania at which it was agreed to create a new state-wide body, Concerned Catholics Tasmania (CCT). The enthusiasm of this meeting showed once again that against the odds faithful Catholics concerned about the future direction of