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Navigating between the perfect and the good at the Second PC Assembly

  • 23 June 2022
Voting is now on the minds of the Plenary Council Members. That is because the frantic final month is now well under way. The Framework of Motions has been issued and the Members who wished to do so have submitted their proposed Amendments. Many looked at the list of amendments suggested to us by community organisations, including the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and the Sense of the Faithful group in Melbourne. Many other members were either satisfied enough or daunted by the task, amid other demands on their lives, and allowed the process of formulating motions to continue without offering any amendment at all. 

Members were also asked to put their names forward by 20 June to move and speak to one of the motions. This is a challenging task as Members have not constructed the motions themselves and will in effect be speaking to a motion put forward by the Drafting Committee rather than one of their own making. 

These amendments, probably totaling in the hundreds, will now be considered by the Drafting Committee. A list of approved amendments, which must not negate the intent of the motions, together with a list of movers/speakers, will be issued by the Plenary Council authorities on or about 29 June, just a few days before the Second Assembly gets under way.  

The week of the Second Assembly, unlike the First Assembly, will largely be devoted to voting. My best guess is that there could be about 100 rounds of consultative votes (including amendments and then thirty amended motions) during the week. This will be followed by deliberative voting by the bishops and their proxies. Before voting there will be many short, sharp speeches from among the 280 members interspersed in the program. This will make for an extremely tight timetable. 

This focus on voting reminds us that synodal meetings like the Plenary Council Assemblies, though they are explicitly not parliamentary or democratic processes, still offer useful parallels with Australian parliamentary politics. 

'Compromise is an honorable word and "good enough" is a respectable position to take; but so is drawing a line in the sand when a motion just does not go far enough in the desired direction.' 

Voting will not be straightforward. I challenge anyone to look at the Framework of Motions to confirm this assessment for themselves. Members will be voting (Yes, No, or Yes with reservations) on complex, often multi-part motions. Some have four