Ave Maria, it’s a girl!
Vatican II: People like a fight, but no battle was brewing
By Johanna Bennett and Marilyn Kerjean
The Vatican II: Unfinished Business conference last week raised the spectre of a battle between conservatives and liberals in the Church that organiser, Fr Michael Whelan, says is simply not the case.
The Melbourne Age newspaper quoted the editor of the respected English Catholic journal The Tablet, John Wilkins, saying that the present view among Catholic conservatives, that everyone except them is wrong on Church issues, struck him as “un-Catholic”.
Mr Wilkins had come to Australia to address the Sydney conference.
But Fr Whelan, who organised the conference as an initiative of the Catalyst for Renewal movement and the Aquinas Academy, said the weekend was an “absolutely stunning” success and there had been a great sense of spirituality and purposeful energy among participants.
“The emphasis of the weekend was on supporting each other as we attempt to address the opportunities and challenges that face Catholics in Australia today,” he said.
The conference was designed as one of a number of events this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking Vatican II conference – called by Pope John XXIII – that saw Catholicism embrace the wider world.
It was welcomed by many Catholics, although its conclusions have been debated quite vigorously of late.
Fr Whelan, who is also director of the Aquinas Centre, said the Sydney conference had been more of “a conversation than a confrontation”.
More than 20 leaders of the Australian Catholic Church attended, representing all states and territories.
They included Cardinal Cassidy and Bishops Peter Ingham, Geoffrey Robinson and Michael Malone.
There were apologies from Bishop Pat Power, who was unwell, and from the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop George Pell, who is attending World Youth Day in Toronto.
An international Catholic scholar Fr Joseph Komonchak, of the Catholic University in Washington, and Wilkins, gave the keynote addresses. These will be covered at length in next week’s Catholic Weekly.
Fr Whelan, who founded Catalyst for Renewal in 1994, said the movement’s emphasis was on “conversation”.
“There are people out there on both sides who like a fight,” he said.
“But it is a question of manner and how you deal with difficult content – this is what distinguishes a conversation from an argument.”
Catalyst encourages ‘conversation’ by hosting dinners with keynote speakers to encourage debate about important Church issues. It is also responsible for the popular Spirituality in the Pub debates that are held in pubs across the country.
* Archbishop George Pell will be keynote speaker at the Catalyst for Renewal dinner at the Marist Brothers parish hall, Hunter’s Hill, on October 14.