Archbishop Porteous sounds alarm on Plenary proposals

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A number of the Plenary Council’s proposals will ‘hasten the demise of the faith’, says Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The “Towards the Second Assembly” Plenary Council working document “is inviting members to embrace a number of proposals that are inconsistent with authentic Catholic faith and would simply hasten the demise of the faith in Australia”, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart has written in extensive critical feedback published on the Hobart Archdiocese website.

“There are, of course, many good proposals … but there are some things that are lacking. Overall, I sense that there is a lack of confidence in what we as Catholics have to offer our society as it loses its sense of God and abandons Christian virtue,” Archbishop Porteous wrote.

He describes the document as “akin to that of a secular report” that presents the Church “as simply a friendly community”, with propositions that are “quite vague and nebulous, lacking precision and spiritual intent”.

The “Towards the Second Assembly” document has to date been released only to Plenary Council members, and not the general Catholic public, but has been sighted by The Catholic Weekly.

It contains the draft propositions to be voted on at the Second Assembly, which encompass every dimension of Church life from governance to liturgical worship and vary in character from radical reforms to conservative defences of traditional practices.

Feedback on the propositions, such as that of Archbishop Porteous, has been received by the Plenary organisers but will not be published publicly as part of the official drafting process.

Plenary proposals lack nobility of vision

Archbishop Porteous said the document lacked “the nobility of vision found in the great works of the Catholic intellectual tradition”.

“The text is like a modern office block in comparison to a cathedral: functional but lacking that which elevates the mind and heart and witnesses to the transcendent.”

A running theme throughout Archbishop Porteous’ commentary is that the Church has “has become tired and has lost its sense of purpose … [and] surrendered to the surrounding cultural ethos”.

“The text (plenary propositions) is like a modern office block in comparison to a cathedral: functional but lacking that which elevates the mind and heart and witnesses to the transcendent”.

“The document mouths the aspirations of the times giving them a Christian veneer,” Archbishop Porteous writes.

“It uncritically adopts the language of the day, like its repeated declaration that we are an “inclusive Church’.”

“In all this one senses that the salt has lost its flavour and, as the Lord warned, will be trampled underfoot by men.

“There is no sense in the document of the Catholic Church in Australia being prepared to be a prophetic voice speaking truth with love within the culture, to challenge the prevailing ethos.

“Have we become afraid to speak out what we believe?”

Crisis of faith the Church’s deepest issue

Archbishop Porteous also echoed comments made prior to the First Assembly, in which he said the Church’s deepest issue is a “crisis of faith”.

“The Church in Australia is in the midst of an existential crisis as it witnesses thousands abandoning participation in the sacramental life of the Church each year,” he writes.

“The Church is in serious decline, yet no real recognition of this reality is given in the document.

“Because the crisis of faith is not acknowledged, the document makes no effort to propose a way forward for the Church.”

The Archbishop concludes by warning that, “If this working document is largely accepted as the basis for the Second Assembly it will not facilitate the spiritual and pastoral renewal so needed at this time, but rather it will allow the process of further decline to occur, if not accelerate it.”

The Plenary Council drafting committee is currently collating feedback from members and will publish the finalised propositions and methodology for the Second Assembly in June.

Plenary organisers call for pilgrimage of prayer before Second Assembly

The Plenary Council organisers have also called for a pilgrimage of prayer to accompany the final preparations for the Second Assembly, from Easter Sunday until the assembly opens on July 3.

Entitled “Walking in the Spirit”, the pilgrimage materials have been prepared for use by individuals and parishes and are available on the Plenary Council website.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay, the vice president of the Plenary Council, encouraged Catholics to pray for the Council.

“As we move towards the development, consideration and approval of key proposals to renew the Church in Australia, the need for prayer has never been greater,” he said.

“The resources that have been developed allow a comfortable entry into this prayer pilgrimage and a common undertaking across the country for our shared purpose.”

Read Archbishop Porteous’s full comments