Ecclesiology – theological study and reflection on the nature and structure of the Church – is likely to be one of the major issues under debate in the forthcoming Plenary, Bishop Richard Umbers has said.
Bishop Umbers’ remarks came as he addressed scholars and theologians on the importance of ecclesiology in light of the Plenary Council at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney this week.
He was also launching a book, Ecclesiology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium, in the UNDA-organised series Theology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium on 13 February.
“Ecclesiology I think is going to be one of the key areas of conflict in the Plenary [and] I have been very vocal in asking for explicit ecclesiology,” Bishop Umbers said.
He stressed the central importance of clarity in Catholic-oriented language necessary for the Plenary.
“We are dealing with very important issues and if we are to do justice to these issues and look into a new way of doing things … we need to use a language that is Catholic and we have to be very clear about the Catholicity of what people are doing and saying,” he said.
‘Will the plenary writing groups use Catholic language?”
“Will it be catechetical? Why are we saying things that are clearly opposed to the faith?’”
Bishop Umbers emphasised not all submissions and opinions held by the laity are compatible with the faith. “Not all the ideas that circulate among the people of God are compatible with the faith … it needs to be said that we are not going to redefine sin. We are not going to change the sacrament of Holy Orders and neither do we have the power to do so”
“We want to build up the Church, not tear it down,” he said.
However he lauded the role of Catholic theological institutions in providing professional spaces where dialogue could be explored with adherence to the magisterium.
“A Catholic university helps tremendously in this regard to discuss ideas you disagree with, and to do it in a rational way and actually listen and take it on board and make some kind of progress,” he said.
Ecclesiology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium is co-authored by several scholars and edited by Sydney academics Dr Kevin Wagner from UNDA, CIS President Sr Isabell Naumann ISSM and CIS Theologian Dr Peter McGregor.
Authors include prominent Australian theologian Dr Tracey Rowland, Bishop Anthony Rabndazzo of Broken Bay, UNDA Fremantle Campus Ministry coordinator Thomas Gourlay, UNDA lecturer Dr Matthew Tan and Dr Michael Quinlan, Dean of the Notre Dame Sydney School of Law.
Theology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium examines various theological fields. Its impetus came from scholars at UNDA, the CIS and Campion College.
The first book in the series was released in September 2017, titled Mariology at the Beginning of the Third Millennium.