Philippa Martyr: A Plenary priority to foster the need to grow in faith

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A church of many faces: Tongan Catholics participate in the multicultural Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on 2016. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Change through a personal encounter with Christ

Remarkably, the new Instrumentum Laboris is the most honest Church document I’ve ever seen produced in Australia. So let’s press on to Parts II and III, ‘Theological Reflection’ and ‘Looking Within’.

All genuine change in the Church will come from a personal and authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. If you really believe He’s the Son of God, then you’ll do your best to adapt your life to His teachings, and not the other way around.

Bureaucratic and organisational change is not going to produce the results we need (76). This is nothing less than a call to personal holiness – bringing the full implications of your baptism into every aspect of your life, not just what you do for an hour on Sundays (86).

“Yes, there’s diversity of liturgy, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. We’re all at different points on the journey – but we’re all meant to be using the same map.”

I can see the influence of Gaudium et Spes in Part II’s ecclesiology, which I think is good. We have to be wary of an-almost Anglican view of the Church – a big crazy conglomerate of lots of little diverse clusters. A quick glance at what’s left of the Anglican communion shows that this ends badly.

The Catholic Church is not a mishmash of diverse religious beliefs. Yes, there’s diversity of liturgy, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. We’re all at different points on the journey – but we’re all meant to be using the same map.

A catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches children. Our Lady of Fatima Classical School will integrate the Catechesis in its curriculum. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
A catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches children. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Forming and fostering Faith

Part III gets down to business. The Church is full of people who struggle to accept its teachings, especially on sexual morality (108,109). The Plenary Council doesn’t have the authority to change the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself (110). But we can improve how we deliver those teachings (111).

Demoralised clergy need better support, and diocesan and parish boundaries need an overhaul (124,132). It’s high time we re-examined “the effectiveness of sacramental preparation programmes” (132). Colouring in a picture of Jesus on a donkey does not set a child up for a lifetime of tough moral decision-making.

A contender for Catholic Understatement of the Year appears: “There is some concern that a full understanding of, and reverence for, the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Christ … is in a state of decline in Australia” (137).

“The Plenary Council doesn’t have the authority to change the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself (110). But we can improve how we deliver those teachings (111).”

Given this, “the question of how best to provide formation on the sacraments arises. Such formation will need to focus on both deepening people’s faith and increasing their knowledge” (138). Good move.

Allow me to point silently to this next statement: “the identity, mission and evangelising capacity of Catholic education in Australia should be examined with candour and courage if they are to bring people closer to Christ and his plan for their lives” (146).

Reading these two sections is really inspiring in many ways. It’s also disheartening when you measure the gap between what we should be, and what we clearly aren’t. We had all the resources we needed to shine, but we didn’t.

Next week, I will look at Part IV, ‘Going Forth’, and see if it’s any more hopeful.

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