Plenary voices: Fr Anthony Walsh OP

We need to restore fasting and the self-abandonment to God that it expresses back to the Church, says Dominican Father Anthony Walsh OP

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Fasting needs to be restored to its proper role of normality in the Christian life, says Fr Anthony Walsh OP. Graphic: Agata Gładykowska, 123rf

In 1966 Pope St Paul VI changed the way we understand penance in the Latin Church, particularly with concern to fasting.  He said that fasting should be appropriate to the local economic situation.

Paul VI said: “The necessity of an asceticism which chastises the body and brings it into subjection is affirmed with special insistence by the example of Christ himself”.

Unfortunately, this has be interpreted as leaving the decision of penance to the individual as befits our individualistic age which has caused damage to the solidarity of the Church and left behind many who were ill equipped to understand what the changes meant.

We live in excess.  We live a manner of life in the developed world that is based around the ego and its indulgence.

The Church should be a clear sign against this cultural view: that destroys the unborn, the elderly, the refugee, our humanity, our families, our society and our environment.

Acts of Solidarity in fasting, prayer and almsgiving are good for the soul. Our sisters and brothers in the Eastern Churches, with their fasts in common, particularly in the Great Lent, are evidence of this.  And it is a powerful force for mission and evangelisation.

There are many currents in our wider society that are beginning to realise the corruption at the heart of modern Western liberalism.   The realisation of self-control and self-denial is a pathway to freedom.

Fasting and other ascetical practices are not about us, but about shaping us to God, stripping away the buildup of our self-indulgence, back to the grain which God made us.  We follow the obedient, poor, and chaste Christ.

I ask the Plenary Council to legislate a stricter fasting regime for the Church in Australia – in reparation for terrible sins against children and other sins; in a way of growth as human beings – spiritually, mentally, physically; to be a sign against our decadent culture; but most of all so we follow more closely Christ.