In our world Church today, there are two conversations at a national level about how a national Synod should occur. One is in Germany and one is in Australia.
We want to address developments in both Churches. Firstly, to update you on the one in Australia – which of course has a local flavor but echoes issues and concerns that are universal – we have invited some key participants in the preparation for this “Plenary Council” to share experiences thus far:
- Lana Turvey-Collins offers her view from the perspective as a key facilitator of discussions leading to and then conducted during the Plenary Council.
- Patty Fawkner, leader of an Australian founded but now multinational religious congregation – the Benedictine inspired Sisters of the Good Samaritan, She is an adult educator, with tertiary qualifications in arts, education, theology and spirituality.
- Frank Brennan is a Jesuit priest and Rector of Newman College in Melbourne and a leading commentator on Church and social and political issues.
- Michael Kelly is the publisher of the English language edition of the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica
There seems little doubt that these conversations are only the first two of what will become dozens and dozens of conversations seeking to clarify what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.
The conversation in Germany has become quite complicated since Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich announced that he had submitted his resignation to the Pope on May 21. Of course, Pope Francis can decline the offer of the resignation. Cardinal Marx has been one of Pope Francis’ most forceful supporters and an advocate of the Synodal approach proposed by Pope Francis.
The declared reason for the resignation of Cardinal Marx is that his own position in Germany is untenable because of his membership of a leadership of the Church in his country that has badly mismanaged cases of sex abuse by the clergy.
How that all plays out and what impact it will have on the national Synod are matters of speculation at this point. But what it clearly underlines is that Synods, Church governance and the Church’s mission and purpose are about a lot more than its leaders, however accomplished and distinguished.
It is not as though this is the first time the Church has ever had to manage such an invitation. Church Councils are the most obvious examples of moments in the Church’s life when the community of believers is invited to fall silent and listen to what God might be asking of it.
But there can be various realities that discourage Catholics from participating in processes and conversations about these matters that could be transformative for the Church.