I wouldn't have known about it, since I seem to have been dropped off the media releases list (too critical of the bishops and the so-called Catholic Media?!) but for an email with the latest newsletter from Catholic Religious Australia.
And it all raises once again the issue of the role of the laity in the Church.
Why do CRA attend these meetings, but not representatives of the media, priests or laity?
The CRA newsletter opens with a comment about how welcoming the bishops are of the representatives of Australia's religious to their meetings:
The Australian Bishops are always very welcoming of the CRA representatives who attend their Plenary Sessions twice a year.
It goes on to provide an admittedly very high level account of the meeting held on May 3-10 for the benefit of their members.
But what about us?
On the face of it, that's lot more access than the rest of the members of the Church get.
When I checked today, I did find a much more detailed media release on the meeting on the ACBC website. But its a highly sanitised account, without much meat to it.
And that stands in stark contrast, for example, with meetings of the US Bishops Conference, many sessions of which are now live streamed on the internet!
So I invite Archbishop Hart, the newly elected President of the ACBC to give some thought to how these meetings might be opened up a little more, to promote genuine engagement with the laity.
In terms of the outcomes of the meeting, a few points of note:
- elections for the various committees were held - you can find the list on the bishops website (looks to me like the liberals have the numbers, but you'd need to sit down and do a proper analysis to really see);
- they had a seminar on the rite of exorcism, and a presentation on the new media from Mngr Tighe of the Vatican
- some information on the latest survey of Mass attendance and associated research was presented. But no details of what the count results were are provided!;
- work is still underway to convince the Vatican to make St Mary of the Cross a patroness of Australia;
- inquiries about the Catholic Faith are up strongly;
- some commentary on the difficult public policy environment, particularly in relation to the poor.
Most of the press release constitutes report backs on initiatives underway from the various Bishops' Commissions.
Some of these are a bit worrying.
One shudders to think, for example, about what sort of brainwashing occurs in the program directed at young women developed in partnership between the Office for the Participation of Women, Broken Bay Institute and Good Samaritans, focused on "a program of theology, spiritual development and interfaith, ecumenical and intra-church dialogue".
Others sound intriguing.
Just what was said, for example, in the discussion led by Bishop Comensoli around "the structure and workings of Conference [the ACBC? a conference being planned by the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry?] and terminology surrounding “lay pastoral ministry”.
More information please.