What would be in your open letter to the Pope and Australian Bishops?

Perhaps that is a dangerous question, but I am reflecting on it in the light of this “Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Bishops of Australia” being promoted by a group calling itself “Catholics for Renewal”. It has just over 1000 signatures at the moment and, while I am certainly not suggesting that you sign it (God forbid!), I am suggesting that you read it, and ask yourself this question: If I were composing an open letter to the Pope and bishops prior to their Ad Limina report, what would I be putting in it?

The composers of this particular “open letter” are quite right in pointing out that

As Christ’s faithful, we must speak out. Under Canon Law we have a right and a duty in keeping with our knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to our pastors our views on matters which concern the good of the Church (C.212.2-3).

It is probably worth highlighting there the phrase “in keeping with our knowledge, competance and position”. This canon doesn’t promote the right of just any old body with an axe to grind having his two cents worth heard by the Pope and bishops. It doesn’t give anyone the right to expound opinions which arise from ignorance, incompetance or… or what? what does “position” mean? Does it mean someone in a leadership or teaching position in the Church? Or does it mean “position” in the sense of being one of the “fidelium” whose “sensus” has a right to be heard?

This current letter seems mainly concerned with the issue of “collegiality and subsidiarity” and particularly calls for regular Diocesan Synods in all Australian dioceses. Is this, do you think, the solution to the renewal of the Church in Australia?

Let me give you another thought. I was reading this morning the June regular column of the Bishop of Sale, the Most Rev. Christopher Prowse, on their diocesan website. In it, he writes:

IN some of my visitations to parishes in the diocese I have introduced an ancient method of praying the scriptures called Lectio Divina.

I am delighted that some groups are established already. After reading this brief explanation below some might say: “We have already experienced this without knowing its name”. I hope so.

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the use of Lectio Divina. In his more recent Apostolic Exhortation (2010), Verbum Domini, n. 86- 87, he writes that it is truly “capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God”.

…In regard to the regional forums, may I make this preliminary remark. I believe these fi ve gatherings were real moments of encounter with the Holy Spirit. When the Diocesan Pastoral Council met recently to consider the fruits of our gatherings, we all noted this. There was a real unity. They were prayerful, practical and engendered much “Gospel energy” amongst us.

…Since my Pentecost Pastoral Letter of a year ago (“Finding Home in Jesus”) till now, we have made a great start to reach our final aim of articulating some pastoral priorities to guide the diocese in the future. We have placed ourselves under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the spirit of Novo Millennio Ineunte (n.29),we have sought to begin translating our Christ-centred approach to particular projects. We are attempting to place the entire diocese on a even deeper missionary/evangelisation foundation.

By praying deeply, perhaps using the Lectio Divina process, we will be helped on our pilgrim way as a people under Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Let us allow the scriptures, the Word of God, to lead us forward.

Now there are some things that seem to me as if it could really lead to renewal in our dioceses. Lectio Divina – deeply reading the Word of God, an emphasis on mission and evangelisation, true Christ-centredness and desire to be in step with the Holy Spirit’s guidance…

If I were writing an “open letter”, I think I would start with asking for a program like this.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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11 Responses to What would be in your open letter to the Pope and Australian Bishops?

  1. matthias says:

    What CATHOLICS FOR RENEWAL want is for the church to be reformed along secular lines . I think what you call for Schutz “deeply reading the Word of God, an emphasis on mission and evangelisation, true Christ-centredness and desire to be in step with the Holy Spirit’s guidance… ” and echoing Bishop Prowse,is the way to go-in God’s time on God’s line and on His terms.

  2. Shan says:

    I wouldn’t bother writing one. Writing such a letter to the bishops assumes that it would be read, let alone taken seriously.

    If I had a message I would film it and place it online.

  3. Gareth says:

    I would most likely ask the Bishops to be true to everything that Catalyst for Renewal oppose (e.g. Catholic tradition and anything remotely sensible like putting some life into our local parish’s) and stand firm against everything they support (e.g. anything that doesnt make sense and Catholic orthodoxy).

    A list of things come to mind also:

    – For better and more structured support for re-installing weekly Eucharistic Adoration and Monthly Holy Hours in our parish.

    – For more better and more structured support for the use of the sacrament of penance in parishs.

    – For a proper investigation into how Catholic schools can look into better faith results taking PARED schools as a an good example.

    – For a proper investigastion into why some Dioceses do not have proper businesses that sell good religious material and books such as the Catholic bookshop in Lonsdale Street Melbourne.

    – For a proper investigastion into how all Australian Dioceses can develop a proper Catholic Chaplaincy at Australian Universities such as the University of Sydney.

    – For a proper investigastion into how to develop better and more consistent sacred music at Mass.

    – For a proper investigastion into how the Australian Church can develop more interesting yearly events for its young members co-ordinated by Diocesean priests and religious rather than leaving it up to sub-groups (e.g. summer schools run by the MGLS or CREX pilgrimages run by FSSP or Work pilgrimages run by Opus Dei).

    – For a proper investigastion into how the Australian Catholic Church can head Pope Benedicts call to curb its easy issuing of annulnments, which in effect are quasi-divorce.

    – For a proper investigastion into the promotion of better Catechism at local parish level and into a formal ‘assessment’ of the RCIA program.

    – For a proper investigastion how implement more meaningful liturgy at a local parish level which is faithful to Catholic tradition.

    -For a proper investigastion and plan how to improve preaching at local parish level.

    -For a proper investigastion of how religious orders for women can be more firmly supported and propomoted for Catholic women they are looking for an order that is faithful to their orders established dress code and prayer life.

    have I finished?

    • Dan says:

      Oh Bravo! Bravo! Yes you articulated things I have felt for quite some time now! Why don’t they see things like this? I mean some of the things you mentioned are so obvious, that I’m surprised nothing’s been done about it. (sigh) Thankyou!

  4. Gareth says:

    Oh also that Bishops set established goals for local parishs to support activities that are pro-life.

  5. matthias says:

    Where so we sign Gareth ???

  6. matthias says:

    That sould be “do” not so.

  7. Stephen K says:

    My suggestions would be much more modest than Gareth’s:

    (1) I would support steps to encourage lay-people to have greater familiarity with the New Testament and meditation on the Psalms;
    (2) I would suggest the dropping of all honorifics and special titles and distinguishing extra-liturgical garb for the higher clergy – including the Pope – and have them all in a uniform black;
    (3) finally, I would suggest that all those charged with pastoral care be instructed to preface all their homilies with a simple decaration “My dear brothers and sisters, I too am a sinner along the journey in the love of God and each other according to the Gospel. What I am about to say is meant in a spirit of mutual encouragement after prayer and meditation on the mysteries of the Gospel.”

    I think these things might be quite helpful to the spiritual health of all.

  8. Matthias says:

    stephen K , wish I could sign your petition too. I think Kate Edwards on her blog refers to the need for Catholics to become familiar with the Bible. As a protestant making his way into the Catholic church,I will be supporting my priests in their endeavours to encourage Bible reading and Study.

  9. Garry says:

    I have fully read the Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Bishops of Australia prepared by Catholics for Renewal. The letter is constructive, respectful and positive. It has my full support. I will be ‘signing’ the letter and I urge all Catholics to do the same. I have also had a look at what Bishop Christopher Prowse is doing and I strongly support his actions which appear to be fully compatible with the Open Letter to bring us back to a Christ-centred Church.

    • Gareth says:

      Constructive – Anything but when you such letters are not consulted with and are at odds with a large proportion of other members of the Church.

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