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.