I write my final missive to you as Chairman of the NCP (my swansong or swagsong), on the feast of All Saints, appropriately the occasion for remembering all the Saints canonised or unrecognised. In the world we often view things from the perspective of opposites. You are either: a saint or a sinner, progressive or a traditionalist, angel or demon, member of the NCP or the ACCC et cetera.
In a recent address to Catalyst for Renewal, a Catholic reform group in Melbourne, Frank Brennan SJ summed up the current position of Pope Francis thus: ‘Recently on his visit to the USA, Francis told the bishops gathered at Baltimore: “A Christianity that ‘does’ little in practice, while incessantly ‘explaining’ its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle.”
The Swag won both Best Print Magazine and Best Front Cover (for our Winter 2014 edition) at the Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards for Excellence 2015.
After the fresh blasts from the recent Synod and pastoral wide open vision of Pope Francis, we have set about planning the time for exploration and conversation at our own fast approaching July Convention.
If the debates in Rome these past several days tell us anything it is that the Synod of Bishops is the privileged moment we see where Pope Francis is trying to take the Church. It’s clear that the ordinary assembly of the Synod is anything but ordinary.
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,”a path of solidarity, a “journey together.” And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour.
The Synod of Bishops was set up after Vatican II and met in 1967, 1971, 1974 and 1977 under Paul VI. These were meetings of a representative group of the world’s bishops looking at significant issues selected by the Pope. There was genuine consultation but the Pope alone wrote the final document.
Now that the Synod of Bishops has finished its deliberations on the topic of the family and human sexuality, it is time for the overwhelming lay majority of the People of God to state the truth: that the meetings of these clerics to discuss this topic were, at best, totally irrelevant.
It has been known for quite some time that a number of cardinals and bishops, both in Rome and abroad, are – to put it mildly – uncomfortable with the way Pope Francis’ pontificate is unfolding. It has now all spilled out into the open.
For the last 14 years, I have been part of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council. I have been chair for 12 of those years. I am told I was the longest serving bishop in that portfolio – one that I found forever challenging and at times very frustrating. That I found it challenging is easy to understand. My frustration in the position is that I tried very hard at all times to represent the voice of the Church on issues that matter.