May God help me to get everything churning inside me out in writing.
Musings about how ‘Yes with reservation’ votes would be counted were answered today. They won’t be recorded as Yes votes, nor even as 50% votes. But if the numbers of Yes with reservation votes are of sufficient size, they might become a catalyst for a re-drafting of the motion prior to further voting.
I have to admit I’ve had the passage in the Gospel where Jesus says, ‘say Yes if you mean Yes, and No if you mean No’ coming to mind and wondering how come there’s a ’Yes with reservations’ at all. According to Bishop McKinley the ‘Yes with reservations’ was used at the Second Vatican Council, and it was used by member bishops to signal that the text was on the right track but needed deeper reflection and modification. Something like, ‘headed in the right direction, but currently half-baked and needs work’. I’m now feeling settled about it, but annoyed that such explanations weren’t provided in the 29 June working document for the second assembly.
There were some comments on the 3 July Plenary Tracker about how visually confronting it was to see the aisle at the MacKillop shrine divide lay folk from clerical folk. Someone suggested it would be more ‘we’re in this together’ if the seating was mixed rather than segregated. For this there are two answers. The first is the scriptural precedent in both Old and New Testaments for a hierarchical priesthood, with priests separated unto the Lord God to display His holiness. To even suggest mixing it up speaks volumes about our scriptural illiteracy. The second is purely practical due to the processing in and out of the church, the veneration of the altar, and the communion procession. It flows better if they all sit together. Imagine the chaos with vested personages trying to clamber over lay persons to get to the aisle, to do what needs to be done, and then to clamber back over them to resume their seats.
All the first day’s motions were passed with two significant amendments, the first amendment being an improvement of language and intent, and the second setting up formal research into why the abuse scandals happened. According to Bishop McKinley such research would not start from scratch but would draw on and expand upon research already done in Australia and from around the world. There was some consensus that the other motions on this sensitive topic were about dealing with what has already happened, and this amendment would go towards improving future outcomes.
One of the Plenary Tracker panelists ventured that the current model of seminary formation is a root cause of the clericalism which is a prerequisite for abuse to happen. Apparently prior to the Council of Trent seminary formation didn’t take place in seminaries. But that had sufficient problems for the Council of Trent to do something about it. I do have sympathy with the view of seminary as a hot house for clericalism.
The big topic for today’s deliberations is the place of women in the Church. Still issuing from my ears is the steam produced by Sr Clare Condon’s presentation this morning. Simplistically her argument was that since baptism gives everyone equal dignity in Christ, and in modern life gender is no longer an obstacle to employment occupation, therefore all roles in the Church should be open to women as well as men. Arrgghhh! God made them male and female, He did not make them androgynous. He made them different for divine reason. The dignity of each is the same, but the roles of each gender are different. As the French say, Vive La Differance! It is our differences working together that produce the image of God. As this movement towards androgyny and transgenderism gains pace, the birth rate is plummeting. It is the differences between male and female that attract the opposite sex, and keep them attracted, and it’s those same differences comprised of complementary gifting which makes long-term team work between a male and a female far more successful than teamwork between two people of the same gender.
Yet I am in sympathy with all those who chafe under a sub-optimal parish priest and under a sub-optimal bishop. The power a priest has to make a lay person’s life miserable is enormous. Only the power a bishop has to make a priest’s life miserable is greater. As much as I might desire a clerical ombudsman to detail my grievances to, sadly there’s no precedent in scripture. It is God’s role alone, and His option of choice to deal with clerical reprehensibility is to send a prophet.
Perhaps the answer lays in begging the Holy Spirit to raise up prophets, and to back that up with resources for giving those with nascent prophetic charisms the teaching and wisdom distilled by the Church over the centuries about the guidelines for use of the charism and growth in the charism.
But I also can’t escape another biblical precedent. Israel flourished whenever it had a wise and holy leader. It strayed from God’s ways whenever the leader was worldly rather than godly. Could there be a relationship between the current state of the Catholic Church in Australia and the number of bishops answering to the description coined by Philippa Martyr, ‘bishop bland’? Could an answer be for all the non-episcopal members of the Plenary Council to pray over all the episcopal members of the Plenary Council before the second assembly ends, praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be released afresh over each one of them? A secondary idea would be to also pray over all the non-episcopal clerical members of the Plenary Council - because many of them are likely to be future bishops.
The voting process of the bishops this morning was nothing short of a shemozzle. Somehow I had it in my mind that they’d all go off to a smaller room than the great big hall, or go into a voting area just before they entered the big hall. This handing out voting papers in such a haphazard way, and then getting the bishops, most of whom are plus or minus aged 70, to negotiate through the crowded tables to the voting baskets and back again – it can’t continue. Those voting remotely could do so in the same pre-first session timeslot.
Back to the actual voting. All of the votes had either No votes or Yes with reservation votes. I want to know why they didn’t vote Yes. I have in mind the way the Supreme Court of the United States operates, providing both a majority opinion and a dissenting opinion. Both are equally valuable. Even if the dissenting reasons have to be given anonymously, we still need to know what they are. And we still need to find solutions to address the concerns underlying those dissenting reasons.
Two experiences have convinced me of this. The first is how many of my dissenting opinions regarding a building project have proved to be real – witnessed by many users of the building complaining about exactly the same things that concerned me, and might I add on a regular basis by both locals and visitors. The second is a narrative told me about an event in a local protestant parish. Their previous youth minister had moved on, and they needed a new one. A wise facilitator got the decision makers together and asked them to describe the qualities they thought were essential for a youth leader in that parish. This would help the decision makers sort through the applications made for the job. A short list was made, and pros and cons of each candidate were discussed. Having the list of qualities needed helped enormously. Then the wise facilitator took another step, it was really important that there be unanimous agreement upon the candidate selected because when the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the Acts of the Apostles their decisions were unanimous. A vote was taken and the result was almost unanimous. The facilitator then asked questions of the objectors. They were very practical and thoughtful objections. Some were easily solved, others like how on earth are we going to pay for the salary of this new minister were less easily solved. But under the facilitators guidance they worked out a solution to that too. Now 100% of the decision makers agreed, and they also a much better outcome than if the trouble hadn’t been taken to sort out the objections. The choice of which candidate to become the new youth minister proved to be an excellent one, and this person served with distinction for many years.
I almost didn’t view the press briefing, but I am now glad I did because the journalists asked good questions and the panel of members provided useful answers. In particular, the way the panel shared about the dedication of the members to their momentous task and the depths of unity and relationship being felt by the members has settled my heart, since this seems to be evidence that the Holy Spirit is involved. May His felt presence continue and become ever stronger.
The absolute treat of the last 24 hours was the Ukrainian Eastern Rite Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral. It was my first opportunity to witness this version of the liturgy of St John Chrysostom, and worth every moment. Throughout the whole rite the emphasis on the two big truths hammered out at the early Church Councils was present, that God is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. Note both the two candlesticks, one with 2 candles and one with 3 candles, and how many non-candle blessings had two fingers on one hand and three fingers on the other. Even though it wasn’t easy to translate the liturgy from its usual surroundings to a western rite sanctuary, they did an amazing job to share the beauty and wonder that this liturgy evokes. To me the message came through loud and clear, ‘This is My Church. I am God Almighty, more loving and more powerful than you can possibly comprehend. Don’t mess with My will for My Church.’ My hope is that many members heard that message too, although some of the Plenary Tracker panel brushed it off.
The same Plenary Tracker panel members who are also Plenary Council members seem to be brushing off increasingly pointed official hints that forceful lobby groups are not wanted at the second assembly.
Stay tuned for more spleen venting tomorrow.