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All people who identify with Christianity, whether you are practising or not, whether you are even baptizis shared his dreams for the future of the world in his most recent papal exhortation. Is that a top-down view from a traditional Roman Catholic Church? Or, now that Francis has shared his dreams, is it an invitation for the people to share our dreams for the kind of world we want to see ... for our children and grandchildren? Is this an opportunity for the Spirit to lead from the bottom up? Is this even possible, given how diverse we are as a people? First, let us share the background.
At this time of Pentecost, we are reminded of the story of the resurrected Jesus breathing the Spirit on his disciples giving them the power to forgive sins. It was the inception of the Christian movement when He breathed the Spirit into the early Christians and to all of us to go forth preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. At the same time, we remember the last words of George Floyd: "I can't breathe." His modern-day crucifixion is his breathing the Spirit into all of us to speak out and take action. His inability to breath has breathed life into people all around the globe. Everywhere we turn, we are hearing an outcry being heard and reacted to around the world. We condemn the three officers who stood by and watched, who did nothing to stop the killing. But are we no different?
We stand by and do nothing about all too many injustices: We stand by and watch racism continue for decades, for centuries, and we who are white – perhaps unconsciously – benefit from the privilege this brings us. We stand by and do nothing about the LGBT community treated with indignity while we who are straight – perhaps unconsciously – benefit from the privilege this brings us. We watch women treated as second-and-third-class citizens for decades, for centuries, while men stand by and do little or nothing. Why? Perhaps unconsciously because of the privileges this brings them. We stand by and watch the immigrants run from the terrorism of their own governments but stand by and do nothing. We stand by and watch their children being locked up in cages, but do nothing. We stand by and watch corporations invade some of the most beautiful parts of our earth, doing so for profit while destroying the lives and environment of its inhabitants. We stand by and watch people starving to death while we eat sumptuous meals. We stand by and watch school shootings one after another and do nothing to stop gun violence.
But all this indifference doesn’t stop there. Catholic Bishops stand by and hear the cry of the people begging to have a voice in the governance of their Church. But these members of the clergy do nothing. Why? It is nearly impossible to say: “perhaps unconsciously.” They do nothing because they benefit from the privilege that comes with being a member of the hierarchy. And we the people, conditioned for decades, for centuries, continue to attend church, looking up to the priest, to the pastor, to the bishop waiting for them to tell us what God wants us to do. We the people stand by and do nothing but go along with what we’ve always done.
Will the experience of this global pandemic and the adjustments we’ve made to find our way change anything? Pope Francis characterized this worldwide trauma as: "God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on." How will we choose to behave as, state by state and country by country, we transition back into a more interactive society? We readily recognize in others that to stand by, watch injustices, and do nothing is complicity. But can we look inward and recognize this in ourselves? It is time for us to move from silence and passivity to speaking out and taking action about all the injustices in the world. It is beginning to happen, not always perfectly or orderly, but people are outraged. How will we choose to turn this justified rage into action that will result in a better world? The moment is now. What will we do with it?
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A new ‘historic’, ‘substantial’, and ‘comprehensive’ report on Catholic Church governance The Light of the Southern Cross was handed to the Australian bishops on 4th May 2020. It will have ‘far-reaching implications for the Church’s life and mission’.
The report recommends a ‘new paradigm’ for church governance in Australia with key principles of transparency, accountability, dialogue and leadership. But the decision of the bishops at their May 7-14 plenary meeting to lock the report away in secret until December is simply ‘business as usual’.
Catholics for Renewal, whose award-winning book Getting Back on Mission: Reforming our Church Together made substantial recommendations on church governance, believes this 6-month delay in making the report available is unhelpful, indefensible and unacceptable.
“This groundbreaking report”, says Dr Peter Wilkinson, President of Catholics for Renewal, “was commissioned and prepared on a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. If Australia’s bishops are to honour their commitment to the Royal Commission they should make the report public at least by June 2020.”
“It belongs to all the People of God,” says Wilkinson, “not just to the bishops and religious orders. We have a right to see it without undue delay.”
Virginia Saldanha, one of our Strategy Team members, the former executive secretary of the Office of Laity of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, and a freelance writer and advocate for women's issues based in Mumbai, India has raised this question. Is the Church changing with COVID-19.
Perhaps this time of empty church buildings symbolically exposes the reality of our lived faith and should move us to examine whether our "Church going" leads us to a more authentic lived experience of faith.
Pope Francis preaching to an empty gathering in St. Peter's Square is symbolic of the empty churches all over the world
Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
Today the Church’s proclamation echoes throughout the world: “Jesus Christ is risen!” – “He is truly risen!”.
Like a new flame this Good News springs up in the night: the night of a world already faced with epochal challenges and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family. In this night, the Church’s voice rings out: “Christ, my hope, has arisen!” (Easter Sequence).