Plenary Council

2021           Plenary Council Website


The last Plenary Council held was in 1937… 81 years ago.

The Plenary Council First Assembly has concluded

During October 3-10, 2021 the Catholic Church in Australia gathered for the first of two Assemblies of the Plenary Council. Due to COVID and the varying lockdown restrictions across Australia, the first Assembly was conducted online. Over 300 participants gathered from around the country, with 17 from Melbourne. 
The agenda for the Plenary Council had emerged from three years and several layers of prayer, listening, dialogue and discernment. The areas of focus and 16 questions, all aim to address the question of how we are being called to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time. While Plenary members met online, the wider public were able to join by tuning in to the daily livestream, beginning with an Opening Mass each day.
Visit the Plenary website for more details. 
For a fantastic Summation of the First Plenary Council Session – read from Trish Hindmarsh
OVERALL IMPRESSION:  Excitement that after four years of intense  preparation and work, this first Assembly of the Plenary Council  has seen a leap into a more ‘synodal‘ way of being Church.  Bishops, clergy, laity, women and men, all ages, were able to discern together, prayerfully and openly in considering the 16 Questions. There was visible exhaustion after the intensity of the week, but commitment to continue now to engage for the next nine months in preparation for the second Assembly in Sydney, in person, during July 2022.
Everyone acknowledged that the Council processes and organisation were outstanding. Where to now?


What is a Plenary Council? Why a Plenary Council?
A Plenary Council is a formal meeting of the bishops and other representatives of all the dioceses and eparchies of the Catholic Church in Australia. Its purpose is to discern what God is asking of us in Australia at this present time. While the church should be asking that question continually, a Plenary Council is a particularly graced instrument for seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And it has the authority to make church laws on the results of its discernment.
Although in the end it will be the bishops who will vote on any future directions for the church in Australia, they will be making those decisions in the light of a long listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through the voices of any of the faithful who wish to speak around Australia. This makes the Plenary Council 2021/22 different from the last one in 1937. Everyone has a chance to participate and to express whatever the Spirit is saying to them in their heart.
Vatican II spoke of how God, who spoke in the past, “continues to converse” with the church (Dei Verbum, 8). Through our Plenary Council 2021, the Catholic Church hopes to enter more intensely into that divine-human dialogue.



PlenaryPost edition 42 December 22nd 2021

Earlier this month, a document gathering up the fruits of the first general assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia was published, again inviting the People of God across the country to engage with the work undertaken by the Council’s almost 280 members.
The document offers insights into the efforts to discern the 16 agenda questions during small group discussions and outlines many proposals put forward by members and small groups.
The publication of the document, in some ways, rounds out an important year for the Plenary Council journey. For the Church in Australia, we will experience our annual end-of-year highlight as we gather this weekend to celebrate Jesus’ humble birth in a manger.
Many stories were written over the course of the first assembly, some of which can be found on the In the Media page on the Plenary Council website.
Keep an eye out for editions of PlenaryPost on the last Thursday of each month through 2021. Send suggestions on local content that can be included to



Carrying forward the fruits of the Council’s first assembly…

by Lana Turvey-Collins

Dear Friends, 
In just a few days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your commitment, faith and prayerful accompaniment over the past year. This is a short update and note to wish you and your family a very happy and holy Christmas 2021, and a blessed beginning to 2022.  
We hope that the information provided in these newsletters has been helpful and we look forward to continuing to work together in the coming year. The Facilitation Team and the Plenary Council Secretariat are now on leave until January 7, 2022. The team will return to the office on Monday January 10, 2022 and we will respond to any communications we receive during our time away. Thank you for your patience and understanding. 
Confirmation of the venue for the second Assembly 
During the November plenary meeting of the Bishops Conference, it was affirmed that there is deep commitment and desire to hold the second Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council in person. The Assembly will take place at St Mary’s Cathedral College in the Sydney CBD. The dates are confirmed as Monday, July 4 to Saturday, July 9, 2022.
The closing Mass of the Plenary Council will be celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral on the Saturday morning and will be open to all to attend and share in the celebrations. As 2022 begins, a COVID-safe plan and related policies will be put forward for the Steering Committee to consider and a simple registration for the closing Mass will be available publicly. 
Thank you once again for your time, ongoing commitment and deep faith. The 2022 editions of the PlenaryPost will be refreshed in format and will contain information and updates from the Secretariat, the Steering Committee, some reflections from Members, the Coordinating Committee and the Facilitation Team. You are welcome at any time to submit any questions you would like answered or suggest content for inclusion. Please send these through to
We wish you and your loved ones a very happy and holy Christmas. Peace be with you all. 
Yours in Mission, 
The Facilitation Team 


Interweaving the Plenary Council and Synod of Bishops

We’re now almost 60 years beyond Vatican II and Pope Francis has decided […] to call the whole Church to take a two-year journey which he calls synodal. […]
The Pope is calling the whole Church on a journey which involves not just the bishops now and then but the entire People of God all the time.
Here in Australia we’ve been on the journey of the Plenary Council since 2016 and we’ve just celebrated the Council’s first assembly. We’ve begun the process of fermentation which will lead to the second assembly in July next year and then into the long phase of implementation beyond that. So for us the process of the Plenary Council will interweave with the process of the global Synod, an interweaving of the local and the universal, each enriching the other. That’s how the Catholic Church works.
Both Council and Synod recognise that the Church here and around the world is at a point of crisis – not just because of sexual abuse, though that has been a mighty catalyst, raising as it does deep questions of culture in the Church and the need for change. Whatever of Church culture, the broader culture – at least in this and other Western countries – has changed with astonishing speed and in ways we didn’t see coming, leaving the Church on the back foot, slightly breathless and bewildered. Therefore we need to ask whether traditional ways of proclaiming the Gospel are fit-for-purpose now or whether we need to find new ways of proclaiming the Gospel in such a time. No one has put this question as clearly and powerfully as Pope Francis.
On this journey of Council and Synod, the key thing is to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who has stirred both Council and Synod in the Church and who alone can lead us to the place where God wants us to be. To listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, however, we need to listen in new ways to each other and to all the voices, especially perhaps those who have been marginalised or silenced […]
The Greek word synod, which in Latin becomes council, means “on the road together”. Not just the ordained but all the People of God are pilgrims together; and as we journey we listen to each other in an attempt to listen to God.
On the journey we have no road-map or GPS; we don’t know exactly where we’re going. But God does know; and that’s why it’s crucial that we keep our eye and our ear on God. If we don’t, it’s highly likely, in fact almost certain, that we will go astray.
— This contains excerpts from Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s address to launch the Synod of Bishops process in Brisbane Archdiocese. Click here to read the full version.
With thanks to the Plenary Council and the ACBC.

Australian Ambassador hosts ‘Women in Synodality’

Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro, last week served as a co-host of Women in Synodality, a hybrid in-person and online event.
Women in Synodality brought together five women who have been appointed to roles in the Synod of Bishops and the Synod on Synodality:
Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ: Undersecretary, Synod of Bishops;
Sr Patricia Murray IBVM: Spirituality Commission, Synod on Synodality and Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General; 
Sr Béatrice Faye CIC: Theological Commission, Synod on Synodality and member of the Groupe Africain de Recherche en Philosophie Interculturelle (GARPI); 
Dr Myriam Wijlens: Consultor, Synod of Bishops and theologian and Professor of Canon Law at the University of Erfurt;
Susan Pascoe AM: Methodology Commission, Synod on Synodality and President of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).
“These remarkable women – like many others around the world – are contributing to the future of the Catholic Church. They are bringing their experiences and views, through the Church’s synodal process, shaping the conversation around the importance of the participation and contribution of women in the life of the Church today,” Ms Porro said.
The event was co-hosted by the Australia Embassy to the Holy See, La Civilta Cattolica magazine and Georgetown University.

Australian bishops elected to attend Bishops Synod

Archbishop Patrick O’Regan and Bishop Shane Mackinlay have been elected Australia’s two delegates to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in 2023.
The delegates were confirmed during the recent plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Archbishop O’Regan, the Archbishop of Adelaide, said he was “humbled” to be chosen to represent the Bishops Conference “at this significant event in the life of the universal Church”.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to participate in such a special way in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023,” Archbishop O’Regan said.
“These are exciting times for the Church in Australia and the world under the leadership of Pope Francis, who reminds us of the importance of being a Church that journeys together.”
Bishop Mackinlay, the Bishop of Sandhurst and vice-president of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, said he was “excited and honoured” to be elected as one of Australia’s Synod delegates.
“Pope Francis has given us a wonderful opportunity to discern together about how we might journey together in a way that strengthens our communion, participation and mission,” he said.

Integral Ecclesiology

Fr Richard Lennan, Professor of Systematic Theology at Boston College, addressed the First Assembly of the Plenary Council as one of its expert advisors. He explained that we need an ‘integral ecclesiology’ to parallel Pope Francis’ ‘integral ecology’.
An integral ecclesiology, or theology of the Church, will mean taking into account how as many factors as possible fit in with our relationship with God, and with who we are as a people of faith. Fr Lennan urged Catholics to ‘sniff out the presence of God in the world and to celebrate that presence when we find it’.
By going to ‘the peripheries’ as Pope Francis constantly encourages us to do, and listening to people pushed to the edges, we can hear the cry of the poor. This cry must be paired with the cry of the earth in an integral ecology. Both integral ecology and integral ecclesiology must inform mission.

Watch the video presentation here 

Local consultation extended for Synod of Bishops

The local consultation phase for the 2023 Synod of Bishops has been extended in Australia by more than two months, following the Vatican’s decision to allow more time for dioceses to hear from their people.
The Holy See announced in late October that the original request for national syntheses of diocesan consultations to be sent to Rome by April 2022 had been changed, with them now due by August 15, 2022.
At the recent plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a new timeline was outlined and accepted as the national approach.
It extends the original timeline for local consultation, with the submission of local responses to the Synod of Bishops’ questions pushed back from December 12, 2021 to February 27, 2022.

Plenary Council, Synod of Bishops ‘interweaving’

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has said the way in which the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia and the Synod of Bishops process are interacting is a great sign of how the local and universal Church can work together.
“Here in Brisbane and right across Australia we are very, very much in synodal mode at the moment,” he said in a video late last month.
“At this time there is a great interweaving of the Plenary Council and the Synod (of Bishops) process. In other words, the local and the universal working together and enriching each other.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the Plenary Council has been considering the mission of the Church in Australia, while the Synod is seeking to engage the Church globally. In his video, he says the Synod process could be seen as an invitation to each person to tell Pope Francis what they think about the Church worldwide.
“This is really a call to enter into a new way of being the Church, and on this journey of the worldwide Synod, the process itself is in many ways the product,” he said.
Preview: Plenary Matters


Preview: Plenary Matters

Shaping the future of the Catholic Church in Australia

Join prominent Australian broadcaster and Catholic Geraldine Doogue for her new podcast, Plenary Matters. She’ll follow an important gathering of the Catholic Church in Australia – the Plenary Council. The last one was in 1937 … yes, it’s been a long time between drinks! And this one REALLY matters to the future of the Church….which is swamped with challenges. Geraldine has held on through this difficult period because she believes in the ability of the Church to ‘resurrect’ itself. Join Geraldine as she speaks to other Catholics who are interested in shaping a new, modern Church. 

The First Plenary Council Session may be over, however, you can still catch-up with the discussions held each night.

Plenary Tracker

A daily Zoom with exclusive news, insights, and panel discussions
hosted by respected former ABC presenter Genevieve Jacobs AM. 
Every night from Sunday October 3 to October 10 at 7.30 AEDT, Genevieve spoke with Plenary members and insiders summarising, highlighting, and discussing each day’s events.
Plenary Tracker was brought to you by the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform in partnership with Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn, and with the support of Garratt Publishing.
A number of guests joined Genevieve each night. Click here to view the guest list and their biographies.


Genevieve is the Group Editor for Region Media, Australia’s fastest growing digital news platform.
Genevieve chairs the ACT arts minister’s Creative Advisory Council and co-chairs the ACT Reconciliation Council.
She sits on the boards of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, the National Folk Festival and is deputy chair of the Canberra International Music Festival. She is also a director of the Conflict Resolution Service and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.
Integrating Indigenous Spirituality, a focus of the Plenary Council

During the first General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, where around 300 members from across the nation  gathered online between 3-10 October, a small group of members are focusing on the important agenda questions: 
How might the Church in Australia open in new ways to Indigenous ways of being Christian in spirituality, theology, liturgy, and missionary discipleship? And how might we learn from the First Nations peoples?
July 2021
Catholics for Renewal Editorial July 2021

Renewing the Archdiocese of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, now accepts that his diocese is in a huge existential crisis. He told his diocesan clergy on 28 April 2021 and parish lay leaders on 22 May 2021 that the diocese is on a ‘threshold’ and either we do something or ‘sink into the sunset’.[1]
But Melbourne is not unique among Australia’s dioceses. It is the reason why a Plenary Council has been called.
Vatican II also declared it ‘highly desirable’ that a diocesan pastoral council be established in every diocese and Canon Law expects one ‘in so far as pastoral circumstances suggest’ (C. 511).  Pastoral circumstances have long suggested it, but a Melbourne diocesan pastoral council is yet to be established.
… Archbishop Comensoli has rejected such synodality. Instead of convening a diocesan assembly or synod, laying his concerns before his people, and inviting them to join him in a ‘communal search’, he has made a unilateral decision, settled on his own proposal, and then, only afterwards, invited them to comment on its implementation. That is not synodality. Read in full here

Bishop Long names his ‘hope’ for Plenary Council

(July 2021)
The Catholic Church in Australia has a chance to blaze a trail for the faithful around the world, Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv said when delivering the recent Dom Helder Camara Lecture.
While acknowledging the great number of challenges the Church in Australia is facing, including the aftermath of the child sexual abuse royal commission, Bishop Long said the Plenary Council process offers an opportunity for meaningful change.
“In many areas, Australia punches above its weight. Could we be a leading light in the struggle for a more fit-for-purpose Church in this place and in this time?” Bishop Long asked.
“Could Australian Catholics rise to the challenge and co-create the synodal Church that Pope Francis has envisaged?
“While the Plenary Council may not address all of the issues of importance, it is certainly worth the effort in discerning the roadmap for the future.”
Many Catholics hope that the PC2020 will see a change in a number of priority issues such as greater inclusion of the laity, the role of women, clerical celibacy et cetera. While it is important that there is an openness and boldness to discuss these matters, what is more important is to envision a new way of being Church in the world.

Click here to read Bishop Long’s full lecture, entitled “My hope for the Plenary Council”.

Listening key for Plenary Council members

Canberra-Goulburn women meet with members

Some taskforce members with some delegates, Judith Stuart, John Warhurst, Archbishop Prowse, Catherine Conroy, Monica Phelan and Fr John Woods.
(July 2021)
The Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn Women’s Taskforce has taken the opportunity to meet with several of the Archdiocese’s Plenary Council members to help them understand some of the issues local women are facing.
As well as hearing from the four Council members, the members of the Taskforce were able to express their concerns, especially those of young women and their families, about the changing nature of society and therefore of the Church and its role in society.  
The position and role of women and their inclusion within the governance of the Church was highlighted, as was the need for a more inclusive language in all church liturgies and documents.
“Brigid Cooney, currently studying to be a secondary teacher, is aware that this is the first time the Church has asked her to contribute, and she is keen to listen and to be heard.”

Archbishop: Synodality requires listening, isn’t easy

(June 2021)
In an interview with Catholic News Service soon after the official convocation of the Plenary Council, Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the synodality Pope Francis is calling for requires deep listening — something that isn’t necessarily easy.
“I’ve learned to listen in ways that don’t come naturally to me,” he said. The Plenary Council process requires him “to just shut up and actually listen and believe that in listening to this person, who may not be saying what I want or like to hear, I might actually hear some deep echo of the voice of God”.
“I don’t feel less a bishop because of what I am learning on the journey of the Plenary Council,” he said.
“There’s something liberating in it that enables you to exercise episcopal authority in ways that may actually work and look credible.”


Click here to read the Catholic News Service story.

Sydney clergy gather for Plenary Council discussion

(June 2021)
Priests from Sydney Archdiocese gathered recently to engage in the discernment process that has been chosen to facilitate dialogue, reflection and discernment during the Plenary Council process.
The process is one described as “spiritual conversation” and was led by Br Ian Cribb SJ, who invited the participants to reflect on Scripture and consider what the Holy Spirit is saying and then to share their thoughts and impressions. The process then moved into group sharing, where each member was encouraged to listen to one another and share their insights. Further reflection occurred and the group considered what the common theme was that had emerged. 
The process will be used in group discussion at the Plenary Council assemblies. The gathering gave all participants an insight into the process as well as a good methodology for discernment in parishes.
Participants described the process as inclusive of all members, giving the opportunity to share and to listen to each member of the group.
Photo above: Fr Erick Niyiragira CP, Fr Michael McLean and Fr Dominik Karnas CSMA at the Sydney gathering
“Respect@Work Shines a Light on Male-Dominated Workplace Cultures”
by Patty Fawkner
This report on women’s safety in the workplace has implications for the Catholic Church in Australia as we journey towards the first Assembly of the Plenary Council.
Two documents from and about the church in Australia issued in December 2020 should be compulsory reading for all Plenary Council (PC) delegates. They offer crucial insights into the state of the church in Australia, and taken together they paint a picture of church inertia and decline.
Read more by clicking on this link below:
1st June 2020

Discernment Papers Released

Six Discernment and Writing Groups, one each for the six national themes for discernment that emerged from the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase, were tasked with writing papers to bring some major themes and issues into focus.
“The papers are the fruits of communal discernment. The aim of the discernment process was to draw upon the lived faith and experiences of more than 220,000 Australians, the living tradition of the Church, sacred Scripture, papal teachings and additional insights from outside the Church,” said Archbishop Costelloe, the Plenary Council president.
Each paper provides a reflection on some elements of the relevant pastoral reality, articulates a theological vision, outlines a number of challenges to be overcome, suggests prioritised questions to be answered and develops some proposals for change.
They will be foundational to the next stage of discernment toward the Plenary Council – the development of the working paper, or Instrumentum Laboris – and ultimately the agenda for the Council assemblies.
Click each theme to read the released discernment paper

Plenary Council 2021/22 journey – Phase 2 -Let’s Listen & Discern Workshops

Phase 2 is all about ACTION: Let us come together for our Church & make a difference.
Last year, as a Parish, we successfully came together and work shopped Phase 1 – “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” Australian wide submissions resulted in 6 themes; established as focus areas to encourage the Bishops to discuss and make decisions for the Catholic Church of Australia.
Now we have Phase 2 – “How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is…”  Writing groups have been established for each of the 6 themes and it’s now our turn to assist them on the ‘How’ – the practical suggestions moving forward on how as a Church- the steps we take to achieving our ‘what’.
St Kevin’s workshops held in November provided opportunities for real actions.
Read our Phase 2 submission -Actions

Women and Ministry in the Church

(full article below taken from Catholics for Renewal Inc)
The profound misogyny in the Catholic Church, embedded in both its culture and practice, is a sexual scandal of another kind.  It is a main reason for an underlying despair among many of Christ’s faithful and the cause of widespread and declining participation.
The ‘specialness’ and ‘feminine genius’ often emphasized by popes (EG, 103-104), while appearing as an acknowledgement, can, in fact, be a strategy to differentiate women as ‘other’. There can be no doubt that women within the Catholic Church are not fully acknowledged for who they are, and even diminished: when they speak they are not listened to, and when they act their work is considered merely ancillary to the great projects of the ordained. Catholic women may serve, but they only lead to the degree permitted by the male hierarchy.
An examination of the top ten issues raised by some 200,000 Catholic respondents to the question What do you think God is asking of us in Australia today?  (see Editorial above) shows that 5 of the top 6 issues relate to women, and 3 directly call for women to have a greater role in church ministry and governance.  Christ’s faithful in Australia have expressed an emphatic view that the way female members of the Catholic Church have been and continue to be regarded and treated is misogynistic.  Men alone determine the nature and doctrine of the Church.
A clear ‘sign of the times’ which the  Council must address is the chasm that has opened up between the expectations of many lay men and women and the mindset of the Church’s clerical leaders on ‘Women and Ministry’.  We refer readers to our Summary document on Women and Ministry
Catholics for Renewal calls on all those called as participants to the Plenary Council to courageously challenge the ‘business as usual’ mindset on women and ministry, with its fixed restrictions, limitations, and structures, and dare to launch out (Duc in altum) into the ecclesial deep.
Image: From the cover of Getting Back on Mission, He Qi’s painting ‘After Resurrection’ depicts women who were first to see and be empowered by Jesus at Easter dawn.



Incremental set of 2020/2021 Plenary issue summary documents
1) Sensus fidelium (sense of faith of Christ’s faithful) [Dec. 2019] document
2) Synodal governance for a pastoral church [Jan. 2020] document
3) Co-responsibility: sharing in church governance [Feb. 2020] document
4) Clericalism [March 2020] document
5) Women and Ministry [April 2020] document

…and more till to come over the next few months – subscribe here 

6) Priests and celibacy [May 2020] 
7) Subsidiarity [June 2020] 
8) Signs of the times [July 2020] 

(other women and ministry resources are published at Document. No.96 on the website Documents page.


For more or to subscribe directly to their newsletters, please visit:
A joint initiative After the St Kevin’s parish submission was made to the Plenary Council on 6 March 2019, representatives of the St Kevin’s began working towards a joint parish statement to represent 20-30 parishes in Melbourne. Following a meeting of over 60 people from 22 parishes on 13 April 2019, a drafting group prepared a joint statement which has been sent into the Plenary Council committee for consideration as part of a further submission.  This statement is consistent with our original parish submission, and is intended to show that there is strong support for the themes of that submission across parishes. 
View the Joint Statement here: Plenary Council 2020 Joint Statement May 2019

Plenary2020 Update: Submission statistics show Council’s national reach

The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), which is currently conducting the analysis of individual and group submissions, has released a summary of statistical data covering the period from May 2018 until March 2019. 
NCPR director Trudy Dantis advised that the listing of topics that were discussed in people’s submissions should not be seen as pre-empting the National Themes for Discernment, which will be announced on June 9 — Pentecost Sunday. Those themes will emerge from the qualitative analysis, while the report just released focuses on quantitative data. Some of the largest groups to participate in the Listening and Dialogue phase included Catholic Social Services Victoria, a large parish in Canberra’s growing northern suburbs and the Passionist Family Movement. The top five countries of birth for respondents, after Australia, were the United Kingdom, the Philippines, New Zealand, India and Ireland.
Here at St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, we thought we’d do things a little differently. So we constructed an online Survey using ‘SurveyMonkey’ to ask our Parishioners their thoughts on ‘The Church’ and the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.


The Plenary Council is upon us all.

Here at St Kevin’s Parish, we are having our say. A group of parishioners have come together, constructed and sent a letter to Archbishop Peter Comensoli to voice our thoughts, worries and hopes regarding the upcoming Plenary Council in 2020.

Structure of the Plenary Council

On behalf of St Kevin’s Parish in Templestowe, concern about the structure of the Plenary Council has initiated an insightful proposition in the format of ‘some discussion notes’. This short, powerful document opens our thoughts to perhaps another way for everyday concerned Christians to have their voices be heard. It explores Canon Law 443- which has perhaps allowed a loophole to possibly opening the Plenary Council to others… not just the Bishops.  A very interesting read indeed….
Has a wealth of information, latest news, resources.

The Participation of Women in the 2020 Plenary Council 

A paper was prepared by the Council for Australian Catholic Women as a basis for a discussion with Archbishop Mark Coleridge June 2017.
The Social Justice Sunday Statement in 2000, the Bishops’ response to the Woman and Man, included nine decisions of national significance and 31 proposals for implementation at local diocesan level.  Decision number 8 recommended that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) establish a Commission for Australian Catholic Women to facilitate the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the ACBC in response to Woman and Man.
It was accountable to the Bishops’ Committee for the Laity and would have role monitoring the development of strategic planning and evaluation of the ACBC recommendations.The Commission for Australian Catholic Women (CACW) would have an Office, known as the Office for the Participation of Women (OPW), to support its work.
In 2006, the Bishops determined that the Commission would be replaced with the Council for Australian Catholic Women.
The Council would now provide advice to the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry about women and their participation in the Catholic Church in Australia.
Questions have been raised as to whether this move has resulted in a downgrading of the voice of women in the Church.  Reduction in staffing and the need for the Director to also support the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry raises the concern that the scope of responsibilities for the Director of the OPW has become much too wide.
The intention of the bishops’ decisions in 2001 was to give women a better platform for contributing their talents, gifts and wisdom to the service of the Church. This would enable their voices to be more readily heard, recognised, reported and brought to the attention of the hierarchical/institutional Church in a positive, respectful and consultative way. The pioneering and spirit-led decision by the bishops of Australia taken in 2001 should be respected in the decisions about the agenda and participation of women in the 2020 Plenary Council. Some progress has been made, but the Plenary Council provides renewed opportunity to hear and respond to the voices of women. The need to be open and responsible to diverse voices, including that of women, has been reinforced by the deliberations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The need for continuing engagement between the ACBC and women remains relevant and is in fact more compelling in 2017.