Synodality and the Catholic Church in Australia

Overall, it would be fair to say that the situation of the Catholic Church in Australia is not as good as in the USA, but not as bad as in Belgium and Germany.

A young woman prays with a rosary inside St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney Jan. 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters)

Pope Francis’s call for a more synodal Church is still something that has been more discussed than implemented. The 2022 Synod on Synodality will continue the discussion. However, there are a least two places in the world were there has been more than talk – Germany and Australia. The Church in the former is in the midst of what is being called a “synodal way”. The Church in the latter is well advanced with a national plenary council.

Readers of The Catholic World Report are undoubtedly well informed about what is happening in the German Catholic Church, but they may not know very much, or indeed anything at all, about how the Australian Catholic Church is responding to the call of Pope Francis. After a brief introduction to the history and spirituality of the Catholic Church in Australia, this article will attempt to outline how that Church is attempting to become a more synodal Church.

The History and Spirituality of the Catholic Church in Australia

Catholics first came to Australia in 1788 in what is called the First Fleet. The purpose of this fleet was to establish a penal colony and military base at what is now the city of Sydney. Most of these Catholics were Irish convicts, although a few were British soldiers. Most of the convicts were ordinary criminals, with a few others being rebels against the British rule of Ireland. The first priests did not arrive in Australia until 1800, and they were convicts themselves. In 1803, one of them was given permission to celebrate Mass on Sundays. This continued for about one year, until a convict rebellion, led largely by Irish Catholics, caused the British governor of the colony to rescind this permission. This priest ministered privately until 1809, when he left the colony.

Another priest arrived in the colony in 1817 but was quickly expelled by the British governor. However, before he was deported, he left a consecrated Host in a Pyx at the home of an emancipated Catholic convict. This Host became the focus of the spiritual life of the Catholics of the colony. Lay people kept a daily vigil before it, recited the Rosary before it, taught catechism there to their children, and prayed Sunday Vespers there. Mass was not legally celebrated again until two priests were sent from England in 1820. By 1828 there were about 10,000 Catholics in Australia. The first Catholic bishop arrived in 1835.

From that time, until after the Second World War, the Catholic Church in Australia was essentially an “Irish” Church, with many parish churches named after Irish saints, and most of the clergy being of Irish extraction. In fact, it was not until the 1930s that Australian born priests outnumbered those born in Ireland. From the 1820s, Catholic schools were established in Australia, and these received government financial assistance. However, from the 1850s onwards there was political and social agitation to make all education “free, secular, and compulsory”. Between 1872 and 1893, all six colonial governments removed “state aid” from Catholic schools. With no money to pay teachers, the bishops encouraged religious congregations from Ireland and other European countries to send brothers and sisters to staff these schools. The Catholic school system grew very large. Almost every Catholic parish had its own primary school. In the 1960s government “state aid” was returned to Catholic schools. Today, 20% of all Australian primary and secondary students attend Catholic schools. An increasing minority of these are non-Catholics.

After the Second World War, immigrants from many European countries began arriving in Australia. Besides Catholics with Irish surnames, there were now Catholics from Italy, Malta, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Hungary, and so on. From the 1970s and 1980s onwards, these were joined by Catholics from Vietnam, China, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Korea, India, Sudan, and many other countries. At present, Australia is the most ethnically diverse country in the world, with 26% of its population born overseas, and about 300 different ethnic groups. This same diversity is found in the Australian Catholic Church.

Currently, Catholics make up about 22% of the Australian population. Before the Second Vatican Council, they participated in their faith to a high degree. In 1954, 74% of Australian Catholics regularly attended Mass. Unfortunately, the decline in participation found in European countries has been mirrored in Australia. The latest available figures (2016) put the regular attendance rate at about 12%. Yet, there are also signs of hope. Many seriously committed young Catholics are very orthodox in their faith, as well as being devoted to the celebration of the Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, and other traditional Catholic practices. Many of the “new ecclesial communities” are active.1 Vocations to the priesthood are increasing, and as a lecturer involved in the theological education of seminarians, I can testify to the spiritual quality of these seminarians. An increasing number of dioceses are focusing on programs of evangelisation and “forming intentional disciples”.2

For example, in my own archdiocese of Sydney, the Parish Renewal Office, the Youth Ministry Office, the Life, Marriage and Family Office, the Communication and News Media, and the archdiocesan newspaper are all organized under the direction of the Centre for Evangelisation. In a few days from writing these words, I will be attending the first event of a Sydney archdiocese online series on parish renewal called Reclaiming Evangelisation. The first – Why Make Disciples? The Case for the Evangelising Mission of the Church – will be given by Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire.3 This series will be continued in 2022 with the biblical scholar Dr. Mary Healy of the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, and Fr. Jacques Philippe, author of many books on prayer and the spiritual life.4 Overall, it would be fair to say that the situation of the Catholic Church in Australia is not as good as in the USA, but not as bad as in Belgium and Germany.

The Australian Plenary Council

On the 17 October 2015, in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis pointed out that the very word “synod” is derived from the Greek syn hodos, which means to travel together. He then defined a synodal Church as,

a Church which listens, which realizes that listening ‘is more than simply hearing’. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2:7).5

Less than a year after this speech, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane unveiled plans to hold a plenary council of the entire Catholic Church in Australia.6 He credited the Pope’s speech with inspiring this initiative.7 The Archbishop saw the plenary council as an exercise in the kind of synodality of which the Pope speaks. In defining the nature of this synodality, both the Pope and the Archbishop stress the need for the bishops and all the faithful to listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other. The reasons given by Archbishop Coleridge for the Australian bishops agreeing on the need for a plenary council was that “we are at a time of profound cultural change. Not only in the wider community, but in the Church. I think we have to accept the fact that Christendom is over – by which I mean mass, civic Christianity. It’s over. Now, how do we deal with that fact?”8

Particular issues such as the recent Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children in non-government institutions and the legal introduction of same-sex marriage in response to a national plebiscite were identified by the Archbishop as issues to which a plenary council could respond.9 In Australia, a Royal Commission is the highest form of government inquiry into matters of public importance. However, according to the Archbishop, “Everything is potentially on the radar screen, anything that does not infringe on the Church’s faith, teachings or morals.”10 The plenary council could also expect to engage with contemporary issues of justice, peace, development, and the environment.11 According to the Archbishop, a plenary council would be “primarily an ecclesial event. We are trying to discern what God wants and we are invoking the Holy Spirit”.12 Furthermore, he thought that questions need to be asked about how to become a more missionary church, about ordained ministry, the Church’s response to the diminishment of apostolic orders, the relationship between the newer communities and parishes, and the whole future of the parish.13

Finally, the Archbishop said he expected significant international interest in Australia’s plenary council: “Certainly in the Asia Pacific region there will be enormous interest. Other places will be watching with interest because a lot of the issues we’ll be addressing would be issues common to all western churches that are culturally similar to Australia.”14

In preparation for the plenary council, about 222,000 people participated in “listening and dialogue encounters,” and 17,457 submissions were made. The number of participants in the “listening and dialogue encounters” is equal to about 4% of the total Catholic population of Australia. Also, it is equal to about 35% of regular Mass attendees in Australia.15 From this consultation, six national themes for discernment were identified. The themes are: How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is 1) missionary and evangelising, 2) inclusive, participatory, and synodal, 3) prayerful and Eucharistic, 4) humble, healing, and merciful, 5) a joyful, hope-filled, and servant community, 6) open to conversion, renewal, and reform. Six small committees were appointed to compose “discernment papers” on each of these themes.

We can see from all this that there has been a great effort by the Church in Australia to prepare for the plenary council. According to the Australian Catholic theologian Ormond Rush, doing so will be a substantial fulfilment of the Second Vatican Council’s call to pay attention to the sensus fidelium:

The theological meaning of our forthcoming Plenary Council can only be appreciated fully when we locate it within the comprehensive vision of Vatican II regarding revelation and faith, its transmission through history, and, consequently, the nature and mission of the church. It is this conciliar vision which is clearly grounding Pope Francis’ calls for ‘a listening church, a synodal church,’ at all levels of church life. The Holy Spirit, he says, must be given breathing room to bring forth such a church. The Spirit’s instrument for interpreting divine revelation is the sensus fidei, a ‘sense of the faith,’ or better, a sense for the faith. It is capacity which the Spirit gives, along with the gift of faith, to every baptized believer and to the church as a whole. A synodal church is a church that listens to the Spirit communicating through the sense of all the faithful, the sensus fidelium. The Plenary Council, in its preparatory stage and in its celebration, will be a concentrated moment in the life of the Australian church of listening to the Holy Spirit, by listening to the sensus fidelium.16

The Instrumentum Laboris

Using the six discernment papers, an Instrumentum Laboris (working document) called Continuing the Journey was composed as the basis for the deliberations of the plenary council. Some key themes to be found in this document are the need to:

  • renew a Christ-centred Church that heals wounds and warms hearts;
  • strengthen practices of discernment and synodality;
  • answer the call to co-responsibility in mission and governance;
  • embed in the Church a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse;
  • renew and support the ordained ministry;
  • promote discipleship in parishes, families and amongst young people;
  • form prayerful and Eucharistic communities that are eager to engage in society for the service of all;
  • proclaim the Gospel in an era of change;
  • renew the Church’s solidarity with First Australians (aboriginal peoples) and those on the margins of society;
  • and promote an integral ecology of life for all persons, societies and our common home, the Earth.17

The First Session of the Plenary Council

Using the Instrumentum Laboris as the basis for their deliberations, 277 members of the Council met over a period of six days in October 2021. The members were drawn from the 28 Australian Dioceses, 5 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, the Military Ordinariate, the Anglican Ordinariate, the personal prelature of Opus Dei, leaders of religious congregations, representatives of church ministries, seminary rectors and heads of theological institutions, and others. Representatives from each diocese included the diocesan bishop/s, priests, religious, and lay people. Because of the pandemic, the meetings took place online. In a way, this was serendipitous, since much of what occurred at the council can be viewed online.18

During the first assembly the members of the council attempted to discern “what the Spirit is saying to the Church” in Australia. This was done through times of prayer, general sessions, small group sessions, and brief individual interventions. The texts of a number of these interventions have been published by the Sydney archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Weekly.19 The topics covered include:

  • The evangelistic potential of married couples.
  • The need for a “marriage catechumenate”.
  • The establishment of “houses of discernment” for young men.
  • The contribution of Eastern Catholic Churches.
  • The contribution of families to the life and mission of the Church.
  • The need to go out onto the streets as missionary disciples.
  • The contribution of the Anglican Ordinariate.
  • The need for greater asceticism (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) in the Church.
  • The need for ordained minsters to help lay believers become missionary disciples.
  • The need for all states of life (ordained, religious, and lay) to strive for holiness as missionary disciples.
  • The need for a renewal of Eucharistic adoration.
  • The need to minister to isolated Catholics in rural areas.
  • The role of deacons as “bridges” between clergy and laity.
  • The need for “ecological conversion”.
  • The increase in vocations to the priesthood in dioceses which, until recently, have suffered from a vocational “drought”.
  • Mary as the example par excellence of the ministry of women in the Church.
  • The Sacred Liturgy as the life and heart of the Church.
  • The need for Catholics, as missionary disciples, to “go to the margins”.
  • The work of the Holy Spirit in the “new ecclesial movements”.
  • The need for large families to be welcomed joyfully in the Church.

We can see from the above that the plenary council being held in Australia is radically different from the “synodal way” being held in Germany. The former is being conducted according to Canon Law, whereas the latter is not.20 In Australia, great efforts have been made to genuinely “consult the faithful”. In Germany, any consultation has been mainly with what could be called the “bureaucratic Church,” that is, the Central Committee of German Catholics. The Australian plenary council includes Catholics from the whole spectrum of opinion to be found in the Church, from Opus Dei to those who would like to see women priests. The German synodal way has proved to be very divisive, with some German bishops expressing grave reservations about it, and organisations such as Neuer Anfang (new beginning) proposing an alternative program of reform.21

Some Reflections on preparing for the Second Session

A fundamental question needs to be asked about what has happened at the first assembly and what will happen at the second assembly in May 2022. It is, How will the members discern “what the Spirit is saying to the Church?”


I suggest that a first step should be an examination of their desires, followed by this question, “Do my desires conform to the desires of Jesus?” To answer this question, we must know what the desires of Jesus are. In the Gospels we are presented with a number of these desires. Some of the most prominent are: 1) To gather his people under his protection – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not” (Mt 23:37). 2) To cast fire on the earth – “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). 3) To do the will of his Father – “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34). 4) That his Father be glorified – “Father, glorify your name!” (Jn 12:28)

It is this last desire that I wish to draw particular attention to, since it seems to be “missing in action” in the deliberations thus far. There is no mention of it in any of the six discernment papers, nor in that otherwise commendable document, the Instrumentum Laboris, not even in passing. The only place that I have found it to be explicitly mentioned in the context of the plenary council is in an excellent presentation on discernment given by Br. Ian Cribb SJ.22 Yet this desire could be said to encompass all the other desires of Jesus. This is what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:8). AMDG – to the greater glory of God. When I first went to school, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan had me write this at the top of every page. We will find it carved on innumerable foundation stones of our churches and other buildings. Why is it that it is not only not prominent in our deliberations thus far, but not even “on our radar?”


There are some good resources on the plenary council website about how we can discern the will of God for us as individuals, and on discernment in general.23 Yet the only place in which I have found communal discernment addressed is again in the presentation by Br. Cribb. Besides his famous contributions to discernment for the individual, St. Ignatius also has much to say about communal discernment. This discernment has three basic steps: 1) prayer for light from the Holy Spirit; 2) gathering all the possible evidence for judgement; 3) the continuing effort to find confirmation during each step of the discernment process as well as for the final judgement.

Much attention has been given to the first step. Regarding this step, all I will say is that besides prayer for light from the Holy Spirit, there must also be prayer for power from the same Spirit. This is what the early Church did when faced with challenging situations (cf. Acts 4:23-31).

Regarding the second step, besides listening to problems, so as to achieve a better balance for discernment, the council needs to also listen to “affirmations” and “testimonies”. Regarding the need for affirmations, this need was borne out in my own experience of participating in a preparatory group for the plenary council. I can say that most of the focus in that group was on what the participants saw as being wrong with the Church in Australia. In response to this, the submission made to the plenary council by the community to which I belong, while it included under the headings of “priestly,” “prophetic,” and “royal” a total of 80 concrete proposals for change, also made 38 “affirmations of existing realities in the Church in Australia”. In other words, we need to look at the work of the Holy Spirit that is already bearing fruit, so as to build upon that work.

In gathering evidence, a second problem to be overcome is the common human tendency for those who have a grievance to speak up while those who are content remain silent. So as to discern what the Holy Spirit wishes to say to the Church it is necessary to get a clearer picture of what the Holy Spirit is already doing in the Church.24 Even Br. Cribb’s excellent presentation does not address this point. Although he refers to Jesus’ instructions to the freed demoniac to, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19, Lk 8:39) as a model for how we should share what the Lord has done for us in our own hearts as individuals, he does not refer to what might be called the “Plenary Council of Jerusalem,” when the Church discerned the will of God by listening to Paul and Barnabas recount the signs and wonders that God had done through them for the Gentiles (cf. Acts 15:7-12).

This is also what Peter did when he reported to the apostles, elders, and brethren, first in the Church in Jerusalem and then at the first “synod” of the Church, about how the Holy Spirit had been given to Gentiles just as he had to Jews (cf. Acts 11:1-18 and 15:6-11). This testimony to what God was doing helped the nascent Church to develop its sense of the fides quae creditur, the faith that is believed. Such testimonies today should not be limited to those of individuals but should especially be testimonies from bodies of believers that are living the priestly, prophetic, and royal ministries in some substantial way. Indeed, these testimonies could be drawn from those communities, ministries, initiatives, and institutions that can be affirmed as already building up the body of Christ and participating in its mission.

Of course, this raises the further questions of what actually does build up the body of Christ, and what actually is the mission of that body. The usual understanding of the sensus fidelium pertains to the sense of the fides quae creditur, the faith that is believed (cf. Jude 3). However, listening to such testimonies would also be a way of listening to a form of the sensus fidelium – the sense of what God is doing – which in turn could help us attain a deeper understanding of the fides quae creditur, just as observing what the Holy Spirit did in the case of Cornelius and his associates enabled the Church to come to a deeper understanding of how and to whom the Gospel was to be preached.

Regarding the third step, the activities delineated in the first two steps must be continued throughout the entire time during which the plenary council meets, and even beyond, as the decisions of the council are acted upon.

Would it be possible for the members of the plenary council to hear some testimonies of how the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of so many Australian Catholics today? I hope and pray that all the members of the council will examine their desires and have many opportunities to listen to people “declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples” (Ps. 96:2).

(Editor’s note: The original version of this article was published in the Hungarian theological journal Vigilia 87 (1) (2022).)


1 The author is a member of the Emmanuel Community, founded in Paris in 1972 by Pierre Goursat and Martine Laffitte-Catta.

2 See Sherry A. Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2012.

6 A Plenary Council is a gathering of the bishops of a particular territory, along with other members of the Church, to consider matters of importance for the Church in that territory and to pass legislation on them. Any such legislation must first be approved by the Holy See (see Canon 446).

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Catherine Sheehan, “Sydney has the highest Mass attendance,” The Catholic Weekly, 2 April 2019.

20 Under canon law an Episcopal conference can celebrate a plenary council whenever it deems it necessary or useful, and the Apostolic See approves (see Canon 439).

21 “Neuer Anfang”.

22 Br. Ian Cribb, SJ, “The Value of Discernment”.

24 For more on this, see Peter John McGregor, “Synodality and the Australian Plenary Council: Listening to and Looking at those who are Living in the Spirit,” Irish Theological Quarterly 86 (1) (2021): 21-38.

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About Peter John McGregor 3 Articles
Peter John McGregor is a lecturer in dogmatic theology and spirituality at the Catholic Institute of Sydney, Australia.


  1. Thank you, Peter, for this very informative and beautifully written essay. I believe that this spiritual journey will truly bear much fruit.
    Earlier in the year, Pope Francis also spoke about fruit when recalling the image of the Church as the Vine and the branches. Pope Francis said: “we can grow and bear fruit only if we remain united to Jesus.” He then referred to three levels of unity that comes to mind – personal, unity among Christians, and unity with humanity.
    On the personal level, the Pope said, “ our personal integrity, the work of grace we receive by abiding in Jesus. Then referring to other branches he said that we must ask God “to prune our prejudices with regard to others, and to the worldly attachments that stand in the way of full unity with all his children.” He went on to say that, The Holy Spirit leads us to love not only those who love us, “but to love everyone, even as Jesus taught us.”
    I ask those involved with this site to pray for the success of this spiritual exercise.

  2. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34). 4) That his Father be glorified – “Father, glorify your name!”

    In sodality we say “Our Father who art in heaven Hallowed (sacrosanct, worshipped, divine, inviolable) be thy Name” which reiterates our most fundamental belief that is that God’s Word (Will) is Inviolate and sits at the base of all the Sacraments. He cannot contradict Himself; this belief is vital to the intelligibility of faith and life. Without it, the concept of truth loses all meaning. Sadly, the elite have held Gods Word (Will) in contempt (Via the present DM Images) and in doing so collude with the ongoing breaking of the Second Commandment

    “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”

    This ongoing collusion with the breaking of the Second Commandment defines the reality of the Church today. As our hearts have become coarsened in forgetting the reality of the One God who we are meant to serve.

    The present blasphemous Images of divine Mercy must be destroyed as they are an affront to God born of Nationalist Pride and those who would pacify the powerful.

    Then Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. what if the number of the righteous only ten can be found there?”
    He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

    It appears that we cannot find one righteous (Honest) man on this site (Or any other for that matter) willing to openly bear witness to the Truth and call out this affront to God. HOW SHAMEFUL ..V..

    “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven”

    So when we say Hallowed be thee name we are all bound by a higher authority above ourselves while the elite within the Church have been given the means to concur with that authority in giving a visible manifestation of humility by casting off their miters before the True DM image one of Broken Man which has been given by God Himself to the faithful (Those who serve the Truth) reflecting a new given understanding via the Holy Spirit’s divine inspiration to His Church, while they the elders take them up anew before His throne while joyfully praising God in humble obedience before His inviolate Word (Will) and in doing so fulfill this teaching.

    “Sanctify them in the Truth; thy Word is Truth as thou didst send me into the World so I have sent them into the World and for their sake, I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth”

    So, in our present shameful situation, is God preparing the birth (Building up) of a Church that will be truthful with herself. A Church that proceeds and leads in humility, ‘openly’ acknowledging her failings before God and all of her children.
    As a humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its shortcomings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other.

    “God will not despise a broken spirit and contrite heart” and neither will the faithful. The leadership has nothing to fear, no matter how compromised, as the cleansing grace of humility (Full ‘open’ acknowledgment of past failings/sins) is the communal bond of love that holds His flock together.

    Please consider continuing via the link
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Please stop endlessly and falsely accusing the Church of covering up its sins in your posts. Get your own moral and spiritual house in order before you criticize the church or any of its members.

  3. “Sensus fidelium pertains to the sense of the fides quae creditur, the faith that is believed [cf. Jude 3]. However, listening to such testimonies would also be a way of listening to a form of the sensus fidelium – the sense of what God is doing” (Peter J McGregor). This line is the crux of the entire process and moment of truth for Australian Catholicism.
    McGregor gives a comprehensive faithful approach to engaging the Australia church with the direction of Pope Francis. Given benefit of the doubt to cohesion of sensus fidelium with orthodox fides quae creditur this writer perceives the challenge of discerning God’s will [McGregor’s what God is doing. For example, communal discernment cited by McGregor was intended by St Ignatius for the Jesuit community’s integral coherence not for the doctrines of Catholicism] as different from what is already revealed in the deposit, and the perennial Magisterium.
    Francis envisions listening to the Holy Spirit for answers to rigid cohesion with an orthodox fides quae creditur.
    Is there a stolid red line of separation or rather friendly signposts? Most I think perceive exceptions for entry others not. With Amoris Laetitia a new form of interpreting the Gospels, that red line has become increasingly indistinguishable. At least Mcgregor doesn’t perceive German Synodal Waywardness as the destination. Although, taking into account direction, since this writer doesn’t notice specification in his essay of personal morality, at least allusion to orthodoxy on the perplexing radical life changing issues of abortion as a civil right and variations of homosexuality and its spreading reeducation the road to it is quite wide.

  4. Would someone please tell me from where the idea of “listening to the Holy Spirit” comes from? Is there a scriptural reference? How does one know that what we “hear” in this “listening” is not from an entirely different sort of spirit?

      • The first Pentecost has the apostles speaking through the power of the Holy Spirit; Jews of all nations heard and converted through the same Spirit’s power. When the Holy Spirit is at work, He brings people to Christ, and we can discern the fruits of His presence. When the opposite spirit is at work, people turn from Christ and His scripture, His tradition, and His deposit of faith as taught by His Fathers, His Doctors and His Perennial Magisterium. A tree is known by its fruits. The fruits of the Spirit are peace, joy, benignity, CHARITY, patience, etc.

        A very helpful book: Authenticity: A Biblical Theology to Discernment, author Dubay, publisher Ignatius Press.

        Today’s progressive Catholic reform movement seems to have found the invisibility and amorphous understanding of the Holy Spirit a useful tool and weapon in pursuit of diabolic goals.

        Malicious, knowing sin against the goodness of God is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus said such sin would not be forgiven:

        “Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables. ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he cannot stand. That is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.’”

        “‘Amen. I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but he is guilty of an everlasting sin.’ For they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” (Mark 3:23ff)

    • I think the “listening to the Holy Spirit has its reference in… “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you” (Jn 14:26) such in that in order to be taught, one must be “listening”. Also, in Luke 12:11-12 Jesus tells his disciples not to worry what to say in one’s defense as a disciple because the Holy Spirit will teach that one what to say at that time. Once again that person must be listening to the Spirit to know what to say. But if I am right to detect a sense of suspicion on your behalf regarding the use of “listening” in this case, then I share in that suspicion especially since Pope Francis’ call for “dialogue” is a form of listening which often appears to place one’s ear on the ground rather than toward heaven. Liberals and progressives in the Church love “listening to the Spirit” since they see it as a way to separate from Tradition. And so I think if we were truly looking to have a faithful synod we would be rather be “recalling what the Holy Spirit has said” rather than listening to the Holy Spirit has to say now as if the magisterium has suddenly forgotten its legacy (I don’t deny that the Spirit speaks to us now, but that as God, the Spirit is everlastingly consistent).. We should also not forget that the Spirit gives us many gifts and that this Spirit has never stopped speaking to those who are the leaders or who could be leaders but are suppressed by those with higher authority. So one might be justified to be suspicious when the Church suddenly needs a synod to figure out how it should be in the world since it is a sign that its leadership is either bankrupt in the Spirit, or as you note, trying to find a way to listen to the spirit of the world. Lastly, a synod on synodality is like having a practice on practicing or a meeting to determine how to meet. In this sense, it seems a study on how to change the meaning or essence of the Church just because the Pope and some others want a synodal Church, having forgotten that it was originally Apostolic.

      • Very well said. Best I have seen on this synodal business. It is nothing other than the Conciliarism and Modernism that have afflicted the Church in our time. I don’t think the Australian “synodal way” is substantially distinguishable from the German — only, perhaps, ethnically and historically — different strokes for different volk ?And, Inigo, I hope you agree with me that recent months’ turmoil among trads over ultramontanism and Vatican 1 are very dangerous to the faithful’s reception of Tradition — which, after all, is what constitutes the sensus fidelium.

        • Robert – I am all for church unity and count Vatican II as a legitimate council. But I am saddened that many good families that I know who also accept the council are not now able to celebrate the Tridentine Mass as before. I think it is unfortunate that so many good Catholics are called “legalists”, “rigorists” etc. by their own Holy Father. My hope was always that our rediscovery of the Latin Mass would assist in beautifying the Novus Ordo, but I get the sense that this was one of the fears of the Vatican – that many beloved traditions might be restored to the liturgy even in the more common practice of the faith. God bless!

    • What we hear could very well be from the darkness rather than the light. Satan is a liar and deceiver. We need deep wisdom and discernment to make sure that we are hearing God accurately.

      • It will definitely not be from the darkness, mate, though some might wish that to be the case. The Holy Spirit is well and truly active in our Church. Many of us, including the participants, are praying for its success.

    • Martin, you say “How does one know that what we “hear” in this “listening” is not from an entirely different sort of spirit?

      “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”” And we do this when we serve the Truth. I have made the statement below which bears witness to the Truth on this site and many others several times over the last two years no one ever responds whereas frivolous (words without action) questions are debated endlessly.

      “A humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its shortcomings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other”

      So, do you think Martin that the Holy Spirit is active in those who read this statement and remain silent?

      kevin your brother
      In Christ

      • The Holy Spirit is active in the heart that is trustingly open to love every neighbor but is not present in the one whose heart is closed to some members of humanity. The latter are filled with fear and are not prepared to truly love.

        • The Holy Spirit works in whomever He chooses, if and when He chooses to do so. The presence and activity of the Holy Spirit is a matter of divine sovereignty, not human love.

        • Thank you Mal for your comment. A quote from another source… “For a while now, churches have been hiding under the guise of “love.” Yet, having love without truth is not love at all…it is actually a very evil lie. Love without truth requires no sense of commitment, no sense of wrongdoing, no need to suffer consequences….just an empty and worthless sense of the word love”

          ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

          The serving of the Truth should define our actions as the essence of Love is Truth, and those who serve the Truth on the spiritual plain feed the hungry “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Clothes (Protects) the naked “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me”. Visit those hearts ensnared ..V.. (Imprisoned) by evil, in setting the captive free.

          The serving of the Truth overlaps on to the worldly plain as it protects the weak and vulnerable from exploitation in opposing oppression, misery, and inhumanity, to serve the Truth is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, it cannot be faked (Manipulated) as it always involves carrying one’s cross. A church for the poor is not enough (although good in itself) as it SIDESTEPS the full spectrum of Truth which confronts evil on both the spiritual plain and worldly plain.

          So as stated in my post above we need to see true Christian leadership one that serves the Truth in humility in all situations.

          “ Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

          kevin your brother
          In Christ

          • Yes, and our struggle is also against today’s strict law-abiding, ritualistic “Pharisees” as it was in our Lord’s time.

    • The CCC describes the Holy Spirit:

      “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:11). Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on his own.” (John 16:13).

      Does it seem somewhat disingenuous, for the Church in 2022 to call all to ‘listen’ to that Person of the Trinity who does not literally speak on his own behalf??

      Paragraph 688 lists where the Church knows the Holy Spirit, in:
      the Scriptures;
      the Tradition;
      the Magisterium
      the sacramental liturgy, prayer; the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up; the signs of apostolic and missionary life; and the witness of saints….

      NB: The Spirit is always identified in Scripture as a person, with the pronoun He. As a Person consubstantial with the Father and the Son, He is never an ‘it.’

  5. McGregor’s comments on the number of contributors are incorrect and are public relations.

    Submissions came from organisations claiming to represent thousands of people (their employees). This is nonsense, and the Plenary Council recognised this and counted all corporate submissions as individual submissions.

    There is an actual total of no more than 15,000 submissions. This isn’t bad, but it’s not representative of anything, really, except the people who wrote the submissions.

    I’ve been reporting on the Plenary Council for the last couple of years in the Catholic Weekly, and I am appalled at this waste of time and money.

    • Dear Philippa, I think you have misconstrued what I have written about participants and submissions. I know that submissions were not necessarily submitted by individuals. I myself wrote the submission for my own community, with the approval of the local leadership of the community. That is why I emphasized the number of participants in the sessions as a proportion of Australian Catholics. I know that the process was not perfect, but it was much better than the German process. I am not sure what you mean by “public relations”. To what do you refer – my comments or the those of the Plenary Council organizers? I have engaged in analysis, not ‘spin”. As to whether the Plenary Council is a waste of time and money, I reserve my judgement until I see its outcome. Yours in Christ, Peter

  6. McGREGOR contrasts synodal events in Australia with the goings-on in Germany. An encouraging example in these chaotic times, and yet the commenters still take pause. INIGO, for example, provides a requested reference for PAGNAN from whence the “listening” thingy commeth: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you (Jn 14:26).

    Teach! Remind!! The “Deposit of Faith” with which each of the successors of the apostles is “sent” by Christ, and for which each is institutionally and personally responsible. FR. MORELLO notes here “the challenge of discerning [!] God’s will” as […] as ever new, but also as never deaf to what is “already revealed in the deposit, and the perennial Magisterium.”

    For such shared DISCERNMENT, might we propose the following two questions:
    QUESTION #1: Why are bishops cast “primarily as facilitators” in the synods (the Vademecum), rather than, say, primarily as successors of the apostles—and then secondarily [!] as facilitators?

    Or, what is the difference, if any, between the body of the Church being promiscuously “facilitated” in mis-designed synods (collage rather than collegial), and—in another context—individual members being “groomed” in a McCarrick beach house? The process IS the message?

    QUESTION #2: What about the nuptial (and therefore exclusive) Church as the Bride of Christ?

    Regarding the German sin-nod and other possible couplings with Baal: What is the difference, if any, between open marriages and unstructured synods? We can call the array of synods “decentralization” if we like, but—from yet another context—isn’t the reality sometimes contagion and a pandemic?

  7. Regarding ‘The First Session of the Plenary Council’: No, NOT the ‘the ANGLICAN Ordinariate’, but simply ‘The Ordinariate’ or if you wish, ‘The Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross’. Members may have been former Anglicans, they are now Catholic!

    • Fr Ramsay Williams, Community of St Edmund Campion, Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Melbourne, Australia
      May 5, 2022 at 5:57 am

      Hear, hear! There is no such things as an ‘Anglican Ordinariate.’ This misnomer implies some continuing organic link with Anglicanism, a religion which members the Ordinariate are glad to have left behind.

  8. Very well said. Best I have seen on this synodal business. It is nothing other than the Conciliarism and Modernism that have afflicted the Church in our time. I don’t think the Australian “synodal way” is substantially distinguishable from the German — only, perhaps, ethnically and historically — different strokes for different volk ?And, Inigo, I hope you agree with me that recent months’ turmoil among trads over ultramontanism and Vatican 1 are very dangerous to the faithful’s reception of Tradition — which, after all, is what constitutes the sensus fidelium.

  9. All of this strikes me as a church in search of an identity. Along with this is the sense that the Catholic Church as an institution, lacks confidence, incapable of pursuing and fulfilling “The Great Commission “, Matthew 28. There is also a sense of turmoil and confusion regarding what it means to be Catholic. Apparently, the Church is not interested in attracting converts. Who would choose to join a church turned in on itself, trying to figure out who and what it is? Perhaps some good will come of synodality,assuming that clarity will result after searching and self-examination. Only the Holy Spirit can bring this about, assuming participants can stop dialoging for a few minutes and actually listen.

  10. The Holy Spirit started talking to me when I was four and a nominally Methodist pre-schooler. There was an instance when my great-grandfather yelled racial epithets at a Black man on the streets of Omaha, Nebraska. I thought to myself, “That is wrong.” The only source of that realization had to be the Holy Spirit. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but when I play the review of my life, I can see in retrospect that the Holy Spirit was calling to and directing/teaching me. I’m afraid that I think the “Synod on Synodality” is a complete waste of time. It’s like the 80s when the popular practice was to “break up into small groups and discuss it.” When there is a problem in our marriage, I suggest to my husband that we break up into small groups and discuss it, which sometimes alleviates the tension. Only action suffices. Last Sunday’s Gospel about the wedding at Cana has the only answer this synod on synodality needs: “Do what he tells you.” “Do,” the active verb is what’s required. Mary didn’t tell the servants to talk about what to do, she simply told them to do it. Simple, but not easy.

    • But really, it was not that simple. The waiters could have ignored her. Or, they could have told Jesus to get lost. However, they were prepared to listen to what Jesus was about to tell them, and to follow his instructions.

      • You got that right! Listening to Jesus…versus listening mostly to each other, and the apparent notion that the separate (?) Holy Spirit will ratify from us some new novelty disconnected from Christ. A new paradigm!

        Anticipating this deception, the Second Vatican Council affirmed thusly: “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf 1 Tim 6:14, Tit. 2:13)” (Dei Verbum, n. 4).

        Synodality as it is still insufficiently defined, quo vadis?

  11. Australia has a deep basic anti-catholic bias. If we did not know it before Cardinal Pell was railroaded with government complicity, we know it now. Allowing each country to make it’s own choices apart from Rome does nothing but end us up like most Protestant churches, where all “authority” ( such as it is) rests in the hands of tens of thousands of individual ministers. That is the pathway to chaos. It would be interesting to ask, if the Australians wanted to go back to all things pre-vatican II, including the Latin Mass, would the Pope bestir himself to have any comment about it??

  12. Thank you Mal for your comment on JANUARY 23, 2022 AT 6:03 PM

    I have read “At this moment in time the church has two sails that are blowing in the opposite On the Right: an extreme conservative wind wanting to blow our boat back to the becalming out-of-date swamp of pre-1962. On the Left: an extreme liberal wind wanting to blow our boat into rapids where faith and morals are thrown overboard”

    But we can go forward in UNITY OF PURPOSE by hoisting a third sail one of Humility, the true (only) sail that the Holy Spirit blows upon, bringing arrogance to its knees and where folly does not have to be appeased.

    Pope Francis says we need to be a Church of mercy and so we do, but more importantly, we need to be a humble Church, as God’s Mercy received in humility guarantees spiritual growth, which wells up into eternal life.

    I agree with the four cardinals in that this statement from Veritatis Splendor “conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object” as God’s Word (Will) is inviolate. Individually we can only stand before His Divine Mercy in humility as we can never justify sin.

    I all so agree with this statement by Pope Francis “the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”. It’s the sick and supplicant who need the doctor, not the well and the righteous”.

    How can the two statements be reconciled “With God, all things are possible”
    Throughout history, God has made His Will known to mankind through his Saints, Spiritual leaders, and Prophets. And at crucial times His Will has been revealed in a way that cannot be misunderstood by His people.

    God’s Word (Will) given to Sister Faustina
    “Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription, “Jesus, I trust in thee”. I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the world.”

    So, we all need to see and venerate in humility the true Divine Mercy Image which is an Image of Broken Man one that is a reflection of all of us.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  13. I think we Australian Catholics genuinely esteem our priests and religious, and are inspired by, and proud of, them. But we are not going to trust the hierarchy an inch; the defensive clerical culture that so tragically failed us –the Church–, as evidenced by the Royal Commission in Institutional Response to Child Sbuse, must go: “reform” is an immoderate and weak response.

    So I hope this synodality exercise is a good-faith effort to change that defensive clerical culture and get rid of the us-and-them mentality. It already looks like its is being organized into platitudes: but lets see.

    For me, I think the primary practical thing the Australian Church could to do instantly is to figure out how technology can improve access to sacraments (and teaching): why cannot we have the sacrament of penance over Zoom if we choose?, why cannot we find out our nearest Mass at any time if day or night from a single search?, why is there no indulgence for watching homilies online (or is there?), is there an anonymous email to request better adherence to rubrics or report liturgical abuses (let alone to report child abuse…)?, etc. When our kids’ world is entirely oriented to giving instant feedback and tweets, how can we give them a “like” button for the homily (that is used to later suggest to them appropriate prayers, Saints, teachings, media programs, etc)

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