Call for more women to be given a voice at Plenary Council 2020

The Australian Plenary Council 2020 must allow lay people, particularly women, a “proper place at the table” when new laws are considered, says Catholic Social Services Australia, CEO, Frank Brennan SJ, in a Eureka Street report.

The last Plenary Council held by the Catholic Church in Australia was in 1937 and expectations are increasing ahead of the 2020 event.

Broadly speaking the Plenary Council 2020 will focus on the future of the Catholic Church in Australia but exactly how much involvement non-clergy will have in influencing the outcomes is unclear.

Fr Brennan says Pope Francis has been attempting to make the Church more “synodal”, or participatory, and therefore it is important this Australian Plenary Council involves a high proportion of participants who are not bishops.

He also believes more needs to be done to prevent a disproportionately high number of men versus women being given the opportunity to participate.

“That’s just not on. In 21st century Australia, there is no point convening a time-consuming and expensive assembly of the Church which includes so few lay women and people from the pews.

“In the wake of the royal commission, the Catholic faithful are as adamant as the general public that there be transparency and inclusiveness in our church governance arrangements,” Fr Brennan said.

“Catholics accept it is the bishops and the Pope who legislate when there is a need, however, it is time for the Church to learn some lessons from the rest of the world regarding listening to the faithful irrespective of their place in the hierarchy,” he adds.

“What we need is a listening and inclusive Church - a Plenary Council at which the clergy and the laity have a proper place at the table, at which the voices of the ‘rusted-on’ and the ‘cheesed-off’ Catholics are heard and at which the bishops are respectfully listening as much as speaking,” he said.

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