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from +Christopher Saunders via email 27 May

I note Sister Marnie Kennedy's complaint and your reporting of her opinion. Firstly might I point out that there are Aboriginal Clergy, Deacons, in Australia. They deserve some recognition in a spirit of truth and cultural sensitivity. Secondly, Online Catholics made no credible effort to contact me after the recent Bishops Conference. I was in Sydney for two days after the Conference and my mobile phone received all calls diverted from my phone in Broome. There is no record of any phone calls from Catholic Online that went unanswered. So much for open dialogue!

Ed's note: Online Catholics telephoned Bishop Saunders following his return to Brrome and was told by his office that the Bishop was uncontactable due to remote area pastoral visits. Online Catholics would greatly welcome Bishop Saunders' reflections on the matters Sr Kennedy raises, and has so advised him. To date Bishop Saunders has chosen not to respond.

from Rob Brian, via email 26 May

Following on from Peter Bearsley's letter in the first issue of Online Catholics, I would like to point out that there is no shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. The problem is just that the Church is failing to discern that many women feel called to the priesthood and ought to be admitted to ordination. The Church also fails to use the huge reservoir of dedicated priests, who have left the active priesthood and married, but many of whom would return to active ministry if the Church would only invite them to do so. Having exercised their human right to marry they should not be barred from active ministry. Vast amounts of resources have been expended to train these men and women and they would bring the Church come to life once more, if only they were given the opportunity.

from Peter McNamara

Peter Bearsley (Letters 26 May 2004) asks whether the fall off in Mass attendance and priestly vocations is due to secularism or a reaction to rigid formulae. I think we won't know the answer until we put some effort into finding out the reasons. The fall off is particularly evident amongst young people, particularly in their teens and twenties. Almost all congregations and priests are in the "grey brigade". Something is chronically wrong.

A decade ago, representing the youth of Vinnies, then Australia's largest Catholic youth movement, I urged the National Bishops Conference Committee for the Laity to commit real money to research what youth outreach and ministry was effective. I suggested a modest budget of around $100,000 per year (in today's money you might need say $250,000), which compared to the millions committed to education, health and social services, would be a drop in an ocean of money. The Bishop's response to our plea: resounding silence!

This is the challenge to our leaders, to the Bishops Conference: what resources are you committing to find out why so few young people are interested in Mass or any other sort of involvement with Catholic activities and what is effective in getting them interested and involved. We budget for everything else in our personal and business lives: what is your budget to address this chronic issue, and what percentage is the budget of the total church spend?

Let's hope we don't have to wait another decade before we get a response.

from Brendan Byrne, SJ via email 27 May

I'd just like to congratulate you on the project you are setting up. The Catholic Church in Australia desperately needs a forum for discussion that is lay-sponsored and at home within the Church and the tradition, without being bound to the 'official line' as organs sponsored by the hierarchy and religious orders inevitably are a kind of Australian Tablet?

My community decided to subscribe last night.

from Des Skelly, via email 27 May

I know it is inaccurate to use the terms "progressive" or "conservative", but is your publication more on the progressive side than conservative? I was a subscriber to "Catylist for Renewal". Is your publication of a similar mind? I'd hate to subscribe to something that harks back to pre-Vatican !! days. I am in my early 70's and was a very active Catholic all my life parishwise, including 18 years as co-editor of a parish magazine, but in recent years have become disillushioned with the established Church. Will your publication be of help for me because I am desparately afraid I am loosing my faith?

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