- Front Page

- Search


The length of each of this week’s letters is unusual.  I ask writers to keep their letters short – about 300 words, maximum.  I also ask that all letter writers include, for publication, the name of the city/town and the State in which they live, as a courtesy to readers.  Thank you.    Penny Edman, editor.

Re-organisation of Catholic education

The Good Samaritans might demonstrate their Christian hope (Hope characterises counter-cultural stance, from the editor’s desk, OLC, issue #102) by revealing what they know about Archbishop Pell's plans for Sydney's independent schools. Their St Scholastica's Principal, Loretto Richardson, has been on the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board (SACS) during a period of significant review.

In September 2004, an “independent” external review of the SACS Board and the Catholic Education Office was held.  SACS is the group with overall responsibility for Catholic schools in Sydney.  It works directly to the Archbishop.  It, so far, has not had any responsibility for the independent schools.

This review recommended that the Archdiocese:

. 'clarify' responsibility of the SACS Board to congregational schools.  "At present there is inconsistency between the operation and membership of the Board and its charter which refers to 'all catholic schools …’”

reduce the number of CEO staff on the SACS Board and consider “the opportunities presented by including senior Chancery staff as ex-officio members”

. remove CEO staff as members of SACS Board committees.

The external review presented 25 recommendations.  Recommendation 25 states: "The role, structure, operation and membership of the SACS Board, including the participation of CEO Directors, should be reviewed with the intention of increasing stakeholder representation and overall effectiveness of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney."

Earlier, the report states: "...it is important that the responsibility of the SACS Board with respect to congregational schools be clarified.  At present there is inconsistency between the operation and membership of the Board and its charter which refers to all Catholic schools, whether those schools are the direct administrative responsibility of the Archdiocese or operated by Religious Institutes."


In July, 2005, independent governance expert Dr Maureen Cleary completed a stage 2 report based on the external review's recommendations.  There was a final document tabled at a SACS Board meeting in August, 2005. It should be noted that this document had to be checked by a canon lawyer.

Last month, CEO Director Brother Kelvin Canavan assured me that there would be 'no change' in the governance of independent schools.  However, he also said that there was no reason not to post the re-drafted Charter of the SACS Board on the CEO website.  But, at the time of writing, this has not occurred. 

Another senior Church figure assured me that the changes were necessary to remove CEO staff from the SACS Board, because they were effectively reporting to themselves.

The chair of the independent review, Scottish former inspector of schools Ian Gamble, now in private enterprise in the UK, told me that the review panel and the CEO had their reasons for recommending as they did, but that he was not going to reveal what they were.

Dr Cleary, when asked about her report on the SACS Board recommendations, emailed back, "SACS Board?  What is the SACS Board?  Are you sure you have the right person?"  She later remembered that yes, indeed she had written such a report, but claimed it would be “unethical” to discuss it. I had only asked her if she had written one. Now they nearly all had me going, until Br Shane Wood wrote his letter in a recent edition of Online Catholics, describing the same shenanigans in Melbourne.  Hope exists where there is good will and openness.  In Sydney, and in Melbourne - see discussion board - hope is diminishing.

My hope is that the Good Samaritans, the Jesuits, the Loretos, the Marists and the Christian Brothers will make their fine words and mission statements meaningful, by taking the laity seriously enough to tell us what they know. What is going on in the re-organising of Catholic education under Cardinal Pell?

Kate Mannix, Sydney, NSW


From the Last Post to Pentecost

The Last Post died into the cold dark morning at the Hobart Cenotaph and I looked around at the composition of the crowd present and compared it to those at the Easter ceremonies some days earlier.  The Gallipoli myth is alive and well.  The Christian myth?

Daily, as a school counsellor, I am both humbled and affirmed by teenage boys who often share some of the most secret places of their lives with me. Most have their sacred places for healing.  They’d say it differently.  Most are prayerful and often find their prayer in their music: for example,  Robbie Williams’ Better Man and Angels.  Inwardly, I weep over the ever-increasing chasm between institutional religion and the people, young and old, who are part of my world.

David Tacey describes my experience well: “The spirit may still be present in the church, but it is tragically entombed in dogma and lost to an archaic theological language that has little impact on the contemporary imagination.” Sr Sandra Schneider would call me to have a prophetic spirituality within the church:  “One of the most difficult and dangerous ministries, and ultimately the most crucial is the prophetic ministry in and to the church.”  She would call me to move to the edges of the ecclesiastical system to see the view of what the system is doing to those excluded.  My own Congregation calls me: “consciously to choose ways to widen my experience and understanding of God's presence and activity”.  Our last General Chapter also invited me to: “walk the Emmaus walk into the unfolding mystery of my quest for God”.

As I have read, prayed and reflected over recent years I’ve come to an awareness that in the Emmaus walk I have journeyed from familiar shores. Those who walked with me sit on my bookshelf in their well used and annotated books.  Ched Myers opened Mark’s Gospel to me and showed me a Jesus who got my feet and theology walking together.  Stephen Hawking and Diarmuid O’Murchu have helped to de-anthropomorphise my image of God.  Michael Morwood spoke a lot of sense and gave me good guidelines for speaking of the Kingdom to others.  David Tacey put words to my struggling thoughts and helped me find the courage to express them.

On that walk …

I awoke one morning / from shades of sleep / to find my world had changed... / the ground on which I had placed my feet / had subtly shifted with the darkness.

The firm beliefs and solid suppositions / that ordered my daily decisions / had evaporated before my eyes   (Awoken – Ruth McLean)

I may also be called to leave those familiar shores of traditional beliefs and practices as my experience and understanding of God’s presence widens.  I may journey past horizons that I knew, beyond the margins of what many would call Catholic, or even Christian.  It may place me with those who are also at, or beyond, the margins of institutional church.

Are religious Orders also called to make this journey to the margins of institutional orthodoxy and beyond – to respond to the hunger for meaning in our society?

It is a rather scary to leave familiar shores – to leave the surety of held beliefs to become one who lives with questions more than answers.   Yet as I’ve journeyed in faith, new dimensions have evolved.  Maybe something like the disciples walking to Emmaus; their initial faith in Jesus was inadequate, then.

I have a sense of setting out upon the deep - I find it a scary journey – I need company.

I’m not sure I want to walk past horizons that I know! / But I feel my spirit called / Like a stirring deep within / Restless ‘till I live again / Beyond the fears that close me in!    (Galilee Song, Frank Anderson)

Peter Flint, cfc, Hobart, Tas.


Priesthood of the laity

There is a note by Anthony on the Discussion Board about the problem of the shortage of priests that says “…we should not solve the problem by confusing the ministry of some with the priesthood of all”.  There can only be complete agreement about this and the only difference I have with anything said in the note is about the meaning of concelebrating the Eucharist. In the note it is said that “every Mass is a concelebration” but for me concelebration, at the present time, means that two or more priests are saying Mass together.

In Priesthood of the Laity, (OLC, issue #102) it is mentioned that there are various restrictions and requirements that must be met before any members of the laity could be ministers so that the laity could concelebrate Mass and there is the overriding requirement that it is at the discretion of the Church as indicated below. The most critical and fundamental and even the only question is whether Christ’s words about a request to the Heavenly Father (Mtth. 18: 19-20) include or exclude concelebration of the Mass by the laity. Assuming that such concelebration is included in Christ’s words then there would be conditions and requirements imposed by the Church as indicated in the article:

 “Perhaps the Church could prescribe appropriate procedures and requirements…”


“…in the specific and limited circumstances that Christ mentions and in accordance with the requirements of the Church …”


“Perhaps full time priests would be involved in conferring the limited faculty of concelebrating the Mass (by the laity) within parishes.”

Calvin and Luther are mentioned by Anthony because of the appropriateness of what they say about the ministry. They insist that ministers are essential and “… some not all are called to be ministers or leaders of congregations” and “…Luther says directly that the people cannot perform the ministry of word and sacrament for themselves but must have authorized ministers presiding in the community”.

Certainly no members of the laity could be ministers just because they are Catholic and ministers are certainly necessary. The ministers for concelebration of Mass by the laity would be those who have received the “limited faculty of concelebrating the Mass”.  This faculty would be conferred when appropriate and could be seen as coming from Christ’s words.  This would mean that the faculty only existed, and concelebration could only happen, at a particular time and place in accordance with what Christ says about ‘two or three being gathered together in His name’. Perhaps the most obvious aspect of this limited faculty is that it would not require lengthy education. Perhaps more emphasis on the Mass as a sacred meal would be attractive to many and then the liturgy would be very simple.

Luther’s concern about the need for “authorised ministers presiding in the community” would be met with the conferring of the limited faculty of concelebration which, by definition, and with its conditions and requirements, means that no one could just “perform the ministry of word and sacrament for themselves”. There is also the presence of a full time priest for the other requirements of ministry in the community albeit a much larger community. It is also mentioned that both Calvin and Luther were concerned about the preaching of the word but this would not seem to be an insurmountable problem for the full time priest in the Information Age with current technology.

Any member of the laity who had the limited faculty of concelebration is obviously not an ordained priest and cannot, as an individual, celebrate Mass. It also means that the conditions imposed by the Church for the ordination of a priest do not apply to the limited faculty of concelebration. The specific and limiting conditions for concelebration by the laity are surely those stated by Christ about making a request to the Heavenly Father.  Christ does not exclude any one and that means that women or married men or single men or both women and men could concelebrate the Mass.

Would the Heavenly Father refuse the request for concelebration made in Christ’s name with Christ present among those making the request? What more pleasing request could possibly be made? It does seem that the question to be considered is not how to convince the Church that concelebration by the laity should happen but what could possibly be the case for specifically excluding such concelebration from the meaning of Christ’s words?

Warren Johnson, Sydney, NSW



Submit your letter to the editor

Terms and Copyright