Is confidence in the laity possible?

On Pope Benedict’s visit to his home country, the reform movement, We Are Church, has sent an “Open letter to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, and to the German bishops”.

The letter calls on the Pope and the Bishops of the 27 German dioceses to show more courage, based on Christian confidence, and asks for an open and serious dialogue with all people in the Church.

“The Roman Catholic Church in Germany, in Europe and worldwide faces dramatic changes and demands which can be mastered only jointly by faithful and bishops. If you want to be true pastors of the church, in solidarity with their needs and hopes, then you should - being successors to the apostles - in keeping with the apostle Paul, act not as masters of the faith but as servants of our joy(Kor 1/24)”

Basing its argument on Lumen Gentium and Canon Law, it says that the faithful have “the right and at times even the duty to advise their spiritual leaders of their opinion in what pertains to the good of the church and to inform the other faithful, whilst safeguarding the entirety of faith and morals and the reverence towards their pastors and under consideration of the common good and the dignity of people”.  Approaches to Church authorities over the years have fallen on deaf ears.

The letter highlights antiquated and patriarchal church structures, attitudes towards women and the loss of the parish as a basic model of Christian community among many reasons why people are finding it hard – if not impossible – to remain faithful. While pastoral discussions and meetings continue to show the increasing need for reform, no interest is shown and a refusal to dialogue with the faithful continues unabated.

We Are Church also alleges “the actual crisis in finance and confidence is a sign of a serious mental and spiritual crisis” while the Church is reaching a “progressively shrinking fraction of the social environment” with its message and “the voice of the Church is conspicuous by its absence” in the restructuring occurring as a result of worldwide globalisation.

The letter appeals for the Pope and the Bishops to utilise the scarcity of priests as a chance for a new awareness of co- and self-responsibility in the parishes while regarding the “urge of women as a token of identification with the church”.

It wants formation and responsibilities given to youth and young adults to help create an “at-home” feeling within the Church.

It appeals for the Church to recognise the engagement, especially of “critical Catholics”, as a clear token of “their love to the church and as an alternative to actual or inner emigration”.

It calls for a “special responsibility for ecumenism with the churches of the reformation” and almost begs for the Bishops to “show courage in Christian confidence”.

“We need an open and towards people sympathetic and brotherly church. Be prepared for an open and serious dialogue with the faithful”, the letter concludes.

In a media release issued before the visit, We Are Church, said:

“The attitude that the Pope will demonstrate in Bavaria will be a clear signal if the Catholic Church is willing not only to ask the lay people to be active in the Church … but also to let them participate in taking responsibility and making decisions, as the ‘people of God’.  Looking at the Pope’s schedule it is more than doubtful that this visit will really mean a continuous strengthening and deepening of people’s faith.”

It will be more than interesting to see how the movement rates the visit, which concludes tomorrow (September 14).   Online Catholics will keep you informed. 

Penny Edman



Until14 Pope Benedict visits his native Bavaria.

13 (tonight)  Sharing your faith without losing your friends, Peter Holmes, Manager, Courses of Study, Catholic Adult Education Centre, Sydney, as part of the 2006 St Thomas More’s forum programme, Campbell, ACT.

The University of Notre Dame presents The Philip Neri Lecture: 'Globalisation and its impact on the poor', by Dr Freddy D'Souza (Deputy Director of Caritas India), St Benedict's Hall, cnr Abercrombie St and Broadway, Chippendale; 7pm. Admission: $10.(further information: (02) 8204 4411; email

Public forum: Australia's New Workplace Laws - What is a fair deal for young people? moderated by the Australian Catholic University Professor of Law, Institute of Legal Studies (ACU National) Pro. Frank Brennan SJ, Leone Ryan Auditorium, ACU North Sydney Campus; 6 for 6.30pm

15 Forum: Towards a cohesive Australia, with Tony Abbott (Federal Minister for Health and Ageing), Sheikh Taj Din Al Hilaly (Mufti of Australia), Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Ms Nadia Jamal (journalist and author). Chaired by Sr Libby Rogerson, Social Justice Co-ordinator, Diocese of Parramatta. Welcome, Bishop Kevin Manning. Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club, Lidcombe. 7.30pm. Information: 0402 964 662,  0410 336 922, (02) 9683 6277.

Marist laity @ St Pats, an hour of discussion and prayer on a Marist theme, St Patrick’s Crypt, Sydney; 6-7pm

17 Workshop series: Our Response to the Environmental Crisis (week 8) wrap-up session – priority actions; Wesley Church, Forrest, ACT; 3-5pm  (further information:  Rev. P. Walker, telephone 02 6295 3680)

17-20 Catholic Coalition on Preaching 2006 Convocation: May who heard were astounded (Mark 6:2) – Preaching with the hearers in mind, with speakers including Richard Rohr ofm, Jude Siciliano OP and Teresita Weind SNDdeN;  Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.

18 Men’s Talk, a meeting for men to reflect on the gospel; 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month; St Patrick’s Crypt, Sydney; 6.30-7.30pm

18-24 Labyrinth Retreat, “Amberley” Edmund Rice Centre, Lower Plenty, Vic. (from noon Sept. 18 – 11am Sept 24)  

19 Book launch:  Seeking Asylum Alone:  Australia, by Mary Crock, St Joseph’s College, Brisbane; 7pm

20-21 Conference: The Catholic Church in America:  2006 will bring together lay and religious Catholic Church leaders, scholars, journalists and activists at The Catholic University of America, Washington.

21 Hidden in our history, discovered in ourselves looks at what has not been integrated into religious history and its present day significance and influence. If one listens deeply to the silences of history one can hear voices that have been heard only rarely before: voices speaking of Sophia - wisdom, of Shekinah - a dwelling presence, of veriditas - greening... voices in community, voices of poets, mystics and healers…  This is a presentation by women participating in the Women's Spirituality Forum. St James Church Centre, 40 Gillies Street, Curtin, ACT; 7.45pm (small cost applies)

Public forum: Australia's New Workplace Laws - What is a fair deal for young people? moderated by the Australian Catholic University Professor of Law, Institute of Legal Studies (ACU National) Pro. Frank Brennan SJ; Francis Rush Centre, St Stephen's Cathedral Precinct, Brisbane. (RSVP Institute of Legal Studies on 07 3623 7486 by September 18 or email

International Day of Peace

22 Book launch: Fr Paul Stenhouse msc will launch The Heart of James McAuley by Peter Coleman, published by Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, at St John’s College, Sydney University.

God: Created or Creator? 2nd national SoFiA (Sea of Faith in Australia) conference begins with a public meeting featuring all speakers, at the Pitt Street Uniting Church, 7.30pm  (public entry: $10)  (see next entry)

23-24 God: Created or Creator? 2nd national SoFiA (Sea of Faith in Australia) conference, with Don Cupitt, Stephanie Dowrick, Michael Morwood and Lloyd Geering; Dunmore Lang College, Macquarie University, Sydney.  (information: Ted Nettle 02 9876 2915 or or visit

ACU National Arts Enrichment programme

23-27  Learning Communities Conference 2006. The conference will actively bring together leaders in all forms of learning - service providers, industry and government - to pursue how communities can embed real learning outcomes. Speakers include Bernard Salt (KPMG), Elaine Henry (CEO of The Smith Family), Javed Kahn (director of Learning and Community Development, Harrow Council London). QUT, Gardens Point campus, Brisbane. Information, Alanna Hardy, ph 07 3864 2916; email: or visit the website.

24 Social Justice SundayThe Heart of our Country – Dignity and Justice for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters

27-29 Among The Many Voices Catholic Education Speaks Now, National Catholic Education Conference, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

30  Registrations close for Conscience needs courage! Australian Reforming Catholics annual conference



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