In the wake of Covid a lot of attention is being paid to issues like women’s rights, family violence, aboriginal rights, political failures in basic morality and so on, all worthy of time, money, attention. Running parallel with all this is planning for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, due to begin this Sunday. Covid hasn’t stopped top level sport and it’s not going to stop this long-planned Catholic talk-fest either. Whether now is the time for football, or discerning the future of the Catholic Church in Australia, is problematic.
The last Plenary Council was held in the year of my birth and Baptism. Just as my baby pictures no longer bear any resemblance to what I see in the mirror today, neither does today’s Catholicity. A few months ago I wrote Catholic in the religion section of the census form but I’m not sure that where I sit, out on the edge and a long way from the Catholic centre, actually makes me a ‘good’ Catholic.
Out on the edge of things, far away from the years of preparation that Catholic women and men have been putting into this Plenary Council, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about God and my Catholic beliefs. What I am going to write next is probably heretical, but here goes – is God a catholic?
I’m not even going to try to open up that can of religious worms right now – if ever, but I hope to talk more about it in the coming weeks. Over lockdown I’ve ever so slowly been putting into words what I understand, and sometimes just sense, about God and Jesus and the practices and beliefs that have been gathered into Christianity. I’m still only half-way through what I plan to write, and already onto the third draft as I struggle with the depths of meaning in church words that I thought I understood.
I’ve s-l-o-w read books and articles by reputable theologians that have challenged my understanding of life-long, taken-for-granted religious beliefs. I’ve come to the conclusion that my post-Vatican 2 theology is possibly a little worn and dated, so this week Australia Post has dropped a parcel of books at the front door. They are all-Australian, authors and publisher (Coventry Press) alike.
New Wineskins : Eucharist in Today’s Context by Frank O’Loughlin
Broken for You : Jesus Christ, the Catholic Priesthood and the Word of God by Francis J. Moloney
Call No One Father ; Countering Clericalism in the Catholic Tradition by Berise Heasly
Dawn to Dusk : Towards a Spirituality of Ageing by Noel Mansfield MSC
No Greater Love : The Human Experience of God by Brian Gallagher MSC
They are not long books and I will read them with a highlighter in hand and an attitude that might be called ‘deep reading’, listening for the voice of God in the world we live in. Which I believe is also the task facing the members of the fifth Australian Plenary Council.