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Since the Second Vatican Council, enormous energy has been expended by Catholic people in renewing the Church - initially by priests and bishops and increasingly by the ordinary people of God. Much was achieved, but in recent decades reactionary forces within the traditional male structures of the Church have inhibited true reform. In response to this, Catholics from the United States, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere have set up grassroots reform groups now affiliated as IMWAC, the International Movement We Are Church
In Australia, representatives of interested organisations met at Mt.Eliza in Victoria in May 1997 and produced a Charter (see below)that reflected the passionate resolve of many for reform in the Church. Later that year Australian Catholics For Reform [ACFR] was launched but dissolved in February 2000 because it was not a workable structure for a truly national organisation.
A Sydney woman, Barbara Campbell, was unwilling to see the forces of reform dissipate and sent a proposal dated 17 March 2000 to a few interested people. After many consultations via mail and email working on a possible Manifesto and, a face-to-face meeting was held in Canberra on 12 November 2000 and decisions were taken which reflected the collective wisdom of all those who had made contributions.
This broad Australian Catholic community will think through together moral and logical principles and practices in their Church, drawing deeply on the Gospel and in the light of contemporary knowledge, while at the same time applying steady pressure for change in the Church. These interests and intentions have been incorporated in the November 2000 Declaration (See below).
We urge interested Catholics to speak to one another and pray together, never doubting that the Spirit dwells in each one of us and will assist us in our endeavours.
A golden thread of holiness and faithfulness has run unbroken through the Church for two millenia in spite of iniquities, failures and the temptations of power. Australian Reforming Catholics wish to be part of this golden thread and contribute to it.
The following is the draft charter drawn up at Mt Eliza in May 1997.
"Enlightened by our experience of Australian Catholic life and by the movement of the Spirit in today's Church, we commit ourselves to working towards a Church which faithfully reflects the Gospel and which responds to the needs of the Australian people.
"We envisage a Church which is a eucharistic community of radical inclusivity, in which the baptismal charisms of all have full expression, a Church of collegiality and co-responsibility, a Church of justice and service to those within and without the community.
"We envisage a Church with a new vision of ministry and leadership, a Church which nurtures and sponsors accountable and prophetic leadership, and in which all positions of leadership and ministry are open to all.
"We envisage a Church of justice in which all are free from fear, which is committed to the primacy of conscience, to freedom of enquiry and scholarship and is dedicated to the eradication of violence within the community and between communities."
The following Declaration was drafted in November 2000:
WE, CONCERNED CATHOLICS OF AUSTRALIA, at the dawn of a new century and a new millenium, committed and searching followers of Christ and eager to give meaning to our lives through Him, recognise the following themes as important to us:
1. our land's early legendary naming as "The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit"
2. the spirituality and harmony of our land's first occupiers, the aboriginal peoples, particularly with respect to their relationship with the earth
3. the multi-cultural heritages of our people
4. our land is, of all continents, the most free of total war
5. the spirit of ANZAC
6. "Woman and Man - One in Christ Jesus"
7. Australian egalitarianism as a Gospel ideal
8. the Universe which we share with all creatures
9. the agenda given us by Mary in her Magnificat: God's love for the poor, the hungry
10. the moral passion of anger which Jesus sometimes displayed
11. the equal humanity of women, proven now against earlier erroneous science/theology
12. no more distinction of Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female [Gal.3]
13. authority and ministry given to women in the Early Church [Epistles]
14. the sacrament of Eucharist and other healing signs given by Christ
15. Peter's steadfast faith: "To whom should we go?" [John 6]
IN THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL, WE NOW DECLARE that we are committed to the reform of our Church and invite Australian Catholics to develop their understanding and acceptance of the faith [Sensus Fidelium] by undertaking widespread discussions on questions such as:
"The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God" [William Blake] . Have you ever been angry at the Church?
In your experience, has the clergy treated you as a mature personality, especially in relation to your faith?
What do you think is the essence of the Church?
What is the meaning of Eucharist in your life?
What should we, as Church, do to prevent the destruction of the environment and to promote the welfare of animals and plants?
What is a human being?
Are you satisfied that God is almost always male-named in the Church? (This occurs on the average every two minutes at Sunday Mass)
Do you see a need for liturgical rites of passage into adolescence and adulthood?
What model do you favour - the Spirit mediated through a clerical structure or the Spirit informing all the faithful?
What are your views on the Sacrament of Reconciliation [Confession]? Would you like the Third Rite of Penance returned to common practice?
Can one disagree with Church Authorities and remain a part of the Church Community?
"The Church is not a democracy." Analyse and discuss.
What do you know of the exercise of ministry in the very early Church?
Are you alarmed that the average age of the Australian priest is over 60? What can you do about it?
(The following is an abbreviated version of the proposed structure formulated by Barbara Campbell in 2000)
MEMBERSHIP: Membership is open to any individual interested in the reform of the Catholic Church.
SPONSORSHIP: Organisations may sponsor ARC by allowing their names to be listed on brochures as supporters of ARC. These organisations would then have access to ARC Voice's and ARC Website's noticeboards.
REGIONAL GROUPS: ARC Members may form regional groups should they wish, organising themselves in the most workable way and using their initiative in pursuing the aims of ARC.
THINK TANKS: Think Tanks may be formed with at least four members to meet on a regular basis to discuss those Church and Universal matters in which they have an interest. Their chosen Convenor will register with the Think Tank Coordinator. The Tank members may avail themselves of the expertise of one of the Expert Consultants should they wish. These people will happily assist wherever possible but any expenses involved must be absorbed by the Tank. A Rapporteur, who may or may not be the Convener , will prepare a report on their deliberations not more than 5000 words long. Unanimity is not required and all points of view should be reflected in the report. All members of the Tank should sign the document. From time to time a collection of reports will be published as ARC Papers.
ROVING AMBASSADORS: A list of speakers known as Roving Ambassadors will be maintained by the Roving Ambassador Coordinator together with the topics on which they are prepared to speak. On application by groups around the country the Coordinator will arrange for the most suitable speaker to attend. All travel and accommodation costs should be borne by the groups requesting a speaker. In time, the Coordinatorwill be assisted by regional representatives.
ARC VOICE: A periodical is produced quarterly and contains articles of interest, reports of activities, letters to the Editor, cartoons etc.
ARC WEBSITE: A Website (www.e-arc.org) has been established and will be used to convey appropriate information with respect to ARC activities.
CAMPFIRES: National Conferences (called Campfires) are usually held annually.
SECRETARIAT:Between Campfires and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, ARC is guided by a Secretariat elected by members at the Campfire, and which is enabled to second other suitable people. Each Secretariat seeks to proceed under a consensus model so far as practicable.
ARC Campfire was held in an atmosphere of conversations around Jesus Christ, our Friend, and a prayerful desire to be led by the Spirit of God. We shared our concerns about a perceived need for reform in our Church in Australia. Fifteen keynote speakers and small group and plenary discussions over two days raised many issues. These come forward under the following three broad headings, which we ask ordinary Catholics to consider as a way forward in faith and hope and love:
hearing the voice of the faithful;
undoing the patriarchal accident of history;
love being the main way of relating - not the Law.
See the full story of the Campfire and the resulting Declaration in Issue #14 of arcvoice available in PDF Format from the arcvoice page
Spokesperson: John Buggy, Telephone (02) 9451 8393, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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