Speaking just weeks before the First Assembly of the historic Fifth Plenary Council in Australia, National Council President and Plenary Council Member, Claire Victory, said she hoped the Plenary Council would lead to greater inclusion and an urgent recasting of church leadership and governance at every level of the Church in Australia.
“The Plenary Council process is one opportunity for urgently needed cultural and systemic change identified not just by the recent child sex abuse royal commission, but by faithful lay Catholics for decades.
“As the largest lay-led Catholic organisation in Australia the St Vincent de Paul Society has a crucial role to play in the restoration of our church’s credibility”, Ms Victory said.
“Our mission as church is not to fill buildings, but to reach people where they are, not where the church wants them to be. This is what Vincentians do when we offer care and support to people who are disadvantaged, voiceless and in need of a hand up.
“This calls for a paradigm shift – from an authoritarian, hierarchical, patriarchal model to a communion of communities engaged in dialogue, discernment and decision making around both ecclesial and social concerns.
“To transform itself, the Church must strive to be more representative of the entire community it seeks to serve. We want our Church to be known for its commitment to the poor, not as passive recipients of our benevolence but as people central to the Church’s life and mission.
“The Society strongly advocates for a Church that condemns clericalism and promotes a more transparent and accountable model where hierarchical structures give way to shared leadership, where wisdom is sought through a process of genuine dialogue and inclusive vision.
“We don’t know how successful the Plenary Council process will be in enabling the voice of lay people to be heard or what will come out of this historic opportunity, but we choose to remain optimistic about the potential for the genuine engagement of lay Catholics.
“Do we want the smooth path to completion or are willing to engage in the radical and confronting work of transformation to make room for the new?
“As Vincentians, we hope that this Plenary Council (and the significant hard work that follows it) will lead to a Church that has a more deliberate, inclusive and intentional focus on its fundamental mission of following Christ by serving the poor,” Ms Victory said.
A copy of the National Council’s submission to the Plenary Council is available here.
With thanks to the St Vincent de Paul Society Australia.