The Plenary Council

The Second Assembly

The second (and final) assembly of the Australian Plenary Council has commenced. This assembly will run from Sunday 3 July 2022 to Saturday 9 July and is being held in Sydney. News and reports from the assembly will be added to this page as they become available. Some items may be behind a paywall.

Information about the Plenary Council can be found on its dedicated website. This is now a substantial repository of resources. The Assembly 2 Menu gives access to the recordings of the masses and the parts of the sessions being live-streamed, as well as to the Key Documents for the assembly. The Pray with Us Menu holds the mass booklets for the week’s masses.

The Plenary Council has a YouTube channel to which resources will be added during the week. It is uncertain whether the podcast series from the first assembly will be continued into the second assembly. We should know soon. [It was – see below.]

In the lead up …

An article in Crux serves as a useful primer.

Plenary Post Edition 48 was issued just ahead of the opening of the assembly, but when we last checked, was still to be added to the website. (Please let us know if it’s there now.) [It’s still not – Sat 9 July]

The Catholic Weekly ran a number of articles across May and June.

On 30 June 2022, the Catholic Leader ran with ‘Church aiming to avoid a moment of crisis’.

The Association of Ministerial PJPs suggested five ways of engaging with the Plenary Council.

ACBC Media released information about the Observers of the Plenary Council.

Bruce Duncan contributed an article to Pearls and Irritations in which he lamented the lack of social vision in the Framework for Motions.

Also in Pearls and Irritations, Terry Fewtrell has an article critical of the processes of the Plenary Council.

Eureka Street carried an article by John Warhurst, “Navigating between the perfect and the good at the Second PC Assembly”

On ABC Radio’s Religion and Ethics Report, Stan Grant interviewed Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Noel Debien.

Each morning this week until Thursday the live-stream of proceedings will commence at 8.30am AEST and will be available for viewing from https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/ . On Friday the live-stream will commence at 9am AEST. We’ll post the link to each recording on this page when it becomes available.

Day by Day

Day 1 Sunday 3 July 2022

The opening mass was held in the chapel of Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney. The Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Charles Balvo, was the Mass’s principal celebrant. The recording of the mass is here and a highlights package is here (3 mins 20 secs). The ACBC produced a press release describing the opening. The Catholic Leader also carried a report.

John Warhurst posted to his blog.

Garratt Publishing and Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn presented the first episode of the second series of Plenary Tracker. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Day 2 Monday 4 July 2022

The opening formalities were live-streamed. About an hour and a half of today’s proceedings were able to be viewed. 

Archbishop Costelloe delivered the opening address (this is a section of the above live-stream recording.)

Mass from St Mary’s Cathedral was celebrated by Bishop Mykola Bychok CSsR of the Eparchy of Saints Peter and Paul for Ukrainian Catholics.

CathNews reported this morning on the opening of the assembly.

John Warhurst and Francis Sullivan updated their blogs.

Geraldine Doogue posted the first episode of the new series of Plenary Matters. She interviews Sarah Moffat from Adelaide.

On Plenary Podcast, Michael Kenny interviews Brother Peter Carroll, Fr Will Matthews and Ellen Hales.

The assembly voted on the General Introduction and Parts 1 (Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts) and 2 (Choosing Repentance – Seeking Healing) of the Motions and Amendments document, with the results to be announced tomorrow.

On Plenary Tracker a panel discussed the main issues of the day’s agenda: first nations reconciliation and sexual abuse. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Day 3 Tuesday 5 July 2023

The opening session was live-streamed (56 min 25 sec).

CathNews reported on Archbishop Costelloe’s opening address.

The Australian has an article by Rhiannon Down titled “‘Wake-up call for us Catholics’, says archbishop”, but it’s behind their paywall, so you might have to guess what it says.

John Warhurst updated his blog with a report of Monday’s proceedings.

In his report of Monday’s sessions, Francis Sullivan reflected on the culture of the church, with typical insight.

Geraldine Doogue has posted a new episode of her Plenary Matters podcast.

On Plenary Podcast, Michael Kenny interviews Sr Clare Condon, Bishop Paul Bird and Sabrina-Ann Stevens.

The recording of the evening Mass is here, with Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst presiding.

The results of yesterday’s voting on the General Introduction and Parts 1 and 2 of the Motions and Amendments document were released. The outcome of the voting can be downloaded from this page.

Today’s voting was on Parts 3 (Called by Christ – Sent Forth as Missionary Disciples) and 4 (Witnessing to the equal dignity of Women and Men) of the Motions and Amendments document, with the results to be announced tomorrow.

The discussion on Plenary Tracker revealed that this had been a demanding day, with different visions of the church being contested on the issues of inclusiveness and the role of women. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Day 4 Wednesday 6 July 2023

The Council’s web page https://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/masses-and-livestreams/ is not being updated. [The Council’s webpage has been updated.] Instead, you can [also] access the recordings of the masses and morning sessions from YouTube.

The recording of today’s morning session is here (1:04:07).

CathNews reported on the outcomes of the voting on the General Introduction and Parts 1 and 2 of the Motions and Amendments document.

John Warhurst wrote engagingly about his experience of the day. He noted the emergence of disputation (“We are, after all, talking about the future of the church in Australia”) and observed that some votes for amendments that won “healthy” majority support nonetheless failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority and therefore could not be incorporated into the final motions. Clearly this was the source of some of the upset we observed on Plenary Tracker the previous evening.

Francis Sullivan’s latest piece also records the difficulty of the day (“a tough one”), in another thoughtful reflection.

A special edition of ABC Radio’s “The Religion and Ethics Report” hosted by Noel Debien was recorded on Tuesday, prior to the emergence of the controversies over inclusion. The panel includes Toni Janke, Maeve Heeney and Bishop Shane Mackinlay. The discussion of the indigenous resolutions is particularly enlightening.

The results of yesterday’s voting on the Parts 3 and 4 of the Motions and Amendments document were released. The outcome of the voting can be downloaded from this page. The motion to recognise the equal dignity of women and men, whilst achieving endorsement on the consultative vote and the support of a simple majority of the bishops, has failed to gain the two-thirds majority required for it to pass. It would seem, at this stage, that the notion of men and women having equal dignity has failed to gain the endorsement of the Plenary Council. We do not know if there is a procedure for dealing further with this in the time remaining.

Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn has just made a press release on this matter.

Geraldine Doogue has posted today’s episode of her Plenary Matters podcast, where she interviews Christopher Lamb of The Tablet and council member Virginia Bourke. We particularly draw your attention to the Notes accompanying this episode. We’ve learnt (from Geraldine’s podcast episode) that a motion was passed this afternoon resolving to reconsider Part 4 tomorrow.

On Plenary Podcast, Michael Kenny interviews Sr Mary Ryan OP, Emeritus Professor John Warhurst and Dr Jodi Steel.

Today’s voting was to be on Parts 5 (Communion in Grace: Sacrament to the World) and 6 (Formation and Leadership for Mission and Ministry) of the Motions and Amendments document. It is not clear how much was resolved on these sections. The issue of recognition of women appears to have been quite disruptive.

On Plenary Tracker a calm, reasoned and determined response was modeled in the discussion with guests Clare Condon, Mary Coloe and Mark Copland. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Mass tonight was celebrated by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane. Access the recording here.

Day 5 Thursday 7 July 2022

It has become clear that yesterday’s proceedings were completely disrupted by the failure of the motion in Part 4.5 (re equal dignity of women) to achieve a ‘qualified majority’ (two thirds) in the Deliberative Vote (of the bishops). There was no consideration of the matters in Parts 5 and 6. An already congested agenda is now under great pressure. It is also clear that the failed motions in Part 4 are being renegotiated and will in some form be put to the assembly again. Timing is uncertain as yet.

The morning session was again live-streamed. The fallout from yesterday is acknowledged and processed, commencing from 45 minutes from the start of the recording. From about 55:30, Bishop Shane Mackinlay describes the re-arrangement of the agenda.

The report in CathNews is brief but sets out the basic facts. The article links to a number of other reports of the day that we will pick up below.

A more graphic description is provided by John Warhurst. This gives more of a sense of the drama taking place within the assembly. He is critical of the lack of any explanation from the bishops as to the reasons for the failure of the motion. Whilst acknowledging that there is much goodwill to find a solution, great uncertainty remains.

Francis Sullivan calls the vote of the bishops “an own goal” and the reaction of the assembly “visceral”.

Christopher Lamb, who is present at the assembly, wrote in The Tablet. This article, which can be accessed without a subscription, adds a global perspective.

The Bishops’ Conference made two press releases yesterday. They are failing to load from the CathNews website and are yet to be posted to the ACBC website. We’ll try again later. They can be accessed here and here. Neither conveys the seriousness of the situation.

The Catholic Leader reported that the assembly was “left in disarray” with its program “dramatically put on hold.”

Even The Catholic Weekly acknowledged the situation as a “crisis”.

The Age reported the events under the headline: “Stunning blow: Push to elevate role of women in Catholic Church fails” – the Sydney Morning Herald carries the same article.

An article in The Australian titled “Gender equality vote in Catholic council fails” is behind its paywall.

Another report appeared in America Magazine.

On Plenary Podcast, Michael Kenny interviews Bishop Tim Harris, Sr Mary Julian Ekman and Wendy Goonan.

Voting took place in respect of Parts 7 (At the Service of Communion, Participation and Mission: Governance) and 8 (Integral Ecology for the Sake of Our Common Home) of the Motions and Amendments document. The outcome of the voting can be downloaded from this page.

We became aware of an article dated 1 July by Beth Doherty writing in Eureka Street. It is another call for conversation between what she calls ‘Rad Trads’ and ‘Reformers’. The labels (generally unhelpful, in our opinion) are not the point of her article.

Mass in the evening was celebrated by Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli.

The focus of Plenary Tracker was on Governance and Ecology. Genevieve Jacobs was joined by Virginia Bourke, Dr Jacqui Rémond and Dr Patricia Hindmarsh. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Day 6 Friday 8 July 2022

Daily Mass was celebrated in the morning. The celebrant was Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, vice-president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Archbishop of Sydney.

The morning session was again live-streamed (42mins 55 secs).

CathNews reports on the outcome of voting from the previous day.

John Warhurst’s blog post is titled “Today Flourished Under Strong Leadership”. He reports the change of mood in the assembly – “more open and participative” now – but observes that much remains at stake.

Francis Sullivan reports on the impact of the eruption of “passion and energy” by the women members of the council. He rebuts press claims (in the America Magazine article, for example) that Wednesday’s protest was lead by he and John Warhurst. “To be clear, the women members organised for themselves not only a venue to meet at the lunch break but also to conduct a facilitated conversation and report back to the full Assembly the summary of those discussions. It was the force of their collective agency that spoke so powerfully throughout the course of yesterday and into the reconfigured program of today.”

A revised Part 4 (Equal dignity of women and men) of Motions and Amendments has been published. This will be subject to voting later today.

Angela McCarthy is a senior lecturer in theology at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle campus and a Plenary Council member. We have obtained Dr McCarthy’s permission to reproduce the diary of the council that she has been sharing with her contacts. Entries for Sunday through to Thursday can be accessed here. Detailed and intimate, these bring another precious perspective form inside the council, for those of us watching attentively from outside.

There are two stories today in La Croix International. “Australian bishops nix vote on women issue, plenary council disrupted” is penned by ‘La Croix International Staff’, whoever that might be , and “Nun challenges Australia’s plenary council to give real witness to all baptized” (same author?) reports on Clare Condon’s address on Tuesday morning.

Marilyn Rodrigues (of the Catholic News Service) has a report in Crux. The same (or similar) article appears in National Catholic Reporter.

Geraldine Doogue has provided a two-minute prelude to what will be a longer episode of her Plenary Matters podcast, which will drop later this evening.

On Plenary Podcast, Michael Kenny interviews Bishop Charles Gauci, Fr Dominic Murphy and Dr Angela McCarthy.

Voting today addressed Parts 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11 of the Motions and Amendments document. The outcome of the voting can be downloaded from this page. As it transpired, all the (revised) motions for Part 4 (Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men) easily obtained qualified (two-thirds) majorities. This will be a great relief to many and hopefully provides momentum for substantial progress on these issues in years to come. The motion concerning greater access to the Third Rite of Reconciliation easily passed on the consultative vote but on the deliberative (bishops’) vote, obtained a qualified majority by the barest of margins, a single vote. But pass it did. Motion 5.4, seeking authority for lay persons to preach at mass, did not pass.

Tonight’s episode of the Plenary Matters podcast is now available. Geraldine Doogue interviews Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Dr Maeve Heeney.

In the sixth, and final episode of Plenary Tracker #2 titled Wrap-up, Paul Bongiorno was joined by John Warhurst, Sr Mel Dwyer, Sr Patty Fawkner and Dr Tracy McEwan. Register for free for Plenary Tracker to receive the link to the nightly broadcasts and to access the back episodes.

Day 7 Saturday 9 July 2022

Angela McCarthy has provided a description of Friday’s proceedings here (scroll to the bottom).

The Catholic Leader also reported on Friday’s proceedings.

Christopher Lamb has written again for The Tablet.

CathNews does not publish on Saturday, however there is a release from ACBC Media, announcing that the assembly concluded ‘on a high note’.

John Warhurst writes optimistically but warns there is much work still to be done.

There is also a press release from Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn.

There is another post from Francis Sullivan, who promises also to write more next week.

Greg Craven has an article in The Australian. It is behind their paywall so for subscribers only. Judging from the title, he is not happy with the outcomes: “Catholics are under fire in battle against ‘woke’ church.” Can someone please tell me what ‘woke’ actually means? I take it it’s meant to be derogatory.

Julia Baird’s column in the Sydney Morning Herald brings home the reputational damage done by the first vote on women’s dignity. The same article is also in The Age.

Marilyn Rodrigues wrote in National Catholic Reporter an article titled “Australia council concludes with agreement on equal dignity of men, women.”

Marilyn Rodrigues also writes in America Magazine, calling the document on women in the church ‘vastly improved’.

The recording of the closing mass from St Mary’s Cathedral is available here.

A release from ACBC Media reports on Archbishop Costelloe’s homily providing words of encouragement to carry the work of council forward.

Angela McCarthy has posted again describing the closing on Saturday. She reveals that there was a final, one-hour closing session this morning.

The Australian Plenary Council is now closed.