Australian Catholic students have sent an open letter to the country’s bishops ahead of the upcoming Fifth Plenary Council of the Church in the country, urging the bishops to remain committed to the Church’s teaching and reject calls for the ordination of women.
“Many submissions to the Plenary Council have made the laudable recommendation that women be more effectively integrated into the existing governing structures of the Church,” says the letter, which was signed by more than 200 students and alumni associated with the Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA). The lead signatory was the president of the ACSA, Alexander Kennedy.
“However, it was with great sadness that we note many submissions have called for a change to the very constitution of the Church also willed by Christ,” they added. “We call on the Plenary Council and the Bishops of Australia to reject unambiguously all calls for the ordination of women.”
The Fifth Plenary Council is scheduled to take place on October 3-10, 2021, in Adelaide, Australia, followed by a second assembly July 4-9, 2022 in Sydney. The dates were pushed back from their original schedule in October 2020 and mid-2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The students’ letter explained that they fully support the respect owed to the roles women play in the Church, but that they, like St. Pope John Paul II and his successors, do not believe that these roles extend to ordination to the priesthood. Instead, they have “wholehearted support for the integration of women into even more prominent roles in areas such as sacred theology, communications, evangelization and (insofar as lay people are able) governance.”
ACSA Vice President Claudia Tohi added that “This letter expresses our longing to share Christ with others unashamed, with clarity and with the help of our leaders.”
“Truth,” said Tohi, “is not determined by the mood of the times, nor is it a mere abstract concept. Truth is a person, the Son of God who gave up His life for the salvation of all humankind.”
The emphasis on the lay vocation, they said, would be “far more encouraging of women than any tokenistic program or power-wrangling we have seen in some of the Plenary submissions.”
The letter was also critical of certain assumptions about the path young people wish to see the Church take in the coming years.
“Young people desire an authentic relationship with Christ; this will not be facilitated by a committee,” said the letter. “We believe true reform of the Church will not come from merely shifting resources from one committee to another, but in the rediscovery of, conviction about, and love for the Catholic faith by every Catholic.”
Some papers have called for what the ACSA letter described as “the dilution of truths of the faith,” which they say “stand to alienate young people and society at large.”
“Why should anyone take the doctrine and mysteries of Christ and His Church seriously if her members do not,” they asked.
“We call on the Plenary Council to recommit the Church in Australia to the timeless truths of the Gospel as proclaimed by the Church for twenty centuries,” said the letter.
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