Friday, August 10, 2007

An Open Letter to the Catholic Laity of Australia

An Open Letter to the Catholic Laity of Australia

Dear Brother/Sister in Christ,

I write to you as an Australian brother in Christ to express my deep concern about several key challenges that are facing us all as Catholics. As you may be aware, a recent petition was addressed to the Catholic Bishops of Australia on the specific issues that I wish to highlight.

These specific issues are:

  • The acute shortage of priests in many of our Churches in Australia;
  • The even more acute crisis of the religious life;
  • The increasing drift of young people from the Church;
  • The lack of encouragement for lay Catholics to identify, recognise and utilize their spiritual gifts for the service of the Church and world.

It is obvious to most Catholics that there is a major crisis of evangelisation and catechisation in the Catholic Church in Australia. Many lay people and priests, and some bishops, have acknowledged that there will be no solution to the major pastoral problems the Australian Catholic Churches are facing without full, conscious and active evangelisation and catechisation—although there are others who are in denial about this.

This fear of faithful evangelisation and catechisation is limiting the Church's capacity to bring the gospel to secular Australia. It is at the root of the crisis vocations and the transmission of the faith to new generations. Yet the Church can never ignore Christ's Great Commission to proclaim the gospel to all nations, to baptise in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach everyone to keep his commandments.

We lay Catholics cannot assume that the full responsibility for this crisis of evangelisation and catechisation belongs with the bishops. We have been given the Spirit of God at our Baptism and Confirmation. We have all, young and old, men and women, lay and ordained, been called and gifted to serve Christ in the Church and in the World. While ultimate pastoral responsibility in the diocese belongs to the bishops and is exercised by our priests, we too have a role in bringing the Gospel to our society and in catechising a new generation of Catholics.

Many lay people have already sought education in theology, liturgy, scripture and pastoral care. But we are all gifted with talents in some way to serve the Kingdom of God in whatever context God has placed us.

I am therefore asking you all, individually and as a whole community, to:

  • Acknowledge that there is a major crisis in of evangelisation and catechisation in the Catholic Church in Australia, and to resolve to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem;
  • Acknowledge that there is no doctrinal or theological barrier to the active service of all the baptised in the Church—we each have a particular vocation within the Church, and the Holy Spirit has given each of us the gifts which are necessary to fulfil this vocation;
  • Take practical steps toward identifying your vocation and putting your spiritual gifts into action;
  • Never be ashamed to preach the Gospel, and to specifically proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for our salvation: Preach in words as well as in actions--actions may be sufficient to show God's love, but are not sufficient to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel that has been revealed in Christ;
  • Commit yourself to the faithful catechisation of those in your care—especially if you are a parent or a teacher; and to being an apologist for the faith among your friends and relatives;
  • Seek out opportunities to grow in your own spiritual life: through scriptural, theological and pastoral training programs; and find a way of putting your gifts to work in your parish;
  • Always be ready to help others identify their Spiritual gifts and to encourage them to follow their vocation; this especially applies to your children, your students, and to other young people, and to those in whom you see the gifts for priesthood or religious life;
  • Take special care to include young people in the life of the parish; value them enough to speak the gospel clearly to them and to teach the authentic Catholic faith to them;
  • Never criticise the Church in the presence of a young person, but help them to see the beauty and splendour of the Catholic faith;
  • Pray for our bishops and priests.

The challenge of this crisis of evangelisation and faith which we are currently facing in the Australian Catholic Churches can be met. We have the Holy Spirit. We are the Church. We will not expect others to do what is our duty. We will not be afraid to put out into the deep, proclaim the gospel and teach the faith.

Yours in Christ,

David Schütz

10 Comments:

At Friday, August 10, 2007 11:21:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

My Lutheran sister is as confused on the issue of evangelization as many other American Christians. This is a woman with a master's degree, intelligent and thoughtful but like many of our generation religious education pretty much stopped after confirmation.

In increasingly multicultural societies such as the U.S. (and I suspect also Australia, which was not quite so multicultural during the three years I lived there in the late 1950's) the secular message has clearly gone out that it is now impolite to profess one's religion as being the "truth".

I especially appreciate your emphasis on speaking our witness about Christ. Works of charity and love are, of course, important to validate our faith but people desparately need to hear the Good News of Christ crucified and risen. God's Word never comes back empty.

Young people are hungering for genuine faith and their hearts are open books.

Thank you for your very timely observations, David.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 12:46:00 pm , Blogger Arabella-m said...

Amen to all you've written here David.

One major problem I see is that the type of faithful catechisation you propose, which I take as being faithful to the magisterium, is often undermined from within.

For example in my own diocese Fr Michael Morwood (now laicised) was widely used as an adult faith educator in the 1990's. He was openly disdainful towards the magisterium and called into question such basics as Jesus being the Second Person of the Trinity (i.e. asked ‘was Jesus God?’).

Thomas Groome's method of religious education, 'shared Christian praxis', is influential in some dioceses yet Groome is another who disagrees with much of Catholic traditional teaching e.g. Groome asserts "the exclusion of women from ordained ministry is the result of a patriarchal mind-set and culture and is not of Christian faith" (p328 of his book 'Sharing Faith').

A sometimes well entrenched hostility to, but more often indifference towards, the hierarchical universal Church is something which we must somehow deal with in our efforts of evangelisation and catechisation. It’s not easy.

I thank you for all you do, this blog included, towards this much needed evangelisation,

Your sister in Christ,
Arabella

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 4:05:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

You guys could try being Catholic again. That might work -- nah.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 4:29:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes, PE, that is precisely what I proposing!

BTW, have I been too oblique here, or has the fact that I have modeled this "open letter" on "that petition" gone unrecognised?

The difference, in the main, is that I am proposing we lay Catholics do not have to wait around for the bishops to act or for the canon law/Catholic faith to be changed. We can do these things now!

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 5:46:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

In a way, I agree, you don't have to wait, the bishops have acted and canon law and the Catholic faith has been changed.

On the other hand, I can get you some good Ablaze! stuff!

(I'm trying really hard not to bite on the Why aren't you Roman Catholic post!)

And Christine, I put some Pelikan/St John's stuff on the Maybe I Jumped post, in case it's into archives when you visit next.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 7:36:00 pm , Anonymous Mike said...

Just call that a petition and I'll sign.

 
At Sunday, August 12, 2007 9:10:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

That's the Spirit!

 
At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 4:29:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

In a way, I agree, you don't have to wait, the bishops have acted and canon law and the Catholic faith has been changed.

Past Elder, you'd better mind your own store. Since the Seminex crisis in the LCMS there's been some very disturbing changes in the Synod. As far back as the mid-80's when I first began considering becoming Catholic it was widely known in Lutheran circles that the LCMS had taken a decidedly evangelical turn.

Rev. Wallace Schulz (when he got kicked off the Lutheran Hour I heard warning bells) in his recent paper about the past and future of the LCMS wrote in part:

In many, probably even most, LCMS homes, one will see prominently displayed on coffee tables, shelves and in the "throne" room, a wide variety of Fundamentalist, anti-sacramental, anti-Baptism literature from Billy Graham, James Dobson, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Joyce Myeer, etc.... You can say anything you want about your pastor, bad-mouth your district president, or even demean your Synodical president. However, you better not even hint that you might disagree with the teachings of popular Fundamentalists.

...

We were told already some years ago that when libraries of retired LCMS pastors arrive at CHI, the majority of the books are by Protestant and Fundamentalist authors.


Truth be told, I even found some of that mentality among ELCA Lutheran laity, of all things.

I've also noticed that Kieschnick rarely makes any Trinitarian references. Very curious for a so-called confessional Lutheran.

With the relection of Kieschnick you can expect Daystar, Jesus First and Ablaze to step up their march to control the Synod. Oh, and keep your eye on Rev. David Buegler, a big proponent of Jesus First. I am familiar with him from my Lutheran days.

 
At Saturday, October 20, 2007 6:03:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a young person and convert to the CC, I have actually found a refusal to face up to the obvious difficulties and weaknesses of the church, and its unwillingness to reform or listen to those who criticise it, extremely frustrating. I am tired of appeals to the 'infallible magesterium' which is often used by older catholics to try and silence debate and also conciousness of glaring and controversial issues which urgently need to be addressed in a compassionate way, from growing income inequality to issues relating to sex. A bishop from Brisbane in my view wrote a very good book on the difficult issues facing the church in the 21st century, and if the tide of people leaving, particularly the young, is to be stemmed, the church has to reform itself and make itself relevant and appealing, rather than moving back to the old paradigm of heirarchy, submission, and authority. Young people today are better educated and think much more for themselves and will subject any claims to truth far more rigorously and critically, and in my view this is a good thing; those inside the church should not try and shut down critical scrutiny and inquiry or intellectual openness.

 
At Sunday, October 21, 2007 1:01:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't know if you have checked lately, but it is in fact the old fogies who are supporting the likes of bishop Robinson (and he's from Sydney not Brisbane, although it probably makes no difference in this case). Don't shackle yourself to an outdated cause!

 

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