Kirchhoffer, D. & L'Huillier, NL. (2014). Preparing for the Synod on the family: The Australian response [accepted manuscript]. INTAMS Review: journal for the study of marriage and spirituality,20(1), 111-117. Belgium: Peeters. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2143/INT.20.1.3036703
Australians responded enthusiastically to the calling of the Synod, though there appears to be a tension between expectations of doctrinal reform and pastoral reform. The Bishops Conference allowed each diocese to consult as it saw fit and submit its findings, in light of which a committee of four bishops drafted the official submission to the Synod. Other materials were also sent to the Synod office, including some directly by dioceses and other Catholic organisations. The dioceses surveyed made the preparatory document and questionnaire available online and in print. There was a high level of frustration expressed with the complexity of many of the questions. The Conference and most dioceses did not publish the findings of the consultation or their submission to the Synod. Nonetheless, these are likely to reveal trends with regard to co-habitation, pre-marital sex, contraception, the treatment of divorced Catholics and same-sex marriage similar to those of other western countries based on an analysis of existing quantitative data from the National Church Life Survey, diocesan reports to which the researchers were given access, and the Catholic media. There is an apparent disconnect between the lived experience of many Catholics and Church teaching in these areas. Moreover, there is a tension between issues of doctrinal confusion, doctrinal rejection, and pastoral care which could have consequences for whether the Synod should consider doctrinal reform or need only focus on pastoral care. Most importantly, the responses demonstrate that Catholics in Australia want to be better informed about Church teaching, want to be consulted about these matters, and want to have a say in the formulation of Church teaching. Not taking these wishes seriously risks further alienating many Catholics from the Church who express a disjuncture between Church teaching and their own life experience in these matters.
School of Theology
Open Access Journal Article