An Australian Catholic archdiosese has drafted a document outlining what they picture to be the “future of the Catholic Church,” and it involves “a more inclusive church” that welcomes LGBT people. The document also proposes “women deacons and women chaplains,” and “married priests,” both of which have historically been prohibited in the Catholic Church.
The document proposing such changes was drafted by the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn in preparation for the countrywide Plenary Council in 2020. A plenary council is a term used in the Catholic Church to refer to a meeting between bishops and archbishops of a certain country under the supervision of a papal legate, where representatives discuss changes that should be made to the Church. Bishops are calling the meeting the “highest form of gathering of local church and has legislative and governance authority.” Historically, some decisions made by plenary councils are extended to the universal Church.
Australia’s first plenary council was held 81 years ago, meaning the meeting in 2020 will be the second of its kind in the country’s history. The event website says the meeting is being held “so that we can dialogue about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.”
In June, four “listening and dialogue” sessions were held, hosted by Archbishop Christopher Prowse, where the nearly 300 attendees present were asked, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”
Suggestions made by attendees included focusing more heavily on the Church’s inclusiveness, with a particular emphasis on the idea that the Church has spent too long excluding groups like LGBT people, women, divorcees, and people of other religions, and such strict stigmas and practices perpetuated by the Church have intimidated people.
Other suggestions included the idea that Church leaders should have a more vocal and active stance on fundamental social justice issues, specifically bringing up the issue of climate change.
“God’s love is inclusive,” the document says. “The church has spent too much time excluding rather than including.”
Although the Catholic Church has historically had a contentious relationship with LGBT people, attitudes have slightly shifted since the election of Pope Francis, who has met with gay and transgender prisoners and said he won’t "judge" gay priests. However, many Catholics are still wanting for more substantial change, and this document may be a step in the right direction.