In answering questions about the Plenary Council – the first such gathering of the Catholic Church of Australia for 80 years – Bishop Morris said he was heartened that the “conversation has started” and there was no turning back.
“I think the movement of the Church at the moment may take 10, 20 or 30 years but at least we’ve started the dialogue of openness to an understanding… for the laity to hold more of the leadership roles in the Church, to take up administrative roles in the Church, to be more part of the community, and I think the models of the Church have to change,” he said.
Bishop Morris added that the Plenary gathering in Adelaide in October would be “just the start” and people should not be discouraged if certain issues were not discussed.
“Many people will be disappointed probably when the agenda comes out next year – there will be certain topics that won’t be on it and certain topics that will be on it. The fact is that you shouldn’t give up,” he told the more than 100 people who attended the forum at The Monastery on November 26.
“The topics that aren’t on the agenda are dictated by Canon Law and so they can’t be discussed, but that doesn’t mean to say those topics aren’t alive, aren’t real and can’t be contextualised.
“There are many things happening in society today that have to be contextualised in the context of the Gospel that probably won’t come up in the conversation next year – but they’ll be on the perimeters and be in the air. In the next round the next year and the year after those topics will become enfleshed and that’s when they will become part of the life of the Church,” he said.
Bishop Morris, who was controversially forced to retire as the Bishop of Toowoomba in 2011, said the Plenary presented an opportunity for all Catholics to be involved.
“There is room for everybody in the context of the Church. The important thing is that we listen to each other. We may not agree or see each other’s side, but we can listen and say let’s walk together and hopefully if we walk together we’ll grow and understand and we’ll mature and become much more of a sign to the world around us of that message of Jesus, that God loves us. That’s what transformation is,” he said.
In sharing his “hope and possibilities” for the Church, Bishop Morris integrated aspects of learnings from Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Guadium and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
The first stage of the Plenary Council will be held from October 4-10 in Adelaide.