Sydney draft pastoral plan "seriously flawed": ACU lecturer

Citing weaknesses in its christological and ecclesiological foundations, controversial ACU religious education lecturer Fr Daniel Donovan, says that a draft pastoral plan for the Sydney archdiocese is "seriously flawed" and has "shades of Opus Dei".

Catholica reports that Fr Donovan, a lecturer at the School of Religious Education at ACU National, made his assessment following requests from a number of Sydney parishes to provide an analysis of the plan.

The document was produced by the Archdiocesan Renewal Planning Committee convened by Bishop Julian Porteous with the aim of "strengthening Catholic life" in Sydney.

The plan is divided up into a list of eight "priorities", including "evangelisation and spiritual renewal", "clergy and religious renewal" and "parish renewal".

But Fr Donovan says that the draft three-year pastoral plan, released in March, is seriously flawed and needs to be taken back to the drawing board for a "major re-write."

He accuses the document of pandering to "various movements" like Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way rather than focusing on Christ, the Holy Spirit, the family and the pastoral needs of the faithful.

He argues the document is theologically flawed and needs to pay far greater heed to official Vatican documents and the accepted teaching of the Catholic Church.

Citing a number of Vatican-level documents, Fr Donovan says that the draft plan's mission statement "presents an ecclesiology which has no Christological foundation".

Quoting Asian Jesuit theologian Aloysius Pieris, he warns that without this foundation "ecclesiology ... runs the danger of allowing the church to overdevelop as a massive euro-ecclesiastical Body, that conceals Jesus, its head".

"Jesus is sent by the Father to proclaim that the kingdom and salvation is God's offer of grace and mercy to all creation. Surely the mission statement for any Pastoral Plan should be based on the initiative of God," Fr Donovan wrote.

As an alternative Christological foundation, Fr Donovan proposes "God, the Father of mercies, through the life, death and resurrection of the Son has sent the Holy Spirit to transform humanity through an 'interior renewal and radical conversion'".

Fr Donovan also accuses the document of confusion over the term "inculturation", a theological concept, and "enculturation", a sociological term that refers to the process of assisting a person from another cultural background to accommodate to a new cultural milieu.

The section on marriage also needs more depth, Fr Donovan continues, and "Church documents need to be used more meaningfully".

"Shades of Opus Dei"

According to Fr Donovan in his critique posted on Catholica, "much of the Plan has shades of the Opus Dei especially in the areas of education, youth formation and sacramental and human development programs".

"A major failure of the Plan is that it has failed to take note of the various movements (Opus Dei, Neocatechumenal Way etc) and their infiltration of the Archdiocesan structures and ministries," Fr Donovan claims.

Fr Donovan proposes a "'listening' hierarchy who are able 'connect' with the broad masses of the faithful and their issues rather than endorsing the agenda of the various movements."

"My recommendation would be for the Draft to be returned to the committee for a serious rewrite. There is a need to represent the needs of the people and not simply those of the clergy," Fr Donovan concludes.

Draft Pastoral Plan needs serious re-write suggests Academic (Catholica, 18/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Dr Daniel Donovan (ACU)
Sydney Archdiocese Draft Pastoral Plan 2008-2011 (PDF)

Sydney Planning Committee holds first meeting (CathNews, 16/2/05)
Pastoral plan for Archdiocese of Sydney (CathNews, 23/11/04)

18 May 2007

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