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Bishop Shane Mackinlay addresses the Plenary Council in Sydney, July 2022 (CNS/The Catholic Weekly, Giovanni Portelli)

Australia’s Plenary Council provided a “positive and transformative experience of discernment and synodality”, Sandhurst Bishop Shane Mackinlay told the Synod of Synodality on Wednesday. Source: ACBC Media Blog.

Bishop Mackinlay, who served as vice-president of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia that ran from 2018 until 2022, was invited to offer a reflection on that journey during the current Synod’s 12th general congregation.

He explained that the Plenary Council’s process took on many of the characteristics of a synod, including in the manner of consultation, listening, dialogue and discernment, and there were few legislative decrees compared with other plenary councils.

Bishop Mackinlay shared openly about a tense moment during the Council’s second assembly, when the failure of two motions in the section on Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men caused a recalibration of the process.

“The members showed great generosity in persisting in dialogue despite the grief and hurt that many had felt after the failed vote,” he said. 

“In the interim, the quality and depth of our conversation and reflection had changed, and I think the remaining documents that we considered were significantly improved because of it.”

Redrafted motions from that section were comfortably carried later in the assembly.

Looking back on those early days of the second assembly and the unsuccessful motions, Bishop Mackinlay said the time of apparent discord allowed for a renewed engagement.

“Those present had already spoken freely and openly, and had been listened to respectfully,” he said.  

“But, in retrospect, I think we had mostly spoken from our heads, setting out ideas that we had considered frequently and that were already well established in our minds. 

“After the crisis, people spoke much more from the heart, with a vulnerability that exposed them personally, putting themselves on the line to describe their lived experience of how they were personally affected.”

While it is important to carry forward the decrees that came from the Plenary Council, Bishop Mackinlay said he thought the Council’s “most significant impact” will be “the positive and transformative experience of discernment and synodality, which is now clearly established as the normal way for approaching discussions and shared decision-making in all our activities”.

Click here to read Bishop Mackinlay’s reflection in full.


Plenary Council a positive and transformative experience: Bishop Mackinlay (ACBC Media Blog)