Many people who seek to change Church teaching are “upper class and highly educated” and Ireland’s national synod must focus on bringing them back to the Church rather than “watering down” the Gospel, according to an Irish priest in Australia.
Australia entered into its ‘Plenary Council’ process on Sunday – a process similar to a national synod – which had a challenging beginning according to Fr Brendan Purcell, a philosophy professor and priest based in Sydney.
“The trouble is when the Church gets going the people who self-identify as Catholics, aren’t necessarily practicing Catholic and may have serious issues with loads of Catholic teaching, they can become the mouthpiece,” Fr Purcell told The Irish Catholic.
“I’m not blaming them, they have a right to disagree, but I think that’s part of the problem. In Australia, certainly earlier on the plenary council, it looked as if it was staffed by a certain number of them… We all have to learn how we have lost these people and how we can bring them back.”
Looking at Pope Francis and his focus on the peripheries and those furthest from the Church, Fr Purcell said the peripheries also include the artistic, educated, university staff and academic elites who “don’t really identify with the Church and feel it doesn’t speak to them anymore”.
“There’s different kinds of peripheries and possibly in Ireland the more educated classes are a classic periphery, they’re not at the centre of the Church, they used to belong and maybe they could be but I don’t think the best way to get them back is to basically throw out the baby with the bathwater, I don’t think the best way back is to water down the Gospel,” he said.
Fr Purcell added that a sole focus on organisational structures during Ireland’s synod is akin to moving chairs around the Titanic.
“You can arrange all sorts of parish councils and every darn thing, the absolute result is zero. I think it’s through the life of people evidencing that they’re happy, in other words the Gospel actually helps you to be a fulfilled human being, I think that might be the way, both in Ireland and in Australia, we might be able to find the answers.”