The Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Gouldburn has drafted a document calling for the Church to be more inclusive of LGBTI people and women.

The document is a submission to the Plenary Council 2020, a kind of national council aimed at determining the evolution of the Catholic Church.

The Central Deanery of the Archdiocese conducted four listening and dialogue sessions and heard from over 300 people in consulting for the draft submission.

The sessions began with the question, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

The second point in the submission calls for a “focus on developing a more inclusive church.”

“God’s love is inclusive,” it reads.

“The church has spent too much time excluding rather than including, eg, women, LGBT people, the divorced, people of other religions.

“Except in remote dioceses, the church fails to engage with indigenous people.

“Many people who have drifted away from the church feel intimidated to return by past traditions of the church.”

It also states that “women deacons and women chaplains should be considered” – not priests, notably – and suggests “the ordination of married priests.”

And it includes a call for “a more active social justice stance from the church, more dialogue from the pulpit, more promotion of involvement by the laity in social justice matters.”

A more controversial point in the submission says the Church should be “supporting authentic, faith-filled teachers in schools” and that “here needs to be greater emphasis in schools on teaching the tenets and framework of the faith.”

Other notable points include a call for increased youth engagement and use of technology, as well as apologies and memorials to victims of abuse and their families from specific parishes.

The current Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, then Bishop of Sale, drew ire in 2012 for taking part in a mass-distributed letter calling on Catholics to oppose marriage equality.

The document reflects a broad scope of views present at the meetings, with some elements more supported than others.

But it does indicate there is a call within the Church towards greater inclusivity and hints at the presence of a disconnect between the Church’s leaders and its Australian members.

Polls taken last year during the marriage equality postal survey indicated that Catholic support for the Yes vote outweighed the No vote, although following the survey it was reported that religion was the biggest factor in voting No.

Though it has been often reported that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a more accepting direction, in the past year he has deemed rainbow families invalid, labelled trans acceptance ‘terrible’, and said that accepting trans people would render straight people infertile while condemning non-binary people.

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