Dear Signatories to the Petition,
We are writing to report back to you on the current state of the Petition presented to the Catholic Bishops of Australia regarding ordination and ministry which we organized late last year. Firstly, thank you for your support. The Petition far exceeded expectations. In the end 16,746 people signed. This included 166 priests, as well as many deacons, sisters and brothers. In all 14,650 signed hard-copies and 2,096 signed on-line. The vast majority signed-up after Sunday Mass in parishes or in schools and ministries in every state and territory. The core base came from Mass-going Catholics.
This made a real difference and influenced Bishops’ Conference to discuss the Petition at length at their meeting in late-November 2007. We are grateful to the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry (chaired by Bishop Michael Malone) and Archbishop Philip Wilson (Adelaide), President of the Bishops’ Conference, for their help in getting the Petition onto the agenda of the Conference.
The result of the bishops’ discussion was open-ended. In a letter of 30 November 2007 Archbishop Wilson said that "during the discussion it was clear that the Bishops continue to be deeply concerned to make adequate pastoral and sacramental provision for the Church in Australia", and he assured us that "We intend to pursue discussions at future Plenary Meetings of those aspects which are within our competency as a Conference of Bishops in the Universal Church".
As we understand it the Permanent Committee of the Conference has not yet met to decide as to how this will be achieved. We know that a number of the bishops are quite sympathetic to the issues raised in the Petition. What is clear is that real change on the issues of ordination and ministry has to come from the grass-roots and that work at the local level is absolutely essential.
Certainly our small committee intends to work to keep the issues of ordination and ministry on the broader agenda of the Australian Church. We have recently set up a webpage as a basic means of communication. You can find it at www.catholicsforministry.com.au . We would appreciate it if you would pass on this letter and the web address to anyone in your parish or ministry who signed the Petition or who is interested in the church’s ministry. Again we want to thank sincerely everyone who assisted in any way with the Petition.
For the committee of Catholics for Ministry