Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Archdiocese of Brisbane in 2059

Now that a whole lot of urgent matters have now been set aside - time fro more blogging. Hopefully Roman will have some interesting photos and gossip from his travels.

This year we have launched upon the 150 anniversary celebrations of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Given all the self congratulations it is worthy to reflect upon what possibilities that the next 50 to 100 years might bring. Here is a scenario. Like all future forecasting, it is dangerous to to hinge upon one single scenario, we do not know what is around the corner (look at the current financial crisis for example).

In 2059 I am sitting at my device or walking down the street thinking about the history of the Catholic Church whilst the device (previously called a computer) writing my thoughts.
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Many changes came upon the archdiocese of Brisbane in the first half of the 21st century, with bigger impacts upon the archdiocese than the years following the second Vatican Council. The largest impact was the collapse of the priesthood in the archdiocese in the years 2010 to 2020, as the seminary continued to fail to attract students, and existing priests retired and died. the total staff of priests for the archdiocese shrank to around 30 (down from 150 in 2006). This had a number of flow-on effects. Although the laity assumed leadership in some parishes, this brought its own difficulties with the bishops having to mediate as some parishes split into warring factions. However, the impact was mitigated somewhat as the "silent" and "baby boomer" generation, (the generation brought up with the idea that not attending Sunday Mass was a mortal sin) died off but were not replaced by their children who had all left the church as soon as possible, and congregations shrank, and in some places collapsed also.

Most of the congregations consist of immigrants and converts which has led to a re-definition of the ethos of committed Catholicism. As many choose to be Catholic in culture as well as belief, the archdiocese overall in 2059 a lot more fundamentalist that it was 50 years previously. Part of this also has been a disenchantment with the liberal catholicism of their parents, as well as an adoption of "religion of choice" rather than being born into it. This tighter and more closed-in catholicism has resulted in more vocations to the priesthood and some of the new religious orders, particularly when far reaching reforms were made to the local seminary after 2010.

Liturgy changed as well with the launch of new English translation of the Roman Missal in 2010, and other reforms, the most controversial being the withdrawal of the indult allowing Communion in the hand by Pope Gregory XVII in 2025. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite was also revised in this period so that although it differs very little from the 1962 Missal of St John XXIII, the 2022 edition is the most common one used. It still appears unlikely that there will be a total blending of the two forms of the Roman Rite. However, some communities have abandoned table Altars and the celebration of the Eucharist facing the congregation, and have adopted some usages from each other. There is still some tension between the two forms of the rite particularly coming from the charismatic communities.

The changing structure of the church has resulted in the parish system, as envisaged by Archbishop Duhig in the early part of the 20th century being almost disbanded and replaced by a more flexible missionary structure. Therefore people travel on Sunday to the church community that suits them, largely on the city metro system built between 2030 and 2050, as car travel is now too expensive for most families. The more established communities are led by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, who celebrate according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in a handful of churches in Brisbane (eg. their parishes at St Brigids Red Hill, and St Marys at South Brisbane and St Lukes at Buranda, as well as their Mass Centres on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts) and the Neo-Catechumenal Way who minister in some of the bible-belt areas of Ipswich and Logan. The Legionaires of Christ and other groups also minister to communities formed out of the old parishes.

The lasting legacy of the old parish system was the local catholic school (formerly called convent schools) which have continued to flourish. However, their links with the church are now only to do with property ownership and administration, as they have ceased their identity as Catholic schools, apart from their unique names which date back to the old parishes. Many of the adjoining churches and convents that they were based around are now demolished or converted into school halls. Catechists visit these schools on an occasional basis and this is a major activity of the priests during the week.

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A realistic scenario? I would be interested in comments that anyone might have.

1 comment:

Summa Theologica said...

Pope Gregory XVII withdrawing the indult for communion in the hand in 2025...

I love the imagination at work here! Very clever. :)