David Timbs of Australia to Lead Discussion for ACI

May 20, 2021 | 10 comments

ACI Zoom Events

In preparation for Ireland’s five-year synodal journey towards an assembly of the Catholic Church the ACI Steering Group is arranging a series of online discussions, led by personalities who are already thoughtful about ‘walking together’ towards a co-responsible church.  

The first of these will take place on Zoom on:

Thursday 20th May, at 8.00 p.m. (London)

led by 

David Timbs 

(Catholics for Renewal – Australia)

David outlines his hopes and fears for Australia’s own imminent ‘Plenary Council’ of the Catholic Church here.

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 858 7277 9921
Passcode: 916970

Are you ready for ‘walking together’?

On March 10th 2021 Ireland’s Catholic Bishops announced their intention to lead the Irish Church on a ‘synodal pathwaytowards a national assembly of the Irish Catholic Church ‘within the next five years’.

As a first step they ask members of the church to tell them by May 23rd, 2021 (Pentecost) what ‘process of listening’ they would prefer, to start out on this ‘synodal pathway’.  (For example: focus groups, parish or diocesan meetings, deep-listening sessions, written submissions.) They provide a page on the website of their conference for responses on this, not exceeding 300 words.

ACI members are urged to participate, right away, in alerting family and friends to what could be a new chapter in the history of their church – if ‘deep listening’ (especially to the alienated) is truly on offer. Make sure to submit your own preference for a listening process to the ICBC page by May 23rd – and tune in to ongoing ACI discussion on our Website or Facebook Page.

The ACI Steering Group is grateful to members who have forwarded their annual subscriptions during the pandemic. Help on how to do this is available here.


  1. Ger Hopkins

    We’re all very happy to see the outreach from the Bishops that marks the beginning of the preparations for the Synod.

    By asking for suggestions about how to gather input for the Synod the Bishops are also inviting us to take a look at who makes up the actively involved Catholic Community in Ireland.

    And perhaps that might bring some to look more closely at the huge online community of young, enthusiastic and, to a man and woman, conservative Irish Catholics.

    The Brendan Option, Decrevi, Servants HM, Patricius Ministries on Youtube
    Siol Na hEireann on Telegram
    @CatholicArena on Twitter or catholicarena.com
    Tim Jackson, Margaret Hickey, Ben Scallan and more on Gript.ie
    pavingthewayhome.com, calledtomore.org, holyfamilymission.ie, youth2000.ie, focusoncampus.org in UCD
    That’s a small fraction.

    Young (mostly), cutting edge, rock solid, down the line Catholic. And most of all there’s a real buzz about them.
    There’s a real energy. Some posting 10 times a day. A confident, unapologetic, vibrant community. Retweeted. Shared. Commented on. Involved in all the online arguments of the day.
    Fr. Brendan Kilcoyne is a rockstar. (Brendan might be getting on but the people behind his podcast are young. And they can’t get enough of Brendan.)
    On the street, at lockdown marches, people talk about being Catholic in a way that hasn’t happened in this country in years.

    It is growing like a bushfire.

    And in this world there is no desire being expressed for the ordination of women, ecumenism, Communion for the remarried, blessing of homosexual unions, any of it. Quite the opposite.

    I think the important thing to focus on here is that no one decided that the successful online message should be a conservative one. No one is in a position to.
    Instead, being subjected to the lightning fast evolution of online discussion – when every approach is being tried and tested – this is the message that succeeds. Why? Because in a virulently anti Catholic society any young person who wants to be a Catholic… wants to be a Catholic.

    No one decided the message should be this one and no one is in a position to change it. Nike, Coke and many many more spend millions on online communication and know that all they are able to do is ally themselves with a message, not change it.
    The alternative messages have already been tried. Pieces from The Tablet and National Catholic Reporter don’t gain traction. There aren’t any takers.
    We are left with the message that has won out in this crucible. Reality has dealt us this.


    I would like to offer my take on what this might mean for the members of ACIreland. (Stop reading now if you like.)

    Looking around this site no one can doubt your sincerity and commitment, how deeply you have considered things and how blessed you are with articulate spokesmen and organisers.
    Cherry picking from your Objectives and your Lumen Gentium 37 Submission, you are working for (among other things):

    ” Objectives
    . the full participation of women in every aspect of the Church.
    . a recognition of the wisdom of God’s people in the shaping of Catholic teaching, especially in the areas of sexuality, ecumenism and ecology.

    You believe the Church is unattractive to young people:

    ” Without this understanding of the heroic call of the Gospel to all, the Mass liturgy and homily will also necessarily lack inspirational meaning for the congregation – and especially for the young.
    It is the too frequent absence of this understanding in the Mass homily that leads so many of the young, in the years immediately following Confirmation, to find the Mass ‘boring’ and ‘irrelevant to our lives’.

    You believe that the solution to this problem lies principally in implementing the objectives mentioned above.

    But you also believe there is a more general failure to communicate and involve young people.
    In relation to that you call for:

    ” .mobilising all Catholic lay people to an activation of their own Christian priesthood to meet the challenges of their own environments;
    .alerting all Catholic young people at Confirmation to the relevance of their own priesthood to their own immediate life concerns and questions, and to all walks of life;
    .asserting our own adult conviction that no prayer to the Holy Spirit is unavailing;
    .enabling even the youngest to raise their own voices honestly in service of the truth;
    .restoring lost trust between ordained pastors and people;
    .restoring the prestige of the ordained priestly ministry and the Eucharist as agents of social betterment;
    .enabling homilists to preach more effectively on the role of all Christians living in the world;

    I would ask you to read carefully through each of those challenges and ask yourself how many are already being answered successfully by the vibrant, energised and rapidly growing community that exists online.

    Here’s my point. I’m reluctant to make it because I think it will be a painful one to hear. I’m trying to make it as respectfully as possible:

    The reality, as described in the first part of this post, is that there actually is a message that is proving wildly popular with young people. It is very different to what has been embraced by ACIreland members as being the answer. It doesn’t involve ordaining women, communion for protestants and the remarried or blessing gay unions.

    It would seem there’s a choice.
    . Do you put your energy in to facilitating and encouraging the next generation to practice their faith in the way they choose?
    . Or do you continue to devote your energy to having the Church implement your favoured policies. Something you have worked towards and hoped for most of your adult lives.

    You no longer have a problem and a solution, instead you have a dilemma.

    I understand your deep commitment to your favoured set of policies. It seems too much to change the certainties of a lifetime.
    But I also hope I’ve made it clear that thinking the answer lies in changing the views of the young online community and bringing them round to your own ideas represents a failure to understand the way that community comes to have those views in the first place.

    Your favoured policies are now actually the barrier to you communicating with young people.

    What little can be done? I don’t know. Maybe something that sounds simple and trite but that I think in practice would be monumentally hard and asks too much: Listen to the other side.

    Can that happen at the Synod? Unlikely, but I’ll say a prayer.

  2. soconaill

    By definition the missionary task is not complacently to insist that those who are content with ‘what is’ should determine the future, but to measure and understand the scale and nature of disconnection and alienation from ‘what is’. That measurement has still to be completed and reported in Ireland. The Irish bishops conference has not yet published whatever conclusions it came to in the wake of preparations for the 2018 Youth Synod, and that very fact should give Ger Hopkins pause.

    In the meantime what happens online happens online – and ACI’s pre-pandemic measuring of the shortfall in vibrant parish activity in relation to young people – especially in what was intended to happen at the launch of ‘Share the Good News’ in 2011 – has been vindicated by the recent welcome commitment of Irish Bishops to synodality. Had clergy and people been ‘walking together’ in 2011 there would be no need to begin doing that now, and every parish in Ireland would have a vibrant pastoral council, active in the formation of the faith of parishioners, from cradle to grave.

    The virtual disappearance of ‘Share the Good News’ – as admitted by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in 2019 – and the forecasting of ‘possible disaster’ in the wake of Covid 19 last week by Bishop Michael Duignan of Clonfert – are powerful witnesses against the complacency detectable in Ger Hopkins inventory of online vigour.

    Ger needs to realize that we ACI members have our own family networks and means of assessing the contentment of young people with the church as it is. We hope he will be as ready to listen to the disaffected and alienated as we will be to listen to him. Complacency and the talking up of online youthful conservative contentment – by someone who is too obviously an adult – sounds, frankly, far too much like denial to be convincing at this early stage.

    The only truly convincing evidence for the viability of Catholicism in future Irish generations will be the participation of young people, and their parents, in numbers, in parish liturgies and preparation for early sacraments – in fulfillment of the 2011 promise of ‘Share the Good News’. That was neither a conservative nor a liberal manifesto – simply an insistence that unless parents are growing in, and committed to, their faith, our schools on their own cannot secure the future. That message has been amply borne out in the years since then – and that task remains to be undertaken by conservatives and liberals alike.

    Listening will obviously be an equal obligation for all.

    • Ger Hopkins

      Sorry I missed your reply Sean and that I’ve taken so long to get back on it.

      Thank you for such a thoughtful, measured, sincere response with plenty of food for thought. This isn’t how internet discussion is supposed to be!

      First off I’d ask you to reconsider your characterisation of this young conservative community as complacent. They are anything but. They’re driven by a sense of being constantly under attack by those in power and the culture around them.
      Far from being content with how things are they see themselves as rebuilding the Church for their own generation. They’re not alone – they look to America. And there’s no mistaking their enthusiasm.

      They are a long way ahead of the online efforts of the Church hierarchy and most clergy. For a long time now ACIreland has hoped for a greater involvement of the laity in the life of the Church. A more leading role.
      What if this is it?

      As you say they are a minority, not even a large minority, of their peers. To be a young Irish Catholic today is to be countercultural.

      Most young Irish people, those in our extended families and their friends, are not just indifferent towards the Church they are outright dismissive of it.

      They have grown up with and internalised the outrageous anti Catholic prejudice of the old media in Ireland and the animosity towards the Church displayed by civil society.

      You may disagree, but one view is that when these young people are called on to articulate this inherited prejudice they rationalise it as a problem with the Church’s stance on LGBT, the role of women etc.

      Like I say you probably disagree.

      But the question remains: Would a change in the Church’s teachings, were it even possible, really change how the majority of young people see the Church?
      Would it make any difference to the culture of prejudice they are immersed in?
      I don’t know.

      You seem optimistic about the ability of Parish Councils to come up with, or advocate for, top down initiatives that would change that culture, or at least ameliorate its effect, and allow us to communicate more successfully with disaffected young people.
      You believe such an answer exists.

      But the improvement you’re talking about is a hypothetical one. One that would follow some change or successful initiative.

      Whereas there is a successful approach that exists already. We can see it working right now. It’s a bottom up, organic approach, market driven if you like. Self organising and where the most appealing form of the message has emerged spontaneously.

      Anything that generates enthusiasm offers us hope for the future. Enthusiasm counts for so much.
      I note your link to the launch of “Share the Good News” in 2011.
      Quote: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
      I may have drifted a long way away from what I was expected to say this morning. I may have given the impression that I am less than enthusiastic about the new Directory and about the point where we are in catechesis in Ireland. That was not my intention.
      That was the launch of the initiative.
      Is it surprising that in 2019 the Archbishop got to “admit” “it never really took off”?

      A thriving Parish Council can only be a good thing. But we seem to be setting the bar for success unreasonably high if we require Councils to come up with programs that successfully engage with and form the faith of the disaffected youth of the Parish. Especially in this climate.

      “the participation of young people, and their parents, in numbers, in parish liturgies and preparation for early sacraments” would be marvellous.
      There are young people working earnestly for this. There are others following their work with increasing interest. They would all be delighted to have one or two Parish Councils reach out to them. What that encounter could generate…

      I’ve never been accused of being “too obviously an adult” before but I like the sound of it! I might even start using it from now on.

      • soconaill

        Is it truly countercultural to ‘look to America’, Ger – where the culture is simply adversarialism: i.e pick a side and demonise the other?

        All binary typologies limp by both oversimplifying and inviting adversarialism. Not for nothing did Pope Francis call us at Pentecost to go beyond the conservative / progressive, traditional / innovator binary labels. Defining oneself simply in terms of who one opposes is so obviously NOT what Jesus did that I cannot fathom those who see that as conserving what is worth conserving in Christianity, or Catholicism.


        Adversarialism is also counter-evangelical. To see anti-Catholicism in Ireland today as the enemy to be overcome is to make oneself blind and incapable of seeing this rivalry as driven by the desire for status, i.e. the sin of pride. The most effective Catholic evangelists in Ireland today are not those gripped by resentment of Ireland’s new liberal elite and engaging in an online war against it but those who quietly respond to the needs of those who are ignored and despised – the worst casualties of the free market and the cult of celebrity.

        There is nothing counter-cultural in a culture war. It is always the same thing: the struggle for power – and rivals always reinforce one another, as happened here in the North over three decades. Culture war Catholicism will simply reinforce Irish anti-Catholic liberalism by proving itself in denial of the many sins that are now part of the long Irish archive of Catholic abuse of power here.

        In the Irish Catholic youth groups and movements you cite, is there no appreciation of Pope Francis’s brave bid to transcend mere adversarialism? If not, are they being misled?

        • Ger Hopkins

          Thanks once again for such a considered and thought provoking response, Sean.

          I wish I had either left out the sentence about “looking to America” or else made it clear what I meant. I was thinking of the great Catholic resources that are now available from America.
          Fr Mike Schmitz,
          Bishop Barron,
          Busted Halo etc.

          I didn’t mean that people here see themselves as Donald Trump’s lost legion.

          The Pope in his Pentecostal Homily is undoubtedly right about the pernicious effect of the culture wars in the US. Even inside the US church.

          But the Irish experience can’t be easily shoehorned in to that framework.
          One thing about your response that struck me was something that isn’t there. You don’t argue with the proposition that Irish society is anti Catholic. I think we both accept it as a fact of life. Which is pretty extraordinary really.

          The community we are talking about are not fighting the culture wars. They are taking a stand for what they believe in. “Here I stand I can do no other.”
          They are no more adversarial or guilty of pride than Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King or John Hume.
          To turn it on its head, when Mary McAleese takes a stand for the issues she believes in neither of us think she is “oversimplifying and inviting adversarialism” or “struggling for power”.

          The binary typology here, the false dichotomy, may be the idea that the only two options are fighting culture wars for the love of status or else “quietly responding to the needs of [others]”.

          In the space in between there are Priests such as the ones below. Complex, Irish, conservative but not defined by it, exuding warmth towards everyone, undeniably evangelical, powerless and charismatic.

          Fr Brendan Kilcoyne
          Fr Bill O’Shaughnessy
          Fr Gerard Quirke

  3. Mary Vallely

    Really interesting talk from David Timms last night and I thank Anthony for chairing, for Patricia and Edel for their efforts and Paschal for the prayer and the ACI committee for the opportunity. It was only my 2nd zoom session so hopefully I am getting the hang of it!
    Listening to the history of the Catholic Church in Australia I felt angry and ashamed at the ‘ bad apples’ that emanated from this corner of the world and heartbroken at the lives lost and ruined by the failure of good people to stop the arrogance and abuse perpetrated by so many of the ordained. My God but we are slow to learn!
    Have just submitted my 300 words to the ICBC ( closing date is Sunday 23 May) on how I wish to engage with this preparation for the Synod. Is there any other way now? It needs to be pushed and yet no one I know of in my own parish is aware of it happening. Hard not to be cynical but we must engage in order to change!


    • soconaill

      In my parish too, Mary, awareness of this initiative is almost non-existent – and our PP is most unlikely to enthuse about it. I remember a time when priests were ready to jump when a bishop coughed – but that was another time! Maybe that guess at five years as the time needed to get this deal moving is about right!

  4. soconaill

    As our site eventually disallows replies-to-replies-to-comments, I am inserting this response to Ger Hopins last response as a new comment.

    How is it helpful to say ‘Irish society is anti-Catholic’ when both ‘Irish society’ and ‘Catholic’ are highly complex and even contradictory phenomena?

    Given that 78% of the population of the ROI declared itself Catholic in the 2016 census it must follow that there are a lot of Irish Catholics who are anti-Catholic if Ger’s proposition is in some sense true.

    And since I as a Catholic am certainly alienated from certain historical aspects of Irish Catholicism – e.g. clerical authoritarianism – it can certainly be true that Catholics can be anti-Catholic in that sense. Is it helpful to say so, however – or to become defensive of an undefined Catholicism that has gathered a lot of historical baggage that is inessential to it and already in the process of falling away?

    As for the 22% who did not define themselves as Catholic in the 2016 census, if they are anti-Catholic, do we know what exactly they are hostile to, or if that is something essential to Catholicism, or a ditchable accretion?

    For me what is essential to Catholicism is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is key both to a viable global future and to an understanding of history. For all its faults, the Catholic church has given me, and continues to sustain, that belief – so whatever mistakes any society is currently making in terms of an anti-Catholic mindset are both understandable and bound to pass away – if we simply abide in the love of the Trinity. I do not feel in the least inclined towards hostility in relation to that hostile mindset, but instead obligated to help remove those ‘warts’ that even the Pope and Cardinal Mario Grech have ably identified.

    If Jesus could correctly say of his persecutors ‘they know not what they do’ and trust in the Father’s promise that the world that killed him was passing away, should we not pray for the same trust that this sometimes-hostile world is inevitably passing away also – and that by our patience we can help in that?

    I am already familiar with Bishop Barron, and I will eventually get through the rest of the links Ger has posted. I find them variable in terms of appeal, but am appreciating the experience nevertheless. He does not reference the two US-based Catholics who have most influenced me (Richard Rohr OFM and the academic René Girard) but these also help to make his point about the helpful side of US Catholicism.

    • Ger Hopkins

      Very helpful response Sean.

      When I spoke of Irish society as being anti-Catholic I meant those in Irish society with a voice and those with power.
      Maybe anti-Catholic culture might be a better fit.
      That still leaves us with a large number of people, without a voice, who are being constantly encouraged to view and speak about the Church in a negative light, but yet tell census takers that it is an important part of their identity.

      Of course I agree that the primary way to overcome this cultural prejudice – to watch it fall away – is for Catholics to lead by example. As you put it so well, we need to abide in the love of the Trinity.

      I might be wrong, Sean, but I think your view is that Catholics who want to engage with this prejudice in order to weaken and undermine it and point out its errors and contradictions can only be doing so as part of a culture war.
      Rather than lessening prejudice you believe they are trying to add to it.

      We have whole Orders that were founded on the idea of addressing error and preaching the truth about the Church.

      When people attending Confession in a nearly empty Church are thrown out by Gardai. (One of whom says F*** in front of the altar. He did apologise.)

      When the Guards are called to break up an outdoor public Rosary in Limerick by a resident up the road who then happily admits on Twitter that she hates the Church.

      When Irish restrictions on worship differ so markedly from the rest of Europe it is hard to see them as being based on “science” and epidemiology.

      Then as Catholics and believers shouldn’t we respond? Rationally, reasonably and in a spirit of promoting understanding. But not just ignoring it.

      Which brings us back to those who identify as Catholics in the census.
      If they don’t see members of the Church standing up for our freedom to worship they will conclude that we don’t see worship as important.
      Rightly or wrongly. But that’s definitely how it comes across. You can argue that there is another way to see it, but for an awful lot of people this is the impression created.
      If we are to lead by example, if we are to live in a way that says we think our religious practice is important, aren’t we obliged to address wrongs against it. And to demonstrate to those who are watching that we believe our Rites and Devotions have value.
      Isn’t this at least one way to abide in love of the Trinity?

      • soconaill

        To be dependent upon the good opinion of others for one’s own self-respect is of all conditions the worst, Ger. I am quite sure it is the prison from which Jesus came to release us.

        That is not to say that unjust and untrue attacks should never be answered with the truth, but I do not see e.g. unnecessary restrictions on church worship during a pandemic in that light. Indifference to people’s faith and administrative stupidity are not the same thing as bigotry, and to see anti-Catholicism even in Garda crassness when executing a probably unwelcome order from above is also a stretch.

        Misdirected anger is such a common problem today that we need to name it and also pray hard to avoid suffering from it ourselves. And never forget that there are many people in Ireland who have had a tragically negative experience of the church.

        That there is also unjust scapegoating of the church is also true – and unjust denial of its positive contribution to Irish society. But books like Derek Scally’s ‘The Best Catholics in the World’ are also out there to take a different tack, so I don’t see the point of attributing anti-Catholicism to ‘Irish society’ overall.

        That could be to make a mistake that Scally clearly identifies – to cast ourselves as victims when a deeper reflection on the past huge mistakes of Irish church leaders, and of a too-passive and deferential Irish Catholic culture, is called for. What could have led to the hiding of clerical abuses by bishops, other than the same undue need for the good opinion of ‘society’? Was it not surely the same fear of social shame that led our grandparents to acquiesce in the shaming of unfortunate single mothers?

        The power of social media in Ireland today is proof that our biggest problem is still the mistake of seeing our value as socially determined – as decided by ‘what people think’ of us. Our Christian faith at its most elemental is surely in someone who proved that to be untrue, by ‘overcoming the world’. We need to pray, constantly, for Jesus’s faith in Abba as the only truly reliable judge of all of us.

        There is an advantage to be gained from loss of social prestige – loss also of the social vertigo that prevents us seeing the worldly pyramid from the viewpoint of others who are socially despised. Should we not seize this advantage, and see that the Lord is now with us more closely than when we were more socially privileged?


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