I regret that my Marins article (July AD2000) was read as an "attack" (Denis O'Leary's letter, August) as I tried to be objective. While it may not echo everything that Denis would like to hear about the Marins model of Church, it was cautiously supportive provided the model is applied within an orthodox framework.
My main point was captured and confirmed by Dr White (letters, August): that as (apparently) in Adelaide, so also in Ballarat Diocese there appears to exist a vocal and influential group of Catholics, mainly female, including religious, which supports the Marins model as a convenient vehicle for imposing a non-hierarchical, lay-led Church structure on our diocesan communities. That the disloyalty to Papal authority implicit in this stance is tolerated is another issue.
Whether Fr Marins' team intended this (distorted) application of his model is unclear, and I am reluctant to blame him for how it is subsequently applied by workshop participants. However, I am critical that his workshop method allowed too much for individual interpretation which, clearly, is of variable quality when measured against orthodoxy.
An obvious question arising from the articles and correspondence on this issue so far is: do we really need this model of Church to apply Canon 211 about the obligation of the laity to undertake out-reaching missionary activities as a normal part of their day-to-day lives? Are not the existing organisations such as Legion of Mary, Focolare and the pastoral committees of parish pastoral councils, inter alia, adequate for this task? Perhaps they just need to be properly set up to increase their "street-walking" missionary focus.
Another issue is the extent of our missionary obligation. Clearly, lapsed Catholics are a priority target, along with the disadvantaged and marginalised in our communities, and spreading our evangelical net to the wider society.
Our missionary effort can have even greater impact on society in general if strategically targeted to the various levels of government, by lobbying the decision-makers in favour of legislation based on traditional Christian moral values. Again, the appropriate lay vehicles for this politically-oriented activity are available.
Another concern is that the factionalisation of the Church between the orthodox and 'liberal' elements is sapping our evangelical energy and effort at a time when society slides ever deeper into the anti-Christian morass. If the Church is serious about promoting missionary activity in its widest application, a fundamental need is unequivocal and clear direction and empowerment of its laity by a coherent and cohesive leadership.
In effect, if not by intention, the Marins model is "muddying the water" even more.