A NETWORK of Catholic priests not afraid to challenge Vatican edicts will hold its national convention in Warrnambool in July.
More than 160 members of the National Council of Priests of Australia will come from across the country for a week of brainstorming and socialising in the heartland of Irish Catholic heritage.
Discussion topics are likely to include marriage, abuse scandals and a controversial new liturgy being introduced through parishes.
The membership includes prominent Melbourne media identity Father Bob Maguire and a former Anglican who is now a married Catholic priest.
“We are the questioning priests who are not afraid to challenge,” said council chairman Father Eugene McKinnon, now of Donald but formerly of south-west Victoria.
“Our organisation offers support to priests who ask big questions.
“But we would certainly not say we are a breakaway group. The Catholic church needs both conservatives and the challengers.” Conventional Catholic cages will be rattled by guest speakers including outspoken UK priest and author Father Timothy Radcliffe and Sydney journalist and lecturer Chris McGillion.
Last year Father Radcliffe, former Master of the Order of Preachers, was banned by the Vatican from delivering a keynote address to the Catholic aid agencies’ international forum.
McGillion has written several books including frank interviews with priests on topics such as loneliness and marriage.
“We normally aim to find challenging speakers,” Father McKinnon said. “Our concern is that the church needs to be relevant to modern society.
“The convention theme is navigating our way in a changing world. You don’t just sail along, you’ve got to steer the ship.”
Ballarat diocese bishop Peter Connors and Brisbane auxiliary bishop Brian Finnigan, formerly of Warrnambool, will also attend.
The gathering will be held at the Lady Bay and Sebel Deep Blue resorts from July 16 to 20.