Details of Thesis

Title Cultivating Fertile Soil: Formation for canonical governance
Author Thonber, John Henry
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2012
Abstract The fall in the number of religious staying in or joining religious life has become a significant issue for the governance of Church ministries, especially those in health, education and social welfare. Increasing numbers of lay people are becoming involved in senior management and governance responsibilities. The level of involvement of the laity had not been envisaged in the Code of Canon Law. Further the nature and importance of such roles raises the question of appropriate formation of the laity in governance informed by, and under the jurisdiction of Canon Law, i.e., canonical governance. This study researched the formation needs of lay people to undertake canonical governance roles and sought to develop a framework which would be relevant to address their needs. Church documents used in formation for priesthood Pastores Dabo Vobis (Pope John Paul II, 1992) and ecclesial lay workers Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005) provided the basis for identifying areas of need for formation of canonical governors as well as for developing a framework applicable to this new field of endeavour in the Church. A constructivist paradigm was chosen as the epistemological basis for the research and an interpretivist perspective was adopted. A survey was designed nominating traits as qualities for canonical governors. These traits were drawn from the areas identified in the core documents. The survey items invited respondents to nominate agreement or otherwise on a Likert-type scale on the desirability of the traits for canonical governors and whether they perceived the traits in evidence currently. The survey was administered on-line and offered to people with expertise in the field. Responses came from seven countries, the majority from Australia and the USA. A selection of survey item results was then used with interviewees with expertise in canonical governance for their insights on the traits in the light of the survey responses. The survey findings strongly supported the desirable traits but did not as strongly report that the traits were currently seen in action. The structure of the survey also provided support for developing a framework for formation of canonical governors. The findings from the interviews also strongly supported the nominated traits as desired and expressed concern at the discrepancy in the survey responses between the desired and perceived enactment of the traits. There was concern at the perceived lack of understanding by those with canonical governance responsibilities of ecclesiology, missiology and Canon Law; and how these elements are connected to canonical governance and the nature of Church ministries in which they are involved. On the basis of the findings from the survey and the interviews a framework for formation for canonical governance is proposed. This framework draws from Vatican II documents for formation Optatam Totius (Abbott, 1966f) on priestly formation and Apostolicam Actuositatem (Abbott, 1966b) on lay formation and where formally nominated in the core documents: Pastores Dabo Vobis and Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. Findings from this study indicate that there is an urgent need for a formation framework for canonical governance to be articulated and understood by Bishops, leaders of Religious Institutes, formators and canonical governors, present and future. The recommendations from this study are that: 1. the scope of formation for canonical governance needs should be broad and clearly defined. The four dimensions of formation need: human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual provide a basis for identifying these areas of need. 2. A framework for formation for canonical governance should have the following components: a recognized and valid base in ecclesial literature and related Church teaching, a means of identifying formation needs, and principles to underpin the collection and analysis of data about formation needs and how the results of such analysis are used.
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