Last Sunday night Compass featured a film which was mainly made in the Melbourne Archdiocese called “Challenge, Change, Faith: Catholic Australia and the Second Vatican Council”. It was produced for the Burke Family Trust by X-Ray Vision. It features a lot of people we know, and uses some film footage from the Melbourne archives that I have been lucky enough to see in full (you will see Rachel Naughton, our archivist, listed in the credits).
It starts with our own Archbishop celebrating an Extraordinary Form mass at Caulfield (pick the people you know in the congregation!), and then launches into a description of Catholic life in Australia in the 1950’s (predominantly Irish), the election of John XXIII, the Council, the changes to the liturgy, the aftermath of the Council.
It includes a real mixed bag of commentators – everyone from Cardinal Pell to Bishop Robinson to Fr Bob Maguire – but has the virtue of telling the narrative by stringing together excerpts from these interviews: it is “all in their own words”. For this reason, the documentary actually invites deeper study and conversation: you want to say “Yes, that’s exactly right”, or “No, that isn’t the way it was”, or “Yes, but…”. There is no almighty omnipresent invisible narrator who gives the authoritative interpretation – you are aware that you are dealing with impressions and personal stories and interpretations. While the interviewees are perhaps weighted more on the “left” than on the “right”, the producers are careful not play the stories off against one another. Nor are they heavy handed with the message. The archival film footage – both local and from Rome – is really excellent.