"On 31 August 2018, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) released their official Response to 80 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It came 259 days after the Royal Commission’s Final Report, and 123 days after the Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) advised them on what to do....".....Full editorial HERE
EVENTS (see EVENTS page for details)
SIP: Is the Central Power of the Papacy Today here to stay? 19 September, Paul Collins
ACU/UAC: Walter Silvester Mem. Lecture - Considering Politics and Justice through the Prisms of Executions. 30 Oct. Julian McMahon AC SC
New research shows Australian teens have complex views on religion and spirituality
Extract from Andrew Singleton, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Research, Deakin University; Anna Halafoff, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Deakin University; Gary D Bouma, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University (and friend of The Conversation); Mary Lou Rasmussen, Professor, School of Sociology, Australian National University, The Conversation, September 18, 2018It’s perhaps not surprising that few Australian teens are engaged in formal religion and its practice. But, according to a new national study, many young people are nonetheless interested in spirituality, taking a complex and broad-minded approach to the issue. As researcher Andrew Singleton writes, the findings further challenge the idea that Australia is largely a Christian country, with teenagers at the forefront of overturning old ideas and constructing new ones. The researchers found that teenagers broadly fit into six groups on matters of spirituality, from those with strong convictions to those questioning and discovering. And what is also striking is that they are remarkably tolerant of others’ views on the matter. As the researchers often heard: “it’s all good”. The 2016 Census suggested about a third of Australian teens had no religion. But ask a teenager themselves about religion, rather than the parent or guardian filling in the census form, and the picture is slightly different. According to our new national survey, at least half of teens say they are “religious nones” - those who do not identify with a religion or religious group. Digging deeper, we found a more complicated picture of faith and spirituality among young Australians. Most Gen Z teens have little to do with organised religion in their personal lives, while a significant proportion are interested in different ways of being spiritual. Migration, diversity, secularisation and a burgeoning spiritual marketplace challenge the notion that we are a “Christian” country. More than any other group, teenagers are at the forefront of this remaking of Australian religion. Their daily experience of secondary school and social media sees them bumping into all kinds of difference. Teens are forming their own strong views about existential matters. Our national study by scholars from ANU, Deakin and Monash – the AGZ Study – comprises 11 focus groups with students in Years 9 and 10 (ages 15-16) in three states, a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,200 people aged 13-18, and 30 in-depth, follow-up interviews. …(more) Image: Teenagers, abstract collage, Katrina Frazer
Father Hans Zollner: Post abuse crisis, how can we get back to our Christian roots?
Extract from Jim McDermott, America, The Jesuit Review, 17 September 2018
Hans Zollner, S.J., is a licensed German psychologist and
psychotherapist with a doctorate in theology and one of the church’s
leading experts in the area of safeguarding minors. He is the president
of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian
University in Rome, a member on the Pontifical Commission for the
Protection of Minors and a consultor to the Congregation for the Clergy.
America spoke with Father Zollner in July and followed up recently as the sexual abuse crisis in the United States continues to roil the church. This is the first of three interviews James McDermott, S.J., is conducting about the abuse crisis.
What is your reaction to what we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere over the last month?
The strongest impression I have is that it has now reached another level. The discussion and the awareness and the intensity, especially in the United States, is very surprising because you have gone through this for many years already. And it brings out the American [social and political] divisions that are visible in the country and in the church.
why is it so shocking for so many, left and right of the divide? It is
because the extent of the cover-up by church leaders in the past and
their co-responsibility for it (no matter what their ideological
persuasion) are becoming clearer now. And then the question is how
people deal today with all these issues.....(More)
NZ: What victims want most: justice
Extracts from Opinion, ODT Insight, Otago Daily Times, 8 September 2018
..... But, most of all, they want the Catholic Church to answer for what happened. Which is exactly why the Catholic Church, and churches of all stripes, need to be part of the Government’s pending Royal Commission into historic abuse. And not just included, but put under the microscope. Investigated. Cross-examined. And compelled to answer questions.Because, even to this day, old habits die hard. Dunedin’s new Catholic Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, seems like a good and honourable man. He has fronted media and his parishioners, expressed shock and pain at recent revelations, apologised to victims and the city for past events and urged those still suffering in silence to come forward. But he remains reluctant to answer some tough questions. Bishop Dooley won’t say how many complaints have been received, or how many past offenders he is aware of, within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin. That information will only be revealed to police or the Royal Commission, not to media, the bishop says. He is also not yet prepared to discuss some allegations levelled against clergy, including those aimed at one of the most senior figures within the diocese in recent times. Instead, he has insisted Dunedin’s problem remains small compared with the shocking revelations seen in other countries, from the United States and Ireland to Australia. But, as he does so, the list of alleged offenders from the Deep South keeps growing........New Zealand must follow in Australia’s footsteps, despite the extra time and cost involved, and include churches - and all of their various settings - in a truly inquisitorial Royal Commission. Only then will we finally get to the bottom of who did what, and when, in this country. Only then will sunlight finally expose the true extent of the problem. Only then will victims have justice....(More) Image NZ Maori Fern patterni.net
Health and Integrity conference calls for a ‘reformation’ of Australia’s churches following Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Media Release, Friday 31 August 2018
In a week when the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults in church institutions has once again been making international headlines, a conference of Christian churches in Melbourne has called on Australia’s churches to embrace thoroughgoing reformation of their structures, governance and culture inthe wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The three-day ecumenical Health and Integrity in Church and Ministry conference on the task of rebuilding and renewal for the churches after the Royal Commission (27–29 August 2018), was hosted by the University of Divinity and sponsored by three leading Catholic religious institutes and Yarra Theological Union. The conference was attended by church members and leaders, academics, clergy and religious, ministers and church workers, survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates, and groups advocating church reform.....(full Media Release HERE)
Archbishop Comensoli meets mother of abuse victim
Extracts from CathNews, ABC News, 31 August 2018
Pope Francis must lead on the sexual abuse crisis
Extract from The Editors, America - The Jesuit Review, 28 August 2018
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s 11 pages of accusations against Pope Francis and other church leaders have weaponized the church’s sexual abuse crisis, shifting the focus from listening to survivors to Vatican intrigues. Yet these new accusations amount to more of the same problem the church already had: priests, bishops and popes who, when they learned of abuse, protected each other rather than the victims. The recommendations we made when the McCarrick case was first revealed, in July, and after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, in August, still stand: The church must prioritize listening to survivors of abuse and seeking justice for them. Clear public mechanisms to report abuse and misconduct and to discipline bishops who fail in their duties must be established. The church must undertake a comprehensive, transparent accounting of its tragic failures over the past decades and conduct and cooperate with any necessary investigations. To achieve true reform, Pope Francis must give this crisis his full focus. His letter to the church and his statements in Ireland are a start, but he must follow through and make them concrete. Francis’ refusal to respond to the Viganò accusations may be an attempt to stay above the fray rather than dignify a venomous ideological attack. Nonetheless, the pope’s refusal is an insufficient pastoral response for a church that is deeply wounded. The best way for Pope Francis to respond to the attempt to use the sexual abuse crisis as a weapon in the culture war is to be honest and humble himself, as he ultimately was in his response to abuse survivors in Chile, and to lead the church in caring for those who are hurting the most.....(MORE) Photo: America - The Jesuit Review, CNS Paul Haring
Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) Investigation Report August 2018, UK
Extract from Executive summary with link to full report, 14 August 2018
There are 10 English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) monasteries in England and none in Wales. Some of the abbeys have schools associated with them, including Ampleforth and Downside. Both are regarded as leading Catholic independent schools, each with acknowledged academic and sporting achievement, and both are now co-educational. The EBC is not pyramidical in structure; it has no recognisable line management oversight. Each abbot or abbess has responsibility for their own community, which is autonomous. Nor does the monastic order fit neatly into the Catholic diocesan structure, meaning that the relationship to a diocesan bishop is usually collaborative rather than hierarchical. It is difficult to describe the appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children aged as young as seven at Ampleforth School, and 11 at Downside School. Ten individuals, mostly monks, connected to these two institutions have been convicted or cautioned in relation to offences involving sexual activity with a large number of children, or offences concerning pornography. The true scale of the abuse however is likely to be considerably higher. Some examples of the abuse are set out below......(full report)
© Crown copyright 2018
Members of Women's Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) respond to 'synodal' Church call for comments in relation to Institutional Sexual Abuse, Tuesday 24 July 2012
On 22nd July, the Feast of of Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles, members of Women's Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) submitted a response to the Synodal call of the Church in relation to the Australian Catholic Church’s role in, and response to, the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse. The response calls for a complete apology from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the National Council for Catholic Religious Australia wherein they take full responsibility for past acts of systematic concealment of the crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable individuals. Together with other comments the response also calls for the immediate release of the final Statement of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to all Australian Catholics. A copy of the full statement including details of their group is available HERE. Image: Saint Mary Magdalene, Icon by Br. Robert Lenz OFM
Change of era in Australia
We are in a change of era and the shape of that era is only just beginning to be explored.
Limited Extract from Michael Kelly SJ, Bangkok, Subscription journal La croix International, 5 July 2018
In a line for his vision for renewal and change, Pope Francis captured something that is true for the church across the world but most especially for the church in Australia. The pope described our time in the church and wider society as “not so much an era of change as a change of era.”
The Catholic Church turned its back on Father Glen Walsh, says his brother
Extract from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle herald, 23 June 2018
GLEN Walsh was the whistleblower Catholic priest who died alone in a Newcastle church building in November, only weeks before he was due to give damning evidence at the trial of Archbishop Philip Wilson. He took his own life, aged 55 – a priest who paid a devastating price for reporting Hunter paedophile priest Jim Fletcher to police in 2004, while the archbishop kept silent about what he knew. “The church turned its back on Glen,” said his brother, John, only weeks after Wilson was convicted in Newcastle for concealing Fletcher’s crimes, in a case that made headlines around the world. “My brother was a good priest but he was completely shell-shocked after what happened in 2004. He was a shattered man. I watched as he became a shadow of the man he once was,” John Walsh said. Father Walsh’s family has broken the silence imposed by the Wilson trial to reveal the agony they experienced after his suicide. The priest died only months after Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright issued an extraordinary message to Hunter Catholic priests on February 10, 2017. The bishop urged clergy to welcome Father Walsh back to the Hunter region. It was more than a decade after the priest was “perhaps sent to Coventry” to live in Sydney and the Central Coast after reporting child sex allegations about Jim Fletcher to police in 2004, Bishop Wright noted. He became something of a whistle-blower and he encountered the opposition and ill-feeling that whistle-blowers often do. Bishop Bill Wright about Father Glen Walsh “What is important to realise is that, essentially, Glen did the right thing,” Bishop Wright wrote....(more). Photo: Newcastle Herald.
Presentation of the Pontifical Yearbook 2018 and of the "Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae" 2016, 13.06.2018
Whilst perhaps not a headline to command attention the substance of this translated Bulletin from the Holy See Media Office contains a great deal of interesting data on the composition of the Catholic Church and its global demographics.
Extract from Google translation (with caveats on translation accuracy), Holy See Press Office, Saturday 16 June 2018
Edited extract from Google translation (with caveats on accuracy), Holy See Press Office, Saturday 16 June 2018
The Pontifical Yearbook 2018 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2016, which was edited by the Central Statistical Office of the Church, are currently being distributed in bookstores, with a delay due to the passage to more advanced methods of editing and production. and performing of the two yearbooks. The printing work of both volumes was done by the Vatican Press. From the reading of the data reported in the Pontifical Yearbook, we can deduce some news concerning the life of the Catholic Church in the world, starting from 2017. During this period, 6 new Episcopal seats and 4 Eparchies were erected; a diocese has been elevated to the Metropolitan Seat and 3 Apostolic Vicariates have been raised to the Diocese. The statistical data of the Annuarium Statisticum , referring to the year 2016, allow us to update some basic numerical aspects of the Catholic Church in the world context and highlight the most marked and most important trends. The number of baptized Catholics in the world rose from 1,285 million in 2015 to 1,299 million in 2016, with an overall increase of 1.1%. This increase is lower than the average annual increase recorded during the period 2010-2015 (1.5%); and again this growth is slightly lower than that of the world population between 2015 and 2016; so that the relative presence of baptized Catholics does not diminish by a few thousandths: from 17.73 Catholics per 100 inhabitants in 2015 to 17.67 in the following year. The distribution of Catholics, according to the different demographic weight of the different continents, is different in the various geographical areas....(more of the Google translation HERE)
National apology for child sexual abuse survivors
Extract from CathNews, The Australian, 14 June 2018
The Turnbull Government has promised to deliver a national apology to survivors and victims of institutional child sexual abuse, and their families, later this year, as part of its official response to the royal commission. Source: The Australian. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its findings late last year, giving the commonwealth, state and territory governments six months to respond. Of the 409 recommendations made, 122 fell wholly or partially under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. “We’ve already acted on many of the recommendations of the commission, but today, we accept or accept in-principle 104 of the remaining 122 recommendations directed wholly or in part to the Australian government,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. “The additional 18 recommendations have been noted as they require further consideration. We’ve not rejected any of the royal commission’s recommendations.” Mr Turnbull announced a new federal office to monitor child safety and said he would deliver his national apology on October 22 to coincide with National Children’s Week. He has formed a national apology reference group to ensure the apology meets the expectations of survivors. “Now that we’ve uncovered the shocking truth, we must do everything in our power to honour the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward,” he said. On the question of the seal of the confessional, Mr Turnbull said the safety of children must come first, but he acknowledged it was largely an issue for the states to determine and Attorney-General Christian Porter would be talking to the states to try and ensure a harmonised outcome. Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, welcomed the government’s response to the royal commission , including measures to standardise approaches to child safety and research to help prevent child sexual abuse in the future. “The Catholic Church has already begun its work to respond to the recommendations of the royal commission. Some of those responses began during the course of the royal commission,” he said....(more)
Bishops in the headlights
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Blog, 31 May 2018Catholic bishops throughout the world should regard themselves as on notice following the dramatic offer of resignations by all the bishops of Chile. There are already calls (Paul Collins) for Australian bishops to emulate the Chilean bishops in light of the damning report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, not to mention the recent conviction of an Australian archbishop on concealment charges and the imminent trial of another on sex abuse allegations. In many ways, the Catholic hierarchy is becoming increasingly isolated from the faithful. Six months after the Royal Commission’s final report, we are still waiting for the Australian Catholic Bishops to seek the views of the faithful, let alone to respond to the Commission’s findings particularly their call for a national review of the governance of dioceses and parishes, including transparency, accountability, and participation of lay men and women. And the bishops’ Plenary Council in 2020/21 is looking more and more like a means of avoiding real immediate action on grave failings – see Chris Geraghty’s recent commentary – with a questionable local commitment from most bishops judging from diocesan websites. The bishops seem to be collectively “circling the wagons, locking the doors and huddling together”, the very response condemned by Archbishop Coleridge, the new President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) in his Pentecost message. Regrettably, many bishops appear to have little real regard for the views of the faithful…..(more)
Australian bishops call for religious freedom laws to be updated after government receives report
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 28 May 2018
The Federal Government has received a report into religious freedom
Australia, but it could be weeks before the findings are made public.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the review following concerns that last year’s legalisation allowing same-sex marriage could undermine freedom of religion. Former attorney general Philip Ruddock has led a panel of experts, including Catholic lawyer Jesuit Father Frank Brennan, examining the issue. The panel heard from Christian groups that argued religious schools should be able to teach children the value of traditional marriage without being reported to authorities over discrimination. As well, there should be no legal detriment to anyone, in a workplace or elsewhere, expressing the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference called for laws to be updated to recognise religious freedom. “Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right,” the ACBC said in its submission. “Australia’s laws need to be updated to ensure we continue to enjoy freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the associated freedom of association.” The bishops said Catholic schools should be allowed to refuse employing staff whose personal behaviour or actions were “contrary to the values of the school”. “The freedom of Catholic schools to employ staff who embrace Christianity is essential for providing effective religious education and faith formation to their students,” they said. However, Church critics argued religious schools should be forced to hire LGBTI teachers. A submission by the Equality Campaign called for the repeal of church rights, including the right to hire and fire on the basis of gender and sexuality in line with religious teaching. “The law already goes too far in allowing religious organisations to discriminate through broad exemptions in federal and state discrimination laws,” law lecturer and Queensland director of Australian Marriage Equality Peter Black said in a submission made on behalf of The Equality Campaign lobbying for the repeal of church rights. The bishops’ submission addressed many practical issues of concern to religious believers – including whether churches can legally refuse to hire their halls for wedding receptions that go against their beliefs, and laws that force doctors who disagree with abortion to refer patients to another medical practitioner. It pointed out that ….(more) Photo: The Catholic Leader
Australia's bishops strongly criticised for missing victims in Wilson conviction response
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 24 May 2018
ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson is a convicted criminal in denial who should resign immediately, say critics who have slammed his comments after Tuesday’s landmark guilty finding and his decision to stand down “in the light of some of his Honour’s findings”. The former Maitland-Newcastle priest and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference came under sustained criticism after initial statements that failed to acknowledge the gravity of Wilson being found guilty of failing to act against child sex offender priest Jim Fletcher. They also failed to mention the Hunter victims of Fletcher’s crimes. NSW Parliament will be asked to support a motion criticising the bishops for a statement on Tuesday that highlighted Wilson “maintained his innocence throughout this long legal process”. But it contained no apology or regret that Wilson and the Catholic Church “failed the boys who relied on them for help”.......Former Catholic priest, academic and leading Catholic reformer Peter Wilkinson, who co-authored a groundbreaking study on the global child sexual abuse tragedy, agreed with senior Catholic Father Frank Brennan that Wilson should stand down until any appeal process is completed and resign if magistrate Stone’s decision is upheld. Wilson had “no alternative but to take this course of action”, Mr Wilkinson said. “Not to stand aside, pending an appeal, would send some totally unacceptable messages to the broad Australian community - that a conviction in a court of law is not all that serious; that his ‘personal disappointment’ at the Magistrate’s finding could somehow lessen his culpability; and that it is okay to continue in his official church role, as if nothing significant has happened,” Mr Wilkinson said.....(more)
Priestly Formation: Extract of Letter from US Association of Priests to US Bishops Conference Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, 25 January 2018, Linked here 21 may 2018
Dear Cardinal Tobin and Committee Members: Since the December 8, 2016 Congregation for the Clergy’s release of The Gift of the Priestly Vocation (Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis—3rd Edition), with its mandate that each conference of bishops update its Program of Priestly Formation, we of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) have felt called and duty-bound to contribute to this important process. Our 2017 Assembly in Atlanta made addressing it one of our three top priorities for 2017-2018. A Working Group was established and has worked diligently since August 2017 to prepare observations, concerns, and proposals regarding five crucial components of priestly formation. Our study and reflection persuade us that a new Program of Priestly Formation needs more than minimal editing of the current Program of Priestly Formation (5th Edition). It needs in-depth revision. Our comments are made in response to the significant challenges facing the Church in the United States. These include the departure of millions of Catholics from active participation and membership in the Church, the decline in the number of active priests and of candidates for the priesthood, fewer converts, fewer Church weddings, fewer baptisms, fewer parishes, growing identification of Americans as ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’, and many more issues. The seminary model currently in place needs major modifications in the light of these issues. In the attached document we address five major areas, express our concerns, and offer specific recommendations under each. Our thoughts are grounded in the teachings of Vatican II, the talks and writings of Pope Francis regarding priesthood and formation, and in what we have learned based on our own experience as candidates for the priesthood, as seminary faculty, and on our pastoral experience as parish priests......(more)