Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

News 2018

    A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
     Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.
EDITORIAL
Seeking Christ-like Leadership: Inclusive, Transparent, and Accountable
Extract from Editorial.         (Read full editorial HERE)
New ACBC President
All Australia’s bishops have met this week to consider the grave challenges facing our Church and to elect a new President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has been elected to that role and has quickly confirmed the bishops’ major focus “to address the recommendations of the Royal Commission and prepare for the upcoming Plenary Council.”

Plenary Council consultations
Catholics for Renewal has constantly stressed the importance of grassroots consultations in preparation for the 2020/21 Plenary Council – responding to the sensus fidelium, the sense of faith of the faithful - together with urgent action on the Church’s dysfunctional governance as recommended by the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This Plenary Council is an important reform in itself through its involvement of the faithful and will hopefully set the standard for future governance of the Church at all levels, becoming accountable, transparent and inclusive, as envisaged by Pope Francis. However, the Council must not be used as a means of kicking urgent critical issues down the road for a few more years. David Timbs of Catholics for Renewal has analysed the situation of the Church in Australia......Read full Editorial (and see image details) HERE.   
Previous Editorial: Getting Catholic Church Renewal happening now (Here)
2nd last Editorial: A Christmas Message from the Royal Commission (Here)
3rd last Editorial: Bishops must engage their dioceses now
(Here)
4th last Editorial: Circling the Wagons (Here)
Earlier EDITORIALS

Plenary Council 2020 Information Session
Thursday 30 August, 7.30–9.30pm
St Francis Xavier, 86 Mayona Road, Montmorency,    Hosted by the Diamond Valley Deanery and Yarra Deanery
Details/Booking:  HERE 

Catalyst for Renewal, with The Grail, presents An Evening with John Allen, Jr.
Pope Francis and the Devolution of responsibility to the Local Church.
Thursday, 6th September, 7.30 p.m.  St Peter’s Church, 844 Centre Rd. East Bentleigh.
Details and bookings on EVENTS page
Concerned Catholics Public Forum
The Future of the Catholic Church in Australia: The role of the laity in Church renewal - (Details and Flyer on EVENTS page)
7:30pm:  Tuesday 11 September 2018  The Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture,55 Blackall Street Barton ACT. 
Speakers: Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta, Ms Anne Kirwan, CEO Catholic Care Canberra-Goulburn,

Sr Clare Condon, Good Samaritan Sister

We need a missionary rather than a perfect church
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly SSC,  St Columbans Missionary Society, 15 August 2018
As I travel around Australia promoting the Plenary Council I encounter both scepticism and hope. The most frequent question is “will the bishops listen?” At the same time there is a reservoir of hope in people. They love the church and want to be a part of its future. They want to talk and they want to be listened to. My hope is that we can build a church in which lay men and especially women can play their rightful role in the ministry and governance of the church, and where we can learn to trust one another, bishops and all the people of God.             But in recent weeks I have been giving more thought to the question posed for the Council, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” The question refers to Australia not to the church. The Plenary Council is not just for our church but for our country.  Even if we were to come up with a transformed church, if the country does not benefit we will have “failed”. We will have failed because we will have failed to be church.    Pope Francis keeps reminding us to stop being preoccupied with ourselves and to go out into the streets as missionary disciples prepared to get dirty and bruised. There we will find renewal and transformation.   We must remember that the goal of mission is not primarily about the expansion or perfection of the church but the revelation of God’s love and the realisation of God’s liberating plan for the universe. It is a plan for a “Kingdom” larger than the church....(more)
What can I say to my kids when they ask why we keep faith in this church?
Extracts from Kerry Weber, America - The Jesuit Review, 15 August 2018
I dragged my kids to 8 a.m. Mass this morning for the Feast of the Assumption. It was one of those days where the “obligation” part of the Holy Day felt particularly heavy. There is a small parish within a short walking distance of our home, but we are still adjusting to the logistics of leaving the house with two kids, so my husband, our 3-month-old, our 2-year-old and I managed to roll our stroller quietly to the back pew of the church around the time the first reading started. I pointed out the pictures in the stained glass of Jesus and Mary and Joseph to my son who snacked on Cheerios while my husband juggled my daughter on his shoulder, slowly becoming drenched in drool.            We make the effort, however imperfectly, because I want my son and daughter to know that our faith is important, because I want them to choose to live it themselves one day, because I believe it is good. And my belief in the good at the heart of our faith is why I have tried hard to contribute to the institution, too: to find community in our parish, to spend hours researching local Catholic schools, saving to pay for them, budgeting to make donations to the church, to Catholic charities.          And then I came home from Mass, and while the kids napped beside me, I started reading the grand jury report of sexual abuse in several dioceses of Pennsylvania. I could only get through a few pages before feeling physically ill and being filled with a sense of disgust and anger and betrayal that I know is only a fraction of what the abuse victims and their families must have felt for so long........I have found myself for the first time truly afraid of what it means to ask and to allow my children to be part of the church. Can I trust that they will be safe as altar servers or students or just going to Mass? And what I would say if my children were to one day ask me, why? Why in the face of such systemic horrors committed by the people supposedly leading the church did we stumble down the street to Mass each week?....(MORE)   Photo: America - The Jesuit Review.  
Catholic priests in Pennsylvania have sexually abused hundreds of children since the 1950s: report
Extracts from ABC News, 15 August 2018
More than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses and senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report.      The grand jury said it believed the "real number" of abused children might be "in the thousands" since some records were lost and victims were afraid to come forward.     The report said more than 300 clergy committed th    "And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up," he said.    "These documents, from the dioceses' own 'secret archives,' formed the backbone of this investigation.".....Some current and former clergy named in the report went to court to prevent its release, arguing it violated their constitutional rights to reputation and due process of law.     The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania said the public had a right to see the report, but ruled the names of priests and others who objected to the findings would be blacked out pending a hearing on their claims in September.....(MORE) 

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

Woman appointed to head battle against sexual abuse in Chilean Church
The appointment of Ana Maria Celis Brunet, a lawyer specializing in church law, illustrates Pope Francis’ commitment to ending clericalism
Limited extract from  Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, Chile, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 August 2018
Chile’s Catholic bishops have appointed Ana Maria Celis Brunet, an experienced lawyer and theologian, to lead the fight against clerical sexual abuse in her new role as president of the National Council of the Chilean Church for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Accompaniment of....(source)
Incisive book on fundamentalism paints nuanced picture
Award-winning text shows how extremism can be dangerously attractive and points to its place in specific religious traditions.
Limited extract from Father William J. Grimm MM, Tokyo, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 13 August 2018
It is not surprising that Christian fundamentalists are attracted to the apocalyptic aspects of the Gospels, epistles and of course the Book of Revelation.     They describe the end, and fundamentalists are people whose world appears to be in danger of ending, or may have ended already and is in need of resurrection.     That sense of a world having been lost or threatened is not limited to Christians. Gerald Arbuckle, a Marist priest who is a cultural anthropologist and theologian, shows in his latest book how the threat or reality of loss is a common thread that links the various forms of fundamentalism.    His book, Fundamentalism at Home and Abroad: Analysis and Pastoral Responses, was released by the Liturgical Press in 2017.     Such loss, whether real or imagined, can result from intellectual, theological, economic, political, demographic or ethnic changes to the established situation, and no one is exempt from the tendency.....(source)  Photo:La Croix International
Young Europeans increasingly distant from religion   While there are fewer young people, they are more committed,
Limited extract from Arnaud Bevilacqua and Gauthier Vaillant, 1st published 22 March 2018,  republished in subscription journal La Croix International, 9 August 2018
Statistics from a joint study by the Catholic Institute of Paris and St. Mary’s Catholic University at Twickenham in Greater London on the religious affiliation of young people aged 16-29 in Europe will undoubtedly make an impression on participants at the Pre-Synod now under way in Rome.     In 12 out of the 21 European countries studied, plus Israel, most young people say they have no religion. This figure rises to 91 percent in the Czech Republic.   This decline in religious affiliation, which should not be confused with belief in God, which can be distinguished from belonging to a religion....(source)
Restructuring parishes- A move from necessity to audacity
Limited extract from Gauthier Vaillant, first published 28 May 2018, republished subscription journal La Croix International, 9 August 2018
The Archdiocese of Albi offers an opportunity to reflect on new ways of evangelization.  Located in the Tarn region of southern France, the Archdiocese of Albi has been divided into 503 parishes since the Middle Ages.     Over the Pentecost weekend, however, Archbishop Jean Legrez, completely re-organized them into 21 new parishes.         It is an impressive change. In coming to this decision, the Archdiocese of Albi has followed a general trend among France’s 93 dioceses, two-thirds of which have already made major changes to parish boundaries and structures.   Sometimes, these developments are already longstanding. For example, in 1978, the Diocese of Le Havre, reduced the number of its parishes from 171 to 21.....(source)
What Francis Did Is Just Huge’
Extract from An Interview with Sr. Helen Prejean,  John Gehring, Commonweal,     7 August 2018
John Gehring: Pope Francis made big news last week by revising the Catechism to declare the death penalty inadmissible in all cases. Why is this so significant?
Helen Prejean: Pope John Paul II said that the times when the death penalty could be justified were so rare they would practically be nonexistent. But this did reserve the use of the death penalty in cases of absolute necessities. Pope Francis has now established a foundational principle that no matter the severity of the crime, it’s never legitimate. This is huge. In every death-penalty trial, the district attorney argues that because of the gravity of this particular crime the death penalty is required. So when the pope says it’s never admissible, it pulls the whole rug out from that kind of argument. During my dialogues and correspondence with John Paul II, I always argued we needed a principled stance opposing the death penalty without any exceptions. In St. Louis on his visit to the United States in 1999, John Paul spoke about the dignity of life no matter the crime, but he didn’t go as far as to establish the principle that under no circumstance is it acceptable. What Pope Francis did is just huge.       JG: A number of conservative Catholic commentators are upset about the pope’s decision, arguing that church teaching can’t change. What do you make of this opposition?           HP: Change happens when society grows and evolves, and we have alternative ways of keeping people safe. We’ve also learned from science. The fact that young juveniles’ brains are not yet as fully developed as adults influenced the Supreme Court’s decision to end capital punishment for juveniles. Teaching can change. The church endorsed slavery for a long time and quoted Scripture to do so. Jesus also had to deal with religious legalism. People were so attached to the letter of the law they missed the person and human dignity behind it.....(more).  Photo:  Commonweal, CNS photo/Paul Haring
Albany bishop says laypeople should investigate misconduct by U.S. bishops
Extract from Michael J O'Loughlin, America, The Jesuit Review,  6 August 2018
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., said today that laypeople, not bishops, should lead inquiries into allegations of misconduct by U.S. bishops. Bishop Scharfenberger was responding to an idea advanced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl in an interview published on Aug. 6 by The National Catholic Reporter. He suggested that the U.S. bishops might create a commission of bishops to investigate rumors of sexual misconduct by other bishops, passing concerns on to a Vatican office.         “Would we have some sort of a panel, a board, of bishops...where we would take it upon ourselves, or a number of bishops would be deputed, to ask about those rumors?” the Washington archbishop asked. “It seems to me that’s one possibility, that there would be some way for the bishops, and that would mean working through our conference...to be able to address the question of sustained rumors,” Cardinal Wuerl said. He added that U.S. bishops could not wait until their November general meeting to find solutions to address the fall out from allegations against his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick. The former cardinal, who was removed from public ministry and later resigned from the College of Cardinals, is accused of sexual assault and harassment.        Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said, “we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer.”             Reacting to Cardinal Wuerl’s interview in a statement, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said, “we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer.”         “To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised,” he said.             Bishop Scharfenberger has been vocal in encouraging victims of sexual harassment and assault by any church official to come forward. He publicly supported a priest in his diocese, the Rev. Desmond Rossi, who accused Archbishop McCarrick of harassing him when he was a seminarian.....(MORE)  Photo: America: The Jesuit Review, CNS Bob Roller
Chilean bishops beg forgiveness over sex abuse scandal
They also promised to involve greater participation of lay people, particularly women, in the decision-making bodies of the Chilean Church
Limited Extract from Mélinée Le Priol, Chile, subscription journal La Croix International, 6 August 2018
Concluding their five day extraordinary assembly, Chile’s 32 Catholic bishops apologized for “failing in their duties” in managing sex abuse cases.
“We have failed in our duties as pastors,” Chile’s 32 bishops admitted in a statement issued on Friday following their five day extraordinary plenary....(source)
The International Catholic Reform Network
Report by  David Timbs, 5 August 2018
ICRN is an international network of priest and lay reform movements that organizes pastoral dialogue-retreats to model and prepare the church for the future, to enable its members and invited participants to communicate and dialogue with one another honestly, to tell stories, to heal wounds from the struggles of reform, to give courage to all engaged, and to share energy, enthusiasm, ideas; and in some cases, to act.    The most recent meeting in Bratislava from 11-15 June 2018 was attended by David Timbs who compiled this report on its background, outcomes and ongoing work. The report is also available on the Documents page.
Bishops to release formal Royal Commission response this month
Extract from Media and Communications Office, CAM, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 3 August 
Following two days of meetings focused on the Catholic Church’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Australian Catholic Bishops Council has announced it will issue a formal response by the end of August.     The bishops have also agreed to release the four volumes of the final report from the Church’s advisory body during the Royal Commission.    The ACBC statement is as follows: The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has today agreed that it will release its formal response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by the end of the month.    It will also release the four volumes of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council’s final report.    ‘After two productive days of meetings, the bishops have reached a common position on the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to the Catholic Church and its various ministries,’ ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.     ‘The Bishops Conference and the president of Catholic Religious Australia agreed that the close collaboration between the two bodies during the life of the Royal Commission and in the area of the protection of children and vulnerable people should continue.’     The Catholic Religious Australia Council, which meets later this month, will work with the ACBC to finalise the Catholic Church’s response.....(MORE)
Wuerl presses bishops to greater accountability on abuse
Extract from Elise Harris, Senior Corres[pondent, CruxNow, 3 August 2018
With much of the U.S. Church still reeling from the abuse scandals involving ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has said that while he believes the Church has made progress, bishops must strive for “greater accountability at the level of the episcopacy” in both addressing and reporting abuse allegations.        “Everyone recognizes that words, good intentions, and new policies, while important, are not enough,” Wuerl said in a pastoral letter, published Aug. 3. “We must not only denounce abuse and take steps to stop abusers. We must remove even the appearance of cover-ups as we investigate and address allegations.”         A practical way to do this, Wuerl said, is to cooperate with the pope and his representatives to ensure that bishops are held accountable. Quoting a recent statement from the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Wuerl said spiritual conversion is needed in order to “restore the right relationship among us and with our Lord.”        The current crisis, he said, “is an occasion to renew our own personal commitment to holiness, to constant conversion of heart, to generosity and fidelity, and to the highest standards of ministry - and to exhort our brother priests to do the same.” This task, Wuerl added, will require “the fortitude that has always been essential to fraternal correction.”....(more)
Chilean investigators target 158 persons in child sex abuse inquiry
Prosecutors call for Vatican assistance in investigating nine church officials suspected of pedophile acts
Limited Extract from Constance Vilanova (with AFP), Chile, subscription journal La Croix International,  3 August 2018
The Chilean Catholic Church is in turmoil after prosecutors investigating cases of sexual abuse of children and adults dating back to the 1960s identified links with 158 Catholics, including bishops, priests and laypeople....(source)
Welcome Archbishop Comensoli: Pope Francis’ new shepherd in Melbourne celebrates Installation Mass
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Media and Communications Office, Thursday 2nd August 2018
Archbishop Peter Andrew Comensoli took his place on Wednesday night in one of the nation’s most influential Catholic pulpits as the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne.     Archbishop Comensoli, 54, is a former banker who has led the Diocese of Broken Bay for the past three and a half years. He was officially inaugurated in a liturgy of installation at St Patrick’s Cathedral rich in the symbolism and magisterial ritual of the Church; a ceremony based on more than 1000 years of tradition, solemnity and celebration.         Concelebrants included Melbourne’s Emeritus Archbishop Denis J Hart and Australian Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, as well as archbishops and bishops from across Australia and clergy from the Archdiocese of Melbourne.      Archbishop-elect Comensoli then entered the cathedral at the West Door, where the Dean of the Cathedral John Salvano offered him a crucifix to kiss and holy water with which to bless himself and the congregation.             The new archbishop’s arrival represents a generational changing of the guard for the archdiocese, but he assured the faithful that the office’s commitment to Catholic teaching and tradition would continue unchanged.           In the wake of one of the greatest challenges to the Church, it is clear that Archbishop Comensoli shares the same passion for justice as the man he replaces, Emeritus Archbishop Denis Hart. In interviews, Archbishop Comensoli has previously vowed to ‘right the grievous wrongs of the past’ and rebuild trust following the widespread damage caused by the child sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Church in recent decades.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.   View live stream of the Mass Here (2'30")
US religious orders back women deacons
Extract from CathNews, Crux, 3 August 2018
A new survey has found that the majority of religious order superiors in the United States believe women should be allowed to serve as ordained deacons.        The survey lends support to an issue currently under study at the Vatican amid pressure for women to be given greater roles in the Church.     It found 77 per cent of both male and female superiors in the US believe such ordination is theoretically possible, and 72 per cent think the Church should go ahead and authorise it, according to the study released yesterday by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.    Only 45 percent, however, believe the Church will actually do it, the study found.     Deacons are ordained ministers, but not priests, though they can perform many of the same functions as priests. They preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and they can preach. They cannot celebrate Mass.    Currently, married men can serve as deacons. Women cannot, though some historians say women served as deacons in the early Church.....(more)
Vatican now opposes death penalty in all cases
Move will not go down well in countries with capital punishment
Extract from Timesofmalta.com, Reuters, Thursday, 2 August 2018
The Roman Catholic Church formally changed its teaching on Thursday to declare the death penalty inadmissible whatever the circumstance, a move likely to be criticised in countries where capital punishment is legal.     The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church had for centuries allowed the death penalty in extreme cases, but the position began to change under Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.     The Vatican said the change to its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, reflected Pope Francis' total opposition to capital punishment.    According to the new entry in the catechism: "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."      The Church was working "with determination" for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, the new teaching says.     The new provision is likely to run into stiff opposition from conservative Catholics in the United States and other countries where capital punishment is legal and many believers support it. "By the end of last year, 106 countries worldwide had banned the death penalty".     Last year, 53 countries issued death sentences and 23 of them executed at least 993 people, according to Amnesty International, with most executions in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.     In the United States, 23 people were executed, a slight increase from 2016 but a low number compared to historical trends, Amnesty said, adding that it was the only country in the Americas that carried out executions.    Capital punishment is banned in most of Europe, with Belarus the only European country that carried out executions last year, Amnesty said. By the end of last year, 106 countries worldwide had banned the death penalty....(more)   Image: CAM
Bishops likely will need more to regain trust on McCarrick case
Extract from John L Allan Jr, Crux, 2 August 2018
Since news broke about sexual abuse and misconduct charges against now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June, the primary question had been what accountability measures would follow if the charges turned out to have merit. The widespread sense was that Pope Francis would need to set an example, to show that no one in the Catholic system is “untouchable” where child protection is concerned.    The second, and equally immediate, question was which U.S. bishops may have known of the charges against McCarrick, or at least suspected, and what they did with that information when they received it. It’s basically a tripartite inquiry: Who knew? When did they know? What did they do, either at the time or since?          The Vatican, for all intents and purposes, answered the first question on July 28, announcing that Francis had accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals - an historic first in the United States for any reason, and a first globally for a cardinal facing sex abuse charges. A statement also confirmed that a canonical trial is underway, which, if McCarrick is found guilty, could end in his expulsion from the priesthood....(more)
Homosexuality among the clergy: caught in a trap of dishonesty
The McCarrick affair
Limited Extract from James Alison, subscription magazine The Tablet, 1 August 2018
Would it shock you to know that the leading force behind the term “gender ideology”, and the campaign against it, was a gay cardinal? Or that a gay priest wrote the official 2005 explanation as to why gay men could not be priests?    I learned of the (now dead) Latin American cardinal’s reputation for violence towards the rent boys he frequented from a social worker in his home town, and later discovered that this and other outrages were open secrets in both his homeland and Rome....(source)
Bishops to release Catholic Church response to royal commission
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle herald, 26 July 2018
Australia's Catholic bishops will release the Catholic Church response to the child abuse royal commission “as soon as possible” after an extraordinary meeting in Melbourne next week.       Bishops will meet on August 2 and 3 after months of criticism from Catholic reform groups and some politicians about the failure to release a church-commissioned Truth Justice and Healing Council report handed to bishops in March.        The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference called the extraordinary meeting after Catholic Religious Australia, representing 150 Catholic orders including nuns and brothers, said it “favoured” the TJHC report’s release. The two church groups commissioned the TJHC report which is understood to contain recommendations that could challenge some Australian bishops.         The Truth Justice and Healing Council, headed by lay Catholic Francis Sullivan, was established in early 2013 to represent the church during the royal commission. It was disbanded in March after presenting its final report to the bishops....both the bishops’ response to the royal commission and the four-volume, 1000 page TJHC report. While the bishops’ response should be released “as soon as possible” after next week’s meeting, the ACBC is yet to confirm when it will release the TJHC report....(more)
Bishops to focus on Royal Commission at August meeting
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Melbourne Catholic, 26 July 2018
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has convened an additional plenary meeting for 2018 to expedite the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.            The meeting will be held in Melbourne on 2 and 3 August, and will allow the bishops to consider, as a body, the Church’s formal response to the Royal Commission.         ‘The bishops hadn’t received enough advice at their May meeting to prepare our response to the Royal Commission’s final report,’ ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.    ‘Additional advice, including from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, the Implementation Advisory Group, Catholic Professional Standards Limited, local safeguarding experts and canon lawyers has now been received and is informing the bishops’ response.       ‘We have also begun discussions with the Holy See about issues that concern the discipline and doctrine of the universal Church.’   Representatives from Catholic Religious Australia, the Implementation Advisory Group and Catholic Professional Standards Limited will attend the meeting.           Archbishop Coleridge said he hoped the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s formal response to the Royal Commission would be released as soon as possible after the August plenary meeting.            ‘We decided we couldn’t wait until our next scheduled plenary meeting in late November to finalise our response,’ he said.....(More)
Bishop Barron calls for evangelization, apologetics in upcoming youth synod
Young Catholics say they want accompaniment, openness to new ideas
Extracts from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 26 July 2018
The upcoming synod on young people is an opportunity for evangelization, especially to those who have left the Catholic Church or organized religion altogether, said one of the bishop delegates ratified by Pope Francis this week.        "I don't know any issue more pressing now in the life of the church than addressing the problem of the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young," Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron told NCR in an email interview.     "How to re-engage the 'nones,' and to prevent the rise of future 'nones,' should be, in my judgment, priority one in the Catholic Church," Barron said, referring to those who would check "none" on a survey of religious affiliation.     Approximately one third of all Americans ages 18-33 are characterized as religiously disaffiliated, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center.      For that reason, Barron believes the worldwide Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, to be held Oct. 3-28 at the Vatican, is even more significant than the previous two synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015.......Barron, who is chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said he will argue for the need for "a new apologetics and for substantial improvement in our catechetical outreach," because he believes young people do not adequately understand church teaching.      But young people themselves and the synod's working document call for accompaniment, not apologetics. In fact, the purpose of the synod is "to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love," according to Instrumentum Laboris, the synod's working document, which was released in late June.     The synod calls for a "spiritual attitude" of discernment, characterized by "openness to new things, courage to move outwards and resistance to the temptation of reducing what is new to what we already know," the working document says.        Several bishops' conferences also noted that traditional catechesis "does not always enjoy a good reputation among young people, because it reminds many of them of 'a compulsory and unchosen path in their childhood,' " the working document said, quoting a response from an online questionnaire of youth and young adults conducted last year....(more)   Photo: NCR, CNS/Jeffrey Bruno
Concerned Catholics in Canberra want to know where the bishops stand on the Royal Commission’s recommendations
Extract from Media Release, Concerned Catholics Canberra, 25 July 2018
A large group of Catholics in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese has called on Australian bishops to release their response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as a matter of urgency.     Speaking ahead of an extraordinary meeting of Australian bishops next week, Concerned Catholics Chair, Professor John Warhurst said the bishops received a report from the Truth Justice and Healing Council in March this year, but the report remains under wraps.       “We were alerted to this extraordinary meeting via the media and so far, it’s difficult to find anything on the ACBC’s website to suggest a meeting is taking place,” Professor Warhurst said.     “Bishops must be more transparent and up-front about their processes and in their communications with their Catholic community.      “As a movement which has drawn support from 450 Canberra Catholics, we stand with survivors, a number of bishops, Catholic religious orders of men and women nationally, state and federal politicians and with the many individuals who have called on the bishops to release the report.    “The Royal Commission has exposed a crisis in our Church, and many of the recommendations released in December last year go to deeply imbedded cultural and structural issues which must be resolved as a matter of urgency in consultation with lay Catholics.    “Waiting for the outcome of the 2020 Plenary Council is not the answer. We have just had a historic five-year inquiry. It is now over seven months since those recommendations were delivered.     “Canberra’s lay Catholics demand action,” Professor Warhurst said......(see full Media Release HERE)

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

Spare a thought for the new archbishop
Where bishops once had the last say, they are now just another voice in public debate
Limited extract from Eric Hodgens, subscription journal La Croix International, 23 July 2018
A bishop’ job is part shepherd, part leader, part ruler, part manager. Pope Francis insists that pastoral care is the primary role.     The Melbourne Catholic Church is getting a new bishop. At 54 he can look forward to 21 years in that post. What is the scenario Archbishop Peter Comensoli is walking into?    It is not a good time to be a bishop.     Over the last 50 years Western culture has dramatically changed. Contemporary culture is secular and pluralist. Authority, once derived from status, now must be won. Where bishops once had the last say, they are now just another voice in public debate.    The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference (ACBC) has problems. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has diminished episcopal authority in the public forum.    Meanwhile, within the church institution, some bishops take a strong, conservative line on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and dying with dignity, asserting that their views are “the church’s teaching.”....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
What’s behind the Latino priest shortage?
Extract from J.D. Long-García, America, The Jesuit Review, 23 July 2018
Gilbert Guzman is 51 and, in a way, he began a new career on June 2. He was ordained to the priesthood that day at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. While discernment is never easy, he said it was even more complicated as a Latino.       “You might get raised eyebrows if you say you want to be a priest. ‘What’s wrong with you that you don’t want to get married?’” Father Guzman told America. “We need to see ourselves as a gift to the community, not a scourge.”        Father Guzman, a self-described late vocation to the priesthood, said part of the struggle in his discernment was cultural. He was born in San Diego, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. He describes himself as a Mexican-American and said his cultural background added “all sorts of complex forces” to the discernment process.         “Being Latino, there was a little more pressure to just go back and have a girlfriend and get married,” Father Guzman said. “I feel like that might have something to do with the number of Latino priests—the longing to really participate with family.”       The growing number of U.S. Latinos is not reflected in vocations to the priesthood. The Center of Applied Research for the Apostolate at Georgetown University reports that 20 percent of this year’s class of ordained priests are Hispanic. The number is a fraction of the estimated number of Latinos, who make up 34 percent of the nation’s Catholic population—and more than 50 percent of Catholics under 30.....(more)  Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, (Victor Alemán/Angelus News).
National Council of Priests of Australia calls on Pope to intervene in Philip Wilson case
Extracts from ABC News, Friday evening,  20 July 2018
The Executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) has "wholeheartedly" endorsed the appeals for Archbishop Philip Wilson to resign, and have called on the Pope to intervene.    The NPC says Archbishop Philip Wilson's position has been "compromised" since his conviction.      It follows a call by the PM for the Pope to sack him         He's the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse.     It follows comments made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday that the Pope should "sack" Wilson.          Earlier this month, Wilson was sentenced to 12 months' detention after being found guilty of concealing the sexual abuse of children between 2004 and 2006 at the hands of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the 1970s.      He is the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse.    In a statement, the body said his position had been "compromised" since his conviction.    "While the Archbishop is exercising his constitutional right to appeal his conviction, his tenure as Archbishop of Adelaide has been compromised," the statement read......"For the good of the Church in Australia and for the benefit of the People of God in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, the Executive of the NCP requests that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, removes Archbishop Philip Wilson from his See [position]."....(more)
Vatican expert: To fight sex abuse, the Catholic Church must invest in women
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin, America - The Jesuit Review, July 20, 2018
One of the church’s experts on protecting children from abuse says that while today “there is much more awareness about the issue,” the church has to invest more resources and include more women, especially in places where the church is growing fastest.     “What is still lacking is an understanding that the protection of minors and the justice done to victims is a priority within the church,” Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told America on Thursday. He added that some bishops and other church leaders sometimes see combating sexual abuse as “one topic among others” and have not grasped that “this has to be a priority for the church.”      Father Zollner, a psychologist by training, launched the child protection initiative in 2012 in Germany and he moved to Rome in 2015 when Pope Francis requested that the center’s resources be used in the global church. He was then appointed to the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, and he is a consultor for the Vatican office that deals with clergy.       He said that when it comes to policies and protocols, the church has made great progress, especially in the decade and a half since widespread sexual abuse in the church came to light in the United States. Today, he said, cultural challenges and a lack of trained professionals in Africa, Latin America and Asia pose the greatest obstacles to fighting sex abuse.    “We need the voice of women here,” Father Zollner said, because women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society.”       He said even in places that have policies in place, sometimes the church has not invested in the kinds of professionals needed to implement the codes, such as canon lawyers and psychologists.....(more) Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, CNS Bob Roller
Sexual misconduct and the high clergy
There is an elephant in the sacristy no one is talking about, at least not in a healthy way
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, subscription journal La Croix International,Vatican City 20 July 2018
Just three days before the 2013 conclave began I wrote a few brief words about Scottish Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien’s decision not to attend the papal election.     A few weeks earlier he had been accused of having forced a number of seminarians and young priests into having sex (one that turned into a relationship) in the 1980s.         O’Brien, who died this past March, immediately resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh even though he was still months shy of his 75th birthday. He also announced, obviously under the Vatican pressure, that he would not attend the conclave.         “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” the cardinal said.    I thought then – and articulated the reasons why a couple years later – that O’Brien should have participated in the conclave.         “Only a naïf could believe that he is the only man among the electors who has broken his solemn promise to remain celibate,” I wrote in the March 9, 2013 edition of The Tablet. “There are likely others. And even those who’ve done worse,” I warned.           Like so many other people I heard the stories about another cardinal, Theodore McCarrick from Washington, who was notorious for taking seminarians to a Jersey Shore beach house where he routinely chose a different one of them to share his bed.         He called this cadre of young men his “nephews.” I even knew a couple of these fellows, but they had always remained loyal to their Uncle Teddie and refused to report him or publicly declare what he had done.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International
Religious freedom can be protected with 'tweaks', says Ruddock review member
Frank Brennan says marriage equality requires changes to marriage, discrimination and fair work laws
Extract from Paul Karp, The Guardian, 20 July 2018
The legislation of marriage equality in Australia may only require “slight tweaking” to protect religious freedom, according to Father Frank Brennan, a member of the Ruddock review panel.       In comments to be delivered on Friday, Brennan issues a blunt assessment that he doubts the Coalition will legislate a religious freedom act, as minister Dan Tehan has suggested, and warning that religious schools should not discriminate against LGBTI staff and students.      The speech, seen by Guardian Australia before its delivery to the Castan Centre human rights conference, is the clearest indication yet that only minimalist changes to expand religious freedom have been canvassed by the Ruddock religious review.     Brennan speaks approvingly of adding religion as a category to be protected from discrimination in federal law, mirroring provisions in most states. He notes that change was supported by pro-marriage equality groups such as the Equality Campaign and the Human Rights Law Centre.     Brennan – who says he is constrained by the fact the government has not yet released the Ruddock review – expresses his personal view that “freedom of religion needs to be more than an exception clause found in various state non-discrimination legislation”.     When speaking about the consequences of changes to the Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage, Brennan refers four times to the need to “tweak” laws including the Marriage Act, Sex Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act to respond.      For example he questions whether a church boarding school should “be required to provide married quarters for a boarding master in a same-sex marriage”.      In another instance he suggests an expansion of LGBTI rights by questioning why a religious school should be allowed to discriminate against gay staff and students where “it can be demonstrated that the adherents of the particular religion or creed voted overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage”.     But he said legislators “might judge that the protections are already adequate” in these areas....(more)
Turnbull, Shorten urge Pope to sack Archbishop Wilson
[Ed: Reports on this news item have been widely published in major news bulletins around the world]
Extract from CathNews, Newcastle Herald, 20 July 2018
Bill Shorten has backed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for the Pope to sack Archbishop Philip Wilson as abuse survivors call for other institutional leaders to be prosecuted for concealing child sexual offences.         The Opposition Leader said he agreed with Mr Turnbull that Archbishop Wilson’s position was “untenable” after the archbishop refused to resign following his decision to appeal his conviction for concealing the child sexual abuse offences of New South Wales priest, Jim Fletcher.        “If he doesn’t have the decency to resign then his superiors in the Church should take action,” Mr Shorten said, less than two weeks after the two leaders expressed surprise and concern that Archbishop Wilson did not resign as soon as he was convicted on May 22, and after other bishops encouraged him to resign.       “The community has spoken. The courts have spoken. Now it’s time for the Church to truly listen,” Mr Shorten said.          His comments came after Mr Turnbull increased pressure on the Church to respond to the impasse yesterday as he prepared to meet with Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Melbourne Archbishop-designate Peter A Comensoli.    Mr Turnbull said “the time has come for the Pope to sack” Archbishop Wilson because it was “clear that he should resign”.....(more)   Photo: CathNews, ABC News.
Youth alienated by Catholic Church, says Dublin archbishop
Urges Irish parishes to seek new ways of relating to teenagers ‘disgusted’ by child abuse scandals
Limited extract from staff, subscription journal,  La Croix International. 19 July 2018
Ireland. Catholics should “learn new ways in which they can win new hearts” as young people increasingly feel alienated from the teachings of the church, according to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.     The Republic of Ireland capital is set to welcome Pope Francis in August as he will attend the World Meeting of Families there but concerns are growing as attendance rates at church services continue to dwindle.     Archbishop Martin sounded a wake-up call, saying Catholicism is becoming “foreign” to young people, especially in Ireland, The Irish Times reports.    “The main body of the membership of Irish Catholicism and its leadership belong to an age and cultural group that is in many ways foreign to the culture of young people,” he said.     “The Irish church needs to waken itself to the urgency of this situation,” he said, adding it “needs a radical overhaul in its outreach” and must “re-learn the ability to speak the language of faith authentically in a world where that language may be alien.”....(source)
CHOSEN 2018
Extract from Raifiel Cyril, Melbourne Catholic, Wednesday 18 July 2018
‘You did not choose me but I chose you and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’. (John 15:16).     Over 200 young adults from different parts of Australia made for a cozy bunch at Mannix College, Melbourne. The Jesus Youth Movement understands that new evangelisation is a priority for the Church. In one sense, the mission is simple and clear: To propose once again to young people the entire Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. In this context, Jesus Youth Australia organised a National Youth Conference named ‘CHOSEN’ to help young people encounter Jesus in a life changing way.    12 to 15 July was never meant to be just another ordinary youth gathering. From the first evening Rally on Thursday the 12th the mood was electrifying. Bishop Terry Curtin set it off with his lively inaugural address and MasterPlan gave the eager crowd a delicious dose of their talent.    Masterplan, an International Catholic band, is an initiative within the Jesus Youth Movement in the UAE. The Band had played centre stage at WYD Poland and WYD Spain and have performed in 3 continents! MasterPlan led the Chosen Morning and Evening Rallies, Impact Sessions, Soul Cafe and assisted with liturgical celebrations.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.
Melbourne's new archbishop says promoting the Church as an 'institution' allowed 'great evils' to happen
Bishop Peter Comensoli said the abuse crisis was 'paramount' and required a response at every level in the Church
Extract from Christopher lamb, The Tablet, 17 July 2018
The new Archbishop of Melbourne says that seeing the Church as an institution rather than the “people of God” allowed for “great evils” to be committed and has pledged himself to rebuilding trust in light of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.      Archbishop-elect Peter Comensoli, who will take up the leadership of Australia’s largest Catholic diocese on 1 August, said the abuse crisis was “paramount” in everyone’s thinking and required a response at every level in the Church.         Devastating findings by a recent royal commission found that 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse against the Church, many of them covered up by bishops who had pursued a strategy of protection of assets against legal claims.      But speaking to The Tablet during a phone interview from Australia, the new leader of Melbourne archdiocese explained that protecting the institution rather than its people was a counter-witness to the Gospel.     “The Church is the pilgrim People of God, it is the Body of Christ, and in manifesting that there are institutional dimensions. In the same way there are institutional dimensions in a family: we have meals at a certain time and we do things at this time. So there is an institutionality to the Church,” the soon-to-be-archbishop explained.     “But when that became paramount and started to usurp the Gospel, and usurp the Church as the people of God, that’s when the great evils were manifested in that context. It led to a loss of following of the Gospel.”........The new Archbishop of Melbourne says that rebuilding trust in the Church requires looking at all governance structures while ensuring that safeguarding procedures are compliant..........The incoming archbishop will also be an important part of the “Plenary Council” - Australia’s national synod-style gathering taking place next year - which is to address questions such as the role of laity, governance, schools, healthcare, welfare agencies and the role of women. When it comes to women’s role in the Church, the bishop says “half of my own leaders” in the diocese are female including his senior adviser, chancellor and financial administrator.      “And they just get on with it at the service of the Gospel,” he said.    "The secular voice can’t be the only one: we are a pluralist country, not a secular country, where more than 60 per cent believe.....(MORE)  Photo: The Tablet. Twitter
Breaking the seal for the common good
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Eureka Street,  17 July 2018
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended that the Catholic 'seal of confession' should not exempt priests from a proposed offence of 'failure to report'. That offence would apply to any failure to report to police in circumstances where a person knew, suspected, or should have suspected that a person associated with their institution had sexually abused a child.      The proposed law is focused on likely continued offending and is intended to get paedophiles off the streets. The Royal Commission wanted to ensure that, wherever possible, known paedophiles are not at large and free to sexually abuse children.      The response of some Catholic commentators has threatened defiance of any such civil law by confessors, despite the Church's stated commitment to the more effective protection of children. At a time when the issue of religious freedom is receiving publicity, this issue goes to the heart of current state/church relations.     Though few Catholics today use sacramental confession, the seal is a key feature, providing a guaranteed assurance of confidentiality. Strict canon lawyers will argue that canon law forbids a confessor from disclosing confessed material regardless of the content, circumstances and consequences. Canon law can of course be changed.     The question raised is whether a religious confessor (Catholic or other religion) who obtains knowledge of the sexual abuse of a child, or of a child abuser, in a sacramental confession, should be bound by the proposed civil law. The Commission, having thoroughly examined the evidence before it, decided that no religious confessor should be exempted from the mandatory requirement to report.    Any person who sexually abuses a child is a continuing danger to children. The requirement to report is based on substantial evidence of the past failures of institutional personnel to report. The consequence was predators remaining at large and more abuse.    In April 2010 the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave permission to bishops to report child sexual abuse by clergy to the civil authorities, but only where there were civil criminal mandatory reporting laws. Up to 2017 such laws existed only in NSW and Victoria. The Royal Commission has recommended that such laws be introduced throughout Australia..."Governments legislate for the common good, for all citizens. They must not be thwarted by customs or laws of particular religions which could threaten the common good."....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street
Let's talk about the Catholic bishops
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street, 16 July 2018
The Catholic bishops are by institutional design the centrepiece of the Australian Catholic community. This means a lot is happening in the name of ordinary Catholics whether they like it or not because the perception of the wider community is that the bishops represent all Catholics.      The future of the Australian church may have been put in the hands of the Plenary Council 2020, but any outcome of this process is half a decade away. Till then it is business as usual.    Prime among the bishops now in the news is the recently convicted Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, who is being called by the Prime Minister, the South Australian Premier and the new Archbishop of Melbourne to resign his position. The Australian community, represented especially by child abuse survivors and media commentators, interpret his resistance as an indication of the church's failure to learn the lessons of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.     Most bishops are actively resisting new legislation by some state and territory governments to remove the seal of the confessional as it relates to child sexual abuse. Many have also backed calls for new legislative or constitutional protections for religious freedom. The former of these issues has emerged from the Royal Commission while the latter has followed the new same sex marriage legislation. Both take the bishops into new territory.    At the same time the two most senior bishops, Archbishops Coleridge and Fisher, President and Deputy President of the Bishops Conference, are putting considerable energy into the traditional politics of education funding by seeking urgent meetings with the Prime Minister. No issue more defines the identity of the Catholic community in its own eyes and those of fellow Australians than Catholic schools. Education funding is for bishops their core practical business, to be safeguarded above all else.    In this context, Australian Catholics need a framework to help them comprehend the dynamics of church-state relations. While knowledge of individual bishops is helpful, what is more useful is a sense of how they operate and where they stand collectively.....(more)
 Clericalism is killing the Catholic Church — even in Africa
'We need to recognize that at this time in our history, we have failed as pastors'
Limited extract from Donald Zagoré SMA, subscription journal La Croix International,  Ivory Coast, 16 July 2018
We need to face the facts. The significant number of Christians who are leaving the church to join new communities is a sign that Christians are tired of what we Catholics have offered them.        So they are looking for something new that the classical parish pastoral framework is unfortunately no longer able to provide.      In fact, the Catholic Church’s classical parish pastoral program in Ivory Coast is currently trapped in a bureaucratic system that kills the prophetic spirit of pastoral ministry.     This has led to a spiritual vacuum among Catholics. Weighed down with the burden of endless socio-political suffering, they are desperately looking elsewhere for a new experience of God.     As the Psalmist wrote: “It is your face that I seek, Lord.”     Genuinely thirsty for the Holy Spirit, thousands of Christians have ended up deserting the bureaucratic classical parish pastoral framework in order to “descend into deep waters.”    As a result, they are joining the framework offered by many new communities, which seems to quench their spiritual thirst.     We therefore need to recognize that at this time in our history, we have failed as pastors.   As well as its roots in an outdated classical pastoral framework, this failure is also closely linked to a rise in clericalism. What’s more, it is a form of clericalism denuded of prophetic witness.   What more can we hope for from an ecclesial pastoral schema that has turned into a bureaucracy?    But laypeople have refused to allow themselves to be boxed in by the clericalism that we have unwittingly imposed on them.....(source)
Pope appoints presidents-delegate for Synod assembly on youth
All four cardinals come from the 'peripheries' — Myanmar, Iraq, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea
Limited extract from La Croix International staff, 16 July 2018
Pope Francis has appointed presidents-delegate for the October meeting of bishops focused on youth. All four cardinals come from the “peripheries” — Myanmar, Iraq, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.........The XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has as its theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” is scheduled from Oct. 3 to 28 in the Vatican.      The presidents-delegate take turns in presiding over the synod assemblies on behalf of the pope.    A president-delegate is responsible for guiding the work of the synod and assigning special tasks to certain members, when necessary, so that the assembly proceeds efficiently.  He also signs the documents of the assembly.    When there are several presidents-delegate, they all sign the final documents of the synod.     The choice of the four cardinals is consistent with the pope's pro-poor pastoral approach. They are cardinals Pope Francis himself has created in recent years, sidelining more economically advance countries....(source)   Photo: La Croix International.
Proclaim Conference explores new ways of contemplating the face of Christ
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 12 July 2018
This is a spirit moment for the Church, Archbishop Mark Coleridge has told the Proclaim 2018 conference in Brisbane, challenging Catholic delegates to renew and rejuvenate the Church in Australia.      “I am intensely conscious as I sat amongst you that I face the danger of being pale, male and stale,” Archbishop Coleridge said.     “Here at Proclaim what we set ourselves to do is to press the refresh button in the Church right across the nation.”      More than 600 delegates are attending the three-day conference, with the theme “Make Your Home in Me” (John 15:4) with an agenda to explore new ways of contemplating the face of Christ in community and to find new mission pathways.     The goal is to engage parishes and faith communities in a conversation focusing on five key areas – leadership, culture change, young people, belonging and evangelisation.    Drawing on the example of the young Thai soccer team – the Wild Boars – and their coach trapped in a cave for two weeks, Archbishop Coleridge said we were all intensely moved by the story, and overjoyed by their rescue.    “Because it is the truth of the human situation. Those boys are you and me. Others come to their rescue and finally they are set free,” he said.     “In that story we recognise a kind of good news that goes to the heart of the truth of where we are as human beings.     “We, the human race, are trapped. We mightn’t even recognize it, but this is the truth at least as the scripture has it.    “And we can do absolutely nothing down there in the darkness but wait and hope that someone comes.    “God comes to our rescue through Jesus who dies so that we might live.    “This is the good news that we have to proclaim.”    Archbishop Coleridge said the key to the journey began with listening to the Word of God. To proclaim was also to speak and to act, he said.    He said “the young” were the megaphone, and were posing many difficult questions about parish life.    “Are they (young people) saying we need a new paradigm?” Archbishop Coleridge said.   “Do we need a new paradigm of our local communities of faith?    “How can we imagine the parish as something new, something that doesn’t leave everything behind, but isn’t afraid to do it differently?....(more)   Photo: The Catholic Leader, Mark Bowling
Women push for more from Vatican, Francis
Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 11 July 2018
Dublin. Pope Francis' appointment of Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini as the first layperson to head a Vatican department on July 5 has been welcomed by Voices of Faith, a group promoting women's leadership in the church.      A spokesperson for the international network of Catholic women described the decision to appoint the 62-year-old Italian journalist as prefect of the Dicastery for Communication as a "precedent."     "It opens the door for laypersons of both genders to lead Vatican entities," Chantal Götz told NCR.     Explore Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment with this free guide.    But she added, "It is also an opportunity missed."    She said that women need to be leading dicasteries and councils because that is where decisions are made. "Actions or implementations are now expected if the Vatican is serious about women in leadership positions," she said.    Francis reportedly said in a June interview with Reuters, "I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery." But he said it is difficult to find the right candidates and convince curial officials to accept women to leadership positions.    Götz, managing director of Voices of Faith, believes there are many women with excellent qualifications for such roles. The question is "Why is the Vatican not finding them?", she said.   She made her comments in the wake of a statement by Voices of Faith calling on Francis and the Vatican to adopt sustainable human resources policies that have been shown to jumpstart change, facilitate transparency and ensure accountability.   Voices of Faith has invited the Vatican to adopt open, merit-based and transparent hiring practices that work for business, government and other major institutions.    "We call on the Vatican to publicly announce any vacancies, openly list required qualifications for vacant positions and implement transparent selection and hiring policies," the group said....(more)
Cardinal Farrell claims laity best placed to advise couples
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet, 11 July 2018
The Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has said priests are not the best people to train couples for marriage as they “have never lived the experience”.    Cardinal Kevin Farrell expressed his strongly held views in an interview with Intercom magazine, a publication of the Irish bishops.      The former Bishop of Dallas said priests “have no credibility” in this area and though “they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, to go from there to putting it into practice every day ... they don’t have that experience”.    The Cardinal was speaking about the role of the laity and the importance of not clericalising them. There are countries, such as the US, Cardinal Farrell explained where “the laity run the Church”.    Referring to his time as Bishop of Dallas, he said “we had one priest in a parish where 10,000 people would attend Mass at the weekend. We have parishes that have a $20 million annual budget. No priest is going to be able to run a parish of that magnitude without competent lay people.”    In Dallas, there are a million and a half Catholics and 75 priests, with a 45 to 50 per cent rate of Mass attendance. “Those 75 priests are not going to be interested in organising marriage meetings,” the Cardinal stated.    He said this meant many pastoral tasks usually left to priests in Ireland, such as marriage preparation, was done by members of the laity elsewhere.     Of his own dicastery, he revealed that Pope Francis had told him he wanted a department in the Vatican for lay people that is equivalent to all of the other congregations (for bishops, clergy and religious).    “And by lay people, he [Pope Francis] does not mean people who belong to ecclesial movements, rather the regular people who go to church,” the Cardinal said....(MORE)
Engaging with the hope of parishes
Edited extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 6 July 2018
Melbourne parish priest Fr Brendan Reed, supported by the Catholic Development Fund (CDF), has this week launched his newest book, volume two of a series, entitled Engaging with the hopes of parishes.
CDF sponsored the publication of Fr Reed’s extensive research and also hosted the book launch.     At the launch ceremony at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Centre in East Melbourne, Fr Reed was introduced by Archbishop Denis Hart, who congratulated him both on the book itself, and on the diligence of the research and long term commitment that gave rise to it.     Fr Reed describes the book as ‘a systematic, empirical and practical search for a parish engagement scale’, or, in acronym, SPES (Latin for ‘hope’). It’s primarily, he said, in acknowledging Archbishop Hart’s introduction, a book about parish life, offering a new framework and a new context for the core Christian community.     Fr Reed is proposing four new and different, but complementary, models for parish life.    The convinced parish',  The engaged parish,   The devoted paris,  The consumerist parish.        His book, he said, will help parishes better understand who they are and what they are capable of becoming, and offers new insights, new visions, on ways for the radical transformation of parish life to ensure the relevance, the power, the growth of Catholic community in an increasingly secular age.     Engaging with the hopes of parishes provides both pastoral and theological grounds for proposing the engaged parish as the future, the new model, for the ideal parish in a changed world.....(MORE)  Image: Melbourne Catholic.
'Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign'
Despite Archbishop Philip Wilson’s conviction for concealing child sexual abuse only the Pope can force him to resign, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said yesterday.
Extract from CathNews, SBS News,  6 July 2018
Archbishop Wilson, 67, the most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing child abuse, is likely to serve his 12-month sentence in home detention.      He stood aside as Archbishop of Adelaide in May after being found guilty of failing to report to police the historical sexual abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest, after a landmark magistrate-only trial in Newcastle Local Court.     However, he has indicated he plans to appeal his conviction and says he will only resign if that fails.    Archbishop Coleridge, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, said an appeal was the right of "any citizen" but made it clear it would require intervention from the Vatican to compel Archbishop Wilson’s resignation.   "A number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign. Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately. Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign,” he said in a statement.    " We also recognise the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused."    Archbishop Wilson is now facing unprecedented calls from across the political arena to step down....(more). Photo: Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC.
Hobart Archdiocese bans Jesuit academic from speaking at planned event
Extract from Sky News, 5 July 2018
Jesuit academic father Frank Brennan, CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia has been banned from speaking publicly in the Hobart Archdiocese for his defence of Catholics' rights to voice their own opinions according to their conscience with regard to same-sex marriage.     Father Brennan was banned from attending already advertised speaking events by Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous in a letter to the provincial of Jesuit Order.....(more)

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 conviction and sentencing of the highest placed cleric in the Catholic world – Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide – and the forthcoming....(more)
Major Catholic church consultation ambitious - but will it succeed?
Extract from John Warhurst, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2018
The huge Australian Catholic community, the largest, the most clerical and the most hierarchical of our Christian churches, has just embarked on a potentially defining internal consultation process, the Plenary Council 2020, to discuss the future of its church. While its leaders, like Cardinal George Pell and the recently sentenced Archbishop Philip Wilson, attract media attention for all the wrong reasons, this major consultation gives lay Catholics a rare opportunity to express their views with some hope of having an impact.  It has been sold to the Catholic community by its leadership as a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to overturn business as usual and to start afresh. It comes, of course, after, and in part a response to, the revelations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of the church’s criminality in that regard. The Royal Commission recommended that the church review its governance, structures and culture, in addition to making specific child-safety recommendations. This council is too broad to be such a review, but it does offer the chance for some action on governance and related issues.    The Australia-wide consultation began two weeks ago in Canberra with four well-attended, open listening and dialogue sessions held off church property in a gesture towards disenfranchised Catholics. It involves a three-stage process of dialogue, discernment and legislation, which will culminate in March 2021 when Australia’s bishops, sitting in splendid isolation, will distil the proposals which have emanated from a larger October 2020 Plenary Council meeting in Adelaide in which lay Catholics will fill up to one-third of the places, following a yet to be determined selection process.....(MORE)
The sentencing of Archbishop Wilson
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 4 July 2018
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months' detention for concealing child sexual abuse. Magistrate Robert Stone adjourned the matter to 14 August while Wilson's home detention order is assessed for suitability. It's very likely that he will appeal his conviction and sentence.          Archbishop Philip WilsonAn appeal may well succeed, but that's not the end of the matter. This has been a six-year saga relating to events which occurred more than 40 years ago. The law is complex; and emotions are running high.         When bishop of Wollongong and later Archbishop of Adelaide, Wilson did a lot to improve the Catholic Church's national response to crimes of child sexual abuse committed by church personnel. But the present criminal conviction and sentence of imprisonment relates to his time as a young priest in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle back in 1976. It was only later when he was Archbishop of Adelaide that some of his earlier behaviour came back to haunt him. Local residents in Maitland-Newcastle who were sexually abused as children by either Fr McAlinden or Fr Fletcher have been very outspoken against Wilson, regardless of his later behaviour as a bishop nationally committed to cleaning up the mess.          In 1990, the New South Wales parliament had amended the Crimes Act creating a new offence of concealing a serious indictable offence. Section 316(1) provides:....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street.
Statement on Sentencing Archbishop Philip Wilson'Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
Extract from  Media Release,  Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
The Catholic b ishops of Australia acknowledge that the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime , but w e hope that today ’s custodial sentence brings some sens e of peace and healing to those abused by deceased priest James Fletcher. It takes great courage for survivors to come forward to tell their stor ies . Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the Cunneen Inquiry . The Church has made substantial changes to ensure that abuse and cover -up are no t part of Catholic life and that children are safe in our communities. We will continue to work with all those in the Church and beyond who are seeking to put in plac e strong and consistent standards of safeguarding throughout Australia , including how we respond to allegations of sexual abuse . The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has no further comment to make at this time....(source)
Statement on Sentencing Archbishop Philip Wilson'Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
Extract from  Media Release,  Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
The Catholic b ishops of Australia acknowledge that the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime , but w e hope that today ’s custodial sentence brings some sens e of peace and healing to those abused by deceased priest James Fletcher. It takes great courage for survivors to come forward to tell their stor ies . Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the Cunneen Inquiry . The Church has made substantial changes to ensure that abuse and cover -up are no t part of Catholic life and that children are safe in our communities. We will continue to work with all those in the Church and beyond who are seeking to put in plac e strong and consistent standards of safeguarding throughout Australia , including how we respond to allegations of sexual abuse . The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has no further comment to make at this time....(source)
Storms and Synods.
Extract from Eric Hodgens, John Menadue blog, 30 June  2018
The Catholic Church is facing a perfect storm. How well will an Australian National Synod deal with it?     The 19th century was a stormy period for the Catholic Church as the papacy battled to regain its European dominance undermined by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. How appropriate that the First Vatican Council final vote declaring Papal Infallibility was accompanied by thunder and lightning – a massive storm. Papal power won out in the long run as Paul Collins has shown in “Absolute Power”. But – at a price.          Four intertwining crises are currently creating a perfect storm for the Catholic Church.     The first crisis stems from the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment and its progeny – human rights. This brought us cars in the garage and democracy in the forum. Authority now came from the people, not from the king (or pope). It took time to catch on. The Amish stuck doggedly to the horse and buggy – the Church to monarchy. But when the ordinary punter woke up that he was being taken for a ride the game was over.           The second crisis is clerical sexual abuse. Priests have held consecrated authority for centuries, yet 7% of them have been found to be child abusers. Nothing deauthorises a consecrated class more than being found out harbouring criminals. No wonder that transparency is taboo for power institutions. Nowhere to hide.        This leads on to the third crisis – corporate coverup of the crime, blaming the victim and persecuting the whistle-blower. Today’s social sciences have a lot to say about crisis management, but monarchs don’t readily take notice of new ideas that are not their own.        The fourth is the inevitable outcome – the very culture of the institution is exposed as defective.    There have been signs along the way that something was wrong.....(more)
Pope Francis appoints Bishop Peter A Comensoli the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne
Extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 29 June 2018
The Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed Most Reverend Bishop Peter Andrew Comensoli of the Diocese of Broken Bay as the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne.     Archbishop-elect Comensoli (b.1964) grew up in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters and Marist Fathers. He studied commerce at the University of Wollongong and worked for a time in the banking sector. He entered the seminary in 1986 and was ordained in 1992.       Following his ordination, Archbishop-elect Comensoli undertook postgraduate studies in moral theology in Rome and at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. After serving in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Wollongong, he was Diocesan Chancellor for six years prior to his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2011 and as Apostolic Administrator to the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2014. He has served as Bishop of Broken Bay for the past three-and-a-half years.       The life of Christian discipleship is a precious gift, developed through hearing and responding to God’s call. In accepting this call to be a new missionary among God’s people of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I readily acknowledge the great responsibility entrusted to me, along with the frailties I carry,’ he said.         ‘To the good people of Melbourne, let me say that you are already in my prayers. As I come among you I place my trust in the tender encouragement of Jesus. We are pilgrims together in the Lord’s vineyard. As we take these first steps in friendship, may we anchor our lives to his Gospel.....In announcing the appointment, Pope Francis also accepted Archbishop Denis Hart’s resignation after 17 years as Archbishop of Melbourne. Archbishop Hart will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the installation of Archbishop-elect Comensoli on Wednesday 1 August.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic
Adelaide priest Fr Charles Gauci named Bishop of Darwin
Edited extract from ACBC, Melbourne Catholic, 28 June 2018
Pope Francis has appointed Fr Charles Gauci, currently administrator of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide, the seventh Bishop of Darwin.    Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge welcomed the appointment of a man who is known for his deep spirituality and real commitment to evangelisation.     ‘Fr Charles has ministered to people from many walks of life – as a pastor in parishes, a chaplain to schools, a spiritual director and retreat leader,’ Archbishop Coleridge said.      ‘He will be a great gift to the Church in Darwin with all its challenges and also a good addition to the Bishops Conference because of his long and varied experience as priest and teacher of the faith.’    Fr Gauci was born into a faith-filled family in Malta and arrived in Australia as a 13-year-old. He was ordained for Adelaide in 1977 and has served in parishes across the Archdiocese. He has also held a number of archdiocesan leadership roles, including as chairman of the Council of Priests.....Fr Gauci said he hopes to visit the Diocese – which takes in almost all of the Northern Territory – as soon as possible so he can meet the local people and speak with Bishop Eugene Hurley, who has served in Darwin for the past 11 years and as a bishop for almost 20 years.    ‘Bishop Eugene is a great man; I’m humbled to succeed him. He will help me understand the Diocese, its communities and ministries. With that knowledge and discerning what God is asking of me, I will seek to fulfil the task now entrusted to me,’ he said.    ‘I look forward to continuing to learn from all the people of God as their fellow traveller.’....(more) Melbourne Catholic ACBC
Sights and sounds as Pope Francis creates new Princes of the Church
Extract from Inés San Martín, Crux, Vatican Correspondent, 28 June 2018
ROME - Pope Francis will create 14 new cardinals on Thursday, 11 of whom will be in a position to elect, and be elected as, the next pope. They come from 12 countries, including Madagascar, Japan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Spain and Italy, in another attempt by the pontiff to make the College of Cardinals a reflection of the universality of the Church.....(more)
French NGO founder priest dismissed from clerical state
The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy has issued a 'final' decision dismissing Heart’s Home founder Father Thierry de Roucy for 'disobedience'
Limited extract from Céline Hoyeau, subscription journal La Croix Internationals, 28 June 2018
France:  In a rare Vatican decision, the founder of the international association Points Coeur (Heart’s Home), which has been sending young volunteers on mission since 1990,  has been dismissed from the clerical state, La Croix has learned.       The Vatican decision brought to a close a ten year long process marked by a complex process between Father Thierry de Roucy, now aged 61, the Heart’s Home organization, the bishop of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon  and Rome.     In 2011, de Roucy was found guilty of abuse of ecclesiastical power, sexual abuse and absolution of an accomplice in the person a young assistant priest.    The latter was subsequently relieved of his priesthood at his own request after church authorities concluded that he had been subject to undue influence.    'Final' decision....(source)  Photo: La Croix International,  promesaartstudio/stock.adobe.com
Pope’s ex-chief of staff says ‘too early’ to judge Vatican reform
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 27 June 2018
ROME - Perhaps Pope Francis’s most powerful aide for the last five years, who will be named a cardinal tomorrow, says it’s still “premature” and “too early” to judge the results of the pontiff’s much-ballyhooed reform of the Vatican.        “It’s still to early to judge the reform,” said Italian Cardinal-designate Angelo Becciu, speaking to reporters on Wednesday.      “Many things have changed, things have been modified in discasteries [a word referring to Vatican departments], but we’re still searching to find the best path,” he said.          The state of Francis’s reform has been questioned lately by observers who note that aside from the consolidation of some pre-existing Vatican departments and the creation of some new ones, there’s been little tangible change in Vatican structures and operations. In the meantime, the Vatican’s traditional centers of power, especially the all-important Secretariat of State, appears to have consolidated its role rather than seeing it diminished or redefined.        Becciu, however, counseled patience....(more)
Archbishop Coleridge demands greater accountability of Bishops during visit to Rome
Extract from  Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 27 June 2018
BRISBANE Archbishop and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Mark Coleridge has used a Vatican visit to publicly demand bishops “be accountable” in changing Church culture that made child abuse possible.         “We’re not above the law, we are not a law unto ourselves nor is the Church a law unto herself,” Archbishop Coleridge said following a conference on safeguarding and child protection held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on June 18-21.       In Rome, Archbishop Coleridge also met with leading Church officials interested in the episcopate in Australia, the process of responding to the Royal Commission and preparations for the Plenary Council.     He used a lunch hosted by the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See and attended by the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister, to reiterate his key message: “… that the bishops are keen to work with the government in tackling child abuse at every level”.     “The presence of Vatican officials made it clear that the Holy See shares the same commitment,” Archbishop Coleridge said.     Archbishop Coleridge was one of several Australian keynote speakers at the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference, reflecting on the theme “Culture, an enabler or barrier to safeguarding”.      Some elements of Catholic culture had been “very destructive” and there were aspects of Church culture that had hindered progress in addressing allegations of sexual abuse, Archbishop Coleridge said.     “I’ve tried to identify the points at which Catholic culture made child abuse possible and also gave rise to the cover-up of the abuse that happened,” he said.     “One word that’s used to describe a large and complex phenomenon within the culture is clericalism – in other words, authority geared to power and not to service.     “In many ways, what happened in the Catholic Church was that our strengths became our weaknesses.”    Archbishop Coleridge said an example of those strengths was that closeness that Catholic clergy and religious shared with families.    However, he said, it was precisely that which, “in certain situations, gave them access to the children who were abused”.    Nevertheless, Archbishop Coleridge said that just as strength can become a weakness, a weakness could also become a strength.    “I believe that the agony we are passing through this time in fact is a purification of the Church that has already made us stronger,” he said.....(more).  Photo Catholic Leader, Emilie Ng
German bishops declare backing for mixed-marriage couples
Extract from James Roberts, The  Tablet, 27 June 2018
Pope Francis expanded on the issue in the press conference on the plane back from Geneva to Rome on Monday.      The leadership of the German bishops’ conference today issued a statement saying that they are determined vigorously to pursue the initiative on intercommunion that they launched after their plenary in February this year. The initiative, they said is aimed at producing “greater unity” between Christian Churches. In Germany the vast majority of mixed marriages, couples the handout seeks to accommodate, are between Catholics and Lutherans.     “It is important for us that we are on an ecumenical quest to achieve a more profound understanding and even greater unity among Christians, and we consider ourselves to be obliged to stride forward in this matter courageously,” the permanent council of the conference said. The council is made up of the current 26 diocesan bishops, out of a total conference membership of 66.    A decision to help mixed-denomination couples to both receive communion, and an associated handout for parishes, was approved at the bishops’ conference’s spring plenary on 22 February by a two-thirds majority, and has since proved highly controversial. One month later, on 22 March, seven bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany’s largest diocese, sent a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome asking for clarification as to whether the issue was within the competence of a local bishops’ conference or rather a matter for the Universal Church.     Francis reaffirmed on the plane that under the Code of Canon Law, it is up to the local bishop to decide under what conditions communion can be administered to non-Catholics, and not up to local bishops’ conferences.     The problem with having an entire bishops’ conference deal with such questions is that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal”, he said.        Whatever the German conference may come up with in the end, he said, will likely be “an orientational document so that every one of the diocesan bishops can determine by himself what the Code of Canon Law already permits.”.....(more)
Doctrinal chief Ladaria plays down possibility of female deacons
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 27 June 2018
Ladaria has said that the ruling against women being ordained priests was definitive, infallible teaching
The leader of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation sought to play down expectations about the possibility of female deacons today, arguing that a commission set up by Pope Francis was focussed on their historical role in the early Church rather than on ordination.       Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria told reporters in the Vatican on 26 June, that while women deacons existed in the early Church they were “not the same” as their male counterparts.      “The question the Pope has asked, and we have to answer, is what the situation for deaconesses was in the old Church. We know from the sources that they existed in the old Church: but what was the meaning of deaconesses? Was it the same as [male] deacons?” the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said on Tuesday.    The doctrinal prefect, who is to be created cardinal by Pope Francis in a ceremony in St Peter’s on 28 June, is president of a body formally established by Francis in August 2016 to examine women deacons.       Ladaria said that “the work of the commission is at a good point,” that they had studied the question the Pope had put to them and “passed to the Holy Father our conclusions.” His remarks are the first public comments about the body’s work since it was set up almost two years ago.     And he repeatedly underlined that the commission - made up of twelve theologians split equally on gender grounds - was not tasked with giving a yes or no to ordination.....(more)  Photo: The Tablet, CNS/Paul Haring  

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.

Archbishop Coleridge: The church is now facing its own #MeToo moment
Extracts from Junno Arocho Esteves - America The Jesuit Review, Catholic News Service, 22 June  2018
ROME (CNS) -- In the wake of historic allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up in countries around the world, the Catholic Church is experiencing the same challenge that has brought a reckoning to those who used their authority to abuse or silence victims, said an Australian archbishop.       Allegations such as those raised against Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, represent a "major shift" within the culture of the church, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said June 21. Abuse survivors are "willing to speak and they are believed," and the church has new processes of investigation, he added.         "It's not unrelated to the #MeToo phenomenon; there's something going on in the culture. And one of the elements of that cultural shift is that people are prepared to speak up in a way that they would never have done before," he told journalists following a four-day conference in Rome on safeguarding and child protection.     The Anglophone Safeguarding Conference, held at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University June 18-21, reflected on the theme, "Culture, an enabler or barrier to safeguarding."    Among the speakers at the conference was Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection, and Bishop Gilles Cote of Daru-Kiunga, Papua New Guinea.     While local cultures can influence how the church in a particular area handles abuse cases, there are aspects of church culture that have hindered progress in addressing allegations of sexual abuse, Archbishop Coleridge told Catholic News Service June 21.     "One word that's used to describe a large and complex phenomenon within the culture is clericalism. In other words, authority geared to power and not to service," he said. "In many ways, what happened in the Catholic Church was that our strengths became our weaknesses."     An example of those strengths was that closeness that Catholic clergy and religious shared with families. However, he said, it was precisely that which, "in certain situations, gave them access to the children who were abused."     Nevertheless, Archbishop Coleridge said that just as strength can become a weakness, a weakness can also become a strength.     "In many ways, what happened in the Catholic Church was that our strengths became our weaknesses."    "I believe that the agony we are passing through this time in fact is a purification of the church that has already made us stronger. It's kind of a searing grace that we never saw coming, and we certainly wouldn't have chosen. But somehow, God is in the midst of it all, purifying the church and calling us to what we are intended be," Archbishop Coleridge told CNS.....(more)
Bishop Vincent Long joins reform groups and politicians on release of church report
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 21 June 2018
There are growing calls for Australia's bishops to release a Truth Justice and Healing Council report.          Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Long has broken ranks with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to join reform groups and politicians calling for public release of a church report responding to the child abuse royal commission.      Keeping the four-volume, 1000-page, church-commissioned Truth Justice and Healing Council report “in-house for any period longer than necessary” is “not in the interest of the kind of church the Pope speaks about”, said Bishop Long in a statement this week.        Pope Francis recently urged all Catholics “not to be afraid of being the central drivers of the transformation that is being demanded today” in the wake of the child sexual abuse tragedy.         The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said it would “take some time” to consider the TJHC report it received in March, and would formally respond to the royal commission when it had “completed our dialogue with the Holy See” and received advice from an implementation advisory group appointed in May.         On Tuesday shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin said the TJHC report should be made public because “We need full transparency from the Catholic Church on this issue”, more than six months after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its landmark final report.    More than 60 per cent of abuse allegations to the commission related to Catholic institutions, and there were more than 4400 abuse allegations between 1980 and 2015.             “People who have suffered abuse deserve to see the formal response to the royal commission’s recommendations from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council. The royal commission did not make its recommendations lightly,” Ms Macklin said.          Attorney General Christian Porter responded to questions about the TJHC report by saying the key to protecting future generations was for “all those involved to be open and transparent about what occurred and what is being done to prevent a recurrence”.           State governments and institutions that decide not to accept the commission’s recommendations “should state so and why”, Mr Porter said.        In NSW Parliament on Tuesday NSW Greens MP and justice spokesperson David Shoebridge, who played a key role in the campaign for a royal commission, lodged a notice of motion calling for the report’s immediate release because “it’s well past time that survivors, victims and their families and supporters saw the Catholic Church’s response”.        “It may be that the TJHC report reflects unfavourably on actions taken by the hierarchy. If that is the case then it’s precisely why it must be released immediately,” Mr Shoebridge said..........Bishop Long, who was sexually abused by clergy as an adult, told the royal commission in February, 2017 the church needed to “dismantle the old model” of Catholicism and end a “pecking order” that had lay people “right at the bottom of the pyramid”.     In a statement this week he said all Catholics should be involved with the church’s response to the royal commission, including “taking into account the Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) report”.        The Pope’s comments about church reform and a more active involvement by lay Catholics “should serve as an encouragement for the bishops to engage closely and respectfully with the faithful in responding to the child sexual abuse crisis”, Bishop Long said......(more)  Photo: Newcastle Herald
Tasmania is the latest state to declare priests will be required to report allegations of child abuse, even those made in the confessional, and could face criminal charges for failing to do so.
Extract from CathNews, The Mercury, 21 June 2018
The reform plan has put the Tasmanian government at odds with the Church, which says priests must keep confessions secret.       Tabling the government’s response to the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Parliament yesterday, Attorney-General Elise Archer said careful consideration had been given to its 409 recommendations.     The Tasmanian government has accepted in whole or in principle the vast bulk of the commission’s recommendations that lie within its jurisdiction and says it will give further consideration to all but three.     Ms Archer said state laws would be reformed to provide greater protection to children.    “Tasmania will be one of a number of jurisdictions in taking the lead in accepting in principle the need to include priests as mandatory reporters, and importantly to lift the veil from the confessional for the purpose of such reporting,” she said.    “The Tasmanian government also accepts, in principle, the need for a specific criminal offence for the failure to report child sexual abuse and criminalising such behaviour,” she said. “Consistent with the need to put children first, the government also accepts in principle the child safe standards recommended by the royal commission.”    Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous backs mandatory reporting but not when it means breaking Church law that requires priests to uphold the seal of confession, 9news.com.au reports.    He said any allegations and suspicions of child or vulnerable adult abuse must be reported and acted on.
"The Catholic Church in Tasmania has zero tolerance for the abuse or neglect of children or vulnerable adults and is committed to acting in their best interests," he said yesterday.    He joined Catholic bishops across Australia in opposing any legal changes forcing the reporting of abuse revealed in confession, which under canon law would result in a priest's excommunication from the Church....(more)
Catholic Religious Australia elects new president
Extract from CathNews,  21 June 2018
At a national gathering of members yesterday, Catholic Religious Australia elected Josephite Sister Monica Cavanagh as its new president.    The 42nd National Assembly of Catholic Religious Australia began on Tuesday, exploring the theme of “Religious in Australia: Evolving with Hope”. Electing a new president and council was a significant part of the gathering.      Sr Monica, the congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, said it was “a great honour” to be elected by her peers.    “I believe the voice of religious men and women is very important at this time in the life of the Church and the community. We are called to be the prophetic voice – we must be courageous and respond as ecclesial women and men,” Sr Monica said.    After a structural review, CRA has moved away from state representation to a model of shared leadership.    In a statement release yesterday, CRA said: “The new council members take on this role with great energy and passion for responding to the challenges and opportunities of today’s Church and society.    “They are a council who stand together and are committed to strengthening the voice of the religious in Australia.”....(more).  Photo: CathNews
American Cardinal Accused of Sexually Abusing Minor Is Removed From Ministry
Extract from Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman, New York Times, 20 June 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington and a prominent Roman Catholic voice in international and public policy, has been removed from ministry after an investigation found credible allegations that he sexually abused a teenager 47 years ago while serving as a priest in New York.    The news comes at a time when Pope Francis has endeavored to overcome criticism that he has turned a blind eye to child sexual abuse by clergy in Chile and elsewhere. The New York Archdiocese said in a statement that the Vatican was informed and involved in the investigation into Cardinal McCarrick, and that the cardinal has ceased his public ministry “at the direction of Pope Francis.”    Cardinal McCarrick, 87, said in a statement that he was innocent, but that he cooperated with the process and accepted the Vatican’s decision.    “While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence,” his statement said, “I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”...(more)
Australian prelate: Laity could have prevented ‘catastrophic’ abuse crisis
Limited extract from Inés San Martín, John L. Allen Jr, Christopher White, Cruxnow, 20 June 2018
ROME - Arguably, few people in Australia can say they are more on the front lines in picking up the pieces after the recently concluded Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse that was highly critical of the Catholic Church than Archbishop Mark Coleridge, elected as president of the country’s bishops’ conference last month.     Despite the challenges, which also include trials of two of Australia’s most renowned clerics, Archbishop Philip Wilson in Adelaide and Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s finance czar, Coleridge is convinced that when it comes to fighting clerical sexual abuse, a “change in culture” is needed and is already in motion.           “There’s absolutely no room for complacency, but there is room for encouragement,” Coleridge told Crux on Monday in Rome.     The Australian prelate is in the eternal city this week to participate in the “Anglophone Safeguarding Conference,” a yearly gathering taking place since the early 2000s, bringing together bishops’ conferences from the English-speaking world under the aegis of Rome’s Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University.          Among other things, Coleridge spoke with Crux about the role of the laity in addressing the problem, because if “there had been more lay people involved in decision making roles in times past, we wouldn’t have the catastrophe on our hands that we now have.”    “There’s no point in denying that, generally, clericalism was at the heart of the problem, and still is. Part of the culture shift we’re trying to bring about is to break the hold of that clericalism. Therefore, obviously lay people need to take on responsibilities that are new in the Catholic Church,” he said.....(more)  Photo: Cruxnow, Religion News Service, David Gibson
Pope says no to women priests, yes to women in Curial leadership
Extract from Elise Hart, Catholic News Agency, 20 June 2018
Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.       Responding to a question about women's ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to 'functionalize' the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”     “We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn't work.”     “John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”           However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.       “I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican's deputy spokesperson.    He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”     Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn't matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.        “I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn't have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.         For example, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.    Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don't want to fall into this.” ....(more)  Photo: Catholic News Agency Ibanex CNA
The Catholic Church at the crossroads.
Extract from Garry Everett, John Mendue Blog, 20 June 2018
The cross has long been a radical and confronting symbol among religious groups. In a similar way, at the crossroads of life, we are challenged by choices which will lead us to either good or ill. The Catholic Church in Australia  has reached the crossroads and there is an urgency to the choices that must be made. The old ways have run their course and new ways must be found.       In  Pope Francis , we have a leader who is challenging the Church with a new vision. Francis is a believer in devolution; he does not want every decision affecting the Church to be made in Rome. Recently he challenged the German Bishops to meet and to arrive at  “as near a unanimous decision as possible” on a contentious matter affecting Catholics and some Lutherans in Germany. More recently he received the resignations of all the bishops in Chile, following the catastrophic impact of the cover up of sexual abuse cases in that country.       When Francis speaks of devolution of decision-making, he is also speaking of devolution of responsibility. Many bishops have found this challenge too difficult. They are happy for Rome to carry the blame for anything that goes wrong.   In Australia, Archbishop Fisher in speaking about the Plenary Council  (a meeting of the whole Church: priests; religious and laity) announced that the Council could not change the Church’s teachings or discipline. In the current context established by Pope Francis, that may be too sweeping and extreme a statement.
       The Catholic Church can sometimes forget that it is in, and on mission to, the modern world, with all the world’s problems and successes. It is one thing to have 2000 years of almost unchanged beliefs and teachings, and another thing to engage constructively with contemporary social issues showing some understanding of the need for change. The recent decisions by many countries regarding gay marriage is often regarded as a failure of the Church to convince people to adhere to Church teachings. Yet Pope Francis has signalled a different approach to homosexuality, and this approach is up-setting many Bishops.  What next?....(more)
Statement on LGBT Issues at the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland Adopted by the International Church Reform Network [ICRN], June 14, 2018
Extract from ICRN, 20 June 2018
The Vatican’s World Meeting of Families [WMF], to be held in August in Dublin, Ireland, needs to send clear signals that ALL families, including LGBT families will be welcomed. Just as Pope Francis has been meeting regularly with survivors of sexual abuse to listen to their stories, we call on him to meet LGBT families, who have long suffered from another form of clerical abuse.     Moreover, LGBT families should be invited to make presentations as part of the official program so that the other participants, and indeed the whole Church, can hear their stories. What arrangements are being made to guarantee that at least one of the five families who will give witness at WMF will be an LGBT family? Will the program include any parents who have LGBT children? Will a same-gender couple testify about the joys and difficulties of raising children? Will participants hear from a transgender person about their experience of family?  Will even one such event happen?....(more)
How the Anglican Church has hardened its stance against same-sex marriage
Extract from opinion piece, The Conversation, 19 June 2018
In the aftermath of the legalising of same-sex marriage in Australia, the Anglican Church has ramped up its discrimination against gay people to new heights.      Not content simply with the discrimination built into the legislation – per ministers of religion to refuse to marry same-sex couples – conservatives in the Anglican Church are making sure the church is a complete no-go zone for gay couples.     To begin with, Anglican clergy are not actually free to marry same-sex couples, should they wish to do so. And many clergy would like to.        The state licenses ministers to perform marriages only according to their church’s authorised marriage rites. Conservatives have been quick to point out that the Anglican Church’s wedding services are specifically for male-female marriages, and so cannot be used legally for same-sex weddings.   Now the Anglican bishops have added a raft of new restrictions as well.....(more)   
Asian church’s turn in the abuse spotlight is here
The window of opportunity to deal with the problem before it becomes a major scandal is closing
Limited extract from Fr William Grimm MM, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 June 2018
Pope Francis accepted the resignations of three Chilean bishops in connection with the cover-up of sexual abuse by clergy in their country.     One bishop was the lightning rod for uproar among Chile’s Catholics because of accusations that as a priest he covered up abuse by a priest who was his mentor. The pope’s appointment of him as a bishop and his initial vehement defense of the man in the face of protests have been the low point of Francis’ papacy.   The other bishops whose resignations were accepted have already reached the episcopal retirement age of 75, so the pope’s having them step down is not going to satisfy critics who point out that cover-ups have been a systemic problem involving more than a handful of bishops.      By having the entire Chilean hierarchy come to Rome, Francis seems to....(source)
Uniting  for a Positive Resistance in Support of  Pope Francis
Extracts from the 16 June 2018 Press Release of the “International Catholic Reform Network” (ICRN), 18 June 2018
Pezinok/Slovakia. Fifty Catholics from 18 countries and 4 continents gathered near Bratislava, Slovakia from June 11 – 15, 2018. Formed as the International Catholic Reform Network (icrn.info) in 2013, the participants of this year’s conference learned from members of the former Czechoslovak Underground Church about positive resistance.      The group was inspired by the testimonials of the people who endured severe oppression under the communist regime of that time.         “We value the courageous acts of Bishop Davidek and others who recognized the pastoral need to bring the sacraments to communities of faith,” said Peter Krizan of the group OK21 – Society for Open Christianity for the 21st Century. “We need to endure and be vigilant, so that we do not miss 21st Century’s Pentecost.”, Krizan added. “Their courage, integrity, and willingness to take risks for freedom and the ongoing life of the Church is awe inspiring,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, a reform organization in the United States. ....“In a two-fold strategy, the reform movements will continue to support Pope Francis’ reform approach and at the same time, foster new ways of leading Christian parishes as equals on a grass root level,” said Christian Weisner, board member of We Are Church Germany. “We strongly support the substantial reforms Pope Francis is implementing against strong resistance within the church hierarchy. ”, he emphasized.....Participants of the Conference came from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States. Italy and Kenia had to cancel their prearranged attendance at short notice. ...(more)  Photo: ICRN 
Are women 'substantially' incompatible for the priesthood?
Attempts to link maleness and priesthood through the ages have failed the test
Extracts from John Wijngaards, Opinion Piece. Mational Catholic Reporter, 18 June 2018
What do these popes have in common? Nicholas V (1454) authorised Christian conquerors to enslave native peoples. Innocent VIII (1484) endorsed the torture and execution of witches. Benedict XIV (1745) condemned taking interest on capital loans as a mortal sin. Pius IX (1864) declared non-Christians could not obtain eternal salvation. John Paul II (1994) taught that priesthood is reserved only to men.         All defended errors based on a mixture of misread scripture and ill-informed prejudice. The only difference is that whereas the other erroneous teachings have now been discarded by the official church, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last month still repeated Pope John Paul II's mistaken view.        Archbishop Luis Ladaria writes: "The impossibility of ordaining women belongs to the 'substance' of the sacrament of order, a fact the Church recognizes. She cannot change this substance. … It is not just a question of discipline, but of doctrine." This is a massive claim that needs to be exposed for the fallacy it is.            Take note: the archbishop asserts that the exclusion of women is not just a practical custom going back to Jesus. A fundamental obstacle is at stake, a trait that makes every woman an intrinsic mismatch to the eucharistic priesthood of Christ. What is he talking about?....Some women presided at the Eucharist in early Christian communities. But the Hellenistic-Roman context in which the church grew up soon strangled such "anomalies."  The reason? Women were considered mentally and physically inferior. Roman law deprived them of public office. As Augustine succinctly remarked: "Women rank below men by nature and law."....(more)  Photo: NCR, CNS/Paul Haring  

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)

Australia’s bishops still don’t get it – things have changed
Extract from John Menadue blog (and origonally SMH 13/6/2018), 15 June 2018
Everything changed on December 15, 2017 when the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented its final report and recommendations to the Australian public. It’s a shame Australia’s Catholic bishops missed the memo.       The royal commission exposed in sickening, staggering detail the church’s crimes against thousands of children in Australia alone, and its culpability as an organisation that protected criminals and facilitated those crimes.    But the bishops, in response, are acting as if nothing has happened. Sure, they’ve promised change. They’ve released pious statements. They’ve even used the words “humility” and “humbled” in the right context.    But with every move they make, with every step they don’t take, Australia’s bishops show they don’t understand that their relationship with Australians has changed. Has had to change.    In the words of Hunter abuse survivor Bob O’Toole, “They don’t seem to get that they don’t call the shots anymore.”      The church kept its crimes and its criminals secret for decades because it didn’t want the scandal that would damage its authority and power. It wasn’t naivety or innocence – as too many senior churchmen argued over the years – but a clinical, systemic, cold-blooded process designed to protect the “brand”, informed by centuries of “calling the shots” on how other people should live their lives.          All swept away. The secrets aren’t secret anymore. The powerless reclaimed some power by speaking out. And that requires the church and its bishops to cede power, which is where they’re failing now.      In the past week I’ve put questions to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference about if and when it is going to release a report completed by its Truth, Justice and Healing Council three months ago in response to the royal commission’s report and recommendations.       I’m not the only one who thinks the council might have gone much further than the bishops expected in supporting the royal commission’s recommendations for historic change in the church – on governance, canon law, reporting to secular authorities, celibacy, women in leadership positions and the iconic issue of breaching the “sanctity” of the confessional.        The bishops haven’t released it, and based on the pile of words I’ve received in response to my questions, won’t be doing so any time soon. They are consulting with people, and that even includes lay people, they said.    But there’s where the problem lies. The bishops have picked those consulted. Groups like Catholics for Renewal – including academic and former priest Peter Wilkinson, who produced a ground-breaking report in 2017 that revealed exactly how radically the church has to change to prevent abuse occurring in future – are out in the cold.....(more)
Cardinals present first draft of blueprint for Vatican reform
Extract from CathNews. Crux, 15 June 2018
The council of nine cardinals, or C9, tasked with advising Pope Francis and shaping the reform of the Roman Curia, has released a first draft of a constitution outlining the Pontiff’s vision for the Vatican.   The proposed document is an Apostolic Constitution, one of the highest forms of papal decrees which usually promulgates significant Church legislation.     For the time being, it is entitled Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), and it will be submitted to Francis for review.    “The pope will do what he wants,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, and he will apply “all the opportune or necessary changes”.    The draft offers a guideline to “understand the spirit (of the document) and what is behind the writing,” Mr Burke said, and it lists the “guiding principles” that Francis has offered to inspire the new constitution.    There is no set date as to when to expect the final document, which Mr Burke said still requires “a lot of work,” but it will eventually replace Pastor Bonus, St John Paul II’s 1998 constitution for the Roman Curia.   The cardinals, with the exception of Australian Cardinal George Pell, who remains on leave from his position as Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy as he prepares to face trial on historical child sexual abuse charges, met for three days this week, with the Pope not attending on Wednesday because he was at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square....(more)
ACBC President going to Rome
Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, 14 June 2018
 ACBC President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge will head to Rome this week to attend a conference of English speaking Catholic leaders to discuss best practice for child safety.     To cooincide with his trip, he has released a video explaining that many of the recommendations given to the Church by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have already been implemented. Others, however, need deeper conversations and a strategy to be put in place.   He also addresses the issue of the seal of confession, stating 'The Catholic Church does not view the sacramental seal as incompatible with maintaining child safety. The Church is committed to taking all measures to make child safe environments, however there is nothing to suggest that legal abolition of the seal will help that.'....(source)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.
Protecting children in the church
There is no doubt that the protection of children and youth against sexual violence remains a central problem in the Catholic Church and in society
Limited Extract from Hans Zollner SJ, Vatican City, subscription journal La Croix International,  14 June 2018
The issue of sexual abuse of minors committed by clergy is constantly returning to the forefront of media attention.     Recently, through various news outlets and publications worldwide, this focus has been particularly sustained for the Karadima case in Chile. It's hard to say why that has resonated with people around the world more than other cases have.           The offer of resignation by all Chilean bishops is a sign of huge importance, which is in line with a development that we have seen over the last years. There is no one turning point — the ship of the church is slowly moving in another direction. It is a huge effort, and change is on the way.       For Pope Francis, calling a whole bishops' conference to Rome has been new. John Paul II and Benedict XVI summoned cardinals and bishops to discuss clerical sexual abuse, but this is new for Francis. He takes the problem seriously.     The message is "let us look at the system; let us look at the whole ship." The message communicated by his own behavior is "admit when you have failed and be honest."     Despite everything that has happened in recent months, he gets it, he expresses sorrow, he asks for forgiveness. This is the point: he has a heart. People have the impression that other high-ranking prelates do not have a heart.      There is no doubt that the protection of children and youth against sexual violence remains a central problem in the Catholic Church and in society.....(source)  Image: La Croix International.
Police in Chile raid Catholic Church offices amid abuse investigation
Extract from James Macintyre, The Tablet, 14 June 2018
Police and prosecutors yesterday raided Catholic Church offices in two Chilean cities looking for documents and investigative reports related to the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the country.      The surprise raids took place at the headquarters of the Ecclesiastical Court in Santiago, and the bishop’s office in Rancagua, in the O’Higgins region where 14 priests are accused of having had sexual relations with minors, the Associated Press (AP) reported.     “In Chile, we are all subject to common justice,” said prosecutor Emiliano Arias, who led the raid in Santiago.     Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the Archbishop of Santiago, said Church officials “gave the prosecutor all the requested documentation”, adding that the officials are “available to cooperate with the civilian justice system in all that is required”.    Last month, all of Chile’s 31 active bishops offered to resign over their collective failure to protect Chile’s children from priests who committed abuse, including rape.    The police raids came as two leading Vatican investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, are in Chile to investigate the sexual abuse of minors committed by clergy.    Scicluna and Bertomeu earlier this year put together a 2,300-page report that led the Pope to realise that he had misjudged the situation in Chile and to concede that he had made “grave mistakes” in previously defending Bishop Barros of Osorno, who is at the centre of cover up claims.   On Monday, Francis accepted the resignation of Barros, along with that of Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso. The Pope named a temporary leader for each diocese.   Barros, 61, has been the subject of intense controversy since Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno in 2015 despite objections from local Catholics, the Pope’s own sex abuse prevention advisers and certain other bishops in Chile.   In a letter addressed to Chile's bishops and released by the Vatican in April, Francis said he had made “serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information”.....(more)

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)

Catholic Church has begun work on Royal Commission recommendations
Statement from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, 13 June 2018
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference welcomes the Turnbull Government’s response today to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 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.     Across the country, child safeguarding offices have been established or strengthened in dioceses, archdioceses and other Catholic organi sations to streamline and centralise work on protecting children and young people in Church settings.     At the national level, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd has been working with Church agencies, other non-government organisations and a number of gover nment agencies to produce consistent n ational s afeguarding s tandards for the Church.    The Catholic Church was the first non-government institution to join the national redress scheme on the national level.    The Church had called for such a scheme over recent years and is firmly committed to providing redress to survivors who were abused in Catholic settings.  The Church also has established the Implementation Advisory Group, made up mostly of lay people, which is helping the bishops decide how to respond to the Royal Commission.  The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is considering advice from internal and external stakeholders, including the Implementation Advisory Group. The Federal Government’s response will also inform the bishops’ response in important ways.    Regarding the issue of the seal of confession, the Catholic Church does not view the sacramental seal as incompatible with maintaining child safety.    The Church wants measures that will genuinely make environments safer for children. There has been no compelling evidence to suggest that legal abolition of the seal of confession will help in that regard.   Protecting children and upholding the integrity of Catholic sacraments are not mutually exclusive and the Church wants to continue to work with government to ensure both can be achieved and maintained.....(source)
Federal Government formal response to CSA Royal Commision
Edited Extract from ABC News, Wednesday 12 June 2018
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will deliver a national apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse on October 22 this year.       Key points:    The Federal Government will adopt 104 of 122 recommendations from the royal commission, and is still considering 18; That includes forcing priests to report information revealed to them during confession;  WA will sign on to the national redress scheme, clearing the way for compensation to begin on July 1.       Mr Turnbull this morning outlined the Federal Government's formal response to the five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.    The Prime Minister said 104 of the commission's 122 recommendations relating to the Commonwealth would be adopted, including the establishment of a national office for child safety.     The Government will consider the other 18 recommendations but noted none had been rejected.    A recommendation to make it an offence to fail to report that a child is at substantial risk is still being considered because states have to all agree on the wording.     The royal commission recommended forcing priests to report information revealed to them by people making confession.    Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has made it clear he supports the contentious recommendation.    But the Australian Catholic Bishops Office said there had been no compelling evidence to suggest that removing the protection for confession would improve child safety....(more)  Photo: ABC News  
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary Meeting May 3-10 2018
Extract from and link to ACBC Summary Report, 12 June 2018
On Thursday, May 3 , the Catholic bishops of Australia gathered for the biannual p lenary m eeting at Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney. The 14 c ommissions of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference held meetings on the first day of the gathering, followed by the Plenary Meeting over the seven subsequent days....(more)
The uncertain future of synodality: Polarization and ecclesial paralysis
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 11 June 2018
A significant part of Pope Francis’ legacy will be his emphasis on the ecclesiology of synodality and his enhancement of the Synod of Bishops, which he systematically explained in an address in 2015 to mark this permanent institution’s fiftieth anniversary.      Preparations are actively underway for the Synod’s next two gatherings — an ordinary assembly on young people and faith (October 2018)  and a special assembly for the Pan-Amazon Region (October 2019).       But it is not yet clear how far the Jesuit pope is willing to go with his project of making the Church more synodal. Now in the sixth year of his pontificate, the differences between the Synod assemblies under Francis are in marked contrast with those of his predecessors.     There was more genuine and open debate at the assemblies on the family 2014 and 2015, and there was a truly synodal elaboration and reception of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia.    Yet there has been no radical change in the governance of the Church at the universal level besides the institution of the C9 advisory council of cardinals, but it is showing signs of fatigue.      And at the national and local levels we have still not seen any renewal – or even beginning — of synodality. The Plenary Council that the Church in Australia is planning for 2020 is a one of the notable exceptions....(Source)  Photo: La Croix International.
Early Australian Provincial Councils / Plenaries
Friday 8 June 2018
A unique and  invaluable set of  papers by Peter Wilkinson on Early Australian Provincial Councils / Plenaries is available on this website. Initial papers in this series were first published progressively in The Swag. With kind permission of The Swag these have been republished here as a set of papers on the 'Documents' page of this website (Document 78). This now includes the fourth part in the series of articles looking at the particular (provincial and plenary) councils of the Catholic Church held in Australia between 1844 and 1937. It then examines, in 2 Parts, the 1885 First Australasian Plenary Council which officially brought together the Churches in Australia and New Zealand for the first time.  Part 2 1885 will be published later and will initially appear in the Spring 2018 edition of The Swag.
ACBC biannual meeting reveals focus of Church and structural changes
Edited Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Thursday 7 June 2018
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) ACBC today provided the minutes from the most recent Plenary Meeting of Australia’s Catholic bishops, held in Sydney 3–10 May.      Among the key talking points, the ACBC committed significant time to the issues of child protection and safeguarding. The conference listened to presentations from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council Chair Justice Neville Owen and CEO Francis Sullivan, focussing on the national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.     The bishops also discussed the place of the Catholic Church in Australian society. Several bishops pointed to the harm caused by the Church’s mishandling of allegations of child sexual abuse and emphasised the need for families, parishes and schools to be supported and nurtured by the Church.    Additionally, the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life outlined its concern of the widespread effects of mental illness. The Conference shared an interest in exploring what the Church can offer that governments and other entities cannot.    Representatives of Catholic Health Australia and St Vincent’s Health Australia gave a presentation to the Conference detailing the implications of voluntary assisted dying legislation in Victoria.     The bishops also passed a number of motions to restructure some of the 14 current commissions, including the merger of the commissions for Church Ministry and for Evangelisation to become the Bishops Commission for Catholic Life, Evangelisation and Ministry, taking on responsibility for youth.....(MORE)      Read the ACBC Plenary Meeting full report on the ACBC website here
Reporting scheme shouldn't ignore Catholic community's concerns
Extract from Christopher Prowse, The Canberra Times, 6 June 2018
The Barr government's plans to expand the Reportable Conduct Scheme to include religious organisations is to be commended but it should not ignore the concerns of the Catholic community.      The Catholic Church shares the government’s concern to protect the safety of children and wishes to be a part of the solution. The draft laws are a consequence of the profound failure of the leadership of the church and the duty of care we owe to children. It is a failure that will haunt the church for decades, and which has haunted many survivors for even longer.     For these failures, the church is sorry. I am sorry.      Breaking the sacred seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions, writes Archbishop Christopher Prowse.    Breaking the sacred seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions, writes Archbishop Christopher Prowse.     At the same time, we are doing all that we can to make sure our schools and parishes are safe places and our protocols and procedures for responding immediately to such issues are in place. We have heard the Australian community, including the very concerned Catholic community, we have learned, and responded on a practical level. I am, committed to continuing this important work.    I support the government’s reportable conduct scheme. When the government scheme to report all child abuse allegations to the ACT Ombudsman did not include parishes and communities of faith, I called for that anomaly to be rectified and strengthened. But I cannot support the government’s plan to break the seal on religious confession.....(more)  Photo: The Canberra Times, Michael Rayner
Response to "Reporting scheme shouldn't ignore Catholic community's concerns, 6 June 2018"
Peter Johnstone, Friday 8 June 2018
The Royal Commission proposal does not threaten Catholics' right to religious freedom. That right is not absolute. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognises that religious freedom must be limited to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.           If priest confessors defy good civil law, they must accept the penalties. Martyrs have been made of such acts, but it would be dubious heroism for a good priest to go to gaol to protect a paedophile's continuing abuse of children.              The Catholic Church should simply require priest confessors to grant absolution only to truly penitent paedophiles who report to the police. This solution does not require breach of the seal of confession and was suggested by Catholics for Renewal at the time of the Vic Parliamentary Inquiry (2012) and was canvassed by Church authorities at the Royal Commission hearings. Failure by bishops to take this simple step today serves to further erode their credibility.
Which way forward on dealing with clergy sex abuse?
Francis has appealed for assistance in combating problems resulting from clericalism, which he blames for the 'culture of abuse' in the Chilean church
Limited extracts from Céline Hoyeau, Paris and Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription magazine La Croix International, 6 June 2018
Pope Francis addressed a letter last Thursday to Chilean Catholics, calling on them to join the reform process for a church which has been devastated by sexual abuse scandals.     More broadly, Pope Francis is aiming to put an end to the clericalism he has identified as the main cause of the abuse culture.    Will Chile’s example become a precedent?     The Chilean church has a number of particularities. Fashioned during the 1980s and 1990s by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was nuncio in Chile before becoming secretary of state for Pope John Paul II, it emerged as a model for Vatican takeovers of Latin American churches during the late 20th century.     Powerful movements developed there promoting an “elite” kind of church in opposition to what were perceived as “problematic” churches.    The outcome was an extreme form of clericalism, which developed to the point that the Chilean bishops did not hesitate to conceal from the pope the abuses they were covering up.     Nevertheless, “Chile is not an isolated case,” according to José Andrés Murillo, a victim of clerical abuse, who is now an organizer of the first meeting of ECA (Ending Clerical Abuse), the international network of associations of victims of abuse in the church, to be held in Geneva this week.....The Chilean situation has clearly illustrated the complexity of the obstacles that Francis is facing and which continue to damage the church reform process he has launched, of which decentralization remains the touchstone.        However, the abuse issue has also revealed a certain incapacity by bishops to effectively implement this decentralization process.      The implementation of Vatican II “opened the door to a very personal style of government by the bishop,” said Msgr. Valdrini.     “By emphasizing the plenitude of the sacrament of orders as the source of the bishop’s power, the Council isolated him from his sacred character,” he said.    “This is why Francis insists so much on synodality,” Msgr. Valdrini said, insisting on the need to reread Pope Francis’ address to the Synod marking the institution’s 50th anniversary in October 2015.     “He particularly emphasized the importance of the advisers to the bishops in which ‘priests and lay people are called to collaborate with (him) for the good of the whole community’,” Msgr. Valdrini said.        Finally, dealing with the abuse crisis could provide an opportunity for Francis to fully implement his reforms.        Although Chile provided a laboratory for Vatican takeovers, the current field of ruins could become a laboratory for the kind of church desired by Francis, including greater involvement of lay people.....(SOURCE)  Photo: La Croix  Pope Francis La Croix Andrew Medichini-AP
Pope’s decision on German bishops document is in line with Vatican II
The decision is full of good sense and aims to assist the German bishops to come to a common decision on Eucharistic sharing
Limited extracts from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription magazine La Croix International, 6 June 2018
Pope Francis has sent the German Catholic bishops back to the drawing board to rework their document on access to the Eucharist for Lutheran spouses in mixed marriage couples.....(source)
Combat self-assurance that has led to an abuse culture in the church
It is necessary for bishops to undergo regular training on the rights of children, the dynamics of abusers, says co-founder of Ending Clergy Abuse network
Limited extracts from Céline Hoyeau, subscription magazine La Croix International, 5 June 2018
In a few days, Chilean sex abuse victim, José Andrès Murillo, will hand over to Pope Francis a letter containing proposals for the battle against abuse in the church.      Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA), the newly formed international network of groups fighting pedophilia in the church, is meeting for the first time in Geneva this week.     In a few days, one of the network’s founders, José Andrès Murillo, who was himself a victim of a former priest in Chile, will hand a letter to Pope Francis outlining a series of proposals for fighting abuse in the Church.    Céline Hoyeau for La Croix interviewed José Andrès Murillo.    La Croix: What is the objective of the Geneva meeting?     José Andrès Murillo: We will discuss ways of combating all forms of abuse, and particularly sexual abuse in a spiritual context.   In addition, we will discuss the problems raised by sects in religious environments, beginning with the Catholic Church.....(source) Photo: La Croix International, José Andrès Murillo, Tiziana Fabi - AFP.
French bishops choose woman as deputy secretary general
Appointment seen as a logical consequence of the implementation of Vatican II
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, France, La Croix International, 5 June 2018
In a first for the Bishops Conference of France, its Permanent Council has chosen a woman to replace outgoing deputy secretary general, Father Gérard Le Stang.       Christine Naline, 60, the person chosen for the post, says she is pleased with her appointment but also sees it as a logical consequence of the...(source). Image: La Croix International, Bishops Conference of France (CEF photo)
EVENT:           Spirituality in the Pub (SIP)         "Writing women back into the Church"
8pm Wednesday 6 June 2018, The Pumphouse Hotel, 128 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy
Women are present throughout the Gospels. They were present at every key point of Jesus’ life, even at the tomb.  Since the Royal Commission, there has been a greater recognition  of the role that women must play in the Church, but they have always been on the front line, sometimes in conflict with priests and  bishops. Can the model of service and leadership by these  “troublesome” Catholic women offer a better vision of the Church?  How can we write them back into our stories?      
   Further details and Flyer on the Events Page.

Bishops in the headlights

Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Blog, 31 May 2018

Catholic 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)

In a letter to Chilean Catholics, Pope Francis calls on them to help eliminate the culture of abuse
“The culture of abuse and cover-up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel,” the pope wrote.
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America the Jesuit Review, 31 May 2018
In a letter to “the pilgrim people of God in Chile” released in Santiago on May 31, Pope Francis called on each of them to become actively involved in their church and society so as to eliminate once and for all “the culture of abuse, and the system of cover-up that allowed it to be perpetuated” and caused such suffering to so many people in their homeland. Francis made clear that he was referring to the triple abuses of power, sex, and conscience, and the cover-up that accompanied them.
             The culture of abuse and cover-up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel” as are “all those means that go against the freedom and integrity of persons,” Francis stated in an autographed eight-page letter in which he again praised and publicly thanked the Chilean victims of abuse “for their courage and perseverance.” He also thanked those who “believed and assisted them” in their sufferings, some of whom he will meet this weekend.         Pope Francis told Chilean Christians that “the ‘never again’ (‘nunca mas’) to the culture of abuse, as well as to the system of cover-up that permitted it to be perpetuated, demands [of us] to work among all [people] so as to generate a culture of care that permeates our ways of relating to each other, of praying, of thinking, of living authority, [as well as] our customs and language and our relation with power and money.”...(more)
Like his boss, Paris archbishop believes in people over systems
Edited Extracts from Christopher White, National Corespondeemnt, Crux, 31 May 2018
PARIS - When Michel Aupetit was announced as the new archbishop of Paris last December, the widespread reaction among many Catholic commentators was, “Who?” .......“I am thinking of how I can reduce time in meetings and spend more time in the field,” (Archbishop Aupetit) tells me - playfully adding this very interview is preventing him from doing the thing he’s seeking to prioritize: being with his people.......“I’m not here to put into place my ideas, but to take ideas from the people and work with them,” he adds.     Tending to people, in fact, has been a central theme in Aupetit’s career, which began not in the priesthood, but instead when he earned a doctorate in medicine in 1978. He would go on to serve as medical doctor for nearly two decades, specializing in bioethics, before finally being ordained as a Catholic priest in 1995.......In recent years, Paris - a city known worldwide not just for its beauty, but also for its vigor - has been rocked, and by some accounts weakened, by several high-profile terrorist attacks. Tensions between French-born citizens and immigrants, the majority of whom are Muslim, run high, which, along with larger economic woes, have fueled the broader nationalist tides that have swept through Europe.     The Church, for its part, despite some promising signs of renewal, such as a steady increase in Mass attendance following terrorist activity, has struggled to respond.      Yet in a recent and almost unprecedented event, French President Emmanuel Macron accepted an invitation by the French Catholic Bishops to address them at a conference in Paris in April, and he offered an invitation to the Church to make its voice known, even if it wouldn’t always get the outcome it desires.    For his part, Aupetit is looking to accept that invitation....(more). Photo: Crux, Yannick Boschat / Diocese of Paris.  
Catholic Church signs up for national redress scheme for CSA victims
Extract from political reporter Jane Norman and staff, ABC News,  29 May 2018
Victims of institutional child sexual abuse are one step closer to receiving compensation, after the Catholic Church announced it would sign up to the national redress scheme.     In a major step forward, the Church has confirmed it will enter the national scheme, despite its earlier misgivings, becoming the first non-government institution to opt in.      The church's governing bodies, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia, wrote to the Government saying they were keen to participate "to limit future trauma for survivors of abuse in obtaining redress from the Church".    "We support the royal commission's recommendation for a national redress scheme, administered by the Commonwealth, and we are keen to participate in it," ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in the statement.    "Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories."      Archbishop Coleridge said given the diverse structure of the Church, it would establish a "simple and cost-effective" agency to respond to all of the compensation claims.     "It's been a long time in the making, and that's one of the reasons we've been a little slower on this than we would've wished to be," he told the ABC's PM program.     Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said the Church was "expecting to be paying out for survivors for many years to come".       " ...and we stand ready to do that. We are going to back that [with] our insurance and our assets. We are determined to bring justice and full redress, healing if we can, to the victims of this terrible crime."       The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard evidence from 2,500 people who had been abused in Catholic-run institutions. This was 62 per cent of all survivors who reported abuse in a religious institution.....(more) Photo ABC News
Restructuring parishes — a move from necessity to audacity
The Archdiocese of Albi offers an opportunity to reflect on new ways of evangelization
Extract from Gauthier Vaillant, subscription journal La Croix International, 28 May, 2018
Located in the Tarn region of southern France, the Archdiocese of Albi has been divided into 503 parishes since the Middle Ages.     Over the Pentecost weekend, however, Archbishop Jean Legrez, completely re-organized them into 21 new parishes.      It is an impressive change. In coming to this decision, the Archdiocese of Albi has followed a general trend among France’s 93 dioceses, two-thirds of which have already made major changes to parish boundaries and structures.      Sometimes, these developments are already longstanding. For example, in 1978, the Diocese of Le Havre, reduced the number of its parishes from 171 to 21.     Evidently, the objective is to better organize the parishes to deal with the decline in priest numbers as well as demographic changes.   It reflects a sociological reality, not just the state of the church,” said Archbishop Legrez. “The point is to remain anchored in the real.”     Clearly, with only 70 active priests, many years have already passed since the 503 churches of the Tarn region have been regularly served....(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 in

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   

Can Francis fix the clergy sex abuse crisis?
The stakes are high and we should hope and pray that the pope gets this right
Extract from Robert Mickens, Vatican City, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 May 2018
The deeply disturbing scandal of clergy sex abuse in Chile and its cover-up by Church leaders in the country continues to go from bad to worse.         After a Vatican-led investigation in February, which prompted Pope Francis to call an emergency summit in Rome of the entire Chilean hierarchy, there has been a seemingly non-stop flow of newly revealed cases of sexual crimes against young people.         First, there was a news report of an organized pedophilia (or at least ephebophilia) ring in a diocese north of the capital Santiago where priests have been involved in exchanging pornographic images of minors and information on how to sexually engage with these adolescents.        Now, there are those in the South American country who claim that this abuse cartel is not limited to one diocese, but involves several other dioceses.      Then this past Thursday the Archdiocese of Santiago publicly admitted that its chancellor, Fr. Óscar Muñoz Toledo, turned himself in to church authorities last January for sexually abusing youths.      What makes this case even more dramatic is the fact that the 56-year-old priest was in charge of handling clergy sex abuse complaints in Santiago – including those against the serial predator Fernando Karadima, who has been the central figure in Chile’s abuse crisis.....(source).
Archbishop Wilson stands aside
Edited Extract from CathNews, The Australian, 24 May 2018
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson will stand aside tomorrow after he was convicted of concealing child sexual abuse in a New South Wales court on Tuesday.         Archbishop Wilson yesterday released a statement saying he had considered his position after magistrate Robert Stone found Archbishop Wilson failed to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by paedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s.       “It is appropriate that, in the light of some of his Honour’s findings, I stand aside from my duties as Archbishop,” he said.     “I am now putting in place the necessary administrative arrangements to ensure that the affairs of the Archdiocese are managed responsibly.     “I therefore intend to step aside as of Friday this week once those arrangements are in place.     “If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as Archbishop, then I will do so.    “In the meantime, while the remainder of the legal process runs its course, I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the Archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence.”    Mr Stone accepted witness Peter Creigh and another altar boy told Archbishop Wilson in 1976 that Fletcher had repeatedly abused them but the clergyman did nothing. Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in jail of a stroke in January 2006.    In a statement, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said: “We, his brother bishops, believe Archbishop Wilson’s decision, though difficult, was appropriate under the circumstances.    “Our prayers are with all those who have felt the impact of this long legal process, including the survivors who shared their stories, as well as with the Archdiocese of Adelaide and with Archbishop Wilson himself.”     Sentencing is due to start on June 19....(more)

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)

Change of direction: Pope Francis looks to cement his radical vision for the Church
Limited extract from Christopher Lamb, subscription journal, The Tablet,  23 May 2018
Naming cardinals is the closest thing a Pope has to succession planning. Last Sunday, on the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, Francis announced 14 new cardinals. They will receive their red hats at a ceremony in the Vatican on 29 June. He has now appointed 59 of the 125 cardinals – or 47 per cent of them – who are less than 80 years old, and so entitled to vote for his successor in a future conclave. Pentecost was an appropriate day for Francis' announcement, throughout his five-year papacy, when selecting "Princes of the Church" - not a.....(source)
Pope laments vocations ‘hemorrhage,’ wants ‘clear rules’ on money
Extract from John Allen Jr, Crux, 22 May 2018
Speaking to the powerful Italian bishops’ conference Monday, Pope Francis tagged three “preoccupations” in the only country in the world where he rules as Primate: a “hemorrhage” of vocations, “evangelical poverty and transparency,” and the need for a “consolidation” of Italy’s sprawling number of dioceses.      Francis told the bishops he wasn’t sharing these concerns to “beat you up,” but rather as points for further “dialogue and reflection.” He also said he wanted to hear their questions, even their criticisms, because “it’s not bad to criticize the pope, it’s useful.”       On vocations, the pontiff didn’t mince words.        “How many churches and convents have been closed in recent years for a lack of vocations, only God knows,” he said.    Francis blamed the crisis in vocations on many factors, including “a culture of the provisional,” a “culture of relativism,” the “dictatorship of money”, a “demographic inversion” in which families are having fewer children, the impact of Church scandals, and the “tepid witness” given by some priests and bishops.     In any event, the pontiff said frankly, “we’re not succeeding” at generating a sufficient number of new vocations.    In response, Francis suggested one “practical” step, which is a “more generous sharing” among Italian dioceses.    “What we need is a fidei donum [system] from one diocese to the other,” he said.....(more)  Photo: Crux, AP photo/Gregorio Borgia
Accountability a virtue in churches and banks
Extracts from John Warhurst, Eureka  Street, 21 May 2018  
Accountability, that is individuals being held accountable for those matters for which they are either formally or practically responsible, is a vital link between leaders and their communities, whether they are members, supporters, shareholders or voters.           Press briefing with Chilean bishops in Rome, May 14, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNAIt can be achieved in various ways. For instance, both individual and collective ministerial responsibility are built into our Westminster system of government, which links the government and the public service to the parliament and ultimately to the people through a chain of accountability. But in other areas of life the links are less clear.        In practice accountability can be a crude and sometimes harsh instrument when used in daily life. I often have sympathy for those who pay the price of collective failure even though they may not be personally responsible.               We see it in practice each time a football coach is sacked for a team's poor results even though there might actually be nothing wrong with the coaching; it might be the players who are at fault. But sacking the coach is a necessary intervention for confidence to be restored among members and supporters and to show that at least someone has taken responsibility for the group's failure.    Governments are so defensive that they will do almost anything to prevent the Opposition claiming a scalp. To do so would be an admission of failure in government policy or administration. A minister may be quietly dropped much later, but not with any admission of failure because that would implicate the leader or the government as a whole.           Within the church the same applies. The recent offer of resignation made as a group to Pope Francis by the entire Chilean hierarchy is a breath of fresh air. The sexual abuse crisis in the Chilean church, which has also engulfed the Pope himself, needed such a dramatic action as a sign of accountability to restore some credibility with the Chilean Catholic community and the wider public. As in politics, whether the resignations are accepted may even be less important than the gesture of responsibility which has been made.     Accountability in action is best when it is proactive. It loses its impact when it is resisted and comes as a last resort. Institutions of all sorts must be seen to be on the front foot in this regard.          In Australia what the church has lacked is an obvious sign of accountability by leaders, whether of religious orders or dioceses, for the crimes covered up by institutional responses to child sexual abuse. General apologies don't go far enough. Compensation is necessary, but also not enough. The reputation of the church would now be higher if there were more obvious signals of accountability by those in charge. This would not imply personal but official responsibility.....(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)

Adelaide to host opening Plenary Council session
Extract from CathNews, ABC Media Blog, 18 May 2018
The first of two historic national gatherings to consider the future of the Catholic Church in Australia will be held in Adelaide in October 2020, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has announced.      The celebration of the first session of the Plenary Council in 2020 will bring hundreds of Catholic leaders to Adelaide to discuss how the Church in Australia can continue its mission in a society that is changing and evolving.     Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, who for more than a decade has been a proponent of such a gathering, said he was delighted the first of two sessions will take place in South Australia.     “This will be a truly historic moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and it is an honour for the people of God in Adelaide to welcome their sisters and brothers from across the country and host such important conversations,” Archbishop Wilson said....(more)
Review calls for stronger anti-discrimination laws
Extract from CathNews, The Courier Mail, 18 May 2018
Federal anti-discrimination laws would be strengthened to better protect religious beliefs under recommendations handed to the Turnbull Government.      But the highly anticipated religious freedom review, headed by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock, recommended no changes to the Marriage Act, which will be a blow for some religious leaders and conservative MPs still bristling after same-sex marriage became law.     The review, ordered by Malcolm Turnbull after the historic parliamentary vote, is due to be handed to the government by today, but not expected to be released by the Prime Minister for a couple of weeks.     It is understood the report recommends clearing-up oversights and anomalies by strengthening federal anti-discrimination laws that presently do not protect the right to religious freedom.        It means religion would have the same protection federally as sexual orientation, race, age and disability.    Under the change, the first step for aggrieved parties would be conciliation via the Australian Human Rights Commission, and if that failed, a federal court.     It is expected some conservative MPs and religious leaders may criticise the report for not going far enough, and that many of those who support same-sex marriage will be comfortable with the findings.......(more)  Photo:Cathnews, Twitter philipruddockmp
The Catholic Church in Australia. Who has the Moral Authority?
Extract from David Timbs, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue blog, 17 May 2018
For many of Australia’s Catholic bishops ‘business as usual’ meant denial that the culture, structures and processes of the Church were part of the problem. They had cut themselves off from the lived experience of ordinary Catholics and what they wanted their Church to be. If the planned Plenary (national) Council in 2020/2021 is to make any headway towards a ‘new business’ model, the bishops will need to undertake a very serious campaign of listening, post-haste....(more)
Chilean bishops offer mass resignation to Pope over abuse scandal
Extract from Crispian Balmer, The Canbera Times, 18 May 2018
Vatican City: In an unprecedented move, 34 Chilean bishops said on Friday they had offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting this week with Pope Francis about the cover-up of sexual abuse in their country.      It was not immediately clear if the Pope would accept all or any of the resignations from the prelates, who hold all the top jobs in Chile's Roman Catholic Church.      "We have put our positions in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely for each of us," the bishops said in a joint statement read out by a spokesman for the churchmen, Bishop Fernando Ramos.     He said the bishops would stay in their roles until the Pope had made his decision.    The scandal has devastated the credibility of the Church in the once staunchly Catholic country. It has also hurt the Pope's own image because this year he strongly defended a bishop accused in the alleged cover-up before reversing his position.       The Vatican declined to comment on the timing of any decision or on the resignations themselves. A Church official said it was the first time the bishops of an entire country had offered to leave their posts in such a manner.     In their statement, the bishops thanked the Pope for his "brotherly correction".     "Above all, we want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the Pope, to the people of God and our country for the serious errors and omissions committed by us," the contrite statement said.....(more)
At Pentecost, 20 May 2018,  the '2020 Plenary Council" will be officially launched
Why are we having a Plenary Council?
"The Plenary Council isn’t a talkfest; it’s a time to discern, decide and act. If we do that under the influence of the Holy Spirit, things will change in unexpected and hope-filled ways."
- Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC Media Blog (HERE)
Extract from Plenary Council 2020 website, Wednesday 16 May 2018
The story so far...
The last time the Catholic Church in Australia held a Plenary Council was in 1937. It has been more than 80 years since we gathered all of the Church together and much has changed. In 2020, we will have a Plenary Council about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.     What are we called to do? Who are we called to be? How do we need to change?              Pope Francis has spoken of the need to engage in the world and respond in faith. He said:              The defining aspect of this change of epoch is that things are no longer in their place. Our previous ways of explaining the world and relationships, good and bad, no longer appears to work. The way in which we locate ourselves in history has changed. Things we thought would never happen, or that we never thought we would see, we are experiencing now, and we dare not even imagine the future. That which appeared normal to us – family, the Church, society and the world – will probably no longer seem that way. We cannot simply wait for what we are experiencing to pass, under the illusion that things will return to being how they were before.”           The journey toward Plenary Council will help us to prepare to listen to God by listening to one another. We invite all people to engage, to be a part of the listening and dialogue encounter in the next two years....(source)        
View video of the incoming President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference " Why are we having a Plenary Council"  (HERE)
Confessional seal not ‘linchpin of culture of secrecy,’ Aussie prelate says
Extracts from Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, 14 May 2018
In recent months, the Australian Catholic Church has been in the spotlight, primarily due to news that the former Archbishop of Sydney and the pope’s current finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, will stand trial for “historical sexual offenses” amid continuing fallout from the Church’s clerical abuse crisis.     As the Church attempts to change the narrative about its role in public life, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has been elected as the new head of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Serving as his vice-president will be Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney......"The journey began long before the Royal Commission, as the Church here began to grapple seriously with sexual abuse in the 1990s, and it will continue long after the Plenary Council as we implement its decisions. But the move from Commission to Council frames my understanding of what I’m called to do.       That means first responding to the recommendations of the Royal Commission in a way that ensures justice for survivors and a safer Church for all.  It will also mean addressing seriously the questions of culture and governance that the Royal Commission has posed, and that will mean continuing the dialogue we’ve already begun with the Holy See. Allied to that, we’ll have to prepare well for the Plenary Council, which may have been the bishops’ decision but is the work of the Holy Spirit.
          That will mean listening to as many voices as possible - above all to the Spirit but also to the many voices in the Church and elsewhere. Our listening is framed by questions drawn from Evangelii Gaudium: What might it mean for us now to be a humble Church, a poor Church, a prayerful Church, an inclusive Church, a missionary Church, a joyful Church?         These lead to the key question we’ve adopted in the consultation process, which is about to begin nation-wide: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?  The major challenge we face is to answer that question powerfully enough to prepare a new future for the Church in this country"....(more)   Photo: Abp Mark Coleridge, Crux, CNS
"The biggest crisis in our history"
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly, The Far East, 9 May, linked here 14 May 2018
Speaking to The Tablet  [14th October 2017] Archbishop Mark Coleridge claimed that the Church in Australia “is facing the biggest crisis in its history”. This is partly occasioned by the Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse. One part of the Australian Bishops’ response has been to call a Plenary Council of all the Dioceses in Australia in 2020. But as Archbishop Coleridge said the Plenary Council is meant not only to review the findings of the Royal Commission but also “to undertake a broad review of the Church’s mission, including how to give more responsibility to lay people. One major criticism of the Australian Church has been of the institutionalised clericalism within its ranks. Another topic to be discussed at the plenary council is how to involve women in the running of the Church”.           The Royal Commission was a deeply humbling experience for the church because a large percentage of the allegations investigated by the Commission involved Catholic Institutions. Institutions supposedly run by disciples of Jesus who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” (Matt 19:14).               In their Final Report the Commissioners made 21 recommendations explicitly about the Catholic Church. Predictably, the media has focussed on the recommendations about voluntary celibacy and the seal of confession, but as Francis Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said in the National Catholic Reporter, “recommendations that deal with broader concerns around church governance and the mutual participation of women. If these recommendations are fully implemented, the ramifications will be far more significant than the suggestions around celibacy and the confessional.”...(more)
Archbishop Mark Coleridge: new ACBC President discusses his appointment, challenges and future
Extract from , ACBC Communications Office, Thursday 10 May 2018
 Earlier this month, Archbishop Mark Coleridge was elected president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Currently the Archbishop of Brisbane, he previously served as an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne and as Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn. In this conversation with the ACBC Communications Office, he speaks about his appointment at a critical time for the Catholic Church in Australia.     What strengths do you think your brother bishops saw in you that gave them the confidence to choose you to lead them at this critical time?      I guess a certain range of experience was a factor. As a bishop, I’ve been a rolling stone for quite a long time; I’ve seen the Church in Australia from south to north, from city to country. Other factors may have been an ability to put words together in the public forum and a certain vision of the way forward for the Church here, focusing on the Plenary Council. But, in the end, these things are a bit mysterious.    As you are entrusted with the role of leading the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, what great challenges do you see?    The great challenge is to do what I can to help the whole Church move from the Royal Commission to the Plenary Council and all that lies beyond it. This will mean helping the Church find a distinctively Gospel voice in the great social debates – not fighting ideology with ideology, but engaging issues with the power of the Gospel.   That will mean working to make sure Jesus is at the heart of everything. In the end, He’s all we’ve got. And He’s the only one who’ll enable us to meet all the challenges....(more)
Catholic Professional Standards Chair: vital to maintain Royal Commission momentum
Extract from Catholic Professional Standards Ltd, Melbourne Catholic, Thursday 10 May 2018
The Hon Geoff Giudice, Chair of the Catholic Church’s new safeguarding body, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL), has told a meeting of Australian Bishops that one of the key challenges for the Church and for CPSL over the next few years will be to maintain the momentum created by the Royal Commission.     Speaking at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary Council in Sydney yesterday, 10 May 2018, Mr Giudice said that no matter how much better informed the community and the Church is as a result of the Royal Commission, the danger has not passed.    ‘Evil will always exist. A sustained effort is needed to create and maintain a culture of safety and care. That realization is central to CPSL's operations.   ‘Two things in particular flow from this realisation....To comment on the CPSL draft National Catholic Safeguarding Standards go to CPSL website....(more) 
Amid focus on women, is the Vatican’s issue less gender than laity?
Extract from  Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 10 May 2018
ROME - Of late, voices from Pope Francis on down have called for women to have a bigger voice within the Catholic Church. Yet judging by the Vatican itself, the real issue today may not be only women but also laymen, both of whom lack the one traditional prerequisite for wielding real power - a Roman collar.     Though three-quarters of the Vatican’s work force are laypeople, very few, male or female, have any real power.      A growing, and understandable, focus on women.    The perceived “issue of women” in the Vatican has become so prominent that, according to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, it “cannot be postponed. It’s among the urgencies of the Church.”     Last March, the Commission for Latin America held a plenary assembly on the issue of women, and, in an exceptional move, invited some 15 women to participate.     Conclusions included a call for a Synod of Bishops on women, and according to an interview Ouellet gave to L’Osservatore Romano’s monthly magazine “Women, Church, World,” such a gathering would include women, even if it means “changing the way synods are made.” ....(more)
Archbishop Coleridge elected president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Extract from Australian Catholics Bishops Conference Media Release May 4, 2018. Published here 9 May
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has today elected Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane as president of the Conference.      Archbishop Coleridge was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 2002 and later became Archbishop of Canberra - Goulburn. Since 2012, he has served as Archbishop of Brisbane.    “ With few illusions about myself or the task that awaits, I humbly accept the call to serve as president of the Conference at a time that is clearly challenging,” Archbishop Coleridge said.    “ Among other issues , we bishops will together have to address the recommendations of the Royal Commission and prepare for the upcoming Plenary Council 2020 . I trust I will be able to provide the unifying leadership this will require.     “ Pope Francis is showing the way for bishops conferences around the world , and I look to his leadership to guide and inspire mine in Australia. ”     Archbishop Coleridge, who will take up the new position from May 10, paid tribute to Archbishop Denis Hart, who will next week complete six years serving as president of the Conference.    “ With his courtesy and efficiency, Archbishop Hart has made a unique contribution as president of the Conference since 2012, ” Archbishop Coleridge said.    Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP was today elected vice - president of the Bishops Conference. Both Archbishop Coleridge and Archbishop Fisher will serve two - year terms....(more)
Pope opens new way of governance in German communion controversy
Francis has continued to grant more power to bishops' conferences and even to seek proposals from them
Extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner from Subscription journal La Croix International, with an additional comment from the editor, Catholics For Renewal website, 8 May 2018
Vatican City. A six-person delegation of German bishops traveled to Rome May 3 to meet top level officials of the Roman Curia, including members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.        The aim of the meetings was to broach “the issue of eventual access to the Eucharist for non-Catholic spouses in mixed marriages.”....Source    [Ed.The paper goes on to comment tyhat Pope Francis continues to increase power of bishops congerences  and seek proposals freom them, for example on the ordination of married men.]
Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, archbishop of Malines-Brussels and primate of the Catholic Church in Belgium, is open to reflecting on a 'prayer celebration' for gay couples.
Limited extract from Claire Lesegretain, subscription journal La Croix International  with an additional comment from the editor, Catholics For Renewal website, 7 May 2018 
Cardinal Jozef De Kesel of Malines-Brussels last week met with a small delegation from a local gay working group which had requested an audience.....(Source)     (Photo: La Croix International, M.Migliorato/CPP/CIRIC/Catholic Press Photo).     [Ed.The paper goes on to comment that whilst offering symbolic recognition in some situations this would not be considered to be religious marriage or ecclesiastical blessing]
New advisory body to monitor Catholic reforms in response to child sexual abuse tragedy
Edited Extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic. CAM, 3 May 2018
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have established a new advisory group that will play a crucial role in influencing and monitoring the Catholic Church’s ongoing response to the child sexual abuse scandal.      Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, explained that the new Implementation Advisory Group will monitor the response to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse and the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which led the Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission.       Sr Ruth Durick OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said ‘there is a huge body of work completed by survivors, the Royal Commissioners and the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.      ‘The task of the Implementation Advisory Group is to be propositional as to the necessary reforms that Catholic institutions and communities will have to implement to be places of safety and transparency and places where we authentically live out our commitment to the values and vision of the Gospels.’    Sr Ruth and Archbishop Hart said three key groups will take forward the work arising from the Royal Commission and the work led ‘prophetically and generously’ by Francis Sullivan and the Truth Justice and Healing Council.....The program of work the Implementation Advisory Group has identified includes:  Relationship with and spiritual support of survivors;   Governance and Church culture;    Child-focused standards;      National Redress Scheme;       Seal of confessional and mandatory reporting;         Handling of abuse complaints....(more)
People must be free to express beliefs, inquiry told
Extract from CathNews, The Guardian, 3 May 2018
Religious leaders, including senior Catholics, have told a parliamentary inquiry into religious freedom that the legalisation of same-sex marriage had laid bare the fragility of protections.        Numerous witnesses from faith-based organisations yesterday addressed the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry, which was instigated by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in November 2016. According the inquiry’s website, Ms Bishop asked the committee to inquire into and report on “The status of the human right to freedom of religion or belief”.      Broken Bay Bishop Peter Comensoli told the inquiry yesterday that religious people need to be able to lawfully express their views in “all dimensions of their life”.      He said there could be no freedom of religion without the freedom to exercise their beliefs “individually, or in community; privately or publicly”.      Michael Casey, who is the director of the PM Glynn Institute, a public policy institute within Australian Catholic University, warned that forcing people to accept others’ views of marriage would lead to “more conflict and acrimony in public debate”.....(more). Photo CathNews, Bigstock  Cross, Religioius Freedom, CathNews, Bigstock
Cardinal Pell expected to face two trials
Extract from CathNews, The Age, 3 May 2018
Cardinal George Pell is likely to face two trials and two juries, with a date for his first trial yet to be set. Source: The Age.
Less than 24 hours after being committed to stand trial on half of the historic sexual assault charges he faced, Cardinal Pell returned to court yesterday, but this time to appear before a County Court judge instead of a magistrate.       Cardinal Pell has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges involving multiple complainants. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed.    During a 12-minute directions hearing before judge Sue Pullen, prosecutor Mark Gibson SC, and defence counsel Robert Richter QC, agreed that the allegations against the cardinal should be split and heard in two trials.    Allegations that Cardinal Pell sexually assaulted multiple accusers in a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s are set to be heard in one trial, the court heard, and allegations he sexually assaulted an accuser in St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s are set to be heard in the other.    “They are of a completely different nature,’’ Mr Richter said of the respective allegations, “and separated by 20 years."     Judge Pullen said a trial date would likely be set at the next directions hearing on May 16, when it is expected prosecutors and the cardinal’s defence team will formally apply for separate trials....(more)
Find unanimity, Pope tells German bishops
Extract from The Tablet, 3 May 2018
Pope Francis has asked the German bishops to aim for a “unanimous” agreement over their proposals to loosen restrictions on giving communion to Protestants married to Catholics.           According to a Vatican statement issued following a summit between senior figures in the episcopal conference and officials in the Roman Curia, the Pope “appreciates the ecumenical commitment” of the bishops but wants them to iron out internal disagreements and come to a “possibly unanimous” decision.            Three-quarters of the German hierarchy voted in favour of a pastoral handout, "To Walk with Christ, In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist”, which would give greater access to communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics. But seven bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Woelki, disagreed and asked for the Pope to intervene.           As a result a delegation of German bishops including Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Cardinal Woelki met on 3 May with Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Officials from both sides joined the meeting.            The discussions, according to the statement released afterwards, focussed on “the relationship of between faith and pastoral care, its relevance for the universal Church and its juridical dimension,” while Archbishop Ladaria is to brief Francis on the deliberations.            The German bishops’ move seeks to build on Church teaching, which already allows for the sacraments to be given to Christians from other denominations in certain circumstances.            It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments,” Pope St John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint”.        This Pope, who has made numerous ecumenical gestures such as travelling to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation, is on record telling the Lutheran spouse of a Catholic to undertake her own discernment over whether or not to receive communion when they attended Mass together....(more)
 On eve of Vatican meet, German bishop appeals for Eucharistic hospitality
The time has come to no longer put off a well-justified decision — even if some people still insist on contradicting it, says Bishop Gerhard Feige
Limited Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 2 may 2018
The head of ecumenical affairs for the German episcopal conference has urged his fellow bishops not to equivocate in their commitment to allow Protestant spouses in mixed marriages to receive the Eucharist at Catholic Masses.      Enough is enough! The time has come to no longer put off a well-justified decision – even if some people still insist on contradicting it,” said Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg.     “Missing a chance like this would be both shameful and macabre!” he told the German weekly Die Zeit just days before he and several other German bishops were to head to Rome for a May 3 meeting with Vatican officials over the “Eucharistic hospitality” issue.           At their episcopal conference meeting last February more than two-thirds of Germany’s bishops approved a draft handout that would, in individual cases, allow Protestant spouses in mixed marriages to receive the Catholic Eucharist.....(source). Photo: La Croix Internationl. Eucharistic hospitality La Croix International
“I was part of the problem,” Francis tells Chilean abuse victims
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America, The Jesuit Review, 2 May 2018
I was part of the problem! I caused this. I am very sorry, and I ask your forgiveness,” Pope Francis told the Chilean victims of sexual abuse and cover up when he met them in two-hour personal encounters, and then as a group, in the Vatican over the past days.      “It is not up to us to carry out the necessary transformation in the church to stop the epidemic of sexual abuse and cover up. We hope that Pope Francis transforms his loving words of forgiveness into exemplary actions. Otherwise all this will be in vain.”     That is what the three best known Chilean victims of abuse—Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Andrés Murillo—told a crowded press conference in Rome after having spent a week as the pope’s guests at Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives, and sharing with him their history and their proposals.           “For almost ten years we have been treated as enemies because we fight against sexual abuse and cover up in the Church. These days we met the friendly face of the Church, completely different from the one we have seen before,” they said in a statement given to the press.            All three were victims of Chile’s most notorious predator priest, Father Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican condemned at the age of 80 to a life of prayer and penance. All three blame Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno for being present when they were abused and covering this up, though he denies it. In fact, they blame those who covered up even more than their abuser.     Mr. Cruz said that while it “hurt” them that Pope Francis defended Bishop Barros and accused them of calumny during his visit to Chile, they now recognize that he was badly informed and on his return to Rome he understood the disaster in the country and so sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Father Jordi Bertomeu to listen to the victims and other witnesses. They said that when his envoys reported back to him his eyes were opened and he understood the reality of their situation, and so invited them to ask forgiveness, to listen to them and to hear their proposals to avoid a repetition of such abuse. He also summoned the bishops who will come to meet him May 14-17. They expect him to take action after that meeting.....(more)  Photo: America, The Jesuit Review,  (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
Subverting idolatry in churches and banks
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 1 May 2018
Even after three weeks, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has come to resemble the earlier Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.    We have seen the same initial resistance to a public enquiry, the same insistence that revelations of sexual or financial abuse reflected a few bad apples and not a bad culture, the same endorsement when the royal commission was called, and the same shaming as the public questioning of hapless senior officials followed damning evidence of abuse and of the failure to address it.     We have also seen evidence of the same incompetent management, whose very incompetence perpetuated abuse, diffused responsibility for it, and deepened the harm done by it. There was the same failure to maintain adequate systems of reporting; the same quiet moving on or transferring officers guilty of financial or sexual abuse; the same unwillingness to find out about the extent of abuse and the same slowness to offer redress.      We have seen evidence, too, of the same reluctance of senior management to know about the abuse; the same priority given to preserving the reputation of financial or church institutions; the same muted complaints of unfairness and of ignoring the contribution to society of the respective institutions; the same assistance in cover-up by regulating officers, whether in government departments, police or ASIC, effectively leaving the institutions a free hand to ignore the abuse.     We have seen the same reluctance to admit to a culture in which abuse, sexual or financial, flourishes; the same public scepticism whether the institutions will ever reform themselves; and perhaps the same lull in conversation and the same inquisitorial gaze when one admits to being either a Catholic priest or a senior bank executive.    No doubt these claimed similarities could be expanded on or questioned in detail. But to observers who share a personal and public-spirited interest in the decent functioning and trustworthiness both of financial institutions and of churches, they surely raise larger questions beyond structures of governance, remuneration, legal penalties and compensation. They invite reflection on why two apparently different forms of institution should behave in such similar ways.....(more)
And one last Thing,
Extracts from final statement by Francis Sullivan, Former CEO Truth, Justice and Healing Council, 30 April 2018
This will be my last blog as CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council. The Council closes down on Monday 30 April. Our job is done......What is clearer to me these days is that the leadership of the Church has never been more aware of the crisis the Church faces and never more aware of what needs to be done to rebuild faith and trust that is at an all-time low. So many leaders tell me that they want to reconcile with survivors and restore their trust in the Church.     The test of that resolve will be in how the impetus of the Royal Commission brings change within our Church.     The Royal Commission gave a potent voice to survivors. In doing so it placed a mirror in front of our Church. This needs to be grasped as ‘a creative disruptor’ to renew, reinvigorate and regenerate the essence of being Church. Before all else survivors and their families need to get a better deal out of the Church. They need real recognition and decent treatment. Rather than struggling for a fair go they should feel overwhelmed by a generous and lasting response.    None of us gets things right all the time. Yet most of us can sense when sincerity and generosity of heart are at play. It is this well of human compassion that becomes the redemptive, restorative and ultimately the healing place for those who seek it.    When we look back will we see changes to governance within church structures and processes, a truly national redress scheme, markedly different approaches by Church authorities to civil litigation claims, an increased role for women and the laity more generally in the Church, the support for Catholic Professional Standards Ltd. and its public accountability of leaders, a reformed seminary system and the proper professional supervision of clergy and lay personnel?     My sense is that we will. This scandal has rocked the foundations of my Church so profoundly that the instinctive spirit to seek goodness, truth and beauty that binds us as a faith community will ultimately prevail.....(more)
Church takes 'significant step' in accountability
The Church’s new safeguarding body will today release draft standards that will support the Church's work in providing safe places for children and vulnerable adults. Source: CPSL.          Extract from CathNews, 27 April 2018
The draft National Catholic Safeguarding Standards can be found on the new Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) website which will also be launched this afternoon at www.cpsltd.org.au.      CPSL chief Sheree Limbrick said the release of the draft safeguards is an important development in strengthening child and vulnerable adult protections in the Church in Australia.     “It is also a significant step in implementing one of the royal commission’s key recommendations,” Ms Limbrick said.       “This is the first time, anywhere in Australia and among just a handful of countries around the world, where the Catholic Church will be accountable for their adherence to consistent and measurable national standards for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.     “This is a major development for CPSL and an important plank in our work to do all we can to ensure children are safe in Catholic parishes, churches, ministries, outreach, schools, hospitals and other places.    “These standards incorporate statutory requirements that Church organisations which deal with children already need to adhere to.”     The standards build on the guidance of the royal commission into child sexual abuse and the draft National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations from the Australian Human Rights Commission.    The standards range across areas such as leadership, governance and culture; human resource and complaints management; education and training; communication with children; and working with families, carers and communities.   Ms Limbrick said consultations with dioceses, religious orders and other Catholic organisations over the past six months showed that levels of protections for children and vulnerable adults varied widely.    “That is unsustainable and dangerous,” Ms Limbrick said...(more)   Photo: CathNews, CPSL
Francis to meet Chilean abuse survivors
Extract from CathNews, Vatican News, 26 April 2018
Pope Francis will meet three Chilean clergy sexual abuse survivors at the Vatican this weekend.      The Holy See press spokesman Greg Bourke yesterday gave details of the of the planned meeting. He said that the three men will be welcomed by the Pope to his residence in the Vatican, the Casa Santa Marta.     Mr Burke named the three survivors as Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton e Jose Andrés Murillo, adding that the Pope was grateful they accepted the invitation.     He said that during the meeting, Pope Francis “wishes to ask them for forgiveness, to share their pain and his shame for what they have suffered and, above all, to listen to all their suggestions so that such reprehensible acts do not happen again”.    Mr Burke said that Francis will meet each survivor individually, allowing them as much time as they wish to talk.    He said the Pope asks for prayers for the Church in Chile at this painful moment, hoping that these meetings can take place in an atmosphere of “serene trust”, marking a vital step on the road to recovery and guaranteeing that “abuses of conscience, of power and especially sexual abuse in the Church” never happen again.    In an interview with The New York Times, Mr Cruz said he was looking forward to his meeting with the Pope.    “I don’t think that this is a PR exercise. I’m looking forward to speaking to him with an open heart, and hearing what he has to say. I am being told he wants me to be completely honest with him,” Mr Cruz said....(more)  Photo: Juan Carlos Cruz (CNS/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)   Juan Carlos Cruz  CNS-J-EduardoMunoz Reuters
German bishops agree ‘final handout’ on mixed-marriage couples
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 25 April 2018
The contents of the handout have not yet been published, but it appears it will now be discussed in Rome.
After discussion at a meeting of the German bishops’ conference’s permanent council on 24 April, a “final” version of the much-discussed handout allowing mixed-marriage couples to receive the Catholic Eucharist in individual cases has been approved, the council said. The contents of the handout have not yet been published, but it appears it will now be discussed in Rome.    A decision to allow mixed-denomination couples to both receive communion, and an associated handout for parishes, was approved at the bishops’ conference’s spring plenary on 22 February by a two-thirds majority, and has since proved highly controversial.      One month later, on 22 March, seven bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany’s largest diocese, sent a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome asking for clarification as to whether the issue was within the competence of a local bishops’ conference or rather a matter for the Universal Church. The permanent council of the bishops’ conference, which consists of Germany’s current 26 diocesan bishops, said yesterday that bishops’ conference President Cardinal Reinhard Marx has now sent the “final” version of the handout to all the members of the German bishops’ conference and to the “responsible dicasteries of the Roman Curia”.      On 19 April the German bishops announced that Pope Francis had called Cardinal Marx, Cardinal Woelki, and Bishop Felix Genn of Münster - who is well-known for his mediation skills - to Rome. Yesterday’s announcement appears to indicate that the “final” handout will be the topic of discussion there....(more)
Chilean clerical sex abuse victim urges pope to fire 'toxic' bishops
Extract from Philip Pullella, Reuters, 24 April 2018
Vatican City (Reuters) - A Chilean man who was sexually abused by a priest as a boy will urge Pope Francis to sack “toxic” bishops who covered up the assaults, he said on Tuesday ahead of a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the Catholic Church....Juan Carlos Cruz, who has become a symbol of the Church’s abuse crisis, will spend several days in the Vatican as a guest of the pope in the residence where he lives. Strong papal action in Chile would send a long-overdue message to the entire Church, he told Reuters in an interview.      “I would say ‘hold these bishops accountable, fire a few of them, if not many of them, but fire them and not give them a cushy job here at the Vatican,’” Cruz said....... Cruz and two other victims, Jimmy Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo, are each due to spend several hours with the pope on a visit that follows an extraordinary April 11 letter in which Francis acknowledged he had made “grave mistakes” in handling the sexual abuse crisis in Chile.     In that letter, Francis said there had been a “lack of truthful and balanced information” about the situation in Chile. He invited the victims whose words he had once dismissed as “slander” to the Vatican to seek their forgiveness and ordered all of Chile’s bishops to a summit with him next month....(more)  Photo: Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi 
Pope Francis appoints three women as consultants to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Extract from Gerard O’Connell April 21, 2018
In a historic decision, Pope Francis has appointed three women—two Italians and one Belgian—as consultants to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as part of his ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.    The Vatican announced today, April 21, that Francis has named three women and two priests as consultants to the C.D.F. The three women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, undersecretary for “the section for the lay faithful” in the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Prof. Michelina Tenace, who teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Prof. Laetitia Calmeyn, who teaches theology at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris. The two priests are the Rev. Sergio Paolo Bonanni, who teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, C.M.F., a Claretian and president of the Institute of Both Jurisdictions (civil and canon law) at the Lateran University in Rome.....All Vatican congregations and pontifical councils have consultants who are appointed by the pope. The role of a consultant in the Roman Curia is to give advice or opinions on questions that need to be resolved or to be studied. It is an advisory role, meant to give breadth and focus to a given question. Consultants have long played an important role in the C.D.F.; for example, they have often been called on to give their opinion on a book or an article written by theologians that may have raised questions of doctrine....(more)
Australian ambassador to the Holy See gives insight into Vatican life during first visit to Queensland seminary
Extract from Mark Bowling, 20 April 2018
Australia's first resident woman ambassador to the Holy See Melissa Hitchman has described Pope Francis’ papacy as a “unique moment in history”.     “He is willing to dialogue on issues that the Church has previously not been prepared to do,” Ms Hitchman said at the start of a mid-term tour during which she will be speaking with Australian Catholic leaders and agencies and reporting on progress during the first half of her three-year posting.     The head of Australia’s resident mission to the Holy See, Ms Hitchman said Pope Francis had a clear message to send, and was not afraid to be “the voice of the voiceless” on issues such as migrants and refugees, climate change, and even some of the more controversial issues facing the international community.         “He’s showing a courage, and values-based leadership,” Ms Hitchman, a Catholic herself, said.    Ms Hitchman described an historic set of circumstances linking Australia and the Holy See.    “I’m delighted to be there at this moment in history,” she said. “It is a great congruence with our foreign policy and the Holy See’s policy, which is only limited by imagination and resources.        “Australia and our partners in the international community have much in common in terms of service to humanity and the global commons, and so we are able to partner with him (Pope Francis) in a way that maybe we aren’t with other global leaders in the world today.....Since arriving in Rome in 2016, Ms Hitchman said she had witnessed “some positive developments” for women working in and around the Vatican.     She said a new group known as “donna in Vaticana” or DIVA now offered women official recognition “that they exist and that their work is valuable and appreciated”.      “It represents the women working in the Vatican, and this group gives them a voice in a way they have not had before,” Ms Hitchman said.    “There are now opportunities for women.      “They have some very educated, intelligent, highly networked women working in the Vatican, advising the Curia … some of them are Harvard Law graduates; they feel a calling to the Church and are using their skills and talents in that way.    “Some of those women in the Vatican are working on issues as diverse as arms control, humanitarian aid and assistance through Caritas, all sorts of areas.“There are so many issues we could be working on and at times we become exhausted trying to cover them all.”....(more)   Photo: Mark Bowling
Pope calls German cardinal to Rome to discuss Eucharistic sharing
Extract from Cindy Woden, Crux, CNS, 19 April 2018
In general, Catholic teaching insists that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may request the Eucharist.    During Francis’s visit to Sweden in 2016, Koch, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, was asked about the situations in which such sharing would be permitted. In reply, he said a distinction must be made between “eucharistic hospitality for individual people and eucharistic communion.”     The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances, as long as they recognize the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharistic communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognized as belonging to the same church family, he had said....(more)       Photo: Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Crux, Sascha Steinbach EPA via CNS
Catholic social teaching always changing, says Irish archbishop
Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 18 April 2018
Pope Francis has consistently called for an urgent process of correction in the way the world economy works, especially to look at the causes of exclusion of the poorest and the development of economic models of inclusion,” Martin said.      During the press conference on Wednesday, he also spoke about the challenge of generating growth with equity is not one that only involves “the moralist,” but it’s also a task for economists and policy makers.     The level of corruption that permeates economic activity worldwide, he added, is yet another “striking characteristic” of the world’s current model, and in every case, “it’s the poor who pay the cost of corruption.”    Dialogue between the Church’s social teaching and economy cannot be a “top-down” approach, Martin said.     “We have to invest in people,” and doing so means looking for creativity and innovative approaches to solve problems, not only in the “great protagonists of information technology,” but also in the poor, who Martin defined as “one group that shows extraordinary innovation,” who show their abilities simply through survival.      “A fundamental principle of economic activity must be to allow the poor to have voice,” he said....(more)        Photo: Crux, Pope Francis, Poverty Centesimus-Annus, CNS L'Osservatore Romano
Cardinal Pell’s sex abuse hearing closes; ruling expected 1 May
Exttract from Melbourne Catholic, CruxNow, 18 April 2018
A lawyer for the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis told an Australian court on Tuesday that Cardinal George Pell could have been targeted with false accusations to punish him for the crimes of other clerics.    Defence and prosecution lawyers were making their final submissions in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in a hearing to determine whether the case against Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic was strong enough to warrant a trial by jury.    Magistrate Belinda Wallington will make her ruling on 1 May on whether Pell will stand trial...(more)
Church to audit plaques to identify abuse offenders
Extracts from CathNews, 13 April 2018
Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous has ordered a full audit of all Catholic institutions in Tasmania to identify and remove plaques depicting convicted sexual abuse offenders. It follows the removal last year of a plaque from the exterior of Hobart’s St Mary’s Cathedral which depicted a former Catholic priest convicted of sex offences. Victims of clergy sexual abuse had demanded the controversial plaque be taken down.....“Most of those plaques have already gone, our request is much deeper than that,” Mr Punch said. “They need to set up an inventory of every place, every school, every catholic institution that’s been a site of sexual abuse, and that’s substantial.    “We’re asking for a program of redress to be included at any site that has been used to sexually abuse children and young people.”...(more).      Photo: The plaque that was removed from Hobart cathedral last year (ABC/Peter Curtis) 
Efforts to end hostilities among polarized Catholics
Public exchanges between representatives of 'liberal' and 'conservative' Catholicism are a necessary start — but that is only a start
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, La Croix International, 16 June 2018
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.     The Catholic Church has become aware of the deep divisions among the faithful in some countries, such as those in the United States, who play a particular role in global Catholicism.     It is no coincidence that these divisions have became all the more visible in the transition from Benedict XVI to Pope Francis – which has been not just a change of pontificates, but a change of eras.    Divisions within Catholicism are not a new phenomenon, but they have become more visible in the age of new media, which has helped redefine the alignments between theological orientations (liberal, conservative and traditionalist) vis-à-vis the Bishop of Rome.    It seems safe to say that the ecclesial segregation of Catholics under the same roof is not going to go away anytime soon. The visible and invisible features of this divide are driven not only by theological factors, but also – and primarily – by political ones.    In the United States, which has been at the center of this phenomenon the....(Source). Photo: La Croix International.
When will we get lay apostolic nuncios?
Father Ludovic Lado SJ, an anthropologist, offers a reflection on clericalism in the church
Limited extract from Ludovic Lado SJ, Subscription journal La Croix International,  16 April 2018
The Holy See is an independent sovereign entity located in the Vatican City State. And as such it welcomes ambassadors and accredits them to other world states. Vatican or Holy See diplomats have the title of “apostolic nuncio.”           As diplomats, they provide a link between the state or the states that they represent, the local church and the Vatican, particularly with respect to the interests of the Catholic Church.         They play a decisive role in the nomination of bishops.         Although the nuncio’s role has an apostolic objective, as indicated by its very title, it also has a powerful political dimension.        I have often asked myself the question of why there are no lay apostolic nuncios.        Nuncios generally have the rank of bishop, which signifies that they are necessarily chosen from the ranks of the clergy. In turn, this also means that they are necessarily male.        It is thus one of the most clericalized roles in the church. And I really have to ask why? Are there any biblical or theological reasons involved? I have not been able to identify any such reason.        Initially, Jesus simply had disciples whom he sent out on mission with the following warning.........That the church ended up conceiving of itself as a political entity to the point of having ambassadors like other political entities is an outcome of that post-Constantinian ecclesiology.      The role of the nuncio as a member of the clergy, who looks after the interests of the church with respect to a state, forms part of this historical evolution. It mostly follows a logic of pragmatism.       However, it remains a clerical function because it is rooted in an ecclesial tradition where the exercise of authority is eminently clerical and where power is traditionally held by the clergy.      The perverse form of this clerical power is what we know as clericalism.....(more)
Pope Francis admits mistakes in Chile
'I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks'
Limited extract from La Croix International staff, Vatican City, 12 April 2018
Pope Francis has apologized for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in Chile, acknowledging that he has made “serious mistakes” in handling the issue.       In a letter to the bishops of Chile, the pope said he made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information."       I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks," Francis said in the letter that was released by the Vatican April 11.  Several survivors apparently have been invited to the Vatican to meet the pope.      The pope’s letter follows Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles....(source)  Photo: Pope Francis La Croix  International, Benhuir Arcayan
Archbishop Wilson denies he was told of abuse
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson took the stand in Newcastle Local Court to give evidence for the first time
Extract from CathNews, 12 April 2018
Under questioning from his barrister, Stephen Odgers SC, Archbishop Wilson unequivocally denied having any memory of a conversation in 1976 with Peter Creigh about former priest James Fletcher subjecting Mr Creigh to acts of punishment and sexual abuse five years earlier.       When asked if he was able to say whether such a conversation took place, Archbishop Wilson said he thought it was doubtful.      “I think it is unlikely because the nature of the evidence was so graphic,” he told magistrate Robert Stone. “I don't think I would have forgotten that.”      Asked what he would have done if Mr Creigh had told him about the abuse, Archbishop Wilson said his first priority would have been to provide pastoral care to the then 15-year-old boy and his family.   The Archbishop said he would also have reported the allegations to his superiors....(more)
There are also women there
Pope Francis cites women writers frequently and at length
Limited extract from Rita Ferrone, Subscription Journala Croix International, 11 April 2018
The first thing that jumped out at me in Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et exsultate, is how much he has put women in the foreground. Women are usually in the background of papal statements, if they appear at all. Not here. They are upfront and visible.      Right at the outset (§ 3), Francis brings up the witness of Sarah (along with Abraham), and calls attention to the role of our own mothers and grandmothers as holy witnesses who have shaped our faith. He continues to name outstanding women believers within the.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Women in early Church
Clerical culture produces poor fruit
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street,  10 April 2018
In a recent Eureka Street article I remarked that in the Catholic Church clericalism is a pejorative term. I tried also to identify some of the attitudes and behaviour associated with people regarded as clericalist. The article sparked a lively conversation.      Priest on cobbled streetSome contributors criticised me for focusing on individuals and not on the more insidious culture of clericalism. The criticism was justified, and in this article I shall reflect on the culture and its byproducts.      As a culture clericalism displays a world view in which the Catholic Church is a self-sufficient world. Its security, reputation and internal relationships are the centre of attention. Within the Church relationships are hierarchical, and the difference between grades is in practice seen as more important than what Catholics have in common.     The relationships are also often authoritarian: bishops and priests are fearful of Rome, formal in their relationships with one another, and priests are prescriptive in their relationship to the laity. Clergy feel no need to consult the laity in matters of liturgy, finances and policy. The boundaries between the Church and the world outside are strongly marked, as are the boundaries between faithful and unfaithful Catholics. In all these respects clericalism is a culture of control that privileges secrecy.      Like any culture, clericalism finds expression in a network of relationships. They are relationships of people with the material world: through distinctive everyday and liturgical dress, for example, distinctive church arrangements, and distinctive liturgical artefacts....(more). Photo: Eureka Street, 
Faithfulness to Vatican II; Call to Service; A Pastoral Model of Priestly Formation; Psychosexual Development and Celibacy; Discernment Processes and Faculty Formation
Edited extract from Association of US Catholic Priests, published 25 January 2018, Extracted here 10 April 2018
Preparing the Sixth Edition of the Program of Priestly Formation: Five Overriding Concerns
I.    Faithfulness to Vatican II       A.    As the foundation of priestly formation, the pastoral values of Vatican II need to permeate and be consistently and persistently affirmed in the sixth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation. These values should serve as the basis and of all phases of priestly formation. We see that Vatican II’s values include: grounding in the Scriptures, conversion of heart in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Church as the People of God, the universal call to holiness, the central role of the laity, vernacular worship, the Church’s mission to the world, dialog and consensus building, subsidiarity, and ecumenical-interfaith-interreligious commitment. The Vatican’s 2016 Ratio Fundamentalis adds the following specifics: pastoral charity, priestly heart, inner freedom and maturity, complete self-bestowal, missionary discipleship and service.      B.    Our concern: priestly formation in recent decades has not adequately implemented Vatican II’s pastoral vision and values in candidates. According to Cardinal Wuerl, Vatican II in our time is “now making its way… slowly but surely,” fueled by “all that Pentecostal energy that the Council unleashed”1 Yet the implementation of the program of priestly formation has resulted in many priests in the last several generations of priests who see Vatican II as little more than an historical footnote rather than the guiding vision for our Church in the modern world. Some recently ordained clergy even see Vatican II as a distortive moment in the Church’s pilgrimage through time. As a result they see themselves as tasked now to undo and correct the “damage done” by priests who have labored before them to receive and live Vatican II’s ‘New Pentecost.’ This perspective has been planted and is being supported by those resisting Pope Francis’ initiatives to continue the pastoral implementation of Vatican II. Presbyterates and parish communities in our country are being divided, at least in part, by how priests have been formed by priestly formation programs as implemented in recent years.          C.    Recommendations:....(more)
Amoris Laetitia: Unity and uniformity should not be confused
Initiatives differ from one diocese to another, depending on local realities and local sensitivities, says Father Gilles Routhier
Father Gilles Routhier, priest of the Archdiocese of Quebec, ecclesiologist, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Science, analyses the fears of an increased divergence in pastoral practices in different dioceses, two years after the publication of Amoris Laetitia.
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, subscription journal La Croix International, 6 April 2018.
Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner: In the Apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the pope invites “each bishop” to “offer his own local church the most suitable pastoral initiatives” to guide families.....(source)
Quebec bishops ponder possibility of married priests
Extract from Veronique Demers, Crux, Catholic News Service, 5 April 2018
QUEBEC CITY, Canada - The Catholic bishops of Quebec have discussed the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood.      During a conference dedicated to the future of the Catholic Church in Quebec, Auxiliary Bishop Marc Pelchat of Quebec said consolidating parishes was not a solution to the lack of priests.     “During a closed hearing at a recent plenary session of bishops, there was talk of the ordination of married men of a certain age, whose ecclesial commitment is tested. This is an important reflection that we have right now,” he said in mid-March.       Nearly 80 people attended the conference, organized by the lay group Le Parvis de Quebec, at the Canadian Montmartre, or Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart.       “The situation of churches continues to change. In the last decade, there has been a significant decline in the demand for sacraments, including even the funeral rite. The Church has become like a vestige of the past, destined to be marginalized. The faithful still present believe that there’s still Good News to share, but it will have to be done differently. We will have to be persevering,” said Pelchat.    Many people asked Pelchat, the longtime dean of the faculty of theology and religious studies at Laval University, about the participation of the laity in the life of the Church.     Pelchat said the Quebec Church has long put faithful in a position of spectators and consumers, especially regarding the sacraments.     “We need to change this way of doing things. We believe that we can rebuild the Church, even if it is more humble, to announce the mission of Christ,” he said, stressing that many answers will come from the field.......(more)
Hart to depart with Pope poised to pick Melbourne's next Archbishop       Extract from Ben Schneiders, Royce Millar & Chris Vedelag, The Age, 4 April 2018
The Catholic Church in Australia faces a pivotal moment in its history, with an official search now underway to replace long-serving Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.      Senior Catholic sources have told The Age that a highly secretive selection process is near completion, with Pope Francis to have the final say on Archbishop Hart’s successor.    The process is meant to be subject to “pontifical secret” – an order made by the Vatican under canon law which imposes silence – so is not meant to be discussed.     Archbishop Hart turns 77 next month and would have had to formally offer his retirement almost two years ago, on his 75th birthday. It is up to the Pope when he accepts such a resignation. Senior sources believe a decision is imminent.     But The Age has confirmed that Pope Francis’s representative in Australia, the Apostolic Nuncio, has been sounding out senior Catholics about who should be the next archbishop.    The Nuncio, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, did not respond to a request for comment from The Age. Archbishop Hart, through a spokesman, declined to comment....(more). Photo: The Age, Luis Enrique Ascui.
Synodality and its perils: Baby steps towards a more representative church
The catholicity of the church is not just measured in terms of the orthodoxy of its content, but also in terms of how these teachings are carried out
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 3 April 2018
The Catholic Church and the world’s constitutional democracies are today facing the same critical challenge – how, as institutions, they can credibility represent their people. We saw this in the church several days ago after some 300 young people who met in Rome to offer their views on the next session of the Synod of Bishops issued their final document.
Their text was just the latest occasion for the usual critics of Pope Francis, especially in the United States, to once again take aim at the pope. The critics accused the teens and young adults that drafted and approved the final document of merely parroting the pope and being manipulated by him. The young authors of that document have officially denied the allegations.     Interestingly, in denying the charges, the youths also pointed out the gap between the healthy ecclesial ethos modeled by their gathering in Rome and the polarization that has become so evident among Catholics in the United States.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Synodal Church Faggioli



Plenary Council 2020 - 3 Year Timeline

Monday 26 March 2018

Now available from the Plenary Council website HERE

Early Australian Provincial Councils / Plenaries
Saturday 24 March 2018
A timely series of papers on early Australian Provincial Councils / Plenaries by Peter Wilkinson has been published in The Swag and with kind permission of The Swag  are republished as 'No, 78'  on the Documents Page of this website.
Gathering of the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform
Extract from Communique, Canberra, Friday 23 March
Nine Catholic groups advocating for systemic reform of the Church have met in Canberra today to assert the responsibility of all Catholic people to be heard and to lead in the Church.      The Catholic Church in Australia faces continuing decay unless bishops understand the necessity of the grassroots Catholics to have a central role in the direction and decision-making of the Church.    There needs to be a restoration of trust in and by the bishops in the value of advice and wisdom from ordinary Catholics which for too long has been rejected or at best ignored....(more)
Port Pirie, Broome lead the way for Plenary Council
Extract from CathNews, 23 March 2018
More than 200 people from remote and rural parts of Port Pirie Diocese in South Australia have met for the first major gathering since the announcement of the 2020 Plenary Council. Source: ACBC Media Blog.     “Looking forward in hope towards 2020” was the theme for the two-day assembly, which was attended by parishioners and clergy from all parishes across the vast geography of the diocese, as well as the diocesan and state leaders of Centacare, Catholic Education, St Vincent de Paul, Catholic Women’s League and other diocesan ministries.    The youth of the diocese were also strongly represented at the assembly, reminding the gathering that this year's Year of Youth is not just for the young, it is for everyone.    Port Pirie Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ was also present at the assembly.    “At a time when the rural Church in Australia faces seemingly insurmountable challenges, it is essential that we remember we are a people of hope and we are proud to be leading the engagement with the Plenary Council,” Bishop O'Kelly said.....(more)  Photo: CathNews.
Pope Francis backs decision to hold Plenary Council in Australia
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Monday 19 March 2018
Pope Francis has given his approval for the Catholic Church to hold the first Plenary Council – the most significant national gathering that can be held – in Australia in more than 80 years.       “The Australian Bishops are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for affirming the decision and we ask all people to join in prayer as we embark on this journey together as God’s people in Australia,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, chair of the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council.       “The Council will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges.    “We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the Plenary Council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’”    In approving the Plenary Council, Pope Francis also endorsed the bishops’ nomination of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as the president of the Plenary Council. Archbishop Costelloe said he holds great hope that the Council will bring about a period of authentic renewal.    “This is a significant moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and I look forward to walking with the people of God as we look towards the future,” Archbishop Costelloe said.....(more)
Preparing for the Plenary Council 2020
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly, Diocese of Ballarat website,  March 2018
The Australian Bishops at their November meeting decided that the Plenary Council will be held in two sessions, one in October 2020 around the tenth anniversary of Mary Mackillop’s canonisation and the second in May 2021. One of these sessions will be held in Central Australia and the other in one of the major cities on the East Coast.     In the next few months, the Facilitation Team and the Executive Council will prepare a website, social media access, a Plenary Council logo and prayer, a survey [online and on paper] and other instruments to ensure that all Catholics can be consulted in as full, free and productive way as possible. Meanwhile, the Bishops are to appoint working groups to ensure that the people in their dioceses, parishes, schools, health care and social welfare facilities can be involved.     The official launch will be on Pentecost Sunday 2018. That will begin a year of consultation through diocesan and parish meetings, family conversations, facilitated community discussions, meetings with scho ols, health care, social welfare agencies, with aboriginal groups, the poor, listening sessions with the bishops and so forth. There will also be consultation and reporting back through the website, discussion through social media, and other ways. The hope is that many Catholics, active and disaffected, will take the opportunity to help plan the future of our Australian Church.    After Easter 2019 we will try to review and consolidate what has been said in the hope of beginning a second phase of consultation and prayerful discernment after Pentecost 2019.      Early in 2020 the main issues and directions should be clearer and we can prepare documents, merciful and inspiring ones along the lines of the Vatican II documents. These can then be shared and attract feedback and discernment before the October 2020 first Session. They may also be accompanied by legislation to ensure they are implemented....(more)
Towards 2020
Extract from Fr Justin Driscoll, Vicar General Ballarat Diocese, March 2018
The Catholic Church in Australia has commenced preparations for a Plenary Council to be held in 2020. A Plenary Council provides an occasion for the whole Church to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to our Church at this time. For this to happen, wide consultation of the entire Australian Church will be necessary so that all voices have an opportunity to be heard. Processes that enable all to genuinely listen to each other will also be required. A new relationship of trust and confidence has to be created within the Church in Australia and the wider community.       The last time a Plenary Council was held in Australia was eighty years ago in 1937. At that time those engaged in the Plenary Council were advised to “take care that provision is made for the pastoral needs of the people of God… and to decide what seems opportune for the increase of the faith, the organization of common pastoral actions and the regulation of morals and of common ecclesiastical discipline which is to be observed, promoted and protected.” A Plenary Council has legislative capacity that will be applicable to the Church in Australia.       The idea of having another Plenary Council in Australia has been around for some years.     The idea has been given fresh impetus by Pope Francis’ encouragement of a ‘synodal’ style of Church and also by the reflection on the lessons of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.        The synodal process has three stages – preparation, celebration and implementation......(more)
Plenary Council 2020 and the Diocese of Broken Bay
Extract from Daniel Ang, Diocese of Broken Bay
What does it mean as a Catholic community to live the life and mission of Jesus in contemporary Australian society?      It is this question that has moved the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to announce a Plenary Council of the Church in Australia to be held in the year 2020. The Bishops Conference has sought the approval from Pope Francis for this Council, official endorsement which is expected in due course.    Put simply, a Plenary Council is the highest form of communion between the various local or particular churches of a nation. It is, then, not simply a meeting of bishops but a process that calls for the participation of the entire Catholic community. It invites the whole Church into dialogue, to discern how its communities can live the Gospel with renewed vitality amidst new questions and challenges. The Plenary Council itself will feature representation from among the laity, religious and ordained ministers, together with the bishops of Australia, as the culmination of a sustained pilgrimage in faith.          As such a Plenary Council is an expression of the ‘synodality’ of the Church, the nature of the Church as a communion of persons ‘walking together’ in faith as disciples of the Lord. The Plenary Council recognises that all the baptised have received a common vocation to be a ‘sacrament or instrumental sign of intimate union with God and of the unity of all humanity’ (Lumen Gentium 1) and upholds with faith that it is by our mutual listening to the Holy Spirit – who guides the Church ‘into all truth’ (John 16:13) – that we can realise our mission most deeply as a community of faith.        As set out in Canon Law, a Plenary Council has legislative power with the final decisions reserved to the bishops by nature of their episcopal ordination as successors of the Apostles. The bishops are obliged to make decisions on the basis of their careful discernment of the work of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of all the People of God, recognising that the sense of the faith of the faithful – what is known as the sensus fidelium – is a source of the Church’s life and learning as it seeks to fulfil its Gospel mission.          This means that the Plenary Council is more than a single event to be held in the year 2020 but an extended process that invites the entire Catholic community, even now, to ‘walk the path of dialogue’ and interpret what God is doing today and how God is calling the Church to live the Gospel into the future. It calls the Church to undertake a pilgrimage of listening and learning, to be a synodal and receptive church that engages in honest speaking and mutual listening to the Holy Spirit, to share insights and also hear insights shared.     Throughout this process of listening, dialogue and prayer, experiences of diverse lives will be welcomed and invited to share their sense of faith, questions and hopes for the Catholic Church – from those who are attempting to live a committed and sacramental life in the Church, those baptised Catholics with lesser involvement in ecclesial life, to those who are vulnerable in Australian society, who may be more distant from the Church, or who have been hurt and may or may not still regard themselves as Catholic in some way.....(more)  
“I’m a Catholic too, Father.”
Hong Kong priest’s mission to save drug mules from a system that favours kingpins.
Crusading prison chaplain is seeking shorter jail terms for couriers and greater police efforts to hunt down senior gang members.
Extract from Simon Parry, South China Morning Post, 18 March 2018
In the hustle and mayhem of a downtown Bangkok street teeming with prostitutes, sex tourists, garish bars and counterfeit-goods stalls, a grey-haired priest stops beneath a pedestrian footbridge to talk to two cocaine dealers from Ghana.     “It’s 4,000 baht [US$130] a gram,” one of the dealers mumbles, rummaging in his jacket pockets and shuffling nervously from foot to foot. His eyes then land on the crucifix around the man’s neck and he says, with a broad grin, “I’m a Catholic too, Father.”     The priest smiles, leans in and asks the dealer questions in a low voice. He hands the African a booklet explaining his work, tells him, “Look after yourself,” and walks deeper into the city’s dark heart.     The prison chaplain who has stopped 150 drug mules reaching Hong Kong.       John Wotherspoon is a man on a mission. He has flown to Thailand from Hong Kong to track down a Nigerian drug kingpin known as IK in a corner of Bangkok so lawless, even local police consider it a no-go zone. Armed with little more than his crucifix and an implacable faith in human nature, the 71-year-old is racing against time to get evidence that might lessen the jail sentence for a mainland Chinese woman called Li Dandan.    “She’s in court this week and I need to find him and get him to confirm to me that she was set up,” he explains, clutching photocopied pictures of IK, who the suspect says seduced her and then conned her into flying from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong with a cocaine-filled suitcase... (more)    Photo: Fr John Wotherspoon, South China Morning Post
NSW: New religious education classes take ‘radical’ turn
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Weekly, 16 March 2018
A new religious education curriculum that focuses on faith and reason will soon be rolled out in years 11 and 12 in Catholic schools across NSW.     The new “Studies in Catholic Thought” curriculum was requested in 2015 by the NSW bishops, who expressed a desire for a common RE curriculum for the state's 10 dioceses.     The new course will replace the current year 11 and 12 elective subject, Catholic Studies, and will adopt a classic liberal arts approach, bringing together history, philosophy, music, culture and art.   According to the project officer for the new curriculum, Janina Starkey, it is a “radical departure” from current religion curricula in schools across NSW.   “At the heart of it is the integration of faith and reason,” Ms Starkey said. “That’s something our Church has had for the 2000 years of its history. But it’s not something that has really been very apparent in any of our existing courses. That’s the underlying premise of the new curriculum – how do faith and reason sit together?” ...(more)  Photo: Janina Starkey-TheCatholicWeekly GiovanniPortelli
Reformers urge Australian bishops to release report on child sexual abuse royal commission
Extract from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 14 Match 2018
Australian Catholic bishops face “make or break time”, say prominent Catholics urging the church to make public its first formal analysis of damning child sexual abuse royal commission findings.       Reform group Catholics for Renewal and prominent Catholic author Paul Collins say public release of the Truth Justice and Healing Council’s royal commission assessment report, delivered to bishops last week, is a test of whether Australia’s bishops have learnt the lessons of the royal commission and are prepared to include lay Catholics in decision-making.        Former priest and Catholics for Renewal president Dr Peter Wilkinson and vice president Peter Johnstone said their group had asked bishops and leaders of Catholic orders to regard the TJH Council analysis of royal commission recommendations as a church “white paper” for reform.
They called on bishops to release the report to Catholics and the broader community for comment and consider those responses before preparing the church’s formal response to royal commission recommendations to the Federal Government.    “Not to make that document available is just another sign of continuing secrecy by the bishops,” said Dr Wilkinson, who co-authored a five-year study into systemic reasons for child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church....(more)
Overseas abuse survivors also need justice: Sullivan
Extract from Francis Sullivan,  ABC News, CathNews, Truth Justice and Healing Council, Fr16 March 2018
Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief Francis Sullivan is calling on the Church in Australia to deal with crimes carried out overseas by Church officials.      Mr Sullivan said it was clear that priests with child sex allegations made against them had been sent overseas to developing countries, including Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, although he was not prepared to concede that those actions were deliberate.     But he said the Church needed to treat overseas survivors exactly as they would those in Australia, and ensure they get justice.     “The relevant Church authorities need to be able to demonstrate that they’re taking responsibility for the actions in how they moved personnel, particularly when those personnel either had a history of abuse, or abused when they were overseas,” he told Pacific Beat.     Four years ago, media reports revealed how one priest, Fr Roger Mount, had spent decades working in PNG after being accused of sexually abusing boys in Australia during the 1960s...(more)
Cardinal Pell committal hearing opened to public
Extract from CathNews, ABC News, 15 March 2018
Cardinal George Pell’s committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court has been opened to the public and the media for the first time since it began on March 5.    The hearing has been closed up until yesterday to allow the complainants to give their evidence, which is standard practice in Victoria for cases involving sexual offence charges.    Cardinal Pell is fighting historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complaints. No other details can be reported for legal reasons.    For the past 10 days, a security guard had been stationed by the door to court room 22 at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to ensure no one but Cardinal Pell, his support person, legal team, prosecutors and a magistrate made it inside.    Over five days, multiple complainants gave their evidence via video link before being cross-examined by Cardinal Pell’s barrister Robert Richter QC.    If Magistrate Belinda Wallington sends the case to trial, Cardinal Pell will be required to enter a plea to the charges.    The hearing is expected to remain open for the rest of the committal hearing which is set down for another fortnight...(more)   Photo:: CathNews, CNS/Stefan Postles)  
Pope Francis and Stephen Hawking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican
Extract from Carol Glatz, CNS, The Tablet, 14 March 2018
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.    The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, "We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy."    "He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory," @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.    The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking's family.    "We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness," the observatory tweeted in Italian.    The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76....(more)  Photo: The Tablet
Five Years of Francis: How Has He Changed U.S. Catholicism?
Extract from John Gehring, Commonweal magazine, 13 March 2018
Five years ago this week the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church selected the first Latin American pope—and the first from a Jesuit religious order known for its fierce commitment to social justice. Pope Francis immediately began changing the public face of Catholicism. He warned that the church can’t only be “obsessed” with opposing abortion, struck a more welcoming tone toward LGBT people, and chose to live in a Vatican guesthouse instead of the more regal Apostolic Palace.   Along with disrupting business as usual in Rome, the pope has empowered a new generation of “Francis bishops” in the United States to speak out with renewed vigor on issues beyond abortion and birth control, insisting that being prolife also means addressing income inequality, climate change, and treatment of immigrants. One of the most visible of them, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, has argued that the pope’s emphasis on economic justice and poverty demand a “transformation of the existing Catholic political conversation.” Another, Newark’s Joe Tobin, appointed a cardinal by Francis in 2016, took to Twitter a few days after President Trump touted a nativist, “America First” ideology at his inauguration with a warning that only “a fearful nation talks about building walls and is vulnerable to con men.” While a majority of white Catholics voted for Trump, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently denounced his administration’s efforts to limit refugees from entering the country and blasted the president’s decision to rescind protections for young undocumented immigrants—a move the bishops called “reprehensible.”......Pope Francis has provided bishops a way out of the corner they boxed themselves into over the last decade....(more)     Photo: Commonweal, CNS photo/Paul Haring
Pope Benedict XVI: there is continuity with Pope Francis' Pontificate
Extract from Vatican News, 12 March 2018
Pope Benedict wanted to give a contribution, very significant as always, to the interior spiritual unity of the two pontificates. Thus Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò characterizes the letter sent to him by the Pope Emeritus.   Regarding the magisterium of Pope Francis, Benedict writes that “there is interior unity” between his pontificate and that of Pope Francis, his successor. Pope Benedict’s letter was presented by its recipient, Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò, during a press conference presenting “The Theology of Pope Francis,” a series of 11 books written by 11 different authors, and published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The news conference was held in Sala Marconi in the headquarters of Vatican Media.    Pope Benedict applauds publication of the series.    “I applaud this initiative,” writes Pope Benedict. “It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today’s Christian.     The Pope Emeritus writes that he is grateful to have received the set of 11 books edited by Roberto Repole, President of the Italian Theological Association. Pope Benedict XVI adds that these volumes “reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”...(more)  Photo: Vatican News, Vatican Media
Five years a pope and still reforming the church
Francis’ reforms are aimed at changing mentalities   Limited Extract from Editorial, Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 10 March 2019
Pope Francis has already set in motion significant changes, particularly with the church’s finances but there is still much to do about the Curia’s structure and sexual abuse.     “Making reforms in Rome is like cleaning the Egyptian Sphynx with a toothbrush,” the 19th century Belgian prelate and Papal States statesman Xavier de Mérode used to say.      T