Catholics for Renewal


News 2019

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 (August 2019)    Getting Back on Mission - How?

Catholics For Renewal's comprehensive submission to the Australian Catholic Plenary Council 2020/2021 has been replaced by a revised version in user-friendly book form "Getting Back on Mission - Reforming our Church Together."
Read the Editorial HERE
- and also see details of the book, its launch on 17 September 2019, and availability from:

(Previous Editorials here)

1. SIP, Getting Back On Mission, St Andrews Hotel, Fitzroy
2nd October, 6 pm dinner, 8pm Presentation, Peter Johnstone, Fiona Lynch, Peter Wilkinson. Details HERE

2. Towards the Plenary Council: On Reform of the Church
Walter Silvester Memorial lecture, Archbishop Peter Comensoli
Tuesday 29 October 2019, Australian Catholic University, Fitzroy, Details & Bookings on EVENTS page

3. Voice of Hope and Challenge Conference - How to drive positive reform in the Church
Bishop Vincent Long, Francis Sullivan, Noel Connolly ssc, John Warhurst AO, Robyn Horner, Andrew Hamilton sj, Rosie Joyce csb, Mary Coloe pbvm, Pat Fox rsm, Alicia Deak and Bernadette Keating pbvm to discuss
Nov.15,16,17   Yarra Theological College, Study Centre, 93 Albion Rd, Box Hill    Full details on EVENTS page

Launch of "Getting Back on Mission: Reforming our Church together"
John Costa, 20 September 2019
On  Tuesday at University of Melbourne Newman College Francis Sullivan former CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Commission launched the book Getting Back on Mission; Reforming our Church together.     Published by Garratt Publishing the book is an updated version of the Catholics For Renewal Submission to the 2020 Plenary Council and has already been well reviewed by a number of Leading Catholics in Australia and around the world.             Amongst many comments Francis praised the book as a comprehensive and thorough work of committed lay Catholics driven by their strong faith and Church background to contribute to necessary Church reform via recommendations to the Plenary Council. By virtue of the book's user-friendliness it will also encourage far wider engagement in discussion on necessary Church reforms through this process. He highlighted the importance of synodality and the Church becoming a good listener.             Several attending the launch commented that through her chairing the launch Fiona Lynch highlighted the rarity of women leadership in the Church and through her comments conspicuously demonstrated the importance of balancing perspectives which the Church over the years has largely ignored.             Dr Peter Wilkinson, President of Catholics For renewal said that "Pope Francis has said that now is the time “to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization”, and that any “proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory”.       “The important thing”, he has said, “is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.”.     The book will also be launched in Warsaw next week then later elsewhere in Australia.         Getting Back on Mission: Reforming Our Church Together is Catholics for Renewal’s contribution to that important task of walking together in a communal search.  Photo: Francis Sullivan launching Getting Back on Mission.
Choirboy can be believed - and Pell freed, Cardinal's lawyers say
Extract from Chip Le Grand. The Age, 20 September 2019
For more than four years, the fate of Australia’s most powerful Catholic cleric rested on the word of a former choirboy. For police, for the courts and the church, it all came down to the truthfulness, credibility and believability of a single witness, alone and unsupported in what he alleged against George Pell.      In an application lodged this week for special leave to appeal his case to the High Court, Pell’s legal team shifted ground. It is both a vindication of the choirboy and a last bid by Pell, now serving a six-year prison sentence, to have his child sex convictions quashed.             George Pell’s next court date is likely to be on the second Friday of either November or December.      George Pell’s next court date is likely to be on the second Friday of either November or December.         The Cardinal’s lawyers no longer question the credibility of the man who first told police in 2015 that Pell raped him and sexually assaulted a friend in St Patrick’s Cathedral when they were 13 years old.             They no longer dismiss Pell’s accuser as a fantasist or argue that the County Court jury should have done the same.      Instead, they contend that both sides of this bitterly contested prosecution should co-exist; that Pell’s accuser can be believed and the Cardinal acquitted of all charges and released from jail.      "Can belief in a complainant be used as a basis for eliminating doubt otherwise raised and left by unchallenged exculpatory evidence?" Pell’s senior counsel Bret Walker says, before answering his own rhetorical question. "Believing a complainant ... does not equate to the elimination of reasonable doubt otherwise raised."    The president of the Victorian Bar Council, Matthew Collins, QC, says it is a nuanced argument which, if entertained by the High Court, will confront our assumptions about truth and lies, guilt and innocence.      "In any way you look at it, it’s a challenge to the criminal justice system," Dr Collins tells The Age....(more)
Whose nation? Which communities? The fault lines of the new Christian nationalism
Extract from David Albertson, Jason Blakely, America, The Jesuit Review, 19 September 2019
A new kind of Christian nationalism is gaining momentum in the United States. Around the country,evangelical Protestants are deepening their loyalty to President Donald Trump, who announced last October: “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, O.K.? I’m a nationalist.... Use that word.”       Yet it is not evangelicals but Catholic intellectuals who are helping to lead efforts to capitalize on the opportunity presented by Mr. Trump’s nationalism. Catholic involvement is especially prominent in two recent initiatives.            The first was a manifesto published by First Things this March advocating a new style of conservatism that would, among other things, “embrace the new nationalism” and “jealously guard” the space opened up by the “Trump phenomenon.” Among the signatories were Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame, C. C. Pecknold of the Catholic University of America and Sohrab Ahmari, an op-ed editor at The New York Post.         The second initiative was the National Conservatism conference, which took place in July and was organized in part by R. R. Reno, the editor in chief of First Things. Catholic thinkers such as Mr. Reno and Mr. Deneen shared the stage with other politically conservative speakers such as Tucker Carlson of Fox News, the University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a vocal Trump supporter.          While theorizing about nationalism, the speakers celebrated the Trump insurgency and praised the president’s instincts on immigration.....(more)   Photo: America The Jesuit Review
Where Do We Find the Authentic Catholic Voice?
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Blog, 19 September 2019
Cardinal Pell got his voice heard from prison. Furthermore, surrogate Pell voices are heard from bishops he has promoted in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. But, on three current issues polls show that most Catholics disagree with them. So, which voice is authentically Catholic?       A Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region will take place in Rome in October 2019. Its aim is to identify new paths for the evangelization of that region. The working document for the synod was issued in June this year. The main preoccupation of the synod is the Amazon and its people.          The evangelization of the people has, in turn, raised some secondary issues such as the ordination of married indigenous men and the role of women. These secondary issues rang the alarm bells of the reactionary faction of the culture wars currently bedevilling the Catholic Church and, indeed, much of the Western World.          Pell has been a prominent voice of the right-wing faction all his life – dogmatic and authoritarian. Though convicted and in jail for paedophilia, he has used a letter to his supporters to add his voice to opposition to the Amazon Synod.          Pell’s style is reaction. That style echoes in statements of his proteges the archbishops of Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. Recent Australian legislation has given them material for reaction on the three hot button issues: same-sex marriage, standardising abortion legislation and assisted dying. These are the issues that really get them going – not refugees, immigration or climate change.          The episcopal voices are supported by ideological, right-wing activist groups such as Sydney-based Notre Dame University’s Institute for Ethics and Society, the JP II Institute in Melbourne, the Christopher Dawson Centre in Hobart.           These institutes are part of a world-wide collection of similar organizations pushing the right-wing, ideological agenda. Italy has the Dignitatis Humanae Institute promoted by Steve Bannon. The USA has the Napa Institute promoted by Timothy Busch and supported by Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia and an array of others including George Weigel. These movement are highly organized and well-funded.           Polls show that, while Australian Catholics have mixed opinions on the morality of these issues, a heavy majority are against criminalising them. Catholics, in the main, appear to be at home in a pluralist, secular society, and judge that it is not right to force their opinions on others.....(more).  Photo: Eric Hodgens
'Seduction' of children did little harm, said Catholic gatekeeper
Extract from Chris Vedelago, Farrah Tomazin and Debbie Cuthbertson, The Age, 18 September 2019
The psychologist who worked with the Catholic church for three decades to screen candidates for the priesthood once characterised child abuse as “seduction” that would do little lasting harm to its victims.           Ronald Conway, the Melbourne Archdiocese’s “consulting psychologist for religious vocations” tested applicants to the Corpus Christi seminary from 1969 to at least 2001, during which time 16 child abusers graduated as priests.       Mr Conway himself was later accused of historical sexual misconduct by former patients of his private practice, though never charged or convicted.       An investigation by The Age has exposed how some of the Catholic church’s worst paedophile priests shared victims, passed on details of vulnerable children, and worked together to conceal their crimes as part of informal networks of abuse. At the centre of a number of these clusters was Corpus Christi, where Mr Conway and psychiatrist Dr Eric Seal were the mental health gatekeepers.     Mr Conway was largely responsible for formulating screening practices that led to many unsuitable candidates entering Corpus Christi training college and eventually becoming priests. One candidate told the royal commission he was classified as ....(more) 
Archdiocesan Response to The Age article re Corpus Christi Seminary
Extract from Media and Communications Office Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Tuesday 17 September 2019
The Archdiocese of Melbourne was approached by The Age on Wednesday 11 September with questions concerning a number of historical assertions, some of which focused on Corpus Christi College, the Catholic Seminary for the Province of Tasmania and Victoria.       The Archdiocese acted quickly to ascertain the facts of what was being claimed, and answered the newspaper on 13 September, working with a short deadline and limited information provided by the newspaper.       On Tuesday 17 September The Age published a story in relation to this topic.       Abusers were named, all of who are already known by the Church, and in many cases by civil authorities. A number are directly associated with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, while others were trained for a different Diocese or Religious Congregation.       The article alludes to information about inferred behaviours to which the Archdiocese is not privy.       Should new information be raised, the Church in Melbourne will examine any related claims thoroughly. Anyone with relevant information or concerns is encouraged to raise them with the relevant civil authorities.....(more)
How paedophile priests in Victoria worked together to share victims
A Catholic priest left a 14-year-old boy in a seminary common room with several other boys before another priest came and "selected" him for abuse, says an explosive new statement of claim.
Extract from Farrah Tomazin, Chris Vedelago and Debbie Cuthbertson, The Age, 17 September 2019
Some of the Catholic church’s worst paedophile priests shared victims, passed on details of vulnerable children considered easy targets and worked together to conceal their crimes as part of informal networks of sexual abuse hidden in Australian seminaries, schools and parishes.      An investigation by The Age has identified for the first time that many priests involved in historical sexual abuse of children did not simply act as individuals but formed clusters, or paedophile rings, throughout Victoria, from the western district to the Gippsland region and in suburban Melbourne.     This interactive graphic reveals the extent of each priest’s offending and the links between them.....(more)
Pope tackles criticism head-on
Francis' comment about a 'schism' in the Church is courageous … but also unprecedented
Limied Extract from Guillaume Goubert, France,  Editorial, subscription journal La Croix International, 12 September 2019
The sentence will remain in the annals of the life of the Catholic Church. Asked on the plane back from Madagascar about the risk of a rupture between the Holy See and American Catholicism, Pope Francis replied very calmly: "I am not afraid of schisms."          These are unprecedented words from the mouth of a pope, at least publicly.        "Guarantor of the common faith," according to a beautiful expression by the late Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the pope is supposed to do everything possible to maintain the unity of the Church. It is therefore assumed that this schism is an obsession for him.              However, this pope tells us that he is not afraid of it, as an echo of the famous phrase of John Paul II during the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate in October 1978: "Non abbiate paura (Be not afraid)!"          Pope Francis' comments can therefore be interpreted as having two meanings, which are not exclusive of each other.       On the one hand, the probability of a short-term schism does not seem to him to be major; on the other hand, he does not want to be dictated by such a risk.         With that one sentence, Pope Francis is in fact trying to de-dramatize the oppositions that manifest themselves against him among part of American Catholicism but also, as he himself points out, "almost everywhere and also in the Curia."        It also implicitly points the way to overcoming these tensions by stating that criticism is legitimate when it is expressed frankly.       "Fair and open criticism is constructive" and "Better: It's loving the Church."        A pope who publicly invites us to have a critical debate with him? There is no precedent for this either.....(source).
In US tour, Marie Collins exposes clerical culture behind abuse cover-up
Extract from Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter, 12 September 2019
Washington — The Catholic Church has reached a crossroads. Its leaders can either change, become open and accountable, or maintain the status quo: an institution lacking transparency, wrapped in secrecy and beholden to a clerical culture that is at the heart of the institution's problems.              That bleak assessment was made by Marie Collins, the Irish clerical sexual abuse survivor who was an original member of a papal commission dealing with the sex abuse crisis, and who said she is "hanging on by my fingernails."        The scandal, she said in remarks Sept. 8 opening a five-city U.S. tour, is both systemic and global, and clericalism remains at its core.         "The church is at a crossroads. It can either continue to behave as it has for centuries, protecting itself, or open up and become the church we all want it to be, the church that it should be."        Collins, in a separate interview with NCR following the news conference, expanded on her understanding of clericalism and how it played into her decision to resign, after serving for three years, from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.        During the past 20 years, she said, the church "has been reactive" and "has not changed one single thing unless forced to by survivors and those in the media. ... I don't believe the church has made any changes of its own volition." She made her remarks at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill at the outset of her tour, titled, "A Crisis of Culture: Seeking Justice to Reclaim the Church."        Comparing the task facing the church to the Herculean labor of cleaning the Augean stables, Collins said she believes significant change can occur only with continuous pressure "by lay people who love the church."       Her time of service on the newly formed papal commission from 2014 to 2017 provided a rare look for a lay woman at the workings of the Roman Curia, the Vatican congregations and offices comprising the highest levels of governance in the church. She came away from that experience, she told NCR, convinced that "it's like a giant boys' boarding school."       She described her time on the commission as a series of frustrations and realizations that some in the Curia were intent on stifling the group's work from the outset.      She said the first meeting at the Vatican turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come. The room where it was held contained a bare table and chairs. "No pens, no pads, not even water," she said. When she asked who was going to take minutes of the meeting, she said the cleric secretary answered there was "no one in the Vatican available to take minutes."....(more)
New laws aim to change culture, not jail priests: Andrews
Extract from CathNews, The Age, 12 September 2019
The Victorian Government says it hopes it does not have to jail priests who fail to report child abuse revealed during the sacrament of confession.        The state’s Parliament passed laws on Tuesday carrying sentences of up to three years for failing to report abuse, but Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday that he did not know of any convictions under Victoria’s broader mandatory reporting laws, in place for 25 years.        Mr Andrews said the laws, and the new legislation passed on Tuesday, were intended to create a culture in which all abuse or mistreatment of children was reported, regardless of how it came to light.        He said the bill, which passed the upper house on Tuesday night with bipartisan support, was intended to send a message all the way to the top of the Church in Rome.       “The most important thing is to send a message that the law is to be taken seriously, if people don’t obey the law, then the penalties are very significant,” he said.         “The culture is one where people have taken the laws and their responsibilities in terms of mandatory reporting very seriously.”         The changes will bring religious leaders into line with police, teachers, doctors, nurses, school counsellors and youth justice workers who are required to report child abuse to authorities.      “The special treatment for churches has ended and child abuse must be reported,” Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said in the wake of Tuesday night’s Parliamentary vote....(more). Photo CathNews, ABC Radio
Pope doesn't want schism – but is not afraid of it
Extract from CathNews, CNS, 11 September 2019
Pope Francis told reporters he hoped and prayed the Catholic Church would not experience a new schism, but human freedom means people always have had and will have the “schism option”.      “I pray that there not be schism, but I am not afraid,” Pope Francis told reporters flying from Africa to Rome with him yesterday.      Schisms have occurred throughout Church history, he said, and one thing they all have in common is having such a focus on an ideology that they begin reading Church doctrine through the lens of that fixation.      A schism is triggered when “an ideology, perhaps a correct one, infiltrates doctrine and it becomes ‘doctrine’ in quotation marks, at least for a time,” he said.      As an example of ideology, the Pope cited those who say, “The Pope is too communist” because of his criticism of unbridled capitalism and its negative impact on the poor. “The social things I say are the same things John Paul II said. The very same. I copy him.”      When ideology takes the place of doctrine, he said, there is the danger of a split in the Christian community.       Pope Francis said small groups of Catholics in the United States are not the only people who criticise him — there are even people in the Roman Curia who do — but he tries to learn from the criticism and to find a way to dialogue with critics who are open.     “Criticism always helps,” Pope Francis said. “When one is criticised, the first thing to do is to reflect, “Is this true, not true, to what extent” is it valid?....(more).  Photo: Pope Francis Mozambique CNS Paul Haring CathNews
German bishops at loggerheads over plan for church renewal
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 11 September 2019
Woelki said he believed the new synodal procedure 'holds great dangers – above all the danger of splitting the the German Church'        German bishops at loggerheads over plan for church renewal.     The German bishops are at odds over the “binding synodal procedure” they decided to adopt at their plenary in March this year, designed to reduce clerical power and address clerical sexual abuse and the celibacy rule.      On 29 August the bishops’ conference confirmed that four forums ( “Power, Participation and Checks and Balances”, “The Priestly Mode of Life”, “Sexual Morality” and “Women in Church Service and in Church Offices”) would be led by a bishop and a lay Catholic.     However, on his return from a visit to the United States, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne warned that the synodal procedure could put community with the World Church at stake and split the German Church.     In an interview in the Cologne Kirchenzeitung, he said he was “sceptical” about the procedure, fearing that “it holds great dangers – above all the danger of splitting the the German Church”. In his letter to the German Catholics in June, Pope Francis had especially asked the German Church to remain in union with the World Church and with the Catholic faith, he recalled. Catholic Churches in the US were grappling with the same problems as the German Church, but he had the impression that the answers they had arrived at were “not attempting to go it alone”.     The Bishop of Mainz, Peter Kohlgraf has defended the synodal procedure. At a celebration for lay pastoral assistants in Mainz Cathedral, where the synodal procedure meetings are to be held, he recalled that the procedure had not been decided on “for fun but against the background of terrible crimes” committed by priests....(more).  Photo. The Tablet CNS photo Harald Oppitz KNA
Laws forcing priests to report child abuse passed in Victorian parliament
Extracts from Noel Towell and Simone Fox Koob, The Age, 11 September 2019
The Victorian government says it hopes it does not have to jail priests who fail to report child abuse revealed in the confession box.           The state's Parliament passed laws on Tuesday carrying sentences of up to three years for failing to report abuse, but Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday morning that he did not know of any convictions under Victoria's broader mandatory reporting laws, in place for 25 years.        The Premier said the laws, and the new legislation passed on Tuesday, were intended to create a culture in which all abuse or mistreatment of children was reported, regardless of how it came to light.         Mr Andrews said the bill, which passed the upper house on Tuesday night with bipartisan support, was intended to send a message all the way to the top of the Catholic Church in Rome.        "The most important thing is to send a message that the law is to be taken seriously, if people don’t obey the law, then the penalties are very significant," the Premier said.......The Catholic Church has insisted priests would be obliged to defy the laws, with Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli previously stating he was prepared to go to jail rather than break the confessional seal.     "For Catholics, confession is a religious encounter of a deeply personal nature. It deserves confidentiality," he said in August.....A spokesman said Archbishop Comensoli would not be responding publicly to the new legislation on Wednesday, and referred The Age to the Archbishop's August remarks......The introduction of the legislation follows a recommendation in the 2017 final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that clergy and confession no longer be exempt from mandatory reporting....(more)
Two cardinals are challenging the working document for next month’s synod of bishops on the pan-Amazonian region.
Extract from CathNews NZ, CNA 9 September 2019
Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Burke have both written to fellow members of the College of Cardinals raising concerns about the document.        Some points…seem not only in dissonance with respect to the authentic teaching of the Church, but even contrary to it,” Brandmüller, who is a German prelate wrote.         Parts of the working document are heretical, he says.        Noting what he calls the document’s “nebulous formulations” Brandmüller pointed to topics the synod will focus on.       These include a proposal to create new ecclesial ministries for women and another enabling the priestly ordination of the so-called viri probati – married men of good reputation, who could act as priests in places where there are none.         Brandmüller says these topics’ inclusion raises “strong suspicion that even priestly celibacy will be called into question,”         He also said Cardinal Claudio Hummes’s appointment as the president of the synod means he “will exercise a grave influence in a negative sense,” which presents “a well founded and realistic concern”.           He said Brazilian emeritus bishop Erwin Kräutel (who is a long-time proponent of married priests) and Franz-Josef Overbeck of Germany are of concern.....(more)Photo: CathNews NZ CNA 
Ordination Mass, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli's Homily
Extract from Media and Communications Office, 8 September 2019
What makes for a successful Ordained Minister, many ask today? What does a priest or deacon need to succeed? Perhaps we would all hope that our Ordained Ministers come with a certain set of attributes and capacities: a skilled wordsmith of the Gospel; a man of faith, intellect and spiritual depth; someone accomplished in liturgical and pastoral knowhow; an experienced steward of God’s grace. All of these things would indeed be good to have, at least to an adequate extent, in all our bishops, priests and deacons.        The problem with this way of thinking – in terms of success or failure, of achievement or lack thereof – is that it is not the question Jesus asked of those he commissioned to be his ministers. On the night before his Passion, at the Last Supper, the Lord asked instead: have you gone out to bear fruit, fruit that will last? This is the ‘great commission’ given to priests and deacons by the Lord, as he prepared to lay down his life for his friends: to go out with their lives; to be fruitful in their mission; and to be a lasting gift that will continue to nourish.         To go out. For us who are ordained, our lives are not meant to be centred on ‘coming home’, as would appropriately be said of a family man. Ours is not an inward calling, but an outward one. We are commissioned by the Church to be on the move, and to be with others. It is why Jesus couched the commissioning of his first priests in the language of friendship, and not servanthood. You cannot be a gospel friend to others if you are only ever waiting for others to come to you for the sacramental or pastoral services you provide.....(more). Photo:  Melbourne Catholic, CAM 
Archbishop Comensoli needs to cut the ecclesiastical umbilical cord.
Extract from David Timbs, Pearls & irritation, John Menadue blog, 9 September 2019    
Peter A Comensoli has been the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne for just on a year. So far he has demonstrated very little understanding of the disastrous situation he inherited. Nor has he shown any clear indication of the kind of vision and leadership needed to navigate a way though.        For the twenty year administration of Archbishops George Pell (1996–2001) and Denis Hart (2001–2018) there is no substantive public record of how either of them personally assessed the state of the diocese committed to their care and the pastoral problems they faced. Nor is there a similar record of the pastoral plans they formulated to deal with them. Neither published any annual reports of the diocese for public viewing, and the detailed 5-yearly Quinquennial Reports that they are required to forward to the Holy See have remained ‘top secret’, never to be revealed nor even to find a home in the archdiocesan secret archives.       What we do have is the 1998 Statement of Conclusions prepared by the Australian bishops (including Pell) and several high-level officials of the Holy See which, while purporting to be an accurate account of the state of the Church in Australia, made not a single mention of the clerical child sexual abuse that was then wreaking havoc throughout the nation. In July, 2011, Pell boasted to his fans in Cork, Ireland that:            "Let me now explain what I have tried to do in Australia. First of all I had to deal with the abuse scandal and in this I was given some very good advice from a former Supreme Court Judge. He told me that the scandals would bleed us to death year after year unless we took decisive action.. So we did clean it up; we set up an independent commission, we set up a panel to provide counselling and a system to pay compensation — and please God the worst of it is behind us."            While Pell in particular deconstructed the Archdiocese of Melbourne, both he and Hart did everything they could to block and stall the implementation of the diocesan structures for the synodality and co-responsibility recommended by Vatican II. Neither wanted a diocesan pastoral council (recommended but not mandated by Vatican II) nor a diocesan synod (‘Let them flourish with vigour’ said Vatican II), the last being held in 1916!....(more)
Catholic Church admits liability for paedophile Gerald Ridsdale's crimes
Extract from Melissa Cunningham and Andrew Thomson, The Age, 5:35pm 6 September 2019
The Catholic Church has accepted legal responsibility for the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old boy by notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale in a significant case which could open the floodgates for victims seeking compensation.            After denying any knowledge of Ridsdale's offending before the boy was raped in a confessional box at Mortlake in 1982, lawyers for the church on Friday accepted an amended statement of claim from the victim in the Supreme Court – in effect admitting legal liability for his crimes.      A 10-day civil trial scheduled to begin on January 29 next year will now focus primarily on the amount of damages the church will pay the victim. A mediation hearing will be held on October 15.            The victim, identified in court under the pseudonym JBC, is suing Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird for negligence on behalf of deceased former bishops James O’Collins and Ronald Mulkearns.                 In defence documents submitted to the court, Bishop Bird accepted that Bishop Mulkearns breached his duty of care to the victim because he knew about a complaint of Ridsdale sexually abusing a child at Inglewood in northern Victoria in 1975, seven years before JBC was raped.        "We are pleased that the Catholic Church has admitted liability for the sexual abuse of our client by Gerald Ridsdale," JBC's lawyers Judy Courtin Legal said on Friday.         "We believe this is the first time in Victoria that the Catholic Church has admitted that it failed to protect a victim of child sexual abuse and that it is therefore legally liable.........Ridsdale admitted to sexually assaulting 65 children – both boys and girls – throughout Victoria in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but it is believed the true number of his victims could be in the hundreds.      He has been sentenced five times since 1993 and is in prison at the Hopkins Correctional Centre in Ararat.               JBC is one of several victims mounting legal cases against the Ballarat Archdiocese over Ridsdale's offending.        The total payouts to his victims alone are expected to run into millions of dollars....(more).   Photo: The Age
Inquiry into alleged Catholic abuse cover-ups identifies credibility issues among senior church officials
Extract from Giselle Wakatama , Liz Farquhar and Madeline Lewis, ABC News,ABC Newcastle, updated 6:58pm 6 September 2019
Secret findings from a probe into alleged Catholic abuse cover-ups in the NSW Hunter Valley have identified credibility issues among clergymen within the upper echelons of the church.                 The Special Commission of Inquiry into allegations of a cover-up of child sexual abuse claims in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle released damning findings in 2014.              At the time, only three of the four volumes of the report were released by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC.              The fourth volume included confidential material containing findings that the inquiry heard could lead to criminal charges being laid against a senior Catholic Church official....(more)
New Director of Mission Appointed for Archdiocese of Melbourne
Friday 6 September 2019
Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, 6 September 2019
After an extensive recruitment process, Most Rev Peter A Comensoli, Archbishop of Melbourne, has announced the appointment of Ms Teresa Rhynehart as Director of Mission for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.             Reaching out to over 1.1 million Catholics across broader Melbourne, this senior leadership role is a new position that will spearhead a renewed and coordinated missionary endeavour in the Archdiocese by engaging and growing apostolic life and leadership throughout the faithful of Melbourne.      With recent experience in leading and implementing mission integration through St John of God Healthcare (South East Sub Acute Hospitals), leadership with the St Vincent de Paul Society, and over eight years as both Director and Assistant Director of mission agencies within the Archdiocese, Ms Rhynehart brings both a deeply personal and highly professional commitment to the witness of the Christian life today.       Most Rev Peter A Comensoli said that he was delighted that Ms Rhynehart has accepted the position of Director of Mission. “Teresa is an outstanding candidate and has demonstrated a clear understanding and involvement in setting God’s People on a missionary footing.”         “Our missionary focus is extensive, and works to bring renewed life to our families, our youth, our parish communities and the marginalised amongst many other outreach and engagement areas...(more)
It's an honour that Americans attack me: Pope
Extracts from CathNews, Crux, 5 September 2019
Pope Francis said he is “honoured” by the fact that a group of conservative Catholics from the United States attack him.       The Pope was speaking aboard a papal flight to Mozambique, the first stop of a three-nation swing through Africa, when he was presented a new book on conservative opposition to the papacy written by a French reporter on the flight.       “For me, it’s an honour that Americans are attacking me,” Francis told La Croix‘s Nicolas Seneze, author of How America Wanted to Change the Pope.........After the Pope’s comments, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on the flight that “in an informal context the Pope wanted to say that he always considers criticisms an honour, particularly when it comes from important thinkers and, in this case, of an important nation.”        A long-time Vatican reporter from the French Catholic daily, Seneze told the Pope that he wanted to explain the roots of American opposition to the Argentine, which has the support of several right-wing news outlets. In his book, Seneze names EWTN, founded by the late Mother Angelica, and Canada-based LifeSiteNews.       The criticism against Francis is based on his cautious opening to allowing the divorced and remarried to receive the Sacraments, his emphasis on the environment, his strong condemnation of the death penalty, and his criticism of the capitalist economic order championed by US conservatives.        In his book, Seneze explains the origin of the hostility against Francis in terms of two documents by the Pope: Evangelii Gaudium, his first apostolic exhortation and considered the Magna Carta of his pontificate, and Laudato Si', an encyclical letter on the environment originally intended to ensure adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement pertaining to climate change.....(more).  Photo: CathNews, CNS Paul Haring
Lay community key to reforming Catholicism
Extract from Paul Collins, Eureka Street,4 September 2019
One of the most extraordinary recent examples of commitment is the loyalty shown by many post-Vatican II Catholics to the church. Despite their steadfast support for the emphases of that Council, these lay Catholics, supported by many priests, are often seen as a 'nuisance' by senior church leaders whose real focus has been protecting their own positions and clericalist ideology. Their commitment has been further tested by the sexual abuse scandals and the abject failure of many bishops in dealing with them.             Getting Back on Mission. Reforming Our Church Together (Garratt Publishing, 2019)The forthcoming Plenary Council (PC) of 2020/2021 will be a further test of the loyalty of these Catholics. How serious are the bishops when they call on Catholics to 'engage in an open and inclusive experience of listening, dialogue and discernment about the future' of Australian Catholicism? Will they really listen to those who have remained loyal to the teachings of Vatican II?           Catholics for Renewal is one of several groups of Vatican II Catholics. It prepared a detailed submission for the PC and has now published that submission as a book, Getting Back on Mission: Reforming Our Church Together (Garratt Publishing, 2019).           Robert Fitzgerald, one of the Royal Commissioners into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, talks in the book about the causes of abuse and says that 'poor governance, inadequate leadership and an unhealthy culture that preferences secrecy and the church's own interests', as well as 'the absence of females and their participation in leadership roles', all contributed to the bishops' abject failure in deal with sexual abuse. Fitzgerald speaks of the hierarchy's 'fear of the non-ordained, especially women', and an 'arrogant assertion ... of the unique privilege of an ordained class'. In other words, clericalism.         Fitzgerald emphasises especially the importance of 'good church governance'. This goes to the heart of Getting Back on Mission. As the title indicates, for too long the church has been 'off mission' in a self-engrossed, self-righteous, clericalist miasma that has led to massive disaffiliation of Catholics, a catastrophic fall in Mass attendance and sacramental practice. People feel alienated from bishops who, in turn, have retreated into their bunkers. To cap it all, faithful Catholics have had to witness the scandal of sexual abuse and the secretiveness of the bishops in dealing with this crisis.        As I know from personal experience, anyone in the past who called attention to these issues was accused at best of exaggeration and at worst of being a 'Judas'. Getting Back on Mission correctly points out that until the church accepts good governance characterised by accountability, transparency, inclusion and a recognition of the equality of women, it will continue its culture of clericalism and secrecy.        At the heart of the argument are the theological principles of the radical equality of all the baptised and the sensus fidelium, the intuitive sense that the faithful have to discern the belief of the church. That is why soon-to-be-saint John Henry Newman challenges the hierarchy to consult the lay faithful 'in matters of doctrine'.....(more). Photograph: Eureka Street, Garratt Publishing
Pastoral Care of Victim and Offender – The Pell Case Dilemma.
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls & Irritations, 3 September, John Menadue website    
The church is called to offer pastoral care to both offender and victim. A dilemma arises when the offender is an official of the church. Like it, or not, the victim must come first.       A good counsellor of sexual abuse survivors listens empathetically but also critically, discerning whether the story is true.       Jurors in a trial have a different task – to judge whether the story is true “beyond reasonable doubt”. A guilty verdict means that at least twelve people have heard the story, seriously evaluated it and unanimously judged it to be true beyond reasonable doubt. It is not enough for a critic to dismiss the story as implausible without evidence to the contrary.       The twelve people, chosen by our legal system to judge George Pell, listened to the survivor’s story and watched him cross examined by the defence counsel. Note that, court officers aside, the jury were the only ones who heard the story and cross examination. In Victoria complainants in sexual abuse cases give their evidence and are cross examined in closed court.         Opposing this story, the defence argued that it was virtually impossible for the offences to have happened and gave 13 reasons why. The jury considered, but did not accept, these opportunity excuses as cogent. They unanimously judged George Pell guilty.       There has been plenty of critical post-trial commentary both here and overseas. Much is partisan in Pell’s favour. Andrew Bolt wrote “A man was found guilty not on the facts but on prejudice”. A bit rich from someone who has not seen the facts and is a poster boy for prejudice.       So, journalistic comments about the implausibility of the event, such as that of John Allen in Crux, are uninformed and unprofessional. Cardinals don’t usually rape choir boys. But this boy told the jury that he did, and the jury believed him.......(more)
Catholics step up push for radical reform
Edited Extract from Farrah Tomazin, The Age, 1 September 2019
Australia’s Catholic Church is under internal pressure to undergo a drastic overhaul following George Pell’s conviction, with its own members stepping up calls for the ordination of women, an end to clericalism and greater inclusion for people who are LGBTI or divorced.       Less than two weeks after Pell lost his appeal to overturn a jail term for child sex abuse, prominent Catholics have warned that the case should serve as a wake-up call given how much influence the disgraced cardinal has had on the church.       “A convicted paedophile has played a major part in the form of the Church we see today,” said Catholics for Renewal spokesman Peter Johnstone, one of the church’s strongest internal critics. “It can’t just be business as usual.”        The push for change comes as an internal report - based on the input of more than 220,000 people -  firmly demands radical reform at next year’s Plenary Council, the first such meeting in 80 years to discuss the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.         Prepared for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, proposals in the report include more inclusion for divorced and remarried Catholics; better selection of priests; more involvement for lay-people; and an end to discrimination against LGBTI people....(more)
What does a church open to L.G.B.T. Catholics look like?
Extract from James Martin, S.J. America - The Jesuit Review, 30 August 2019
What would it mean for the institutional church to welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics? What would it mean for church leaders to help L.G.B.T. Catholics feel more at home in their own church? And how can this be accomplished in the context of Gospel values and church teaching? Three recent stories show how: one concerning a priest, one an archbishop and one a parish.        The priest’s story is perhaps the most surprising. The Rev. Bryan Massingale, a highly respected theologian who taught for many years at Marquette University and now serves as professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, began a recent lecture with these words: “I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian.”        The lecture, entitled “The Challenge of Idolatry for LGBTI Ministry,” delivered at the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Chicago, encouraged his fellow L.G.B.T. Catholics to remember that they are “equally redeemed by Christ and radically loved by God.”         Father Massingale’s public statement about his sexuality may seem inconsequential to some in the West. But the number of Catholic priests who are open about their homosexuality (and faithful to their promises of celibacy, of course) in a public way, despite several articles in the last few years, is still infinitesimally small.      The Fordham theologian said that he was moved by being among so many L.G.B.T. Catholics at the conference who had suffered great persecution in their own countries. He told me in an email:          I spoke to them, not just from my head, but also with my heart and from my soul. I wanted to show them how our faith is not only relevant to their struggles for justice, but a strength for the difficult and often dangerous work that they are doing. To do that, I needed to share my faith story, and how I came to accept myself as being created in God’s image as a Black gay man. I said what I said because people are suffering horribly because of who they are and how they love. And I couldn’t ask them to continue being courageous if I wasn’t willing to be courageous, too.        Such openness makes the church more inviting, especially for L.G.B.T. people who wonder if there is a place for them. Examples like Father Massingale’s help them feel welcomed and loved. As he said, “I didn’t do this to ‘come out.’ But to let God’s love for us all to ‘come forth.’”        “I didn't do this to ‘come out.’ But to let God’s love for us all to ‘come forth.’”       A second gesture came in remarks by Wilton Gregory, the recently appointed archbishop of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Gregory is well known for his efforts to welcome L.G.B.T. people in his former archdiocese of Atlanta......(more)   Photo: America. The Jesuit Review CNS photos
MP criticises Church over confessional seal
Extract from CathNews, The Age, Friday 30 October 2019
A Victorian MP has opened up about the sexual abuse his father suffered at the hands of a Catholic clergyman while taking aim at the Church’s refusal to comply with new mandatory reporting laws.        Paul Edbrooke said he could not help but wonder how different his father’s life would have been if everyone who knew he had been raped by a clergyman as a teenager had been legally required to report the abuse.       “Could my family have avoided the suicide attempts, the trauma and the heartbreak?” the Labor member for Frankston asked in State Parliament yesterday.      Instead, the politician’s father Nick, now 64, received an apology letter from the Church one month ago. Mr Edbrooke read part of the letter during an emotional debate over new laws making it mandatory for priests to report abuse, including when it is revealed to them during confession.      "Every child deserves to be safe, to be loved and cared for. I am so sorry that this is not your experience,” the letter said. “We humbly ask for your forgiveness.”         “My Dad is a survivor, and he said that I could share this letter, if it assists Parliament to know that apologies are worth nothing, unless we follow them up with action,” he said.              Mr Edbrooke then attacked Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli for saying he was prepared to go to jail in defiance of the proposed laws, rather than breaking the seal of confession.      Archbishop Comensoli has previously said priests should be mandatory reporters, but have similar protections to the lawyer/client relationship.      Priests who refuse to report sexual abuse disclosed during confession will face up to three years in jail under the proposed laws introduced by the state government earlier this month.      The Church said it supports mandatory reporting and encourages victims to report abuse to police but will not break the seal of confession – regardless of the legislation.      Archbishop Comensoli has said the draft of the bill is “unworkable” and shows a lack of understanding about the act of confession, particularly the anonymity of penitents....(More)Photo: CathNews  Facebook Paul Edbrooke MP
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Friday 30 August 2019
France: The parish is dead, long live the parish!
'If the structure is more important than the mission, we will never get anywhere,' says priest who works on parish renewal
Limited extract from Gauthier Vaillant, 8 April 2019, Global Pulse,  subscription joiurnal La Croix International, 29 August 2019
Comparing the current working of Catholic parishes with the sinking of the Titanic? It takes nerve to make that comparison.        But that's what Father James Mallon did on April 5 while speaking at an event hosted by a parish in the southern suburbs of Paris.      "The parish system as we know it is going to collapse," the priest warned. "The quicker we accept it, the sooner we will be able to develop something new."       With his Roman collar, rolled up sleeves and a biting sense of humor, Father Mallon, a Canadian priest who specializes in "pastoral transformation," did not spare the large audience of 800 people, including 150 priests, who gathered for a two day session with him.     The author of an internationally successful book, "Divine Renovation Guidebook: A step-by-step manual for transforming your parish," Mallon talks about these issues regularly in the English-speaking world.       But this was a first time for France. The event was organized by Alpha, an initiative founded in London to evangelize through a series of talks and discussions in churches, homes, prisons and other setting.       A healthy church is a missionary church.....(more)
US:The reform seminaries need
Two former seminary professors say the current system breeds an ambition for higher office known as "Scarlet Fever"
Limited extract from C. Colt Anderson and Christopher M. Bellitto, 4 April 2019, Commonweal, Subscription Journal La Croix International, Global Pulse, 29 August 2019.
As former seminary professors, we have looked upon the last several months of revelations about clergy sex abuse, cover-ups, and institutional infighting with the same disgust and sadness as our sisters and brothers—but we are not surprised.        Though we honor and support the many good people who work and study in seminaries, we know that seminaries have played a significant role in the church's current crisis.       It is essential to understand how priests and thus, ultimately, bishops are formed, especially the way they are enculturated into clericalism from their first days in seminary. It is the air they breathe there.       Clericalism in seminary formation is explicitly singled out as a problem in the Synod on Youth's final document, approved in late October 2018, and it affects everyone in the church—it is a systemic and widespread problem. While not new in church history, of course, it is a particularly pressing concern during this time of scandal.       Pope Francis has repeatedly targeted clericalism as the great enemy of ordained ministry today. You can easily see the career-climbers he warns about in seminaries.        If you want to learn how to work your way into the clerical caste, watch these men. They are learning Italian, wearing cufflinks and cassocks, and don't at all mind being called "Father," even though they are still in studies......(Source).
First Chinese bishop after China Vatican deal
Extract from Ruth Gledhill, The Tablet, 28 August 2019
The ceremony took place in a 'solemn, harmonious and orderly' atmosphere.
The North Church, a Catholic church that is one of the largest and oldest churches in Beijing.
The first bishop has been ordained in China since the “provisional agreement” with Beijing was signed on 22 September last year.      The agreement, which allows the Pope to nominate bishops who had already been vetted by Beijing, was designed to pave the way for a united Church in China, bring together the Vatican-recognised “underground Church”, whose members were loyal first to Rome, and the “Patriotic Church” that professed loyalty to the state as well as to Rome.       Antonio Yao Shun was consecrated Bishop of Jining/Wulanchab in Inner Mongolia in China on Monday this week, 26 August.       Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, told journalists in Rome: “I can confirm that H.E. Mgr. Antonio Yao Shun, who has been consecrated Bishop of Jining/Wulanchabu, Inner Mongolia (China), received the Papal Mandate, as was also stated by the Ordaining Bishop during the ceremony yesterday, 26th August 2019."       Experts on Vatican relations with China urged caution however, saying not too much should be read into the ordination which was already scheduled before the new provisional agreement was signed.....(more) 
The Cardinal George Pell conundrum
Whatever we may think of Pell, we are at a disadvantage in assessing his guilt or innocence and would be best advised to maintain a discreet silence
Limited Extract from Michael Kelly SJ, Australia,  Subscription journal La Croix International, 26 August 2019
The Aug. 21 judgment of the Victorian Court of Appeal on Cardinal George Pell's effort to have his criminal convictions reversed has caused an international storm, much of it grossly uninformed.       Pell's loyal apologists in Australia – few in number but very noisy – have either railed against the conviction or, like the Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli, just professed disbelief that their friend could be guilty of such crimes.      Internationally, the reaction has been anything from balanced in some quarters to sheer exaggeration, as in the case of John Allen from Rome who, on little or no evidence from Australia, points to a "sizable swathe of Catholic opinion, encompassing both historic friends of Pell and enemies, which regards the charges upon which he was convicted as deeply implausible."     Such views have a lot of reality to come to terms with. And what I find most dismaying is how much denial is evident after the announcement of the Appeal Court decision.      My own view is simple: the longer the delay in providing the decision, the surer I became that Pell's appeal would be dismissed.      If the Court of Appeal were to uphold the appeal and find him innocent — and the first thing the judges agree on after they have heard the appeal is to share who among them upholds and who will dismiss the Appeal — why would they keep him in jail for almost three months if they thought he should be released?.....(more)
How Pope Francis Can Revitalize a Church in Crisis
Extract from Chris Lowney, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadye website, 28 August 2019    
Pope Francis’s foremost priority should be top-to-bottom culture change in the Catholic Church, specifically: fostering a spirit of urgency, bringing new talent to all decision-making tables, and creating openness to radically new ideas.Without this thoroughgoing cultural transformation, a Church now enduring its worst crisis in five centuries will continue to deteriorate.     Pope Francis’s foremost priority should be top-to-bottom culture change in the Catholic Church, specifically: fostering a spirit of urgency, bringing new talent to all decision-making tables, and creating openness to radically new ideas.         Without this thoroughgoing cultural transformation, a Church now enduring its worst crisis in five centuries will continue to deteriorate.     Worst crisis in five centuries? That’s not hyperbole. The grotesque horrors of the sex abuse scandals, in Australia as throughout the Catholic world, are surely the most hurtful wounds that the Church has inflicted (and suffered) in recent decades. But other signs of existential crisis have abounded, in dozens of countries: thousands of ministries have shuttered, young people show little interest in the Church, sacramental participation has waned, and the clergy ranks are shrinking, to name just a few challenges.     None of these challenges and crises will be resolved by “more of the same.” Rather, the 21st century Church must forge an accountable, action-oriented culture, in at least three ways:.......(more)
High Court should leave Pell alone. There’s no unresolved point of law, and no mere judicial disagreement on facts invites special leave
Extract from Jack Waterford, Pearls & Irritations, John Mendue website, 27 August 2019    
George Pell will be doing very well if he succeeds in getting the High Court to grant him leave to appeal after the Victorian Court of Appeal threw out his appeal against his  conviction for child sex offences.  Pell was convicted by a well- instructed jury; neither side had the slightest complaint about the judge’s instruction to the jury.       The jury heard a lot of advocacy going over the evidence to explain why it should find Pell not guilty. Those submissions, put to them over several days by Australia’s greatest criminal law advocate, Robert Richter, QC, were repeated to them, perhaps more neutrally, by the trial judge. Earlier, the prosecutor had explained why the “obstacles” to conviction were not insuperable ones. The unanimous verdict by the jury, after several days of deliberations, implied that it had considered, and rejected, each of the arguments that Richter said made the crimes impossible, or so highly improbable as to demand a reasonable doubt.      Richter retired from the case after the jury verdict. In his place to argue that the verdict was wrong was Brett Walker, SC, Australia’s foremost appellate advocate. The Pell defence fund, gathered privately rather than through the Catholic Church, was not short of legal firepower, or lack of opportunity to put its case, whether to the jury, or to four very experienced trial judges.     The two judges in the majority in the appeal case were Anne Ferguson, Chief Justice, and Chris Maxwell, president of the Court of Appeal. The chief appeal point was that the verdict was “unreasonable, and unsafe and unsatisfactory”....(More)
Where to from here?
Extract from Paul Collins, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 26 August 2019    
One persistent question that has been asked since the failure of Cardinal George Pell’s appeal last Wednesday has been: Why isn’t the Vatican acting to force him from the College of Cardinals and expel him from the priesthood? They moved with amazing speed in the case of Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, after he was accused of sexual abuse of minors. Why isn’t the same speedy process happening with Pell?          The first reason is obvious: Pell has every right to approach the High Court of Australia. But, as legal experts have pointed out, the bar for getting a hearing is extremely high. The reality is that special leave to appeal is only granted in those cases where a question of law of public importance arises, or where the interests of the administration of justice require consideration by the High Court. The High Court is not another higher court of appeal.       Clearly the Vatican knows that Pell can approach the High Court, but I suspect it under-estimates just how high the bar is to get a hearing. Vatican decision-makers probably think it is just another higher appeal court. This is implied in the statement of Matteo Bruni from the Vatican Press Office when he says: “As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.” So, understandably, the Vatican is unwilling to act until this final hurdle is cleared. In doing so they would be acting just like the Governor General when he said he’d wait to see if leave were granted before making a decision regarding Pell’s Order of Australia.      The Theodore McCarrick case is different to that of Pell. The McCarrick accusations didn’t begin in the civil courts, but in the ecclesiastical system.....(more). Photo: Paul Collins 20190826
After the tumult and the shouting
In the eye of the storm, where the tragic drama of Cardinal Pell is more symptom than cause, something very good may grow
Limited extract from Michael Kelly SJ, subscription journal La Croix International, 23 August 2019
With the dismissal of Cardinal George Pell's appeal against his criminal convictions and the unlikelihood that he will be given leave to appeal to Australia's highest Court, the Catholic Church in Australia now can't escape its moment of truth.         The dismissal of Cardinal Pell's appeal against his criminal conviction for child abuse is the latest, but by no means the last, chapter in the prosecution of the former Archbishop in Sydney and Melbourne and leader of the Vatican's financial reform.       He will soon have to face further civil charges related to sex abuse and possibly other criminal charges arising from his testimony to the Royal Commission into child sex abuse. Two volumes of its report are yet to be released and observers believe that is because those volumes contain material that could have prejudiced his trial on the charges he is convicted of.     Equally, it is the latest but by no means the last chapter in the collapse of a particular form of Catholicism in Australia that he championed.           Cardinal Pell aimed to do no less than reform the Church in Australia and lead it to some imaginary past that embodied all that he thinks Catholicism is about: orthodox belief, institutional discipline and, strangely in the light of his recent conviction, moral rectitude.       The culture of Catholicism that Pell grew up in and sought to regenerate is one that Catholics in many parts of the world under the age of 60 are familiar with: the pre-Vatican II clerically controlled Church, centralist in administrative structures, pious in its religious practice and ritualistic in its expressions of faith.     Authoritarian governance and cultic performance were the hallmarks of a Catholicism in Australia characterized by the old saying about what was expected of lay Catholics in Australia: pay and pray.   Catholicism was all about external compliance and ritual performance. A lot of non-Christian religions can be like this too as any familiarity with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism will confirm.        The extra element that Catholicism in Australia shares with other parts of the world such as the United States is its heavy reliance on tribal allegiances and loyalties that also had a serious dose of self-interest to propel them.....(source) Photo: St Mary's Cathedral Sydney La Croix Int  EPA Joel Carret Aust and NZ Our MaxPPP 20190823
Witness of truth wins justice in Pell appeal
Extract from Peter Wilkinson, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 23 August 2019
On Wednesday, 21 August 2019, a majority of the appeal judges who reviewed all the evidence in the trial of Cardinal George Pell for historic child sexual abuse, and in which he was convicted on five charges, have concluded that the key witness, a former choir boy who alleged he was abused by Cardinal Pell, was a witness of truth. On that basis, Pell’s appeal to have his conviction overturned was dismissed.       In a 1931 speech, Mohandas Gandhi stated that “A nation’s greatness can be measured by how it treats its weakest members”. On Wednesday, in Melbourne, Australia, in the Supreme Court of the State of Victoria, those words found new meaning.     In a majority decision, two of the three judges of the Court of Appeal decided that the key witness in the criminal trial of Cardinal George Pell, where a jury had found him guilty of the sexual abuse of that witness in 1996 and 1997 when he was a 13-year old boy in the choir of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, had spoken the truth. On that basis, the appeal by Cardinal Pell to have his conviction overturned was dismissed.    In his appeal, Cardinal Pell had submitted that the key witness’s account of what had occurred in the cathedral 23 years ago was “a fabrication or a fantasy, that it was implausible” and, that when taken together with the evidence of other witnesses, “was either literally impossible, or so unlikely it’s of no realistic possibility”. The prosecution, on the other hand, maintained that the victim of the abuse was “a witness of truth”.     A witness of truth....(more)
After the appeal: The tragedy of Cardinal George Pell
Our trust in institutions, and in the dedication of highly respected judges, should not be overwhelmed by emotion, conspiracy theories or visceral tribal loyalties
Extract from Patrick Parkinson, ABC Religion and Ethics, Posted Wed 21 Aug 2019,Updated Fri 23 Aug 2019, 10:40am
Posted Wed 21 Aug 2019, 4:58pm, Updated Fri 23 Aug 2019, 10:40am
The decision of a majority of the Victorian Court of Appeal will no doubt be shattering for very many people – not least Cardinal George Pell himself. There are those who believe, quite passionately, that Cardinal Pell should not only have been given the benefit of a reasonable doubt, but that he is entirely innocent of the charges against him. People are likely to experience grief, anger and a sense of helplessness.       Many have become emotionally invested in the outcome of the case – not merely out of respect for a towering figure in the recent history of the Catholic Church in Australia, but because of a fear that in some way the prosecution, conviction and dismissal of the appeal represent an attack on their faith and the Church they love.       Those feelings are understandable. We live in an age when there is a great deal of hostility in some quarters towards the Catholic Church. Former High Court judge Dyson Heydon quoted a German politician in a speech a couple of years ago to the effect that “anti-Catholicism is the anti-semitism of the intellectuals.” We also live in a country with an unprecedented level of scepticism about institutions, and that distrust may extend to the verdicts of judges and juries.       The rigour of the appeal court’s consideration      It is important, therefore, to recognise the care with which the Court of Appeal analysed the evidence. The summary of the judgment records:....(more)
Statement from Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Catholic Voice, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Wednesday 21 August 2019
The Victorian Court of Appeal has today announced that, in a 2-1 decision, Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his convictions for child sexual abuse offences has been dismissed.               The Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.             Cardinal Pell’s legal team has said it will examine the judgement in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court.         The Bishops realise that this has been and remains a most difficult time for survivors of child sexual abuse and those who support them. We acknowledge the pain that those abused by clergy have experienced through the long process of the trials and appeal of Cardinal Pell. We also acknowledge that this judgement will be distressing to many people.        We remain committed to doing everything we can to bring healing to those who have suffered greatly and to ensuring that Catholic settings are the safest possible places for all people, but especially for children and vulnerable adults....(source)
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli’s Media Statement on Cardinal George Pell
Extract from Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli, Melbourne Catholic, Wednesday 21 August 2019
Today the Victorian Court of Appeal, in a 2:1 majority decision, dismissed Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for assaulting two choir boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996 and early 1997.        I respectfully receive the Court’s decision, and I encourage everyone to do the same.  That there have been two trials, and now today’s decision in the Court of Appeal, the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so.      My thoughts and prayers are with the man who brought this matter before the courts.  I humbly acknowledge it has been a challenging time for him, and I stand ready to offer pastoral and spiritual help, should he seek it.       In Christian charity, I will ensure that Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison.        I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the people who have been involved in this case.  For many, this has been a demanding and distressing experience.       To the faithful of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I want to acknowledge the deep impact today’s decision will have for you. My prayer is that all of us might reach out to each other in faith, hope and love, as I do for you at this moment....(more)
New Book  "Getting Back on Mission: Reforming our Church Together"  Catholics For Renewal.      
Garrett Publishing, 16 August 2019,   pre-order from Garrett Publishing  HERE

“... a realistic, hopeful and authentically Catholic roadmap for the forthcoming Australian Plenary Council.....” -Frank Brennan SJ, AO

The Catholic Church has gone ‘off mission’. The scandal and tragedies of clerical child sexual abuse and the cover-up by bishops is symptomatic of a deeply ailing church.
Getting Back on Mission focuses on Jesus’ mission for the Church; it exposes dysfunctional governance involving a grave lack of accountability and transparency, and the exclusion of the People of God – particularly women.            This is a contribution to the Australian Plenary Council 2020/21. Its purpose is twofold: to get the Church back ‘on mission’; and to show how that can be achieved ‘together’.                 The reforms proposed are based on sound evidence and analysis. For Catholics wanting genuine renewal of their Church, this roadmap for change is a must-read and an essential companion book for the Plenary Council.            Getting Back on Mission is forward-looking and founded on trust in the Spirit – it is about hope.      Catholics for Renewal is a group of committed Catholics that has been advocating Church renewal for a decade. A legion of Catholics has supported its work involving surveys, open letters, articles, and public evidence at major government inquiries.           Catholics for Renewal believes that the Church will change only if individual Catholics take up the challenge and drive that change. Many renewal groups throughout Australia are doing just that.     

”I hope this book helps navigate our Church’s sacred pastors to the wisdom and action needed to get us out of this mess.”    – Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland. 
”... the Church as an institution is in question, by the state and by the People of God... “      – Dr Hans Zollner SJ, leading Vatican expert in clerical child sexual abuse
Confession and Mandatory Reporting
Catholics For Renewal, 17 August 2019
A report in The Age on 17 August 2019 by Debbie Cuthbertson, Chris Vedelago and Alex Blain, "Church unrepentant over confession stance amid child protection debate"   includes the following reference to a position on Mandatory Reporting by Catholics For Renewal.     "Catholics for Renewal, one of more than a dozen groups of lay people in Australia calling for reforms, has put forward dozens of recommendations that it plans to raise at the landmark 2020 meeting of the church’s Plenary Council, its first gathering since the sweeping reforms of the second Vatican Council in the 1960s.           Its recommendations include that the Plenary Council “carefully examine the seal of confession as it currently operates ... with a view to maintaining its essential purpose while conforming to civil laws requiring reporting knowledge of child sexual abusers”.         Catholics For Renewal arguments and recommendations on this are comprehensively detailed among other issues in its book "Getting Back on Mission. Reforming our Church Together" to be published in September by Garratt publishing.         The book is an updated version of Catholics For Renewal's submission to the 2020/2021 Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church. This as one of around 17,500 submissions to the Plenary Council will collectively form summarised inputs to the Plenary Council rather than being directly raised by their authors at the Plenary. The last Australian Catholic Plenary Council was held around 80 years ago. Further details on the book are provided Here by Garratt Publishing.
Violating sanctity of the confessional would be a betrayal of trust
Extract from Opinion Piece, Archbishop Peter Comensoli, 17 August 2019
What is worth protecting and fighting for? The answer to that question is straightforward: our children.        Of this, there is no doubt. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse cast a much-needed light on the failures of many institutions across Australia, including government and church institutions, and most prominently my own church.           Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli.       It grieves me daily to know that young, and now adult lives, have been devastated and destroyed through multiple failures by the Catholic Church. We failed to hear, to believe, and to act on credible information regarding child sexual abuse. There is no stepping aside from this fact, and it drives my ongoing commitment to personally do everything in my power to create and maintain safe environments for children in our schools and parishes.            I share the concern of our civic leaders that religious leaders like myself follow the laws of our land. I support religious ministers holding mandatory reporting responsibilities, a change the Catholic Church proposed in 2013. I have committed the Archdiocese of Melbourne to organisational and cultural change. We have policies, procedures and processes to achieve compliance with the Child Safe Standards; we are providing reports to the Commission for Children and Young People under the Reportable Conduct Scheme; we offer professional development of leaders and workers; we ensure accreditation of those involved in child related employment, and train our clergy and people in constant improvement in building a culture that recognises, respects and defends the rights of children and young people.       Alongside this commitment I will also uphold the Seal of Confession. I recognise that many people find it hard to understand, or relate, to the importance of Confession in the lives of many Christians. Even some Catholics who haven’t "called in" for a long time only remember aspects of what it was once like.             So why, when faced with Victoria's proposed new laws on mandatory reporting of child abuse, which would include information revealed in Confession, would any reasonable Catholic person, or any person for that matter, express concern?....(more)Photo: Archbishop Peter Comensoli, The Age, AAP
Adelaide visit comes at a ‘liminal moment’ in journey
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog,  16 August 2019
The Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council and its executive committee have met in Adelaide for the first time, 14 months before the Council’s opening session in the South Australian capital. Source:
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the gathering of the two groups this week came at a liminal moment in the Plenary Council journey.      “We recently completed the critical period of Listening and Dialogue, which closed with the publication of the comprehensive report summarising the voices of more than 222,000 people who shared their stories of faith and their experiences of the Church,” he explained.       “Now, with the six National Themes for Discernment having emerged from that phase, we move into a period of Listening and Discernment, when Discernment and Writing groups will steer a national process that helps us move towards a deeper understanding of how we can become an even more Christ-centred Church in diverse ways.       “Importantly, everyone who participated in the first phase – as well as those who didn’t – will get the chance to participate in an Australia-wide process of prayerfully discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to renew.”        Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said there was an overwhelming response to the call for applications to join the national Discernment and Writing groups, which was an additional sign of the level of engagement in the Plenary Council process.       “With 50 to 60 lay people, religious and priests set to join 12 bishops across those six groups, it was very encouraging to have nearly 400 people offer to be part of the Discernment and Writing groups – many more than we are able to appoint to the role,” she said.        “Every person, whether on the Discernment and Writing groups or not, is able to enter into this next prayerful stage of discerning how we are being called to go forward.....(more).  Photo: CathNews, ABCB Media Blog, The Southern Cross 
The Melbourne archbishop said he’d rather go to jail than break confession confidentiality. A new bill could send him there
Extract from Hadeel Al-Alosi, Lecturer, School of Law, Western Sydney University,  The Conversation, August 15, 2019 Updated August 16
Yesterday, Victorian Parliament finally debated a bill on whether religious ministers should be forced to disclose child abuse admitted in confidence to a priest.       The Victorian Children Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 follows the recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2017, which revealed the many failures of churches to report allegations of child abuse.       But the proposed law reform has sparked strong opposition from some religious ministers. Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli said he would rather go to jail than report a person who confessed committing child sexual abuse. He said:     I will speak to the person there and then about how they will need to, one, go to the police about this […] and two, I’d be asking at the end of the confession to then repeat what they said outside of the seal so that I can then act.       And Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan told the ABC this morning that even the Melbourne Archbishop, the state’s most senior Catholic, is not above the law. He said:     If people break the law they would be prosecuted.       Several Australian state governments, including New South Wales and South Australia, have already passed laws legally obliging religious leaders to report confessions of child sexual abuse. Victoria will be following their lead if the law passes through both houses.      The bill proposes several changes to strengthen the protection of children, on top of the proposed amendment of making it mandatory for religious ministries to report child abuse to protection authorities.     This includes......(more)
Cardinal Pell to learn his fate next week
Extract from CathNews, The Age, 16 August 2019
Cardinal George Pell will learn his fate next Wednesday when the Court of Appeal hands down its decision on whether to overturn his child sexual abuse convictions.           Cardinal Pell was last year found guilty of sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. His appeal was heard over two days in June.      The Court of Appeal will hand down its judgment on Wednesday from 9.30am. It will be live-streamed from the Supreme Court website.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell, the president of the Court of Appeal, and Justice Mark Weinberg could overturn the convictions, uphold them, or order a retrial....(more)
No issue matters as much as climate change
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 15 August 2019    
What will it take before the Morrison government recognises the great peril from climate change? Is the overwhelming consensus of scientists not enough, as they track the record-breaking heat waves globally? And why are religious leaders not echoing Pope Francis more vigorously about a looming ‘catastrophe’ from global warming?         While the Morrison government dithers, climate specialists are alarmed that the chances to limit global warming are slipping away, with the likely result that we will be left facing truly catastrophic changes to the weather.               The former Liberal leader, John Hewson, in the Fairfax media on 1 August, castigated the Morrison government for ignoring the overwhelming advice from, among many others, experts, fossil fuel miners, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and finance and insurance sectors. ‘I despair at just how long our Australian government can continue to deny the undeniable.’ Yet Australia is the largest exporter of fossil fuels, so damaging to the environment. Britain and Germany are planning to abandon coal in the ‘climate emergency’, while our government simply ignores the ‘urgency of the climate challenge’.        According to official figures, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been rising for the last three years, and we are not on track to meet commitments at the Paris climate conference by 2030 to reduce emissions from 2005 levels to between 26% and 28%. Yet Australia is again experiencing severe drought, and extreme weather is damaging our coastline, facilities, and fisheries. For the month of July, the years 2017, 2018, and 2019 were the hottest on record.          Warnings from defence forces & the mining industry.....(more).
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has said he would rather go to jail than report admissions of child sexual abuse made in the confessional.
A bill which would make it mandatory for priests to report suspected child abuse to authorities, including abuse revealed in the confessional, was introduced to Victoria’s Parliament yesterday.
Extract from CathNews, ABC News, 15 August 2019
The Church last year formally rejected the notion that clergy should be legally forced to report abuse revealed during confessions.       Interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne yesterday, Archbishop Comensoli said he did not see the principles of mandatory reporting and the seal of confession as being “mutually exclusive”.      He said he would encourage someone who admitted to abuse to tell police, and tell him again outside the confessional where he could then report it without breaking the seal of confession.      But if the person confessing refused to do that, he said he would not break the Catholic tradition: “Personally, I’ll keep the seal,” he said.      Archbishop Comensoli said most confessions were made anonymously and admissions of abuse were “deeply rare”.     He said the “vastly more important” recommendations from the royal commission such as accreditation, supervision and ongoing training were not talked about.     He said the Archdiocese of Melbourne had “very extensive” policies around child protection and underwent ongoing training and audits.     “So all of those sorts of things, I think, are much more about the protection of children and are better at it on a practical level than this one particular thing. Yet this one particular thing has become nearly the all, and I think that’s a shame.”     Meanwhile, Melbourne priest Fr Kevin Dillon said the Church “needs to recognise the enormous damage that’s been done” to abuse survivors.    Fr Dillion, who has been an outspoken advocate for victims of Church abuse, suggested the laws were an opportunity to revisit the canon surrounding the confessional seal.    But he did not say whether he himself would report abuse if it was confessed to him, instead saying: “I would have to follow my conscience at the time to do what I believe was the right thing to do.”     Priests who break the seal of confession currently face excommunication from the Church.....(more).. Photo: CathNews,ABC News 
Priests will maintain confession secrecy
Edited Extract from CathNews, The Age, 14 August 2019
The Church is set to defy new laws in Victoria that would punish priests with jail time if they refuse to report sexual abuse revealed during confession.      The Victorian Government will today introduce legislation aimed at forcing priests to break the seal of confession to report child abuse.       The Church says that it supports mandatory reporting and encourages victims to report abuse to police, but will not break the seal of confession – regardless of the legislation.       “I uphold the seal of confession but I uphold mandatory reporting as well,” Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli said in August last year, when the government first flagged this legal change.      “The principle of the seal of confession is a different question. It has a different reality to it. The practicalities of winding back the seal of confession I think is something that can’t be easily done.”       “There’s been no change in our position,” a spokesman for the Melbourne Archdiocese said yesterday, adding that it would wait to see the legislation before commenting further.      In March this year Pope Francis said no laws could break the seal of confession, in which all priests must keep secret from everyone what they hear in the confessional.      “The sacramental seal is indispensable and no human power has, nor may it claim, jurisdiction over it,” he said.      Priests who refuse to report sexual abuse disclosed during confession will face up to three years in jail under the new laws. The laws will apply to religious and spiritual leaders of all denominations and religions, but will not be retrospective.      Victoria’s move comes a fortnight after Tasmania passed similar legislation. The ACT also recently passed a similar bill, set to take effect from September 1. Under an South Australian law that took effect in October 2018, clergy are legally obliged to report confessions of child sex abuse or face a $10,000 fine.....(more)Photo: confessional CathNews CNS 20190814
The Fascinating Christian Story.
Extract from Opinion Piece, Eric Hodgens, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue blog, 13 August 2019    
We all have our personal story. And it is just one part of the bigger story of our family, our tribe, our nation – the things that have shaped us. Institutions, too, have a life of their own – and their own story. Where did they come from? What made them as they are? Religions are such. We need storytellers with long memories. And, if we get really serious about understanding all this, we need good historians. Christianity has the story and the historians who, over the last couple of centuries, have become better at their game.                Christianity did not start out as a religion. It began firstly a movement within Judaism. There was the pre-existing story of Israel. Israel’s story had two strands – one establishment, with temple and priesthood; the other prophetic. The prophets were the critics of society. As the establishment got set in its ways, the prophets wanted constant review to keep true to their original purpose. They troubled the establishment.                Jesus was such a prophet. His focus was on the best way to live to keep in tune with God – to make God’s Reign a reality. As he gathered followers, both of himself and his way, the establishment got his movement in its sights and we know how that ended up.           But that was only the beginning of a new story. The movement grew and Jesus became the focus of its story. Then, following the tradition of Israel, they started to write. Paul was the first writer – letters of advice to cells he had set up. Then Mark created a new form of literature – the gospel. His purpose was to bolster his community which was struggling against opposition from outside and disintegration within. Then Matthew and Luke copied that style and wrote their own version of Mark’s story, focussing on the needs of their particular communities. Finally, John wrote his version for his community whose preoccupations you can glean if you read the text closely – if do a critique of the text.              The first thing you need to do in critiquing the text is to discern why the writer composed it. Each writer has his own reason for writing. This, in turn, affects the way he writes. The gospels, for example, are anything but re-plays of what was said and done. Discerning the writers background, biases and purpose clarifies your understanding of the text.....(more).  Photo:  Eric Hodgens. Eric Hodgens is a retired Melbourne priest who “writes a bit”.
Plenary Council rocket science a matter of trust
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 5 August, Extracted here (plus 25 comments) 10 August 2019
Politicians vying for office and churches planning plenary councils sing from the same handbooks. As with rocket launches, where the early stage rockets fall away leaving the manned capsule to go into orbit, political parties put great time and energy into the preparation of policies, running focus groups, and attracting good candidates. When the election campaign begins they drop these activities. Candidates cross the nation offering goodies, shooting down rivals and trying to get the party across the line. The election won, the trimmed ship of state sails on unencumbered.        Rocket paper-cut shape on old wood plank with rustic texture background.      This is commonly true also of church synods and councils. In the case of the 2020 Catholic Plenary Council, a facilitation team was empowered to seek submissions, design processes of reflection, encourage individuals and congregations to take part, and analyse the results. At the next stage it has invited interested people to help prepare working papers on the key themes. These papers will inform the agenda of the council and its deliberations.         In both political and church processes, as with launching rockets, the focus of the process is placed on the final goal of winning power or making wise decisions. The preliminary processes are seen and evaluated through this lens. What is valuable at each stage is gathered into the next and the initial processes are then dropped. From the point of view of the executive committees this tightness of focus is both logical and necessary.            From the perspective of rocket riders, lay Catholics or citizens, however, the effectiveness of the process depends on the trust in which government, bishops or management are held. In rocketry, if trust is lacking in the competence or understanding of people working at any level of the project, no one will sign off on or sit in the final stage rocket without revisiting the earlier stages. Similarly, if people do not trust the wisdom, honesty or courage of political leaders or bishops, they will not trust the processes or people managing them unless they are completely transparent.            In current Australian and Catholic public life at the moment that kind of trust appears to be lacking. Disengagement from politics and cynicism about politicians' honesty attend the political environment in many nations. In the Catholic Church, too, the crimes of sexual abuse and its cover up have weakened trust in the governance at a time when it faces challenges from diminished numbers, ageing and institutional arthritis......(more). Image: Eureka Street, whyframesstudio Getty 
Cardinal Pell: ‘Amazon or no Amazon, the Church cannot allow any confusion’
Extract from Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency, 9 August 2019
Cardinal George Pell has written a letter thanking supporters for their prayers and saying he is “disturbed” by the preparations for the forthcoming synod on the Amazon.        The text of the two-page, handwritten letter - images of which were shared with CNA and confirmed by sources close to Pell - has been circulated amongst a group of Pell’s closest supporters in Australia.         In the letter, dated from Melbourne Assessment Prison on August 1, the cardinal also says that he has been sustained in his incarceration by his faith and by the prayers of the faithful, and that he is offering his suffering in prison for the good of the Church.       “The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus’ suffering gives me purpose and direction,” Pell writes in the letter. “Challenges and problems in Church life should be confronted in a similar spirit of faith.”       Pell goes on to say that “we have reason to be disturbed by the Instrumentum Laboris of the Amazonian Synod,” which was published in June ahead of the October meeting.      That document, which has been the source of considerable discussion and commentary, included discussion on the subject of ordaining so-called viri probati, or “proven men” who are married, to answer a shortage of priestly vocations.      The working document, which calls for “a Church with an indigenous face,” further recommends that the synod identify “an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church.”       “This is not the first low-quality document the Synod secretariat has produced,” Pell writes.         The cardinal, apparently in reference to the considerable debate and criticism sparked by the synod’s proposed agenda - which has also included some calls for changes to the matter used to celebrate the Mass - also notes that “Cardinal G. Müller, formerly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has written an excellent critique.”     “I am no expert on the region,” Pell says, though noting he has travelled to parts of the region, but cautions that “as in the Amazon, a lot of water has yet to run before the Synod.”     “One point is fundamental, the Apostolic Tradition, the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, taken from the New Testament and taught by Popes and Councils, by the Magisterium, is the only criterion doctrinally for all teaching on doctrine and practice.”       “Amazon or no Amazon, in every land, the Church cannot allow any confusion, much less any contrary teaching, to damage the Apostolic Tradition,” he said....(more)  Photo: CNA, Michel Dodge Getty Images.
New survey reveals which religions New Zealanders trust most – and least – after Christchurch shootings
Extract from Simon Chapelle, The Conversation, 8 August 2019
In a survey of 1000 New Zealanders, taken a month after the Christchurch mosque shootings of 15 March 2019, we asked respondents how much they trusted people from different religious groups living in New Zealand. We posed the question with reference to Catholics, Protestants, Evangelical Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists or agnostics, and Jews. We emphasised “living in New Zealand” as we were not interested in identifying New Zealanders’ trust in, for example, worldwide Catholicism or Islam.        We are not aware of any previous consideration of trust in different religious groups within New Zealand.       We used a five-point scale for responses – complete trust, lots of trust, some trust, little trust and no trust at all. We converted ordinal data (e.g. first, second, etc) into cardinal data (one, two, etc) by assuming equal intervals between categories to give a mean trust score.       We found that the most trusted religious group in New Zealand is a small non-Christian group: Buddhists. In the most recent 2013 Census 58,000 Buddhists are recorded, out of about 3.9 million people who replied to the religious question. More people feel positively about Buddhists than not - 35% of New Zealanders have complete or lots of trust in Buddhists, while 15% have little or no trust.       The least trusted religious group in New Zealand is a minority Christian group: Evangelicals (15,000 people in the 2013 Census). Fewer people trust Evangelicals than do not - 21% have complete or lots of trust, while 38% have little or no trust.....(more)

A warm welcome helps arriving priests, parishes
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 6 August 2019
A major Church conference on missionary clergy and religious in Australia has heard of the demographic shifting of the Catholic Church and the need to welcome and nurture international priests.      “The Church is rich, the Church is vibrant because of its diversity,” Fr Aniedi Okure, a Dominican priest and executive director of the Africa, Faith and Justice Network in Washington, told the sixth national conference on missionary clergy and religious in Australia, being held in Brisbane.     Fr Okure spoke on Tuesday of the experience and challenges for clergy born outside the United States, and trying to fit in to that country’s pastoral life.     He is an instructor at Loyola Marymount University’s Cultural Orientation Program for International Ministers and described the process of “give and take” needed to help an “incoming” priest adjust to a new pastoral community in which he is going to serve.    “Orientation is crucial and should be undertaken as soon as the person arrives. It is to prepare the missionary priest to enter appropriately to the new context,” he said.    “Orientation diminishes cultural misunderstandings for both the missionary and the ecclesial communities. In fact, cultural differences can make or break the missionary, it can make or break the community.”    Fr Okure said careful orientation ensured that new priests “were not shy and enclosing themselves”, but rather are able to use their experiences and gifts and talents to contribute to enriching and enhancing their ecclesial community.    His orientation approach was now used by US bishops to generate guidelines and conduct pastoral planning.     While accepting that Australia is not identical to the United States, Fr Okure said there are many lessons to learn from the US about welcoming international priests.....(more)    Photo: Okure Fr Aniedi Okure The Catholic Leader photo 20190706

Break open the word’ on Plenary Council, bishops urged
Extract from Concerned Catholics, Canberra Goulburn, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue blog,  6 August 2019    
The credibility and success of the most important event in the Australian Catholic Church in many decades, the 2020 Plenary Council, depends on an open and frank airing of the grave issues crippling the Church.           The chairman of Concerned Catholics, Emeritus Professor John Warhurst, said the lack of debate about and exposure of the submissions to the Plenary was unfortunate given the profound questions facing the Church, the steady decline in church attendances and continuing reports of clerical crimes around the world.      He said that while it was welcome that a comprehensive report on all the voices of the participants in last year’s plenary “listening and dialogue” process was released on July 28, it was vital for the transparency and credibility of the Plenary that all submissions were put up on Plenary website.     “An open and transparent airing of what people are seeking would be appropriate in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the compelling road map for reform recommended by the Commission,” Professor Warhurst said.     “The Church through its bishops needs to lay bare what its people are saying they want and hope for their Church so we can have a vigorous and informed debate.     “The Catholic National Centre for Pastoral Research has produced it final report on the submissions, including details of the number of submissions by country of birth, gender, age of individual submitters and the totals from each diocese. Canberra -Goulburn archdiocese, for instance, produced a total of 360 submissions, 269 of those from individuals and 91 from groups.              “This report, while welcome, should only be the beginning, and should be accompanied by the public release of all submissions, except where privacy has been requested. There were 17,457 submissions involving more than 222,000 participants. These numbers alone should prompt the church leadership to ensure there is a process of open and transparent revelation of all the issues.....(more)
Archbishop rejects top woman theologian – business as usual.
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls & irritations, John Menadue blog, 5 August 2019
Peter Comensoli, still only 12 months into his new job as Archbishop of Melbourne, seems to have adopted the old ways of Catholic episcopal autocracy. He has unilaterally determined that an internationally acclaimed Catholic theologian, Sister Joan Chittister, be removed from the list of speakers at a conference of Australian educators in September 2020. It seems that Archbishop Comensoli takes decisions without the need for accountability, transparency or inclusiveness, or any regard for the views of the faithful, and is happy to reinforce the dysfunctional governance that was at the heart of the clerical child sexual abuse cover-up – business as usual. This does not augur well for the Plenary Council starting October 2020......(more)
Pope Francis writes new letter encouraging priests during the fallout caused by the abuse crisis
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America - The Jesuit Review, 4 August 2019
Pope Francis has written a letter to the more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide encouraging them during the tribulations from the sexual abuse crisis. The letter is meant to give priests, many of whom feel disheartened because of the horrendous crimes of abuse committed by a small percentage of their fellow priests, hope in these times of tribulation when they are so often blamed or treated with suspicion, distrust, contempt or ridicule.           The letter comes as a surprise. Last year, on Aug. 20, in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal, on the eve of his visit to Ireland, he wrote “A Letter to the People of God” in which he condemned outrightly the sexual and other abuses of minors by clergy as well as the failure of church leadership to take action and called for an effort by the entire church to deal with it. This year, he speaks directly to all priests because he is well aware and deeply concerned that in many countries, including the United States, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Chile, the morale of priests has suffered greatly because of the abuse scandal....(more)

Key Plenary Council topics emerge from final report of the Listening and Dialogue phase
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, Brisbane,  2 August, 2019    Celibacy for priests, the role of women, and the inclusion of divorced and remarried Catholics were among “strongly discussed” topics contained in the Plenary Council 2020’s latest report.         The final report of the council’s Listening and Dialogue phase captures the voice of more than 222,000 Australians and provides insights into 17,457 group submissions.         Plenary council president Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said the 314-page document was the result of the listening process that had produced “an extraordinary treasure of ideas and proposals which represents the heartfelt response of many people”.         “The great challenge ahead of us now is to ‘catch’ the voice of the Holy Spirit within the passionate, hopeful but sometimes contradictory voices of God’s people.”         Among the wide-ranging list of submissions were those calling for ways to improve the sacraments to increase Church attendance and “allow the fullness of a Catholic life to flourish”, and addressing the clerical child sex abuse scandal.            The structure of Church life “drew a great deal of attention” around leadership and governance, the need for greater listening between leadership and the laity, and the need to “modernise Church teachings to bring them in line with Australian society in the 21st century”.          Brisbane leads Plenary submissions           Brisbane archdiocese produced the highest number of individual submissions (1890), and about 44 per cent of individual submissions (5663) were received from those aged more than 50.            Many respondents discussed the need for greater outreach and evangelisation, particularly to young people.        Identified as “critical” was a significant desire for the Church to humble itself in the light of the sexual abuse crisis, and for more to be done to offer healing and restoration to those affected....(more).   Photo: Catholic Leader, Brisbane

First audit report of Church entity against new National Standards published
Extract from  media Release Catholic Professional Standards Limited, 2 AUGUST 2019
Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL) has today published its first audit report of a Church entity that is subject to the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS).        The NCSS, based on recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and aligned with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, provide the framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures and to advance the safety and dignity of children across the Catholic Church in Australia.     The Presentation Sisters of Wagga Wagga (PSWW) is the first church entity to be audited under the NCSS. Comprising 38 sisters in the Wagga and Sydney region and 17 Papua New Guinean National sisters in the Aitape region, the Sisters involved in active and public ministry work with other organisations as skilled counsellors, prison chaplains, advocates, school breakfast program and support volunteers.  As the number of Sisters in active ministry has declined, the congregation has established partnerships with universities, not for profit organisations and schools to continue their mission.  PSWW no longer has governance of any ministries providing services directly to children.          CPSL has made 12 recommendations to PSWW to strengthen its safeguarding practices as a result of the audit fieldwork which was conducted in April 2019.  Recommendations are classified according to priority and urgency for remediation – there are no priority one (critical/urgent) recommendations arising from the audit of PSWW.        Mediainal compliance assessment (completed at the end of June 2019) concluded that PSWW had fully implemented or was well progressed in the implementation of 61 (98%) of 62 indicators relevant to their ministries and operations.          “The PSWW leadership team has been open, transparent and fully engaged throughout this audit,” said CPSL CEO, Sheree Limbrick....(more).
Diaspora and the globalization of the Catholic Church
Massimo Faggioli explains how an essay by Karl Rahner some 65 years ago predicted the state of today's Church and offers a path forward
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription Journal La Croix International, 30 July 2019
The number of Catholics continues to drop in Germany. More than 216,000 of them decided to "leave the Church" last year alone by ceasing to pay the government-mandated church tax.       This is just the latest example of what has become a slow, but steady pattern of defections from the Catholic Church in the Western world. Baptized members already began leaving in the first half of the twentieth century, but they have done so in even greater numbers over the past 60 years.           This does not mean Christianity is disappearing. But, almost everywhere, it shows that the Church is losing its tight control over the faith....(source)
Tasmania’s confession laws ‘impinge on religious freedoms’
Extract from Cathnews, 1 August 2019
Laws compelling priests in Tasmania to report child sexual abuse by breaking the seal of confession impinge on religious freedoms, says Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous. Source:     Reform to make religious ministers, plus members of the Tasmanian Parliament, mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect became a step closer this week after passing the state’s lower house yesterday.     Lifting the seal of confession was one of more than 400 recommendations made in 2018 by the child abuse royal commission.      “Under this reform, members of religious ministry will not be able to rely on the confessional privilege to refuse to disclose information,” Attorney-General Elise Archer said.     The legislation has the backing of survivor groups, but Archbishop Porteous believes it impinges on long-held Church teachings and the freedom of religion.    “The law as currently drafted requires priests to violate the most solemn and sacred act between the penitent and God,” he said in a statement yesterday.    “With the federal Government undertaking a review into religious freedom, now is not the time to introduce additional Tasmanian legislation....(more)

Archbishop Comensoli 'did not revoke' US sister’s invitation
Extracts from CathNews, The Age, 29 July 2019
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli says he neither invited nor revoked any invitation to US Benedictine Sr Joan Chittister to speak at a national education conference next year.      Tensions emerged last month when it was revealed that Sr Joan – an author, feminist and advocate of Church reform – had been asked to take part in the 2020 National Catholic Education Conference in Melbourne, only to have her invitation rescinded a few weeks later.     “I am very saddened to say that while our organising committee strongly supported the inclusion of Sr Joan as a speaker at the conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne has failed to endorse her inclusion,” John Meneely, the Ballarat Catholic Education Office deputy director, wrote in a June 1 email seen by The Sunday Age. “I am presently seeking [an] explanation for his reasoning.”......The Archdiocese issued a statement on Friday night acknowledging that Archbishop Comensoli was advised in May of “a proposal for Sr Joan Chittister to speak at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference”.    “When the conference was raised with him, Archbishop Comensoli requested that more names aligned to the themes of a national Catholic education conference be considered,” the spokesman said.         “The conference is a national conference with an organising committee drawn from leaders in Catholic education that is engaged in dialogue as part of the planning with a range of stakeholders including Catholic education leaders, Church representatives and bishops....(more)

Melbourne Archbishop in censorship row involving US feminist nun
Extract from Farrah Tomazin, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 July 2019
Catholic leader Peter Comensoli has been accused of censorship on the eve of his first anniversary as Melbourne Archbishop, after an outspoken nun was disendorsed from speaking at a conference soon after he learnt of plans to include her.       Facing a backlash from rank-and-file Catholics, the Archbishop was this week forced to explain his role in a damaging snub involving Sister Joan Chittister, a US author, feminist and advocate of church reform....(more)
Defend inclusiveness at Catholic Plenary Council
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka street,  24 July 2019
Everyone interested in the Australian Catholic Church's Plenary Council 2020 (PC), the first session of which is scheduled for next October in Adelaide, should now take a serious interest in Ignatian discernment. That follows the announcement that the promised Working Groups have been renamed Discernment and Writing Groups. This is more than a mere rebranding exercise but a clear and deliberate indication that prayer and discernment are 'key for the groups, and for the whole process'.          St Peter's Cathedral in North Adelaide. Questioning Catholics should embrace this development, but resist any aspect of the new process which tends to dilute or exclude their voices. As explained by PC Facilitation Team leader, Lana Turvey-Collins, in the latest issue of Plenary Post, discernment in the spirit of Pope Francis in relation to the Plenary Council was a focus of the recent Bishops Retreat led by Jesuit Br Ian Cribb SJ.             Discernment has a general meaning associated with the ability to exercise judgement with skill and wisdom in complex circumstances. It is often used in religious circles, together with consultation, to enable prayerful reflection and discussion in a spirit of collegiality to produce the best outcome.           Spiritual discernment involves calling on the Holy Spirit to give directions on the will of God. It is a gift from God and more than a skill. It asks the Plenary Council question: 'What is God asking of us? In the words of Pope Francis it transcends but does not exclude 'existential, psychological, sociological or moral insights drawn from the human sciences'. The approach includes elements of good process and skill, which can be gained by experience and/or taught through training.     This PC Discernment period follows a Listening period, which generated about 17,500 submissions drawn from more than 220,000 participants from across the Australian church. These submissions led to the choice by the leadership of the six themes on which the Discernment and Writing Groups are to be based. Applications for volunteer chairs and members of these groups have just closed. The chairs of these groups will receive an intensive induction in discernment before taking up these demanding roles.               It is an unwelcome surprise that the submissions themselves will not be made public despite an expectation that they would be. In this electronic age that should have been possible, unless otherwise requested by participants, as is the case with equivalent government consultations....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street,  Moisseyev via Getty
Cardinal George Pell. Where have all the fighters gone?, 25 July 2019
Extract from a recent Introduction by John Menadue on Pearls & Irritations to an addreess by George Pell 8 Years ago, on the type of church that he was trying to build in Australia. It casts a long and dark shadow.....(more)
Extract from J.A. Dick, Another Voice: Reflections about contemporary Christian Belief and Practice, Being a Theologian, 19 July 2019
Recent events emanating from Washington DC compel me to reflect and write about how we treat one another in political discourse. I am not writing about politics but about virtue and public morality.          What were once episodes of ugly verbal abuse are now evolving into a plague of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. A fierce polarization is creating deep divisions. Civility is being replaced by adolescent-type bullying and public denigration of anyone who challenges and questions the administration. There is nothing Christian about such behavior and it creates a threateningly inhumane cultural environment.            Civility means much more than politeness, although politeness is indeed an important first step. Civility is about interpersonal respect and seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences. It is about moving beyond preconceptions and listening to the other and encouraging others to do the same.        Civility is hard work because it means staying present to people with whom one can have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. Civility means collaborating for the common good. It is about negotiating interpersonal power in such a way that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s voice is ignored. Civility means that despite different perspectives we still have a shared vision and collaborate to make it a reality.           When civility is replaced by mockery, dishonest accusations, and abusive slogans, people become monsters. History amply demonstrates that monsters create more monsters. History also reminds us that such a scenario never has a happy ending.          The message this week is small. The task awaiting us is enormous. Civility begins with you and me, with family and friends, with neighbors and colleagues, etc. We gradually construct what I like to call coalitions of transformation: communities of faith, hope, and support.       At the end of this week, we all should reflect on the message in Luke 10:25-37: On one occasion an expert in the law, who wanted to justify himself, stood up to test Jesus and so he asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?”....(source). Image: J A Dick Civility 20190719
Defend inclusiveness at Catholic Plenary Council
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka street,  24 July 2019
Everyone interested in the Australian Catholic Church's Plenary Council 2020 (PC), the first session of which is scheduled for next October in Adelaide, should now take a serious interest in Ignatian discernment. That follows the announcement that the promised Working Groups have been renamed Discernment and Writing Groups. This is more than a mere rebranding exercise but a clear and deliberate indication that prayer and discernment are 'key for the groups, and for the whole process'.          St Peter's Cathedral in North Adelaide. Questioning Catholics should embrace this development, but resist any aspect of the new process which tends to dilute or exclude their voices. As explained by PC Facilitation Team leader, Lana Turvey-Collins, in the latest issue of Plenary Post, discernment in the spirit of Pope Francis in relation to the Plenary Council was a focus of the recent Bishops Retreat led by Jesuit Br Ian Cribb SJ.             Discernment has a general meaning associated with the ability to exercise judgement with skill and wisdom in complex circumstances. It is often used in religious circles, together with consultation, to enable prayerful reflection and discussion in a spirit of collegiality to produce the best outcome.           Spiritual discernment involves calling on the Holy Spirit to give directions on the will of God. It is a gift from God and more than a skill. It asks the Plenary Council question: 'What is God asking of us? In the words of Pope Francis it transcends but does not exclude 'existential, psychological, sociological or moral insights drawn from the human sciences'. The approach includes elements of good process and skill, which can be gained by experience and/or taught through training.     This PC Discernment period follows a Listening period, which generated about 17,500 submissions drawn from more than 220,000 participants from across the Australian church. These submissions led to the choice by the leadership of the six themes on which the Discernment and Writing Groups are to be based. Applications for volunteer chairs and members of these groups have just closed. The chairs of these groups will receive an intensive induction in discernment before taking up these demanding roles.               It is an unwelcome surprise that the submissions themselves will not be made public despite an expectation that they would be. In this electronic age that should have been possible, unless otherwise requested by participants, as is the case with equivalent government consultations....(more).   Photo: Eureka Street,  Moisseyev via Getty
Cardinal hits back at Pan-Amazon Synod critics
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet, 19 July 2019
A cardinal serving in the Amazon has hit back at critics of the forthcoming Synod on the region, emphasising it will help the Church stand with exploited indigenous communities and become an effective evangelising presence.         Cardinal Pedro Barreto, a Jesuit whose archdiocese of Huncayo covers the western Amazonian region of Peru, has challenged the assumption that the territory is a “backward space”, urging “non-Amazonian societies” to learn from local cultures and their ability to protect the environment.        His intervention, contained in an article for La Civilta Cattolica magazine, comes amid intense criticism from Rome-based cardinals, Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Cardinal Raymond Burke, and traditionalist groups of the Amazon Synod’s working document, published last month.         The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region has been called by Pope Francis and will take place from October 6-27 in the Vatican. It is the first Church gathering of its kind to focus on the needs of a vast area covering Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and the overseas territory French Guyana.         Synod organisers say the aim is to build a prophetic, mission-centred Church in the Amazon, deeply rooted in the indigenous communities, and ecologically sensitive. Its working document includes whether to ordain married elders as priests given the scarcity of clergy, along with liturgies that take into account local customs, and rituals.    Cardinal Barreto said the working document is an “expression of the voice of the people of God”.....(more) Photo: Amazon,
Chittister, Censorship and an Adult Church.
Extract from Patty Fawkner SGS, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 19 July 2019
It was decades ago, but I remember the day and the conversation well. It was a Monday morning and I was returning to work at a Catholic adult education organisation after a short break. I was confronted with the news that, during my absence, our newly appointed director had removed copies of Paul Collins’ book, Papal Power, from the organisation’s bookstore.        Nominally, I was the deputy director and when I asked “Why?” was told “Because it only tells one side of the story”. To which I quickly retorted, “Well, wouldn’t the adult thing be to supply other books that told a different side?”       Till then, “Towards an Adult Church” was the mantra of all that we did within that organisation. The phrase encapsulated our vision and guided both content and process of our programs. The words certainly had been the “hook” for my joining the organisation.     Fast forward 23 years and I immediately recalled this event when news broke that an invitation to Sister Joan Chittister OSB to be a keynote speaker at the 2020 National Catholic Education Conference in Melbourne had subsequently been withdrawn. ‘While there’s some contention over whether a formal invitation was made, Joan believes that she was invited and has received no reason for the snub. This is in spite of Recommendation 16.7 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which calls for Church authorities to conduct a review of Church structures in relation to issues of transparency.      It is reminiscent of the 2018 ban imposed by the Hobart Archbishop on Father Frank Brennan SJ, precluding him from speaking at a conference on marriage equality.      It occurs to me that these three actions are anything but “adult” and, not only say something about the views some Church leaders’ hold about some Catholic religious and clergy, they say something more about their views of us, “the faithful”.      When we are denied information and when perspectives are censored, we are treated like children. Is it that we are neither intelligent enough nor mature enough to weigh different opinions and test these against our own conscience, experience and faith?      On a recent visit to Rome I was privileged to engage in an audience with Pope Francis as part of the Assembly of UISG, the international union of leaders of Catholic women’s religious congregations. “Let’s have a conversation,” the Pope said as he discarded his prepared talk.       Among other things, Pope Francis encouraged the 850 leaders not to be afraid of dialogue either within or beyond the Church. He practised what he preached. He invited spontaneous questions from the audience and no topic was deemed to be ‘out of bounds’. My heart warmed as I observed Francis listen intently and ask clarifying questions to ensure he understood the intent of the question. He responded with deep respect, openness, warmth and a refreshing blend of seriousness and humour.      Am I naïve in believing that Pope Francis would be open to dialogue with Joan Chittister?....(more)
New guidelines will inform Church’s response to abuse
Extract from Melbourne Catholic, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 18 July 2019
The Catholic Church is developing new national policy guidelines to strengthen and standardise Church authorities’ responses to historical and contemporary concerns and allegations of abuse of children and vulnerable adults.       Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the development of the guidelines is a critical step forward in the Church’s ongoing response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.     ‘The bishops are following through on our commitments made last year, and having a consistent approach to the management of allegations of abuse of children and vulnerable people is central to our reforms,’ he explained.     The Implementation Advisory Group, set up in May 2018 to monitor and advise Catholic leaders on the Church’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, is overseeing the development of the policy guidelines.     The guidelines will serve as a public commitment to integrity and accountability in responding to allegations of abuse. They will make clear the obligations of all Church authorities to respond with processes that are fair and effective, and which comply with all Australian laws....(more).
Missing the Catholic Bus.
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls & irritations, John Menadue Blog, 18 April 2019
The Catholic Church is now in freefall. Vatican II called for adaptation to the modern world. Most of the opportunities for adaptation have been missed. How do we catch the last bus?        Since WW II the western Catholic Church has been visibly in decline. This is part of a huge cultural change which is world-wide. Christendom was the prevailing social and political structure of Europe from the 4th century to the 17th. A high point was Louis XIV, hand in hand with the French hierarchy. But at the same time the Enlightenment was raging, undermining its very core structure. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in America a new, democratic social order was being established, based on Enlightenment principles. Democracy won the day and the Church was left a disempowered widow.        The full effect of enlightenment ideas, like power from the people and individual human rights, came to the fore in the reconstruction of Europe after the devastation of WWII. The Church still looked the same, but was no longer the political force it had been.       Vatican II was called to work out how to handle this new world order. It changed the preferred image of the Catholic Church from that of a hierarchical organization set up by God, to the People of God on a common journey. The egalitarian and interactive qualities of the new world order replaced the hierarchical and static qualities of the pre-Enlightenment order. The Church was adapting to the modern world – on paper.       Many who formerly had submitted to the old order had sniffed the breeze and abandoned the church. That flow of departures – small enough to start – was to grow into a torrent. Vatican II had alerted us to equality of membership and the need to adapt to fast social changes, but it was up to the membership to be nimble footed in adapting if it was to stem the collapse.....(more)
Catholic traditions are not all sacrosanct, says cardinal
Joao Braz de Aviz says our relationships with the Church and each other need constant re-evaluation
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, subscription journal La Croix International, 17 July 2019
"You have to look at what is fundamental and what is not. Many things of tradition, which are more of an ancient culture, are no longer useful," Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz told Paraguayan newspaper Ultima Hora on July 14.       Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life since 2011, the cardinal was sent by Pope Francis to participate in a gathering of 90 religious congregations in Paraguay, which was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the South American country's Conference of Religions....(source).   Photo: La Croix International, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz
The priesthood is being crucified on the cross of celibacy
Extract from Fr. Peter Daly, National Catholic Reporter, 15 July 2019
We cannot bring about real reform of the Roman Catholic priesthood unless we do away with mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests in the Latin rite.        Why would that improve the priesthood?       It would make priests more honest about ourselves and sexuality.        With real parents in the priesthood, it would make us more aware of the vulnerability of children and more outraged at their abuse. (Does anybody really think that if bishops were also real fathers that they would have covered up so much child abuse?).      With husbands in the priesthood, it would make us more respectful of women and their opinions. Married priests would also break up the "old boys" clique that surrounds clerical culture in seminaries and chancery offices.         Optional celibacy would also substantially expand the pool of potential candidates for the priesthood. It would not only increase our numbers but improve our quality.       Priestly celibacy is not all bad. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:32, unmarried men are free to be "anxious" about the things of the Lord. Celibate priests can, if they want, be more single-mindedly available for the service of the church, without the competing demands of a wife and family. However, this is not always the case. I have known many celibate clergy who were single-mindedly anxious only about themselves.       Celibacy will always have some place in the life of the Catholic Church. Men's and women's religious communities would not be possible without celibacy. And there will always be a place for those who wish to be voluntarily celibate in the diocesan priesthood.      But, having tipped my hat to the place of celibacy and the good things it can give to the church, I want to say in the strongest terms possible that I believe that celibacy harms the church and damages the lives of most priests.....(more)  Photo: National Catholic Reporter, Dreamstim Peacepix
Ballarat's Bishop Paul Bird meets Pope Francis
Extracts from Alex Ford, The Courier, 14 July 2019
Pope Francis expressed his "personal sadness and sorrow" for those sexually abused by priests in a rare roundtable meeting with Australian bishops last month.       The Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, Paul Bird, was at the table, and asked Pope Francis to pray for the diocese.       "He really did express a very deep sadness at any abuse of a child, and I suppose he was trying to express his compassion for those who suffered and I asked him to pray with us, basically, for those who suffered both directly and indirectly - the families or the whole community, as we're very conscious of in Ballarat," he said.        "He was very much in tune with that, I think, expressing his personal sadness and sorrow."      Bishop Bird was in the Vatican for the Ad Limina Apostolorum pilgrimage, which all bishops must regularly complete - this is the first time Australian bishops have visited since 2011.     The 38 bishops also visited several Vatican departments and dicastries, including the Council for the Protection of Minors.     "We met the Pope on the Monday morning, then later that afternoon we met that Council for the Protection of Minors, and it was there we talked about the steps that had been taken in Australia," Bishop Bird explained.    "In Victoria, for example, we had that Victorian inquiry, then there are standards set by the Victoiran government which we as a church had adopted and put into policies and procedures for that.     "And then, they were really expanded when the Royal Commission had their national inquiry.        "We've adopted those, and currently we're having an audit, that's coming up towards the final meetings in a few weeks time - we're having an audit of how that is being implemented in the diocese, both in the parishes and in the schools and social services."        He noted there would likely be an Australian contribution to the Council's major project promoting "best practice" in protecting children.       "I think the Australian experience will be helpful for that - they will draw on that, and the idea is that if you can share good examples, so people around the world, as in every field, can help everybody and they don't have to reinvent the wheel," he said....(more) Photo: Ballarat Courier, ACBC  
Brisbane archdiocese preparing to host massive discernment event for Plenary Council 2020
Brisbane Assembly, an archdiocesan Plenary Council 2020 event, is expected to unite more than 600 Catholics across two days of communal discernment on October 4 and 5
Extract from Joe Higgins, The Catholic Leader, July 12, 2019
Brisbane archdiocesan Plenary Council co-ordinator Eric Robinson said the Brisbane Assembly would be a great chance for people to hear directly from the national facilitation team – “where we’ve come from, where we’re at and where we’re heading”.      “It will be a really high-quality experience of listening and discernment from these spiritual conversations,” he said.       This experience of communal discernment was a great tool in itself, Mr Robinson said.      He said it was a tool that event participants could take back to their own parishes and communities.     He also said Brisbane Assembly would be a chance for the diverse parishes of Brisbane archdiocese to discern together and leave ready to implement local action in their communities.    “My hope is that people walk away from the assembly with hope and feeling empowered about this plenary journey and their role in it,” Mr Robinson said.     But it was also a great chance to network.     Mr Robinson said particularly in the informal parts of the event, like lunch or breaks, it was a great chance to meet like-minded people and discover new connections.    In an online invitation video, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the location, St Laurence’s Edmund Rice Performing Arts Centre, was a magnificent facility used for events like the Proclaim conference.     “We’ll be back there and we will be entering into an experience of communal discernment, trying to discern what the (Holy) Spirit is saying,” Archbishop Coleridge said.      “We will have excellent facilitators, top-class presenters, and even if you can’t be there, Shalom TV will in fact be live-streaming many of the sessions.”      Mr Robinson said people should register for Brisbane Assembly as soon as possible because there were limited tickets.     He also had some advice in the lead-up to Brisbane Assembly.....(More)Photo: The Catholic Leader, Mark Bowling
Judge questions church priorities after it moved guilty priest around
Extract from Amber Wilson, The Age, 12 July 2019
A judge who will soon sentence a repeat offender paedophile priest has condemned the Catholic Church for prioritising "the sinner" over his young victims.   Robert Claffey, 76, is already serving more than a decade in prison for sexually abusing 12 children as young as five, between 1969 and 1992.     The church became aware of his behaviour in the 1980s, but moved him from "parish to parish" throughout western Victoria, at one point even installing him as a replacement for notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale.        In 2016, Claffey was jailed for a minimum of 13 years and four months.   But on Monday, Claffey admitted he abused another two boys in Ballarat during the 1980s, following fresh allegations.     One of the victims was aged between 12 and 15 at the time, while the other was aged six to seven.....While noting the Catholic Church was "not in the dock", Judge Higham added the church did not report Claffey to police, but simply moved him around.   "Their priority was to bring the sinner back to the church rather than protect the children," he said.    "The church did not report him to the police and he did not report himself to the police. Where is the evidence that he had this matter hanging over him ... over the decades?....(more)
Natural and Unnatural
Extract from J.A. Dick, Another Voice, Reflections about Contemporary Christian Belief and Practice, 12 July 2019
On Monday, July 8, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of an advisory commission: the “Commission on Unalienable Rights.” He hopes it “will provide the intellectual grist of what I hope will be one of the most profound re-examinations of inalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration.”      The Commission on Unalienable Rights will be headed by Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a former United States Ambassador to the Holy See. When he was a law student at Harvard, Pompeo was Glendon’s research assistant. Glendon, when thanking Pompeo for the appointment, stressed that this is a time when “basic human rights are being misunderstood by many, manipulated by many and ignored by the world’s worst human rights violators.” One can agree with her, perhaps, but then one needs to make some important distinctions.      Mary Ann Glendon’s statement, underlines my current concerns about the basis for human rights today and what has been called the “natural law.” Indeed, when setting up the commission at the State Department, the Secretary of State said its purpose would be to redefine human rights based on “natural law and natural rights.”             What is natural is a perennial question. Viewed over several centuries, “natural law” has often had a wax nose, which has bern twisted to accommodate the morality of those in power, in church and state.      Arguments based on natural law have been used to justify slavery, condone torture, denigrate women, condemn gays, and of course (in the Catholic Church) to condemn contraception.     Nevertheless, my observations today are not about politics, Pompeo, or Glendon. The more important issue is clarifying, first of all, what we mean by “natural law” and, secondly, how one can promote an international ethic, still struggling to be born under the rubric of human rights.....(more). Photo: Another Voice
General secretaries share perspectives on Church life
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 11 July 2019
The general secretaries of the bishops conferences of England and Wales, Germany and France have completed a three-day visit to Canberra that examined key issues facing the Church in Australia and globally.             Fr Stephen Hackett MSC, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said he was “delighted” to host the “very beneficial” gathering, which moves from country to country each year.         “I find it very reassuring that every time we meet, in different ways we’re facing many of the same issues,” Fr Hackett said, while acknowledging that some of those issues have arisen at different times in the various countries.        It’s good to get the different perspectives on how we respond to the issues that concern us at this time.”       Among the key topics for discussion were the Plenary Council 2020 and the Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.      Fr Christopher Thomas, general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said while the Church in those countries can be “a bit parochial”, learning about the various “joys and difficulties” in other contexts around the world is important.      “The Plenary Council is a bold step because it’s most definitely not a top-down approach. It’s a listening and discerning exercise which I think the Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, is certainly being encouraged to take,” he said.            Fr Thomas said another of the fruitful discussions that took place during the meeting of general secretaries was on the royal commission and the Church’s response to the commission and its recommendations. Germany’s Fr Hans Langendorfer SJ, who has attended a number of meetings of general secretaries, said the gatherings are filled with energy and provide insights into the Church and its mission in various countries.     He said the Church in Germany had suffered a loss in credibility and in its reputation, but a process similar to the Plenary Council could help the Church there respond to those challenges. He and other Church leaders in Germany will closely watch how the council unfolds in Australia, Fr Langendorfer said......(more). Photo CathNews ACBC Media Blog    
Can laypeople lead a parish? Look to Louisville for a thriving example
Extracts from by Joseph Martos, National catholic Reporter, 11 July 2019
....For almost 30 years, the St. William Catholic Community in Louisville, Kentucky, has had a lay parochial administrator but, even before that, all-important decisions were made by the people of the parish.        Founded in 1901 to serve Irish immigrants who worked in the nearby railroad yards, membership was down to 85 by the early 1960s as railroad workers were displaced by computers to disassemble and reassemble freight trains passing through Louisville.      The crashing together of boxcars and flatbeds can still be heard in summer when the church windows are open. We had decided sometime back not to install air conditioning in an effort to save energy and do our bit to preserve the environment.     No one knows why the parish was named St. William, or which St. William the bishop had in mind, but some point out that the bishop at the time was named William and hint at a personal motive. Around 1995, the parish adopted St. William of Donjeon as its patron, a medieval monk who objected to being chosen bishop and who was known for ministering to the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. Clearly our type of guy.    Faced with the option to close the dwindling parish in 1969, Archbishop Thomas McDonough decided to put it in the hands of a young priest named Ben O'Connor, suggesting that he try implementing the liturgical changes approved by the Second Vatican Council. Out went the Gothic altar; in came a plain wooden table. Out went the pews; in came chairs that could be rearranged as wanted. Out went Gregorian chant; in came guitar Masses.        Within a few years, St. William became one of the most popular churches in the city, drawing people from around the archdiocese and even from Indiana, across the Ohio River......Archbishop Thomas Kelly adapted to the priest shortage by appointing an active church member to be parochial administrator for the parish. With no priest in charge, community members became even more involved in sustaining the parish and creating new ministries....(more)      Photo: NCR St William Catholic Community.
Parish Renewal expert addresses youth and leadership in Perth
The role of young people and their place in the development of the future Catholic Church was the focus of a talk last week by Daniel Ang, the Director of Parish 2020, a process of parish renewal and revitalisation in the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Extract from Eric Martin,The Record, Archdiocese of Perth, 11 Jul 2019
Mr Ang addressed a Perth audience at Newman Siena Centre on 4 July, in a speaker event organised by the Centre for Faith Enrichment.      “Our culture is changing, our Church is changing and the role of young people in our Church is perhaps a prophetic sign of how we can live the mission of Jesus in possibly new ways that have not been imagined before,” Mr Ang said.     “I think that often parishes especially want young people for their life and their vitality and the hope that young people bring to our parish communities.    “And yet, there’s a drop off in Years 11 and 12 in high school, a disinterest from Year 10 onwards – we sense also that we’re losing a lot of people after school during university and when other things come into play.     “We lose a lot of people between 25 and 35, so we don’t see many people in their late 20s and early 30s – they quietly leave and we don’t see them again.”      Previously serving as Director of the Office for Evangelisation in the Diocese of Broken Bay, encompassing the youth ministry, adult education, CCD, and life, marriage and family apostolates of the Diocese – Mr Ang also holds a Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney, and a Master of Divinity from the Sydney College of Divinity, undertaken at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.       As such, he is an acknowledged expert in the area of Youth Ministry, which served as an important source of information and encouragement to Perth’s parish youth leaders.        “If youth ministry is there to prepare young people for adult discipleship, how well are we preparing young people for that broader life?” Mr Ang asked the Perth audience.     “Youth ministry is not simply to hold people in the Church when they’re young but it’s there to actually animate and inspire and equip young people to leave youth ministry and become adult disciples.      Mr Ang explained that his research shows that young people aren’t necessarily attracted to parishes and communities that don’t show any life in themselves: making youth ministry not just for young people, but one that actually engages the whole Church and asks bigger questions around “what kind of Catholic culture do we foster to enable young people to be missionaries?”.....(More).  
Secrecy of Confession to be defended at all costs, Vatican says
The 'note of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the importance of the internal forum and the inviolability of the sacramental seal' was released by the Vatican on July 1
Limited extract from staff, subscription journal La Croix International, 2 July 2019
Vatican City. Pope Francis has ordered the publication of a document affirming the absolute secrecy of everything said in confession and calling on priests to defend it at all costs.       The "note of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the importance of the internal forum and the inviolability of the sacramental seal" was released by the Vatican on July 1.       The Note (only in Italian) was approved for publication by Pope Francis on June 21.       It upholds the absolute inviolability of the Seal of Confession, meaning that priests may never reveal what they learn in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.....(more)
Australia’s bishops are presently visiting the Pope.  What are they telling him and will
Australia’s ordinary Catholics ever find out?   
Extracted from David Timbs,  Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue blog, 1 July 2019
Australia’s bishops are currently in Rome for their regular ‘ad limina’ visit to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul .      Their last visit was in 2011. While there they will meet Pope Francis, have meetings with many of the Vatican dicasteries (government departments), be briefed on Vatican policy, and in turn will background the Vatican bureaucrats on how they see the state of the Church in Australia. But what will they be telling the Pope and the bureaucrats? Will it accord with what Australia’s lay Catholics have been saying and thinking?....(HERE)
News 2019 (to July) HERE