No time to delay local
implementation of Church governance report
After The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia (LSC), the groundbreaking report on Catholic Church governance, was leaked in May 2020, an ‘official’ version (with some corrections and clarifications) has now been published by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA). This early release came as the result of a concerted campaign by Australian reform groups, including Catholics for Renewal.
The 208-page report is the result of a recommended review of church governance by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It was prepared by the Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) and the Governance Review Project Team (GRPT) and contains 86 recommendations.
May 2020 the ACBC assessed the report as ‘historic’,
‘substantial’ and ‘comprehensive’ and respected
theologian Professor Massimo Faggioli said it was a model for how a local
church can reform its governance structure and “will be studied for many years
to come by theologians, historians
and canon lawyers.
CRA President, Br Peter Carroll FMS hopes that it will “illumine a path of contemporary good governance for the Church in Australia, and possibly beyond”.
The published report is
accompanied by a Reading Guide which points to the foundational principles
underpinning the recommendations - collegiality, synodality, stewardship,
dialogue, discernment, participation and good leadership – and the virtues
required for good leadership - integrity, accountability, transparency,
inclusivity, sound risk management practices, active engagement and
communication (Recs. 3-5) - as the heart of LSC.
However, while the Guide is useful in
some respects, its questions and other comments give the
impression that the ACBC and CRA may be using it to push back against some of
their critics, arguing that the Church, though damaged by the sexual abuse
scandal, is not only doctrinally sound but also sound in its leadership, and
that the failures of a few incompetent bishops and superiors should not be
allowed to taint the group as a whole.
In the view of Catholics for Renewal, LSC offers the Catholic Church in Australia a well-considered, theologically sound, and forward-looking roadmap to address its current existential crisis, to re-establish its credibility with the Australian public and, above all, to get back to its God-given mission of building the Kingdom of God in this nation. It brings together both ecclesial and civil virtues, experiences, and perspectives, and seeks to ensure that all are reflected in the good governance of the Church. It proposes reforms that are reasonable and do-able.
the challenge now is whether the ‘particular churches’ in Australia – dioceses,
eparchies, ordinariates and personal prelature – are prepared to move on the LSC recommendations and, if so,
the ACBC is encouraging the faithful to give feedback to their local bishops on
what they think needs to be done on the LSC’s
recommendations, the bishops and the Reading
Guide show no sense of urgency. They are content to leave consideration of the
report and local feedback to their plenary meeting in November 2020, and to postpone
most of the recommendations until the Plenary Council which meets in 2021 and
But the LSC is not just a document for the collective consensus and legislative action of the Plenary Council. There is need for urgent local discernment, consensus and action which cannot and must not be delayed. Many of LSC’s recommendations can be acted on immediately by individual diocesan bishops. Two clear examples are the establishment of diocesan pastoral councils (most dioceses do not have one) and annual diocesan reports (including financial statements). These and many others can be implemented by local diocesan bishops immediately.
Catholics for Renewal, therefore, urges all its readers to read The Light from the Southern Cross in full, discern in the Spirit what your local bishop needs to implement NOW, and write to him asking for IMMEDIATE ACTION.
of expression is integral to the Christian vision and LSC points out that the exchange of views with lay input on matters
related to the Church and its leadership has to be encouraged.
Good governance practice flourishes best in a climate of free and open dialogue within the Church. Accordingly, Catholics for Renewal urges each diocesan bishop personally to immediately:
actions are the ‘principle of subsidiarity’ in operation - the local bishop engaging
and dialoguing with his people in a synodal manner, respecting their lived
experiences, and giving them a co-responsible part in arriving at the decisions
which will impact on them as a local community.
Catholics for Renewal thanks and compliments the IAG and GRPT members who have gifted the Church in Australia with an outstanding document.