Catholics for Renewal


Editorial, May 2018

Seeking Christ-like leadership: Inclusive, Transparent, and Accountable

“As a body is one though it has many parts,

and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,

so also Christ.”

1 Corinthians 12

Above - PENTECOST. Clifton Cathedral, Bristol. Central section of stained glass wall by Henry Haigh. Flickr. The design revolves around a guideline from the Second Vatican Council bringing the congregation closer to the altar.

New ACBC President

All Australia’s bishops have met this week to consider the grave challenges facing our Church and to elect a new President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has been elected to that role and has quickly confirmed the bishops’ major focus “to address the recommendations of the Royal Commission and prepare for the upcoming Plenary Council.”


Plenary Council consultations

Catholics for Renewal has constantly stressed the importance of grassroots consultations in preparation for the 2020/21 Plenary Council – responding to the sensus fidelium, the sense of faith of the faithful - together with urgent action on the Church’s dysfunctional governance as recommended by the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This Plenary Council is an important reform in itself through its involvement of the faithful and will hopefully set the standard for future governance of the Church at all levels, becoming accountable, transparent and inclusive, as envisaged by Pope Francis. However, the Council must not be used as a means of kicking urgent critical issues down the road for a few more years. David Timbs of Catholics for Renewal has analysed the situation of the Church in Australia as it prepares for the Plenary Council and identifies many carefully evidenced challenges (HERE).

In our last newsletter, we reported that we had written a very considered letter (HERE) to Archbishop Hart in his pastoral role as Archbishop of Melbourne suggesting how a Melbourne diocesan working group might be selected to facilitate essential grassroots consultations for the issues facing the his diocese. We have received not even an acknowledgement of the letter.

Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR)

The Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR), established in 2012 and comprising some ten Australian groups of Catholics seeking renewal of our Church, met in Canberra on 23 March 2018. On 12 April, it wrote to Archbishop Hart, as President of the ACBC, requesting a meeting with the Permanent Committee (HERE) and attaching a communiqué in which ACCCR stated that all the groups in the coalition had lost confidence in the ACBC’s leadership. ACCCR wanted the meeting, conducted in an open, transparent manner that is underpinned by trust, to be a significant first step in restoring confidence in the bishops. To date, no reply or acknowledgement has been received, but it is understood that the letter was on the agenda of this week’s ACBC plenary meeting.

Implementation Advisory Group

On 3 May 2018 the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia announced the establishment of a new Implementation Advisory Group that “will play a crucial role in influencing and monitoring the Catholic Church’s ongoing response to the child sexual abuse scandal” (HERE). Catholics for Renewal welcomes this initiative. The Chair of the new Group, Jack de Groot, is a person who has demonstrated over many years a strong commitment to the pursuit of social justice and has already said that the Group will focus on “the Royal Commission's recommendations on governance, transparency, accountability, consultation and participation of lay women and men.” It is encouraging that Justice Neville Owen, former chair of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, and current member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, is a member of the Group.

As yet, the ACBC has not released the detailed analysis and recommendations from the now disbanded Truth Justice and Healing Council. Early release of that advice to the public would provide some evidence that the bishops acknowledge the need for greater inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. Just as the federal and state governments immediately released to the public the 17-volume Final Report of the Royal Commission, Catholics for Renewal has urged the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia to share with the Catholic and wider community the detailed advice they have received from the Truth Justice and Healing Council.

Debt of gratitude

We and, we believe, also the wider Catholic Community of Australia express deep gratitude to Francis Sullivan for his brave, forthright and prophetic work as CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Commission. With Christ-like focus and leadership he has contributed great service and Catholics and the wider community owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

Launch of 2020/2021 Plenary Council

Pentecost 2018 is the very appropriate day chosen by the ACBC to formally launch the 2020/2021 Plenary Council and the scheduled Journey Toward Plenary Council 2018-2021 (HERE). In the spirit of Pentecost Catholics for Renewal firmly believes that the process of grassroots consultation must become a permanent feature of a renewed Catholic Church in Australia, to address in a timely manner, not just the findings of the Royal Commission but other serious issues as well…