Catholics for Renewal


News 2020 July - December  HERE

News 2020 (to July)

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.
Amazon churches create transnational body to implement synod proposals
Extracts from Gerard O’Connell, Anerica, The Jesuit Review, 30 June 2020
The first significant implementation of last October’s Synod on the Amazon took place on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, with the founding of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon, a new transnational church structure that is intended to implement many of the synod’s proposals.         The decision to create the conference was made in a virtual assembly held on June 26 and June 29 by the Assembly for the Project of Constitution of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon. Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., who participated in the virtual assembly, described the decision as “historic” in a telephone interview with America.         He recalled that Pope Francis, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Beloved Amazonia” (“Querida Amazonia”), had called on the synod’s participants to start implementing its proposals. He said they have begun to do so less than eight months later by creating this new transnational church structure covering the nine countries of the region: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Venezuela and the territory of French Guiana.        Cardinal Czerny highlighted the fact that “the energy and the effort for this came from the region itself.”         The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon aims to be “an effective channel for taking up, from within the territory, many of the proposals that emerged” at the Pan-Amazonian synod............The assembly announced the creation of the new conference in a statement issued on June 29 and signed by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, O.F.M., president of the Latin American Episcopal Council, known by its Spanish acronym, CELAM; and Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M., president of REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network: “In these difficult and exceptional times for humanity, when the coronavirus pandemic is strongly impacting the Pan-Amazon region and the realities of violence, exclusion and death affecting the biome and its inhabitants clamor for an urgent and imminent integral conversion, the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon seeks to be good news and a timely response to the cries of the poor and of our sister Mother Earth.”        According to the assembly’s statement, the E.C.A. aims to be “an effective channel for taking up, from within the territory, many of the proposals that emerged” at the Pan-Amazonian synod and to serve “as a nexus for encouraging other church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”.....(more)        Photo:Kukama boys Amazon's Maranon River CNS photo Barbara Fraser America Jes Rev 20200630
Disinfecting denial and secrecy
"Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known" (Matthew 10, 26-28)
Limited Extract from Nuala Kenny OC, MD, Subscrioption JournalLa Croix International, 29 June 2020
Canada.      Courageous proclamation of the "good news" of God's love for us is the heart of Jesus' mission. He is unwavering in acknowledging the truth of this mission, even at great personal cost. And he is relentless in denouncing denial of the truth of God's love.     The infection of Silence and Secrecy.       Silence, secrecy and denial have been evident at every level of the clergy sexual abuse crisis – from the abuse of individuals to leadership's response to victims' stories and its minimization of the harm done, as well as its pursuit of gag orders, non-disclosure agreements and active cover-up.        Persistent focus on individual offenders; blaming the sexual revolution of the 1970's in the West; and slow acceptance of empirical research on the dynamics and magnitude of the harm have contributed to inadequate leadership response to victims and failure to address underlying systemic and cultural beliefs which fostered the abuse.         Breaking the silence did not come from examining communal conscience in light of medical and psychological research on the profound damage of sexual abuse of minors. Public revelations of this longstanding scandal....(more)
Pope Francis appoints Msgr Greg Bennet Bishop of Sale
Extract from Media Release, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 27 June 2020
Pope Francis has this evening appointed Msgr Greg Bennet, a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the 10th Bishop of Sale. Msgr Bennet was born and raised in Melbourne, completing his secondary education at Braemar College in Woodend, northwest of Melbourne. After working in banking for several years, he entered Corpus Christi College in 1986 and was ordained priest in 1992.        Following a number of parish appointments, Msgr Bennet undertook postgraduate study, gaining a master of science in pastoral counselling from Loyola College in Baltimore and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Angelicum University in Rome.            On his return, Msgr Bennet held several leadership positions within the Archdiocese of Melbourne, including as director of Ministry to Priests and later as inaugural director of the Office for Evangelisation. After additional parish ministry, he served as vicar general from 2012 to 2019. Having returned to parish ministry just four months ago as parish priest in West Brunswick, he will now oversee a diocese that stretches from Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, through Gippsland and to the New South Wales border.       Msgr Bennet said he recognises the “enormous responsibility and privilege to be asked to undertake this appointment”.“It is a responsibility which cannot be exercised in isolation, but in close cooperation with the clergy, the faithful and those in diocesan leadership,” he said......(Media Release HERE)
Pope moves against Polish bishop accused of hiding predators
Extract from  Nicole Winfield, Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press. NCR Online, 26 June 2020
Rome — Pope Francis has ordered a Polish bishop to leave his central diocese and let someone else run it while he is under investigation for covering up cases of sexual abuse that were featured in a second clergy abuse documentary that has rocked Poland's Catholic Church.       Francis on June 25 named the archbishop of Lodz, Grzegorz Rys, to temporarily take over as head of the Kalisz dioces           The Vatican's ambassador, in explaining the decision, said the current Kalisz bishop, Edward Janiak, 67, retains the title of Kalish bishop for the time being. But the explanation, posted late June 25 on the Polish bishops conference website, said Janiak must leave the territory of the diocese and can't have any form of influence on how it is run.         In May, the online documentary "Playing Hide and Seek," exposed two cases of pedophile priests that Janiak handled, first as an auxiliary bishop of Wroclaw and then as bishop of Kalisz, which he has headed since 2012.      It featured court testimony about Janiak's role helping transfer one priest, subsequently convicted and defrocked, from Wroclaw to another diocese even after a criminal investigation had begun. The film also documented another case of alleged cover-up of another priest during Janiak's time as Kalisz bishop.      The film suggests Janiak didn't follow the Vatican's own in-house rules to report allegations against the Kalisz priest to the Holy See, and did so only after the case gained media attention.       The diocese maintains no actual victims had lodged a formal complaint, though the parents of one victim did. An audiotape of their 2016 meeting, in which Janiak berates the parents, provides one of the more chilling moments of the documentary.         The film was the second on Polish clergy abuse by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, after their first one last year, "Tell No One," triggered a national reckoning in a country where there is no higher moral authority than the Catholic Church and its clergy. That film elicited an apology from Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, and prompted at least one cleric to leave priestly life.....(more)

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary Meeting
Extract from Summary Minutes of the ACBC Plenary, May 7-14, 2020,   24 June 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic bishops of Australia conducted their biannual plenary meeting using videoconferencing technology.  The eight Commissions of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference held meetings on the first day of the gathering, followed by the plenary meeting over the seven subsequent days– except Sunday, 10 May. Meetings were held with the full membership of the Conference, as well as in smaller groups..........Link to Summary  Minutes HERE
Catholic Lay Groups harness energy for national reform
Extract from Media Release, Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, 23 June 2020
Catholics from reform groups across Australia and New Zealand met via Zoom late last week to support the growing movement for reform of the Catholic Church.              Participants representing 17 reform groups and other invitees joined the forum of the Australian Coalition for Catholic Church Reform to discuss the way ahead for Church decision making, especially in the lead up to the Plenary Council now scheduled for October 2021.               The 80 participants represent many thousands of Catholics who share deep concern about the state of the Church in Australia.              At the forefront of those concerns are issues of good governance and the culture of clericalism in the church, particularly the need for inclusion and gender equality.               Speaking shortly after the forum, ACCCR Convener, Peter Johnstone, said that the coalition is increasingly harnessing the energy for renewal Australia-wide.                  ‘Catholics want a Church that lives and models the teachings of Jesus.              ‘We believe that this is the most representative meeting of Catholic reform groups ever held in Australia.            ‘We were pleased to also have New Zealand Catholics share their views.            ‘Catholics are insisting that the now deferred Plenary Council, when it does meet, addresses the real issues of a debilitated Church and failed Church leadership.                  We are determined to press for reform and to challenge the Church leadership to hear and respond to the spiritual and community needs of the faithful,’ Mr Johnstone said......(full Media Release HERE)
In an interview with EWTN, Trump hails ‘tremendous letter of support from the Catholic Church’
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin, America, The Jesuit Review, 23 June, 2020
President Trump declared himself “totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes” in one breath and described himself as “pro-life” in the next during an interview that aired on the Catholic television station EWTN on Monday night. The interview comes as the president’s re-election campaign courts Catholic and other Christian voters ahead of the November election and in the wake of a recent poll that suggested a drop in support for the president among white Catholics, a demographic he won in 2016.       The president was asked about claims that his likely opponent in November’s election, former Vice President Joe Biden, is more “pro-life” than Mr. Trump, given Mr. Biden’s opposition to the death penalty and embrace of efforts to confront climate change.      Mr. Trump responded by talking about appointments to federal courts.         “The Democrats? Look, who’s he putting on the court? They want to put people on the court. You have no chance. So, I’m pro-life. The Democrats aren’t. Nobody can say that Biden is. Look at his stance over the years,” Mr. Trump said, without clarifying which court or which people he was referring to.        The roughly 10-minute interview was conducted by Raymond Arroyo, host of a weekly news show on EWTN and a regular contributor to Fox News. Few questions dealt directly with Catholicism, but Mr. Arroyo did ask the president about a letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal ambassador to the United States.        The EWTN interview comes as the president’s re-election campaign courts Catholic and other Christian voters ahead of the November election and in the wake of a recent poll that suggested a drop in support for the president among white Catholics.       In that letter, which Mr. Trump shared on his Twitter account, the archbishop expressed his belief in a number of conspiracy theories, including the existence of a “deep state” opposing Mr. Trump from within the U.S. federal government and a “deep church” comprised of “children of darkness”; a belief that the Covid-19 pandemic response represents “a colossal operation of social engineering”; and the notion that recent anti-racism protests in the United States evoke “the Masonic ideals of those who want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.”             The president was asked how he reacted to the letter and if he agreed with the archbishop’s views. Mr. Trump called Archbishop Viganò “a great gentleman” and praised the letter without directly addressing any of its claims.....(more).    
US Catholic leaders mark Pride Month via video conference
Extract from Sarah Salvadore, National Catholic Reporter, 23 June 2020
Prominent Catholic leaders sent messages of video support to the LGBTQ community for Pride Month after Outreach 2020, a Catholic LGBTQ conference hosted by Fordham University, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.      The June 18 video began with Jesuit Fr. James Martin reminding all LGBTQ Catholics that God created them, and that they are as much a part of the Catholic Church as the pope, bishops or local pastors.      In their messages, speakers offered words of hope and encouragement, and called on the church and members to be more inclusive.       Dominican Sr. Luisa Derouen, who has been a minister to the transgender community since 1999, said she missed meeting all transgender participants. "It was an honor and privilege of my life to walk with you on your sacred journey," she said.     Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, showed his support to those who minister to the LGBTQ community. He called their work "valuable" and "appreciated." Wester said that ministers played the part of the "good shepherd" by bringing LGBTQ members closer to God. "Your ministry serves all of us as you proclaim God's unconditional love and mercy in a world torn apart by prejudice and exclusion," he said.     Jesuit Fr. John Cecero, superior of the Jesuits USA Northeast Province, called LGBTQ members to "share in the reconciling mission of Jesus." He said it was an invitation to dialogue, in an open, respectful way, not just in the church but in society and culture as well. He encouraged LGBTQ members to face hatred and homophobia in the church and country by being "beacons of light." ....(more)
Bishop-designate Daisuke Narui to head Niigata Diocese
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Jun 22, 2020
Rome — Social justice promoters for the world's religious orders are praising Pope Francis' unusual appointment of one within their ranks as a diocesan bishop, saying the choice emphasizes the importance of their work and ministry.         Divine Word Missionary Fr. Paul Daisuke Narui, who has been serving in Rome since 2015 as his order's coordinator for peace and justice issues, will return to Japan later this month as the new head of the diocese of Niigata, about 200 miles northwest of Tokyo.        Narui — 46 years old and previously the coordinator of the Japanese church's relief efforts after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster —is one of dozens of such coordinators for the diverse range of congregations in Rome.       His colleagues describe a priest who is dedicated to social justice issues, a good collaborator and especially attentive to raising women's voices.       "Pope Francis is looking for people that will support his agenda, his mission, his message. You would find that for sure in Daisuke," said Sr. Sheila Kinsey, the executive co-secretary of the joint Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation commission of the two Rome-based umbrella groups of the world's men and women religious.
Kinsey, a member of the Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who has worked closely with Narui for about five years, said the new bishop "is steadfast and committed to the same things that Pope Francis is."         "They are very, very fortunate to have him," Kinsey said about Narui's new diocese.       Mercedarian Sr. Filo Hirota, who worked with Narui on justice issues while serving as the head of her order in Rome from 2012 to 2018, said he is someone who is "always available, ready to help and serve, simple, smiling and at ease."       "He listens and learns from women," said Hirota, who now lives in Tokyo. "It is great to have a bishop who knows and lives what equal discipleship of Jesus is."....(more)     Photo: Fr Daisuke Narui, Theresa Sacher NCR 20200622
Let's get physical
The Vatican holds first "real" press conference in nearly four months as it struggles to start up again after pandemic shutdown
Limited Extract from Robert Mickens, subscription journal La Croix International, 19 June 2020
Vatican City.   Throughout the long coronavirus lockdown, there were very few signs of institutional life at the Vatican.     Pope Francis kept up his two fixed weekly appointments – the Wednesday general audience and the Sunday Angelus. But they were live-streamed from the seclusion of the Apostolic Palace and without the physical presence of anyone from the public.     The only people in the room with him were several aides – all of them men dressed in cassocks or religious habits. Mind you, neither of these events requires the unique services of an ordained minister. And, yet, priests were the only ones present. Not a woman anywhere to be seen.       Not great optics.        The weekday Masses that were broadcast each morning from the chapel at the pope's Santa Marta Residence during the first several weeks of lockdown usually featured a religious sister proclaiming one of the scripture readings. But even at those streamed liturgies, most in the small congregation – once again – were men.            Return to St. Peter's Square :   When Italy opened up the entire.....(source)
The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will be held in Adelaide from October 3-10, 2021, and in Sydney from July 4-9, 2022.
ACBC Media Blog, 19 June 2020

The new dates mean that the celebration of the Plenary Council has effectively moved 12 months from the original plan of a first assembly in October 2020 and a second assembly in June/July 2021.

Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the confirmation of the specific dates will help in the formulation of a revised program of preparation for Council delegates, who were announced in March, and for the whole Catholic community.              Archbishop Costelloe said the bishops’ preference to hold the second assembly in April 2022, announced last month, had to be revisited.             “The confluence of a number of events in April 2022, including the New South Wales school holidays, Easter in the Latin Rite and Easter in the Eastern Rite, meant that the plan to hold the second assembly then was unworkable,” he said.                “The one-year change to our initial timeline affords each of us the opportunity for a more extended period of individual and collective discernment leading into the first assembly than we would otherwise have had.”            Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said that this time will be utilised for all people to re-engage with the journey of discernment toward the Council assemblies after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.         “A renewed engagement will take place in a societal context that’s been altered by the pandemic,” she said.              “The recently-published discernment papers were finalised in the midst of the pandemic. They are a key step in the process of discernment and preparation for all of us. The time and space between now and the first assembly, now in October 2021, enables deeper reflection, dialogue and consideration of how we’ve all been affected by recent global events.”           Archbishop Costelloe said prayer, dialogue and discernment have been foundational pillars of the Plenary Council journey and will continue to be so.        “I encourage everyone to read the discernment papers and to take some time in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to continue to guide our path toward the assemblies and beyond,” he said...Source

At five-year mark for ‘Laudato Si,’ Vatican offers a ‘users guide’
Extract dfrom Elise Ann Allen, Ctrux, 18 Jun2020
ROME – To mark the five-year anniversary of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical, Laudato Si, the Vatican Thursday published a “users guide” for both parishes and public officials on how to implement the document, including such concrete measures as a balanced diet, carpooling to reduce energy consumption, recycling, and “drip-by-drip” irrigation to curb water waste.
The document also calls on legislators and governments to adopt eco-friendly policies, such as enshrining water as a “universal human right” and promoting international efforts to protect vulnerable ecosystems such as the Amazon and the Congo River Basin.          In keeping with Pope Francis’s view of “integral ecology,” the document also advocates for poverty relief, family-friendly policies to combat a “demographic winter,” prison and healthcare reform, and the protection of human life from conception to natural death.         The text also touts several steps within the Vatican City State to become more “green,” including discontinuing the use of toxic pesticides and recycling the water from the famed Vatican fountains.              Presented June 18 and titled, “On the Path to Caring for the Common Home: Five Years after Laudato Si,” the lengthy 220-page document – longer than Laudato Si itself – is an initiative of the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development and is the product of an inter-departmental “Table” on integral ecology established after Laudato Si’s publication in  June 2015.....(more).
A Plenary of Broken Promises?
Extract from Gail Freyne, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 17 June 2020
When the people in the pews get so restless that evidence of deceptive dealing at the top of the Catholic Church in Australia starts falling off the back of trucks these same leaders should know that they have a calamity looming on their collective horizon.        It is not only the Catholic faithful who are being manipulated. The federal government, and therefore all the people of Australia, are being duped. A lot of time and money was expended by taxpayers to fund the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Catholic Church’s criminal and moral failings were exposed by this investigation and the barque, already foundering, began to take on serious water as the people departed, with their wallets, by the hundreds of thousands.      Finally realising that a public relations effort must be launched to staunch the flow, the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference (ACBC) initiated a series of initiatives.         Perhaps the most important, launched after discussions with the Royal Commission, was the formation in early 2017 of the Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL), a new and independent body tasked to set standards within the Church for child safety, and then to audit and report on compliance with these standards by the bishops and religious leaders.            Finally, the reports were to be made public, ensuring that a new benchmark of accountability was set for church leaders. Subsequently, the Church’s official response to the Royal Commission mentions the CPSL on 164 occasions and notes that the company is responsible for the implementation of 60 actions which address recommendations of the Royal Commission. Clearly, CPSL was a key player in project ‘Resurrection’.....(more)      Photo: John Menadue
New leader of German bishops signals no retreat from progressive line
Extract from Elise Ann Allen, Crux, 16 Hune 2020
ROME – In a recent interview, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the new president of the German bishops’ conference, signaled openness to both married priests and women’s ordination and appeared to criticize a lengthy essay by Pope Benedict XVI last year on the root causes of the clerical sexual abuse crisis.               Speaking to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Bätzing responded to a question about why debate over women’s priestly ordination seems to have disappeared so quickly.                 "It is not a question of fear,” he said, noting that throughout the Catholic Church’s recent history, “different popes have explained and underlined that women’s access to the priesthood cannot be decided by the Church, and Pope Francis is no exception.”            “In the Catholic Church the magisterium of the episcopal college cum Petro et sub Petro is the decisive instance,” Bätzing said. “But that does not mean that we cannot continue to talk about the issue of the ordination of women, because it is a question presented by the Church itself!”                Bätzing, 59, said the Church’s reasons for refusing women’s ordination “are no longer accepted” by large portions of the Catholic faithful.              As a result, Bätzing said he’s happy that the conclusions of a two-year “synodal path” in Germany eventually will be sent to Rome, including their resolutions on women and the role of ministers.                “I believe that what is expressed synodally must also be clarified and a synodal answer be found, not simply the answer of a Roman dicastery! I am confident in this,” he said, adding, “This is the novelty which, with Pope Francis, has gained strength.”....(more).   Photo: German Bishops Conference President Bishop Georg Batzing Harald Oppitz KNA via CNS Crux 16 June 2020
Final version of governance report to be published by mid-August
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Media Blog, 15 June 2020
The final version of a report into diocesan and parish governance will be published after a series of amendments and clarifications have been made, likely by mid-August, it has been announced.                Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge on June 12 announced a timeline for the report’s release after a draft version was leaked to international Catholic media earlier this month.             The report, The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia, was prepared by the Governance Review Project Team, a group of experts assembled by the Implementation Advisory Group.            The terms of reference for the project stated that: “The final report should be addressed to the bishops; it should be finalised in consultation with the Conference; and any matters pertaining to the Holy See, Plenary Council or other parties should be conveyed to them prior to publication. Upon completion of the final report, the Conference reserves the right to first consider the findings and recommendations, before deciding upon the timing of publication.”        The report was provided to the bishops just days before the start of their May plenary meeting, which prompted a decision to postpone the publication of the report and the bishops’ response to it until they had had sufficient time to consider the more than 200 pages and 86 recommendations.          Despite the bishops’ announced intentions, the report was subsequently leaked.          “Entailed in our decision to delay publication of the final report was a commitment to engage the bishops in proper consultation and to refer matters pertaining to the Holy See, the Plenary Council and others for consultation before the report was finalised,” Archbishop Coleridge said in the June 12 statement.            “What has been leaked to various media outlets is, therefore, an interim version rather than the final report.”           As the bishops had decided at the plenary meeting, a period of consultation will allow for corrections and clarifications to be suggested. That task is due to be completed by mid-July, after which those amendments can be incorporated and the report finalised.          “The amended version will then be published in late July or early August, accompanied by a reading guide. This version will be widely available, and people are encouraged to read the full report (and not just the recommendations) and to provide feedback to their local bishop to help him in shaping his response,” Archbishop Coleridge said.          Archbishop Coleridge said the statement about the timeline for finalising and publishing the report was made “in the interests of transparency and in the hope that the whole Church in Australia will be led through this process to a deeper experience and understanding of what it means to be a synodal Church, able to respond creatively to the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves and build a future according to the mind of Christ”.....(more)
The Death of Fr Noel Connolly, and the legacy he leaves
John Costa, 10 June 2020
Fr Noel Connolly, most recently a forthright member of the Facilitation Team preparing for the Plenary Council, died peacefully on Saturday night 6th June after a long illness. He will be sorely missed by many people here and around the world.              At the outset of the Plenary Council process a group of Catholics For Renewal members participated in his event at St Francis Xavier parish in Montmorency on 30 August 2018  "Listening to the Holy Spirit by Listening to one another".          He highlighted that the forthcoming Plenary is not just an event for the Australian Catholic Church but for all of Australia as our faith calls us as missionaries of all ages to contribute to Australia by living and exemplifying a life reflecting Christian values, including love, compassion, justice, caring, joyfulness and forgiveness.              He also outlined an open Plenary Process.               His many writings since then have largely focused on process, importance of sensus fidelium, and necessity for Church Reform.                   All of this is consistent with Noel's rich earlier life following ordination in 1969 as a Columban Missionary.             He served as a missionary in Korea,1970-74.  He was the founding Chaplain to the Korean Catholic Community, Sydney, 1977-81. He was a lecturer in Moral Theology, St. Columban’s and Union Theological Institute 1976-84. He was Rector of St. Columban’s College and the Pacific Mission Institute from 1979-84.            He was Dean of the Union Theological Institute [Sydney], 1979-80, 1984 and President of Union Theological Institute, 1981-83. As such he was a founding member of the Council of the Sydney College of Divinity.                From 1985-88 he was the Central Coordinator for Justice & Peace for the Missionary Society of St. Columban and later Vicar-General of the Missionary Society of St. Columban throughout the world, 1988-2000. Both of these appointments were based in Ireland.          After returning to Australia he was Director of the Columban Mission Institute, Sydney, 2002–05 and then Director of the Columban Region of Australia and New Zealand 2005-11.       He lectured in Mission Theology at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and the Broken Bay Institute 2003 – and was Head of Mission Studies at the Columban Mission Institute, the Catholic Institute of Sydney and the Broken Bay Institute.           He was a founding member of the Australian Association for Mission Studies.  He was also: Member of the Council of the Broken Bay Institute 2003-2013; Chair of the Australian Mission Network 2012–2015; Member of the Council of Catholic Religious Australia 2008-2010.            He has also been a consultant and lecturer in Multiculturalism to various Australian Dioceses and religious congregations.        His prolific and clear writings show strong consistency and now form a legacy of inspiration for reform.  His recent Plenary Council article on the final report on the Listening and Dialogue stage of the Plenary Council HERE  illustrates this well.  Noel selflessly delayed his very well earned retirement in order to support the Plenary Council Facilitation Team in its important reform task ahead.    He has done so exceptionally well.      May his work now continue to inspire and guide the delayed Plenary Council.  
May he now Rest In Peace.
Plenary Council may be delayed but the thematic papers show the fruits of communal discernment
Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, 5 June 2020
The Church’s Plenary Council 2020 assemblies may have been delayed due to COVID-19, but six writing and discernment groups have been busy, using their diverse expertise and backgrounds to write thematic papers.        Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe says six papers – each tackling a national theme for discernment that emerged from the Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase – signify the latest milestone as the Church considers its present circumstances and discerns its future.       “The papers are the fruits of communal discernment,” Archbishop Costelloe, the Plenary Council president, said.       “The aim of the discernment process was to draw upon the lived faith and experiences of more than 220,000 Australians, the living tradition of the Church, sacred Scripture, papal teachings and additional insights from outside the Church.”        Archbishop Costelloe said the papers were an important contribution to the Church in Australia’s ongoing discernment towards the Plenary Council.       “While not the final word on the six thematic areas which emerged from the Listening and Dialogue process, I encourage everyone to receive them in the spirit of faith and discernment with which they have been written,” he said.             “They both invite and challenge us to continue to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’.”        Each paper provides a reflection on some elements of the relevant pastoral reality, articulates a theological vision, outlines a number of challenges to be overcome, suggests prioritised questions to be answered and develops some proposals for change.        They will be foundational to the next stage of discernment toward the Plenary Council – the development of the working paper, or Instrumentum Laboris – and ultimately the agenda for the Council assemblies.....(more).
Australia’s bishops, religious consider proposals for change in governance
Extract fron Michael Sainsbury, Crux, Catholic News Service, Jun 5, 2020
MUDGEE, Australia - Australia’s bishops and religious are considering the recommendations for change in a 208-page review into the governance of the church.    If implemented, they would see administrative and financial control of dioceses and parishes radically reshaped and shared between the clergy and laypeople and an increased role for women.        In mid-May, the bishops considered the report, “The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia,” submitted by the Implementation Advisory Group’s Governance Review Project Team. They are continuing to mull a response to 86 recommendations.       The report was initiated by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference in May 2019 in response to a key recommendation of Australia’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.       The governance report was written by 14 people, handpicked lay and clergy - men and women - from Australia as well as international experts. People familiar with the process who declined to be identified said the report was to have been kept secret until about November, but it was leaked to the internet June 1.      A spokesman for the bishops said: “The version that has been published is not the final document. One of the reasons for the delay of the report’s release was the need for some corrections and clarifications. That process has commenced and is likely to take several weeks. There is also a need to discern how and when various recommendations might best be considered, not least in light of the upcoming assemblies of the Plenary Council.”
Catholic News Service verified the report with two of the authors, who said any changes would be minor tweaks........In mid-May, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, ACBC president, congratulated the governance review project team for “producing such a substantial piece of work, with far-reaching implications for the church’s life and mission.”.... (more)
Leaked report needs ‘due consideration’ say bishops
Extract from Marilyn Rodrigues, Catholic Weekly, 5 June 2020
In a shock move, a confidential advisory report to Australia’s Catholics bishops and religious superiors has been leaked to French Catholic newspaper La Croix after they were criticised for not publishing it immediately.        But the document titled Light from the Southern Cross that was published online by the newspaper on 1 June is an unfinished version said the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference (ACBC) which commissioned the report along with Catholic Religious Australia last year.       The 200-page report subtitled ‘Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia’ was commissioned to review the Church’s governance and management structures, following a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.      The Implementation Advisory Group responsible for the review presented the report including 86 recommendations to the bishops five days before the opening of their biannual plenary conference from 7-14 May with a request that it be published immediately.       The front cover of the leaked report suggesting changes to Church governance in light of the Royal Commission recommendations.        Among its proposals are greater transparency in some areas of Church life such as publishing diocesan and parish financial reports and being more open about how bishops are selected and appointed.         Following the plenary, president of the ACBC Archbishop Mark Coleridge said that to do it justice, the bishops would consider the report in depth, take advice, and discuss it at their November plenary before publishing it along with their response.        Victoria-based organisation Catholics for Renewal accused the bishops of keeping the report “secret” and called for it to be published before June, with its President Dr Peter Wilkinson saying it “belongs to all the People of God“.        In a 2 June statement the ACBC said that the version that had been published on La Croix is not the final document and that one reason for the delay of its release was “the need for some corrections and clarifications”.        “That process has commenced, and is likely to take several weeks,” it read. “There is also a need to discern how and when various recommendations might best be considered, not least in light of the upcoming assemblies of the Plenary Council.      “As previously announced, the bishops will publish the final version of the report and respond to it formally when they have had a chance to give it due consideration and have received advice from a range of sources.”...(more)
Detroit Archdiocese to shift to ‘family of parishes’ over next two years
Extract from Michael Stechschulte, Crux, 3 June 2020
DETROIT - Over the next two years, the Archdiocese of Detroit will transition to a new pastoral and governance model for its 218 parishes called “families of parishes,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced May 31, the feast of Pentecost.     Calling it a “very important step in the life and mission of our local church,” he said the move will allow parishes to more robustly serve their mission while proactively responding to historic challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.     “Even before the pandemic, we knew God wanted to renew our parishes. The structures we inherited served our mission well in the past, but they need to be renewed and aligned for mission,” Vigneron said. “And so, in prayer and in consultation with others, I’ve discerned that this is the time to respond in faith to our new reality and to better equip our parish communities for mission.”     While the health and economic crises have contributed to a reduction in material resources, the archdiocese also faces a looming priest shortage, the archbishop noted, with almost two-thirds of priests in southeast Michigan older than 60.    Many of these priests care for one or multiple parish communities as they approach - or even exceed - retirement age, a burden that if left unchecked would quickly become unsustainable, the archbishop said.     In the new “family of parishes” model, multiple priests and deacons would be assigned to care for a group of three to six parishes, alleviating some administrative burdens and allowing parishes to more closely share human and material resources and talents.....(more)    Photo: Governance model Families of Parishes, Detroit Catholic via CNS Crux 20200604)
The Light From the Southern Cross. A Report on Catholic Church Governance
Edited extract from John Menadue, Pearls & Irritations, 2 June 2020
A confidential 208 page Report ‘promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia’ was commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops and Religious Superiors to review the Catholic Church’s governance and management structures. This followed the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.      The Royal Commission found that clericalism, a belief that priests and bishops are superior to the lay faithful, resulted in dysfunctional governance and management.  The Royal Commission found that the abuse of clerical power was a key contributor to  sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.......(More - including a link to the report)
Papers from ‘Shaping the Future of the Church’ Governance Symposium in March 2020   (linked here 2 June 2020)
Below with permission are papers from the Governance Symposium  ‘Shaping the Future of the Church’   held in Sydney on Wednesday 4 March 2020 and in Melbourne the preceding Sunday.   In his paper below Massimo Faggioli has developed his approach to Church governance over the last few years.  With Richard Lennan's papers (an Australian priest teaching in the US) both have cpllectively put governance into a helpful theological context.

1.  Reforming the Church by Hitting the Reset Button: Reconfiguring Collegiality within Synodality because of sensus fidei  fidelium by Dr Myriam Wijlens;                  HERE
2.  Episcopalism Abuse Crisis by Massimo Faggioli;            HERE
3.  Seeking the Right Side of History by Richard Lennan;                            HERE
4.  Theology for a Future-Oriented Church PowerPoint from the presentation by Richard Lennan.    HERE
Review as an instrument of change in the Australian Catholic Church
Special report contains recommendations in areas where bishops, religious leaders, parish priests and lay leaders can together implement changes
Linited extract from staff, subscription Journal, La Croix International, 1 June 2020
Australia.  A special review on the governance and management of Catholic dioceses and parishes in Australia outlines a way to discern a synodal path as a new practice of church governance.    The review was raised by the abuse crisis and the need for cultural change.       Disclosures of the 2013 to 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional........(source)
Responses to the 6 Plenary Council Discernment themes available
Monday 1 June 2020
A 'user-friendly' webpage for downloading responses to the 6 Plenary Council Discernment themes has been published on the Plenary Council website HERE.  Note that Submissions have been de-identified and individual responses have been recorded, but are removed from public viewing.    The Plenary Council team would like to remind everyone to read the guidelines for Communal Discernment well and to note its difference from the Listening and Dialogue phase before making a group response. The 6 Papers prepared by the Writing and Discernment Groups are available HERE
Religious discrimination bill on the backburner
Extract from CathNews, Greg Brown, The Australian, 28 May 2020
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged delays in key elements of his pre-coronavirus agenda, saying Cabinet has shelved discussion on religious freedom legislation. Mr Morrison also declared the timetable for a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians would depend on whether “consensus is able to be achieved for it to be successful”.        As he set out a new plans for industrial relations and skills reforms to help steer the economy out of the coronavirus crisis, Mr Morrison said his Government was yet to reconsider
NSW Churches want same rules as pubs and cafes
Extract from CathNews, Sydney Archdiocese,  28 May 2020
Catholics in New South Wales have been asked to sign a petition calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to grant places of worship equal treatment to other public spaces under eased COVID-19 restrictions.           Under the new rules to be introduced on June 1, up to 50 people will be allowed to gather at a club, restaurant or pub at the one time, but the rules have not been extended to churches where only a maximum of 10 people are currently allowed.        The petition asks the Premier why 50 people can dine in a restaurant, but only 10 people are allowed to attend Mass, even though churches are often much larger in size.      It also asks why people who attend a place of worship for a service or even private prayer are required to provide contact details, when this requirement is not placed upon those dining in cafes or attending shopping centres, or undertaking any other activity.     “Contrary to what has been said throughout this pandemic, we do not consider church attendance to be non-essential; indeed, nothing is more essential than the practice of our faith,” states the petition.     It is a sentiment strongly backed by Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP who said he believed a “double standard was being applied to people of faith”....(more)      St Mary’s Cathedral Wikipedia Adam JWC Cathnews 20200528
Archbishop Patrick O’Regan installed as ninth Archbishop of Adelaide
Extract from Communications Office CAM, 27 May 2020
On the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Archbishop Patrick O'Regan was installed as the ninth Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.        The installation took place in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, with only a few people able to be present given the restrictions due to COVID-19. Apostolic Administrator Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ conducted the installation ceremony with 30 people participating in the Mass.       The installation would normally attract over 2000 people from around Australia. The service was, however, live-streamed to over 6000 people and watched by thousands more on-demand and on community television.        In his first homily as Archbishop of Adelaide, Archbishop O’Regan referred to the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing it to the chaos of the first Easter.        He gave warm thanks to his family and all those who had supported him. “To all those who have been praying for me, I know there have been many of you, I have really felt that today…it is by the gift of prayer and communion today that we celebrate the gift of life and grace.”        To celebrate the former Bishop of Sale and priest of Bathurst committing himself to his new flock, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli recorded a short message of welcome and congratulations for the people of God in the Archdiocese of Adelaide......(more) Photo: Archbishop Patrick O'Regan. The Advertiser
Bishop Mark Edwards appointed to Wagga Wagga
Extract from CathNews,  Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 27 May 2020
Pope Francis last night appointed Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards OMI the sixth Bishop of Wagga Wagga.    Bishop Edwards, who will turn 61 next month, was born in Indonesia and grew up in Adelaide, Darwin and Melbourne’s southeast, attending St Leonard’s Primary School and Mazenod College. Mazenod was founded by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order he would eventually join.     He was ordained to the priesthood in 1986 and has held leadership positions within the Australian Province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne on November 7, 2014, and ordained bishop the following month.        Bishop Edwards’ priestly ministry has largely centred on secondary school and seminary education, including serving as rector of Iona College in Brisbane and as aspirants’ master and novice master at St Mary’s Seminary in Mulgrave.       In addition to his priestly formation and theological training, Bishop Edwards completed a science degree at Monash University, where he also obtained a doctorate in philosophy.         In a letter to the faithful of Wagga Wagga, Bishop Edwards described his appointment “as a call from God to be with you and journey with you as disciple, brother and bishop”.   “Together, as a community of missionary disciples, we will worship, love and evangelise,” he said.....(more). Photo: CathNews
'Vos Estis' at one year: Some question pope's process for investigating bishops
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Repoter, May 27, 2020
It is a bit early to assess the effect of Pope Francis' new global system for how the Catholic Church evaluates reports of clergy sexual abuse or cover-up by individual bishops, say canon lawyers who spoke to NCR.      They also raised questions about the new process, first established in May 2019, which involves the empowering of archbishops to conduct investigations of prelates accused in their local regions.       Among their main concerns with the procedure, outlined in Francis' motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi ("You Are The Light Of The World"): the possible bias that can arise in asking one prelate to investigate another, and whether there has been an appropriate level of transparency about bishops who are being investigated.      Nicholas Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer who was a member of the U.S. bishops' original National Review Board, highlighted the latter point.      Mentioning that the procedure does not mandate that Catholics necessarily be told when a bishop is being investigated, Cafardi said: "It seems to me that the faithful have a right to know if somebody is a possible danger."....(more)  
How Vatican II can help us navigate the politics of a pandemic
Extract from Blase J. Cupich, America, The Jesuit Review, May 26, 2020
Our nation and our church stand at a pivotal moment as we ponder the crucial issue of how religious communities can contribute to the common good in a time of pandemic and bitter partisan political division.    For the Catholic community, the penetrating vision of the Second Vatican Council on religion, the state and the political order provides an unparalleled orientation, identifying a clear pathway of public engagement, conscience formation and authentic witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.                   A new vision of church-state relations:               From the start, “Gaudium et Spes” (“The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”) offers a new approach toward the church’s activity in the public square. Referring to the “church in the modern world” rather than “and the modern world,” the title of the document signals that the church exists on its own terms, not because any agency gives permission or grants a right. As Vatican II’s decree on the church’s missionary activity puts it,   “The pilgrim church is by its very nature missionary” (“Ad Gentes,” No. 2). In other words, the church’s autonomy and freedom derive from the fact that it has been sent, that its very nature is missionary.                  Moreover, while the church enjoys its autonomy to act in the world, it does not stand in competition with the world. Rather, being in the world means that the church journeys in solidarity with all of humanity.  If the church is to preserve its identity as “a sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race” (“GS,” No.42), there must be a proper balance between its autonomy and its solidarity with humanity......(more).   Photo: Martin Sanchez Unsplash America
Most prominent issues for the Plenary Council agenda
Extract from Peter Wilkinson, The Swag, Vol. 28, No. 2, Winter 2020, republished here with permission from The Swag, 27 May 2020
New research into the written submissions to the Plenary Council shows that among the issues raised, some are more prominent than others.
Listening and Dialogue:          Preparations for the Plenary Council began in May 2018 with a ‘Listening and Dialogue’ phase aimed at “listening to the voice of God speaking through the voices of the people” and “gaining a sense of their faith” (sensus fidei).  Australian Catholics, and others, were invited to reflect on and respond to the question: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time? By 13 March 2019 over 220,000 persons, mostly Catholics, had responded in 12,758 individual and 4,699 group submissions.             The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR) subsequently published several reports on both their content and authors. It found individual respondents were: more female (49%) than male (29%); slightly more numerous in the older age groups (23% - 15-29 yrs; 22% -  30-59 yrs; 32% - 60-80+ yrs); predominantly Australian-born (65%) but with very few indigenous (143); more from non-English-speaking countries (11%) than from other English-speaking countries (6%); predominantly Catholic (72%); other Christians (3%) and non-Christians (1%); significantly regular Mass attenders (76%); and most numerous from Brisbane (1890), Melbourne (1649), Wollongong (1244), Sydney (1103), and Perth (1082).......research paper on most prominent issues HERE
Historic Church Governance Report locked down by Australian Bishops
Extracts from Peter Wilkinson and Gail Freyne, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 26 May 2020
On 4 May 2020 the Project Team commissioned by the Australian bishops and religious superiors to review the Catholic Church’s governance and management structures, presented its 200-page final report. Its 86 recommendations include the need for greater transparency and co-responsibility. The decision of the bishops to withhold the report from public view for at least 6 months has shocked many Catholics.                 The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse spent years trying to understand why Catholic bishops and religious superiors across the nation had covered up the abuse happening under their noses, why they had protected the paedophile priests and religious who had abused innocent boys and girls in their care, and why they had treated the victims with such meanness and disdain.      The Commission finally grasped that ‘clericalism’ – a belief by priests and bishops that they are superior to the lay faithful – and systemic dysfunctional governance on a massive scale were at the root of the problem.         It therefore recommended in its 2017 Final Report that “the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) conduct a national review of the governance and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women” (Rec. 16.7).      It took 8 months for the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) to accept the recommendation, and another 7 months to get advice from an Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) on how the review should be undertaken. The IAG recommended a Governance Review Project Plan and a 7-member Review Project Team of predominantly lay experts chaired by former WA Supreme Court justice and current member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, Neville Owen.       The IAG identified the essential elements of good governance as integrity, transparency, accountability, risk management, culture and ethics, consultation, inclusiveness, and the participation and genuine responsibility of men and women.           In March 2019 the ACBC and CRA approved the Plan and Project Team, as well as terms of reference, review methodology, and a final report deadline of 31 March 2020, in time for consideration at the ACBC’s May plenary meeting.......It was a profound shock, therefore, when the ACBC, presumably with CRA (its president is an observer at ACBC meetings) support, decided at its May meeting that it would lock down this historic report and withhold it from public view until some unspecified time after its next meeting in November....(more)

The problem with "viri probati"
Can we train men to be presbyters without a lengthy seminary formation?
Limited extract from Thomas O'Loughlin, Subscription journal :La Crox International, 25 may 2020
United Kingdom. It seems that every few months we begin talking again about the chronic shortage of presbyters in the many parts of the Catholic world today. Then someone suggests the ordination of suitable married men.         But after some discussion, a solidly based argument (not based on dubious notions of ritual purity) is presented: how could these married men learn all that a presbyter needs to know in a short time?          Then it is decided that, no, the problem is too big to be overcome and so it is best to shelve that whole idea. TINA rules – There Is No Alternative to the status quo!             Even those bishops who are prepared to grant that it would be pastorally beneficial to change the Latin Church's discipline of mandatory celibacy and ordain "up-right married men" (viri probati), seem stunned into silence by "the insuperable problem" of training such men.        Ordaining viri probati might solve a practical shortage, but could they be trained?         The Catholic priest, so the argument goes, is a highly trained professional – and well matched to the laity's needs. So, first of all, how could one get the equivalent without taking the vir probatus away from his family and work for six or seven years of training in a seminary?.....(more)  Viri Probati_La Croix International 20200525

Secret report calls for radical revamp of Catholic Church
Extract fom CathNews NZ, SMH, 25 May 2020
A secret report being considered by Australia’s bishops wants unprecedented reform in the church. The reforms aim to make the church more inclusive and break down the structures that contributed to decades of clergy abuse and cover-ups.
The church could be “dramatically overhauled” to give lay people more power, increase the number of women in leadership roles and force parishes to open up their finances to the public.              Peter Johnstone, who is the convener of the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, says it is “supremely ironic” that the bishops were now refusing to release a secret report asking them to be more transparent and inclusive of the communities they serve.              The report by the Australian Bishops’ Conference report is said to respond to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse.
The Commission found the hierarchical nature of the church, coupled with its lack of governance, had created “a culture of deferential obedience” in which the protection of paedophile priests was left unchallenged..........It is understood the review recommends:....(more)
Opening salvos in Pope Francis’s financial ‘Reform 2.0’
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, Vatican Media via Ap, 22 MAY 2020
ROME - Facing both a looming economic crisis and reminders that the anti-financial scandal measures adopted to date haven’t been fully effective, Pope Francis and his Vatican team this week have moved to try to defuse the bomb before it goes off, closing several Swiss holding companies responsible for portions of its assets and reallocating internal control over financial data collection.         Even together, the two moves hardly represent a comprehensive fix. Yet they do suggest that dubious transactions, which have generated scandal and so far cost five employees their jobs, coupled with several financial shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic, certainly have gotten the pope’s attention.       On Tuesday, Corriere della Sera, Italy’s newspaper of record, reported that Francis has shut down nine holding companies based in the Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, all of which were created to manage portions of the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its land and real estate holdings after the 1929 Lateran Pacts and payments by Mussolini’s Italy to offset the loss of the Papal States in the 19th century.      The deal netted the Vatican about $100 million in 1929, the equivalent of $1.5 billion today.....(MORE)
Major shake-up urged for Australian Church
Extract from Catholic SanFrancisco, 22 May 2020
The Catholic Church in Australia is considering introducing major reforms that could give women and laypeople a greater say in church affairs and make financial dealings more transparent.Such proposals are contained in a secret report commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference in the wake of various damaging scandals, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
     The report has listed 86 recommendations calling for groundbreaking changes to make the church more open and shed the veil of secrecy that allowed many cases of abuse within the clergy and coverups to go unpunished for years.       It was drawn up in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which exposed serious flaws in the way the Catholic Church was being run.Abuses included the activities of pedophile priests and their subsequent protection when such offenses came to light.       Proposals in the report would have "far-reaching implications for the Church’s life and mission," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane as saying.       "To do it justice, the bishops will now take advice, consider the report in depth, conduct discussions at a provincial level, and otherwise prepare for a full discussion at their November plenary," he said.        The report calls for dioceses to set up councils to act as an advisory body on pastoral issues to members of the clergy. It is hoped these councils would contain an equal number of men and women.        Church organizations and dioceses would also be expected to adopt rules requiring greater accountability and transparency, particularly concerning its financial dealings.        The Australian Church has often been criticized for keeping information about its vast wealth confidential.        The bishops' response to the report is not expected until the end of the year following their November plenary.       Critics, however, are pressing for a much quicker response, with some demanding a reply by July.        Peter Johnstone of the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform called it "supremely ironic" that the bishops were sitting on a report urging them to be more transparent.....(more)
Plenary Council assemblies set for 2021 and 2022
The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will now take place in October 2021 and April 2022, following the disruption of the original schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog,  21 May 2020
The two assemblies for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will now take place in October 2021 and April 2022, following the disruption of the original schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.              The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference last week decided to postpone the opening assembly by 12 months, with it now to be held in October 2021. Adelaide remains the venue for the first assembly. The second assembly will be in Sydney in April 2022.         “Mindful of the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, it was felt that delaying the first assembly by a full year would provide some certainty that travel and social distancing guidelines will have been lifted for the assembly,” said Plenary Council President Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.       “Just as importantly, we believe that period of time will allow for an adequate period of preparation for the delegates and the Catholic community.       “The postponement was an unfortunate speed bump on the Church’s path to the Plenary Council assemblies, but we are committed to using this extra time wisely.”         Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said the continuing preparation for the Council will take on some new characteristics, shaped by the experience of the pandemic.         “A program of webinars, podcasts and other multimedia projects will be rolled out in the latter half of 2020 to help the People of God explore and share about how they respond to the Spirit and live out their own call to mission – as individuals and collectively,” she said.        “The material will be both formative and dialogical to help parishes, families, workplaces and other Catholic communities and organisations consider the unique contribution they make to the life and mission of the Church.”     The next step on that journey will come next week at Pentecost, when the papers prepared by the Discernment and Writing Groups will be released...(more)  Photo: ACBC 20200521
The Plenary Council: Where to after Coronavirus?
Extracts from Gerry McKernan and Peter Sheehan, John Menadue website, 20 May 2020
The pandemic is forcing communities everywhere to adopt new approaches, unthinkable only a few months ago. This must apply to the Catholic Church too, and provides an opportunity to revive its Plenary Council process.          The world will never be the same after the coronavirus pandemic.        The failure to contain COVID-19 global tragedy, born of a massive failure of leadership and solidarity, both internationally and in major countries. With a likely death toll over 500,000 and the deepest recession since the 1930s, communities everywhere are demanding new ways of doing things, greater transparency and action not evasion.        The power of nature unleashed shows the urgency of working together to protect those most at risk and dramatises the risk from global climate change. The future of the young is most at risk, and they will drive the push for real change.          There are close parallels with the situation of the Catholic Church in Australia. Over several decades, there has been a failure of leadership, a weakening of community and an unwillingness to protect those most in need, especially children. The number of priests has fallen sharply and is now at crisis levels. The young have left Church in droves, while often still active in serving the community elsewhere.        Except for Pope Francis, the faithful have tuned out from their leaders.       The vehicle that the Australian Church has set up to address this challenge is the Plenary Council 2020 (PC). The pandemic has delayed the first assembly until 2021, but will have a more profound effect on it than that. The demand for new ways of doing things, greater transparency, and action not evasion will also apply to the Council. The Council must respond not only to the crisis in the Church but also to the desperate ......The catch phrase on launching the PC was that ‘it cannot be business as usual’.         Post-coronavirus that is more true than ever, but we have no consensus about the new direction.           An urgent, open debate is needed now, before the opportunity for real change at the PC slips away. This debate must be horizontal, between parishes and individuals, and not just vertical, to and from the authorities, in the traditional way of the Church.     A number of parishes in Melbourne have set up a website ( to assist that discussion. We invite contributions to it......(more)
New Australian report may help church find its way out of abuse crisis
Extracts from Massimo Maggioli. National Catholic Reporter, 19 May 2020
There are signs that the Catholic Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis is now getting at deeper, institutional questions. In particular, how local churches — parishes and dioceses — are governed.                 In the last few years, a unique example that could bring encouraging news has come from the Australian church.           Since 2017-18, the abuse crisis has taken on a new dimension, thanks to the unveiling of cases (such as disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick) and of extensive cover-ups identified and published in the reports of nationwide and regional investigations (such as in Australia, Chile and Pennsylvania).           The new phase of the crisis has focused on the direct involvement of bishops, cardinals and the Vatican. It has also identified that the crisis is not restricted to children and also involves women religious and other vulnerable persons — and has become a global crisis with huge repercussions on the relations between church and state in various countries.           The new phase in the abuse crisis has also shown much complexity: It is not just a legal and ethical crisis, but also a theological one and a crisis of models of church governance.               Pope Francis has reframed the scandal as something that must move the church to conversion. We must consider all the different levels that this conversion must reach: It is a pastoral and theological conversion as well as a conversion of ecclesial structures.        Australia's role      The Australian church plays a particular and unique role in this conversion, for several reasons.       The Australian government's Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013-17) undertook an in-depth, wide-ranging investigation into many organizations. This investigative process produced a damning exposé of abuse, not just in Catholic institutions, but across Australian society.          The findings of the commission regarding the Catholic Church highlighted major failures of ecclesial governance and leadership. In their August 2018 response to the commission's final report, the Australian bishops and the country's religious orders accepted the commission's recommendation that there be a review of the governance and management of the nation's dioceses and parishes..........As the matter is still under consideration, the recommendations we made cannot be discussed in detail here. But our report will be studied for many years to come by theologians, church historians, canon lawyers, and all those with an interest in connecting spiritual and institutional reform in the Catholic Church.        This report could become an example of how a local church can go about reforming its governance structure. No local church is exempt from this task.....(more)  Photo:St Patrick's Cathedral Ballarat CNS Reuters Jonathan Barrett NCR 20200519
Historic review of Church governance presented to leaders
Media Release, Gavin Abraham, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, May 18 2020
The Australian Catholic bishops have welcomed a report into Catholic Church governance practices and possible reforms, which was presented to them shortly before last week’s plenary meeting.       The report, entitled The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia,was commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference following a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.       The report is 200 pages long and includes 86 recommendations.“The members of the Governance Review Project Team are to be congratulated on producing such a substantial piece of work, with far-reaching implications for the Church’s life and mission,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.        “To do it justice, the bishops will now take advice, consider the report in depth, conduct discussions at a provincial level, and otherwise prepare for a full discussion at their November plenary.       This will allow them to then publish the report and respond to it.”        Archbishop Coleridge noted that the report, dealing as it does with so many aspects of Church governance, will necessarily become a significant contribution to the ongoing work of prayerful reflection and discussion leading up to the formal assemblies of the Plenary Council.       “The whole Church in Australia is presently engaged in a process of deep reflection and discernment on the life and mission of the Church in the immediate and longer-term future,” said Archbishop Coleridge.     “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Governance Review Project Team for their important and comprehensive contribution to this ongoing process of discernment.      The report will undoubtedly contribute to the eventual formation of proposals to be considered during the Plenary Council.”        The report identifies key principles of good ecclesial governance, such as subsidiarity, stewardship, synodality, dialogue, discernment and leadership.     It offers important ideas on how the Church might enhance the leadership role of lay people and ensure appropriate co-responsibility at parish and diocesan levels.“     The bishops look forward to considering the report in depth and to its eventual public release,” Archbishop Coleridge said....(source)
The Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR) wrote an Open Communiqué to all the Australian Bishops and religious leaders prior to their meeting of 14-21 May 2020.    The Open Communiqué seeks renewal and reform of our Church  in accordance with its Christ-given mandate through the Plenary Council. The Open Communiqué and covering email may be read HERE.     The Coalition comprises 15 Catholic renewal organisations across Australia all of whom composed and agreed to this Open Communiqué which addresses the necessary content of the Plenary Council agenda.
Australian pedophile priest sentenced to more jail time
Exttract from National Catholic Reporter, Associted Press 14 May 2020
Melbourne, Australia — An Australian pedophile priest was sentenced to more jail time May 14 after admitting to crimes against another four boys in the 1970s.          In all, Gerald Ridsdale is known to have abused at least 69 children. He has been behind bars since 1994 after he was sentenced to 34 years.            He had been eligible for parole in 2022. But Victorian County Court Judge Gerard Mullaly on May 14 extended Ridsdale's non-parole period by another two years, by which time Ridsdale will be 90 years old.    "You knew what you were doing was profoundly wrong and harmful, but you kept doing these things to these children over and over," Mullaly said. "It seems you knew no boundaries or had any sense of restraint."   Ridsdale's latest crimes involved two brothers who were abused when the then-parish priest took them rabbit shooting.....(more)
Catholic Bishops must embrace transparency and accountability
Senior Catholic bishops must exercise leadership and firmly grasp the fresh opportunities now provided to them for increased transparency and accountability within the church. They must grab the moment.
Extract from  John Warhurst, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue blog, 13 May 2020
The power dynamics within the church, involving a hierarchy within the hierarchy, means that the senior bishops, including Anthony Fisher, the Archbishop of Sydney, who was recently involved in controversy with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Quentin Dempster, “Catholic Church duplicitous and unaccountable in needs-based school funding says Malcolm Turnbull”, Pearls and Irritations), must exercise responsibility.     The others include Mark Coleridge, the Archbishop of Brisbane, who is the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), Tim Costelloe, the Archbishop of Perth, who is the Chair of the Plenary Council 2020 (PC2020), and Peter Comensoli, the Archbishop of Melbourne. If Fisher, Coleridge, Costelloe and Comensoli do not exercise such leadership, these precious opportunities for reform may be lost despite whatever efforts the rest of the Catholic community make.           The May ACBC meeting began last Thursday. They had before them several documents making the undeniable case for increased transparency and accountability in church governance.          They considered the report of the Governance Review which was set up by the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia in the light of the recommendation by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to review the church’s governance and culture.          The bishops were due to consider the reports by the six Writing and Discernment groups chosen to investigate the major themes identified by the 17,500 submissions by Catholics to the PC2020 Listening process. Governance reform, including greater transparency, inclusivity, lay participation in leadership and accountability, was a major focus of these submissions, a summary of which has been published.          They had also received earlier in the week an Open Communique from the 15- member national network of church reform groups, known as the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR). This communique embraced co-responsibility in church governance and condemned autocratic and unaccountable leadership.     Among the specific matters ACCCR stressed as being of fundamental importance were:   Good governance with accountability, inclusion in decision making and appointments, equality and transparency, with synodality and subsidiarity, with the very best models of leadership, and with ongoing and open dialogue with all Christ’s faithful.          This is a great moment of opportunity for the Church in Australia to embark on internal reform and to prove that it is part of an era of change in which business as usual is not good enough. Between them these documents, and the research, conversations and discernment upon which they are based, provide the basis for serious governance reform. They provide the church leadership, not just the bishops but also other religious leaders, with the basis for such action....(more)
Down the barrel of $158 million gun, Vatican reform is coming … but what kind?
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 13 May 2020
ROME - According to an internal Vatican analysis recently presented to Pope Francis for a meeting with his department heads, declines in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic will cause the Vatican’s annual deficit to balloon somewhere between 30 and 175 percent, depending on which of three scenarios, ranging from best to worst case, is realized.       Under the worst-case scenario, which assumes shortfalls between 50 and 80 percent and only limited success at containing costs, the 2020 deficit would be 146 million Euro, or $158 million. For a sense of scale, the total projected income for the year is $160 million, which means the Vatican would be spending twice as much as it brings in.       As a footnote, something many observers have said for a long time is worth repeating: In the grand scheme of things, $158 million just isn’t that much money, especially when you put it in the context of other major Catholic entities. The University of Notre Dame in the States, for example, has an annual budget of $1.3 billion. The fact that such a comparatively modest sum could trigger an existential crisis is one measure of how much the Vatican’s financial operation needs aggiornamento, meaning “updating.”...(more)     Photo:   Pope Francis overlooking St Peter's Square coronavirus Andrew Medichini AP Crux 20200513
Archbishop Coleridge re-elected president of Bishops Conference
Extract from Catholic Outlook, 8 May 2020
The Catholic bishops of Australia have today elected Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane to a second two-year term as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.       Archbishop Coleridge was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 2002 and later became Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn. Since 2012, he has served as Archbishop of Brisbane.         He was elected president of the Conference at its plenary meeting in May 2018 after previously serving as its vice-president for two years.         Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP was re-elected Conference vice-president, a role he also took on in May 2018.        “Archbishop Fisher and I have worked very closely over the past two years and I’m grateful that the bishops have backed our ongoing partnership,” Archbishop Coleridge said.              As a Conference, we have faced a number of big challenges over the past two years, including preparing for the Plenary Council and considering how the People of God in Australia can walk together into the future, especially now in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.       “The Church’s implementation of policies and protocols that prioritise child safety and offer a just and compassionate response to victims and survivors of abuse has also been a crucial focus.      “Much has been done and the bishops will consider further steps during our plenary meeting over the next few days.”       Archbishop Fisher also cited the benefit of continuity at a pivotal time in the Church’s history, saying “when we have medium- and long-term initiatives to carry out, it’s good to have settled leaders supported by a group of bishops with shared aspirations”.       Four members of the Permanent Committee of the Bishops Conference were also elected today: Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB; Toowoomba Bishop Robert McGuckin; Adelaide Archbishop-Designate Patrick O’Regan; and Maronite Bishop of Australia Antoine-Charbel Tarabay.       Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli of Melbourne and Port Pirie Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, elected in May 2019, are continuing members of the Permanent Committee.      The almost 40 members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference today opened their biannual plenary meeting using videoconferencing technology....(more).   Photo: ABp Mark Coleridge President ACBC Catholic Outlook 20200508 ACBC
ABC "Afternoon Briefing"  7 May 2020, Patricia Karvelas Interview with Francis Sullivan
- Cardinall Pell and the Royal Commission un-redactions. 15 minutes
(ABC source here)
Bishops adapt to life under COVID-19
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference will enter uncharted territory this week as it holds its biannual plenary meeting, using video technology to allow its work to continue during the COVID-19 crisis
Extract from CathNews, 6 May 2020
Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the bishops are having to adapt to the current realities just like all Australians.            “This is the first time one of our twice-yearly gatherings hasn’t happened in person since the Conference was formed in 1966, but we are living in an era of ‘firsts’,” Archbishop Coleridge said.                  “The Conference has important matters to consider, as always, so we have found ways to adjust our practices and protocols to do what needs to be done over the coming days.”                 The meeting begins tomorrow and will run to May 14, with the bishops free on Sunday.                  Archbishop Coleridge said the COVID-19 pandemic will be high on the bishops’ agenda.               “There is a great desire in all parts of the Church to resume public worship, and we will consider how and when that might happen – always with due consideration of the health implications,” he said.               “But COVID-19 has crippled many individuals, families and communities not only economically, but in other ways as well. How can the Church best support those people through our educational, social service and pastoral care networks? Much of that work has commenced, but the recovery will be long.”           Archbishop Coleridge said the bishops have begun discussions with leaders of religious institutes and other Catholic ministries about a more collaborative approach to safeguarding and the handling of complaints of sexual abuse and other misconduct.            “We’ve made good progress in devising even more robust structures and practices to respond to allegations and to create and maintain Church environments that are safe for children and vulnerable adults,” he said.               “This is a whole-of-Church approach, and it’s one that has been developed with input from a wide range of people, including survivors and their supporters.”            The bishops will also consider the final report of a national review of the governance of dioceses and parishes.          Archbishop Coleridge said that while the tyranny of distance and the vagaries of technology will be a challenge, the bond of faith and mission that unites the bishops will remain strong, especially through the Church’s liturgical life.         A summary of the meeting will be posted online as soon as possible after its completion.....(more).     Photo: Catholic Voice. CathNews 20200506
When will Catholics be able to gather for Mass again?
Limited extract from Isabelle de Gaulmyn, subscription journal La Croix International, 2 May 2020
France:  When will Catholics be able to gather for Mass again?            The opening up process will undoubtedly be slow, gradual and different from place to place. In France the bishops are trying to present the government with a reasonable exit plan.            Some are worried about the fact that they will not be able to resume Mass on May 11 when many other activities and businesses are allowed to open. A hundred priests have already protested with a petition in the Paris-based daily Le Figaro.          Social networking, No gatherings, no sacraments, no Eucharist. In fact, Catholics are living through an astonishing period. But it has led to great creativity on social networks, with Masses on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Zoom.          Some priests have gone overboard in trying to fill the void that the coronavirus lockdown has created, even at the risk of sending a very clerical and male-dominated image of Catholicism.          It is like a trick of history, happening at the very moment when Pope Francis has undertaken a reflection on the ills of clericalism......(source).  Image: La Croix International 20200502
An Australian bishop speaks about a national church 'fraught with division'
Q & A with Bishop Vincent Long of the Parramatta Diocese
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National CatholicReporter, 1 May 2020
Like many Catholics in Australia, Bishop Vincent Long speaks about the upcoming plenary council as something of a final chance for the national church to show it has both reformed on clergy sexual abuse and can still be culturally relevant in the 21st century.        In an emailed NCR interview focused on how the quashing of Cardinal George Pell's convictions might affect the gathering, which has been in preparation for two years, Long called the assembly "the last throw of the dice."        "We cannot go on the way we have," said the bishop, who leads the diocese of Parramatta, a suburb about 15 miles west of Sydney on Australia's eastern coast. "We must humbly and boldly address the biggest challenge of our time and build a healthier church for future generations."....(more).  Photo CNS Catholic Weekly
2020 Plenary, Synodality, Getting Back on Mission, Pledge
"At catacombs, synod members pledge simplicity, closeness to the poor"
Extract 21 Oct 2019 from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service NCR Online, republished here 1 May 2020
Rome — More than a half century after a group of bishops at the Second Vatican Council made a solemn pledge to live a simple lifestyle close to their people, a group of participants from the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon signed a new pact in the Catacombs of Domitilla.            Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, relator general of the synod, presided at an early morning Mass Oct. 20 in the catacombs where he and several dozen synod participants signed the new "Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home."             The original Pact of the Catacombs was signed by 42 bishops Nov. 16, 1965, in the Catacombs of Domitilla.                Invoking the martyred Christians buried in the catacombs and the martyrs of the Amazon, the signers of the new document promised to defend the Amazon rainforest, to promote an "integral ecology" of care for people and for the Earth and, "before the avalanche of consumerism," to live "a happily sober lifestyle, simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing."
             They made a renewed commitment to listening to and walking with migrants, the poor and, particularly, with the indigenous people of the Amazon, helping them "preserve their lands, cultures, languages, stories, identities and spiritualities."            Doing so, the signers said, meant "to abandon, consequently, in our parishes, dioceses and groups all types of colonist mentality and posture," instead "welcoming and valuing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity in a respectful dialogue with all spiritual traditions."            Without mentioning the possible ordination of married men who are leaders of their communities, an idea that garnered much support at the synod as a way to give Catholics regular access to Mass and the sacraments, the bishops signing the pact committed themselves to "ensuring that the right to the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist are effective in all communities."........(more).                                                                  [Ed: An English translation of the full text of the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs is included in a resource HERE ]   Photo: Amazon Synod participants Catacombs of Domatilla, CNS REPAM Julio Caldeira NCR Online 2019 10-21
Bishop Long calls for ‘solidarity in time of distancing’
The chairman of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service has used the annual message for the feast of St Joseph the Worker to call for “social solidarity in a time of social distancing”.
Extract from Melbourne Catholic, ACBC Media Blog, 30 April 2020
Bishop Vincent Long van Nguyen OFM Conv. said the May 1 feast day has taken on additional meaning as millions of Australians face job insecurity and financial stress.        “Like you, I have found it deeply distressing to see so many thousands of people queuing to apply for government assistance,” Bishop Long writes in the pastoral message.         “Our hearts go out to everyone who is out of work; to those whose businesses have been forced to close; and to those whose regular income has plummeted while their bills remain.”               In acknowledging that experiences like approaching Centrelink for assistance have been new for tens or hundreds of thousands of people, Bishop Long said some common financial realities have remained.        “In any crisis, it is usually the poorest, the most vulnerable and the least powerful who suffer the worst,” he wrote.         “Casual employees, many contract employees and gig workers are not entitled to sick leave or carer’s leave. They are often unable to save from their earnings in order to cover periods of illness or inability to work.       “Surviving on the JobSeeker payment, or any other form of government assistance, is difficult. However, there are also many people who are unable to access this support and are at risk of falling through the cracks.”       Bishop Long highlighted the precarious situation facing asylum-seekers, international students and those on temporary protection visas, saying excluding them from government assistance is “inhumane and unworthy of a decent society”.      He made special mention of those who are working on “the front line” and cannot self-isolate because of their responsibilities.       “All of this prompts us to think about what are really the most important things in life,” Bishop Long wrote.....(more)  Image:St Joseph the Worker feast celebrated 1 May ACBC CathNews 20200430
China resumes cross removals as virus subsides
Under less pressure from Covid-19, officials are eliminating religious symbols from public places
Extract from UCA News reporter, 28 April 2020
The cross of Lingkun St. Michael Church of Yongqiang Parish in Wenzhou is taken off its steeple in October 2018 on the orders of communist authorities. (Photo supplied)
The communist administration in China has started another wave of cross removals as the coronavirus pandemic reportedly subsides on the mainland.     In the past two weeks, authorities have removed crosses from the top of two church buildings, sources told UCA News on April 27. They fear more such actions.      The removals began as the administration reported the discharge of the last Covid-19 patient in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first reported last December.      China's National Health Commission said the entire country reported only three cases of Covid-19 on April 26. Two were Chinese people returning from abroad, while one contracted it through local transmission.       The cross removals began as government officials became relatively free from the pressure of fighting the pandemic, Christian leaders said....(more)      Photo: China resumes cross removals as virus subsides UCA News 28 April 2020
Cardinal Pell: A decision with little certainty
Extract from Gail Grossman Freyne, National Catholic Reporter, 27 April 2020
Melbourne, Australia — George Pell is a cardinal in the Catholic Church. And that is where the problem lies. It lies as well in the institution. The two are inextricably intertwined so that the fate of one informs the other.          Some, like Pope Francis, say, "I would like to pray today for all those persons who suffer an unjust sentence because someone had it in for them." The Vatican News reported that the pope made this statement at his morning Mass in Santa Marta, shortly after the news broke that the High Court of Australia had quashed the convictions against Pell.        The Vatican is understandably relieved that the final appeal of their erstwhile No. 3 in command has been successful. But the church cannot reasonably take comfort from the high court's decision because, if the cardinal's appeal had failed, they would not have taken the blame for his actions. They never do. When one priest is caught, he is simply a random "bad apple"— nothing wrong with the rest of the barrel, we're told.             Whoever translated the papal statement (accanimento, Italian; hounding, English) got the idiom just right for some. The cardinal has staunch defenders: commentators Andrew Bolt, of Murdoch television's "The Bolt Report," Greg Craven, vice-chancellor (just resigned) of the Australian Catholic University, and Fr. Glen Tattersall of Melbourne's Latin Mass parish, who are given to thunderous outpourings on the theme of witch hunt. For example, Tattersall's most recent article, "The Power of the State was Recruited to Destroy Pell." ........(source)        Photo: Cardinal George Pell April 9 2020 CNS Archdiocese of Sydney NCR 20200428
Porter seeks 'final advice' on release of commission's Pell findings
Extract from Chip Le Grand, The Age, 27 April 2020
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has sought "final advice" about releasing unpublished royal commission findings into the conduct of Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell.      Mr Porter said he sought the advice after being told by his Victorian counterpart, Jill Hennessy, that there were no legal barriers to making public the previously redacted findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse....(MORE)
St George feeds the dragon
Extract from David Gibson,Center on Religion and Culture, Fordham University, 23 April 2020
After Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal on child sex abuse charges earlier this month, there was a momentary hope that this saga might end with the kind of humility that people of good will, not to mention a senior leader of the Catholic Church, ought to bring to such an agonizing episode.            The seven-member High Court of Australia ruled unanimously that the jury that convicted Pell of molesting two choirboys in 1996 after Mass in the Melbourne cathedral should have had reasonable doubt about the allegations. The court said there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.” Pell’s first trial on these charges ended in a hung jury in September 2018, but prosecutors retried the cardinal and the jury in the second trial unanimously agreed on Pell’s guilt in December 2018.         Last August, a divided appeals court ruled 2-1 against Pell’s appeal, but the High Court’s ruling on April 7 to quash the conviction was the final word.       Pell, 78, was immediately freed, having served 13 months of a six-year sentence. The president of the Australian bishops conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, issued a sensitive and carefully worded statement recognizing that the decision would be welcome news for some and “devastating for others,” and he reaffirmed the church’s “unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.” The Vatican, where Pell had spent a stormy tenure as Pope Francis’ point man for reforming Rome’s byzantine finances, struck a similarly balanced tone.       Pell’s initial statement also seemed aimed at reconciliation. “There is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” he said. “However, my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church, nor a referendum on how church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of pedophilia in the church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.”          
Alas, the peace was fleeting.....(more)
What will happen when the shutdown ends?
The post-pandemic parish will be the "report card" of the pre-pandemic parish
Limited Extracts from Father Bill Grimm MM, Tokyo, Suvscription journl La Croix International, 23 April 2020
Efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 have included halting liturgical gatherings in many parts of the world. What will happen when Catholics once again can gather to share the Eucharist and do all the other things that mark them as Christians? I do not have a crystal ball that enables me to see the future, but I have been speculating upon what our communities may look like after months of being closed.                  In 1995, Professor Jonathan Mann of the Harvard University School of Public Health in the United States predicted, "The history of our time will be marked by recurrent eruptions of newly discovered diseases."          A quarter-century ago, Mann was speaking in the midst of the new AIDS epidemic, and since then the world has seen several other epidemics, with the coronavirus pandemic we are living through now as the latest and possibly most extensive (though not yet the most deadly) so far.           Are we in the early stages of this pandemic, or is it coming under control? Will a cure or a preventive vaccine be developed soon, or will it take a year or more? What will the mortality ultimately be? In the meantime, will the virus evolve beyond the power of our medical interventions? What effect will it have on the world economy? How long will it last? Will it touch me or those I love? We do not, and cannot, know the answer to any of those questions.           Mann was obviously correct, and this pandemic shall not be the last we must face and deal with. The economic, social, and religious upheaval we are experiencing today may be part of an ongoing pattern of new viral and bacterial epidemics girdling the globe, especially as climate change causes varying degrees of ecological, social, agricultural, demographic, political, and epidemiological chaos. What we are facing now may become a new normal.      An immediate impact of the coronavirus on Catholics has been the cancellation of Masses with a congregation. A measure intended for a few weeks has now been in place for months............What might we expect when after a quarter of the year or longer we are once again able to gather in our churches?      The first thing will be...............(source).  Photo: church lockdown Murcia Spain EPA Marcial Guillen MaxPPP La Croix Int 20200423
Seminaries must hire, involve more women, Cardinal Ouellet says
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 24 April 2020
Vatican City — For some priests and seminarians, "women represent danger, but in reality, the true danger are those men who do not have a balanced relationship with women," said Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.           The cardinal was interviewed about the role of women in seminaries and seminary formation for the May issue of the women's supplement to the Vatican newspaper; the interview was published April 24 by Vatican News.         Asked if a lack of women involved in priestly formation programs is to blame for the discomfort women and priests can experience in each other's company, the cardinal said, "the problem is probably deeper" than that and begins with how women are treated in one's family.        "There is awkwardness because there is fear — more on the part of the man toward the woman than the woman toward the man," he said.         "We must radically change" how priests interact with women, the cardinal said, which is why "during formation it is important that there is contact, discussion, exchanges" with women.          Having women on seminary formation teams as professors and counselors, he said, also "would help a candidate interact with women in a natural way, including in facing the challenge represented by the presence of women, attraction to a woman."         Isolating future priests from women is never a good idea, he said, and is no preparation for them entering ministry.          Asked whether he agreed with the notion that if women had been involved in seminary formation long ago, it could have helped prevent the sexual abuse scandal, the cardinal said, "there certainly is some truth in that because man is an affective being. If interaction between the sexes is missing, there is a risk of developing compensations," which can "express themselves the exercise of power or in closed relationships, a closure that becomes manipulation and control ... and which can give rise to the abuse of conscience and sexual abuse."          "I think that for a priest, learning to relate to women in the environment of formation is a humanizing factor that promotes equilibrium in the man's personality and affectivity," the cardinal said....(more).   Photo:Cardinal Marc Ouellet prefect of the Congregation for Bishops Vatican News NS Presence Philippe Vaillancourt NCR 20200424
How social distancing may change the way we do church
Extract from Opinion Piece, Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 22 April 2020
When you think about the mechanics of Sunday Eucharist, it's difficult to imagine a system better designed to spread contagion. Parishioners of all ages are crowded into a confined space, they hug or shake hands, they receive bread on the tongue or in the hand from a minister whose hands are not gloved, they share a cup of wine and they crowd together at the church entrance before and after Mass.         But just as everyone wants to get America back to work, pastors want to reopen churches to their congregations as soon as possible. But public health experts tell us that the country is not ready.       Before people can safely congregate in churches, movie theaters, bars, sports events and other crowded places, Americans will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Even the most optimistic guesses put a vaccine 12 to 18 months away.       Some believe that the country could be gradually reopened if it had a rigorous program of testing, contact tracing followed by isolating those who are sick and quarantining those who have been in contact with the sick.     Again, we are nowhere near having that in place. Even if we were, meeting in large crowds would still be discouraged until a vaccine is available.      Opening churches before a vaccine is available will be very risky, especially for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.           Risky, but possible? Could churches reopen while practicing social distancing during the time prior to a vaccine? It is possible, but it would be a logistical nightmare with rules that would have to be enforced with absolute rigor.....(more).    Photo: St Peters Church empty  Pope Francis AP Andreas Solaro Pool Photo NCR 20200423
Clericalism and the Pandemic
Extract frim  Fr. Jim Sabak, OFM, Pray Tell (U.S.), 18 April 2020 
As any diocesan director of worship knows, there has been much to navigate during this distorting period in human history. At the center of concerns lay the issue of how to deal with the celebration and administration of the sacraments.          Yet, in my experience, the greatest difficulties lay not in the necessity of adapting to new norms and restrictions, but rather in the unanticipated reactions from clergy to the suggested adaptations. Little did I realize what sort of maelstrom would erupt as we put into place ideas and recommendations precipitated by the need for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.       The three sacramental areas most in need of attention were, of course, the celebration of the Eucharist, and the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. If the virus had not materialized during Lent, Penance might have been less a point of controversy. So with the approval of the bishop, I prepared a memo offering some guidance on how to approach these sacraments given the seriousness of this world-wide pandemic..........(more)
"Inaccurate And Unfair Media Commentary On The High Court Decision On The Pell Case.
Extract of Statement from  News & Media, Judicial Conference of Australia, 16 April 2020
The President of the Australian association of judges and magistrates, Justice Judith Kelly, has responded to, what she called, “the flood of emotion and tsunami of articles following the High Court decision in the Pell case”. Justice Kelly said that “Some of the commentary directed at the Victorian Court of Appeal has been inaccurate and grossly unfair”.                Justice Kelly, the President of the Judicial Conference of Australia, has issued the following statement, which was published in the online edition of The Australian.               “There will be those who want to take comfort from the fact that the cathedral allegations passed through three courts.          But the manner in which they were excoriated by the High Court suggests that this was a function of a triumph of luck – and maybe even prejudice – rather than necessarily evidence of any weight of facts.”         Wrong on all counts.                         The High Court did not excoriate anyone: neither the jury who found Pell guilty, nor the judges on the Victorian Court of Appeal who dismissed his appeal against that conviction. The High Court analysed the evidence and the applicable legal principles, found that on the whole of the evidence a jury, acting rationally, ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to Cardinal Pell’s guilt and, with appropriate courtesy, allowed the appeal.             The remark “and maybe even prejudice” is grossly unfair, especially in the context in which it appears. There is nothing, anywhere, in the High Court’s decision which could ground an apprehension that the Court of Appeal acted out of prejudice or did anything other than conscientiously apply the law to the facts in accordance with their oath of office. The High Court found that analysis to be mistaken. It did not hint, even obliquely, that the majority judges on the court may have been motivated by prejudice or any other improper motive or cast any doubt whatsoever on the honesty or integrity of the Appeal Court judges.....(full statement HERE)
What will we do when we finally get back to our parishes?
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Columban e-Bulletin Vol 13. No.3. April 15 2020
I don’t think anyone really knows, but I suspect it will not be business as usual. For many it will be a joy to return to the Masses they have missed so much, for others it may be a little more complicated.    Our lives have been turned upside down and we will have had months to think with only streamed Masses to accompany us. There is much to rethink and rebuild. There will be questions that we will only slowly come to appreciate.        That is why I believe that it is fortunate that the first session of the Plenary Council has been delayed. We will need time to come to grips with our new reality.               Two issues which we will need to consider are the role of priests and the practice of liturgy. One thing this period of isolation has taught us is that historically we have been a too priest-centred church and this has left us unprepared for our present reality. Even our solutions are priest-centred. We stream Masses. These can be beautiful, encouraging and nourishing but they highlight a number of weaknesses in our Catholic practice.           The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian lives but for many, it is their only way to encounter God. We have no second or third strings to our bows and lay people feel a little lost.       They were not trained to lead worship either in their parishes or at home with their families.         In a Church where, for most people, liturgy is not really liturgy unless they receive the Eucharist; it will require a lot of patience and catechesis to train people to share the scriptures, to appreciate the Divine Office, to practice Lectio Divina and to develop family celebrations of the Word of God that will sustain them in times like these.      Perhaps even today, besides streaming Masses we should also trust our people’s sensus fidei [instinct for God] and encourage them to find creative ways to pray.......(read the full article HERE)
With US collection plates drying up, parishes race to SBA loans to avert layoffs
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter. 15 April 2020
Days before Easter Sunday, the worries for Fr. James Olson ranged from the momentous to the mundane.       At one end, he grappled with the spiritual loss of a Holy Week in isolation, with empty pews in the four churches he pastors in northeast Philadelphia. At the other, he regretted not getting his hair cut before barbershops and other businesses shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.            But just behind the spiritual loss was the state of the parish finances.       Like many churches, the Easter collection is a major source of funding for St. John Paul II Parish, a cluster of four churches in the working-class neighborhood of Olde Richmond. The Easter collection from Sunday was down 75% from last year.      Collections overall have declined to just a fraction of typical giving in the weeks since stay-at-home orders have prohibited public liturgies, and many parents have been laid off or furloughed.      The tight financial situation led Olson the day before Holy Thursday to file a loan application for the parish to tap into the $349 billion program Congress established to help small businesses survive a period of unprecedented economic uncertainty. "Pretty much as important as oxygen," the priest said of the federal financial assistance.       "We absolutely, positively need it," Olson said. "Our collections right now are at about 10% of normal. And normally we just scrape by."       Parishes and Catholic organizations have been among the hundreds of thousands of small businesses and nonprofits that have rushed to the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program.      The emergency fund is one of the centerpieces of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief package passed by Congress last month to help the country withstand the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus outbreak, as millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in less than a month.....(more).   Photo: Empty Church National Catholic Reporter Catholic Extension, CNS 20200415

Extract from Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi ('to the city [of Rome] and to the world' - a papal address and apostolic blessing given by the pope on certain solemn occasions), 15 April 2020

Dear Brothers and sisters, Happy Easter...............In these weeks, the lives of millions of people have suddenly changed. For many, remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company.    For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk and about other consequences of the current crisis.   I encourage political leaders to work actively for the common good, to provide the means and resources needed to enable everyone to lead a dignified life and, when circumstances allow, to assist them in resuming their normal daily activities.                         This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless. May these, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world, not be abandoned.     Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities (all the more difficult to find now that many businesses are closed) such as medicine and especially the possibility of adequate health care.     In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens, and may all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations.                       This is not a time for self-centredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons. Among the many areas of the world affected by the coronavirus, I think in a special way of Europe.    After the Second World War, this continent was able to rise again, thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity that enabled it to overcome the rivalries of the past. It is more urgent than ever, especially in the present circumstances, that these rivalries do not regain force, but that all recognize themselves as part of a single family and support one another.    The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world. Let us not lose the opportunity to give further proof of solidarity, also by turning to innovative solutions. The only alternative is the selfishness of particular interests and the temptation of a return to the past, at the risk of severely damaging the peaceful coexistence and development of future generations.               This is not a time for division................(full version here)

The limits of a pontificate (Part I)
Massimo Faggioli dissects the theological and institutional limits of Francis' pontificate
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal, La Croux International, 14 April 2020
This is Part I of a two-part essay. For the second part of the essay, click here.
There is a serious risk that Pope Francis is losing the support of the people who want to see him succeed and keep the Church from falling into the hands of those who have set their face against change.
This is an important moment, because the 83-year-old is showing few signs that he understands that many of the strongest believers in his efforts at Church reform are becoming disillusioned....(source)
A tale of two Pope Francises
Extract from Opinion Piece, Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter, 14 April 2020
For those of us seeking hope in our world and in our church, last week was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. It was a tale of two Pope Francises.         One Francis was the pope of the pandemic, inspiring hope in word and action. Whether his offerings were small and delightful, like his Skype chats, or grand and powerful, like his standing alone on a stage in a torch-lit, St. Peter's Square leading the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, his presence touched and comforted millions.       Francis was similarly moving in an interview in Commonweal magazine last week, describing how he is praying more than usual and reflecting on the ways he can be closer to the people of God. He shared his hope that we will embrace the pandemic as a moment of metanoia that will help us "see the poor" and "contemplate the natural world," moving ahead into a global economy that is more human.       He discussed the need for the church to not be "closed off in institutions" but to find "the freedom of the Spirit" and take risks in ministry:           We have to learn to live in a church that exists in the tension between harmony and disorder provoked by the Holy Spirit. If you ask me which book of theology can best help you understand this, it would be the Acts of the Apostles. There you will see how the Holy Spirit deinstitutionalizes what is no longer of use, and institutionalizes the future of the church. That is the church that needs to come out of the crisis.              "I'm living this as a time of great uncertainty," he also told the magazine. "It's a time for inventing, for creativity."             But creativity, apparently, has its limits. And that's where the other Pope Francis stepped in.        Last Tuesday, the pontiff announced a new commission to study the ordination of women to the diaconate. This is the second commission in four years to take up the question, and it's made up of all new members.      The first commission, formed by Francis in 2016 in response to an inquiry from women religious at their International Union of Superiors General (UISG) meeting, was tasked with studying whether women served as deacons in the early church.     That commission, the pope has implied, ended in a hung jury. They issued a report to the pope, which he then handed over the UISG in 2019. Since then, the document has remained hidden away like one of the secrets of Fatima.      This new commission seems poised to find consensus — that women are not entitled to serve as deacons. The brief sketches of the members offered by NCR's Joshua McElwee and Crux's John Allen suggest that few of them have done academic work on the history of deacons and that none of them have expressed the belief that women ever served in a diaconate that was equal to men in the early church......(more).    Photo: Pope Francis Easter Mass St Peter's April 12 CNS Vatican Media National Catholic Reporter 20200413
It is not possible to divorce George Pell's acquittal from the Catholic church's history of child abuse
The bishops should end their obsession with Pell and take up their moral responsibility to victims
Extract from Francis Sullivan, The Guardian, 9 April 2020
Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal was legally the correct decision. His relief and that of his family and many supporters will be palpable. He – not the Catholic church – was on trial and the high court has seen fit to ensure justice was served.          But it is not possible to divorce the acquittal from the broader context of the Catholic church’s history of child sexual abuse.         With the matter concluded the Catholic bishops should end their obsession with Pell and take up their moral responsibility to the victims of church perpetrators and those who obfuscated and concealed on their behalf.                 Context is everything and perspective even more so. The Catholic church has a shameful and confronting history of the sexual abuse of children. The royal commission made that clear.                 Appeal judges are reluctant to overturn jury verdicts. So why did they do it for George Pell?           By 2017 nearly 5,000 people had made allegations of abuse against church personnel. The largest number for any single institution. Sadly, those numbers have likely grown by now.           Often the compensation they received was a pittance. The situation has only improved because of the public scrutiny. Often the commission heard that victims were not believed by the church, rather they were interrogated by lawyers and subjected to psychiatric assessments to justify their claims.         Sexual assault crimes on children usually occur in secret. There are rarely any witnesses. This leads to their claims being doubted as one word is pitted against another. For decades victims of the Catholic church have chosen to settle outside the courts knowing that the alternative was virtually useless.                   Until the royal commission those settlements were shrouded by confidentiality clauses designed to conceal the details of the abuse, the abuser and the money exchanged. Little wonder there is a general perception the church is more concerned with its image than the welfare of the victim.              As the stories mounted and the details of abuse and its concealment became public the disillusion, mistrust and anger within the Catholic community escalated. The rhetoric of church leaders about their concern for victims was hollow and patronising.           The pronouncements that the church was committed to child welfare and victim support were too often found wanting. There was extraordinary evidence that some church authorities expended far more money defending abusers than compensating their victims.          It was the hypocrisy of the way bishops and church leaders dealt with abuse cases that eroded its standing, not a prying media or an aggressive legal fraternity. Yet, even now there are elements within the church that see public inquires, the media reportage and the legal actions as an attack on the church.         They close ranks, become defensive and hypersensitive. They shy from accepted levels of accountability and transparency and they take cover behind an antiquated view that somehow the institution is exempt from contemporary standards......(more).
Cardinal Pell’s Acquittal Was as Opaque as His Sexual Abuse Trial
Extracts from By Damien Cave and Livia Albeck-Ripka. New York Times. 8 April 2020 AEST
SYDNEY, Australia — Cardinal George Pell walked out of prison on Tuesday after Australia’s highest court reversed his 2018 conviction for molesting two choirboys decades earlier — liberating the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to ever face trial over child sexual abuse.       The world may never be able to assess whether the court’s reasoning was sound.       The panel of seven judges ruled that the jury lacked sufficient doubt about the accusations against Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Melbourne and treasurer for the Vatican. Jurors, the court argued, ignored “compounding improbabilities” caused by conflicting accounts from the cardinal’s main accuser and other witnesses.         But no one outside the court case can test that comparison. The central evidence — the testimony of the main accuser, on which the case “was wholly dependent,” the judges wrote — has never been released, not in video, audio nor even redacted transcripts.       It is just one glaring example of the secrecy and lack of accountability that have shaped the Pell prosecution from the beginning. No criminal trial in Australia’s recent history has been as high-profile nor as hard to follow and scrutinize...........Legal experts said that the case made clear just how much power judges in Australia have to suppress public oversight and overrule jury verdicts, raising questions about whether the system adequately values citizen participation. At every stage, critics argue, Australia’s courts exhibited a penchant for secrecy and insular decision-making that resembled the Catholic Church’s flawed and damaging response to sexual abuse within its ranks.........“There are a lot of people saying Pell was a scapegoat for the tragedy of this whole thing,” said  Peter Wilkinson, a former Catholic priest and researcher in Melbourne. “That’s a reasonable argument. People were angry, extremely angry, and the allegations against George Pell gave then a human target for their anger.”             A statement from the Vatican said Pope Francis “welcomes the High Court’s unanimous decision,” adding that he “has always expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority.” He offered his morning Mass on Tuesday for those who suffer from unjust sentences.         But for many of those who have been living with the legacy of abuse in the church, the High Court’s decision is a blow to their faith in a justice system they had just started to trust...............But without the testimony of the accuser for comparison, it’s difficult to assess what led the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.   Even some victims and their representatives said on Tuesday that they were beginning to question whether justice required completely obscuring the complainant’s testimony....(full report).  Photo: James Ross EPA via Shutterstock NYT 20200407 .
Letter to the Laity, Religious and Clergy of the Archdiocese of Melbourne from Most Rev Peter A Comensoli Archbishop of Melbourne.
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Tuesday 7 April 2020
 Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
 This week, Holy Week, we have entered into the journey with Jesus towards his passion, death and resurrection. As disciples of Jesus Christ we make this journey with him to the foot of his Cross. His is the suffering, yet we accept our own part in it. This journey with Jesus can be confronting.                   Our faith community in Melbourne over these past two years has been caught up in another hard and difficult journey as we have followed the court proceedings involving Cardinal George Pell and the person identified through the Courts as ‘J’.      It has been an intense and painful time for so many, especially all those personally involved in this case. But most particularly, this has been a hard road for all those whose wounds of abuse have been re-opened and laid bare– our relatives, friends and fellow travellers. At the heart of this trial and appeal process have been the people involved.                    I want to firstly acknowledge ’J’, who brought forward his story of abuse for examination in the courts of law. This is a right we value and honour.                   I also acknowledge Cardinal Pell who has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout.   Rightly, he has been afforded the full possibilities of the judicial system. This decision means the Cardinal has been wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and he is now free to live his life peaceably within the community.                  As a Christian disciple, and taking my lead from the Gospel (Matthew 25.31-46), I have striven to uphold the dignity of ‘J’ and Cardinal Pell throughout this time, both in my private thoughts and public statements.                            The sole matter for examination in this case was whether Cardinal Pell committed certain despicable crimes, of which he has now been acquitted, and not about the broader question of how Church authorities have dealt with sexual abuse. Yet, I fully appreciate that people have seen in this case another emblematic story of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest.....(more)
Pell has found justice but his remaining days won’t be peaceful
Extract from Opinion Piece, Barney Zwartz, Contributor, The Age, 7 April 2020
Only two living people in the world really can be certain of what happened in the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on that fateful day in 1996. I’ve met plenty who are disturbingly convinced that Cardinal George Pell did or did not assault two choirboys, but that is often the nature of sexual abuse cases: only the accuser and the defendant really know.        The High Court has overturned the conviction by the County Court jury, upheld by the Victorian Court of Appeal, and has freed Pell. Reassuringly, the Australian legal system has operated throughout as it should.                     Pell walks free, yet some many battles may lie ahead.           No fair-minded person would want Pell in jail if he didn’t commit the crime — or, as the court found, there is reasonable doubt. But it is hard to claim he has faced an injustice, at least in the technical sense that he was granted every opportunity the legal system provides, including some of the finest barristers and appeals right up to the High Court — a privilege not granted to many.          Pell’s travails have unfolded before several different audiences, who have reacted differently.             The various views, polarised from the start of these cases, have scarcely shifted. Public opinion in the wider community settled firmly against Pell after his testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he blamed the demented and the dead and denied any responsibility.       Nevertheless, he has had prominent defenders ranging from Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher to Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt.               Bolt lashed the ABC on Monday for the “suspicious timing” of the third Revelation documentary that covered allegations against Pell, aired last Thursday. But that program was scheduled well before the High Court announced the same day that it would give its ruling today, so any conspiracy – if it exists outside Bolt’s mind – must include the High Court. Bolt needs to tread warily there.             Within the pews of the Catholic Church, people were more divided. Many conservative Catholics — especially the immigrants who form a large proportion of most churches today — felt such a crime was unthinkable, the evidence was impossible, and that Pell was a scapegoat for public fury at clergy sexual abuse in general and church cover-ups. They felt besieged and bunkered down. Alongside Pell, they are big winners today.         For a second group of Catholics, Pell’s conviction was the last straw......(more) 
First assembly of Plenary Council postponed
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Media Blog, Monday 6 April 2020
In response to the dramatic changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bishops of Australia have made the “difficult, but necessary” decision to postpone the first assembly of the Plenary Council.            Changes in the ways people live, work and communicate due to the pandemic led the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council to consult with the advisory and planning teams, as well as the wider Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.         The decision was made to postpone the assembly scheduled for October this year.        Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said in a time of such upheaval, including severe restrictions on travel and group meetings, the postponement was unavoidable.        “Even though it is possible Australia may have moved through the worst of this health crisis by October, our capacity to adequately continue the process of discernment and formation – for everyone in the Church and in particular for the delegates – is severely compromised,” he said.       Archbishop Costelloe said the Church’s focus at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, is ensuring people continue to be cared for pastorally, spiritually and emotionally during the COVID-19 pandemic.       The bishops will consider proposals for an alternative timeline for the Council’s two assemblies at their biannual meeting in May.      “The bishops remain committed to the Plenary Council journey and affirm that two assemblies will take place. This allows for the maturation of the discussions and discernment of the first assembly to develop with clarity and lead into the second gathering,” Archbishop Costelloe said.       “The timing, the order and the location of the two assemblies will need to be re-examined, but it is hoped that having one assembly in Adelaide and the other in Sydney might still be possible.”....(more)
On this particular Palm Sunday, 5 April 2020, a quiet opportunity for deep reflection on Faith and Church:

Under lockdown, has the whole world become a monastery?
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux,  4 Apr 4, 2020
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part interview with Dominican Father Paul Murray. Part one can be found here.

ROME - Dominican Father Paul Murray is one of English-language Catholicism’s most prominent contemporary theologians and poets. Born in Northern Ireland in 1947, he joined the Irish Dominican Province in 1966 and was ordained in 1973.              Murray has published five collections of poetry, including Scars: Essays, Poems, and Meditations on Affliction, and most recently, Stones and Stars in 2013, in addition to numerous books and essays on theology. He teaches the literature of the mystical tradition at Rome’s Dominican-run University of St. Thomas Aquinas, universally known as the “Angelicum.”              Crux recently reached out to Murray via email to talk about the spiritual significance and fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The following are Murray’s responses.                Crux: For people today who are feeling deprived not only of the immediate grace of the Eucharist, but also of contact with friends and family and with fellow workers, is there any particular reading you would recommend?                  Murray: Yes, there is one text which comes to mind, a remarkable prose-poem by the Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Finding himself, on one occasion, out in China’s Ordos Desert where he was unable to celebrate Mass, Father Pierre sat down and composed a work entitled The Mass on the World. It contains radiant lines such as the following: 

Since once again, Lord, I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar … I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it I will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world … I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity, those who surround me and support me though I do not know them … I know we cannot forestall, still less dictate to you, even the smallest of your actions; from you alone comes all initiative - and this applies in the first place to my prayer … Do you now, therefore, speaking through my lips, pronounce over this earthly travail your twofold efficacious word … Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day, say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again the commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my blood.

De Chardin may or may not be a great scientist or a great theologian but he was, on the evidence of this meditation alone, a remarkable poet. Even Jacques Maritain, who was passionately opposed to the Teilhardian vision, could speak of The Mass on the World as “the great text of Teilhard.”             Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, referring in July 2009 to St Paul’s vision of the world itself becoming a living worship, remarked: “This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host. Let us pray to the Lord to help us [all the baptized] to become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the world, in adoration of God, beginning with ourselves.”                       How does forced solitude affect the spiritual life? For a tradition such as Catholicism that places so much emphasis on community, what might the long-term fall out of all this be?....(more).  Photo: St Peter's Basilica under COVID-19 restrictions, Andrew Medichini, AP, Crux
Plenary Council 2020:
Final Report for Phase I: Listening and Dialogue - A Final Report to the Archdiocese of Melbourne 4 April 2020
Yesterday the National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR) published the last of its 28 Diocesan Reports – the 596-page report on the 2440 Written Submissions to the Plenary Council from 1649 individuals and 791 groups living in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.  The report estimates that 58,031 people were represented through the 791 groups and that  the total number of respondents from the diocese was 59,680. The findings in this report are a summary of submissions that were received from the Archdiocese of Melbourne in  Phase  One  of  the  Plenary  Council  process  called  ‘Listening  and  Dialogue’. The report is available from the Plenary Council website  Here.      Image:Final Report for 2020 Plenary Phase I: Listening and Dialogue. A Report to the Archdiocese of Melbourne 20200403
Joanne McCarthy resigns from journalism
Joanne McCarthy steps out of the newsroom after a 40-year career as one of Australia's premier journalists
Extract from Enda, Eastwood, Main Forum, Catholica, Saturday 4 April 2020
Ref: Newcastle Herald HERE
•Joanne McCarthy:
"A bishop's stupid comments a few weeks ago set in train a series of events that ended with a resignation. There will always be stupid bishops until Catholics rise up and reclaim their church. There will always be stupid politicians willing to back churches because it's easy and there's votes in it. There's only so much stupid, though, that I can take.   After 14 years of writing about the Catholic Church's crimes, I'm going to leave stupid to the people who can't seem to see it.                  My advice to Catholics trying to reclaim their church?    Note how quickly and easily bishops, the Pope and the Vatican were able to dispense with long-held traditions and rites in the face of a pandemic, despite their martyred arguments against removing traditions and rites that allowed church men to rape children on an industrial scale. Celibacy and confession are two that come to mind.    And why not try women priests - because haven't the blokes in frocks done such a good job?"....(source)
The End is Nigh (Main Forum) a comment posted on Catholica April 4, 2020.
Extract from James, Stanwell Park, Saturday, 4 April 2020
...... If Pell's appeal is successful, survivors of child sexual abuse, or indeed of any sexual assault, mainly women, may well see it as a discouragement to go to the police or be involved in a prosecution. If it goes the other way, and the appeal is not successful, those on the wrong side of an accusation, mainly men, may see it as a sign that it is impossible to defend any kind of accusation of sexual assault.               While the High Court might lay down some new rules relating to video evidence and such things, there is unlikely to be any change of principle.    One person's evidence against another in any situation is always difficult whether you are talking about a criminal or civil case. In the old days, much stress was laid by courts on "the demeanour of a witness", in other words, the judge or jury became a human lie detector. In more recent years, it has been accepted through various experiments, that demeanour is not such a reliable test.     I remember an old movie called Witness for the Prosecution with Charles Laughton where the villain of the piece was a consummate liar and a very good actor. If you want a real life version of this, I have heard magistrates praise Roger Rogerson, now in jail for murder, as being a wonderful witness.      Now, in saying this, I am not making any aspersions on the witness in the Pell case. But Pell's lawyers have argued that even where a witness is totally convincing, there may be other evidence that might raise a reasonable doubt. It doesn't mean he was lying, but it does mean that human memory is a very fragile thing. That too cuts both ways.     It will be interesting to see how the High Court deals with this dilemma.            However, the point I was making was not about the criminal law, but the civil law of trespass, (which includes any kind of assault) and which entitles a victim of an assault for damages. That does not have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, but on the balance of probabilities.......(more)
Cardinal Pell to learn his fate on Tuesday
The High Court will hand down its judgment on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal next Tuesday in what will be his last chance of freedom.
Extract from CathNews, John Ferguson, The Australian, 3 April 2020
The court announced yesterday via Twitter that the judgment would be delivered in Brisbane, with several scenarios possible including that he walks free from Victoria’s Barwon Prison soon after 10am.
      Cardinal Pell, 78, has not spoken publicly since he was charged in 2017 with sexually assaulting two choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.         The charges have been stridently contested by the Cardinal’s legal team, which has included two of Australia’s most respected barristers — Bret Walker SC and Robert Richter QC.         There are several options that could flow from the judgment, including potential early release, or even being referred back to the Victorian Court of Appeal.       However, the court has not yet declared whether it has even accepted the appeal, argument for which was heard last month before the full bench.      Cardinal Pell was convicted in 2019 of five sex abuse charges against the two 13-year-old choirboys, leading to a six-year jail term. He has maintained his innocence, saying he did not abuse the children in St Patrick’s Cathedral, and is said to have been shocked that the matters progressed past the County Court trials in Melbourne.       The full bench was asked last month to acquit Cardinal Pell of five charges of molesting the two 13-year-olds in 1996 and 1997 while Archbishop of Melbourne. Experts have predicted a possible acquittal as Mr Walker effectively asked the full bench to free his client....(more)  Photo: Pell CNS HamesRoss EPA, CathNews 20200403
Coronavirus and a Church of paradoxes
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 1 April 2020
Catholicism is full of paradoxes. The pope alone in St. Peter's Square, praying in front of a basilica that was built, in part, with the dirty money of indulgences; and yet here he is offering an indulgence to the people through his Urbi et Orbi blessing.      As I wrote to my students, it's the same Church of the sex abuse crisis that we are studying in our course. Francis is evidently aware of the contradictions and paradoxes, as we have seen in the last seven years.       It is particularly evident in his way of not letting the Roman Curia define his ministry. And we shall see what sort of impact the pandemic and the recession will have on his plans to reform the Curia.       The contrast between Francis and the ecclesiastical status quo is not just a paradox. It is also a real and problematic contradiction.       For one thing, it strongly contradicts the ongoing pandemic-induced revanche of liturgical traditionalism, with phenomena of clerical solipsism sometimes accompanied by the re-emergence of semi-magical rituals for local media consumption......(source).   Photo: Pope Francis prayer deserted St Peter's Square 27 March 2020  AFP
As coronavirus keeps parishioners homebound, Christian clergy debate online Communion
Extract from Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 30 March 2020
As Christian churches cancel in-person services to avoid contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, many have rushed to embrace "virtual" Communion: Some celebrate via livestream; others encourage parishioners to bring their own bread to Zoom videoconference meetings; and at least one United Church of Christ minister is upping the frequency of his online Communion because "our people need normalcy."          But with churchgoers still holed up in their homes to avoid infection for weeks and even months to come, Christian leaders are starting to ask: Is Communion appropriate for cyberspace?        Clergy have expressed a variety of opinions on the topic in recent weeks, sparking debates — including among leaders within the same tradition.       Some challenge whether it should (or can) occur at all. For traditions such as Catholicism, where physically engaging with the Eucharistic bread and wine has long been a core part of the faith, parishioners have mostly taken to watching livestreams of priests celebrating Mass alone with the expectation of eventually returning to church to participate in the sacrament.      In the meantime, the Archdiocese of New York is encouraging believers to recite a prayer as an act of "spiritual communion," which leaders defined as "an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embrace him at a time or in circumstances when one cannot receive Him in sacramental Communion."     Similarly, on March 20, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued guidelines discouraging online Communion, suggesting instead that parishioners "fast" from the practice during the pandemic....(more)    Photo: Eucharist Robert Cheaib Creative Commons NCR 20200330
Number of consecrated men and women decline, Vatican statistics show
But number of baptized Catholics increases by 6 percent between 2013 and 2018, reaching 1.33 billion
Limited extract from subscription journal La Croix International staff (with Catholic News Service)
Vatican City 27 March 27, 2020
The decrease in the number of religious men and women is "worrying," according to the Vatican statistics office.       While the number of religious brothers in Africa and Asia continues to increase, the number of religious brothers worldwide experienced an 8 percent drop between 2013 and 2018.      During the same period, the number of women religious fell 7.5 percent globally, the Vatican Central Office for Church Statistics reported.       The figures are presented in the "Annuario Pontificio 2020," the Vatican yearbook. The statistics are based on figures valid as of Dec. 31, 2018.       The number of baptized Catholics increased by 6 percent between 2013 and 2018, reaching 1.33 billion or almost 18 percent of the global population, the statistics office reported March 25.       The region with the highest proportion of Catholics, the yearbook reported, is in North and South America with "63.7 Catholics per 100 inhabitants," followed by Europe with 39.7 Catholics, Oceania with 26.3 and Africa with 19.4 Catholics for every 100 inhabitants.        Asia has the lowest percentage of Catholics in the general population, making up 3.3 Catholics for every 100 inhabitants due to "the great spread of non-Christian denominations in the continent."        The number of bishops of the world continued to increase in 2018, reaching 5,337 worldwide compared to 5,173 in 2013.       The report also stated that while the total number of priests - diocesan and religious order - around the world increased slightly - by 0.3 percent in the 2013-2018 period - the numbers "appear rather disappointing overall."             Europe, it said, showed a decrease of more than 7 percent in 2018 alone, while the decline in Oceania was a little over 1 percent. The decline in both continents account for the low numbers worldwide.        However, the 14.3 percent increase of priests in Africa and 11 percent in Asia over 2013-2018 "is quite comforting," while numbers in North and South America "remain stationary," the report said.        The yearbook also said that the number of permanent deacons is "rapidly evolving," noting a significant increase from 43,195 in 2013 to 47,504 in 2018.....(more)
Lack of resources, a priest shortage and the merging of dioceses in France
Catholic bishops in France agonize over best way to structure the Church for mission
Limited extract frpm Claire Lesegretain, subscriptional journal La Croix International, 27 March 2020
Retired Archbishop Jean Charles Descubes of Rouen is opposed to the reduction in the number of dioceses.
Catholics in rural France -- especially bishops, priests and religious — bristle every time there's talk about reducing the number of dioceses in the country.        "That's the view from Paris!" they say with annoyance.        And, yet, many wonder if 100 dioceses aren't a bit too many, given the serious priest shortage. Couldn't some of these places be merged, those that are poor in terms of human and financial resources?     "Out of the question," retorts a priest from a "small" diocese in southwest France.     "I am against it," says Jean-Charles Descubes, Archbishop-emeritus of Rouen.          He recalls when the bishop of Le Havre reached retirement age in 2011. There was talk that the diocese, which had been created in 1974, would be suppressed and reattached to the Archdiocese of Rouen.....(more)
Coronavirus indulgences evoke Francis' 'ridiculously-pardoning' church
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, NCR Online, 26 March 2020
Rome — Announcement of the Vatican's offering of new plenary indulgences to those around the world affected by the coronavirus may have left some Catholics asking, "We still do that?"        The answer is yes. And theologians say the move, made in a March 20 decree from the apostolic penitentiary, shows a seemingly unprecedented level of pastoral care for those who suffer from the virus — especially those who may die in isolation without being able to receive final rites.      Jesuit Fr. James Corkery, an Irish theologian at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said the decree fits with Pope Francis' vision for a "merciful, welcoming, 'ridiculously-pardoning' church."       "He wants people to be 'received back,' to be forgiven, above all to be loved," said Corkery, who has written extensively on the church after the Second Vatican Council.      In Catholic teaching, an indulgence is the remission of the eventual punishment due for sins that have been confessed and forgiven. A plenary indulgence, which can only be granted in various ways outlined by the Vatican, involves the remission of all of a person's eventual punishment.      The penitentiary's new decree offers special plenary indulgences to any Catholic affected by the virus, to health care workers and their families, to those who pray for the end of the epidemic, and to those who die without access to the sacraments.      For those in the first three categories, the indulgence can be obtained if the person is sorry for their sins and prayerfully watches a celebration of the Mass, a recitation of the rosary, a practice of the Via Crucis, or some other devotion.    For persons near death from the virus and unable to receive the sacraments because of isolation measures, the decree says they can obtain the indulgence "at the point of death, as long as they have recited some prayers during their life."     Jeremy Wilkins, a theologian at Boston College, said he sees "something new" in the offering to those who are dying.       "The conditions there are waived. It says ... the church fulfills the conditions for you," said the theologian. "That's quite amazing."       "It really is tender," said Wilkins, who has focused his work in the areas of Christology and grace. "I think the church very tenderly wants to say, 'Be sorry for your sins, and know that you're not alone, and it will be OK.' "Jesuit Fr. Peter Folan, a theologian at Georgetown University, said he found the decree's treatment of the dying "especially moving."          "There's just a deep theology behind that, and just a deep understanding of who God is, that God doesn't ever turn God's gaze away from anybody, especially those at that most important event of their life, which is our death," said Folan.      Both Wilkins and Folan said that it appeared that the penitentiary had two primary objectives in offering the new indulgences: to show mercy to Catholics facing a severe time of trial, and to encourage them to think of their suffering in relation to that endured by Christ, and all the saints who have come before us.....(more)   Photo:Pope Francis confession. NCR Online 20200326
Women petition Cardinal Gracias for more decision-making roles
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, 10 March NCVR Online, Republished 26 March
About 150 Catholic women in India have delivered a petition to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, asking that he take concrete steps to better include women in decision-making roles in the global church.           The women are partly responding to a February NCR interview with Gracias, in which the cardinal acknowledged a bias among the members of the Catholic Church's all-male hierarchy against giving women more leadership roles. In that interview, he also said he and his peers must "shed this prejudice."        The three-page memorandum praises Gracias' words in the interview, but asks for "changes in the policies, practices and structures of the Church so that women can participate fully in … leadership."      Gracias is the archbishop of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and one of six members of Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals.      The petition was partly drafted* by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a medical doctor and scientist who has served as a consultor to the bishops' conference and helped draft the organization's gender policy.       Some of the strongest language in the petition refers to that policy, passed in 2010 and the first of its kind in the global church. The policy said the Indian church "rejects all types of discrimination against women as being contrary to God’s intent and purpose," according to the memo.       "Women continue to be discriminated against by keeping them out of decision-making bodies of the Church, which are controlled by clerics," states the memo. "Women have no say in the policy making that shapes the liturgy, worship, theology and practices of the church, including those that affect their own lives."       In the February NCR interview at the Vatican, Gracias said he had become a "convert" to the cause of women seeking more opportunities for responsi  the February 2019 Vatican summit of bishops' conference presidents in Rome on clergy sexual abuse, where several women spoke.          "Women in India have been asking for places at the decision-making table since the early 1980s," she said. "It seems almost as if he has not been listening to us." ....(More)   Photo:  IndianWomen c Astrid Lobo Gajiwala CWC NCR Online 20200310 
Melbourne’s Plenary Council delegates announced
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Communications Office, 23 March 2020
Today, more than 250 people have been called to attend the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, which will be held over two sessions.       The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has announced the names of four delegates to the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, to attend both the assembly in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021).        The chosen delegates for Melbourne are Nimmi Candappa, Jonathan Antony, Vivian Alamo, and Michelle Goh RSM.         Archbishop Peter A Comensoli offered his congratulations to the four. ‘I have been humbled by the willingness and prayerful discernment expressed by so many in our community as we prepare for the Plenary Council.’          The role of the delegates is ‘not simply to represent particular causes, groups or issues,’ the Archbishop reminded those chosen, ‘but to act as delegates in service to the Gospel mission.....(more)

A Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Victoria
Wednesday 18 March 2020

Prayerful greetings to the people of God across Victoria,

This morning, the Prime Minister announced that non-essential indoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people, and outdoor events of more than 500 people will be disallowed, effective today. Given the seriousness of COVID-19, we support this measure as being responsible and sensible, and we encourage everyone to follow public safety guidelines respectfully.

The Bishops of the Province of Victoria have given this prayerful and considered reflection, and have determined the following actions:

• Immediate suspension of public liturgies, celebrations of the Mass, until further notice.
• All other gatherings are suspended. For clarification of any concerns, please contact your local diocesan authority.

We are very aware that this restriction will be particularly difficult for families who are planning liturgies such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. At this time, so long as appropriate precautions are able to be put in place (such as distancing between participants), it may be possible for these liturgies to proceed with a carefully limited congregation. Deferring these liturgies may also be an option that is offered to families.

In light of this, all Catholics in Victoria are dispensed from their Sunday obligation until further notice (canon 1248). We encourage you to continue active participation in the life of the Church, through activities such as time in personal and family prayer, reflecting on the Scriptures, making a spiritual communion, or participating in a Mass online ( or or ........Full letter HERE


Australian Catholic Plenary Council delegates to be announced next week.
Edited extracts on 3rd March from Melbourne Catholic, Friday 13 March 2020
All delegates selected to participate in the 5th Australian Plenary Assembly  in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021) will be announced this week.   The Melbourne Archdiocese received 78 applications from which a Selection Panel recommended eight people to Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who accepted the recommendations.         Chair of the CAM Selection Panel, Mark Edwards OMI, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, said that each one of the 78 names submitted could have easily been put forward as a delegate for their example of Christian wisdom and faith. He stressed that delegates are not ‘representatives’ of particular causes, groups or issues, but ‘delegates’ in service to the Gospel mission.         Of the 78 applications received, 44 were women and 34 were men—all with active participation in the various areas of the Catholic Church across the Archdiocese (e.g. parish life, education, healthcare, social services, etc.). Many of the growing ethnic communities were represented and the ages of applicants ranged from 18 to 82 years old. It was also encouraging to have received applications from all four regions of the Archdiocese.     The following criteria were used to assess the applications:  a commitment to living the Gospel through prayer, sacramental practice and work;    An informed awareness of the broader context and challenges of the Church in Australia;   an evident ecclesial practice in Melbourne;    potential for leadership in the Church and/or her ministries; the diversity of cultural identity, age and gender balance in the local Church.
Full bench reserves decision in Cardinal Pell case
Extract from Chip Le Grand CathNews, The Age,  13 March 2020
The High Court will decide the fate of Cardinal George Pell on a date to be fixed after the full bench reserved its decision on whether he was wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting two choirboys.         A two-day hearing in Canberra ended with counsel for Cardinal Pell, Bret Walker SC, savaging the “improvised and rickety construction of a Crown case to make something fit that will not fit” and Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC urging the court not to acquit Cardinal Pell even if he wins his appeal.        Ms Judd said if the court found that Victoria’s Court of Appeal had erred in law when it upheld Cardinal Pell’s conviction for child sex offences, it should send the matter back to the court to be heard again.      This was rejected by Mr Walker, who said it would be an injustice to send the case back to the Court of Appeal “to have another go".      “We win this argument, we wish the matter to be over,’’ he said.     It was a testing day for Ms Judd, who was rebuked by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel for failing to take the court to the necessary material.      However, it appears unlikely this case will be decided by the strength of the advocacy. Rather, it will come down to whether the High Court believes that the Court of Appeal majority placed too much weight on the credibility of Cardinal Pell’s accuser, the surviving former choirboy, and not enough on the witness testimony which threw up multiple obstacles to the crimes taking placed as alleged.     A critical question before the court is whether Victoria’s Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell's majority decision, which upheld the verdict against Cardinal Pell, in effect forced the defence to prove that it was impossible for the sexual assaults to have occurred, instead of requiring the prosecution to eliminate all reasonable doubt.      Cardinal Pell was jailed for six years for four counts of child sex offences and is serving a minimum term of three years and eight months. The High Court reserved its decision on whether to grant Cardinal Pell special leave to appeal and the merits of the appeal....(more)
'Synodal way' could call for women deacons
Extract from CathNews, 12 March 2020
The new chairman of the German bishops’ conference has said that calling for the ordination of women could be a conclusion of the two-year “synodal way” being undertaken by the Church in Germany. Source: Catholic News Agency.      Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said in a radio interview this week for International Women’s Day that such a conclusion would require Roman approval.     In an interview with WDR5 on Monday, Bishop Bätzing answered questions on the role and future of women in the Church. He said that if the “synodal way” calls for the ordination of women to the diaconate, Rome would have to grant an indult to allow German bishops to begin ordaining women. In that event, he said, it would be important that the synodal assembly call for the change with “a very strong voice”.     Bishop Bätzing said that if bishops and laity united to present a “strong appearance,” Rome would be more likely to respond positively.      Speaking after his election last week, he said that the role of women “is the most pressing question we have concerning the future” of Church.      “That is where the Church really has a backlog. We won’t be able to wait. Women must be given equal rights,” the bishop said.     Bishop Bätzing also said that Pope Francis “did not take a position” on the possibility of ordaining women to the deaconate, which last year’s Synod on the Amazon recommended for further consideration, and that the subject was open for further discussion.     The two year “binding synodal process” is being conducted by the German bishops in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). Its first full assembly convened in January and its working groups are preparing proposals for reform on matters of Church teaching and discipline on marriage, ordination, clerical celibacy, and sexual ethics.     Bishop Bätzing has said he “fully supports the synodal way,” calling it “at the centre of our considerations” for the Church in Germany”.....(more)    Photo: Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing CNS Harald Oppitz
Broome bishop voluntarily stands aside amid allegations
Extract from CathNews, Victoria Laurie The Australian, 12 March 2020
The Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders has stood aside amid claims of serious but undisclosed sexual abuse allegations.         The Catholic Church in Perth issued a communique from the Vatican, dated March 10, indicating that Bishop Saunders, 70, had “voluntarily stood aside from the ordinary administration of the diocese.”       The Church move was in response to a Channel Seven TV report that police have been investigating historical allegations by two men that they had been victims of sex abuse by Bishop Saunders.     According to the Seven report, WA police have interviewed past and present members of the Bishop’s staff, including priests, who allegedly laid complaints against his behaviour. No charges have been laid against him.     WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts confirmed she had “directly referred correspondence in relation to Bishop Saunders to police.”       When confronted by a reporter in Broome outside his church, Bishop Saunders said: “Without any reservation, without any doubt whatsoever, that has never happened, and it never would happen.”...(more)

2020 Plenary - what's ahead
Extract from Melbourne Catholic Podcast: Lana Turvey-Collins
CAM, Communications Office, 11 March 2020
Last month, Catholic Social Services Australia held their biennial national conference, ‘Serving our Communities with Courage and Compassion’. During the conference, Melbourne Catholic caught up with the national facilitator of the Plenary Council, Lana Turvey-Collins.      In this episode, Lana reflects on how the idea of taking time out to pray and discern is deeply counter-cultural—even for an institution as old as the Catholic Church. ‘It’s a courageous decision,’ she explains. ‘Since the Second Vatican Council this (Australian Plenary) Council is only the third to be held (in the world).’       ‘The Australian psyche is very action-oriented,’ she says. ‘…we're doers, so three years of preparation and talking is something people are not used to ... The initial stage of dialogue was the first time there was a national formal invitation for all to come and share. When you do this for the first time in a country after 80 years of not doing it, then it takes time for people to move on from what they're angry about … and then the deep stuff comes through; the really beautiful golden nuggets that can be transformative. And that's what discernment is about: it's about finding the depth of the idea.’       She says discernment has to be an act of faith. ‘Discernment is not comfortable … we need to learn how to do that well; learn how to be “uncomfortably comfortable” in the mess.’      She cautions against people raising their hopes too high for a fix-all solution. ‘I don’t think these council assemblies will answer all of the questions that people want answered,’ she says, maintaining that the Church is simply ‘too big and too complex’ for that to happen. However, the message is a hopeful one, reasoning that through this process we can create ‘a pathway that will set us in the right direction of good things being nurtured and nourished’ and to ‘move and change and be responsive in culture’.        ‘This whole process has been designed to activate our baptism,’ she says. ‘The council assemblies are important and historically significant, but so is every time a group of people gets together to make a decision ... the transformation that has happened because small groups of people rely on one another and on God and the Holy Spirit to make a decision has power beyond belief. So it was very deliberate to have two parts to respond to your discernment—locally and nationally.’      The body of delegates ‘is a group of people that we will need to pray for,’ Lana says. ‘They are charged with a huge responsibility.’ Lana says the delegates coming from their local places will be carrying their local story, ‘but with a heart and mind that is open to discern with all the people of God in Australia to finish this three and half year discernment process.’....(more)

Synod of Bishops to take up theme of synodality in 2022
Extract from Christopher Wells,Vatican news, 8 March 2020
Pope Francis has chosen “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission” as the theme for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.      In a formal declaration released on Saturday morning, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, announced that Pope Francis will convene the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2022, with the theme, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”.       Synodality: the path of the Church in the third millenium.      Pope Francis has chosen “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission” as the theme for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.         The topic of synodality has been an important feature in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In October 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops by St Paul VI, Pope Francis said, “From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I sought to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council…... it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church in the third millennium”.        More recently, speaking to the International Theological Commission in 2018, the Holy Father said the theme of synodality “is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”..........More recently, speaking to the International Theological Commission in 2018, the Holy Father said the theme of synodality “is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”..... (more).  Photo: Bishops at Synod of Bishops Pan Amazon  Vatican News 20200308
Bishop backs local fight against crime
The Bishop of Townsville has thrown his support behind a local anti-crime group, blessing the “meaningful” members in their fight for action.
Extract from CathNews, Shayla Bulloch Townsville Bulletin, 6 March 2020
Catholic Bishop of Townsville Tim Harris has spoken out in support of Townsville One Community the day after well-known veteran Lieutenant General-retired John Caligari announced his support.       The regional advocates join the group’s leader, Jeff Adams in lobbying all levels of government to amend the Youth Justice Act to allow alternative sentencing options to be made available to judges, and long-term funding to be secured for rehabilitation programs.      Bishop Harris said he had noticed a surge in crime in this three years living in Townsville.     “I think the feeling is that things are too loose – the justice system is limited, as (are) the powers of police,” he said.      Bishop Harris said the current youth crime solution was “failing” and he feared a vigilante mentality may be brewing.     “Every day there is a drama and our streets are not as safe as they should be,” he said.     “These youths are not only destroying themselves and the community, but it destabilises the families and the fabric of our society.”.... (more) Photo: BishopTim Harris Jeff Adams Uncle Russell Butler Diocese of Townsville CathNews 20200306 
Speaking the truth to power dangerous but important
Extract from CathNews, CSSV,  05 March 2020
Holding firm to faith and having the courage to speak truth to power are among the distinguishing characteristics of Catholic organisations, Ursula Stephens told a national conference in Melbourne last week.            Ms Stephens, the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, was delivering the Mary MacKillop Oration at the 2020 national Catholic Social Services conference dinner.       In the oration, titled 'Mary MacKillop; the authenticity of speaking truth to power', she spoke of Mary MacKillop’s courage, faith and strength in serving both the oppressed and the oppressors.        “Speaking truth to power is dangerous and usually has consequences for the speaker,” Ms Stephens said. “Such danger didn’t stop Mary MacKillop – throughout her life she recognised truth-telling as a duty. What can we learn from her courage and determination? How can we too have the courage to speak truth to power and accept the consequences?”       Ms Stephens said the first lesson from St Mary of the Cross was to hold on to your faith.        “Faith in God’s will and his love for us is what empowered Mary MacKillop. It gave her, as it can give us, the ability to lift our eyes above the drab landscape of what is, and imagine what could be. Her faith was constant at the beginning and the end of her life’s journey, as it should be for all of us.       “As organisations, if we were without faith - what would make us any different to any other organisation? Without the principles of Catholic Social Teaching underpinning our very existence, many of us might never do anything of consequence, because we’d lack any reason to dare the uncertainty that always comes when we seek change from the way things have always been.”       Ms Stephens said the second lesson from Mary MacKillop’s life was the “importance of choosing your own course” and not being distracted by the many voices trying to divert you. And the third lesson was to “rise above the limitations of others”.....(more)    Photo:  Ursula Stephens delivers 2020 Mary MacKillop Oration in Melbourne (Fiona Basile/CSSV) CathNews 20200305
Leading Catholic figure Francis Sullivan calling for changes after sex abuse crisis
Francis Sullivan: “We need to dream of an engaged, vibrant and relevant church that is reflected not just in its outreach but more importantly in its manner, disposition and basic humanity.”
Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, 5 March 2020
LEADING Catholic figure Francis Sullivan has criticised Church authorities for a “glaring lack of moral leadership” over the child sex abuse crisis and has called for the Church to change its “terms of engagement” if it is to remain relevant and engaged in Australia.       “Unless we break the shackles of entitlement and cronyism, become inclusive and more representative in our decision-making we risk losing any claim to renewal and reform,” Mr Sullivan, former chief executive officer of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference in Melbourne on February 27.       “In a society that regards religion as just another lifestyle choice at best, we need to resist trying to pump air into old tyres that have run their course.               “We need to dream of an engaged, vibrant and relevant church that is reflected not just in its outreach but more importantly in its manner, disposition and basic humanity.”        In a keynote speech to the conference, Mr Sullivan lamented the state of the Church in Australia, and pinpointed a way forward, particularly for Catholic social service agencies aiming to serve the most vulnerable.       “If the Church is not primarily missionary then it will become ossified as a propositional institution, out of touch and out of time,” he said. “Taking the side of impoverished and disenfranchised people is not an option for Gospel-inspired organisations. It is a mainstay of the mission.”        Mr Sullivan (pictured) is qualified to speak out after five years leading the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council during the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.        Prior to that, he was secretary-general of the Australian Medical Association following 14 years as chief executive officer of Catholic Health Australia.      In his keynote address, he spoke of the reputational damage suffered by the Church after the royal commission, and by service organisations with no direct link with the abuse scandal.     “The sex abuse scandal made it abundantly plain that when the institution is threatened it closes ranks, manages its risks and does not act and speak out of its heart but strategises out of its head,” he said.     “Only a heart-driven Church will have any chance of relating beyond its increasingly narrowing base.....(more) Photo: Francis Sullivan CSSV 2020 Catholic Leader 20200305
Plenary Delegates in Service to the Gospel Mission
Extracts from CAM Communications Office, Wednesday 4 March 2020
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne (CAM) has submitted the names of eight possible delegates to the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, from which four will be chosen to attend both the assembly in Adelaide (4-11 October 2020) and the assembly in Sydney (27 June - 2 July 2021).          A total of 78 applications were received by the Archdiocese, from which a Selection Panel recommended eight people to Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who accepted the recommendations.        Chair of the Selection Panel, Mark Edwards OMI, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, said that each one of the 78 names submitted could have easily been put forward as a delegate for their example of Christian wisdom and faith. He stressed that delegates are not ‘representatives’ of particular causes, groups or issues, but ‘delegates’ in service to the Gospel mission............. Of the 78 applications received, 44 were women and 34 were men—all with active participation in the various areas of the Catholic Church across the Archdiocese (e.g. parish life, education, healthcare, social services, etc.). Many of the growing ethnic communities were represented and the ages of applicants ranged from 18 to 82 years old. It was also encouraging to have received applications from all four regions of the Archdiocese.           The following criteria were used to assess the applications received:........The announcement of the final list of delegates will be made in the week of 16-20 March 2020. Soon after that, the final papers from the six Discernment and Writing Groups – one for each of the six national themes for discernment – will be published. These papers will be central to the preparation of the instrumentum laboris, or working paper, for the Plenary Council—with the first assembly scheduled for October this year.....(more)
Synodality and basic ecclesial norms
A group of US bishops use 'ad limina' visit to undermine Pope Francis
Limited extravt from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 4 March 2020
Pius XII, who reigned as pope from 1939-58, is said to have used this peculiar greeting to welcome certain bishops when they came to meet him:      "Monsignor, please feel free to kneel wherever you want."                 How times have changed! In the years since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Throne of Peter has been put into mothballs.        There is now a much more fraternal and informal atmosphere whenever the pope meets other bishops. That is particularly true during the "ad limina" visits, which bishops are required to make to Rome every five years in order to give a report on the state of their dioceses.        But as Chaucer said in the 14thcentury, "Familiarity breeds contempt." And perhaps that helps explain why some prelates have felt they can take advantage of the Bishop of Rome by putting words in his mouth.      Badly behaved US bishops       This happened recently after the bishops of Region XIII in the United States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) made their "ad limina" visits.      Two unnamed members of their group sought to manipulate the meeting by claiming Pope Francis had told them he was furious with Fr. James Martin SJ and his ministry to LGBT Catholics.     It was an ecclesiastical-journalistic hit-job against the American Jesuit that came in an article published on Feb. 20 by the editor of the Denver-based "Catholic News Agency" (CNA).         But the operation was mismanaged in such an incoherent and inarticulate way that it quickly backfired.        Two other prelates who were at that meeting with the pope – Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe and Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne – spoke on the record and denounced the anonymous account as having never happened.        Although these two bishops set the record straight, there is a serious problem that remains. It is clear that some US Catholic leaders are trying to weaken Pope Francis' authority and damage his credibility......(more)
Plenary Council - some issues discussed during the Catholic Social Services Vic conference from 23-24 February 2020, Melbourne
Brief Notes from conference participant and presenter Emeritus Professor John Warhurst, 3 March 2020
John's conference paper "Governing - Walking the Talk" is available for download HERE.
It was a shock during discussion when members of the Plenary writing groups were told they were consequently ineligible to be Plenary Council delegates. Some said they would not have performed the job if that had been made clear beforehand.

The following updates on Plenary Council composition were given in response to a question:
1. March 18 is the day when the delegates will be announced.
2. 63% of the 72 names are women. Most dioceses when asked for four names chose three women and one man. That won't of course by a long shot fully balance the male official clerical and episcopal delegates. Outcome in Rome still unclear.
3. Average age is 49.
4. 16 or 18 'young' delegates.
5. Indigenous delegates and agreement this is not enough, hence the need for adjustment at the national level.

Lay woman gets seat at Council of Priests' table
Extract from CathNews, Felicity de Fombelle Catholic Voice, 28 February 2020
A lay woman has been invited to attend meetings of the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Council of Priests, in what is believed to be a first for the Church in Australia.            In a move to boost women’s decision-making powers, Archbishop Mark Coleridge has invited former ABC journalist Cathy Uechtritz to join him, his vicar-general and 20 priests and deacons on the council.           The key decision-making body represents the clergy in a diocese and advises the bishop. It meets every two months.         In a statement to the Catholic Voice, Archbishop Coleridge said he was convinced women needed a bigger decision-making role in the Church. The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference revealed he had also invited two women to join the College of Consultors, which is a smaller group of priests advising the Bishop.        “It is up to other dioceses to make their own decision but I find it hard to see how any diocese wouldn’t benefit from having women more closely and consistently involved in its decision-making processes,” Archbishop Coleridge said.         Ms Uechtritz, who joined Archbishop Coleridge as Director of Government Relations last June, said she was “a bit stunned” when he invited her to join the council.         “I feel very humbled. It is significant. It shows that women have a voice. The most interesting thing for me is that we are being listened to now, more so, perhaps. I see this as a great opportunity not just for me but for the clergy and the whole Church.”        In his statement, Archbishop Coleridge clarified that he had not appointed women as members of the Council of Priests or the College of Consultors. “That would be impossible since by Church law all appointed members of both bodies must be clergy," Archbishop Coleridge said.     “What I have done is invite women (two in each case) to attend the meetings of the two bodies as observers, but with the right to participate fully in all discussions.        “I decided to do this because I became convinced that women needed to be more part of the decision-making processes of the Archdiocese, and even at this early stage I would say that the move has shown its worth.....(more).       Photo Cathy Uechtritz Catholic Voice Cathnews 20200228
Sullivan lays out challenges facing Church
Extract form Cath News, David Halliday Melboiurne Catholic, 28 February 2020
“Taking the side of impoverished and disenfranchised people is not an option for Gospel-inspired organisations. It is a mainstay of the mission,” according to Francis Sullivan. Source: Melbourne Catholic.
Mr Sullivan is the former chief executive officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council and Catholic Health Australia. He delivered the opening keynote address at the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference, titled Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion, in Melbourne yesterday.    More than 200 community leaders gathered for the three-day conference, held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne, which seeks to study a range of key issues facing society and the Catholic service sector, and explore new ways for the sector to address social challenges and create a more just society.     Mr Sullivan presented a challenging overview of the state of the Church in Australia, alongside an uplifting affirmation of “good works by good people for the good of others”.    According to Mr Sullivan, Catholic social services’ function in aiding society’s most vulnerable is an inherently Catholic exercise.     As former chief of the national body that oversaw the Church’s engagement with the 2015-17 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Sullivan explored the reputational damage not only suffered by the Church but also by service organisations with no direct link with the abuse scandal....(more)
New Wine, New Wine Skins.
Extract from Francis Sullivan, John Menadue website, 26 February 2020
Why it is worth staying active in the Church?       Can I find in the practice of Catholicism a way to do life that is legitimate, transformative, relevant and effective? Or, like for the vast majority of Catholics, is it best that I look elsewhere for pathways to a moral, happy life, free of judgement and hypocrisy?      I acknowledge that there are many Catholic identities these days. People come into contact with the Church in formal and informal settings, parishes, schools, hospitals, small prayer groups and regular social get-togethers. There are many understandings of being Catholic and how to associate as a Catholic.      The strict, rules based, obligation-laden Church of my youth, no longer holds any appeal. Not even when our times can appear to be so confusing and even confounding. That rigid Church doesn’t do it for me. Not only that, it actually is a definite turn off in an age where personal autonomy, freedom of conscience and self actualisation are in my mind the fruits of the Spirit that should be nurtured for the good they bring to our lives.     Yet there are too many reactionary noises in our Church that bedevil this individualism and caste it as the signs of decay and demise for our world. Neither can I muster any enthusiasm or even tribal excitement for an institution that stubbornly resists calls to be more representative of the communities in which it exists. I find no confidence in institutional structures and processes that exclude lay people, women particularly, but also openly excludes gay people and even those divorced and remarried.      How will it be possible for the Church to teach on intimate life issues to people who don’t even get a mutual voice at the table? What practical value do their lives bring to the life of the Church? Why do we have to cop the tired assertion that the Church is not a democracy and participation by the baptised is conditional within a hierarchical and demonstrably dysfunctional structure?         Why do we have to be publicly associated with inane, even incompetent, statements from Church officials and spokespeople that fuel the flames of social division, demonise particular social groups, and present our Catholicism as just another socially conservative reactionary grouping?       Why should we tolerate Church finances being directed to dubious political and media campaigns that inevitably ostracise opponents and only further exacerbate the culture wars in which our voice so often is heard as being harsh, unbending and out of touch?......The simple answer to all this is that.....(more).  Photo: Francis Sullivan
Abuse scandals could 'destroy' Church
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt , Martha Pskowski, The Tablet, 25 February 2020
The clerical sexual abuse scandal is threatening the very existence of the Catholic.      Speaking at a theme day on “Escaping from Power, Seduction and Abuse” in Dresden, he said the revelation of countless cases of abuse by clergymen had hit the Church like an “earthquake”, had made the hierarchy and the Pope open to attack and rendered them powerless.      “The institution is threatened existentially but at the same time its coping capabilities are overtaxed,” he said.     He had discerned a systemic inability to act, he said. Some churchmen were still trivialising and denying the abuse and the Church’s responsibility for it. In his eyes, the Church was traumatised, he said.   There was a connection between spiritual power, power which was attributed to theology and power which was sanctioned by canon law, Zollner explained. It was therefore easily possible for priests, under the pretext of pastoral or spiritual care, to abuse their power for their own sexual gratification, he explained.      One of the reasons why this was possible was that there was no such thing as accountability in the Catholic Church. It was therefore easy to “pass the buck” and refuse to cooperate or communicate.....(more)  Photo: Hans Zollner Fr The Tablet Haring Picciarella Ropi Zuma Press PA Images 20201225
Church governance needs to walk the walk
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street, 25 February 2020
Catholic church governance suffers considerable dilemmas. The clue to its problems comes from the challenging recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to review ‘the governance and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women’.        In doing so the RC noted with some approval the approaches to governance of largely lay-led Catholic health, community services and education agencies.              Approaches to governance are in flux within church agencies, sectors, dioceses and at the national level, either driven by the demands of state regulations or in response to the challenging new situation the church finds itself in. There is so much change going on that it is difficult to follow.        Some big national agencies, like Caritas Australia and Catholic Social Services Australia, are rethinking their governance structures. Incorporation is now common. The governance of diocesan Catholic education across Australia is being reshaped significantly. Some dioceses have embarked upon new approaches to consultative governance, like synods and assemblies, leading into the Plenary Council 2020.          The Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons, with eleven members, has emerged as a potentially strong third peak body in the church alongside the bishops and Catholic Religious Australia.         Catholic Professional Standards Ltd, set up in 2017, has taken responsibility for oversight of new child safety systems. Simultaneously the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has undertaken an enormous restructure of its staffing, funding and governance.         Most recently a new body, Catholic Emergency Relief Agency, has emerged to play a potential ‘whole of church’ agency coordinating role in response to the bushfire emergency.        'The church must not just talk 'good governance' talk but walk the walk. That is the responsibility of individuals with leadership roles across the church. In dioceses and parishes those individuals exercising formal authority are bishops and priests.'....(more)
Reflections on the issues of Mandatory Celibacy for Ordination in the Latin Rite of Catholic Church
Extract from Dr Kevin Treston,
The issue of mandatory celibacy for ordination to priesthood in the Latin Rite has become a significant topic for the process of church renewal. During the listening phase of the Plenary Council in Australia, the current Synod of Germany, the Amazon Synod and the public church media in many countries have highlighted the growing movement to seriously address this issue in church life. The global exposition of sexual abuse by clergy, such as the finding of the Royal Commission in Australia (December 2016) sharpened the debate about mandatory celibacy for priesthood. Clericalism with its association to mandatory celibacy has been identified by many church leaders, including Pope Francis, as a major impediment to church renewal.      It is important to begin this reflection by emphasising that the issue briefly addressed here is not about the charism of celibacy which has been and continues to be a sacred gift of the Spirit that has been lived and is now lived by billions of Christians including monks, Religious and dedicated lay groups  throughout the ages.    The issue considered here is whether mandatory celibacy should continue as a dictum for future ordinations in the Latin Rite church.....(more)
Are Asian theologians still feeling Rome's sting?
Fr Michael Kelly, UCA News, 25 February 2020
Engaging with Asia's great religions requires a keenly honed sense of what makes Christianity unique.  Just over 100 years ago — 1919 to be exact — the Vatican made its most decisive move beyond using colonialism to foster Catholicism outside Europe and North America. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV published the first encyclical in the Church’s history on missionary activity — Maximum Illud.        Evangelii Gaudium (2013) is seen as the map or plan for the pontificate of Francis and in it this most evangelical of popes outlines what he sees as the meaning and purpose of the Church — mission. For that, he brings together many other contributions to the understanding of mission made by several of his predecessors, especially St. Paul VI.         But now he has taken that line of thought even deeper in his response to the Synod on the Amazon — Querida Amazonia — which some have called his “love poem” to the region.          It is a further development of a theme that used to be part of the reflections and programs of the Church in Asia — inculturation — until any progress on that subject was stalled at local levels by Rome during the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.       There had been many voices urging this move for centuries, initially and most notably Francisco de Vitoria, the Spanish Dominican (1483-1546). It was de Vitoria who asserted that invading colonial powers Spain and Portugal had no right to the land and property of local people whom they colonized.       However, the Church across the world was still led mostly by Europeans. It took until 1926 for the first Chinese-born bishops to be ordained and the same applied across Asia and Africa —  locals were overlooked, foreign missionaries became bishops, and sometimes imports from the colonial country whose government claimed the territory were made bishops. Now indigenous bishops are in office everywhere in the world.          But as even Vasco da Gama found when he rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, a lot more happened than a change of direction —  from heading south to heading north. He entered a completely different world of peoples, cultures, languages, habits, beliefs, histories.        Europe and the Catholic Church have been coming to terms with that for the last 400 years. And at times in those centuries, church leaders have been colossally self-destructive. The mess the Vatican made of the Chinese Rites controversy (about respect for ancestors among the Chinese) is well documented. Two aggravating and mutually uncomprehending parties met and both sides lost.      But there are other less visible instances of racism in church policies — the reluctance in many countries to ordain local candidates for the priesthood, the imposition of European habits and even dress codes on Asian Catholics, the complete failure to believe that Asian catechumens already had a sense of God and of right behavior in their own native belief systems and ethical codes. These failures all coalesced to make Christianity an alien intrusion into many Asia societies.....(more)
High Court weighs details of witness testimony
The High Court is weighing up the importance of watching the testimony of Cardinal George Pell’s victim compared to just reading the transcript.
Extract from CathNews, Tessa Akerman, The Australian, 21 February 2020
The court requested submissions on the issue this month and released the response from Cardinal Pell’s legal team on Wednesday.    Cardinal Pell’s barristers, Bret Walker SC and Ruth Shann, argue the majority opinion of the Victorian Court of Appeal last year took the wrong approach in assessing the impact of the demeanour of witnesses whose evidence was viewed.     The Court of Appeal sought submissions on this topic last year indicating it intended to view video recordings of the trial evidence of the victim and three other witnesses.    “The applicant submitted that … there was no necessity to watch any video recordings because the complaint of the applicant on appeal did not depend on the manner in which any witness gave evidence,” Cardinal Pell’s counsel said in their High Court submissions.     “In particular, it was submitted that no matter how favourable a view was taken of the manner that the complainant gave evidence, it was not open to the jury, acting rationally, to conclude that the prosecution had eliminated all reasonable doubt due to the combined effect of the unchallenged evidence of other witnesses.”      The appellate court ended up conducting a view of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where the abuse took place, and video recordings of 12 witnesses.....(more)    Photo:The High Court of Australia in Canberra, High Court website

Time to bury the clergy-centered Church
Limited extract from Robert Mickens. Letter From Rome, subscription journal La Croix International 20 February 2020
Vatican City.    What's the greatest threat to the Roman Catholic Church today – a schism? Or the rise in power of fundamentalist clericalists?      José María Castillo, himself a priest, believes it's the latter.      The 90-year-old Spaniard was one of the most influential theologians in Latin America and elsewhere during the first couple decades following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). His books, published in the dozens, were mandatory reading in many Spanish-speaking seminaries and universities immediately after the Council.     Then they weren't.      Not long after his election in 1978, John Paul II put the breaks on the push for further ecclesial reform (as theologians like Castillo were advocating) and began his restorationist project of carefully narrowing the interpretation and application of the Vatican II documents.     One way the Polish pope did this was by appointing compliant and doctrinally conservative (and unimaginative) bishops. They, in turn, with the support of the Vatican's doctrinal office, began silencing and marginalizing theologians like Castillo.    A return of the early post-Vatican II theologians.       These theologians have found a new lease on their ecclesial lives since Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ was elected Bishop of Rome in 2013....(source)

Archbishop Coleridge in Rome for meetings on seal of confession, Plenary Council and Cardinal Pell
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader. 19 February 19 2020    
BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has started a two-week-long trip to Rome that will include high-level Vatican talks on the Plenary Council 2020, Cardinal George Pell and the Holy See’s response to Australia’s Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.      Archbishop Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, found himself under a global media spotlight when he visited Rome a year ago for a summit on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.      He described the crisis as “a global emergency” and advocated “concrete action” to address issues of law, accountability of bishops, and the formation of priests and religious persons.     “I think the Church has failed lamentably and therefore we have to cop whatever criticism comes our way, deal with it in a way that doesn’t cause paralysis and paranoia but does prompt us to action,” Archbishop Coleridge said during the February 2019 meeting.      Before jetting to Rome this week, Archbishop Coleridge made his 2020 agenda clear: “We’ll be discussing the Plenary Council, the situation of Cardinal Pell, the Holy See’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, and the controversy surrounding the seal of the sacrament of Penance,” he said.     “Other topics will inevitably come up. But they will be where we start in our meetings with the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Bishops.”     The High Court of Australia has set March 11 and 12 for the final appeal of Cardinal Pell, who was convicted in 2018 on five charges of child sexual abuse.     The Holy See could initiate canonical proceedings once a final court outcome is reached in Australia.....(more) 
The growing pains of a Church that's both local and universal
How Pope Francis is working to develop synodality at every level of Catholicism
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 19 Feb. 2020      
United States. A butterfly's sneeze can actually change the weather thousands of miles away – or so they say. It's not very different from the dynamics of synodality in the Catholic Church today.        The impact of what happens locally can have an effect on the universal Church, especially when it is in a state of transition.     Since the very beginning of its history, the Christian Church has held numerous local synodsor councils. Despite the difference of terminology, both were assemblies of bishops and included the limited presence of non-bishop participants.    Local conciliarity paved the way to ecumenical councils, the official list of which began in the year 325 when (Roman) Emperor Constantine convoked the Council of Nicaea.     But synodality is somewhat different from conciliarity......(Source)        Photo: Pope Francis Synod of Bishops La Croix International AP Alessandra Tarantino 20200219
Another US Catholic diocese seeks bankruptcy after abuse deals
Extract from Mark Scolforo, Crux, Matt Rourke AP, 19 February 2020
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, six months after disclosing it had paid millions of dollars to people sexually abused as children by its clerics.      The diocese joins at least 20 others across the United States in seeking protection from creditors through the federal bankruptcy system, but it is the first diocese in Pennsylvania to take such a step.     In August, the diocese said it paid 106 people a total of just over $12 million to compensate for claims of sexual abuse they suffered as children from its clerics, deacons and seminarians. Six others did not accept payment offers from the diocese....(more).
Deciding not to decide… for now
Why the pope has not ruled on married priests or women deacons
Limited extracts from Robert Mickens, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 February 2020
Vatican City. In his new apostolic exhortation on the Church in the Amazonian region, Pope Francis has refused a request by bishops at last October's Synod assembly to formally approve the ordination of married priests and women deacons.            In Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) the pope pretty much ignores these two issues all together.           And this, of course, has provoked predictable responses throughout the variegated world of Roman Catholicism.                Traditionalists and doctrinal conservatives, for the most part, are breathing a sigh of relief. Some are even jumping for joy......Most progressives, reformers and Vatican II types – on the other hand – are deeply disappointed. Some, especially women, are extremely hurt and angry. .........But if you've read some of the commentary on Pope Francis's decision not to change the discipline of priestly celibacy or approve women deacons, you probably have the impression that this is a "win" for old-time Catholicism and a "loss" for the Church's reformers.    Actually, it might be just the other way around.......(source)  Photo: EPA LUCA ZENNARO MaxPPP La Croix International 20200213 
Querida Amazonia has much to offer the Church in Australia
Extract from CathNews, ACBC, 13 February 2020
Archbishop Mark Coleridge says Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia is not just for a distant and alien part of the world, but has much to offer the Church in Australia.          “The Amazon is remote from us but the issues are not,” the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said.       “All papal documents are highly anticipated, but this one holds a special interest not just for the peoples of Amazonia with all their needs, but for the Church around the world,” Archbishop Coleridge said.       He said two critical issues addressed during the Synod and in the Pope’s exhortation – indigenous culture and an integral understanding of ecology – must be front and centre in the Australian context as well.       “The Amazon has a unique place in the planet’s ecological footprint and its abuse in various forms is having and will continue to have an impact on the connection between humanity and the planet, our common home,” Archbishop Coleridge explained.      “Here in Australia we see, at times dramatically, the damage done by abuse of the natural world – not only to the environment but also to wildlife, to communities and countless individuals.       “The Church has a God-given duty to care for our common home, made clearer than ever in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’.     Querida Amazonia builds on the papal teaching and applies it boldly in one particular situation.”       Pope Francis’ focus on indigenous cultures in the Amazon speaks strongly to the Australian context, Archbishop Coleridge said.      “It’s good that the Pope’s words on indigenous peoples come as we in this country consider the woeful lack of progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in key areas,” he said....(more)
What’s in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon synod?
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America - The Jesuit Review, 2020
Pope Francis has again surprised the world with his long-awaited document (“Apostolic Exhortation”) in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod.      He does not address the question of the ordination of mature married men to the priesthood as many had expected. Instead, in the text known as "Querida Amazonia" (“Beloved Amazonia,”) he pitches hard for justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests, against the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.          He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them. He devotes almost half of the document to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organization, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” that gives a greater role for the laity, and especially for women.          He emphasizes the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, at the same time, highlights the disturbing fact that this is not regularly available to so many communities; some do not have the Eucharist for months or years, others not “for decades” because of the shortage of priests.     However, notwithstanding widespread expectations, Francis does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of suitable and esteemed married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod.    He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it, not even in a footnote.....(more).    Photo: Pope Francis Amazonian indigenous, CNS,
‘Querida Amazonia’: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation
Extract from Antonio Spadaro, SJ, La Civilita Catolica, 12 February 2020
Splendor, drama, mystery: with these three words Pope Francis offers to the people of God and all persons of goodwill his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), on the special synod for the Amazon, which took place in Rome, October 6-27, 2019.[1]          With this synod, held at the heart of catholicity in Rome, the Church set out in search of prophecy, shifting its center of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic area and looking to a land full of gigantic political, economic and ecological contradictions.    Francis is seeking solutions that consider the rights of the original peoples, and that defend the cultural richness and natural beauty of the earth. And he seeks to support Christian communities with suitable pastoral solutions. In this regard, the engine of the exhortation – we immediately anticipate – is in the tenth paragraph of the fourth chapter, entitled “Expanding Horizons Beyond Conflicts.” When there are complex issues, the pope asks us to go beyond contradictions. When there are polarities and conflicts, we need to find new solutions, to break the impasse by looking for other better ways, perhaps not imagined before. Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff. It is always good to keep this in mind.....(more)
Disappointment, outrage over papal document on the Amazon
Extract from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 12 February 2020
Vatican.     Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the Amazon disappointed those hoping for an opening of clerical roles to married men and women, with many noting that the pope failed to extend his prophetic voice about environmental injustice to injustices in his own house, the church. Many women were especially outraged over the document's language of complementarity.     Querida Amazonia ("Beloved Amazon"), the pope's response to last October's Synod of Bishops, did not grant the bishops' request to open priestly ordination to married men and the possibility of women deacons, both in an effort to address the severe lack of ministers in the nine nations of that region.      Reading the document was "demoralizing" and "painful," especially given the pope's lyrical language about his dreams for the region, said Casey Stanton, who works in parish ministry and said she is called to the diaconate.     "But then you get to the paragraphs about women … and it just feels like the dream stops short of including them and including me," said Stanton, a minister of adult faith formation at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, North Carolina.     She admitted that she did not expect a change in church teaching from the papal document, but "just wanted him to keep the conversation open in this slow-moving church."      "Instead, I think what the pope has done in this document is to close the door," she said.     After the testimony of women at the synod, the pope's response is "willful blindness," Stanton said, adding, "I can't imagine what the women in the Amazon feel."....(more)
In Germany, the synodal path takes a first step forward
Bishops and lay people will spend the next two years looking at four themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality
Limited extract from Claire Lesegretain (with, Subscription journal La Croix International, 5 February 2020
Germany. The Catholic Church in Germany has begun its Synodal Path in an atmosphere of free and respectful dialogue. It held its first plenary assembly from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 in Frankfurt.      The process was launched on Dec. 1 and over the next two years some 230 bishops and lay delegates will engage in dialogue around four main themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality.       After the assembly's opening Mass in St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, the delegates began their work in the former Dominican convent in Frankfurt that is now property of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.      "The first image that struck me was the sight of the bishops wearing civilian clothes among the laity," said Klaus Nientiedt, former editor-in-chief of Konradsblatt, the weekly paper of the Diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, and an expert on the German Church.     A space without hierarchi        In fact, the delegates were seated in alphabetical order. "This clearly showed that bishops and priests are participants like anyone else," Nientiedt told La Croix.       Karin Kortmann, vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) also welcomed the "space without hierarchy".          She is one of the co-presidents of the assembly along with Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German Bishops' Conference, and Thomas Sternberg, the ZdK president.       During this initial gathering of the Syondal Path the four commissions reported on opinions gathered via the Internet on each of the four themes.       "These results are not really representative, because groups that are numerically small expressed themselves massively," said Nientiedt.      This is particularly the case on sexual morality, where opinions from conservative groups seem to be over-represented.             Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen described this first synod assembly as a "witness to the true catholicity of the Church in Germany". He said the meetings and discussions were "characterized by an intense spiritual atmosphere and the search for God's will".       "The discussions showed how much we live in a world of freedom," Bishop Overbeck said.       For his part, Bishop Felix Genn of Münster welcomed "the willingness to listen to each other and to treat each other fairly, despite the diversity of positions". He expressed "confidence" that the synodal process will continue "without harming the unity for which we as bishops are responsible"....(source).  Photo:   Synodal Path Mass Frankfurt Cathedral January 30 LaCroix Intermational ANDREAS ARNOLD DPA PICTURE ALLIANCE MAXPPP 20200205
Rewriting History?
Extract from Opinion Piece, Tom Smyth, 3 February 2020
I don’t want to appear to be overly negative but after reading the announcement in the recent Plenary Council Newsletter that ‘The origins of the Council go back almost 20 years, as the Australian bishops considered St John Paul II’s call in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte for the Church to consider its place in contemporary society,’ I find it hard not to be.     This statement is a little rich. Yes, there may have been some consideration given to holding a Plenary Council to consider the apostolic letter, but I think the reality is that the Royal Commission that exposed the litany of “ sins" of the Church in Australia highlighted the need for a close examination of the practices of the Church, not to consider the place of the Church in a modern Australia, but as a means to engage with people in order to keep the ‘boat afloat.’ The Church is in crisis.         My concern is that with the little time that has passed since the Royal Commission, the existing oligarchs of the Church have regained a sense of authority and feel confident enough to reassert their power positions, perhaps with some small concessions to the laity.     The choice of the Plenary Council as the implement to make decisions for the future, the lack of enthusiasm shown by many clergy and dioceses, and the lack of publication of the submissions indicates to me that it is business as usual amongst the hierarchy of the church. Using St John Paul 11’s apostolic letter as justification for calling the Plenary Council is unfortunate. St John Paul 11 was hardly the model of a consultative leader that the hierarchy should be following. His notion of a Synodal Church was at odds with Francis’s vision. His unwillingness to address the pressing issues of the time have contributed to the place the church is in at present.          I hope I am wrong but are we being prepared for some peripheral change and substantive change will be avoided at all cost.........(more)
Australian Catholic Women still listening for leadership from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Extract from  Eleanor Flynn et al. Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 3 February 2020
As a group of women who seek the equality of Women in the Australian Church, Women’s Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) are appalled by the recent abolition of the stand-alone Council for Australian Catholic Women, and the closure of the Office for the Participation of Women in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).         The Bishops have stated that they wish to focus on evangelization. However, by disbanding and downgrading these organisations they demonstrate that they have no plan to engage actively with the women of the Church.       This is an egregious error. Women are not a special interest group in the Church; we make up more than half of all Australian Catholics and 70% of many congregations and keep most parishes running on a day to day basis.      This restructuring ignores the pleas of national and international renewal groups across the world who understand that full equality for women in the Catholic church, including ordination of women, is central to ridding our Church of crippling clericalism.      The ACBC’s move is particularly bewildering given the closures were announced just after the launch by two bishops of “Still Listening to the Spirit: Woman and Man Twenty Years On”.....(more).
Sydney archbishop: Synodal process doesn’t mean ‘everything is up for grabs’
Extracts from Inés San Martín, Rome Bureay Chief, Crux, 1 February 2020
.......Crux: What brought you to Rome?     Fisher: I’m here for the plenary of the CDF. It happens every two years, all the members gather, and we go through a number of doctrinal and moral messes being considered by the Church. We get a report from all the bodies that report to the CDF - the International Theological Commission, the Biblical Commission, the section dealing with the Anglicans who have become Catholics, the section dealing with the Latin Mass, and the disciplinary section that deals with grave crimes, including above all child abuse - so we get the reports on that and discuss the processes around that.         It’s quite a wide range of things the CDF has responsibility for, and they are actually very good meetings, surprisingly. It’s a meeting where I think, you have something to contribute, you are heard and it’s achieving something.      Next week I have the council for the synod, which I was elected for at the end of the Synod for Youth, and the new synod council is organizing the next one. We don’t yet know what the topic of the next one will be, nor when will it be held........Have you heard about topics being proposed already?         I have heard talk for synodality… A synod on synod seems to me a bit too referential. I always laugh about TV shows that are about TV shows. It’s like this kind of endless mirrors, and there would be useful things to say, but … A bit like some of the national synods that are happening, there is a great risk that it will all become inward looking. “It’s all about us, about our structures, in a language that almost no one else understands.”        Pope Francis often calls us to get out of the sacristy because there’s a whole world out there. I would be a bit wary about just being all internal stuff. Synodality is a very internal concern. But, as I said, there might be some useful things to say about it.......And I think all these Church assemblies have to be mindful of the risk of creating unreal expectations.         This is an issue for the German synodal path and it’s also an issue for the plenary council in Australia. If you say to the world, everything is up for grabs, say anything you want to say, anything could happen; that is not true. We are recipients of a precious tradition, we have the revelation from God, not everything is up for grabs.      If you give people the impression that some proposals or changes are going to happen or could happen, but actually can’t or won’t, that would lead to more disillusionment at the end of that process.      I rather we went down a more constructive line.....(more).   Photo:Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Crux 1 Feb 2020, Simon Caldwell CNS
An Italian bishop goes rogue and blows the whistle
Doing what no other bishop in Italy has ever done, Giovanni Nardini reported a group of priest-pedophiles to civil authorities
Linited Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 30 January 2010
Vatican City
More cracks are appearing in the teetering edifice of Italy's once invincible Catholic hierarchy.    For the first time ever, it seems, a bishop has gone to the country's civil authorities to denounce priests and religious brothers accused of sexually abusing minors. And by doing so, he's broken ranks with the men who lead Italy's other 225 dioceses.    His name is Bishop Giovanni Nerbini.    The chrism oil from his episcopal ordination was barely dry when Nerbini, who is bishop of the Diocese of Prato just 16 miles (25.5 km) north of Florence, contacted police in late December to report abuse allegations against nine members of a controversial religious community called the Disciples of the Annunciation.    The bishop took the action on his own initiative since – amazingly – neither the State of Italy nor the Vatican requires clerics to report sexual abuse to civil authorities.    Unprecedented action        Nerbini's retired predecessor, Bishop Franco Agostinelli, had already learned of the alleged abuse early last summer, but he reported it only to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which opened an administrative penal process....(source)
Synodal Governance for a pastoral Church
Thursday 30 January 2020
On the verge of the 2020/2021 Plenary Council, the Australian Catholic Church's  5th Plenary Council (the last was 83 years ago), Catholics for Renewal has just published its 2nd brief 'Summary Document' as part of an incremental series of brief resources  on key terminology, phrases and issues  fundamental to, Australian Catholic faith, Church renewal, and objectives of the Australian Catholic 2020 Plenary Council.     This 2nd resource is titled 'Synodal governance for a pastoral church'.   The first Summary Document published December 2019 is titled 'Sense of faith of Christ's Faithful - Sensus fidelium'.      These and a list of planned further incremental resources over the next six months are published under Document No. 93  on the website's Documents page   HERE.  
About the National Themes for Discernment - What happens Next
Extract from Plenary Council 2020 Website, 29 January 2020
.....What happens next?      The six National Themes for Discernment are inspired by the data and call us toward the future. As we move into this second stage of preparation for the Plenary Council, we continue to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.    In coming months, through the discernment process and drawing on the six National Themes for Discernment, we will develop the agenda for the first session of the Plenary Council.      This discernment process involves establishing Writing and Discernment Groups for each National Theme for Discernment while people in faith communities across Australia are called to participate locally in their own communal Listening and Discernment encounters and to send through their submissions to the Groups.       The fruits of what is discerned during this time will shape the agenda of the first session of Plenary Council in October 2020....(more).
Photo: ACBC
Australian bishops have a transparency problem
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  28 January 2020
Australia's bishops have yet to demonstrate the new openness to the Catholic community necessary for a successful Plenary Council 2020. Their inclination to secrecy remains an impediment. They just don't get transparency as a virtue and they have twice demonstrated their adherence to old ways of doing things in recent months. Whether they realise it or not secrecy runs deep in episcopal culture.       The first example came in the conduct of the restructuring of the central apparatus of the Australian church, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), which was decided last November at the biennial ACBC meeting.       This restructuring involved an overall cut of 50 per cent to funding of the national church administration based in Canberra and some capital cities. Grants to national agencies have been cut, including total removal of the long-standing central funding of Catholic Social Services Australia, and jobs have been lost in a shake-up of the general secretariat. One of the most notable casualties has been the stand-alone Council for Australia Catholic Women with the consequent loss of the Office for the Participation of Women and its executive officer, Andrea Dean.       There is much more, including the disappearance of many jobs in executive support, research and journalism and funding cuts across many offices and commissions. The whole package is so substantial that both its general contours and its administrative detail deserves wider debate beyond the ACBC. The bishops should take the wider Catholic community into their confidence and share the financial difficulties which have led them to take what ACBC President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, has described as 'a difficult but unavoidable path'.       National church administration is funded by diocesan levies and many dioceses are clearly feeling the pinch. Revenue is falling because of well-known problems such as falling attendance and an ageing church membership. Expenditure is rising, including the significant contributions to the National Redress Scheme and Catholic Professional Services Ltd, the church body set up to implement the new child protection regimes. All Catholics need to own these problems, but to do that we need to know about them.       The second example is.....(more)Image:  Ojimorena / Getty
‘the world has changed and so must the Church’
Extract from Brian Hoban, Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland, 22 January 2020
Overworked priests can blame their bishops.      Pope Francis keeps on beating the same drum, but is anyone listening? His Christmas message was that ‘the world has changed and so must the Church’.              If you wouldn’t mind, dear reader, could you please read those two short sentences again?      Is there anything complicated about them? No. Is there anything that any Catholic, ordained or non-ordained, could possibly misunderstand? No. They simply sum up what Francis has been saying since he was elected pope. And saying again and again and again.     So if Catholics see something that needs to change, what should we do?      A template emerged a few years from a chat Francis had with his friend, Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who worked most of his life in the Amazon basin. Kräutler lamented the scarcity of priests in his area and the resulting fact that so few could attend Mass. Francis told him to work through the Brazilian bishops. The result was the discussion at the Amazonian synod and the expectation that by March of this year, Francis will announce the ordination of married men for specific regional areas.      Here’s another question. At what stage will it become clear that Ireland qualifies as such a regional area and have the help of a married priesthood?....(more)
Germany’s  'synodal assembly'  a step to rebuilding Church’s credibility
Extract from Catholic News Service, 20 January 2020
FRANKFURT, Germany - Catholic leaders in Germany have compiled responses from lay Catholics in areas related to who holds power in the Church, sexual morals, the role of priests and the place of women in church offices in preparation for an upcoming synodal assembly to debate church reforms.       More than 940 suggestions and questions had been submitted by early January in advance of the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 assembly in Frankfurt, reported KNA, the German Catholic news agency.      The synodal assembly is one segment of the synodal path, which the German bishops agreed to stage at their annual meeting last March.       The synodal assembly will include 230 members. It is the highest decision-making body of the synodal path, an effort by the bishops’ conference and lay Central Committee of German Catholics to restore trust following a September 2018 church-commissioned report that detailed thousands of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy over six decades.       Comments will continue to be accepted through Jan. 23 at the website of the German bishops’ conference.        The bishops and the lay group are collaborating in planning the synodal assembly. During a September plenary meeting, the bishops approved statutes to guide discussions at the assembly.          The bishops’ conference and the committee each will send 69 members to the assembly. Decisions of the assembly must be passed by a double two-thirds majority: two-thirds of all participants as well as two-thirds of all members present from the bishops’ conference.       German church officials say the synodal assembly is not meant to be a synod in the classic sense.        In describing the synodal path, KNA reported that the inclusion of the term synodal in the name of the reform process reflects that the dialogue, initially limited to two years, is more than a nonbinding conversation. As with a synod, each respective local bishop will determine whether the decisions reached will be implemented......(more)
2020 could see major Vatican shakeups
Extract from Elise Harris, Senior Correspondent, Crux, 18 January 2019
ROME - At the beginning of the week, the insider Catholic universe imploded when news broke that retired Pope Benedict XVI and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah had co-authored a new book defending priestly celibacy just as Pope Francis is considering an exception to the rule proposed during the Amazon synod.        In the fierce and polemical debate that ensued, the role of a pope emeritus was questioned while Catholicism’s conservative and progressive camps exchanged arguments over Benedict XVI’s intentions with the book, titled From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, which hit shelves Jan. 15 in France.      The saga culminated with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary for Benedict XVI, saying the emeritus pope had asked that his name be withdrawn as a coauthor and removed from the book’s introduction and conclusion. Citing the Chicago Manual of Style, however, the English-language publisher, Ignatius Press, said it considers the publication “coauthored.”      Though unprecedented is perhaps the wrong word to describe the bizarre episode, it was certainly odd, as Sarah, an active sitting cardinal who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office, took to social media to defend his credibility, issuing several statements and publishing correspondence between himself and Benedict - things that heads of Vatican departments don’t typically do.....(more) Photo: Cardinal Robert Sarah, Crux, Paul Haring CNS
Francis finishes work on Amazon Synod text
Extract from CathNews, Joshua McAlwee, National Catholic Reporter,  17 January 2020
Pope Francis has completed work on his highly anticipated response to last year’s Vatican gathering of Catholic bishops from the Amazon. Source: NCR Online.             Catholic bishops around the world are receiving a letter from the Vatican this week, advising them that the document, which may allow for the ordination of married men as Catholic priests in the nine-nation region is nearing publication. The document is also expected to lament devastating environmental destruction in the region and may detail new ministries for women in the Church.       “The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated,” states the letter, which is signed by retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes and was obtained by NCR.        "Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” writes Cardinal Hummes, who served as the synod’s lead organiser.        Francis’ response to the October 6-27 Synod of Bishops, is among the most awaited documents of his nearly seven-year papacy. The text is expected to address a request from the 185 synod members that he allow for bishops in the Amazon region to ordain current married deacons as priests, in order to meet sacramental needs in the vast, hard-to-traverse area.        The as yet unpublished text received additional attention this week, with unexpected news that retired Pope Benedict XVI had co-authored a volume defending the Church’s practice of clerical celibacy.        Benedict’s intervention touched off fears among theologians that the former pope might be trying to tie Francis’ hands, effectively preventing the reigning Pope from approving the synod’s request.     Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has since claimed that the ailing, 92-year-old ex-pontiff did not mean to co-author the volume, and has asked that for the removal of Benedict’s name as a co-author.....(more).    Photo:  CNS Paul Haring CathNews 20190117
Committee to recommend Australian bishops give laity certain controls
Extract from Michael Sainsbury, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Yangon, Myanmar — A six-person committee charged with reviewing church governance and management is expected to present Australia's bishops with a plan to overhaul the management of the church in the country.     The plan would cede control over financial, human resources and governance functions to professional laity, Jack de Groot, a member of the review committee, told Catholic News Service. The committee, established by the Australian Catholics Bishops' Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in May 2018, expects to present the plan by late March.           It is the latest in a series of responses by the Australian church to the country's Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which uncovered and documented the tragic history of abuses in religious and secular organizations, including Catholic-run schools and orphanages across the country.         The commission found the Catholic Church, the denomination in Australia with the most followers, to be the worst offender and, since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation to victims. Dozens of offenders, including many clerics, have been imprisoned.           In June 2018, the government established a National Redress Scheme to provide support and compensation to survivors, although many have still chosen to pursue perpetrators through the courts. Catholic bishops and religious have been working to act on the series of recommendations handed down by the commissioners in August 2017.         "The past year has seen steady and significant progress made across a range of areas, including in education, in governance reform and in responding to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse," Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said in a progress report in mid-December. "Clearly, any institution that engages with young people must always be vigilant, working to ensure that strong and effective protocols and procedures are in place, generating a culture committed to prompt and decisive action when allegations arise."      De Groot said the governance review was now the church's key priority.         "We have a draft plan," he said, although he admitted it had been delayed from its original October target by the need to finalize an update for the Australian government on the church's response to the Royal Commission recommendations.      A review of the governance of the Catholic Church was one of commission's central recommendations.....(more)Photo:     NCR NS Maria Grazia Picciarella
Francis appoints first woman to managerial role at Vatican's Secretariat of State
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Vatican City — Pope Francis appointed an Italian woman as an undersecretary in the Vatican's Secretariat of State Jan. 15, in the first such appointment of a woman to a managerial role in what is traditionally considered the city-state's most important office.      Francesca Di Giovanni, who has worked for the Secretariat for 27 years, will be one of two undersecretaries in the Section for Relations with States, which is essentially the Vatican's foreign ministry.      The section is led by British Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Di Giovanni joins Polish Msgr. Miroslaw Wachowski, who had been appointed an undersecretary to Gallagher in October.      In making the new appointment, Francis appears to be elevating what normally would be called a capo ufficio, or department head, to a full undersecretary position.      In an interview with the state-run Vatican News shortly after announcement of the appointment, Di Giovanni explained that she will be responsible for the Vatican's multilateral relationships, such as with international institutions, while Wachowski will focus on its bilateral ones, such as with individual countries.     Both roles had previously been filled by one undersecretary, now-Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, who Francis appointed the Vatican's ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti last September.       In the Vatican News interview, Di Giovanni, 66, praised the pope for appointing the first woman to such a role.       "The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women," she said. "But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman."     There are now about half a dozen women serving in undersecretary or equivalent roles in the Vatican's sprawling bureaucracy.....(more)
Benedict XVI distances himself from new book on celibacy
Limited and edited extract from Nicolas Senèze and Clémence Houdaille, subscription journal La Croix International, 15 January 2019
Vatican City.........The book, written in French, opposes ordaining married men as priests and has raised many eyebrows in the Vatican.       It was seen as a challenge to Pope Francis, but not because of the arguments the two theologians put forth in defence of ecclesiastical celibacy.     'Benedict XVI did not write the book'.   Apart from the fact that the retired pope is breaking his self-imposed silence on the Vatican government and Pope Francis' papacy, the signature that appears on the book is "Benedict XVI" and not "Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger" as had been the case with an earlier book he wrote.    It was done to distinguish his personal writings from that of the papal magisterium.      A person close to Benedict XVI told several Vatican reporters that the Pope Emeritus "did not write the book with Cardinal Sarah."    On the other hand, on Jan. 14, the Guinean cardinal stated that "Benedict XVI knew our project would be published as a book."      "I sent the complete manuscript to the Pope Emeritus on Nov. 19, including the cover, a joint introduction, conclusion, Benedict XVI's text and my own text," wrote the cardinal, who has on many occasions crossed swords with Pope Francis.       "On Nov. 25, the Pope Emeritus expressed his satisfaction, and said, "I agree for the text be published," said the 74-year-old cardinal, whom Pope Francis appointed to head the office of liturgical matters in 2014.         'Delete Benedict XVI's name'.      On Jan. 14, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict's private secretary, went public against the book and Cardinal Sarah.        "On the instructions of the Pope Emeritus, I asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the publishers of the book and ask them to withdraw the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book, and also to withdraw his signature from the introduction and conclusions," he told the German agency KNA and the Italian agency Ansa.....(source)
Plenary Council 2020-2021
Nomination as Delegate, 12 January 2019
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has requested that each Diocese nominate four people, who may be laypersons, members of religious orders or Clergy, who are willing to be called as delegates for the Plenary Council Sessions in October 2020 and June and July of 2021.

As a delegate, you will participate in the process of discernment and contribute to a variety of forums before, during and after the Plenary Council Sessions. This is an important and critical role for the life of  Catholic Church in Australia.

To apply, please fill out the following form and submit by the deadline of Friday 24 January 2020. Please note that the application process requires two referees including one active Priest (on appointment).      Delegate Nomination form HERE
Pope Benedict XVI breaks silence to reaffirm priest celibacy
Extract from Nicole Winfield, Crux, 13 January 2019
ROME - Retired Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence to reaffirm the “necessity” of priestly celibacy, co-authoring a bombshell book at the precise moment that Pope Francis is weighing whether to allow married men to be ordained to address the Catholic priest shortage.       Benedict wrote the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, along with his fellow conservative, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office and has been a quiet critic of Francis.       The French daily Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Sunday; The Associated Press obtained galleys of the English edition, which is being published by Ignatius Press.        Benedict’s intervention is extraordinary, given he had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope. He has largely held to that pledge, though he penned an odd essay last year on the sexual abuse scandal that blamed the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.          His reaffirmation of priestly celibacy, however, gets to the heart of a fraught policy issue that Francis is expected to weigh in on in the coming weeks, and could well be considered a public attempt by the former pope to sway the thinking of the current one.        The implications for such an intervention are grave, given the current opposition to Francis by conservatives and traditionalists nostalgic for Benedict’s orthodoxy, some of whom even consider his resignation illegitimate.       It is likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the wisdom of Benedict’s decision to remain an “emeritus pope,” rather than merely a retired bishop, and the unprecedented situation he created by having two popes, one retired and one reigning, living side by side in the Vatican gardens.       In that light, it is significant that the English edition of the book lists the author as “Benedict XVI,” with no mention of his emeritus papal status on the cover.       The authors clearly anticipated the potential interpretation of their book as criticism of the current pope, and stressed in their joint introduction that they were penning it “in a spirit of filial obedience, to Pope Francis.” But they also said that the current “crisis” in the Church required them not to remain silent.....(more)
Meeting of Church heavy-hitters calls for ‘adjustments’ to priestly formation
Extract from Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, 7 January 2019
NEW YORK - A major gathering of ecclesial heavy hitters focusing on the future of the priesthood concluded with a call for a reimagining of priestly formation - one that incorporates the laity and women in the process and better reflects the racial and cultural diversity within the U.S. Church.      The two-day symposium at Boston College took place January 2-3 and was organized around “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry,” a document first published in December 2018, which was the result of a series of seminars sponsored by the college’s Department of Theology and School of Theology and Ministry.          “All consideration of priesthood and ministry must flow from the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the Church’s living tradition as it has been received and developed by Pope Francis,” said a communiqué from the conference released on Monday. “He has called the Church to missionary discipleship that goes to “the peripheries” and is responsive to the gifts and challenges of contemporary cultures.”        The document goes on to outline ten pastoral recommendations, among them greater human formation in seminaries to “foster authentic psychosexual maturity and integration,” an evaluation process for candidates that allows i      Some of the strongest language is reserved for the role of women in priestly formation, where organizers noted that women should be included in the faculty of seminaries.....(more)
Pope Francis begins the most important year of his pontificate.
Extract from Robert Mickens*, Pearls and Irritations,  John Menadue website,  4 January 2020
When the history of Pope Francis’ time as Bishop of Rome is finally written, there is a good chance that the Year of Our Lord 2020 will be recorded as the most important of his entire pontificate. Some are wondering whether it may actually be his last.          The pope’s recent decisions to “retire” the powerful Italian churchman Angelo Sodano as dean of the College of Cardinals and to make Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines head one of the most powerful Vatican offices – Propaganda Fide – are being read as signs that Francis is beginning to prepare for the election of his successor on the Chair of Peter.          The 83-year-old Jesuit pope will also be issuing two major documents in 2020, and probably a few others. He’ll continue to travel the globe, possibly going to places where his predecessors had hoped to visit but were denied entry. And there’s no doubt he will add more men to the illustrious red-hatted group from which will emerge the next Bishop of Rome.       So any way one looks at this new calendar year, it will almost certainly prove to be pivotal.        The Synod paves the way to reform        Pope Francis is to publish at least two extremely important documents already in the initial weeks of 2020.         The first of these texts is an apostolic exhortation on last October’s special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Francis has already hinted that he will endorse a number of changes in pastoral practice that the Synod participants proposed to him.        One of these is the priestly ordination of the viri probati (married men of proven virtue), specifically those who are already permanent deacons. Another is the establishment of a new papal commission to study the possibility of instituting the diaconate and other ministries for women. And a third is the compilation of a new liturgical rite to incorporate cultural elements particular to the native peoples of the Amazon.      This highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation is likely to open up other avenues for reform, as well. So its importance should not be underestimated..........No one can read the future, but the Year of Our Lord 2020 looks like it could be one of the most crucial and important for the recent history of Roman Catholicism.....(more)     *Robert Mickens is Rome Correspondent for La Croix International. This article was first published on Jan 2, 2020. Photo: Pope Francis and Akubra hat with Abp Mark Coleridge, June 2019 ad limina.
Expressions of interest for Diocesan Plenary Council 2020 delegates
Extract from Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, the Bishop of Parramatta, has invited the faithful of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to express their interest in being a delegate for our local Church to the Plenary Council.    Our diocese will be sending a delegation of people to the Plenary Council and this includes    -   Two (2) delegates called from our diocese from the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful”         These two people are to be called from among the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful” of our diocesan Church, that is: from among the clergy and the laity.       Some characteristics of the delegates to be called to consider are:          The person’s demonstrated commitment to leadership in the Church and/or her ministries (e.g. an active parish ministries leader, Catholic Education staff member, Catholic Social Services worker or ecclesial movement leader, etc.);      The person’s living of the Gospel in their life through both prayer and deeds              Their awareness of ‘the bigger picture’ of Catholic faith, community and works in context of contemporary Australian society;       Previous participation in / leadership of listening and dialogue, or listening and discernment encounters with people in the person’s community, workplace or family.         Ultimately, the foundational characteristic to be considered is the person’s ability and capacity to discern with an open heart, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Australia.        Any person who expresses their interest in being called by our diocese to be a delegate to the Plenary Council must be available for the following dates....(more)   Photo: Diocese of Parramatta Plenary Council 2020 delegates 2020103 Catholic Outlook
Submission to Plenary Council Phase 2 Working Groups
Catholics For Renewal, 1 January 2020
The Catholics For Renewal submission to the Plenary Council phase-two Theme Working Groups was submitted on 28 November 2019 and is available HERE. It complies with the 1,000 character limit for each of the themes.   The Plenary Working Groups comprise: 
1.Missionary and Evangelising;  2.Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal; 3. Prayerful and Eucharistic; 4. Humble, healing and merciful;   5. A joyful, hope-filled and servant community; and 6. Open to Conversion, renewal and reform.  
It is also published at Document 94 on the Documents page.  Details in support of this brief submission, and further major actions are included in our Plenary Council submission/book Getting Back on Mission (details here)