Catholics for Renewal


News 2012

   (A broad and  diverse mix of local, national and international faith-related news, information and opinions)

Cardinal Carlo Martini's radical hopefulness
Extract from David Timbs, Cathblogs, Cathnews, 20 December 2013

Carlo Martini SJ was one of the very few high-profile Catholic leaders who did not indulge in the rhetoric of rupture and discontinuity which has become central to Catholic apologetic  discourse since Benedict XVI was elected. The former Archbishop of Milan, who died earlier this month at the age of 85, refused to entertain the idea that the faith should become the servant of ideology or be wielded as a blunt instrument in some sort of a “Culture Wars” game. Martini was a man of radical hopefulness and enduring trust in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. One of his doctoral theses was on the Resurrection. His life was also marked by an intense passion for the biblical story, for the memory embedded in the Judeo-Christian narrative and the hard-won wisdom which emerged in lives of ordinary believers. As a disciple and leader, he was deeply convinced that the Word provided an essential road map for the Pilgrim People. He believed also that the Word could not be contained by any hermeneutic that was not grounded in Jesus Christ and his history. Commentators have remarked on the fundamental importance Martini ascribed to reading, interpreting and applying the Word with the perspective of its human realisation. He saw the word for what it was, made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, and intrinsically bound to the incarnation in all its dimensions. Carlo Martini was convinced that the biblical story does not stand outside of – or did not exempt itself – from human history. He knew well the crucial importance for the Church to know its time, place and cultural context (more).

Praise for church cover-up admission
Extract from Barney Zwartz, The Age, Saturday 15 December 2012

For the first time, a Catholic spokesman has acknowledged that the church in Australia covered up sex abuse, according to a reform group of Catholics. The group praised Francis Sullivan, CEO of the yet-to-be-formed Catholic Truth, Justice and Healing Commission, for admitting to the media this week that he was personally scandalised and disillusioned by the church's history of cover-ups. Peter Johnstone, chairman of Catholics for Renewal, said on Friday the church had previously acknowledged that it had mishandled abuse cases, but not cover-ups. He welcomed this week's announcement of the lay-led Catholic council to advise the bishops about sex abuse and co-ordinate the church's response to the forthcoming royal commission. Mr Sullivan, who called himself a committed Catholic, said on Friday he shared the perception cover-ups were widespread in the church. ''Like ordinary Catholics, I feel very disillusioned at how this whole thing has been portrayed, and the scandal involves cover-ups.''.He said he was happy if people were optimistic about the new council...(more).

Catholic council set up to advise on sex abuse
Edited Extract from
Barney Zwartz, The Age, Thursday13 December 2012
The Catholic Church has set up a new Truth, Justice and Healing Council to advise its bishops and run its dealings with the forthcoming royal commission on child sex abuse. It will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge as chairman and a prominent layman as CEO, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference chairman Denis Hart said on Wednesday. Saying the church recognised it needed a sophisticated and co-ordinated response, Archbishop Hart promised a new era of co-operation, transparency and honest
y. So did both new appointments, Barry O'Keefe, QC, as chairman and Francis Sullivan as CEO, whose first job will be to lift the commission's membership to 10. Archbishop Hart, the archbishop of Melbourne, said the new commission would also work with victims of clergy sex abuse (more).  Photo: Justin McManus, The Age. Leading roles: Francis Sullivan (left) and Barry O'Keefe,

Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power, and Organizational Culture, by Marie Keenan, Published by Oxford University Press, $62.50
Extract of NCR book review by John C Seitz, Associate Professor of theology, Fordham University

If we want to understand sexual violence, we have to get to know its perpetrators and the worlds in which they were formed. In the particular context in which Marie Keenan is interested -- clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up in the U.S. and Ireland since the middle of the 20th century -- such an adage goes from truism to nonstarter. Pressure not to get to know clerical abusers and the institutional, educational and social worlds of their formation comes from many angles of varying validity.....(more)

Report on Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 26-30 November
ACBC, Thursday 6 December 2012

A Plenary summary may be downloaded here

NCR Editorial: Ordination of women would correct an injustice
Extract from National Catholic Reporter Editorial, Monday 3 December 2012

The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand (more).

Bishops will establish council for royal commission
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Friday 30 November 2012

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference will set up a new Council for the Royal Commission the Bishops Conference announced this morning.Australia’s Catholic Bishops see the Royal Commission as an opportunity for the Church’s processes to be scrutinised with greater objectivity. In order to work as effectively as possible with the Royal Commission, the Bishops have established a supervisory group of representatives from the Australian Catholic
Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia. This supervisory group will establish and oversee a new Council for the Royal Commission consisting of 10 people (including bishops, religious and lay people) served by an Executive Officer. In their statement, the Bishops say, “Our hope is that, in its search for truth, the Royal Commission will present recommendations ensuring the best possible standards of child protection in our country.” (more)
Statement from the Bishops on the Royal Commission, Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 30 November 2012 (here

Two major recommendations in Facing the Truth
Edited extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Friday 23 November 2012

The Catholic Church in Victoria supports the extension of the current requirements relating to Mandatory Reporting under the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) to ministers of religion and other religious personnel with an exemption for information received during the Sacrament of Confession (more).

Church to review sexual abuse complaints policy
Extract from Catholic News, Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Catholic Church will review its national sexual abuse complaints policy at next week's meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, reports The Australian. ACBC president Archbishop Denis Hart (pictured) confirmed both Towards Healing and the church's other complaints process, the Melbourne Response, would be on the agenda at next week's Sydney meeting of the church's peak body. "I am sure the bishops will discuss the two present responses in the light of their inherent value, as well as any criticism, to assess the best way forward for all," Archbishop Hart said. A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell's archdiocese of Sydney said the sexual abuse complaints policy had been reviewed since it was introduced in 1997. "We would expect procedures to be revised again as the commission progresses and of course when final recommendations are made," the spokesperson said. Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response, set up by Cardinal Pell when he was Melbourne archbishop in 1996, have been the subject of trenchant criticism by victims groups and others (more). Photo: Catholic News

Statement from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Royal Commission Bishops’ Response, 12 November 2012

The President and Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, on behalf of the Australian Bishops, support the announcement by the Prime Minister of a Royal Commission into child sex abuse in our community. This is a serious issue not just for the Catholic Church but for the whole community. As Catholic bishops and as individuals we share the feelings of horror and outrage which all decent people feel when they read the reports of sexual abuse and allegations of cover ups.
Over the past 20 years, there have been major developments in the way the Church responds to victims, deals with perpetrators and puts in place preventive measures. In addition, there is a much greater general awareness of the issue of paedophilia in the broader community. Sexual abuse of children is not confined to the Catholic Church. Tragically, it occurs in families, churches, community groups, schools and other organisations. We believe a Royal Commission will enable an examination of the issues associated with child abuse nationally, and identify measures for better preventing and responding to child abuse in our society (full statement here).

Women Deacons                                                                                          Saturday 10 November 2012
In May 2012, Catholics For Renewal sent all the Catholic Bishops of Australia a copy of the publication Women Deacons Past, Present, Future by Gary Macy PhD, Professor of Theology at Santa Clara University, USA; Deacon William Ditewig PhD, Director of Lay and Deacon Formation in the Diocese of Monterey, California and former Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington DC, USA; and Phyllis Zagano PhD, Senior Research Associate-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University, New York, USA.  

This is a scholarly publication on an important topic and Pope Benedict has advised Dr Zagano that the topic of Women Deacons is “under study”.  The response from the Bishops of Australia has been mixed.  Some found the publication interesting whilst the majority elected not to respond.   

This topic is gaining momentum and The National Catholic Reporter in the United States published an article on their website this month (November 2012) headed: Media reports shine light on emerging discussion of women deacons.

If you believe that there should be a broader role for women in ministry, which Catholics for Renewal strongly supports, you may like to view the National Catholic Reporter (here) and, ask your local Bishop if he found the publication compelling and what actions he is considering in this regard.

A call for reform of Church governance - a blueprint of how authority could & should function in the Catholic Church.                                                                                                                                                   Extracts from, Saturday 20 October 2012
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we call on all other members of the People of God to assess the situation in our church. We present a blueprint of how authority could & should function in the RC Church. This new system of authority, based on Gospel teaching and genuine co-responsibility as demanded by Vatican II, will affect all circles in the Church: Pope, Bishops, Bishops Conferences, Priests and Laity (more).

Church tax decree bodes ill for German Catholicism
Edited Extract from Moya St Leger, Viewpoint, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 11 October 2012

The German bishops' recent decree refusing sacraments to Catholics who stop paying a church membership tax has been greeted with incredulity and opprobrium around the world. Global media coverage of the decree, which was authorized by Rome, has brought into sharp focus a situation of which most were unaware: German Catholics and members of other denominations pay a "church tax" amounting to 8-9 percent of their income tax. The state has collected the church tax since the secularization of Germany in the 19th century and channels the money to the churches for a small fee. It is widely assumed that the German Catholic church uses the income to fund a broad range of Catholic organizations and bodies — schools, hospitals, study centers, youth centers and kindergartens — whose indisputably excellent work would have to be taken over by the state if church tax ceased. Carsten Frerk, an expert in church finance, disputes this assumption in Caritas und Diakonie in Deutschland. For example, he writes, estimates reveal that the state's contribution to denominational kindergartens amounts to approximately 75 percent of the operating costs. Fifty years ago, Germans could not believe that other national Catholic churches ran their institutes of learning and organizations without a dime raised from a church tax. Since then, Germans have traveled the world and discovered the truth for themselves (more).
Photo: Bishops pray at Mass in the Fulda Cathedral Sept. 27 during the four-day annual meeting of the German bishops' conference. (dapd/Thomas Lohnes)

CFR Submission to  Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse                                                                     Friday 21 September 2012                                                                                                       Catholics for Renewal has lodged a submission with the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee for the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations. The recently retired Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Patrick Power, made the following salient observation about the sexual abuse crisis:  “Sexual abuse perpetrated by priests is the gravest crisis faced by the Church since the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation needing not just a focus on abusers but a total systemic reform of Church structures.”

Catholics for Renewal has outlined in its submission serious deficiencies in past and present governance of the Catholic Church which affect the occurrence, handling and reporting of child abuse by religious personnel. Some of those deficiencies can be addressed by appropriate State legislation and public findings by the Committee. There is a need for legislative change and also for change within the Church to introduce governance structures and practices that ensure high levels of accountability, including alertness to any criminal abuse of children and the reporting of criminal abuse of children to the police.

A copy of the executive summary and recommendations can be accessed here.                                                   The full submission was subsequently published on this website on 12 October 2012 here .

The Hierarchy and the Lowerarchy
Extract from Donald F. Fausel, Dr Don's Online Office, Responsible Faith, 13 September 2012 (first published 5 September 2012)    
In Obedience to Authority and Loyal Dissent I indicated that in my next posting, I would share my viewpoint on how the governing structure of the Church has been dysfunctional and how that affects the People of God.  Briefly, my fundamental belief is that the majority of the problems the Church has experienced both pre and post, Vatican II, are rooted in its ancient and absolute monarchial governance.  As a first step, the very least the hierarchy needs to consider is a bona fide agreement  to acknowledge and operationalize the sensus fidelium’s (the sense or mind of the faithful) lawful right to participate in decisions on faith and morals. This needs to be a sine qua non, otherwise there will be little chance for reform or renewal, accept as the sensus fidelium is defined by the Vatican.

In this commentary I will provide background information on the legitimacy of the sensus fidelium;  and of how the hierarchy has consistently ignored the mind of the people; and how an egalitarian dialogue is an essential component for change. I will also provide information on a promising document approved by the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, which supports the role of the faithful; plus statements by high ranking members of the hierarchy who don’t go along with the party line. (more)

CathBlog - Cardinal Carlo Martini's radical hopefulness
Extract from David Timms, Catholic News, Tuesday 10 September 2012

Carlo Martini SJ was one of the very few high-profile Catholic leaders who did not indulge in the rhetoric of rupture and discontinuity which has become central to Catholic apologetic  discourse since Benedict XVI was elected. The former Archbishop of Milan, who died earlier this month at the age of 85, refused to entertain the idea that the faith should become the servant of ideology or be wielded as a blunt instrument in some sort of a “Culture Wars” game. Martini was a man of radical hopefulness and enduring trust in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. One of his doctoral theses was on the Resurrection. His life was also marked by an intense passion for the biblical story, for the memory embedded in the Judeo-Christian narrative and the hard-won wisdom which emerged in lives of ordinary believers (more).

The Vatican's very own revolution
Extract from Barney Zwartz, Focus, The Age, Tuesday 11 September 2012

The Vatican II council, which began 50 years ago next month, was the most momentous religious event in 450 years. On January 25, 1959, the newly elected Pope John XXIII invited 18 cardinals from the Vatican bureaucracy to attend a service at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. He told them he planned to summon a global church council. The horrified cardinals were speechless, which the Pope mischievously chose to interpret as devout assent. But, in reality, the Vatican bureaucrats, known as the Curia, were aghast. The Pope, 77, had been elected purely as a caretaker, but here he was indulging a novel, unpredictable, dangerous and, above all, they believed, unnecessary notion. In their view it would create ungovernable expectations and might even lead to changes. And if there were to be changes - always undesirable - then the Curia would manage them without any outside intervention, as they had for centuries (more).

Translated final interview with Martini
Extract from John L Allen Jr, National Catholic Reporter, Tuesday 4 September 2012

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini died in Varese, northern Italy, on Aug. 31 at the age of 85. Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 8, Martini gave a final interview to his fellow Jesuit Fr. George Sporschill, with whom Martini had collaborated on a book titl
ed Nocturnal Conversations in Jerusalem, and an Italian friend named Federica Radice Fossati Confalonieri. Radice has told Italian media outlets that Martini read and approved the text of the interview, intending it as a sort of "spiritual testament" to be published after his death. The following is an NCR translation of the interview published in Italian by the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
How do you see the situation of the church?  The church is tired, in the Europe of well-being and in Ameri
ca. Our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous. Do these things, however, express what we are today? ... Well-being weighs on us. We find ourselves like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to be his disciple. I know that we can't let everything go easily. At least, however, we can seek people who are free and closest to their neighbor, like Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are the heroes among us who can inspire us? By no means do we have to limit them by the boundaries of the institution.  Who can help the church today? (more)

Italian cardinal excelled in all spheres
Extracts from Obituary for Carlo Maria Martini by Gerald O'Collins, The Age, Tuesday 4 September 2012
Cardinal Carlo Martini, who might have been the current pope had he not drawn attention to his failing health at a crucial moment in 2005, has died in Italy. He was 85.....Martini's life took a new turn in December 1979 when he was appointe
d Archbishop of Milan, one of the largest and most prominent Catholic dioceses in the world. He constantly supported a wider role for the ministry of women, social justice - especially for immigrants, refugees, and other suffering minorities - more qualified positions in matters of human sexuality and the right to be allowed to die, and more collegiality or shared decision-making at every level in the church. Famously, he reached out to young people through monthly meetings with them in the Milan cathedral. Martini lived and breathed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). He was always open to relations with Jews, other Christians, and those of other faiths (more).

Pope: laity ‘co-responsible’ in Church
Extract from The Tablet, Thursday 30 August 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has called on Catholic lay people to see themselves as "co-responsible" for the Church's life and activity rather than mere "collaborators" or co-operators with the ordained clergy. "This co-responsibility requires a change in mentality concerning, in particular, the role of the laity in the Church," Pope Benedict wrote in a message to the International Forum of Catholic Action (FIAC). The Pope says "a mature and committed laity" should be able to "make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission with respect for the ministries and tasks that each one has in the life of the Church and always in cordial communion with the bishops" (more).

Australian church is alive and kicking - mostly kicking
Extract from Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 19 July 2012

Ten days in Australia isn't nearly enough, except to find that the church is alive and kicking. Mostly kicking. My first-time-ever trip to Melbourne and Sydney in mid-May was as guest of Garratt Publishing, which publishes Australian editions of my books Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) and Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions about the Diaconate. Garratt sponsored conferences and talks, and introduced me both in person and on various radio programs to an alive and questioning church. The issues in the Australian church are such that I might as well have been in the United States. Except instead of a "Fortnight of Freedom," the Australian bishops are supporting "A Year of Grace" from Pentecost 2012 to Pentecost 2013. In their program, every single brochure, video, Web page and mailing talks about Jesus Christ. It seems the bishops -- or at least the staff of the bishops' conference -- have their "messaging" under control. The visit was full of surprises. Following the example of several U.S. donors who had purchased and sent the book Women Deacons to every U.S. diocesan ordinary and auxiliary, Australia's Catholics for Renewal group sent copies of the book to 42 Australian Catholic bishops and auxiliaries. The cover letter asked for a "broadening of the role of women in ministry." Whether Catholics for Renewal has started a new conversation remains to be seen. There are but a relative handful of deacons in Australia. Would the bishops support adding women to the mix? (more) Photo: Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in October 2010, celebrating the canonization of St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop. (AFP/Drina Thurston)

Catholics For Renewal update, Monday 9 July 2012                                                                                       Following much work in the background Catholics for Renewal has just published on its Website 'Documents' page four significant papers that also effectively provide an update on renewal developments in Australia to date, together with encouraging proposals for moving forward. The papers relate to a coalition of like-minded renewal organisations,  Synod/Plenary Council for the Catholic Church in Australia in 2015, Catholic Synods in Australia 1844-2011, and a "Parish Charter to celebrate Vatican II ".

New ACBC President
Archbishop Denis Hart, Metropolitan Archbishop of Melbourne has been elected as the
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at the Australian Bishops Plenary today in Sydney. Archbishop Hart will take over after this meeting from Archbishop Philip Wilson who has held the post for the past six years (more).

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