While the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Catholic Religious Australia issued a media release on the first of May , the secular press has so far ignored it, and even in Catholic circles the news is slow to emerge. Perhaps most peoples’ eyes glaze over when they see or hear the words “governance” or “structures,” but they are fundamental to the whole problem of clerical culture which was identified by the Royal Commission as the major cause of the clerical abuse of minors and the Church’s attempts to keep it hidden.
In the words of the media release, “a panel of experts has been convened to conduct a national review of the governance and management structures of Catholic dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and lay participation.”
This is a huge step forward in the Australian Catholic Church. It cannot be underestimated. Not only will it lay the ground for much needed reform, it is a sure sign of good faith in taking up one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission. Also significant is the fact that the expert panel of seven is made up of four men and three women, one a priest, one a nun, and the rest prominent lay Catholics.
I recommend you read Michael Sainsbury’s recent opinion piece on the matter, and would like to finish by quoting from his concluding paragraphs:
The unprecedented scope and urgency of this review is sign that, finally the leaders of the Australian church have at last taken the adage of “adapt or die” to heart…
Parishioners will hope that this welcome change of direction that is fundamental to the future of the Catholic Church in Australia has not come too late.
Author: Patricia Gemmell
Patricia recently graduated with a Masters in Theology, is a member of the Australian Grail National Leadership Team and has been a parishioner of St Leonard’s, Naremburn, for 34 years.