Responses to The Newcastle Herald – 18 June 2018
1. Do you believe the Truth Justice and Healing Council report in response to the Royal Commission final report and recommendations should be immediately released to the public, as a starting point in a discussion with Catholics, and the Australian people, about how the Australian church is going to restore trust with the community?
I believe that the whole Church inclusive of Catholics faithful should formulate a response to the Royal Commission final report, taking into account the Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) report.
2. Although the ACBC’s position on its completion in March was that it would not be released until it had been assessed by (a) bishops at the May conference and (b) advisory committees including selected lay representatives, doesn’t the Pope’s letter of May 31 change the way all bishops should be viewing that decision?
The Pope’s letter in question should serve as an encouragement for the bishops to engage closely and respectfully with the faithful in responding the child sexual abuse crisis.
3. Doesn’t the Pope’s clear messages to both bishops and laity signal communication between church clerical leaders and, at the very least, Catholics, in response to the child sexual abuse crisis, as a first step in renewing the church?
4. Aren’t Australia’s bishops at risk of not only being seen of trying to “supplant, silence or ignore all the faithful with all their differences or by reducing the People of God to small elites, we build communities, pastoral plans, emphases, theologies, spiritualities and structures without roots and without history, without faces and without memory, and in short, we turn ourselves into a lifeless body”, or actually doing so, by keeping the TJHC report to a “small elite”, when many Catholics are making clear they want to engage with the renewal process?
Keeping the TJHC report “in-house” for any period longer than necessary is not in the interest of the kind of Church the Pope speaks about. After all, the TJHC though appointed by the Catholic bishops and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) worked in the interest of the whole church. Thus, the whole church as the People of God needs to make a collective response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission taking into account the final report of the TJHC.
5. Isn’t Pope Francis making clear he wants all Catholics to “not be afraid of being the central drivers of the transformation that is being demanded today”, and makes no distinction between whether they act as individuals, “fringe groups”, mainstream or non-mainstream? Doesn’t that statement, along with many others, tip the balance in favour of the ACBC releasing the TJHC report now, as a sign Australia’s bishops are responding to the global Catholic Church leader?
6. Are you comfortable with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference advising me that the reason bishops will not be meeting with a group like Catholics for Renewal is because it already knows what they have to say? Isn’t the issue here, according to what Pope Francis has clearly stated, whether bishops are communicating even with critics in response, as part of a process of church renewal?
Personally, I have met with Catholics for Renewal and other similar groups. I am of the view that leaders should engage in respectful and humble listening from all voices in the Church.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta