Catholics For Renewal Australia
“We begin to die the day we don’t act on things that matter.”
– Dr Martin Luther King Jnr
As of 10 December 2020, 297 days remain before the Opening of the 1st Session of the Australian Plenary Council on 3 October 2021. This gathering of the 36 particular churches (dioceses) in this nation will be a rare opportunity to synodically address many of the most pressing issues that challenge our Church in our times. A long Advent is before us as we wait in hope for much-needed renewal.
Though never stated officially, a principal reason for convoking the Plenary Council was the outcome of two major government inquiries: the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations (2012-13), and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2012-17).
The Victorian Parliament’s report, Betrayal of Trust found that:
· a culture existed in religious organisations that allowed for the occurrence of systemic criminal child abuse (Finding 7.3);
· the response to criminal child abuse adopted by the Catholic Church in Victoria and in Australia [was] to conceal rather than expose criminal child abuse (Finding 7.4);
· the betrayal of trust perpetrated at a number of levels of the Church hierarchy is so completely contrary to the stated values of their religion that many parishioners find the betrayal almost impossible to acknowledge (Vol. 1, p.9);
· [an] important consequence of the Catholic Church’s longstanding approach of denial and concealment exposed other young people to abuse, with tragic consequences (Vol. 1, p. 70);
· senior members of the Catholic Church hierarchy knew, over many decades, of reports of conduct that constituted gross departures from the normal standards of human decency, let alone the standards that might reasonably be expected of a religious institution [and that these] reports, which involved not only offences against morality but also serious breaches of the criminal law, appear to have been largely disregarded (Vol. 1, p. 71); and
· a sliding morality developed, emphasis[ing] the interests of the perpetrator and the Church over those of victims, diminishing in significance the criminal and destructive character of the conduct, [and] compartmentalis[ing] the issues to avoid the obvious moral conflicts (Vol. 1, p.73).