Secret Catholic Bishops Australia
Title: Secret bishops’ report calls for radical revamp of Catholic Church
Author: Farrah Tomazin
Publisher: The Age
Australia’s Catholic 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.
A secret 200-page report being considered by the nation’s bishops has called for unprecedented reform in a bid to make the church more inclusive and break down the structures that contributed to decades of clergy abuse and cover-ups.
The report is in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which found that 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.
But in a sign of how sensitive the church is to issues of reform, the body that commissioned the report – the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference – is unlikely to publicly release or reveal how it will respond to its 86 recommendations until the end of the year.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the current president of the ACBC, acknowledged that the proposals would have “far-reaching implications for the Church’s life and mission”.
“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 is based on a 15-month review of church governance, which was conducted by a seven-member panel led by Justice Neville Owen, the former chair of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.
The Age and the Herald understand that among its many findings is the notion that bishops should cede more control to professional laity, taking a more collegiate approach rather than simply being the chief decision maker.
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