Secret Weapon Mass Destruction
Title: PETER WILKINSON AND GAIL GROSSMAN FREYNE. Historic Church Governance Report locked down by Australian Bishops
Author: John Menadue
Publisher: John Menadue—Pearls and Irritations
On 4 May 2020 the Project Team commissioned by the Australian bishops and religious superiors to review the Catholic Church’s governance and management structures, presented its 200-page final report. Its 86 recommendations include the need for greater transparency and co-responsibility. The decision of the bishops to withhold the report from public view for at least 6 months has shocked many Catholics.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse spent years trying to understand why Catholic bishops and religious superiors across the nation had covered up the abuse happening under their noses, why they had protected the paedophile priests and religious who had abused innocent boys and girls in their care, and why they had treated the victims with such meanness and disdain.
The Commission finally grasped that ‘clericalism’ – a belief by priests and bishops that they are superior to the lay faithful – and systemic dysfunctional governance on a massive scale were at the root of the problem. It therefore recommended in its 2017 Final Report that “the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) conduct a national review of the governance and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women” (Rec. 16.7).
It took 8 months for the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) to accept the recommendation, and another 7 months to get advice from an Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) on how the review should be undertaken. The IAG recommended a Governance Review Project Plan and a 7-member Review Project Team of predominantly lay experts chaired by former WA Supreme Court justice and current member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, Neville Owen.
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