Church needs total systemic reform – Bishop
The Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn in Australia has described the current crisis facing the Catholic Church arising out of the sexual abuse scandals as “arguably the most serious challenge the Church has faced since the Reformation”.
Auxiliary Bishop Pat Power of Canberra-Goulburn also said the Church is in need of “total systemic reform.”
Writing in the Canberra Times, Bishop Power says, “The response must, in the first instance, be clearly focused on the victims of such abuse, their families and other secondary victims. The untold damage done to innocent people and its life-long consequences in many cases need to be clearly and honestly acknowledged.”
Elsewhere in the article he writes, “In responding to sexual and other forms of abuse within the Church it is not enough to concentrate on the sinfulness and failure of those guilty of abuse. It is not just a question of individual repentance but a total systemic reform of Church structures which is needed. An ecclesiastical environment which allowed such aberrant behaviour can no longer be tolerated.”
He adds, “The reform needed by the Church today will involve much more than just ‘tinkering around the edges”.
“Issues such as the authoritarian nature of the Church, compulsory celibacy for the clergy, the participation of women in the Church, the teaching on sexuality in all aspects cannot be brushed aside.”
“During this Year for Priests, many of my colleagues around Australia are crying out for credible leadership from the hierarchy which involves more than mere words. I am certain that these pleas will be heard when the National Council of Priests meets in Parramatta next July.”
He adds, “Listening must be a key component of reform and at times that will involve listening to unpalatable truths. It needs to be recognised that all wisdom does not reside exclusively in the present all male leadership of the Church and that the voices of the faithful must be heard.”
Referring to the opportunities which Vatican II provided for reform and the empowering of the laity as part of the People of God, as well as engaging with the modern world, other Churches and non-Christian religions, the promotion of religious freedom, encouraging greater participation in the liturgy, enabling all to have a deeper relationship with God, Bishop Power notes that “Unfortunately, these days we are more likely to be warned of the ‘excesses following Vatican II’ or told of the need for ‘reform of the reform’ in regard to the liturgy or the ‘re-interpretation of Vatican II’.”
The Bishop highlights that it was largely Jesus’ female disciples who stood by him dying on Calvary, and that Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection.
He adds, “she could legitimately be called an apostle in that she was sent to bring the good news to the other followers of Jesus”.
In the article, Bishop Power then questions whether “the Church would be in its present state of crisis if women had been part of the decision-making in the life of the Church”.
The auxiliary Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn concludes, “There may be people who question the views I am espousing, but I wish to re-state that there is a whole body of faithful Catholics who are saying ‘enough is enough’ and that we all need to grasp this opportunity to enable the Church to be its best self in bringing the message of Jesus to its own adherents and to the wider society.”