Late Aussie cardinal had his share of frustrations with Rome

Cardinal Edward Clancy, who has been described as one of the great archbishops of Sydney, has died aged 90 on August 2.

Known as a workaholic, a moderating force and a conservative, without being reactionary, that didn’t stop Cardinal Clancy having his share of disagreements with Rome.

In fact, he once told a young priest heading for Rome to study to “trust nobody”.

This didn’t stop that young priest being an Australian archbishop today.

An obituary article written by a former editor of Sydney’s Catholic Weekly, Kerry Myers, described some of Clancy’s battles with Rome.

The Vatican once intervened in a project Clancy had authorised – the setting up of a heroin injecting room run by the Sisters of Charity from a Catholic hospital.

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ordered the sisters to drop the scheme after strident protests from a number of conservative Catholics.

While the cardinal took Rome’s decision “on the chin”, one priest close to him said he took the rebuke personally, but that did not stop him publicly siding with Rome.

But after a 1999 bishops’ Oceania Synod in Rome, a Statement of Conclusions reprimanded Australia’s bishops over a perceived crisis of faith and religious practice in their nation.

Speaking to ABC radio on his retirement in 2001, Clancy expressed frustration at the reception the bishops got from Rome.

“I came away feeling that our brethren in Rome didn’t fully understand the situation in real life as we have it here,” he said.

” . . . there’s a certain Australian egalitarianism that other people often misread and misunderstand, and also an openness.”

During his tenure, Cardinal Clancy also decided to divide Sydney archdiocese into three dioceses for pastoral reasons.

And it was his support, especially in Rome, that resulted in the eventual canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop.

He was Archbishop of Sydney from 1983 to 2001, when he retired.

Previously he had been Archbishop of Canberra Goulburn and was also an auxiliary bishop in Sydney.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference from 1986 to 2000, he received the cardinal’s red hat in 1988.

In 1992 he was made a Companion in the Order of Australia for service to religion, learning and the disadvantaged in the community.



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