Concerned Australian Catholic group lobbies for structural change

A Canberra group called “Concerned Catholics” is lobbying for structural change to address disillusion and disaffection in the Australian Catholic Church.

Chair of the group, emeritus professor John Warhurst, says Catholic leaders in Australia must begin work to give parishioners an effective role and voice in the Church’s direction and provide greater accountability and inclusive decision-making.

He also says the Church in Australia should not be an inward-looking organisation dominated by older men.

The group has written a submission asking church leaders to establish pastoral councils in the Canberra archdiocese.

They say the councils will enable parishioners and lay partners to participate fully in the Church’s response to next month’s final report on the Royal Commission into Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The submission also calls for Canon Law to be reformed and for women’s role in leadership positions to be promoted.

Another matter the submission addresses is the Church’s culture for “everyday Catholics” as “prayers, payers and those subject to outdated Canon Law”. This should stop, the group says.

It also asked for compulsory celibacy for priests to be addressed.

“Like in any large organisation or movement, a good number of people are going about their ordinary local business… but I think a significant minority are disillusioned and in some cases angry about what’s happened,” Warhurst says.

“There’s a large number spread around the archdiocese who really want to be part of a group who stirs the pot.

“The issues raised during the hearings and preliminary reports of the Royal Commission make it clear there will be plenty of adverse comment about the culture and governance of the Catholic Church and many Catholics want to have their say.”

At present, Warhurst says lay people are not well placed to contribute to decision-making.

“It’s a tough ask to hope that these matters will be changed by people who are effectively operating in a branch office of a multinational corporation, but you have to start somewhere.

“We want to be on the front foot and influencing them at a time when they’re making key decisions for [a proposed plenary council for the church in Australia in] 2020,” he said.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse welcomed the submission, saying he is open to the proposal for new pastoral councils.

“From now up until 2020, we’d like to listen carefully to the different Catholic voices and beyond,” he said.


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