Australian church wants more collegial governance, more laypeople

The Catholic Church in Australia is looking for more collegial models of governance in Catholic schools, hospitals and charities.

It is presently reviewing the clerical and hierarchical models that have failed dioceses and parishes during the ongoing child sex abuse crisis.

Collegial models would see the significant participation of laypeople says Jack de Groot, who is a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Catholic Religious Australia six-person review committee.

De Groot says this would enable leveraging lay people’s expertise and would aim to bring gender parity to the running of the church in a country that has been at the forefront of dealing with child sex abuse.

He thinks it is clear that the current model of church governance does not work.

“There are tensions in finding a governance model, in the Gospel imperative of looking after the poorest of the poor, the most marginalised people in society and how we do this within financial best practice and by offering the best in class in terms of quality and impact,” he says.

He notes it all must be done “with accountability and with a view to what is the right thing to do consistently”.

“The review is about how do we bring more accountability, more transparency into the process of decision-making – and critically about who participates in that decision-making ,” he says.

“We need the best of governance in corporate and government institutions and more,” he said. “As we change things, we have to bring people along, but the work has really already begun in areas like safeguarding. People have instituted good practices … that take safeguarding seriously and diligently.”

De Groot says the review is the Church’s first major move to implement the recommendations of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

The Royal Commission criticised the Catholic Church, other religious groups and both state and non-state secular organisations and institutions.


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