Australian archbishop accused of censorship

Archbishop Peter Comensoli has been accused of censorship after he stopped a nun from speaking at an upcoming conference.

Comensoli, the Archbishop of Melbourne, initially sought to say the rescinding of an invitation to Sister Joan Chittister, a US author, feminist and advocate of church reform, was a misunderstanding.

He suggested Joan had been sounded out for her availability for the 2020 National Catholic Education Conference in Melbourne, but that no formal invitation had been made.

In fact, correspondence between the Ballarat Catholic Education Office deputy director John Meneely and Joan’s office shows on 29 April they agreed to Joan presenting a 60-minute speech at the conference, covering the topic ‘Listen to what the spirit is saying’.

A fee of $11,700 had also been negotiated, along with business-class airfares and hotel accommodation.

“I am very saddened to say that while our organising committee strongly supported the inclusion of Sr Joan as a speaker at the conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne has failed to endorse her inclusion,” Meneely says.

He is now seeking explanation for Comensoli’s reasons for excluding Joan.

The Archdiocese issued a statement last Friday evening.

Acknowledging Comensoli was advised in May of “a proposal for Sister Joan Chittister to speak at the National Catholic Education Commission Conference”, the statement continued:

“When the conference was raised with him, Archbishop Comensoli requested that more names aligned to the themes of a national Catholic education conference be considered.

“The conference is a national conference with an organising committee drawn from leaders in Catholic education that is engaged in dialogue as part of the planning with a range of stakeholders including Catholic education leaders, church representatives and bishops.

“Archbishop Comensoli has neither invited Sister Joan or revoked any invitation that may have been issued to her.”

However, suspicions the archdiocese was seeking to suppress the views of a nun who had repeatedly called for the empowerment of women and laypeople in the church is fuelling anger among those already upset by Joan’s exclusion.

Others are contrasting Joan’s treatment to the support Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher recently gave to former rugby star Israel Folau’s right to free speech.

“One hopes that the freedoms advocated for Folau be also extended to Joan Chittister,” Sister Patty Fawkner, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan wrote in an online article last week.

“This would certainly help us move towards an adult Church.”


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