Drastic overhaul called for Australia’s Catholic Church

Australia’s Catholic Church needs to completely overhaul itself following Cardinal George Pell’s sex abuse conviction.

Hundreds of thousands of Catholics are pushing for the church to open itself to ordaining women, ending clericalism and enabling people who are LGBTI or divorced to be included more.

Prominent Catholics are sounding alarm bells, warning the Church that Pell’s conviction should be seen in the light of the influence he has had on the church.

“A convicted paedophile has played a major part in the form of the Church we see today,” Catholics for Renewal spokesman Peter Johnstone says.

“It can’t just be business as usual.”

An internal report, based on the input of more than 220,000 people is demanding radical reform at next year’s Plenary Council, which will discuss the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.

The plenary council will be the first to be held since the second Vatican Council.

The internal report includes proposals such as:

  • more inclusion for divorced and remarried Catholics
  • better selection of priests
  • more involvement for lay-people
  • an end to discrimination against LGBTI people
  • the need for women to have a greater role in the church
  • more support for victims of child sex abuse

Whether the Church is open to change is a question many people are asking, particularly in the light of Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli’s recent media statements.

These include Comensoli saying he’d go to jail rather than break the confessional seal to report on a paedophile.

He also said during a radio interview that he doesn’t believe Pell is guilty. His conviction could have been a result of mistaken identity on the part of the surviving victim, Comensoli suggested.

Proposed new laws compelling priests to report on child abuse disclosed during confession are also raising questions about the Church’s openness to change.

Labour MP Paul Edbrooke – whose father was sexually abused by a Catholic clergyman – hit out at Comensoli’s comments, saying:

“It certainly takes a man detached from all logic and reality to go on radio and sell our community this rubbish. But it takes an even stupider one to expect people to believe it.”

A spokesman for Comensoli said he would not be responding to Edbrooke’s comments. He also refused to respond to suggestions that Pell’s conviction should be viewed as a “wake-up call” for church reform.


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