Martina Moyski reports for ChurchMilitant.com – The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) has produced a report suggesting women and laypeople gaining roles of ecclesial authority to end their “subservience” — not outing and prosecuting predators — will fix the sex abuse crisis.
Launched in May 2019, the comprehensive, 200+ page report, titled “The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia,” is prompted by the sex abuse crisis in Australia and “in the global Church” and to “find a path through and out of this crisis in ways that reflect the needs of the society in which it lives,” according to its authors. It was commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The report identified “clericalism” as the source of the crisis. “At its heart, clericalism is about power and its misuse,” it explains.
Referring to one of its sources, the authors elaborated, writing that the “chief manifestations of [clericalism] included “an authoritarian style of ministerial leadership, a rigidly hierarchical worldview, and a virtual identification of the holiness and grace of the Church with the clerical state and, thereby, with the cleric himself.
The same source argued that “problematic behavior” could be deemed “clericalism when it rests on a claim to special religious expertise or ecclesial authority, based on role or status in the Church.”
Elsewhere in the report, the authors said, “Clericalism flourishes in contexts where the lay faithful are excluded or marginalized and adopt a posture of subservience.”
To address this problem, the authors, including Australian bishops and religious, recommend financial and administrative control of parishes and dioceses to be radically reshaped and shared between the clergy and laypeople — with an increased presence of and role for women.
The appointment of laywomen and men to senior decision-making positions should be accelerated, according to the report. In addition, the current male-only priesthood is criticized.
Critics are noting while the extensive report focuses on administrative and financial restructuring in great detail, it does not impart spiritual substance — or sustenance — to the bishops and other readers who are charged to disseminate its findings and recommendations.
One section titled “The Church: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” — where Jesus Christ is mentioned — speaks in the language familiar to traditional Catholicism. But, say critics, the report overall is written and organized more like a corporate manual than a text designed to feed a spiritually starving flock.
Church Militant has been reporting on a downward spiritual trajectory of the Australian Church in recent times, pointing to “decades of modernist infiltration,” coverup of the sexual sins of the clergy and the greenlighting of contraception, abortion and euthanasia — not clericalism — as causes of the downward spiral.
In a press release dated May 18, the ACBC told the Australian faithful — in robotic administrative language — that the report identifies key principles of good ecclesial governance such as subsidiarity, stewardship, synodality, dialogue, discernment and leadership. It offers important ideas on how the Church might enhance the leadership role of laypeople and ensure appropriate co-responsibility at parish and diocesan levels.
The press release was intended to warm up the faithful to the proposed changes reflected in the report, with the bishops planning to withhold publication until their plenary in November. Somehow the report was leaked in early June through the internet.