Written by Kathy Thompson
An Australian document designed to undermine orthodox Catholicism may soon become the model for governance of the universal Church. The document is being hailed by head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Mark Coleridge, and is being promulgated in tandem with the Plenary Council.
The driving forces behind Australia’s Plenary Council have managed to keep up its momentum despite being postponed due to COVID restrictions. The first session of the Council, which was due to be held last November has been rescheduled for November 2021 and will use a mixed format of in house meetings and live-streaming.
The Plenary’s themes include a very familiar agenda, notably ‘equality’ for LGBTIQ Catholics, communion for the divorced and remarried, contraception and abortion, married priests and the readmission of priests who left to marry, incorporation of Aboriginal spirituality into the liturgy, an end to ‘clericalism’ and so on.
And while the Plenary machine has ploughed on, leaving orthodox and especially, traditional Catholics disenfranchised and unrepresented, a second instrument of reform has sprung up like a sinister beanstalk to lend strength to the liberal cause.
This second agent of potential change is a document that was written in response to Australia’s Royal Commission on Institutional Child Abuse and which is aimed at reforming the governance of the Australian Church.
The Royal Commission was a double-edged sword for Catholics in our country. It both exposed horrific, often long-term abuse that had been perpetrated and subsequently covered-up by our hierarchy but also made the Church a scapegoat for almost all of the sexual abuse that has taken place in Australian institutions. The Church has been made out to be the worst, if not the only major institution that has failed to protect children. The Royal Commission’s findings, which have been amplified by our anti-clerical media, have led to priests being unequivocally identified as abusers in the minds of many ordinary Australians.
The outcome from the inquiry was a series of recommendations ostensibly aimed at preventing priests from abusing minors but which has the potential to undermine the Church’s rightful authority.
Australia’s Catholic Bishops Conference has included the Commission’s recommendations in a reform which goes far beyond simply protecting children and which, uncannily, reinforces the Plenary Council’s agenda. The ACBC commissioned a task force, which included liberal theologian Massimo Faggioli among its international advisors, and the group produced a report called, “The Light from the Southern Cross.” It is this document which Faggioli believes should form the basis of a worldwide reform of the Church.
Sadly, the state of the Catholic Church in other parts of the world lends further weight to calls for some kind of universal governance reform. A report on the Church in England and Wales, which was released on November 10th 2020, the same day as the McCarrick Report, has prompted child abuse survivors to call for an independent oversight body and mandatory reporting laws in those countries. It beggars belief that neither of these checks and balances currently exist in England and Wales, as both were recommended in previous reports: the Nolan report of 2001 and the Cumberlege report of 2007.
Part of the strategy at work to establish mechanisms for reform is the constant shuffling of chancery departments and entities, dismantling of existing bodies, calls for reviews and committees, then announcements of the new and improved versions that are ‘guaranteed’ to stop the errors of the past. This process is happening at the macro level in the Vatican and at the micro level in dioceses. It is like a giant shell game which seems designed to make it difficult for outsiders, that is ordinary Catholics, to keep up. Secular or ‘Catholic’ professionals seem to have no trouble keeping up. In fact, meetings, schedules and committees are the bread and butter of these unholy bureaucrats.
One of these updated entities has just been announced in Australia – a new national safeguarding body called Catholic Safeguarding Limited. This replaces the old (but not so very old) Catholic Professional Standards Limited and the Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards.
Catholic Professional Standards Limited was run by laypeople and last year quietly released a very worrying document called the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. This document is one of those Trojan horses with which we are so very familiar: promotion of the LGBTIQ cause under the guise of protecting human rights. As I wrote in a previous article, this document mandates that the Church “pays particular attention to “children of diverse sexuality.”
“Diversity” seems to be a special theme of the guidelines with initial drafts of the document containing multiple references to “diverse sexuality and gender.” A previous draft had also identified “ …“challenge or denial of identity” as a form of abuse that is prohibited on the basis of “cultural safety.” This means that the term “abuse” has been widened from the kinds of physical, sexual and spiritual abuse that have been plaguing the Church and with which She rightly needs to deal, to now encompassing imagined abuses, such as the refusal to recognise an adopted gender. Apart from being objectively immoral and hurtful to the gender-confused, this is highly insensitive and insulting to victims of true abuse who so desperately need to be acknowledged and healed. The consequences for the average parish priest in this regard are frightening.
Audits of parishes have already been taking place to ensure compliance with the National Standards. Church employees must undergo training which teaches them to identify bullying, harassment and grooming behaviours. Incoherently, “progressive Catholic schools” teach these behaviours through their encouragement of LGBTIQ ideology and through the disparaging of traditional Catholic piety.
Similar audits are recommended in The Light from the Southern Cross; ‘inclusivity’ is singled out as a specific target of these audits and they would also evaluate how closely an agency or parish is complying with the ‘recommendations.’ This signals an end to the autonomy of the parish priest, as parish councils, no doubt run by “Susan and Karen”, will become mandatory.
Catholic Safeguarding Limited is to operate with guidance from Catholic Religious Australia, the Bishops’ Conference and the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons (AMPJP) – a lay organisation known for its progressive views. Inclusion of the AMPJP underscores the fear that reform is more about changing the nature of Catholicism than about protecting the vulnerable.
In his assessment of the McCarrick report, Massimo Faggioli pointed out that it contains no recommendations for ensuring that the pattern of abuse, promotion and coverup is not repeated. Unfortunately, The Light from the Southern Cross attempts to fill that gap, suggesting that the universal Church’s future will be one of increased bureaucracy, totalitarian oversight and the ever-deepening entrenchment of liberal pseudo-Catholicism.