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Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia

Catholics for Renewal has drafted this letter in consultation with many Catholics strongly committed to the teachings of Jesus and their Church. People of the Church have been distressed by the increasing failings of our Church, particularly in the context of the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australian Catholics are invited to consider and sign below the following Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia. The Open Letter  provides an opportunity, consistent with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for the faithful – lay people, religious, priests, all members of the Church – to seek renewal of the Church.

Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia

‘Please Listen and Act Now’ 

  Dear Bishops  

  The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed grave governance failures in our Church, failures that undermine its very mission. We, the undersigned Catholics of Australia, write to you as Pilgrim People of God, accepting shared responsibility for our Church, expressing our sense of faith which Vatican II recognised as critical to the life of the Church, and asking you our bishops to listen and to act decisively, executing necessary reforms now. 

  Over several decades we have seen our Church declining steadily to its now shameful state. Countless Catholics have been alienated, particularly younger generations who are our Church’s future. The Royal Commission has now exposed dysfunctional governance, an entrenched culture of clericalism, and a leadership not listening to the people. Too many bishops have denied the extent of clerical child sexual abuse and its systemic cover-up, and even protected paedophiles ahead of children.  

  The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry also found that the Church’s governance contributed to coverups and further abuse. Yet the failings go beyond the scandal of child sexual abuse. Archbishops have admitted to “a catastrophic failure of leadership”, and some have spoken of ‘criminal negligence’. Church credibility has been squandered. To rebuild trust, there must be reform of governance based on Gospel values, reflecting servant leadership and engagement with the faithful. There has to be accountability, transparency, and inclusion particularly of women. 

  Changing processes is not enough. We ask each and every bishop to act now on these reforms:

  1.  Eradicate the corrosive culture of clericalism – “an evil . . . in the Church” (Pope Francis). 
  2.  Become truly accountable with full involvement of the faithful, including diocesan pastoral councils, and diocesan assemblies or synods; with pastoral plans and annual diocesan reports.  
  3. Appoint women to more senior diocesan positions, such as chancellor and delegate of bishops. 
  4. Hold diocesan synods/assemblies in 2018, with deanery and parish listening sessions, to develop the agenda for the national 2020 Plenary Council; and as part of normal diocesan governance. 
  5. Further remodel priestly formation, including ongoing development, assessment and registration. 
  6. Reconcile publicly and fully with all the persons abused, their families and communities, and commit to just redress. 
  7. Send an urgent delegation, including laity, to Pope Francis
  1. urging him to purge child sexual abuse from the Church: legislating civil reporting of abuse, and ensuring effective discipline, major canon law reform, and review of priestly celibacy;  
  2. advising him of the Royal Commission’s exposure of the Church’s global dysfunctional governance; particularly its clericalist culture and lack of accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness, especially the exclusion of women from top decision-making positions; and 
  3. requesting immediate reform of bishop selection processes, fully including the faithful in identifying the needs of dioceses and local selection criteria.

None of the above proposals requires deferral to the Holy See or awaiting the Royal Commission’s report before acting. All these actions are within your own competence. We ask you to lead the reform of our Church now, acting promptly and decisively – anything less would be a betrayal of the Gospel.  

We pray that the Spirit guide us all at this critical time. 

Catholics of Australia

[The Open Letter can be signed by Australian Catholics either a) ONLINE – with comment – above (or at www.catholicsforrenewal.org/open-letter)  OR  b) in writing via hard-copy downloaded below or from any inclusive parish]

Privacy: Contact details are required for signature validation, are kept secure and not shared with others. You may self – unsubscribe  at any time via our website or any Catholics for Renewal Newsletter, or by email to info@catholicsforrenewal.org

Alternative hard-copy version of the Open Letter HERE  for printing and posting

Media Articles

Child sex abuse: Catholic bishops ‘must meet Pope Francis to push for urgent change’

Catholic bishops urged to meet Pope Francis to push for reform

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Speaking Out with One Unified Global Voice

"...Until we raise a common voice, we will not only not be heard, we will not even be listened to....   

My hope is that by speaking out together - a strong chorus of calls for reform - we can provide a common, a clear, a strong and ongoing voice for the yet incomplete vision of Vatican II.

In common cause, let us band together across the world. By our desire to be heard on particular issues - all of them important - let us not lose the strength of our common voice by reducing it to a whisper.

In light of this, we invite individuals and organizations to join together in making known our opinions for the good of our Church. By uniting our voices, it is not about abandoning the unique work of your organization but rather about how your work can enhance global reform."

Sr. Joan Chittister, CCRI Special advisor

"We have to join our forces in order to reach a real breakthrough in this window of opportunity." Hans Kung, CCRI Consultor


"When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion." [Ethiopian proverb]


"Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable." [Kenyan proverb]

"(The Christian faithful) have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful." (Canon 212 §3)

CCRI is also interested in helping support various causes in regions of the world by garnering the support of our entire global community for those who need support beyond their parish, organization, or locale. Send us (1) your name and affiliation, or (2) the name of your group with some description of your goals, membership, and numbers. Click here to see those organizations who have already joined together speaking out for reform of our Church.



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