CANBERRA (CathNews and CNS) — A New Zealand canon lawyer has been appointed as a member of a panel of experts which will conduct a review of the governance and management structures of Australia’s Catholic dioceses and parishes.

The review will cover issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and lay participation.

Msgr Brendan Daly, judicial vicar of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, has been appointed to the panel (titled the Governance Review Project Team) which will do this work.

Msgr Brendan Daly

Msgr Daly is a former rector of Holy Cross College, Mosgiel and of Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland, and a former principal of Good Shepherd College in Auckland. He also teaches canon law at the latter.

The review was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after the commission concluded that the governance and management of some Australian dioceses and parishes contributed to the child sexual abuse crisis.

But senior Church insiders, who asked to remain unidentified because they were not authorised to speak,
told the Catholic News Service there has been fierce debate over the royal commission’s recommendations — especially on holding a review of Church management.

There has been ongoing discussion on other key findings related to the management and formation of clergy, voluntary celibacy and the sanctity of the seal of confession, they said.

The review comes as an initiative of the Implementation Advisory Group, established by Catholic Religious Australia and the Australian bishops’ conference in 2018 to manage the Church’s response to the royal commission’s recommendations.

The review will also consider the approaches to governance of Catholic health, community services and education agencies — as suggested by the royal commission.

Included in the terms of reference is identifying “cultural practices that have led to appropriate use of power as well as to serious and widespread abuse of power in governance and management by Church authorities within dioceses and parishes across Australia”.

Also in the terms of reference is: “To identify the impact that the autonomy of dioceses has had on the development of a nationally consistent response to child sexual abuse and other abusive behaviour by its members.”

The project will “draw on and work with world-class researchers in matters of ecclesiology and governance for the purposes of the review”.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the review will examine how Church structures — some of which were devised centuries ago — can be improved.

“We cannot ignore the wisdom that the Church has handed down through the years, but we must also be mindful that some of our practices fail to acknowledge and draw upon the best practice of other large, contemporary organisations,” he said.

Sr Monica Cavanagh, RSJ, president of Catholic Religious Australia, added: “The royal commission uncovered some practices that could have exacerbated the abuse of children
and hampered the response to that tragic reality.

“The establishment of this panel is another step in our serious response to the royal commission and will help establish a way forward for the Church into the future.”

The members of the panel are: Pauline Connelly (Adelaide Archdiocese); Rev. Dr Brendan Daly (Good Shepherd College, Auckland, New Zealand); Jack de Groot (St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, Implementation Advisory Group); Sr Professor Isabell Naumann, ISSM (Catholic Institute of Sydney); Justice Neville Owen (Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors); Adjunct Professor Susan Pascoe (Australian Council for International Development); Professor John Warhurst (Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn).

The panel produced a progress report for the presidents of ACBC and CRA in April and will produce an interim report by the end of October. A final report should be provided to CRA and to the ACBC in the first half of 2020. (Monthly progress reports to the IAG are also expected.)

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