National Catholic Reporter
May 1, 2020
By Joshua J. McElwee
Originally to begin in October, council sessions being rescheduled due to pandemic
May 1, 2020
A number of influential Catholic figures across Australia are expressing concern that the divisive atmosphere stoked by the recent quashing of Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse convictions could frustrate hopes for an upcoming once-in-a-generation assembly of the nation’s church.
The assembly, a plenary council in preparation for two years and involving the direct input of some 222,000 people across the continent, is intended to address issues of church reform and to consider the difficult questions confronting the country’s largest faith community in the 21st century.
But in a series of interviews conducted over the month since Australia’s highest court released Pell from prison, senior Catholic leaders worried that the passions inflamed by the case could provoke a sort of fortress mentality, in which Pell’s now-scuppered prosecution is just one example of a church unfairly under siege.
Robert Fitzgerald, a widely respected lawyer and former member of the 2013-17 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said there is “genuine concern” among Australian Catholics that opponents to discussing church reform “will seek to leverage this recent decision to undermine the plenary council.”
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