The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia

August 21, 2020

By the Governance Review Project Team of the Implementation Advisory Group, as amended by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia

[See also the leaked version of the report before amendments, and discussions of that draft in the National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor.]

1.1 Genesis and background of the Review (page 10)

The final report of the Royal Commission commented adversely on the Church’s practices in respect to decision-making and accountability and their impact on the protection of children and the response to concerns about, and allegations of, child sexual abuse. The Commissioners said:

In accordance with contemporary standards of good governance, we encourage the Catholic Church in Australia to explore and develop ways in which its structure and practices of governance may be made more accountable, more transparent, more meaningfully consultative and more participatory, including at the diocesan and parish level.

This led to recommendation 16.7:

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should conduct a national review of the governance and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women. This review should draw from the approaches to governance of Catholic health, community services and education agencies.

In their publicly released response to the Royal Commission of 31 August 2018, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) accepted the recommendation and entrusted the conduct of this governance Review (the Review) to the Implementation Advisory Group (IAG).


6.6.2 Identification and management of risk to children and other persons vulnerable to harm (page 78)

The response of many churches and other institutions to child sexual abuse and other abusive behaviour showed a poor response to the identification and minimisation of risk to children and others harmed, including:

• a lack of understanding and/or acknowledgement of the impact of abuse of those harmed;

• completely inadequate responses such as moving perpetrators to other areas or institutions and allowing them to remain engaged in ministry; and

• a tendency to allow legal advice that focused on a strict interpretation of legal liability to overshadow moral considerations and the paramount consideration of the protection of children.

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