POWER of Priests Needs Change: Bishop
February 21, 2017
The Catholic Church should consider getting rid of honorifics such as "your lordship" and give lay people more power over parish priests, a NSW bishop says.
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that titles, privileges and the Church's institutional dynamics "breed clerical superiority and elitism".
He said he cringes when parishioners call him "your lordship" and the church needs to review mandatory celibacy, which he thinks separates the clergy from parishioners.
"When they (faithful Catholics) come to see me, they kiss my ring," Bishop Long, who is the first Australian bishop of Vietnamese background, said in Sydney on Tuesday.
"I'm not very comfortable with these sorts of practices, because they encourage a certain infantilisation of the laity."
The royal commission's final hearing into the Catholic Church has heard a culture of clericalism may have contributed to ongoing child sexual abuse.
Bishop Long said clergy were only accountable to the person above them, meaning a priest was safe as long as he was supported by a bishop.
"There's no accountability that reaches outwards or downwards, and that's the critical problem," he said.
"The laity have no meaningful or direct participation in the appointment, supervision and removal of the parish priest. I think that needs to change."
Bishop Long, who was applauded during his testimony, was part of a panel of Bishops and Archbishops giving evidence at the royal commission on Tuesday.
Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous and Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse said they would not insist someone calling them by a title but would also not demand honorifics be dropped.
Bishop of Darwin Daniel Hurley said people could use titles to pay respect to the office rather than the individual.
"Some people might say that in you identifying the respect paid to the office, that's the very problem clericalism is all about," royal commission chair Peter McClellan said.
Bishop Hurley said he understood the point but that he thought it was similar to someone referring to their GP as "doctor".
The hearing continues.