THE surprising decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down from his role opens up a new opportunity for the Catholic Church to take a bold approach towards reform.
Ever reluctant to embrace change, the church has an important decision to make about its future direction.
Those advocating for fundamental doctrinal upheaval will be disappointed. The Catholic Church, even under the most influential leadership, holds its strongest beliefs and values at the core of its existence.
Issues such as the ordination of women priests and attitudes towards homosexuality and abortion see the church at odds with modern, progressive attitudes.
A new Pope is unlikely to be moved on these matters. More important at this time will be the direction the new Pope takes towards sexual abuse.
Pope Benedict was seen as proactive within the Catholic Church on the issue but less so in the general public , which remains unconvinced of the church’s stance.
This is clearly an issue where change and progression can be brought from the Vatican.
In the case of Australia and Ballarat, it comes at a time when healing remains a slow journey, with the inquiry into abuse being conducted in Victoria now joined by a nationwide probe.
The inquiry will potentially take years to finalise.
The church’s approach to these issues, criticised in the past two decades, still requires change.
For the victims and their families, the church should elect a Pope who is prepared to once and for all stand up to the ills of the past and cement a path for the future.
Where Cardinal George Pell, current Archbishop of Sydney and former Ballarat priest, sits on the matter is intriguing.
Highly regarded within the church, Cardinal Pell has faced intense scrutiny into his knowledge of abuse cases, and any actions taken to deal with the allegations.
In the very political environment in which the Pope will be elected, it’s difficult to decipher who will be elected and what it might mean for the church’s direction.
Cardinal Pell is highly unlikely to be a contender.
Let’s hope his influence and experiences may in any case help the church find a candidate who can take the church forward.