Ballarat Diocese leader calls for church structure shake-up

Regardless of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse’s final recommendations, Ballarat Vicar-general Justin Driscoll says the Catholic Church needs a drastic structural shake-up.

New path forward: Ballarat Vicar-general Justin Driscoll says the church needs to develop a more participatory structure where parishioners play an active role in governance in order to prevent future instances of sexual abuse. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

New path forward: Ballarat Vicar-general Justin Driscoll says the church needs to develop a more participatory structure where parishioners play an active role in governance in order to prevent future instances of sexual abuse. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

The commission is expected to deliver its recommendations to the Governor-General on Friday which will provide the framework for the church’s response. 

The report will play a vital role in informing institutions of how to prevent sexual violence in the future

The federal inquiry released a scathing assessment of the Ballarat Diocese last week which highlighted the 140 complaints made across three hearings in Ballarat and Sydney. 

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Vicar-general Justin Driscoll said the church needed to have the humility to own its past as well as the capacity to listen.  He said the governance structure of the church also needed genuine reform to place more power in the hands of the parishioners. 

“Often we’ve been good at proclaiming and good at preaching and good at teaching but not so good at listening, so I think the opportunity is for dialogue,” Fr Driscoll said.  “Participative church life is the way forward, rather than power structures that are exclusive and authoritarian. 

“I think collaborative and participative ways of decision making are key for us.”

The recommendations will come less than two months after the federal government tabled its proposed redress scheme, which received a mixed response from the states and survivors. 

The Catholic Church has committed to signing up to the national scheme on the condition all states and territories are also part of the framework. 

Catholic Church Truth and Justice Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan has said the church could face a $1 billion bill should the scheme be legislated. 

To contact the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, located on the corner of Vale and Edwards streets, Sebastopol, call 5320 3933 or free call 24 hours 1800 806 292. Lifeline can be accessed on 13 11 14.