An Australian Catholic Coalition for Church reform plenary council meeting in Ballarat on Saturday drew a huge crowd of concerned local catholics.
The large attendance had gathered to hear from three guest speakers from Catholics for Renewal Melbourne about the ways in which they were approaching the “crisis” in the Catholic Church.
Peter Wilkinson, President of Catholics for Renewal Melbourne, told the crowd that “in 2010 we got together, concerned about the state of the (Catholic) church.
“I had already written a report for the Parish Ministry of Australia and the conclusion was that the Catholic Church of Australia was in crisis, and the crisis was the church,” he said.
“The crisis was on a number of fronts, but I was particularly looking at the parish ministry and by 2010 the subject of child sexual abuse had already hit the headlines and nothing was happening.
“In 2011 we wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict and all the Australian bishops, signed by more than 8500 Australian Catholics who agreed “there were very, very serious things wrong with the Church,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“We just wanted the church to become a “Christ like church” because it was no longer Christ like, and to do that, there needed to be change.”
Mr Wilkinson said there is a “systemic problem” in the Catholic Church and it relates to “governance within the Church itself.”
Mr Wilkinson, and colleagues Maria George and Peter Johnstone, were invited to speak at the Ballarat plenary council meeting about the process toward the 2020/21 Plenary Council.
Catholics for Renewal Melbourne comes under the umbrella of the Australian Coalition Catholic Church Reform (ACCCR), along with groups such as the Concerned Catholics.
The Coalition is seeking confirmation that the bishops will give effect to the Royal Commission into Insitutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommendations and greater involvement of the people through the 2020 Plenary council, particularly the nomination of a woman as co-chair of the 2020 Plenary Council.
“We are talking about accountability, transparency and inclusiveness. Women are the most excluded in the church and there will be no successful governance structure without the people, particularly women, in leadership and decision-making roles,” Peter Johnstone, from Catholics for Renewal, said.
Meanwhile, Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn has called on Australian catholic bishops to respond with strength and integrity while considering recommendations at an extraordinary meeting in Melbourne this week.
Concerned Catholics Chair, Professor John Warhurst said many see the bishops’ long-awaited response as a litmus to their commitment.