Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Address to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn Forum
11 September 2018
“The Role of the Faithful in a post-Royal Commission Church in Australia”
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place, and also pay respect to Elders both past and present.
Thank you for the invitation to speak at this forum and to have the opportunity to listen to the voices of the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn in the spirit of genuine synodality.
The events in these last few weeks, including the sensational accusations against Pope Francis himself by the former nuncio to the U.S. has caused great turmoil in the Church. The sexual abuse crisis is inundating the whole Church like a tsunami and it has the potential to cause long-term damage, chaos and even schism. (Mind you, there is already a silent schism in that the majority of Australian Catholics have simply walked away from the practice of the faith.)
It is the biggest crisis since the Reformation and it exposes the ideological conflict that runs deeply through the length and breadth of the universal Church.
The anti-Pope Francis forces who have accelerated their frontal attacks against him in a coordinated and virulent manner. The gloves are clearly off and they have seized this moment of turmoil as an opportunity to undermine his papacy and derail his reform agenda. How time has changed in the Catholic Church!
Only until recently, criticisms against a sitting pope were deemed absolute anathema.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and papal sniping is becoming quite a sport among some Catholic circles. (We are after all in the capital of sniping of a different kind!) They might even agree with Paul Collins’ view on papal power but for different reasons I would suspect.
What is interesting, too, is the number of bishops who have chosen to sympathise with these forces and therefore shown their not so subtle disapproval of the way the Pope is leading the Church. Clearly, Captain Francis will have to weather both the storm and the mutiny onboard. I just hope and pray that he stays the course because nothing less than a deep and comprehensive reform will restore confidence and trust in the Church.
I must hasten to add that in as much as I am pleased with the wind of change blowing from Santa Marta, I do not believe that it will sufficiently carry the deep and comprehensive reform the Church of 21st century needs. Let us be under no illusions about the change we seek which is not only in attitude of the office holders but the very structure and culture of the Church.
After all, Pope Francis might just be a banana slip away from his reform agenda and we might all end up sliding backwards.
Many of you have lived through the roller coaster, the highs and lows of the Church after the Second Vatican Council. You know the disappointment of shattered hopes and unfulfilled dreams. We cannot but take ownership of our baptismal responsibility in holding our Church leaders to account.
Furthermore, significant change rarely comes through appealing to the ruling class, even the progressive elements thereof. Rather, it comes quite often through the grassroots and movements from below. It is time, then, that ordinary Catholics take their rightful place and effect the change needed for the Church to live up to what She is meant to be.
Part 2 will be published tomorrow.