Saturday, November 17, 2012

So Who Should Resign?

It seems foolish to call for to-day's bishops to resign on account of negligence (or worse) committed during the (mal)administration of their predecessors.  Let us consider the current crop of Australian bishops, and when they took up the reins (by ordination or succession) in their dioceses, (past and) present (recalling that auxiliary bishops have no power whatsoever, being but "confirmation stooges", to quote a certain prelate in northern NSW):

The Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn is presently vacant; the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes is also vacant (and by all accounts will be officially suppressed soon enough).

Those who took charge in the last six years – thirteen bishops:
  • Father Harry Entwistle, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross since 2012;
  • His Grace Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Perth since 2012 (auxiliary bishop in Melbourne 2007-2012);
  • His Lordship Robert McGuckin, Bishop of Toowoomba since 2012;
  • His Lordship Paul Bird, Bishop of Ballarat since 2012;
  • His Lordship Leslie Tomlinson, Bishop of Sandhurst since 2012 (auxiliary bishop in Melbourne 2009-2012);
  • His Lordship Michael Kennedy, Bishop of Armidale since 2012;
  • His Lordship William Wright, Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle since 2011;
  • His Lordship Robert Rabbat, Bishop of the Melkite Eparchy of St Michael of Sydney since 2011;
  • His Lordship Anthony Fisher, Bishop of Parramatta since 2010 (auxiliary bishop in Sydney 2003-2010);
  • His Lordship Gregory O'Kelly, Bishop of Port Pirie since 2009 (auxiliary bishop in Adelaide 2006-2009); 
  • His Lordship Michael McKenna, Bishop of Bathurst since 2009;
  • His Lordship Christopher Prowse, Bishop of Sale since 2009 (auxiliary bishop in Melbourne 2003-2009);
  • His Grace Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane since 2012, Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn 2006-2012 (auxiliary bishop in Melbourne 2002-2006).
Those who took charge more than six years ago, but within the last twelve years – eight bishops:
  • His Lordship Max Davis, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Australia since 2003;
  • His Lordship Ad Abi Karam, Bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of St Maron of Sydney since 2002;
  • His Lordship Gerard Hanna, Bishop of Wagga Wagga since 2002;
  • His Grace Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne since 2001 (auxiliary bishop in Melbourne 1997-2001);
  • His Lordship Gerard Holohan, Bishop of Bunbury since 2001;
  • His Lordship Geoffrey Jarrett, Bishop of Lismore since 2001;
  • His Lordship Michael Putney, Bishop of Townsville since 2001 (auxiliary bishop in Brisbane 1995-2001);
  • His Lordship Peter Ingham, Bishop of Wollongong since 2001 (auxiliary bishop in Sydney 1993-2001).
Those who took charge more than twelve years ago, but within the last twenty-one years – eleven bishops:
  • His Lordship Daniel Hurley, Bishop of Darwin since 2007, and Bishop of Port Pirie 1999-2007;
  • His Grace Adrian Doyle, Archbishop of Hobart since 1999 (ordained coadjutor with right of succession in 1998);
  • His Eminence George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney since 2001, Archbishop of Melbourne 1996-2001 (Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne 1987-1996);
  • His Grace Philip Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide since 2001, and Bishop of Woollongong 1996-2000;
  • His Grace Djibrail Kassab, Archbishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of St Thomas of Sydney since 2006, Chaldean Archbishop of Basra 1996-2006;
  • His Lordship David Walker, Bishop of Broken Bay since 1996;
  • His Lordship Christopher Saunders, Bishop of Broome since 1996;
  • His Lordship Peter Stasiuk, Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of SS Peter and Paul of Melbourne since 1993;
  • His Lordship James Foley, Bishop of Cairns since 1992;
  • His Lordship Justin Bianchini, Bishop of Geraldton since 1992;
  • His Lordship Brian Heenan, Bishop of Rockhampton since 1991.
Since, in the words of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference press release regarding the imminent Royal Commission, major reforms for dealing better with the scourge of child abuse have been implemented during the last twenty years, and "[m]uch of the public discussion is about how the Church dealt with cases 20 or more years ago", it would seem more likely that the various retired bishops of Australia (those still alive) are probably those who most need to tremble in their boots...

Of course, if any of the above are found derelict in their duty, one hopes they will rediscover their honour, and do the honourable thing.


Joshua said...

Please do not leave comments containing foul language. I rarely and only reluctantly allow heterodox statements, if in my judgement their exposure and confutation may assist souls; bizarre and improper comments are never permitted. There are plenty of other internet sites with easier attitudes...

Kate Edwards said...

Joshua - While I agree with your basic point, there are three counter-arguments that I think are worth considering.

First, several of the recent (and not so recent) appointees were not merely 'confirmation stooges' (!) but were vicar-generals in their (previous) dioceses and may well have been actively involved in the cover-ups. Indeed, at least two of them are reportedly under active investigation in this context (the most senior case being AB Wilson, who has allegedly refused to cooperate with the police investigation. If that doesn't warrant standing aside, I'm not sure what does!

Secondly, it is not at all clear that the 'we've handled it properly since 1996' line actually holds up. In the last week there have been claims that many in Melbourne were dealt with outside the Melbourne Response process; that religious orders are continuing to shield members and pay for endless appeals; and above all that the Church's in-house rehabilitation program (headed for years by the ultra-liberal and now rejector of the seal of confession, Bishop Robinson) treated hundreds of cases up to 2008 without disclosing one to the police and with the 'treated' being parish shuffled afterwards.

Thirdly, given the utter failure of our seminary selection procedures for so long, and the apparent failure of so many of our prelates to 'get it', can we really be sure that no new situations are arising, and that if they do they will be dealt with appropriately? Can we be sure that there are no (more) prelates with porn on their computers a la Canada? Can we be sure that some well meaning bishop will not, like Bishop Finn, dismiss the concerns of laypeople and decide to try and 'save the priesthood' of an offender?

It would be nice to think they have learnt the lessons, but public comments and inaction to date seem to suggest otherwise.

Personally, I'll have some hope when:

1. The assorted whistleblowers (mostly teachers, but also some priests) get their jobs back and compensation.

2. When those accused of failing to report cases stand aside from their jobs pending the outcomes of the investigations.

3. When anyone who in any way supported those guilty (paying their court costs, accompanying them to court, etc) do public penance and admit not just that it was an error in judgment to be apologised for, but a serious sin of complicity. We need our bishops to come out and say that these men committed sins that deserve punishment.

Joshua said...

Very good points, Kate; I agree wholeheartedly.

I am highly amused to find out that old Robinson, far from being all sweetness and light (as opposed to the Cardinal) in the eyes of the ABC, who do love their little liberal darlings, in fact is deeply implicated. I thought there was something manifestly false about him...