Church faces a daunting task and radical opportunity

Cardinal Pell

With the recent appointment of Cardinal George Pell to Rome, the Church in Australia will lose a dominant figure. His influence and legacy are broad-ranging, writes Joel Hodge in The Conversation.

Pell’s time as Archbishop of Melbourne and, more recently, as Archbishop of Sydney, was marked by a desire to bring Christ to the world, drawing on the emphasis of John Paul II. He expanded Catholic institutions (investing in Catholic schools, universities and social services), focused on the young and vocations (for example by bringing World Youth Day to Australia and reforming the seminary), maintained a constant public presence and cultivated political links.

Pell’s aim was seemingly to form a Church with a strong sense of itself and orientated to mission in the world. Whether he has achieved this aim is contested, along with his vision of the Church.

Whatever we make of Cardinal Pell’s legacy, the next Archbishop of Sydney will certainly have large shoes to fill and, along with the whole Church, some daunting challenges. The most immediate are twofold: the sexual abuse crisis, and the declining number of regular church-goers.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presents the Church with two challenges: to improve dialogue with, and accountability for the victims of abuse; and to examine the culture and processes of the Church.

Cardinal Pell’s recent statement that victims should be able to sue the Church indicates misgivings about aspects of the Church’s approach. While I don’t want to underestimate the task that Church leaders faced and the efforts of many to act with goodwill, there have been major failures. These are gradually being acknowledged.

The challenge remains to make the Church’s response a victim-centred one that is fair, compassionate and long-term. 

FULL STORY A daunting task or radical opportunity? The Catholic Church’s challenges in Australia (The Conversation)

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