Sullivan lays out challenges facing Church

Francis Sullivan (CSSV/Fiona Basile)

“Taking the side of impoverished and disenfranchised people is not an option for Gospel-inspired organisations. It is a mainstay of the mission,” according to Francis Sullivan. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

By David Halliday, Melbourne Catholic

Mr Sullivan is the former chief executive officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council and Catholic Health Australia. He delivered the opening keynote address at the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference, titled Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion, in Melbourne yesterday.

More than 200 community leaders gathered for the three-day conference, held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne, which seeks to study a range of key issues facing society and the Catholic service sector, and explore new ways for the sector to address social challenges and create a more just society.

Mr Sullivan presented a challenging overview of the state of the Church in Australia, alongside an uplifting affirmation of “good works by good people for the good of others”.

According to Mr Sullivan, Catholic social services’ function in aiding society’s most vulnerable is an inherently Catholic exercise.

As former chief of the national body that oversaw the Church’s engagement with the 2015-17 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Sullivan explored the reputational damage not only suffered by the Church but also by service organisations with no direct link with the abuse scandal.

The keynote speech, titled Margin Call - The Risk of Integrity, echoes Pope Francis’ call to people at society’s margins while describing a term from the finance industry “when the value of an account has fallen below agreed levels”, resulting in “a depleted company, with its reputation damaged, its product on the slide and its management under notice”, drawing parallels to the situation the Church finds itself in following the abuse scandal.

Mr Sullivan went on to address how Church organisations can manage a damaged position in society and embrace healing, change, and “an enlivened spirituality that both sustains us and motivates our engagement with the realities of life.”

‘We need to change the terms of engagement,” Mr Sullivan said, laying a challenge at the feet of social services leaders and Church authorities alike to embrace the radical and missional nature of the Gospel message.

For more information on the conference visit


Serving communities with courage and compassion: Francis Sullivan delivers opening keynote (Melbourne Catholic

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