Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rhetoric, yes but also cause for optimism

Betty Zwartz
Brisbane Times
Dec. 13, 2012

ONCE bitten, twice shy, the adage says, and Catholic bishops in Australia over the decades have made all sorts of promises about learning the lessons of abuse, putting victims first and the like that have crumbled under the pressure of expediency.

So the wider community might be doubly sceptical about what changes the church's new lay-led Truth, Justice and Healing Commission might actually produce, especially as the two men appointed yesterday to run it could not give any examples.

New chief executive Francis Sullivan gave fine promises about truth, justice and listening.

''We are really genuine in saying this process is about healing, which will never happen unless we first listen,'' he said. ''And to listen, we need to be in the other person's shoes, and to step into these shoes won't be easy - it will take an open heart and compassion. But that's our brief.''

 So far, it is only rhetoric. It can't be anything else until it is tested. But it is also grounds for cautious optimism.
The church has moved on from what many saw as its lowest point this year: the widespread revulsion at the aggressive defensiveness of Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell at a press conference last month, in which he blamed a smear campaign by the media and said the Catholic Church was not ''the only cab on the rank''.

Many Catholics joined non-Catholics in observing that the only appropriate response was words that would be familiar to the cardinal, ''mea culpa, mea maxima culpa'' (''through my fault, through my most grievous fault'', as the new English liturgy has it).

The new council offers a tentative hope that the church has heard its critics, will use the enormous lay expertise at its disposal to avoid its besetting clericalism, and plans a more open, less defensive stance.

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