Discussing part of the apology issued by Archbishops George Pell and Denis Hart on 6 June 2002.


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1449 K Fri 7 Jun 2002

Archbishop Pell and Archbishop Hart issued a joint statement last night. I think it is being advertised in five newspapers tomorrow. It begins:


We again acknowledge with deep sadness and regret the evil of sexual abuse and other betrayals of trust which have been committed by a small minority of Catholic clergy. The integrity of the overwhelming majority of priests and religious is beyond question. ...

As they wrote, an apology or acknowledgement is not new. For example on 7 March 2000 Cardinal Clancy released a statement of repentance on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference which included:

... When confronted with sexual abuse, and abuse of authority generally, we did not always respond appropriately, and many people suffered serious harm. ...

That the two Archbishops should now be highlighting the regret and spending money to provide better information on the procedures for dealing with sexual abuse is good.

But I think its unfortunate to have included:

... The integrity of the overwhelming majority of priests and religious is beyond question. ...

I don't think anyone is beyond question. Certainly not priests and religious in regard to sexual abuse. With all that has been written about the problems of sexual abuse and the abuse of authority, to promote this idea is extraordinary. Surely the abuse of authority means there is a greater need to question and scrutinize what priests are saying and doing. If there was a greater willingness to do this, less damage would have been done.

What is worse is that Archbishops are saying the majority of priests are beyond question. Those governing have the clearest duty to be questioning priests. The sentence suggests they are taking a "three monkeyed approach" of "see no, hear no, speak no evil."

In looking at the Church's liturgy people can see whether priests should be regarded as "beyond question." Do they faithfully follow the liturgical books? According to the the 1975 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) n. 234a

A bow of the head is made when the three divine Persons are named together and at the name of Jesus, Mary and the saint in whose honor Mass is celebrated.

The 2002 GIRM 275 also has this and a more accurate translation of "beatae Mariae Virginis" will be "Blessed Virgin Mary" not just "Mary". The point is does the priest do it? Never? Sometimes? Always?

Does the priest have lay ministers in the Mass? Is the entrance procession as described in the 1975 GIRM 82 and 2002 GIRM 120:

a. the thurifier leads, if incense is used

b. ministers with lighted candles and between them an acolyte or other minister with the cross;

c. acolytes and other ministers;

d. a reader, who may carry the Book of the Gospels

e. the priest who is to celebrate the Mass.

Or is there just the priest? Perhaps there will be just one other minister. But if there is none, then the priest is not faithfully following the liturgical books. The priests role is promoted, but not the role of lay ministers in the Church.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 7 June 2002.

Other sites:

Full Statement by the Archbishops

Cathtelecom.com report