Terry Fewtrell The Canberra Times

 Rather than working openly with their people as Francis encourages, the Australian bishops still resort to secrecy and control. Picture: Shutterstock

Australia’s Catholic bishops seem to have learned little from the sexual abuse scandal and its associated cover-ups. Pushed by a royal commission report to implement reforms, they recently reverted to standard operating procedures of delay and secrecy in suppressing a major report on governance reform. While hoping to delay and control discussion, the bishops were outmanoeuvred by the leaking of the highly significant report. It will now be available to and discussed by all Catholics – as it should be.

Titled The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia, the report deserves serious consideration – but by refusing to release it until at least November, the bishops displayed their usual disposition to not trust their people, to keep them in the dark and assign to themselves the sole right to consider and comment on the contents. The report is the outcome of a royal commission recommendation that called for a review of the governance, leadership and management structures of dioceses and parishes, including issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and the participation of lay men and women.

The report provides an important analysis of why current arrangements are not fit-for-purpose, and outlines how the church can operate in ways that are faithful to its calling, respect the dignity of its members and are consistent with the reasonable expectations of modern society for inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. All Catholics and the wider Australian community have a legitimate interest here, so that effective and appropriate mechanisms in which the community can have confidence can be implemented. 

Culturally, the focus of the review is closely related to the issue of clericalism, which the royal commission and Pope Francis have been explicit in stating lies at the root of many of the failures of the church and the perversion of its mission. The review panel took the initiative in having international experts review and offer perspectives on its likely findings and recommendations.

For some time now the bishops have promised it will no longer be ‘business as usual’ … Catholics and others might want to believe such commitments, but unfortunately they can’t.

The report was keenly awaited by Catholics in Australia and globally. It breaks new ground in articulating a way forward – an Australian model of church that has universal application. Such issues challenge many in the church, none more so than the current crop of Australian bishops. In many ways the report gets to the nub of the need for real reform, and addresses the cultural challenges in implementing a model of church that is open, accountable, non-clerical and inclusive.

For some time now the bishops have promised it will no longer be “business as usual” in the administration of the church and their role in considering the need for change. Catholics and others might want to believe such commitments, but unfortunately they can’t. This most recent episode simply underscores that sad fact. It is particularly perverse that on the topic of “co-responsible governance”, which goes to the heart of transparency and accountability, the bishops chose to send a message that they don’t much value or want the views of Australian Catholics, and sought to control completely any discussion. On this occasion their little scheme has been sprung, and rightly all Catholics will be able to read and comment on the report.

By defending their outdated instincts for secrecy, the bishops cling to an arrogant operating style. If Catholics or other Australians doubt this, they only have to read Malcolm Turnbull’s account in his recent memoir of how Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, shamelessly and contrary to all public commitments, conceded that the bishops do allocate Commonwealth education funds in ways that suit their own agendas. It is a revelation breathtaking in its duplicity. Little wonder then that Canberra’s Archbishop, Christopher Prowse, wrote recently that demands for transparency and accountability are part of “society’s aggressive secularism”. It seems openness and accountability are things to be feared and best avoided.

The work and report of the royal commission have been pivotal in generating internal momentum on church reform. There is little doubt that the review of church governance would not have happened were it not a key recommendation of an inquiry that shone a searching light into the fetid darkness of church hierarchy, culture and the perverted loyalties that dishonoured its mission and people. The legitimate pressure of the Australian community and governments has been critical in this process and properly needs to continue, to ensure all Australians can be confident that necessary reforms are implemented.

The governance review is part of a broader initiative, led by Brisbane’s Archbishop and president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Mark Coleridge, for a Plenary Council to consider the overall position of the church in Australia. To his credit, Coleridge prevailed in promoting this idea against the natural instincts of a sizeable number of his colleagues. A major consultative process, held over the past 18 months involving more than 17,000 submissions from individuals and groups, demonstrated strong buy-in from ordinary Catholics. An official summary of the inputs reached an unavoidable conclusion that most want serious and significant change and have little confidence in their bishops.

It was also clear that Australian Catholics are fed up with secrecy and a lack of accountability. The governance report is even more powerful because there is fertile ground among ordinary Catholics for such reforms. In the final analysis, ordinary Catholics are the church – and they are demanding shared leadership and control. But many clerics, and particularly the bishops, are of a different mind.

Confronted with the overwhelming demand for reform it seems the bishops panicked and reverted to their old habits. This is evident not just in the suppression of the governance report but also the brutal way they stacked the composition of six discernment groups, whose task was to prepare position papers that will frame the agenda for the formal Plenary sessions. These documents have now been released, and there is tentative evidence that, perhaps despite the efforts of some, the reform issues raised by ordinary Catholics are still in the mix. This highlights the fact that the bishops seem to be coming slowly to accepting that major change is irresistible.

Although the message from the people to the bishops in the first stage of the Plenary Council consultations was a very emphatic “we don’t trust our bishops”, that lack of trust can be bridged by the bishops recognising the richness and faith in the input their people have provided. There is ample scope for both people and bishops to walk this journey together. It is a case of trust building trust.

In 2018, Pope Francis wrote a “Letter to the People of God” – in other words, ordinary Catholics. In it he called for their help in ridding the church of sexual abuse and clericalism. Francis asked Catholics to be “active and assertive” in helping him to reform the church. The implication, and the none-too-subtle conclusion, to draw was that Francis doubted that many of his leadership team, and local bishops, were up to the task. So, he asked ordinary Catholics to support his push for reform from the grassroots. It is significant that the Australian hierarchy effectively ignored the Pope’s letter – a surprising and damning outcome that only confirmed the Pope’s assessment.

Rather than working openly with their people as Francis encourages, the Australian bishops still resort to secrecy and control, old habits they need to leave behind. The quality of the governance report, the product of a highly qualified but mainly non-clerical panel, should make the bishops start to trust their own people. Otherwise they may find themselves offside with the Pope and abandoned by most Australian Catholics.

Terry Fewtrell is involved with Concerned Catholics of Canberra-Goulburn. This article first appeared on


Yes, there is a problem with secrecy on the RCC

And lies.

And cover up.

And corruption

And sexual promiscuity.

In fact there are so many problems I cannot see there being a solution to it all.

It is a house built of the sands of what is worse in humanity.

The whole system needs to be destroyed a a new, Gospel based system embraced.

That must men the end of hierarchy and clericalism.

But, my God, where would you even begin?


No allegations of abuse have been levelled at him personally. It is to do with an ongoing inquiry into John Smythe and new evidence that has emerged in that case. I imagine that Carey had some position of responsibility that touches on the Smythe case, although he has always said that he does not ever remember meeting him or speaking to him. So, I rather think this is the C of E being ultra cautious and following the strict letter of the law in this case, and Carey, and probably others, getting caught up as collateral damage. I do sense, however, that there is a bit of a campaign against Carey in the C of E echelons of power at the moment. Not sure why. In fact, the present incumbent, Justin Welby, was involved more directly as a young man with Smythe’s movement – he was the classic upper class Eton evangelical toff that Smythe and his movement ministered to. Perhaps he should have his permission to officiate revokes on the basis of his proximity to Smyth – in the interests of transparency !?

I guess having to be ultra transparent and following the strict letter of the law even when it can be blindingly obvious that there is nothing there is something that all Churches have brought upon themselves by their past history of being fast and loose with the truth and transparency. This is the pendulum swinging in the other direction.

As far as our RC lot are concerned, I have for a very long time assumed that what I am being told by them – about anything – is either not the truth or is so partial in the telling that it has to be interrogated very carefully. That is a sad state to be in but, again, they have brought this on themselves by their past behaviour, and they cannot expect us to give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. It will take a long time and many years for trust in them to be rebuilt. Much of it has to do with perception. They just do not look or sound sincere, honest and truthful. You only have to look at + Nichols and his demeanour and how he answered when he was before iICSA. More than anything else, despite attempting to camouflage things with some formulaic empathy, he just came across as haughty, annoyed that he was being questioned, and evasive. How do you trust somebody like that ?


There was a curious tendency in the C of E to practise therapeutic thrashings – whereas for Catholics it was pure sadism. On the opposite end of the church spectrum, the late Bishop Peter Ball was also a keen administrator. For some reason, it was thought that young men rather than the wrinkled elderly would especially benefit from the spiritual exercise.
Carey was an awful Archbishop, once described by an Anglican wit as a man of limitless ambition impeded by imperfect dentistry.


PF gives lip service to transparency because his speech writers decided he would look good doing no more. Whilst this does not weaken the value in the real cause, it gives powers that be a foothold to sabotage it, just like at USCCB winter 2018-19.
Vatican propaganda will remain meaningless unless it admits the independently verified low down on:
– its “diplomacy”
– its abolishing of Holy Spirit and Scriptural belief and prayer in the 1950s (not seen in some dioceses till the 1980s and disguised by JP II’s histrionics)
– this includes the intrinsic inconsistencies in the CCC
It sole asset was what they called “communion” or “eucharist” which was what priests were there to command and confectionise, for our chop-licking. In practice, some clergy have carried on trying to give their flock genuine belief, but I fear they will get ever less backing centrally.


Here’s an interesting extra dimension: some “lay” movements practice faux transparency. For example some associates vaunted their property deal to start an establishment to train clergy to evangelise somewhere . . .
Ha ha ha.


I don’t know how I did it, +Pat, but I did. And I am confident I couldn’t have done it without you as my Bishop and spiritual director. As I said to you last year, +Pat, when I witnessed them younger seminarians in Valladolid being emotionally and psychologically abused by that vicious sadistic bastard, I said to myself, “NO… FUCKING… CHANCE… NOT ON MY WATCH!” And we did it! This is what happens to walls of silence surrounding abuse – in this case it is being obliterated, and the only thing for it. +Pat, I pray the Lord this becomes a watershed. But we know it will not, for Rome.
IICSA Please take away All safeguarding responsibilities out of the hands of the R. Church. Please, we are begging you. Enough is enough, now x
Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball

Thank you, your Grace.
Your faithful servant in Christ Jesus


Who were trustees and faculty of Valladolid in the 1960s and 1970s? Was it ever influenced by associates of Archbishop Morcillo or similar?


Yet a further dimension is the concept of micro-aggressions which comes out of anti-racist discourse and focuses on things which are not apparently racist actions to the whites doing them but are aggressive to the people of colour they are aimed at.
The parallel with the church is that it is a powerful institution with a documented history of abuse and oppression and many of its current actions constitute micro-aggressions to those it has abused. An example would be Elsie’s attitude to IICSA mentioned above and many of the comments posted here by self-satisfied priests on a daily basis.


All a little repetitive Pat. We’ve run through these issues a thousand times. They are important but you’ve covered them from a thousand perspectives. Most of us, while we continue to be appalled at the abuse scandals and all relevant issues, have expressed our voices before many times. No code of silence should pertain or have precedence in the face of any and all abuse. Never.


11.04am Typical idiotic response. Do you know the difference between not wanting to as opposed to wanting to but not 1,000 times. Idiots like you always have to argue and pick fault for the sake of it.



A code of silence does pertain and still has precedence in the face of abuse.
That is the sad reality.


Hi Pat. Is their any news on how many Ordinations their were for each Irish Diocese this Year ?.


Frank Spencer my Hero.
Do you not know that the World is in a Crisis with an illness called Coronavirus – Covid -19
So there has been NO First communions and NO Confirmations and there will never be large gathering of Confirmations due to Covid 19.
The Archbishop of Dublin and other Irish Bishops has delegated Parish Priest to administer the Confirmations by family from August to October.
As for ordinations to holy Orders or the deaconate this is also held up due to Covid 19.
And Sadly the funerals have in some Churches allowed small family gatherings but in others just graveside or cremation services.
So the last thing the Church is thinking about is ordinations as we would rather help the grieving first and the Children to celebrate the Sacraments.
I do not know how you have missed the public announcements about Coronavirus or Covid 19.
We need safety Teams and Cleaners before we even open the doors and they need to be there while the doors are open


Do Romans speak with fork tongue?
One line for foot soldiers and public- another line to senior troops which is enforced?


So 11:12 only wants it said the number of times he wants it said lol.
You are an enabler of abuse if you try to silence it.


Guys believe what you want however Inspector McTaggart is a Fake but there is a possibility that he is on sabbatical but there is that many in Glasgow to see what one he is even if he is a priest.

Father Neil again listening to false gossip.

And someone acting as Father N.M. and there is only one Father N.M in Glasgow and he would NEVER threaten anyone with the hands that feed you as it has nothing to do with him.

Again it is not referred to Clyde Street as it is a big street it is 196 Clyde Street or HQ

Finally NO yes NO Zoom meetings took place if any meetings take place they are Socially Distanced as per the rules for clergy.

What I would say is be very careful with your abbreviations of peoples names.


12.20 – I’m a Priest from Glasgow. Taggart is real and has provided this blog with lots of absolutely correct info about several Clergy who needed exposed. I refer to the Archdiocesan Offices as Clyde Street, or 196 Clyde Street and so do others. Fr NM from Glasgow is not a nice man, but check your facts – NM may not refer to him. Work it out. The VG and co do have Zoom meetings so you are out of touch. Credit to Taggart and co for trying to clean up our beloved Atchdiocese. Have you got something to hide?


I hope Bishop Pat gives me a right to reply.

Fr Anon. So you are saying that the Curia are Liars about the Curia Zoom meeting.

So Taggart is from the detective Taggart as there is no Taggart in Glasgow as I know everyone who is on Sabbatical or C/O 196 Clyde Street.

As for Father NM he is a nice person and well liked in Bishopbriggs.

So lets ask Taggart the fake why has he NOT discussed it all with + Philip or better still contact the First Secretary at the Nunciture since we do not have a Papal Nuncio.

Lets not forget in truth + Philip is a careerist and would love to get a Red Beretta so he is not going to cover up for anyone and if he was not wanting a Red Beretta with his health he would retire on ill health as his family wish for their Brother.

So father it would suit you better to get behind the Archbishop and root out these so called clergy that your friend Taggert speaks about.

All hot ait.



Thank you for your letter and enclosed.
I will offer Mass tomorrow, at 5.30 pm – Feast of Sacred Heart for your intentions.
Thank you for your other points about the liturgy.


Oh, today’s blog and comments are a bit on the boring side. Are you censoring all the interesting bits, + Pat ? Maybe we need Farmer’s Boy Littleton to reappear and liven up our day. I see Jim S has been on to you. He’s usually got something to say about FBL.

Maybe you could do a retrospective for us on the whereabouts and current antics of:
1. Dean Kennedy ?
2. Rory ?
3. The Priests ?
4. Bishop Bling of D & C

I think I’ll leave Gorgeous off the list. He’s gone very mainstream and doesn’t provide much material these days our delectation.


No, no deleting today.

Dean Kennedy is dead in the water as a priest.

Rory is working for the Irish Centre in London.

The Priests are are just the Priests.

Bishop Bling is in splendid isolation.

Gorgeous is a busy hospital lay chaplain.


Quite right – MJB is doing great and much appreciated work. In fact he is a good example of somebody who has successfully moved on with his life, and using his undoubted gifts to benefit the lives of others. There are plenty of creeps and shysters, but Michael certainly isn’t one of them. The boy has done good!


Bishop Treanor says Mass every Sunday in his Cathedral and he led a Novena for Pentecost from the Cathedral. He’s a very decent and good man.


To be honest, I don’t have a view on SW, except to note that his name has been up front since I started following this blog around the time of the legendary summer of love. All the other names have been and gone in various directions, yet he remains in situ, despite some hair-raising associations. What is his secret of survival? He must be coming up for ordination soonish, so if there is something concrete to oppose that, it needs to be spelt out now; otherwise there might be problems ahead.


Thank you Pat for your honesty. Stephen Wilson is a misguided young man who rather prefers older senior cleric’s like you know who.


I don’t understand your objection to SW. He hasn’t been accused of anything from any reputable sources. The Church seems happy for him to remain and to recommend him for ordination.
I can’t recall reading that you have ever met him. I fear he’s simply the target of homophobic bullying. Feel free to explain how I’m wrong.


He may be more used than a user. But he is very damaged and will do damage.


I think many of us have been surprised at individuals who have been ordained, so I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask the question as to whether a young man is fit to be ordained a priest. I’m not sure that we can trust seminaries and even bishops in this matter. I mean, look at the recent roll call – Jolly from Liverpool, Jones from Kerry, Littleton from Southwark……the list could go on and on. So, we have become wary of the ‘recommendation’ that somebody is ‘fit’ to be ordained. Why shouldn’t people ask questions about Wilson ? Another issue is the number of seminarians who are ordained that then disappear in the very early years of their priesthood. Such a high failure / fall out rate isn’t impressive. If it were a business, the Church would have recommended a long time ago a root and branch review and remodelling of its training system. Instead, we just get more of the same – young men, isolated, semi-monastic, gin soaked, lace and vestment obsessed, psycho-sexually stunted and lacking integration, emotionally immature, badly trained academically, and inculcated in a culture of clerical superiority and untouchability. So, I think we have good grounds to ask questions, don’t you…..??!!


Now here’s a difficult one.

No criminal charges will be brought against ex-Bishop Hart of Cheyenne, presumably because the police and prosecutors have made the decision that there is not enough evidence to ensure a conviction. So, in law Bishop Hart is not guilty of anything and enjoys the presumption of innocence.

However, reading through this article, it is clear that Bishop Biegler, the current bishop, has determined that Hart has done wrong and continues to state that the allegations made against Hart are credible. There is a canonical process going on, which will have different criteria and standards from the criminal case that is now not going to take place. Hart could be presumed innocent in criminal law but found guilty in canonical law. Which are we to believe ? Which should be the standard by which we judge Hart ? For my own part, I would have more confidence in the secular state criminal procedure than I would in any canonical procedure.

One way through, perhaps, for Biegler (who is pretty vicious on his predecessor – why ?) is for Cheyenne diocese to take out a civil case against Hart on behalf of the presumed victims and let that play out. I for one would trust a civil case more than I would a canonical case, and would think that it would have more chance of approaching the truth than a canonical case.

The bottom line in all this is that I think many of us have more confidence in criminal and civil cases and law than we do in Church canonical cases and law. Why ? Because by and large we don’t trust the Church. By and large we see those who run the Church as numpties and not particularly professionally competent. That’s what it comes down to. It’s another sign of how we have lost trust and credibility in the Church and its bishops and priests.


Dont like that Bishop Gavin. Something not right cos he too nice re vibes. Think he’s a company man which means he thinks of the church before people.


2 39: Is it Bishop Buckley? Imagine…..more empty churches….gay priesthood entirely….all priests exterminated….no women…only gay men…the despot will rule for all time…Isn’t that your plan, Pat?


6.13 – you criticise Taggart for using a made up name. That applies to 99% of people who contribute to this blog, including you, who make up names or choose to remain anonymous. There are 2 Fr N.M’s in Glasgow as you know, (I agree that the Bishopbriggs man is a good man as does Taggart) but that is not the point. Taggart is an honest man and has exposed wrongdoing on here that has not been dealt with by the Scottish hierarchy, and well you know it. Bishop Pat has quite a dossier on Scottish clergy and is dealing with it. Taggart is my friend and he actually things highly of his Archbishop. You are very defensive, so I am presuming that you are either one who has been exposed on here previously, or you are close to the active homosexual clique or sex pests who operate here. Credit to Taggart for exposing them and the other Clergy who are up to no good. They are in the minority. You paint a rosie picture of our Archdiocese and my reply to you is take off your rose tinted specs. Pray for the Archbishop, for Taggart, for ALL our clergy and for the intercession of our Lord to cleanse our Archdiocese. Glasgow can be miles better.


They say things comes in 3’s and all 3 of your accusations about me are totally wrong Father.

Where I come from is my loyalty to the Church and yes it gets things wrong but it also gets many things right like SVP, Legion of Mary and in Glasgow the Mungo foundation.

I honestly thing Archbishop Tartaglia tries his best but he made a mistake with his Curia and hopefully he is sorting that out.

If you knew him he is an honest and caring man but does not have the health for it but out of loyalty he struggles on.

I will and always do pray for Bishops and Clergy not forgetting the Religious however if you think + Keenan is the answer to Glasgow I think you will be wrong.

I would like rid of the Homosexual clique and before you say I am homophobic which could not be further from the truth it is the serving clergy with the boyfriends that annoy me and do not practice like KOB what they preach.

You will not like my remark and that is I think + Cushley would sort Glasgow the way he has in Edinburgh.

Yesterday was the Birthday of one of Glasgow’s Best Cardinal Thomas Joseph Winning and he will be weeping what they have and are doing to his Glasgow.

As for Taggart I hope he is not sending information to 196 Clyde Street but to His Graces home.


Pat, when is your next retreat with us in Scotland. We so enjoyed last year with the attempted salmon fishing and the distillery visits but the spiritual input was just as good. That’s what retreats should be like – fun and also spiritual input. Most clergy retreats these days are too serious with no humour. That gamekeeper you knew still has me in stitches, an old timer with great wisdom. Any dates?


Sorry Pat, some of us after that retreat attributed a song to you from Eurythmics, ‘Thorn in my side’. It wasn’t meant to mock, it was to sum up your own situation. We who gathered young and not so young appreciated it very much. I’m having a wee tincture afore I go. Get another retreat going especially up round Grantown-on-Spey


Inspector Taggart, the leaker & to whom it may concern:
The situation is Glasgow is worse than we feared.
Pampers do a line in giant size diapers in the event of dirt dishing. Go luck with those.


Eamon Martin is under severe pressure to ordain Stephen Wilson from Michael Mullaney. Time will tell if Eamon breaks submits to Mullaney. Pat what advice could you give Eamon.


Bishop Pat, investigate Rev Heap, chaplain to Eton College. More skeletons in cupboard than the Adams family. Why does Portsmouth allow this man to run one of its most pretigious public schools in the land.


All Irish Bishops are terrified of saying no to Mullaney. Reason is simple, Mullaney maintains an archive on all info on their past, names, addresses, friends, links to politicians. I’m told even Phonsie is the new target for extensive monitoring by Mullaney.


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