BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has addressed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell in a letter to the entire community of the archdiocese urging parishioners to acknowledge the Church’s failures with child sexual abuse, but to recognise “a whole dimension” of good works carried out by the Church.
In a rousing Sunday homily, Archbishop Coleridge also called on Catholics to keep faith, overcome a “sense of defeatism”, and to “trust in the Lord”.
“These last few weeks have been bruising for the Catholic Church in Australia,” Archbishop Coleridge wrote in his letter to parishioners.
“It seems that everywhere we turn we see stories about the Church and its failures with child sexual abuse.”
When news of Cardinal Pell’s recent conviction on abuse charges broke Archbishop Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, was attending a Vatican summit on child abuse.
The summit was called by Pope Francis and attended by bishops from around the globe.
Archbishop Coleridge said the Church must accept its failures and never walk away from its responsibilities, while continuing to help and heal those who had been abused, and their families.
“We have much to atone for,” he said.
In his letter to Brisbane Catholics, Archbishop Coleridge listed 10 good works carried out by the Church, “almost never mentioned in mainstream media”.
He said the Church played a central role in assisting others, including helping refugees and victims of domestic violence, Australians with disability, the poverty stricken and the homeless.
The Church, Archbishop Coleridge said, worked with people living with dementia, provided pastoral support to prisoners, and worked to protect the environment.
“It’s the Church that educated millions of Australian children over generations … it’s the Church that has provided first-class medical treatment in our hospitals for generations,’’ he wrote.
“It’s the Church that you’re part of every day and, often enough, through the night as well.
“Because of what you do, the Church changes lives for the better, and it does so through the power of the Gospel.
“Yes, we face serious challenges now, but there is a whole dimension of the Church that should never be forgotten.”
During a homily at St Stephen’s Cathedral on March 3, Archbishop Coleridge spoke of a “sense of defeatism” gripping the Church in the wake of Cardinal Pell’s conviction, but urged parishioners to trust that “Jesus Christ risen from the dead has a word to speak”.
I ask myself “what fills your heart in a moment like this … perhaps bewilderment, perhaps anxiety, fear, anger”, he said.
“St Paul gives us a clue too when he says never admit defeat, because what can creep up on us at a moment like this is a sort of defeatism.
“We seem to belong to a Church, which, as some have said, has reached the point of no return.
“That’s not the truth, but I can understand why people say it and it can stir in us that sense of defeatism.”
Archbishop Coleridge encouraged parishioners to “keep on working at the Lord’s work always”.
He reflected on the most ancient Easter creed: “Against all the odds, and amidst all the horror and the darkness, we have seen the Lord risen from the dead”.
“Because He is everywhere. The only question is ‘do we have the eyes that see him’.
“Once you see Him, even glimpse Him … then everything is changed.
“… Trust Him through the darkness.”