Pastoral letter to the people and clergy of the Diocese of Parramatta

 Dear friends,

The news concerning Cardinal George Pell and his conviction and incarceration on historic child sexual abuse crimes has dominated local and international media this week. Such news has caused a wide range of emotions in the community.

Even among Catholics, there is a sense of shame and anger at the betrayal that the clerical sex abuse crimes represent, and the hypocrisy they reveal. It is wider than simply the case of Cardinal Pell. We must respect the processes of the law and await the outcome of the appeal.

In the meantime, our primary concern must continue to be the care of the victims of sexual abuse.

The revisiting of such grievous wounds has been difficult for many. As we approach Lent, may we, too, grieve with all those suffering intensely. Genuine hope begins whenever we listen to the story of another with an open heart.

Some, too, feel that in the marketplace the “brand Catholic” has suffered a grievous blow. Perhaps so. But we are not a market nor are we a popular cult.

We are first and always a community of disciples following our one master, Jesus Christ. We are not the Church of one particular leader, be it Pope Francis or Cardinal Pell or any other bishop.

We are the living Body of Christ made up of saints and sinners.

We are challenged by Our Lord to reach out to all who are hurting, and to all victims of every abuse and sinfulness. We are to be the “field hospital” for all the marginalised as Pope Francis has asked us to become. We are to be in the messiness of life, not to run away into some “idealised future or romantic past.”

To be such, demands that we let go of our sense of superiority, privilege and power and embrace again our need for healing and forgiveness and to look again at the Suffering Servant leader who is our Lord Jesus.

Many people may say these are only words and they would be correct. However, for us they are the words of Jesus and we are called to put our faith in Him and demonstrate it in our actions by our care for all in need.

This would mean changing the way we think and act so that all may feel safe and welcome in our communities regardless of what they believe, look like, or have, and regardless of their sexuality, gender or marital status.

The season of Lent summons us to a discipleship of humility, weakness and vulnerability, of dying and rising in Christ. We are challenged to remove our heart of stone and to have a heart of flesh instead.

During this period of crisis and darkness, as the Church, let us pray that we have the courage to die to that which is contrary to the Gospel, and rise to be what Christ has called us to be.

 

Yours in Christ the Chief Shepherd,

Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv STL DD Bishop of Parramatta