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A band of 15 bellringers from the United
Kingdom visited Adelaide last month as
part of a three-month tour of Australia,
New Zealand and South Africa.
They rang a full peal – three and a half
hours of continuous ringing of 12 bells
in strict mathematical sequence – at St
Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on Monday
Commencing at 5pm, the peal was
enjoyed by commuters leaving work and
about 50 people who gathered in Mary
MacKillop Plaza for the unique event.
More accustomed to ringing in Anglican
churches in the UK, the group was
pleased to have the opportunity to ring in
a Catholic cathedral, as well as St Peter’s
Cathedral and the Adelaide Town Hall.
Ruth Curtis, from Lincoln in the UK, said
members of the group came from different
parts of England but rang together at
least once a month and travelled overseas
She has been ringing for more than 50
years and met her husband Paul through
the activity. Several other couples in the
group also met through bellringing.
“The social side is very good,” said Paul.
“It’s something you can’t do on your own
and it’s both physically and mentally
“We’ve seen places that we would never
have seen and sampled lots of very nice
Adam Crocker, a 26-year-old accountant,
said a highlight of the tour was ringing the
bells at the Ballarat Town Hall on Australia
Day. While it was always difficult to know
who was listening to the peal of the bells,
he said “you always try your hardest just
The group rings the bells in the English
style of full-circle change-ringing, whereby
each bell swings full circle but does so in a
forward and reverse direction.
English bellringing is described by the
Adelaide Bellringers as “mathematics,
sport, teamwork and music rolled into
Peal of bells a resounding success
DING DONG: UK bellringers, from left: Adam Crocker, Flick Warwick, Martin Whiteley, Ruth Curtis, Paul Cammiade, Paul Curtis
and Margaret Whiteley in the Cathedral bellringing room.
Photo: Nat Rogers
A delegation of Australian bishops
could be sent to Rome within months
to seek guidance from Pope Francis on
issues relating to the seal of confession
raised during the Royal Commission into
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual
The proposal by Archbishop Wilson
received strong support from the Royal
Commission which heard differing opinions
from Church representatives on whether
the seal applies only to the confession of
a sin or to any part of a conversation in a
During their testimony on the last day of
the final hearing into the Catholic Church,
the five mainland metropolitan archbishops
agreed that the suggestion should be
raised at the next bishops’ plenary in May.
Archbishop Wilson said it would be
appropriate to raise this matter with the
Pope immediately, to seek clarification and
advice on how priests could meet their
obligations to report abuse when they hear
of it in the context of the confessional.
“There’s no reason why we, the bishops of
Australia, can’t get together and prepare
material about this with these questions
that have been raised and actually send a
delegation ... to Rome to see the Pope,”
“The crucial thing would be to go to Pope
Francis and just explain our dilemma to
him and I’m sure that in the spirit of his
ministry, he would get something done
about it quickly.”
Counsel assisting the Commission, Ms
Gail Furness (pictured), asked who was
responsible for the plenary agenda, to
which the bishops replied they all were
involved. “Well I encourage you all to put it
on the agenda,” she said.
The matter of absolving someone who
admits to abuse was also contentious
with some bishops, including Archbishop
Wilson, suggesting the confessor was able
to withhold absolution under Church law
if the penitent was not prepared to make
amends by going to the police.
It was proposed that this also be clarified
with Pope Francis.
On the first day of their testimony, the
bishops described the response by Church
leadership in the past to clerical sexual
abuse as a “catastrophic failure”.
In relation to pastoral care provided to
survivors by bishops, Archbishop Wilson
said he believed he had failed at times.
“There are some parts of our experience in
Adelaide that I wasn’t happy that we did it
as well as we could,” he said. “Sometimes
I have failed in that area, but I would really
make it a high point to try to engage with
the survivors as much as I can.”
The involvement of lay women in the
leadership of the Church in Adelaide
under Emeritus Archbishop Faulkner and
followed up in a formal canonical way
by Archbishop Wilson was referred to
during the hearing, as was the role of the
Diocesan Pastoral Council. The relatively
low rate of clerical abuse in the Adelaide
Archdiocese (2.4 per cent) gave rise to the
On the topic of parishioners’ perceived
elevated power and status of priests,
Commissioner Andrew Murray said that
in private sessions the Commission had
been told by many survivors that they
thought they were being abused by a
“representative of God”.
Archbishop Wilson said that was “the most
horrible thing I could ever hear”. “It’s just
awful that people could behave like that,”
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long
told the Commission he believed the
marginalisation of women and the laity was
part of the culture of clericalism that had
contributed to the sexual abuse crisis.
“I think if we are serious about reform, this
is one of the areas that we need to look
at,” he said. “The laity have no meaningful
or direct participation in the appointment,
supervision and even removal of the parish
priest. I think that needs to change.”
Bishop Long described the current
structure of the Church as “a neat, almost
divinely inspired, pecking order...heavily
tilted towards the ordained”.
“So you have the Pope, the cardinals, the
bishops, religious, consecrated men and
women, and the laity right at the bottom of
the pyramid. I think we need to dismantle
that model of Church,” he said.
Australia’s only representative on the
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of
Minors, Kathleen McCormack AM, told the
Commission that education was the key to
developing a culture that was “alert” to the
issue of child sexual abuse.
The former director of welfare at
CatholicCare in the Wollongong Diocese
was asked about her membership of the
Professional Standards Resource Group
(PSRG) established by Archbishop Wilson
when he was bishop of that diocese.
Mrs McCormack said from 1997 to 2000,
after Towards Healing came into effect,
there were a number of cases of abuse
being dealt with by the PSRG which
comprised both Catholic and non-Catholic
members of the community.
She said the group worked “extremely
well” and the presence of lay people
enhanced the process.
“What I was really impressed with at the
time was that the bishop did listen and he
learnt and was open to learning as to why
this was happening and how he could deal
with it,” she told the Commission.
Mrs McCormack said you could have
“all the audits in the world” and “tick the
boxes” but “if you don’t start to have an
alert culture...you’re missing the point”.
“So I think it’s education, education,
education, and that people start to pick
up the behaviours of people, to look at
the safe environments, to look at people
who are not following the guidelines of the
organisation, to look at people who work
in isolation, so that all the staff start to
understand the indicators.”
See editorial page 11 and Loud Fence
story page 9.
Clarity sought on confessional seal
By Jenny Brinkworth
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