It’s said that Australia, more than any other nation, loves and uses acronyms. I’m not sure about the absolute accuracy of that sentiment, but recent events have highlighted that there’s some truth in it – certainly for the Church.
In my role as President of CRA (Catholic Religious Australia) I recently met with the President of the ACBC (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference). Archbishop Coleridge and I discussed a range of issues relevant to both entities and the broader Church community. We spent some time focused on the important work of the IAG (Implementation Advisory Group) which was formed after the demise of the TJHC (Truth Justice and Healing Council). With a life of two years the IAG’s brief is to offer advice and support to the ACBC and CRA about the actions required to faithfully implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission (RC). The IAG’s key work projects are revising the TH (Towards Healing) processes and policies, establishing a procedure for the annual reporting to the Commonwealth Government on the implementation of the RC recommendations, and offering advice about appropriate future Church governance structures.
We also discussed CPSL (Catholic Professional Standards Limited), a company whose Members are the ACBC and CRA. Established before the conclusion of the RC, CPSL is responsible for ensuring objective, comprehensive and robust safe-guarding standards are enunciated, implemented and maintained across Church entities. We also touched on the work of the ACCPS (Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards) which was established to replace the NCPS (National Committee for Professional Standards) when it closed in March 2019. It oversees the ACMR (Australian Catholic Ministry Register) which is a record of all those clerics and male religious within Australia who are in good-standing and therefore able to move and minister across the country. It is linked to ACRL (Australian Catholic Redress Limited) which was established by the ACBC to interface between Diocese and the NRS (National Redress Scheme).
Lest you think all acronym-friendly Church entities are related to professional standards, the night before our meeting, both Archbishop Coleridge and I attended the AGM of the AMPJP (Association of Ministerial PJPs – Public Juridic Persons), which is the peak body for the canonical governors of ministerial PJPs. Although a relatively new addition to the Church landscape in Australia (established in 2016) AMPJP has developed into a significant influence within the Church. Member PJPs conduct 90 schools, 73 hospitals, 46 aged care facilities, and 29 family or community services. At the AGM, Eva Skira (St John of God Health Care) replaced Br Paul Oakley cfc (Edmund Rice Education Australia) as Chair of AMPJP. Increasingly, it will become a resonant voice within the Church.
At our recent CRA professional development seminar, the Executive Officer of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) gave an enlightening presentation about various forms of exploitation and outlined some of ACRATH’s current activities. It has been involved in the development of the Commonwealth and NSW’s Modern Slavery Laws, is advocating for the just treatment of migrant labourers and promoting an increase in the level of Australia’s ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) which currently sits at 0.21 per cent of gross national income. Please go to ACRATH’s website for more information: www.acrath.org.au
We have social services entities such as CHA (Catholic Health Australia), CSSA (Catholic Social Services Australia) and SVdP (now Vinnies), which are active in advocacy and research in this sector of aged care, hospitals and the disadvantaged across Australia.
And then we have CRA itself - which supports and advocates on behalf of our religious congregations across the country.
Acronyms and entities abound. The multitude of entities highlights the passion and practical commitment of the Church to a range of significant social and religious issues and activities. Ours is literally a broad Church, and there are multiple avenues for ensuring the Gospel continues to be heard and lived authentically across the spectrum of life in Australia. In doing so, we help to ensure the relevance of a Church that, while frayed around the edges and undergoing intense challenges, is still our mother and home.
Peter Carroll FMS