Dr Paul Collins and Frank Purcell, the organisers of a petition to the Australian Catholic Bishops last year, have responded publicly to a letter sent to them on behalf of the Bishops by the President of the ACBC, Archbishop Phillip Wilson. Effectively their message back to Archbishop Wilson amounts to an almighty "Not Good Enough! Mr President". They have sent out letters and emails to the nearly 17,000 signatories to the petition expressing their disappointment at the response and are in the process of preparing a more formal response to Archbishop Wilson and the Australian Bishops. The letters we are publishing here were sent out late on Friday afternoon to petition signatories and that has already begun to generate responses on the Catholica forum which can be found HERE.
Text of the open letter from Frank Purcell to Petitioners
This is a copy of a letter which we have circulated to all parishes in Australia. A copy of the full text of Archbishop Wilson’s letter is attached to this email.
“During 2007 Catholics for Ministry circulated a Petition to the Bishops regarding the crisis we face in pastoral ministry. Almost 17,000 Catholics, including 168 priests, signed this Petition, which was forwarded to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference prior to their meeting in November 2007.
We understand that the bishops did discuss some of the matters raised in the Petition and then handed it over to the central committee of the Bishops Conference for further deliberation. We heard nothing definitive until we received a letter dated 9 May 2008 from Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Bishops Conference, which stated:
The matters ... in the petition are of quite diverse doctrinal and disciplinary import. They are largely beyond our competence as a national conference of Bishops within the universal Church…. It would not, therefore, be appropriate in the circumstances for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to engage in ongoing correspondence with you on these issues. The Bishops will, however, continue in other ways to address the current challenges.
Needless to say, we are disappointed with this response. We are preparing a more detailed reaction which will be available on our website at www.catholicsforministry.com.au.
In the meantime, we are anxious to inform those who signed the Petition - as well as other interested Catholics - of the Bishops’ response. We would be grateful if you could pass this information on to your parishioners, perhaps by making copies of this letter available in the notice sheet or at the door after Mass.
We are keen to keep contact with those who signed the petition or who are interested in supporting the renewal of ministry. Would they please write to us with postal address, email and telephone number at
Catholics for Ministry
or by email via our website at www.catholicsforministry.com.au.
With renewed thanks for your support,
Frank Purcell, Paul Collins
Text of Archbishop Wilson's letter to Dr Paul Collins
9 May 2008
Dr Paul Collins
I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 20 March 2008.
The matters which you raise in your letter as in the petition are of quite diverse doctrinal and disciplinary import. They are also largely beyond our competence as a national Conference of Bishops within the universal Church.
Your letter seems to underestimate the challenges to faith which we now confront. It would not, therefore, be appropriate in these circumstances for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to engage in ongoing correspondence with you on these issues. The Bishops will, however, continue in other ways to address the current challenges.
With every good wish, I remain
Archbishop Philip E. Wilson