PETER DAY. An Open Letter to Pope Francis

Dear Papa Francesco,

The Australian Catholic Church is in deep crisis and is in urgent need of your pastoral presence and leadership.

Today, the former President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, archbishop Phillip Wilson, was formally charged with covering-up child sexual abuse; while Cardinal George Pell has himself be charged with sexual abuse and will face trial later this year.

Indeed, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has uncovered extraordinary crimes against humanity – and on an unimaginable scale. Between the years 1950-2010, for instance, as many as 7% of diocesan priests have been implicated in the abuse of children, while the statistics regarding non-ordained religious are nothing short of catastrophic:

  • 40-4 percent — St John of God Brothers
  • 22.0 percent — Christian Brothers
  • 21.9 percent — Salesians of Don Bosco
  • 20.4 percent — Marist Brothers
  • 13.8 percent — De La Salle Brothers
  • 12.4 percent –Patrician Brothers
  • 4.8 percent — Society of Jesus

The people of God are bereft, angry, scandalised, and in shock – and so are we priests.

Your presence would not only be of great comfort to them, but far more importantly, it would be a powerful and momentous gesture of mercy to those innocent children and their families crippled by the betrayal of the Catholic Church.

I should like to add; such a visit would also help counter the widespread and, in many instances, justifiable perception among the People of God that the church’s leaders just don’t get it; that they are more interested in protecting the institution than tending the wounds of our most vulnerable.

It has become is abundantly clear, Papa Francesco: the ordained hierarchy of the Catholic Church needs to divest itself of power – that insidious drug that has taken it to the precipice – and share it more substantially with the body of the Church in governance, strategic decision making, financial supervisions, and selection of office holders. The simple fact is that the Catholic Church is trapped in an administrative prison that may have been developed long ago to correct abuses of former ages. But today, it is inflicting its own abuse on the capacity of the church to do its job – preach the Gospel in word and deed.

I humbly ask, then, that you consider a pastoral visit to Australia as soon as is convenient and that, on an international scale, you consider:

  1. Hosting a worldwide gathering of Church leaders to specifically address this crisis.       What a message such a universal gathering would send to our children, our people, our world: “Your lives, your dignity, your sanctity deserve nothing less than a concerted global focus and response; whatever the cost.”
  2. Convening the 22nd Ecumenical Council of the Church in which the ‘hired men’ culture is called to account, victims are afforded a voice, and a collective wisdom is given room to breathe and act. As it stands, we are tending to be defined by our collective silence, obfuscation, and inertia.

In essence, Papa Francesco, the Catholic Church is in great need of inner conversion.

Your former confrère, Pedro Arrupe sj, offers a good starting point – and I paraphrase:

There is nothing more important than falling totally and utterly in love with God. Love determines everything we do. It determines why we get out of bed, what we do with our day, and how we spend our evenings. Fall in love. Be in love. Stay in love.

Indeed, when one is in love, one is drawn to those places in which the beloved is to be found: I want to be where they are; what’s important to them is important to me; I’ll risk and leave everything behind for them.

A church that professes Jesus to be its first love must hasten to the ‘margins and befriend the poorest and learn from them’ (Jean Vanier).

This is our most natural habitat because it is His.

A church that professes Jesus’ leadership as its cornerstone must humbly kneel at the foot of humanity and serve it.

This is our most natural disposition because it is His.

As you have said in so many different ways: the church should look like a ‘field hospital’ serviced by disciples with bedpans and towels. 

If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you’. (John 13: 13-15)

That our institution has lost sight of this is of great concern to many Catholics – and so it must be.

As you know, better than most, a tremendous struggle lies ahead because those in the thrall of power do not easily give up the privileges it bestows. In our clamour for ‘honour at banquets and the most important seats at churches’, we have forgotten our place. And what is our place? No one has said it better than John the Baptist: ‘In order for Christ to increase, I must decrease.’

We are the towel people,
Soothers, cleansers, healers
Of feet tired and sore and cut from the journey. 

Christ’s sent people,
Wiping away the dirt and blood and spittle
Of the world’s hatred spewed onto the faces of the weak. 

On our knees before others –
And in homage to them,
for Christ is there.


In the end, Jesus Christ, who, himself, experienced abuse and humiliation at the hands of religious leaders, has left us an eternal and living legacy; a profound responsibility: to walk humbly and gently alongside others, especially the most vulnerable, whatever the cost.

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  (John 10:11)

May the Peace of Christ be with you.

Yours faithfully,

Fr Peter Day
HOME in Queanbeyan


This entry was posted in Religion and Faith. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to PETER DAY. An Open Letter to Pope Francis

  1. Marlene (Del) Carroll (changed my name) says:

    I have just saved your letter John to the Pope this is a disgrace. as you say a crime against humanity, this is Spiritual Abuse at the top level. I know what they doing they want US all dead or they want us to be treated for our depression suicidal thoughts by the tax payers. I believe I am the only person my Lawyer knows that has had an apology from Brian Lucas after he rang me after I wrote to him and he told me NOBODY CARES!!! I was that horrified I told him I would sit down after this call and write him a letter which i did.

    John when we got the RC I wrote back to him saying “That indeed someone does care” then I wrote to the Nuncio and the Pope telling them what he said to me. I then wrote to George Pell he responded to me by saying that Lucas is a good man and would want to apologies to me so I then wrote back to Brian Lucas telling him what GP wrote in is letter to me that I responded telling GP that I want a written apology I was so shocked to receive it, it was so unexpected, I then responded due to the wording because it was written like a Lawyer telling him so in the end i emailed back saying words like BIG MISTAKE BRIAN!!

    John this has been going on for 17 years, I had years of treatment then when Lismore was questioned at the RC the Bishop lied about me so I did in the end go to the RC which i wasn’t going to do because of my beautiful Mother a devoted Catholic with three Sisters in the convent.. John why is that they don’t just admit their mistakes stop the appalling publicity settle with everyone and let us try to live what life we have left to live in peace I am 68 years old and this abuse happened to me 58 years ago I have no life really and I know they hate me because i went public.

    If you would like to read what I have written and said Google “The Grandmother from Woop-woop takes aim and fires” Marlene (Del) Burgess I have had a very open say about this because I did not come forward for nothing I came forward at the Churches Invitation thinking they would care about me due to my Family connections with the Church I was so immature and ofcourse I had no idea really what was going on inside the Church until I found the Catholica Forum I sat here in total shock what i was reading.

    John i hope you get this


  2. Joan Seymour says:

    While I agree that conversion to love is the only thing that will save the Church, I’m not sure that a papal visit – surely the acme of triumphalism even when the intention is so good – will promote conversion. I respect Pope Francis and believe he’s a man truly listening to the Spirit – but he’s ordained. With all due respect to you, Fr Peter, I think the ordained must step back, not forward. How can clerics lead us out of the morass clericalism has led the Church into? Maybe what’s needed is a massive act of humility and self-sacrifice. Maybe that’s what is being modelled by the Chilean bishops.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      “Maybe that’s what is being modelled by the Chilean bishops”…..
      Mmmmm not sure it’s anything to do modelling humility and self sacrifice.
      They took an alliance to the pope [any pope] and would fall on their sword in a blink and were only following “orders”.

      • Joan Seymour says:

        Yes, that’s a distinct possibility, too. I’m far from trusting the action to be wholly penitential, which is why I said ‘maybe’. I’m hoping (against hope?) that the Pope accepts all the resignations, which may not have been their intention at all.

  3. Jennifer Anne Herrick says:

    Peter, Wilson has been convicted. He was charged long ago. He is out on bail awaiting sentencing on the 19th June. Let’s get the terms right!

  4. Lynne Newington says:

    Why use the emotions to make such a plea, emotions are the weapons of the church used by Pope Francis and his predecessors.
    As for a papal visit………and in relation to 7% of diocesan priests, the damage done by those of religious orders always seem to slip under the radar. There are horrific cases on and off the record against women that are threatened whenever they raise their heads signed off with confidentialities.

  5. Jim KABLE says:

    And Peter Day – bravo to you!

    If Phillip Wilson appeals his conviction – the Church must immediately de-frock and dis-own him – the same for George Pell when he is found guilty. The bishops of Chile have done the honourable thing – let all the bishops in Australia now do likewise! It is only be such a cleansing – and truly meaningful compensation paid to victims (including to surviving family members when the victims are already deceased – suicide or other causes attributable to suffering child sexual abuse) – sell off the central city cathedrals if needs be – and only then – can healing – proper healing – commence.

    • Jennifer Anne Herrick says:

      Jim, do you seriously believe the Chilean Bishops “have done the honourable thing”? Can you not recognise the ruse?

      • Jim KABLE says:

        Jennifer – you are right. On other forums I recognised that had it been a truly honourable thing then they would have all en masses resigned – not simply offered to resign. You call it a ruse – that may well have been the intent. Thanks for pulling me up on this point here in this forum.

  6. Gail Grossman Freyne says:

    Dear Fr. Peter, thank you. Please let us know if you receive a response. Or even an acknowledgement of receipt.

Comments are closed.