Resignation ignites controversy over Catholic Education shake-up

Following the resignation of the head of Melbourne's Catholic Education, priest-statistician Fr Eric Hodgens has attacked the lack of transparency and accountability in the process of restructuring of the commission that manages Catholic education in Victoria.

Writing in tomorrow's edition of Online Catholics, Fr Hodgens, who is also a former Director of Melbourne's Pastoral Formation of Clergy, will argue that the "rumour mill is working overtime" following the departure of Susan Pascoe, who was the first layperson and first woman to become Director of Catholic Education in Melbourne and who has left to take up an executive position with the Victorian Government.

Describing Ms Pascoe as one of the "stars" of Catholic Education, Fr Hodgens says that Ms Pascoe was first appointed both as Director of Catholic Education and Executive Director of the Catholic Education Commission (CECV) in 2002 as successor to Fr Tom Doyle.

However, following a recent restructuring in which the CECV was incorporated as a separate entity taking over the functions of the Victorian Catholic Schools Assocation (VCSA) which was abolished last year, Ms Pascoe's functions were also separated, resulting in her losing her post as Director of Catholic Education.

According to Fr Hodgens, she remained simply as Chief Executive of the CECV - "a minor position".

The VCSA was abolished following a "little publicised" review by a panel headed by business leader, John Ralph, Fr Hodgens writes.

"The main drawback with the review was that none of the stakeholders were consulted - not the Parish Priests nor the Major Superiors nor the VCSA nor the Catholic Education Office (CEO) nor even the CECV," he writes.

According to Fr Hodgens, one of the reservations expressed by the review panel which called for the restructuring was "the degree of accountability" of the CEO and the CECV.

Regretting the loss of Ms Pascoe, Fr Hodgens also criticises what he describes as a lack of accountability within the organisation of the Melbourne Archdiocese.

"Bishops are the sole authority of their diocese under Canon Law. A Bishop often seeks advice, but is not bound by it. This is a leftover from the days of absolute monarchy, but it is still taken seriously in Catholic Church life", he says.

In a call for greater accountability and transparency, Fr Hodgens says that "common business ethics and public financial enterprises have moved far ahead of this policy".

"It is taken for granted now that transparency and accountability in business and administration is normal. Breaches of this policy can be seen as criminal or, at least, unethical - but not in church administration."

Ms Pascoe acknowledged earlier this year that there had been a lack of consultation about the review but said the church had to respond to the massive changes being experienced by the education system.

Online Catholics - in tomorrow's issue

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Education Commission Victoria
Catholic Education Office Melbourne

Fears restructure could kill Catholic education diversity (CathNews 11/4/06)

Changing of the guard (Kairos, 3/9/06)

19 Sep 2006