11-November-2012 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Australian cardinal seeks 'radical' improvement of Catholic college

Cardinal George Pell rebuked poor student behavior at the University of Sydney's St. John's College, calling for reform of its governance to address misdeeds including a ritual drinking episode that hospitalized a girl last year.

"Unfortunately, I no longer have confidence in the capacity of the council of St. John's College to reform life at the college, despite their goodwill and the dedication of the chairman," he said Nov. 6.

The cardinal asked the five priest fellows of the college's 18-member council to quit their positions, which they did. The council cannot make decisions or hold meetings without a member of the clergy present, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Cardinal Pell has called for "radical improvement" at the elite, 150-year-old Catholic college.

Students have engaged in widespread vandalism, smashing furniture and setting it on fire. Human waste is routinely found in common areas and bedrooms.

In March 2012, a student collapsed and was hospitalized after an initiation ritual put her life at risk. Students are still being put through similar rituals, which include drinking toxic drinks.

The misbehavior has prompted condemnations from prominent alumni, including several Australian political leaders.

"Enough is enough," Cardinal Pell said, reporting that the turmoil at the college has continued for months despite independent reviews. "Community life must be stabilized and a measure of peace restored."

Changes under consideration include reducing the size of the council and having its members appointed by both the Church and the University of Sydney. Presently the university does not control the self-governing college.

The college's honorary dean, Fr. Walter Fogarty, has ended his 20-year association with the college on the grounds that attempts to change the campus culture were being undermined.

"Unfortunately, there are some associated with the college who will want to say there are no problems when quite clearly there are," he said Nov. 4.

The priest said that some alumni and those on the executive board have undermined reform efforts and have allowed behavior to regress, the Sunday Morning Herald reports.

He rejected the contention that the rituals are part of tradition, saying that many of the present actions under criticism were not part of college life when he first became involved with the college.

He also said sexist behavior has not changed. Despite hopes that changing the college to a co-residential system would have a positive effect, some students have "become more entrenched in their misogyny."

The future of college rector Michael Bongers could be at stake. He has held the position since 2009 and attempted to expel or punish misbehaving students. However, his efforts were overruled.

Caroline Ravenscroft, a criminal barrister and mother of a student who acted on behalf of most of the 33 students involved in the March 2012 poisoning, has charged that Bongers acted unfairly and did not follow proper procedure.

The rector has said his treatment of the accused students was "fair."

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=6520#ixzz2C2hgipd5

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