Australian Catholics Petition Vatican to Remove Their Bishop Over His Stance on Homosexuality

Bishop Vincent Long Văn Nguyễn’s outspoken support for ‘LGBT’ inclusivity has roiled many local Catholics, who say their bishop’s actions contradict Church teachings.

Protests against Bishop Vincent Long were held April 25 outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Parramatta, Australia.
Protests against Bishop Vincent Long were held April 25 outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Parramatta, Australia. (photo: Bernadette Ching photos)

VATICAN CITY — Catholics from the Diocese of Parramatta, Australia, have submitted a formal appeal to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calling for the removal of their bishop over his apparent support of same-sex relationships.

The complainants are also seeking the removal of the diocese’s vicar general and its executive director of Catholic education.

Their appeal, which follows multiple petitions that have received thousands of signatures, accuses Bishop Vincent Long Văn Nguyễn and his vicar for education in the diocese, Father Christopher de Souza, of causing scandal by promoting in diocesan schools teachings on homosexuality that contradict Church teachings. 

The formal appeal, which accuses Bishop Long of alleged canonical violations, also contains a series of other complaints, including allegations that two diocesan priests were harassed out of their positions because they do not share the diocese’s approach to homosexuality, claims related to financial corruption and mismanagement, and a lack of consultation regarding some building works at the cathedral. 

The first Vietnamese-born bishop to lead a diocese outside of Vietnam and the first Vietnamese-born bishop in Australia, Bishop Long, 59, was appointed auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 2011 by Benedict XVI. Pope Francis appointed him the ordinary of Parramatta in 2016, succeeding Archbishop Anthony Fisher, who was appointed archbishop of Sydney.

In 2017, Bishop Long made clear his approach, saying he was committed to making the Church in Parramatta a “house for all peoples, a church where there is less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity.” 

He added: “We must commit ourselves to the task of reaching out to our LGBTI brothers and sisters, affirming their dignity and accompanying them on our common journey towards the fullness of life and love in God.”


Seeking Vatican Intervention

The 24-page appeal with 43 attachments was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and arrived in Vatican City on April 27, according to tracking information (although the Register was told May 3 the CDF had not yet received it). It follows an online petition posted last June, which initially called for greater transparency and accountability in the diocese. That appeal attracted nearly 2,000 signatures after it was posted online, rising to 3,000 after other signatories added their names offline. 

This was followed by a second petition last September organized by a diocesan youth group called Heart of Parramatta. Signed by more than 4,000 people, their petition called for the removal of Bishop Long — a demand subsequently added to the appeal submitted to the CDF. 

Both petitions were sent last year to the bishop, the vicar general and the apostolic nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Tito Yllana, via email and registered mail, but the organizers said they received no response.

“After exhausting all possible means to discuss privately with the bishop with regard to the request for transparency and the curriculum issues, we have not heard from the bishop with regard to the formal submission of the two petitions to him,” said Bernadette Ching, organizer of the first petition. 

Ching and other disaffected faithful therefore took the decision to send a “formal canon-law submission to Rome” and called on the Vatican “to remove Bishop Long and vicar general [Father] Chris de Souza for violation of canon law and teaching doctrinal errors to the detriment of the souls of our faithful.” 

The petitioners are demanding Father de Souza’s resignation because he oversees the work of the education department that they say has been responsible for introducing a pro-homosexual agenda into schools. 

They also are asking Greg Whitby, executive director of Catholic education in Parramatta, who was first employed in the diocese by Bishop Long’s predecessors, to resign for the same reason. Another online petition calling specifically for him to be replaced has attracted more than 2,000 signatures. 

Ching wrote, “We are now praying that the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith help us to save our diocese, children, seminarians, clergy and the faithful from violations of doctrine to the detriment of our soul and to replace these two leaders with a traditional and catechized good shepherd.”


Pushing ‘LGBT’ Inclusivity

The accusations made against Bishop Long, who in 2017 said he was an adult victim of sexual abuse by clergy in Australia, specifically include statements he made that failed to oppose Australia’s same-sex “marriage” legislation in 2017.

The following year, he invited all diocesan Catholic school leaders and staff to a symposium on “LGBT” inclusivity in the diocesan St. Patrick’s cathedral parish in 2018 (the symposium was run in conjunction with the Rainbow Catholics Inter-Agency Ministry for Australia that aims to affirm Catholics in their “faith, sexuality, gender identity and intersex status” and works toward “ending homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, intersex erasure in our church and in our communities where discrimination, exclusion and prejudice occurs”). 

The symposium took as its starting point the final document of the 2019 Synod on Youth that stated “all young people, without exception, are helped to integrate the sexual dimension of their personality more and more fully as they grow in the quality of their relationships and move towards the gift of self.” 

In 2020, Bishop Long, with the help of Father de Souza and Whitby, introduced a draft diocesan catechetical curriculum that critics say promotes atheism, gender ideology and the LGBT agenda. Last September, Father de Souza pushed back against what he called “wrong and misleading” media reports about the curriculum, insisting the document “completely adheres to the Catholic faith” and is still in the consultation process. Catholic News Agency obtained a copy of the draft curriculum, of which one section is about acknowledging “our own sexuality, whilst respecting sexual identities as an essential attribute to human flourishing.” 

The curriculum further expected students to study Scripture on human sexuality and to “recognize sexuality as an exploration in forming personal identity as a prerequisite for human flourishing.”


Alleged Administrative Mishandlings

The appeal sent to the Vatican details how the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, Father Robert Bossini, lost faith and trust in Bishop Long and his leadership team primarily after an administrative dispute involving work on the cathedral premises. The appeal also claims that a second priest, Father Warren Edwards, who founded a school in the Parramatta Diocese, also suffered under the bishop’s leadership. Both have left the diocese. The appeal to the Vatican alleges that both priests were effectively harassed out of their positions, as they would obstruct the bishop’s new catechetical curriculum. 

After submitting the appeal to the CDF earlier this month, the organizers learned of further material to support their concerns: opposition by Bishop Long to a bill introduced in the New South Wales state legislature by Australian politician Mark Latham that would “prohibit the teaching of the ideology of gender fluidity to children in schools.” 

The bill would also ensure that schools not “usurp the role of parents” and that “teaching in relation to core values is to be strictly non-ideological and should not advocate or promote dogmatic or polemical ideology that is inconsistent with the values held by parents of students.”

Latham’s bill is in line with both Church teaching and public comments from Pope Francis rejecting gender fluidity, but the Diocese of Parramatta has reportedly opposed it because it believes it runs “counter to promoting and respecting the human dignity of all” and because the diocese was concerned that students who identify as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual or transgender could be harassed because of the bill’s prohibition on teaching gender fluidity, according to CNA.

Following news reports of Bishop Long’s opposition to the proposed legislation, diocesan exorcist Father John Rizzo wrote a letter April 19 to the bishop asking for his and Whitby’s resignation. 

“Your stance is at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” he wrote. “Your zealous approach at ‘inclusivity’ towards the LGBTIQ community is very confusing to Catholics wanting to be faithful to the Church.”

In April 28 comments to the Register, Father Rizzo said Catholic schools under Bishop Long’s care are “rife with a pro-homosexual agenda,” his pastoral approach to the LGBT community “leaves many of the faithful confused,” and that it “totally contradicts the Vatican’s position, which forbids such an agenda.” 

“The faithful are scandalized and sick and tired of having all this content thrown at the innocence of their children,” he said, adding that his speeches and homilies are “about an ‘inclusivity’ that seems to include everybody except those who are faithful to the moral teachings of the Church.”

Parramatta parishioner Antoinette Panetta told the Register, “He is attempting to implement the indoctrination of the children with gender-identity ideology; he is virtually never present in the diocese.” 

The bishop wants to “introduce anti-Catholic, pro-LGBTIQ gender-fluidity concepts to our Catholic schools and not even teach the children that those concepts are morally wrong,” added another Parramatta parishioner, Ron Ao. “This is the same bishop who did not exhort the Catholics in his diocese to vote ‘No’ to homosexual ‘marriage’ when we had our plebiscite.”

Zana Rahme, a concerned parent of the diocese, told the Register: “You [Bishop Long] do not represent what we want for our children at school, and you do not represent our faith.” 

Father Rizzo said he would like the Holy See to send an “emissary or assessor to investigate the workings of the education department” and “to see the dissolution of the present education department.” The faithful, he added, “would sincerely appreciate a Catholic curriculum throughout the school system.”

Father Bossini told the Register April 30 that he, too, would like to see Rome send an investigator and give the opportunity for people “to speak frankly and openly on the many issues which are of concern to them.” To him, Bishop Long’s agenda is “Marxist-based” and aims to “dismantle the present structures and rebuild according to his leftist thoughts.”

“The bishop’s agenda on LGBTQI issues is just one of many that has eroded my trust in him as a shepherd and leader within the diocese,” he told the Register, and he called for an “independent audit of the Parramatta Diocese” before the bishop and his aides “destroy it.” 

The Register asked Bishop Long to respond to these accusations and criticisms leveled against him and his aides, but, replying through his communications director, Joseph Younes, he declined to comment. The Register also asked Archbishop Yllana, the apostolic nuncio, for comment but received no response.

On Sunday, April 25, as dozens of faithful protested outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral against the diocese’s opposition to Latham’s bill, Bishop Long delivered a homily in which he noted criticism of the diocese’s approach to education and that it “panders to a dangerous ideology.” 

He sought to reassure those present that “we take all the vital questions of our culture seriously and reflect on them through the lens, the prism, of Jesus’ solidarity with the most marginalized.” 

“I don’t believe we have anything to fear from a respectful and intelligent dialogue, with our sons and daughters, with our deeply committed teaching staff in a caring, Catholic environment.” Life can be “complex,” he added, “but the Church is not a cult, a ghetto, that refuses to engage, to dialogue, or to challenge our contemporary culture.” 

Bishop Long said he believes “we need to acknowledge and stand with those who are ostracized rather than consigning them to silence or to the margins of society.” 

The bishop’s emphasis on the importance of dialogue did not go unnoticed by his concerned and unheeded flock as they wait to hear from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

“Although we all have yet to get a response to our request to dialogue,” Ching said, “we hope Bishop Vincent Long stays true to his words.”