The eighth Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright, was farewelled from Sacred Heart Cathedral yesterday by some 200 mourners, far fewer than would have paid their respects at the Hamilton cathedral had attendance not been limited by COVID.
The elegiac formalities of the funeral mass told the story of Bishop Wright's life, his faith and his works, with a brief reference, early on, to the "terrible truths" of the diocese.
There would have been an outcry had the service - streamed live to the public - not touched on these matters. Some of those whose lives have been shattered by abuse will have watched the service.
Others pointedly refused to. They say the bishop had not helped them as he had promised he would, and feel let down by a diocese, and a church, they say is still putting the institution ahead of its victims.
Others, not directly affected, and still faithful to their church, say they sympathise for the affected families, but say their faith is in their hearts - or in the God they worship - not the organisation itself.
They talk of the time needed to "move on". But while ever the church is still settling - or fighting - child abuse claims, the controversy will remain.
Diocesan staff have pointed the Newcastle Herald towards what they see as Bishop Wright's major achievements, including the opening of three Catholic schools during his time at Hamilton, the growth of CatholicCare and the first synod held "locally" for three decades.
They stressed his genuine enthusiasm - thankfully with no dark undertone - for the younger members of his flock.
At 69 - a year short of the Biblical "three score and 10" - the bishop was taken prematurely, and quickly.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Reverend Anthony Fisher, described him as a man who would talk with people over "a beer and a cigarette".
It was a habit of a lifetime, and one that cost him his life, through cigarette-related cancer.
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Archbishop Fisher reassured the mourners that his friend and had met his death "in the sure and certain hope of resurrection".
We are not judging him. Bishop Wright was - like all of us - a human being.
A priest for 44 years, he may have disappointed some, but he led his diocese with determination through its darkest times.
May he rest in peace.
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