In an exclusive interview with The Bottom Line, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Youth Off The Streets, Father Chris Riley identifies a series of fundamental changes that he believes, if implemented, will help modernise the Catholic Church.
Airing Saturday 31 May at 4.00pm on Channel Nine, Riley explains to host Alex Malley (Chief Executive of CPA Australia) that allowing married men and women to practice as priests would break down the barriers of the Catholic Church and move the institution into the twenty-first century.
“I’m not a spokesman for the church and I certainly abide by the church’s rules and guidelines but yes, if we allowed priests to be married we would get some of the best priests back that we’ve had and lost. As for females, I’m a feminist, they’d be great priests.”
Riley has spent a great deal of his life fighting for the underprivileged. He believed social justice is where the church is strongest, and remains vocal in this space.
“It’s about challenging the powerful who keep the poor people under. We should be a real voice for those sorts of people.”
A fierce supporter of maintaining an open mind, Riley uses his love of storytelling to create a bridge between his own beliefs and experiences of all those looking for his help – without exclusion and regardless of their faith or background.
“We’re not a Catholic service and I make that really, really clear – we’re non-denominational. If a kid comes in whose gay there’s no way I’m going to get in the way. I’m not frightened of that, I embrace that sort of thing and I think the kids have taught me that.”
Founded in 1991, Riley explains how Youth Off The Streets is an organisation built on trust and an entrepreneurial spirit that is focused on offering underprivileged kids an opportunity to have a better life.
“They asked me the other day in class why I didn’t preach religion and I said ‘I get bored of religion’. I don’t read religious books or theology books, I read psychology and counselling and all those sorts of things to get my skills better for the kids. Religion has never been a real key for me.”
Youth Off The Streets has grown to offer more than twenty-five services, including Aboriginal programs, crisis accommodation, alcohol and other drug services, counselling, accredited high schools, residential programs and mentoring programs.
“Donations are really important to us because we’ve made a decision that we don’t, unlike most organisations who work with kids, get 90 to 100 percent of government funding. We move into troubled communities which the government does not fund…so funding is good. Volunteers are also a very rich pool of resource for us.”
Father Chris Riley shares his insights with Alex Malley on The Bottom Line – Saturday 31 May at 4.00pm on Channel Nine.
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Father Chris Riley on The Bottom Line is Episode 16 in a 24 episode series.
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