The Catholic Church in Australia

Tom Roberts has an excellent article on the Australian Catholic Church in the current issue of the National Catholic Reporter. He goes back through the developments of the last century.  In the first half of the century, when Archbishop Mannix was head of the Church there, the Catholic Church in Australia had a clear, common culture, which had to do with standing together in the fight against poverty and oppression. Mannix, who in his own way was very far-seeing, put great energy into setting up a Catholic school system.  His aim was to give catholics the opportunities that the rest of the population had, to give them a gateway out of poverty and into the middle classes. That project succeeded very well, and within a generation or two catholics had ‘made it’ in society and business.

But one of the effects of their success was that the glue that had cemented the catholic community, the fight against poverty and oppression, was no longer relevant. So the Church entered into a period of decline, similar to what happened in many other countries.  Vocations to priesthood and religious life began to dry up, and church attendance began to decline.

And then the clerical sex abuse scandal occurred, and accelerated the collapse. He writes a good deal about that, and how the Australian Church attempted to deal with it.  He quotes from one of my favourite writers, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. Robinson says something which I think is fundamental, and which I have been saying for a long time.  That unless the Church delves deeper into the reasons for clerical sex abuse it will not fully face up tot he problem. Delving deeper, according to Robinson, is taking a hard, analytic look at Church teaching on relationships and sexuality, with all the attendant feelings of guilt and repression that were historically part of that. He also says that compulsory clerical celibacy has to be examined in a detached and professional manner to see if it has contributed in any way to the problem.  I have little doubt that it has.

I am not good at links, but the NCR can be got through google, and I would encourage people to read this article. As I read down through it, so many bells began to ring for me.  The story of the last century of the Church in Australia contains many similarities with our own Church here in Ireland.