There has been no lack of Vatican documents and episcopal statements expressing concerns about different problem areas in the Catholic Church in Australia: declining priestly and religious vocations, liturgical abuses, low Mass attendances, empty confessionals, poor catechetics, and so on.
Now a document titled Summary of Conclusions has emerged in the aftermath of the Synod of Oceania in Rome late last year. It was the result of a series of meetings prior to the Synod between senior Curial figures and representatives of the Australian episcopate aimed at addressing the most pressing needs of the Church. The document - which is remarkably frank and urgent in tone - is analysed on the following pages.
As the Summary of Conclusions is implemented by Australia's bishops over the coming months and years, one would expect to see radical changes in many of our dioceses. In some cases, these could prove painful, given that situations have been allowed to develop where some Catholics have come to assume that certain practices - e.g., general absolutions - are now 'normal.'
While many Catholics will welcome signs that long-standing problems are to be addressed, their concern will be that the position has already deteriorated so far as to defy the best efforts of our most dedicated and determined bishops. They will hope that our leaders are not deterred by any opposition or hostility, but will persevere in insisting upon whatever is necessary for the long-term good of the faith in this country.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org)