The Church at the crossroads

The Church at the crossroads

Michael Gilchrist

It is now approaching two years since representatives of the Australian Episcopal Conference and heads of key Vatican congregations jointly adopted a plan of action outlining key areas in need of urgent reform in the Church in Australia - the Statement of Conclusions.

While some dioceses in New South Wales, Victoria and WA have embraced the agenda of orthodoxy with enthusiasm, it is also clear that in many, it has disappeared without trace.

The Statement of Conclusions set out the following kinds of directives:

* A bishop should "exercise vigilance over the celebration and administration of the sacraments in his diocese" ensuring "the sacraments are administered according to the proper liturgical norms." If not, he should act "quickly to correct the error or abuse."

* In "choosing their collaborators in the diocesan administration, seminary and in parishes, bishops need to make these appointments with a careful eye and with great attention, always giving emphasis to sanctity of life, orthodoxy and pastoral competence."

* Teachers in Catholic schools "must be properly formed in the faith, especially principals and those who teach religion."

Apart from early remedial action on illicit use of the Third Rite of Reconciliation, there has been little evident action to implement the Statement's directives. In some States, the opposite has even been occurring, with an eager embrace of old, failed policies and practices.

The way ahead is to be found in those dioceses that are following policies in line with the Statement of Conclusions. The alternative path leads to demoralisation, decay and, ultimately, the disappearance of the Church in any recognisably Catholic form.

Michael Gilchrist: Editor (Email -

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