SYDNEY, Australia -- The energies of Catholic Australians in recent years have been absorbed by contradictory approaches to being faithful. The first is the church’s institutional integrity (requirements of obedience, orthodoxy and conformity); the second is its moral integrity (what should it be doing, for whom and how).
The church’s top leadership and its ordinary members have been concerned about these issues in almost inverse proportion. Pope Benedict XVI, like the late John Paul II before him, has been at pains to strengthen the church against the influences of secularism by insisting on stricter discipline in its ranks and a greater acceptance of official teachings on the part of the faithful.
Many Australian clergy and laypeople, on the other hand, regard the declining number of regular churchgoers, the shrinking number of priests and religious, and the scandal of clerical sexual abuse as compelling reasons to move away from old ways of being church and pursue fundamental reform.
The result of these contradictory approaches is often conflict.