Catholic Church Australia Warhurst
Title: Who speaks for the Catholic church?
Author: John Warhurst
Publisher: Eureka Street
Discussion of church life in Australia is incomplete without consideration of who speaks for the church at the national level. The answer to the question ‘Who presides over the Catholic church in Australia?’ is more complicated than you might think, but certainly includes two national peak bodies, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA), and potentially a third, the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons (AMPJP). In the longer term another may emerge as a new relationship between laity and clergy develops.
These two big national bodies represent the major historical fault line in the Australian church since its beginning which has not been between bishops and the laity, who have played no formal decision-making role at all, but between dioceses and religious institutes (orders and congregations). One well known example of this faultline was the conflict between Mary MacKillop and certain bishops.
Those who have followed the controversy about the delayed release of the new report on church governance, The Lightfrom the Southern Cross, have witnessed the national church in action through the ACBC, led by the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge. Yet the report was commissioned jointly by the bishops and CRA, representing the leaders of religious institutes. Until now CRA, headed by the Marist Brothers’ provincial, Peter Carroll, has remained silent.
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