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Challenges Facing the Australian Catholic Church of the 21st Century

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Challenges Facing the Australian Catholic Church of the 21st Century

There are many challenges facing the Catholic Church in Australia during the 21st century. The decline in religious vocations, falling mass attendance, married clergy, female ordination and the role of the laity are all issues contributing to the challenges of the Australian Catholic Church.

Religious vocations are on a steep decline. As stated by the Pope, in regard to Australia, “mainstream Christianity is dying more quickly here than in any other country.” The shortage will prove to be a big problem as Father Eric Hodgens predicts the Church will soon have less than one sixth of the priests needed to conduct Sunday Mass. Pope Benedict XVI believes many people feel self-sufficient and do not need Christ or Christianity. He also said that many people felt that Christianity was antiquated which makes it harder to inspire people to pursue religious vocations.

The decline in religious vocations is partly due to the fact that clergy are not allowed to marry. Australian priests are pursuing many avenues in an attempt to urge Rome to overturn its ban on married clergy to try and eliminate the shortage of ordained priests. Not too long ago the National Council of Priests wrote to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops arguing that marriage should be no bar to ordination. They also asked the Church to readmit priests who had left the clergy to marry. This would make a difference but is not the only answer. The complete package; male, full-time, life-long and celibate is a lot to ask for. This is a lot for people to embrace and is the obstacle to overcoming the problem of the priest shortage.

Catholic affiliation is on the decline and so is the mass attendance. Mass attendance has fallen by thirteen per cent between 1996 and 2001. This is mainly due to the fact that the church isn’t seen as significant or relevant to today’s youth. The opportunity to encourage and influence younger Christians has not been seized to the full extent and the shortage of young priests who would relate to younger people exacerbates this situation.

Female Ordination is another factor contributing to the falling religious vocations and attendance. The Vatican

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