Roman Catholicism in Australia

Roman Catholicism in Australia

The Catholic Church in Australia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and Curia in Rome.

There are an estimated 5.1 million baptised Catholics in Australia, 26% of the population, a plurality, making it Australia's largest single Christian denomination (larger than Anglicans and Uniting combined).

In Australia's seven archdioceses and 32 dioceses there are an estimated 3000 priests and 9000 men and women in Catholic orders. Until the 1986 census, Australia's most populous Christian faith was Anglican. Since then Catholics have outnumbered Anglicans in Australia and the percentage is rising. One rationale to explain this relates to changes in Australia's immigration policy, people more recently coming from a more diverse range of countries rather than predominantly the United Kingdom. While Catholicism is now the largest church tradition in Australia, active participation seen in church attendance is low as the majority of Australia's Christian population do not regularly attend services [ [ "Media Release: NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance", National Church Life Survey, 28 February 2004] accessed 1 January 2007] .

The National Church Life Survey of weekly attendance, found that between 1996-2001 Catholic attendance at weekly services dropped by 13% to 764,800 [ [ "Media Release: NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance", National Church Life Survey, 28 February 2004] accessed 1 January 2007] .


Catholicism in Australia began with the Irish convicts and the priests who ministered to them and to later free Irish settlers.
William Bernard Ullathorne (1806-1889) was instrumental in influencing Pope Gregory XVI to establish the hierarchy in Australia. Ullathorne was in Australia from 1833-1836 as vicar-general to Bishop William Morris (1794-1872), whose jurisdiction extended over the Australian missions.

Until about 1950, the Australian Catholic Church was strongly Irish in its ethos. Most Catholics were descendants of Irish immigrants and the church was mostly led by Irish-born priests and bishops such as Cardinal Moran and Archbishop Mannix. From 1950 the ethnic composition of the church changed, with the assimilation of Irish Australians and the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from countries with strong Catholic traditions - Eastern Europeans in the late 1940s, Italians and Hungarians in the 1950s and Filipinos, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Poles around 1980. There are now also strong Chinese, Korean and Latin American Catholic communities.

Irish-Australians had a close political association with the Australian Labor Party and in the 1940s and 1950s the Catholic-dominated 'Movement' led by B.A. Santamaria was at the forefront of the struggle against Communism in Australia.

Since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, the Australian church has suffered a decline in vocations to the religious life, leading to a priest shortage. On the other hand, Catholic education under lay leadership has expanded, and about 20% of Australian school students attend a Catholic school. [ [ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2006] ]

As in many other Western countries, the Church in Australia faced revelations of a number of cases of sexual abuse by clergy in the 1980s and 1990s. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference began in 1995 the drafting of a [ Towards Healing protocol] , which has developed into a process for working with the victims of such cases.

In July 2008 the Sydney church hosted World Youth Day 2008, including a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.


Within Australia the church hierarchy is made of metropolitan archdioceses and suffragan sees. Each diocese has a bishop, while each archdiocese is served by an archbishop. Australia has three living members of the College of Cardinals, including the current Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, Edward Cardinal Clancy and Edward Cardinal Cassidy.

*Archdiocese of Adelaide
**Diocese of Darwin
**Diocese of Port Pirie

*Archdiocese of Brisbane
**Diocese of Cairns
**Diocese of Rockhampton
**Diocese of Toowoomba
**Diocese of Townsville

*Archdiocese of Melbourne
**Diocese of Ballarat
**Ukrainian Eparchy of Ss Peter and Paul (described as "attached" not "suffragan")
**Diocese of Sale
**Diocese of Sandhurst

*Archdiocese of Perth
**Diocese of Broome
**Diocese of Bunbury
**Diocese of Geraldton

*Archdiocese of Sydney
**Diocese of Armidale
**Diocese of Bathurst
**Diocese of Broken Bay
**Diocese of Lismore
**Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
**Diocese of Parramatta
**Diocese of Wagga Wagga
**Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes
**Diocese of Wollongong
*Immediately subject to the holy see
**Archdiocese of Hobart
**Military Ordinariate of Australia
**Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn
**Maronite Diocese of St Maroun
**Melkite Eparchy of St Michael, Archangel
**Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle


Further reading

* Brennan, Frank, [ The Australian Religious Landscape through Catholic Eyes, on the Eve of World Youth Day 2008] , July 2008.

External links

* [ The Roman Catholic Church in Australia's official website]
* [ The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference official website]
* [ Website of Patrick O'Farrell, historian of Catholic Australia]
*cite web|title = Catholic Church in Australia| work=Catholic-Hierarchy|url =

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