Catholics may lodge complaints against theologians in Australia alleged to have contravened Church teaching, under rules just published by Australia's Catholic bishops.
    The Catholic Weekly reports on The Examination of Theological Orthodoxy, an Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference statement of policy first published in January's issue of the Australasian Catholic Record.
    The bishops' committee for doctrine and morals developed the policy. According to the bishops' conference secretary, Fr Brian Finnigan, the policy was agreed to at the April plenary meeting of the bishops in Sydney, after three years preparation in consultation with Australia's professional associations of Catholic doctrinal and moral theologians, which has supported the policy.
    At that meeting, the bishops published a pastoral letter that accepted Pope John Paul II's November-December, 1998 criticisms related to a "crisis of faith" in the Catholic Church in Australia.
    The secretary of the bishops' committee for doctrine and morals, Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay said in early February the policy was a "positive step forward".
    Bishop Walker said bishops were not bound by the policy but, since it was a joint effort between the bishops' conference and the associations it was likely that bishops would see it as "an appropriate way to handle these issues".
    When a bishop receives a complaint from any member of the Church, the policy states "he is to explore every reasonable measure whereby a satisfactory pastoral resolution may be found". Only when other methods of pastoral care have failed to resolve the complaint is the bishop to commence another procedure, the policy said.
    Australian Catholic Theological Association President Robert Gascoigne said: "The policy answers the need, which both the theological associations and the Bishops' conference had felt for some time, to have a well-developed 'procedure for trustful dialogue' for responding to such concerns on a sound pastoral and theological basis."
Cath Weekly


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