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Catholic clergy drain ahead of others

The Catholic Church in Australia has experienced the fastest clergy attrition rate of all religious affiliations - 18.2% - since 1996.

Although the Catholic faith remains the single largest religious affiliation in Australia - with about 5 million adherents, according to the 2001 census - Anglicans now have far more clergy: 2417 compared with the Catholics' 1675.

The revelations are published in the latest Pointers bulletin of the Christian Research Association's Pointers bulletin. The figures are based on figures collected by the Bureau of Statistics last year.

Overall the number of Australians working as religious leaders has risen by 4.5% over the past six years, to a total of 14,245 clerics. Dr Philip Hughes, the CRA's senior researcher, says this increase is attributable to the strengthening of religions other than Christianity during this time, largely through immigration. Christian leadership has risen less than 3%, slower than the rate of population growth.

More than a third of Catholic clergy are aged over 60 and almost 44% claim they put in more than 60 hours a week. Despite being among the most highly educated of religious leaders, they are the second most poorly paid, with 57% earning less than $300 per week.

"Catholic clergy are under enormous pressure, due to lack of numbers, " said Dr Hughes. "While the issues of celibacy, low income and high expectations remain, it's hard to see a solution."

Sydney Morning Herald

Christian Research Association
Piety pays, but not very much (The Age)
Spiritual belief helps carry the load (The Age)
Desire to serve is paramount (Sydney Morning Herald)

10 Apr 2003