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Australian RC women more conservative about church reform, international survey suggests

18 September 2023


THE responses of Australian Roman Catholic women to an international survey on women’s views on the Church were more conservative than those of women from other countries, Australian researchers have found.

The International Survey of Catholic Women was conducted by Dr Tracy McEwan, Dr Kathleen McPhillips, and Dr Miriam Pepper, from the University of Newcastle in regional New South Wales. It was commissioned by Catholic Women Speak for the Pope’s global Synod on Synodality (News, 14 February); more than 17,000 Catholic women from 104 countries were surveyed between March and April last year.

There was also a marked difference in responses by age among the Australian participants, a factor not seen in other countries.

Older respondents supported reform and change more than their younger counterparts across most themes, Dr Pepper said. Only 21 per cent of respondents aged 18-40 strongly supported reform in the Roman Catholic Church, compared with 83 per cent of those aged over 70.

Dr McEwan has commented that the difference could be because of the different life stages of the cohorts. Older RC women had worked previously for reform and been frustrated by resistance. Another possible reason for the difference was that the younger women who completed the survey were more conservative than RC younger women in general.

Nevertheless, the survey had revealed high levels of concern among women in the Church in Australia, Dr Pepper said.

Most of the respondents were active in their parishes, and said that their Catholic identity was very important to them, Dr McPhillips said. They expressed frustration at what they saw as the discriminatory structures of the Church, she continued.

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