The Archdiocese of Sydney Australia, under the leadership of Cardinal George Pell, is putting into motion the Archdiocese of Sydney Pastoral Plan 2008-2011. Counteracting the increased secularization within the Australian school systems, the Plan requires senior staff, such as principals and religious education coordinators, within the Catholic school system to take an oath of fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Bay Post reports that the Plan will take effect in 167 primary and secondary schools and will require senior educational leaders to declare loyalty to controversial Church teaching on homosexuality, birth control, and women's ordination.
The Plan aims at evangelizing lukewarm and poorly formed Australian Catholics in order to bring about a spiritual rejuvenation within the Australian Church through solid Catholic education. The oath is meant to safeguard the educational system from secular influences by requiring teachers to have "religious submission of intellect and will" and encouraging them to live as virtuous examples for students.
According to the NSW/Act Independent Education Union (IEU), the oath of fidelity is a valid requirement for teachers within the Catholic School System. National Nine News Reports quotes IEU General Secretary Dick Shearman saying, "The position as I see it doesn't impact upon any agreements, awards or employment conditions of principals or religious education coordinators. It doesn't matter what religion it is, if you're a rabbi you can hardly claim you've been discriminated against it you're expected to follow the teachings of the Jewish faith."
In 1998 under Pope John Paul II, the community of Australian bishops met in Rome to discuss the situation of the Church in Australia. The final report concluded that there was a "crisis of faith" and recognized the need for reform especially in the area of education.
In support of Rome's concerns, Cardinal Pell focused on the lack of proper Catholic education within his Archdiocese and the nation as a whole. Last September he addressed the National Catholic Education Commission's annual conference, "Too many young Catholics have been led by the pressures of contemporary propaganda, whatever might be said about the inadequacies of family life and Catholic religious education, so their religious confusion is worse than that of all other young Australian Christians."
He recognized the lack of proper Catholic formation as being at the heart of modern moral decay, saying, "They are also poorly equipped for any return to the fold when they have little instinct for or understanding that there are truths of faith and morals, which are to be sought after and judged according to rational criteria." The new Pastoral Plan and the Oath of Fidelity are a means by which the Cardinal hopes to remedy the Church's situation in Australia and prepare for World Youth Day 2008.