Serving the Priests and People of Australia

by | Dec 14, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Unexpectedly, this year has become my busiest ever, and this fall particularly so. I try to discern carefully what I can and should do and what I can’t and shouldn’t do. Sometimes, the calendar itself decides, but often not. And when I’m invited to make a long trip to a distant country, I have to really think and pray twice.  

I’ve been to Australia four or five times over the years, most memorably with Fr. Mike Scanlon giving the original A Crisis of Truth series of talks, and a few years later with Fr. Mike and the whole FIRE team doing FIRE rallies in several cities with Sr. Ann Shields and others. It is a long trip—five hours from Detroit to Los Angeles and then fourteen to fifteen hours from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia.  

I was invited by an impressive Charismatic community in Perth, the Disciples of Jesus, to support their community with a series of talks and then give five talks at a city-wide conference. I’ve been observing for a while now that the Lord is giving me a particular commission to strengthen and encourage priests. For the last several years, I’ve spoken to about a thousand priests each year from all over North America and the world. When opportunities arose to speak to priests in three cities—Sydney, Hobart, and Perth—I felt the Lord gave me the go-ahead for this trip. 

Without a doubt, the highlights of my trip were speaking to priests in each of the three cities: 

  • In Sydney, I gave several talks to younger priests who had been ordained ten years or less. This was organized by one of the priests in Sydney who is also a student in the License in Sacred Theology program at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit where I teach. 
  • I experienced an unexpected blessing in Sydney when I was invited to have dinner with Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP, a leader among the Australian bishops. When he arrived carrying a copy of The Fulfillment of All Desire, and then asked me to sign it, I knew we were going to have a very positive conversation. 
  • In Hobart, Tasmania, an island off the southeastern coast of Australia, I was able to spend time with Archbishop Julian Porteous, who has been a leader in evangelization and renewal for many years and who invited me to speak to all his priests. 
  • I was invited by the prior of a new contemplative Benedictine monastery in Tasmania to stay overnight at the monastery, give a talk to the seven monks, and lead a seminar with them. Inspiring. 
  • And in Perth, about fifty priests showed up for what was an “optional” formation event—an excellent turnout. 

While it was a privilege to support many priests, as well as the lay people at well-attended parish events, I was sobered by the challenges facing the Church in Australia. The woke culture is even stronger in Australia than in the US, although maybe not stronger than in Canada, in that the government has been successfully enacting extreme laws that put great pressure on the Church to mute its preaching of the Gospel.  

In Canberra, the capital territory, when Catholic hospitals refused to perform abortions, the government decided to take them over. In Melbourne, the government passed legislation that seemed to me so extreme that I thought it might be “fake news,” and I asked a friend close to the situation whether this possibly could be real. He said it was. The legislation enacts large fines and imprisonment on anyone praying with or counseling someone experiencing same-sex attraction. It’s ostensibly directed at forced “deprogramming” efforts by extreme groups but is applied so broadly that it even prohibits counseling that individuals have requested themselves. This is what my friend told me: 

Yes, I can confirm that this is legislation that has been passed in Australia in the state of Victoria (a state that was once conservative but has become the hot point for all the more extreme social issues). The other states have similar pieces of legislation, but this is the most extreme. Driven by the LGBTQ+ lobby, you are no longer able to pray with people who self-identify with a sexual orientation or gender identity that once may have been deemed “disordered” in one way or another. . . . Of course, the Catholic Church, together with the other churches, have made representations to government, but to no avail. Many of the Australian bishops will tell you plainly that their voice counts for nothing in the public arena—a consequence of the sexual abuse scandals. Catholics together with other Christians are living in a season of humiliation that will last for decades. The loss of credibility for the Church has been massive.  

While I was in Perth, the parliament passed legislation that removed many restrictions on abortion, including the need for there to be an investigation if a baby is born alive but subsequently dies, since such an inquiry might make people feel “uncomfortable.”  

At the same time, the archbishop of Perth was called to testify to a parliamentary committee about why he withheld a report on serious wrongdoing on the part of the bishop of Broome, a diocese north of Perth. Although I couldn’t get all the details, it was often the lead item on the nightly news, with photos of the accused bishop ignoring the press.  

Of course, similar news can be found all over the world. It’s a time of humiliation and chastisement for the Church, but also a time when seeds of renewal are germinating, lukewarm believers are regaining their first love, and good yeast is being put into the dough of the remnant. Yes, we must admit that we are becoming a remnant, but it is a blessing to be part of the remnant, and a remnant has a special responsibility to carry on with confidence, joy, and courage amid the growing darkness. The true light has come into the world and the darkness will never overcome it.

Your brother in Christ, 


This letter originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ December 2023 newsletter.

About the Author

<a href="" target="_self">Ralph Martin</a>

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are A Church in Crisis: Pathways ForwardThe Fulfillment of All DesireThe Urgency of the New Evangelization, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and nineteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


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