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The twenty-first century Catholic lawyer


Although the proportion continues to decline, the majority of Australians still identify as Christians just as they have since the first census was taken. Catholics are now the largest single religious denomination and “Australia is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.” There are increasing numbers of Australians who describe themselves as having “no religion.” Although the evidence is sparse on this question, in the past, the religious profile of lawyers closely followed the religious profile of the general population. If this remains so, it is likely that the decline in church attendance among Australians generally has also been replicated within the legal profession. At the same time, as Stephen Newton recently observed, “[Australian] [s]ociety is turning against the very fabric of [the Catholic] faith – society’s moves to control or redefine birth, marriage and death are before us every day in the form of abortion, marriage equality and euthanasia legislation.” In this changing environment, a substantial majority of Australians (83%) continue to consider that Australia has a responsibility to be a moral leader in the world and to set an example for other countries to follow. The legal profession in Australia has also been experiencing rapid change, including a significant growth in the number of students studying law, the impact of globalisation, and the proliferation of developments in legal technology. Given this rapidly changing environment, this paper considers the role that a Catholic lawyer in Australia ought to take in the twenty-first century. Part I considers the role and nature of lawyers in Australia. Part II considers the question of whether it is appropriate in the twenty-first century to speak of a legal profession or a “law business.” Part III considers the contemporary challenge for Catholic lawyers in the twenty-first century arising from the contemporary clash of irreconcilably different worldviews. With that background, Part IV considers the different ways to be a Catholic lawyer in the twenty-first century with some reflection on scripture and on the Magisterium.


Australia, legal profession, lawyers, role and nature, Catholic lawyers, contemporary challenges

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