Integrity in our Common Mission

In early April a national code of conduct was released by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The 32-page document, Integrity in our Common Mission, was approved by the Australian bishops at the November 2023 plenary meeting. The code confirms the Conference’s ongoing commitment to the safety of children and vulnerable adults and provides a valuable resource for clergy, religious and laypeople working and volunteering in pastoral ministry. Ultimately, our efforts to evangelise and share the love of Christ with all those we encounter will be strengthened when individuals and faith communities embrace what the code calls for.

Integrity in our Common MissionThe Final Report of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2018) made several recommendations relating to safeguarding. This resulted in the development of a national overarching framework for all Catholic ministry and service and is entitled Our Common Mission (2022). It is this framework that led to the development of the code of conduct.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, writes in the Foreword to the new document, “this code of conduct will be a living resource that will form a culture of quality and excellence that directs, guides and strengthens our shared mission.”

The objectives of the national code of conduct[1] are to:

  • encourage those who exercise pastoral ministry as witnesses and ministers of the reign of God through lives of respect, service, integrity and selfless love;
  • support those who exercise pastoral ministry in their efforts to be visibly accountable as witnesses and ministers of the Church’s mission;
  • support those who exercise pastoral ministry in their concern to protect children and adults from all abuses of power, including sexual abuse and harassment;
  • inform the Church in responding to instances of sexual abuse and professional misconduct, in the best interests of those who have been harmed, the wider community and the defendant;
  • support those who exercise pastoral ministry in their efforts to care for themselves and one another;
  • offer a theology of Christ and his Church as the context for shaping and measuring behavioural standards of those who work in its name.

Lisa Bright is a consultant to Australian faith communities, providing support and formation in the areas of leadership and renewal. Lisa offered the following reflection on the significance of the publication of the national code.

“This is a foundational document for all people serving in ministry or other work in the Church. The crux of the document is the deep respect and love that we show one another which is embedded in God’s love for us. As people made in the image and likeness of God, it makes sense that we are to ensure that we do everything we can as individuals, and as Church, to ensure the care and safety of all members of our faith communities and beyond. 

However, this document cannot stand alone. It must be lived and used in effective and meaningful onboarding, training and ongoing formation of all people involved in ministry. This can be an area where many parishes struggle. The “paperwork” involved can overwhelm parish communities, particularly those with limited staff and resources.

Formation, training and resourcing will be required to ensure that what is spoken about in this document is actually implemented and lived.”

Integrity in our Common MissionSo how could this be lived out at a grass roots level? First, it would be wise to research what is happening at the diocesan level and what support might be offered to parishes. Second, parish pastoral councils and leadership teams could read, reflect and discuss the implications of the code of conduct for their faith community. It is easily digestible and can be read in under two hours. Steps could then be taken to address any areas of concern.

Safeguarding and related issues need to be taken seriously. Our Church leaders have, and continue to acknowledge with sorrow, the experiences of adults subjected to childhood abuse within the Church. There is deep regret regarding the failure of the Church to protect and believe those who have suffered, including their families and the Catholic community. In terms of our ability to share the Good News of Jesus Christ—to evangelise—the acceptance and implementation of this code will strengthen our commitment to love and respect all of God’s people. It is only by being witnesses of God’s love that we can dare to propose Jesus and the Catholic faith to others.


Further reading:
Integrity in our Common Mission: National Code of Conduct for those exercising pastoral ministry in the diocese of the Catholic Church in Australia (ACBC 2023)
Our Common Mission (Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd, October 2022)
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Press Release (8 April 2024)
The safeguarding capability of adults in Catholic Church ministries: A global perspective (ACU Institute of Child Protection, research document, 2024)


Words: Sharon Brewer
Images: Unsplash


[1] Integrity in our Common Mission, p. 7.

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