After 50 years practising as a Catholic priest, Father Peter Kennedy of South Brisbane is being dismissed from his service for ‘practices are out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church’.
The decision was that of Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby alone, without advice from the Vatican.
The thing ‘bringing it to a head’ was a statue which Bathersby claimed was on the altar which some Catholics alleged was a Buddhist statue. Bathersby asked the statue be removed, which it eventually was.
Bathersby decided that Kennedy had breached the rules of the church. At issue for the Catholic corporation are possible invalid baptisms, blessings and marriages.
Bathersby also accused the South Brisbane parishioners of selling books ‘that claimed Jesus was not the son of god’.
“It’s awful when Christians fight with each other”, said Bathersby, speaking of letters from people cursing him to damnation and telling him to retire for his decision. Other letters disagreed with Kennedy.
One of the commenters to the news story says:
I’ve been to the St Mary’s church a few times. Father Kennedy allows
-parishioners to sit anywhere they like – including on the altar,
-freely gives communion to practising homosexuals,
-openly acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land the church is built on,
-allows the homeless to sleep in the church when it is not in use,
-openly calls some church leaders power hungry and bigoted,
-welcomes Muslims and Jews into the church and allows them to watch or participate in the church and even in the Mass as a means of lowering barriers (after all, all 3 religions worship the God of Abraham and Isaac)
-lowers ‘property values’ by allowing the homeless to work and help themselves to the produce at an orchard on the Church grounds
-says “there are many paths to God, not just through the Roman Church” and actually means it
The trigger for this was that someone complained to the Archbishop that there was something that appeared to be a statue of the Buddha in the entrance hall of St Mary’s church. It’s just a nominal excuse – but was good enough.
Another commenter wryly says:
I think that all decent and right-thinking Christians will want to congratulate The Archbishop for taking this stand against the corruption of the ideals of Jesus Christ. All decent and right-thinking Christians know that Jesus Christ founded His Church on some very simple and profound principles:
1. Love your neighbour as yourself unless he or she is gay or poor or otherwise marginalised.
2. Always strive to accumulate as much money and political power as you can.
3. The is only one way to God and that is by following the teaching and rules laid down by the Church Hierarchy who are His representatives on Earth and who are well versed in God’s Laws.
4. Contribute generously to all Church collections.
Bathersby for Pope!!
Kennedy is considering his options – the church considers he can resign or be dismissed on February 21.
“I’ve been here 28 years and I know this community is solidly behind me, and so we could go elsewhere,” he said.
In the letter, Archbishop Bathersby says parishioners cannot be stopped from breaking away but has warned them they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The parishioners are staunchly with Kennedy:
Parishioners at the Brisbane parish say will continue to celebrate mass in their own way.
Margaret Ortiz from the St Mary’s leadership group says the congregation is staying put and Father Kennedy will continue to say mass.
“They would have to come a physically remove us,” she said.
Vince Knauth, also from St Mary’s leadership group, says it is not right that Father Kennedy is being singled out.
“Statistically this week 4,392 priests and deacons of the United States were subject to allegations of child molestation – that’s between 1950 and 2002,” he said.
“Two per cent of those were actually put behind bars.
“Peter [Kennedy] would be in better books with the Catholic church if he’d molested a child than what we’re doing here.”
Father Kennedy has appealed to the Archbishop to reconsider.
Des Houghton throws a petulant fit over at the spurious Mail, to which one commenter replies:
There was no Buddhist statue – it was a praying monk, unlike any variation of a statue of Buddha. The people I know who regularly attend St Marys are definitely not socialist-lefties. Yes, St Mary’s priests have been imprudently defiant regarding Baptisms & gay union blessings but if every Catholic Church showed the vitality and welcome to all shown there our church would be in a much better state. Perhaps the true test of their Christianity will be the way they treat the new appointee.
Parishioners are so committed to Kennedy they are prepared to pay his stipend themselves ‘from the regular money collection take up during masses’.
Archbishop Bathersby has warned any parishioners loyal to Fr Kennedy will be excluded from the church if they followed the priest to any new venture.
This week the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, gave his tacit blessing for the possible excommunication of Father Kennedy.
Some innovative moves could ensue should the sacking of Kennedy proceed.
Father Kennedy says his style of service has attracted many people back to church who otherwise would not attend. Up to 900 people attend weekend Mass at St Mary’s, he says.
The local Aboriginal community has threatened to invoke a “sacred treaty” over the St Mary’s site if the archdiocese sacks Father Kennedy.
Fr Kennedy and the St Mary’s Community have indicated they will not accept the archbishop’s decision and will continue holding services in the church beyond this deadline.
This sort of protest has been played out in dozens of Catholic parishes overseas, particularly in the United States and England, usually triggered by anger over the closure of a church or parish.
In some places, such as Leeds in England, parishioners have been even known to chain themselves to the church railings and refuse to budge.
Having attended several services at St Mary’s in the past and knowing what a strong sense of social justice they have, I can foresee a similar sort of organised protest emanating from South Brisbane.
Under canon law, St Mary’s Church remains the property of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. But ownership rights could become complicated if native title is invoked. St Mary’s has a close relationship with the original indigenous owners of the land on which St Mary’s is built and the parish community signed a treaty with them last year.
To further aggravate matters, St Stephen’s Cathedral dean Fr Ken Howell has been appointed to also be administrator of St Mary’s in a caretaker role. He is known as a strictly-by-the-book type of pastor, has served as Archbishop Bathersby’s secretary and is one of his closest confidantes. He would not be popular with many of those who currently attend St Mary’s.
Archbishop Bathersby has taken a heavy hand to quash irregular activities within his archdiocese. But, in the process, he risks alienating hundreds of followers who may never step inside another Catholic church again.
Considering Catholic Church census statistics in Australia show it manages to attract only about 13 per cent of people claiming a Catholic identity to Mass each week, the archbishop is effectively dispossessing a sizeable proportion of those who enjoy attending the current services at St Mary’s.
Might we end up with the first Indigenous Church of Australia?
Jesus’s message contained in John 3:17 is clear:
For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Bathersby’s actions undermine Jesus’s position of tolerance. God’s supposed earthly representative, the Pope, usurps Jesus’s power and condemns divorced people and homosexuals amongst others and denies women power within its clergy, in contradiction to the gospels.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Why would one in the first place, want to belong to a discriminatory sect which so clearly departs from logical appreciation of what is after all, only a belief system, with little if any grounding in rational evidence or historical fact?
UPDATE 11 FEB
Recommended – NoCharCom’s cartoon on Christian hate.