Monday, February 09, 2009

St Mary's South Brisbane - A long way from "closure"

Unless mine is the only Australian Catholic blog you read, this will not be the first place you have heard the news that Archbishop John Bathersby has acted on the case of St Mary's, South Brisbane. He has sent a letter to Fr Peter Kennedy, who has been the "administrator" (not Parish Priest) of the parish for the last 28 years. Fr Kennedy himself has made this letter public on the website of The Courier Mail. Here is a transcript of that letter:
6 February 2009
Rev Fr P Kennedy
St Mary's Catholic Parish

Dear Peter

Thank you for your letter of 12 January with its invitation to further discuss the situation of St Mary’s South Brisbane. I see no reason to do so. I have repeatedly asked for changes but you and the community have not budged an inch. Moreover South Brisbane’s instant disclosure of my letters and comments in the media gives me no reason to enter into discussion. By all means consult the people of St Mary’s as you wish but ultimately you yourself are the shepherd and leader of its decisions Time and time again I have spelt out a request for changes at St Mary's Parish if it is to remain in communion with the Archdiocese of Brisbane and the Roman Catholic Church. However time and time again St Mary’s has chosen to go its own way Therefore reluctantly I make the following decisions.

1 . I will terminate your appointment as Administrator of St Mary's Parish effective Saturday, 21 February 2009 unless you were to resign beforehand. .

I would like to add, without trying to exert pressure that ii you wish to retire from active service as a priest, the Archdiocese will assist you as it does with other Archdiocesan priests who retire.

2. From the 2lst February 2009 I will appoint Dean Ken Howell, of St Stephen’s Cathedral, as Administrator of St Mary’s., until a new Administrator is appointed.

From Sunday, 22 February 2009 regular Masses at 7am and 9am will be celebrated at St Mary’s Church until the matter is reviewed. Other sacraments of the Church will be available and can be arranged with Dean Ken Howell Church goers attached to St Mary’s are most welcome to continue, as well as those who wish to return to the parish or those who wish to become new parishioners.

3. I sincerely hope that St Mary’s emphasis on social justice will remain. •• However such matters should be discussed with the new Administrator.

4. Because of its name, chosen originally in 1864, 1 also hope that sound Marian devotion will be promoted at St Mary's as was normal in the past. I will do whatever I can to facilitate and encourage this devotion.

5. Because there is doubt about the validity of the many baptisms performed at St Mary's, I will nominate a special day in the near future when baptisms can be performed at St Stephen’s Cathedral and certificates issued to parents concerned about validity, or those who are adult converts. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made it clear in March 2008 that invalid baptisms cannot be dismissed and forgotten. They must be corrected.

6. Peter you have already claimed in the media that you may lead people who desire to follow you into a breakaway Christian community elsewhere in South Brisbane. I cannot stop you from doing so. However those who follow you should realise that they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Peter, making these decisions gives me no satisfaction whatsoever. The separation of Christians is contrary to all that Christ prayed for. Nor does such division• promote the Kingdom of God. • You have had ample time to make a considered decision. Please God the division that exists at the present time will be healed in the future, probably not in my time. I ask the priests, deacons, religious and people of the Archdiocese of Brisbane to pray for me and for all who belong to the Archdiocese, especially the community of St Mary’s in its present situation. In this matter I pray also that Mary the mother of Jesus will be our inspiration and guide as we seek her prayerful support for the healing of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and St Mary’s Parish.

Sincerely in Christ
Most Rev John A Bathersby DD
One could make several comments about that letter, but I will get to the main point fairly quickly. I just want to note two of the more striking features: 1) The striking reference to the restoration of "sound Marian devotion" to the parish, and 2) The intention of a "special day...when baptisms can be performed at St Stephen's Cathedral" for those "concerned about validity" of baptisms administered at St Mary's.

However, the most striking thing of all about this letter is how lenient the Archbishop is in his action. After all the ho-hah in the media over the last months, all the Archbishop has done is something he could have done at any time in the last 28 years: terminated Fr Kennedy's appointment as administrator of the parish.

Note: Archbishop Bathersby has not:
1) closed the parish
2) excommunicated Fr Kennedy
3) suspended Fr Kennedy a divinis

In other words, St Mary's parish is free to continue its life and ministry as a community. The only thing that has happened to St Mary's is the sort of thing that happens to parishes around the country every day: they are getting a new priest.

Given the Archbishop's generous offer of a quiet retirement for Fr Kennedy, the best thing Fr Kennedy could do now is swallow his pride and accept that this is "another step in the journey". That would enable the parish to get out of the media spotlight and get on with being a Catholic community again. I'm sure that Dean Howell is no dictator. He will simply celebrate valid baptisms and masses, wear vestments, preach the gospel and pastor the people. This is a real opportunity for everyone to move on.

Of course, the warning is there that if Fr Kennedy decides to go off and start his own "breakaway Christian community elsewhere in Brisbane" - something of which the Archbishop himself admits "I cannot stop you from doing so" - then I suspect things will get serious (ie. MORE serious). Archbishop Bathersby has already indicated that any Catholics attending any such "community" will "not be in communion with theRoman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane". What he does not say, but what must be assumed, is that such an action would also mean that Fr Kennedy "will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane". That would require an actual canonical decision in regard to Fr Kennedy's status as a priest, such as excommunication (in the extreme case) or at least suspension a divinis. What we would have, in effect, is a mirror image of the right-wing Levebrites on the left-wing side of the Church.

So somehow, while the parish has not suffered the predicted "closure", I still feel that we are someway from having "closure" on this story too.


At Monday, February 09, 2009 6:47:00 pm , Blogger Paul said...

We should be charitable to the people of StMary's parish and hope they can be reconciled with each other and with the Church, and we should also recognize their charitable works.
However it is hard to understand their motivation in disagreeing with the Church, yet wanting to stay a part of it.
If the journalists want to make a story about this parish, I would like them to investigate a couple of points I am unclear about.

- firstly, it is repeatedly claimed that there is a 900 - strong community there, yet the photos I have seen have had congregations that seemed much smaller. Has anyone actually counted the regular congregation at the Sunday Masses?

- the social action of the parish is no doubt mostly worthy. As far as I can read from the web:

this has evolved into an organisation called "Micah Projects Inc" which has an annual income of almost $6 million, funded mainly by government grants of $5.3 million. Micah Projects employs 128 people.

I would be interested to know the ratio of volunteers to employees working on charitable works, as well as the ratio of donations to government grants. I don't want to belittle the work in the parish, I am sure they are enthusiastic, but it would be good to have an accurate picture.

At Monday, February 09, 2009 7:49:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Micah Projects - I suspect that this is for purely natural good works, more ideologically than religiously motivated, and is in fact just the sort of social justice outreach whose Christian raison d'être has been eroded away, about which Pope Benedict complained in his encyclical Deus caritas est.

Good works only - that is the facetious way one might style the obsession of modern, pelagian Catholics who doubt or reject many teachings of the Faith.

At Monday, February 09, 2009 9:00:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Amazing Joshua, your damning, judgemental assessment is built on the foundation of 'I suspect'.

At Monday, February 09, 2009 10:38:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

I know these social justice types, having put up with their substitution of busy-body left-wing do-gooding toward a this-worldly utopia, for the truths of the Faith - including of course doing good for all - that should lead them to seek in the first place the Kingdom of heaven (and not that of this earth).

I am convinced, from what I've seen of such persons, whose most virulent and proud form seems evident at South Brisbane, that they have substituted social justice for belief in Catholic doctrine, substituting politics for religion.

These folk likewise condemn all who are so benighted, they jeer, as to actually accept the teachings of the Church (be they doctrinal or moral), as deserving of contempt as outcasts from the real Christ, the social revolutionary, whose votaries they claim to be.

Sorry, but that's how I see it in its starkest outline, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

Remember, heresy was originally a Greek word meaning "opinion" - one truth, part of a larger whole, is taken up and so magnified and overplayed at the expense of all else as to become a monstrous metastasizing cancer, destroying first some organs, then the whole body.

Of course true social justice - it used to be called "equity", a noble name - is an integral part of living the Faith, as no one could be virtuous without striving to build up justice and to break down injustice in all spheres.

But "social justice" grown monstrous and existing as if in a vaccuum apparently can do no wrong, and all rejections of Catholic belief and practice can and are excused in its name, even by bishops (note how Bathersby ritually genuflected toward this sacred cow).

I must explain also that in my Catholic schooling, so much of "social justice" was rammed down my throat - together with outright denial of basics of our religion - that even at a young age I developed a lifelong aversion to the very phrase, used so duplicitously and with such hypocrisy, which revolts me and makes me wish to reach for a revolver!

Furthermore, social justice types tend to be very dictatorial and judgemental in reality, as is proven when they come up against those not inclined to bow down and worship them and their every act. I find them vile.

At Monday, February 09, 2009 10:49:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

How perverse, that heresy goes unpunished; that those who are trendy and "progressive" are lauded to the skies for "social justice", which absolves them of all misbelief and malpractice; while persons striving to keep the faith are reviled as most dangerous conservatives, fit only to be driven away from the churches.

The way that traditionalists - I speak here of those who always remained in good standing, but have sympathy with those who fell further away into the SSPX et al. - have been treated the last forty years has been completely unjust, priests especially but of course also the many ordinary folk, for no other crime than wanting to maintain the ways of their forefathers. They were even well-nigh deprived of the Holy Mass according to the age-old traditions of the Church, when by some incredibly positivistic fiat they were told it was no longer to be allowed them, and they were to be satisfied with what was now alone allowed. Surprise, surprise, after forty years they are told, officially, by the Pope himself, what they always claimed: that the older form of Mass was never forbidden, and what was holy, sacred and sanctifying remains such, and can never be stripped away or declared suspect.

This is the real injustice and scandal in the Church that must be apologized for and atoned for and healed.

And as for all heretics, anathema! Let them have a taste of forty years' trial and tribulation and condemnation and see if it brings them to repentance and reunion.

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:23:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

From 'I suspect' to 'I know' to 'I am convinced' to 'that's how I see it' to 'tend to be' and finally to 'I find them vile'. That's quite a litany Joshua. Are these the benchmarks by which you hope to be judged?

On the other hand this is so fitting:

Remember, heresy was originally a Greek word meaning "opinion" - one truth, part of a larger whole, is taken up and so magnified and overplayed at the expense of all else as to become a monstrous metastasizing cancer, destroying first some organs, then the whole body.

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 4:47:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Yes, judge not and all that - I tend to be far more vigorous in pressing my opinions when writing than in person, rather like St Paul!

In the words of Kath and Kim, they really get up my goat.

I'm glad you like my image of heresy as cancer - hope you're not suggesting anyone we know might be afflicted (yes, I saw the application as I penned it, I am somewhat self-aware).

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:00:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"good works" or no, these people have yet to be excommunicated for teaching which is comletely opposed to that which we find in the catechism.

I'm not sure why Le Febvre and Co copped it, but these guys didn't.

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:24:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...


Perhaps you'd better provide evidence that Fr Kennedy has ordained bishops in defiance of the Pope, post haste!

Also, you might want to document where the community has made it clear that VatII was an illegitimate body of the church and that the Popes since then have been illegitimate.

While your at it, you might want to show how the liturgies have been entirely made up of a different language (rather than the odd bit hear and their).

(Strategy wise, if you could find evidence of a holocaust denier keep it to yourself. It doesn't carry much weight.)


At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 7:20:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Thanks for that ;-) Tony, it helped me see that you too have a wry sense of humour - always a blessing.

Now, the SSPX if not in outright schism have a pretty fraught relationship with the wider Church. But why should it be that, long before their bishops upon being consecrated were excommunicated for 21 years until now, they were persecuted and reviled in so harsh a manner that arguably they were driven into schism, whereas the South Brisbanites until Bathersby was prodded to get off his arse and act have done exactly as they pleased for three decades or so, with no protest against any of their acts, most notoriously their invalid baptismal rites, from their own Archbishop or the wider Church. Why the evident double standard? The Masses of the SSPX are evidently valid; the baptisms at South Brisbane, evidently invalid, as Blind Freddy could tell! - so why the second group tolerated, no, winked at for decades. Compare the perfectly in-communion Latin Mass community in Brisbane: after some of their crankier members wrote some whingeing letters to Bathersby, did he go on holiday, extend numerous deadlines, write handwringing letters, etc.? - No, he immediately forbade their chaplain - a priest in good standing, a Jesuit known for his maturity and levelheadedness - from saying any Latin Masses on weekdays. Since the Pope declared, surprise surprise, that the old Mass had never really been banned after all, even now that good priest has perforce to say his weekday Masses at home, because no priest will lend him an altar for half-an-hour. Have the priests at South Brisbane ever had anything so harsh done to them? Why not? Where is justice here? Bathersby is hypocritical in this. As rumour has it, he's yearning to resign but is virtually being goaded to at last fulfil his ministry and solve the problem he has benignly neglected, a very real problem involving serious danger to souls (invalid baptisms! - there's a most wicked perversion of liturgy for you!); instead, he has for years actively discriminated against pious folk who do sentire cum Ecclesia.

Pretty obviously the South Brisbane band consider the Church up until 1962 to have been illegitimate - and presumably all Councils before Vatican II. And you can't tell me that the South Brisbanites are at all faithful children of any Pope (even good old Johnny XXIII). The main difference is this: the SSPX roundly criticised the results of the Council, and the Bishops, and in a sense had the honesty according to their own conscience both to do so and to separate themselves (however incorrectly); while the South Brisbanites have white-anted the Church from within, refusing to go despite their obvious disagreement with so much of what are, after all, pretty fundamental and basic tenets of the Catholic Faith.

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:10:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Gentlemen, it is probably worth considering Spengler's thesis that there isn't much between Lefebvrists and St Mary's types on this one.

He says:

"The "left" of the Catholic Church agrees in principle with the Lefebvrists that the Catholic Church cannot fulfill its role as the Israel of the Spirit without the apparatus of state power to enforce its social position. Unlike the Lefebvrists, the left of the Church is not caught up in nostalgia for the Catholic past. It is modern, multicultural, open-minded and non-judgmental. It simply isn't particularly Catholic."

And that is really the point. Both the SSPX and St Mary's want to belong to the Catholic Church, but one is "too" Catholic and the other "isn't particularly Catholic" at all.

Of course, one issue on which the Left and the Right part company is on the person of the HOly Father. Spengler adds a note - as if we were not aware of it:

"Benedict XVI horrifies the Catholic left".

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 10:28:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Oh for goodness sake David, you are ... er, sorry, Spengler is ... so transparent some times!

And that is really the point. Both the SSPX and St Mary's want to belong to the Catholic Church, but one is "too" Catholic and the other "isn't particularly Catholic" at all.

What manner of gobbledegook is this?

Benedict XVI horrifies the Catholic left

LOL, the left at least recongnises him as Pope!

(... and this notion that kids will need to be rebaptised! What kind of legalistic God are we dealing with here?!)

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:04:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Don't you get it?

The formula used for Baptism was INVALID.

It was not the formula Christ Himself COMMANDED to be used - as any fool should know!


(If you see no need for baptism then you've lost the plot - Christ commanded nothing frivolously.)

It's not a case of re-baptism: because the first "baptism", you see, was false, a most wicked pretense, that effected nothing at all but a cruel deceit on the part of a proud misbeliever hiding under a cloak of feigned humility his wilful turning from the Truth to a lie.

It's just as if a priest took bread and wine and used some wacko words - as happened at a clown Mass a hapless friend attended back in the mad bad 1970's: the priest simply said, "Whenever you do this, think about me!" - no "this is my Body/Blood" or anything. Ron recollects that the congregation simply gasped, they couldn't believe what they were witnessing - and they were right, because they literally couldn't believe the falsity being so abusingly committed, as NOTHING happened, and that "Mass" was a fraud.

To say in a mealy-mouthed whingeing manner "oh what a legalistic God you're imposing" is to beg the question and undercut faith in a gnostic and supercilious manner. God Himself gave us the essentials of baptism, His Church has under guidance of the Holy Spirit - His Church, mark, not some proud nutcase in South Brisbane who's made himself his own pope - carefully considered and come to understand exactly what is necessary for validity of the Sacrament given this Divine precept, and not to accept the judgement of the Holy See in this question is to throw off any pretense of adhering to the Magisterium, whose role is to guarantee that our apprehension of the Faith is correct lest through our ignorance and fancy we go astray.

One might as well baptise with milk, use beer and chips for Mass, and deny the Trinity while you're at it.


And the SSPX of course recognizes all the Popes including BXVI - they're not completely nutty sedevacantists.

Don't get me wrong, I would never go to an SSPX Mass, but they are more believing the Faith by far than hippy ratbags in South Brisbane.

At Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:27:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

And as usual I'm a bit steamed up, so please accept apologies for ranting in an access of zeal.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 9:26:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

Joshua, beyond your apology -- which in some respects is way more important than any of your or my opinions -- I think your response is overflowing with so many assumptions that I don't agree with, that I'd need to start my own blog to do them justice.

Perhaps suffice it to say that you seem to have been well and truly burnt by your post-VatII experiences. My experience (coming from a pre-VatII childhood) were anything but.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:18:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Whether you agree with Josh's "assumptions" or not, Tony, you are quite wrong to say that the formula used at baptism does not matter. There is ecumenical agreement among all the Orthodox, Catholic and mainline Protestant churches the world over that a baptism is valid and accepted by all if it is done with the application of water together with the words "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". By denying the necessity for the baptism to be done again properly, you are, in effect, not just denying Catholic practice, but the accepted practice of the whole oekumene.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 11:51:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baptism is pretty basic. Now that I think about it, this ought to have been enough for Fr K to get himself excommunicated. It really is that serious.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:16:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

... Tony, you are quite wrong to say that the formula used at baptism does not matter.

You seem to making a habit of this! Please show me where I've said that.

By denying the necessity for the baptism to be done again properly, you are, in effect, not just denying Catholic practice ...

So, is this an accusation you direct at +Bathersby too given that there's been a gap between when he knew of the baptisms and the provision of this 'special day'?

... but the accepted practice of the whole oekumene.

I know this is your gig David, but there's no need for language.

Louise, you seem to have a more urgent sense of 'seriousness' than the Bishop and (given this has been going on for a while) those who supervise him. I humbly suggest this say more about you than them.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 7:47:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Yes, Tony, obviously all was not rosy pre-Council, else all the oddities after it wouldn't have transpired - having read the Conciliar documents, they seem quite reasonable, of course, but the way that after the Council they seem in many cases to have been left aside while all manner of nuttiness took over seems to imply that for too many religion was a matter of conformity rather than real understanding and commitment, so that when the culture of compliance faded it revealed a far different picture, one involving expressions of belief illustrative more of ignorance and uncritical gullibility than of mature and joyful embrace of Catholicism; I've often compared Vatican II to what happens when a river, canalized and controlled for many centuries, finally overflows, bursts its banks and sweeps all before it; or when a dam bursts to the destruction of the valley below.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 7:52:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Oh, and (despite me saying much the same thing to PE!!!), I think it comes across as patronizing to be told that one's grasp of a situation, however emotionally expressed, is only and solely a result of one's sufferings real or imagined - this is just to write off the views of the other; I think you were a bit rude to Louise.

I find it ironic that Bathersby gets uncritical support for his years of backpedalling and prevaricating, while the Pope - the Vicar of Christ - gets much more criticism for his very attempts to reunite sundered Christians.

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 7:54:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

In any case, I'm glad that however perfervid our comments may have been, through at least appended assurances we've ensured we express our desire to be civil and Christian in our dialogue.

Best wishes, Tony!

At Wednesday, February 11, 2009 9:52:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Oh, and (despite me saying much the same thing to PE!!!), I think it comes across as patronizing to be told that one's grasp of a situation, however emotionally expressed, is only and solely a result of one's sufferings real or imagined - this is just to write off the views of the other ...

I deliberately emphaised what seems to be the central idea of your thesis because ... here we go again ... I made no such suggestion.

I find it ironic that Bathersby gets uncritical support for his years of backpedalling and prevaricating, while the Pope - the Vicar of Christ - gets much more criticism for his very attempts to reunite sundered Christians.

I love those generalisations; you can't prove them or disprove them.

Notwithstanding that I've seen plenty of criticism for +Bathersby (from both sides) over many years and I'm thousands of kilometres away!

Also, I've seen plenty of support for the Pope; to the extent that it would appear some people think he's incapable of making a mistake. My favourite: he's thinking 'long term'.

I think Louise was rude to +Bathersby. Unless, of course, the notion that Fr Kennedy should have been excommunicated years ago (when the 'invalid' baptisms were first spoken about) was a criticism directed higher up the food chain.

At Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:07:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louise, you seem to have a more urgent sense of 'seriousness' than the Bishop and (given this has been going on for a while) those who supervise him. I humbly suggest this say more about you than them.

I humbly suggest that my criticism of +Bathersby was actually no such thing for I readily acknowledged higher up the combox (I think) that I'm not up with canon law on this matter. Therefore, it is entirely possible that +Bathersby has acted correctly.

I was merely pointing out that with baptism being such a fundmental of the Faith (are you suggesting it isn't, Tony?), the deliberate dicking round with it must surely be pretty serious.

And being serious - and I think the Catechism will back me up on that point at least - then it would seem that the deliberate dicking around with the sacrament probably ought to be worthy of excommunication.

I say that as a laywoman with no knowledge of the canon law in the matter of excommunications and will gladly hear from any canon lawyer with an explanation as to why it isn't (if it isn't).

At Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:10:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your avatar, btw, Tony.

At Thursday, February 12, 2009 5:43:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

It's so very easy to misunderstand comments on blogs! Good on you, Tony.

At Monday, February 23, 2009 8:35:00 pm , Anonymous Mary said...

This sad mess is a chance for us all to stop and reflect.All parties seem in need of prayer.Some of Father Kennedy's public statements have been a source of great sorrow To hear an ordained priest mock the virginity of Our Blessed Mother and imply that the death threat might have been concocted to name just 2 examples.

At Monday, April 06, 2009 2:24:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Are you currently 1000s of km away or are you normally 1000s of km away.

I have always assumed you are Tony Robertson parishioner and sometimes homilist of St Marys. Is this incorrect?



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