For those who still haven’t noticed: Something HAS changed at South Brisbane.

They’re getting their wires crossed over at St Mary’s in Exile, at least as far as the story is appearing in the media. Cathnews kindly gives us a precis of the reports appearing in the Courier Mail, The Daily, the Brisbane Times and the Westender. According to this report:

About 1,200 people turned out for Mass at the St Mary’s in Exile community on Sunday despite a worldwide ban impose by Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby on celebrant Fr Peter Kennedy.

Actually, I am not sure what it is that the 1,200 turned up for – but, based on reports of what Kennedy actually does at a Sunday morning service, we can be fairly sure it wasn’t for the Holy Mass. According to Kennedy however:

“It’s business as usual… The fact that hundreds of people are here speaks volumes.” Earlier Fr Kennedy described his ban “as a liberation from a corrupt, ruthless and irrelevant hierarchy.” “But we haven’t left the Church, we’ve been pushed out, excluded by our own archbishop.

Well, that’s one interpretation. It is true that Kennedy and his followers had to be ejected from St Mary’s – they didn’t go of their own accord – but that doesn’t mean that they were really part of the Church before that or that they still are now. To a former Lutheran, the cry “we were kicked out, we didn’t leave” sounds awfully familiar.

“If you set yourself up at some other church you can no longer bring about effective change within the (Catholic) Church.”

Well, there’s something he should have thought about before.

“I know I’m up against a two thousand year old institution, but the Church is imploding all over the world it seems at the moment. It’s obvious if in Australia 85 percent of Catholics don’t go to Mass.”

Fifteen percent, however, do, and that is still more than all the other Christians attending worship in Australia on any given Sunday all lumped together. The 85% non-attendance figure is indeed a indictment upon the Australian Church, but rather more because we have failed to evangelise and catechise properly than because we have failed to take the Kennedy line (which includes doubting the very existence of Jesus himself). The Catholic Church is not “imploding” – it may have just a little way to go before we can describe it as “exploding”, but it is heading in the right direction.

“We’ve done nothing to deserve this, we’re a prophetic community in the sense that we stand with the poor, the excluded, those who are rendered powerless. And for that we are given the chop.”

Who’s he trying to kid? We know exactly why he has been expelled and banned – and it has nothing to do with being “prophetic” or “standing with the poor and excluded”. It has to do with the valid celebration of the sacraments, obedience to the laws of the Church, and teaching the true Catholic faith. As Chancellor Adrian Farrelly is reported to have said:

“Fr Kennedy has consistently ignored a series of formal directives, following years of informal requests from the archbishop to conform with universal Catholic practices. The Catholic Church has laws that regulate throughout the world the celebration of sacraments and pastoral care of people which Fr Kennedy has continued to flout. These present decrees are about ensuring that Catholics within the archdiocese of Brisbane and beyond can continue to have confidence that the sacraments they are obtaining from all priests are celebrated validly and that pastoral practices and teaching are in harmony with accepted church directives.”

Peter Kennedy is not the only one confused about why he has been banned from all priestly ministry in the Catholic Church.

Long time church community leader Marg Ortiz said the decrees issued by Archbishop Bathersby, which penalise Fr Kennedy more harshly than convicted pedophile priest Ron McKeirnan, who has been granted special permission by the Catholic Church leader to conduct masses in private, showed a lack of moral fibre. “If the Church hierarchy allows priests who are pedophiles to say Mass, but ban Peter from doing so for some intellectual dissent, it just shows they have no moral fibre and not a lot of intelligence, frankly,” she said.

Let’s get this clear: You go to jail if you are guilty of child abuse. You get banned from saying mass if you have rebelled against the Church and her teachings. The punishment fits the crime.

Mrs Ortiz, who was the co-convenor of the St Mary’s South Brisbane Council before Fr Kennedy was sacked as administrator of the church, said the action taken against the St Mary’s priests didn’t make a scrap of difference. “They can’t take away from Peter or Terry anything that’s important to this faith community,” she said.

They can, however, stop Kennedy and co from doing what they do in the name of the Catholic Church. Kennedy’s expulsion HAS made a difference in many ways. Maybe the crowd at St Mary’s in Exile will begin to realise that sooner or later. Probably sooner, when it comes to having their children baptised, confirmed, and given first Eucharist.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “For those who still haven’t noticed: Something HAS changed at South Brisbane.

  1. PM

    Does anyone know if the luminaries in the Catholic (should that be with a question mark?) school system who used to frequent St Mary’s have gone to the Kennedy/Ortiz conventicle?

  2. By the way, I would advise skepticism towards the claimed number of people attending the services in the TLC. Every week, they are posting a video of the 9 am service, and when the camera takes an occasional shot of the congregation, it looks rather small to me.

    It’s also rather a hoot watching this week’s video, as in one section you can hear the people who seem to in charge of the video saying things like “look, no one’s watching.” “Yeah, the problem is no one knows it’s on yet.” I’m pretty sure they were referring to their live-streaming of the video.

  3. Tap

    Can you give us a cliffnotes version of what directives this Fr. Kennedy guy had ignored?

  4. They are posting weekly services at their new website here:

    http://www.stmaryssouthbrisbane.com/

    As far as I can tell, the weekly service video only stays up for a week, but older ones might be hidden somewhere within the site.

    I have been commenting a fair bit about Kennedy and St Mary’s at my blog too. I suspect (but might be wrong) that their eviction has led Kennedy and Fitzpatrick to be much more open and direct about their “non-realist” interpretation of Christian faith (which I could paraphrase as “did Jesus exist? Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. We love the mere idea of Jesus.”) Kennedy also seems never to realise the irony of one minute questioning whether JC existed, then the next saying that he was a Jew who would have been appalled at people thinking he was divine. Quite frankly, I don’t think he is the brightest intellect around.

    Anyhow, I suspect that this new openness may be harming his following. My brother, for example, has gone there for years and was recently repeating the line “we’re Catholic, no matter what the Archbishop says.” I haven’t checked with him lately, but I suspect that he (my brother) is at least sensible enough to see that a priest who doubts the historical existence of Jesus
    cannot be seriously considered to be within the Catholic faith.

  5. Paul

    Hi Steve from Brisbane,
    I also looked at the recording (not the live stream) of last Sunday’s TLC service and heard the comment that no one was watching it. I thought another interesting detail was the change they made to the Gospel to “baptise in the name of Abba God, the only begotten and…..” I thought Abba meant father – is it only acceptable in Aramaic and not English?
    I also know Catholics who are sympathetic to Kennedy and was trying to work out why. My guess is:
    ** they want to find an interpretation of God that does not require faith in anything unseen. Hence the rejection of mystery and the fascination with psychology and modern physics. I would recomment they read “Creative Tension: Essays on Science and Religion” by Fr Michael Heller who has interesting things to say on the relationship between modern and classical physics and theology. Of course he has the disadvantage of being a faithful priest and has not “jumped the wall” like most of the other South Brisbane heros.
    ** they value community, acceptance, mutual support and charitable works above all else.

    Now, I think it would be unwise for any Catholic to be too contemptuous of these two desires. We should spend more time showing both children and adults the reason that supports the faith. Many parishes could do more to make themselves a welcoming place to their community and to visitors.

    So although I find irritating the contradictory and meaningless statements that often come from South Brisbane, I think the members of the Church should contemplate how we can learn from this experience.

    • I find the decision to baptise in the name of “Abba God” interesting – and like you, I wonder if it is valid. I am not a canonist – I would expect that it isn’t valid unless it was in the context of a baptism using Aramaic as the vernacular. Nevertheless, it is a whole lot happier than the previous attempts to baptise in the name of the “Creator God”. At least it is a personal name, a name which actually is simply “Father” in another language, rather than a “functional” designation. I guess they could have chosen to baptise in the name of the “Pater”, but Aramaic is so much more warm and cuddly than Latin!

      • Paul

        Hi David,
        it wasn’t a baptism, it was the Gospel for Trinity Sunday. Is it a coincidence that the Archbishop chose the Friday before Trinity Sunday to remove Fr Kennedy’s faculties as a priest? The homily by Terry Fitzpatrick last Sunday was all about why the Trinity is nonsense (“elsewhere god” etc etc.). How long do they intend to follow the Church’s liturgy and say each Sunday that it is all nonsense. I think the psychologists call this “psychological dissonance”. How long before the dissonance becomes too much for them?

    • Peregrinus

      I would be interested to here their account of why this particular formula has been chosen.

      I’m speculating, but this could have some connection to a point often made in discussions of the use of “Father” to refer to God. The usage is based on strong biblical precedents, OT and NT, but for the culture that produced the bible “Father” had important connotations which are not quite the same for us. Specifically, calling God “Father” pointed to his role as a loving Creator, and this was based on an understanding of human procreation in which the father played the progenitive role, contributing the “seed”, and the mother provided a nurturing environment – the “earth”, so to speak – in which that seed could grow, but contributed nothing directly to the substance of the new being, all of which came from the father.

      We know differently; procreation is something in which both father and mother play an original and essential role. The modern understanding of fatherhood is therefore not quite so appropriate an analogy. God created us ex nihilo meaning that no prior condition needed to be satisfied, and no other agency was involved, in his creation. This is fundamentally not true of biological fatherhood as we know it.

      So if we want to use parental language and apply it analogically to God to point to his creative role, we need a word which embraces both father and mother.

      But formulations like “our Parent, who art in heaven” are awkward, to put it no higher. In addition anyone hearing them will assume that they are motivated by feminist ideology, which need not be at all the case.

      Now, possibly you cold support “Abba” by saying that it has a respectable scriptural precedent, and at the same time, because it is archaic, it points clearly to the biblical understanding of fatherhood, not to the modern understanding, and the biblical understanding, while scientifically wanting, provides a more appropriate analogy for God.

  6. It’s almost too conscious an imitation of what Modernists were said to indulge in by Pope St Pius X – you’ve only got to read his encyclical Pascendi to find how closely this sad tale of South Brisbane heresy matches up with it!