What's it all about?

Well, you can read that in the header to this page.

We trying to redress the balance and put the other side.

Crittenden's Religion Report program, needs to be read with this corrective.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to be a Catholic without really trying aka Oppression of a minority by Rome

Okay, let's see if this week's program will take us where we think. Ready? Let's go...

Stephen Crittenden: Welcome to the program.

As we reported last week, the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane has been rocked [what, because they aren't used to an Archbishop threatening to do his job?] by a threat from Archbishop John Bathersby to close down one of its most thriving parishes [right, so it's a magnificent parish that shouldn't be touched because it's thriving. Does Crittenden report is such glowing terms about the traditional and traditionalist communities that are "thriving" the world over or are they doing the wrong sort of "thriving"], St Mary's, South Brisbane.

It seems that every major city has an inner-city parish like St Mary's, innovative, ecumenical, inclusive, social justice oriented, and radical and difficult to control. [crikey, talk about being hoisted on your own pettard. If someone like Crittenden praises any organism like this within the Catholic Church, you know it's probably time that it be shut down]

Well late last week Archbishop Bathersby wrote a three-page letter to the parish detailing a number of liturgical and canonical irregularities that needed to be attended to. [mere, "irregularities" that need "attending to". Regardless of who used the term first, this down-playing of the seriousness of the heterdoxy and heteropraxis is shameful. Call a spade a spade, Crittenden. Or don't you know the difference?] He complained [merely "complained" as though it were merely a matter of subjective taste, Crittenden?] about the placement of a Buddhist statue in the church which he described as 'extremely reckless', and he also complained about a radical form of Eucharistic prayer used during mass, in which the whole congregation prays together, not just the priest. He also referred to the fact that a similar letter had been written in 2004 which he said had been dismissed as unimportant, and even ridiculed. 'My authority as Archbishop is scarcely recognised by the parish of St Mary's', he complains. 'In reality St Mary's South Brisbane has taken a Roman Catholic parish and established its own brand of religion.'

But the Archbishop stopped short at carrying out his verbal threat to close the parish down.
On Monday night a packed meeting of parishioners resolved to try to work with the Archbishop and create a series of working groups to respond to his main areas of concern.

That meeting was chaired by Karyn Walsh, who runs the big social justice initiative [we are sure Ms Walsh does great work. Crittenden's comment, however, politicises her and constitutes the usual illiberal tactic of protesting that "jack-boot Rome dares touch a modern day saint"] in the parish. It's called Micah, and when she spoke to me yesterday afternoon, I began by asking her to explain what it is that Micah does.

Karyn Walsh: Well we're based in the Parish House. We work collaboratively with a lot of community agencies in the area, we're the lead agency with the Brisbane Homeless Service Centre; we're providing a key assessment and referral service for people who are homeless as well as the street service that works seven days a week till midnight, working with people who are sleeping rough in parks and seeking accommodation.

Stephen Crittenden: And this is all parish volunteers, is it? [see a pattern emerging? gee the leading questions he asks are annoying]

Karyn Walsh: No, no. [Good research, Crittenden. Like almost everything else] We receive government funding for a lot of the work, but it's backed up by parish contributions. For example, with the homelessness work that we do, we have government funding to have outreach workers and centre-based workers, but then the community gives about 40% of its income to support the social justice work, including contributions to a homelessness and housing fund. That fund would provide accommodation for hundreds of people by purchasing them a bed in a motel, or paying their bond, or paying rent and giving financial assistance to prevent people from being homeless. [so, now that we have established that the good folk of the parish are committed to that part of the Catholic faith that requires all to "do unto others", let's move to those parts that are annoying and ultimately unimportant barnacles on the hull, you know, doctrine, dogma, discipline, liturgy...]

Stephen Crittenden: What's your response to the Archbishop's letter?

Karyn Walsh: Oh well I'd have many responses, but certainly I don't believe that making real division of social justice as a collective action of a community, is any less important than the spirituality of the community, and what I personally gain from St Mary's, and many others, is that the two are so intricately linked. Like it is the liturgy and the sustaining presence of the liturgy each week, that gives many people working in social justice the support and nurturing that they need to sustain their commitment to working with often very difficult and complex issues. [Fine, but what Church's "liturgy" might this be exactly...]

Stephen Crittenden: He's clearly got concerns about irregularities in terms of the liturgy and various canonical irregularities as well. Does he have a point there?

Karyn Walsh: Well obviously they're very real issues that this is the way Rome is talking about liturgy [Ah, yes, but Rome hath no power in this Realm of Brisbane. They're bloody Italians, anyway, aren't they, not Aussies?] and talking about the way in which it wants to centralise the way in which people live their lives, [You wot? "centralise"? Wethinks a modicum of catechesis is needed for Ms Walsh] but I think that many people at St Mary's, including myself, really had a vision from Vatican II that we believed in, [too bad YOUR vision of Vatican II bears little relationship to THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL'S VISION of Vatican II and that no one wants to tell you this or educate you. Crittenden certainly won't.] that we ["We" the Catholic Church, or "we" being me and my mates that had issues if Church teaching and wanted to find a folksy way around it?] felt was more consistent with the gospel, [the arrogance of the teaching that underpins the views expressed here is sublime! and, sadly, way too common] and believed that we should be able to live that out in communion with the church, [yes, but which protestant church do you have in mind, exactly?] that it shouldn't be something that is always marginalised.

Stephen Crittenden: Karen, I understand you chaired the meeting on Monday night; what was the mood of the meeting?

Karyn Walsh: The mood was very serious. People don't want to lose what in many cases they have had taken from them before. [Ms Walsh has common cause with the traditionalists in the Church. We can put them in touch with each other. Perfect opportunity for the Parish to do some ecumenical outreach] Obviously when you have 500 people together there is a range of diverse views, but it was a fantastic meeting in the way in which people listened and respected those views, because not everyone agrees with everything.

Stephen Crittenden: Is there a general sense of appreciation of the situation that Archbishop Bathersby sounds like he's in?

Karyn Walsh: Oh definitely. In fact many members of the community respect that the Archbishop is also in a difficult position, [so why put him in it????!!!] and that is why the community is going to take seriously the letter and not dismiss it, and reflect on the four areas that he outlined he wanted us to reflect on.

Stephen Crittenden: Do you think he would go so far as to close the parish down?

Karyn Walsh: I can't speak on how far the Archbishop will go or even what the boundaries of his decision-making are. [With respect to Ms Walsh, how can a practising Catholic NOT know that a bishop has jurisdiction in his own diocese. If this is not known, what else is not known: any idea about what is a proper understanding of the theology of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or what the documents of Vatican II really said?] That's not what I know. But I do have a respect for him as a person, as many people in the community do, and I think that it will be a sad day if he is forced to do that for the Catholic church in Australia, because it's very symbolic of where that Catholic church would be heading. [WHAT?!!! This parish is barely Catholic in belief and practice, the legitimate authority whose job is to ensure all his parishes are, tries to act to address the problem, and people see incapable or unwilling to actually the problem and then have the gall to have a swipe at the Archbishop doing his job? CLOSE THEM DOWN BATS AND SEND 'EM ALL BACK TO SCHOOL ON PAIN OF EXCOMMUNICATION]

Stephen Crittenden: Was there any talk at the meeting on Monday night about what the parish would do if it were to be closed down? [Is he actually going to delve on what THE PARISH thinks the irregularities are so unimportant?? Or does that risk having to speak about the real issues?]

Karyn Walsh: No, that's a premature question at this point. What was very clear at the meeting was that people do see that we are in communion with the archdiocese [How, if your faith and practice does not reflect the official teaching and practice of the Catholic Church?] and want to be. People want to be able to practice and have liturgy and have community the way it has happened at St Mary's. [Translation: we want to be protestants and do what protestants do because we don't like Catholic teaching and practice, but we still want call ourselves Catholics, so we'll pretend we are still Catholics by behaving like protestants and re-define what "Catholic" means by arguing "there's more than one way to be a Catholic".] They're not saying every church should be like that, but people do have options. We live in a world where people go, where they feel most comfortable. For many people at St Mary's this is their last option.

Stephen Crittenden: Karyn Walsh, who chaired Monday night's meeting at the Catholic parish of St Mary's South Brisbane.Well Archbishop Bathersby joins us now. Archbishop, thanks for joining us. You've also said a lot of positive things about the parish in your letter this week. Would it be fair to say that in the past you've been pretty supportive of the parish of South Brisbane, and that up to a point, you've been prepared to allow a fair degree of latitude? [Bats, that's your first mistake, mate. Give 'em an inch...unless of course you're actually okay with what they do down there]

John Bathersby: Yes, I'd say so. What I was conscious of was certainly the attitude towards the social justice matters over there. But apart from that I didn't really know much about it, and certainly some of the things that came to light with the letters that were written overseas to Rome, certainly were a surprise to me. I did think that there was a certain laxity about the liturgy, but I didn't know to what extent. And that certainly was a revelation to me. [Shouldn't you have sent someone down there to find out???]

Stephen Crittenden: You've made no secret of the fact that you're coming under pressure from Rome to act. Where precisely is that pressure coming from?

John Bathersby: The congregation of the bishops, the congregation of the clergy, and the congregation for worship.

Stephen Crittenden: All three? That's pretty heavy. ['bout the only sensible observation he's made all day. May we suggest this suggests there is something seriously wrong in this parish, such is the extent of its "irregularities"]

John Bathersby: Yes, I imagine the letters could have been written to all three as far as I know.

Stephen Crittenden: You've said that you've received many letters in the past few days yourself in support of St Mary's. But how many letters were received complaining about St Mary's?

John Bathersby: Not a great number, although I think over the years there's probably been a trickle of letters that have been coming. [And why not a "great number"? Because most wouldn't know a invalid Mass if it hit them in the face]

Stephen Crittenden: You mentioned social justice. [Must we again?] St Mary's is the No.1 social justice parish in Queensland, possibly in the whole of Australia. It's known for its work with the aboriginal community, you've threatened to close the parish down. Wouldn't that come at great cost, perhaps too high a cost?

John Bathersby: Well it wasn't so much a threat as the fact that that could happen, you know, that it might need to be closed. But of course, yes, it certainly would come at a cost. The difficulty is that it's more or less branched out on its own, more or less shaping itself to its own desires, particularly in this whole area of the sacramental life of the church. It's flaunted itself again in regard to church law and church regulations, but certainly that whole area of worship and sacrament is very much out of kilter with the Roman Catholic church. [Come on, Crittenden, delve into why this is an important issue, c'mon, mate...]

Stephen Crittenden: Coming out of the meeting that the parish held on Monday night, there do seem to be signs that the parishioners are looking at working with you and responding to your concerns. How much latitude does the parish have now? You mentioned those liturgical issues. Would conforming over a number of key liturgical and canonical irregularities be enough to pull them back from the brink, or realistically, is Rome going to continue being unhappy about well really everything these people represent? [What, doing good to others??? "Rome" ain't going to have a problem with that, don't you know. So, what exactly do "they represent", Crittenden? And if Rome does have an issue with what they represent, might it not be a fair gripe? Anyway, still in this interview we've got no idea what those gripes are (other than a statue of the founder of another religion appearing in the House of God)]

John Bathersby: From my point of view, it's interesting that there's a core of Catholics in there I think who don't really have a good understanding of what it means to be in communion with the Roman Catholic church and it possibly came as a bit of a surprise for them to have it spelt out in the letter that I sent. [Crikey, such is the level of education in your Archdiocese, Bats. Are you going to fix this? How did it get to this?] Those people seem to be very much at home there, [most people are at home if they're doing precisely what they want] but wouldn't have any idea that the actual liturgy that was being used, was certainly an unorthodox liturgy. I mean this is not untypical of the church at the present time, but there's a real ignorance about what is required, and therefore it needs to be spelt out for them. [Thanks, Bats, you've hit the nail square on. But what about your own liturgies. How orthodox (in the proper sense of the word are they???) Baptism, perhaps, Mass?]

Stephen Crittenden: Well indeed, the parishioners at St Mary's aren't the only ones introducing all kinds of liturgical deviations these days. [No, because many priests and bishops don't give a brass razoo, what the Church says about her worship and despite the fact that liturgical innovation was condemned as soon as it started to happen after V2]

John Bathersby: Oh no, I wouldn't think so.

Stephen Crittenden: It must be very hard to make people do it Rome's way if that's not what they want to do. [There we go. Rome vs us. Not that the good Arch doesn't use that lingo too, of course...]

John Bathersby: Yes. I think in an increasing secular society you get a lot of secularity creeping into marriage ceremonies and also funerals, you know. I don't know how many times you would have found that Frank Sinatra had been trotted out, doing it his way. [Will this cue be taken up for the program's closing music?]

Stephen Crittenden: Let's just talk about some of the governance issues that you've raised. [Yes, why don't we talk "corporate", now, given that we've been talking politics]

You've described the parish as congregational, and you're clearly concerned about the level of lay leadership. Isn't St Mary's modeling a different way of being a parish that will become more important in the future as the priesthood dies out, and isn't that something the Catholic church is just going to have to begin getting used to? [On one hand, we shouldn't be suprised; it could be argued that this is just an interviewing technique. But on the other hand, it's so ubiquitous and direct, that you know he is just giving voice to views and criticisms he holds himself.]

John Bathersby: Well I don't know if the priesthood is going to, I'm certainly optimistic about it. I mean when you look at the very secular society in which we are, I mean there's no guarantee that that secularity is going to continue into the future. [Bats inspires confidence, doesn't he.]

Stephen Crittenden: But this isn't just about secularity, there are a number of priestless parishes already in Australia now, and clergy numbers are declining, and there's I think a growing expectation [says who?] that the laity are going to be much more involved, already are much more involved in running parishes. [involved in running the administrative side yes, but not being priests taking care of the sacraments. We know you don't care for the distinction, but it is important in Catholic theology]

John Bathersby: Well certainly that was the idea of Second Vatican Council that it's the people of God who come together within the church, and there was every encouragement given to lay people more or less being called into the mission of the church, and they responded to that with parish councils and pastoral councils. There's been a great deal of involvement of lay people. But I'm not as pessimistic about the future in regard to vocations to priesthood. I think that already those numbers are increasing, and I believe will continue to increase.

Stephen Crittenden: But let's get back to this question of governance. Are you saying that in principle, you're opposed to the idea of laity having executive authority in the parish?

John Bathersby: Oh yes I am, because the structure of the church is that the -

Stephen Crittenden: It's a clerical church in the end. [Snipe, snipe, snipe. he can't help himself]

John Bathersby: Yes, it's a clerical church, the priest is the leader. Now that shouldn't lean to an abuse of power in that particular situation. I mean the priest is supposed to be the servant of the people there. [Let's not kid ourselves that Vatican II brought to end an era of some priests abusing their power. It's arguably even more prevelant now, because they are free of most claims to authority and ortodoxy and they can co-opt a bunch of hippy lay sympathises and pseudo-wannabe-priests (some of whom fit into the wymyn priest category). This parish is another case in point and in happens in small and large ways all over the world]

Stephen Crittenden: It's clear that you've been very patient over a long period, and I'm very interested in the rather gentle tone of the letter that you sent the other day. You seem to be holding out an olive branch and trying to weave your way through what's obviously a very difficult situation. But placing the ball in their court to respond, are you also trying in all of this, to model a different way of being an Archbishop? [Crittenden hasn't moved on from Julius II, folks. Tiresome, no?]

John Bathersby: (laughs) Well I was sort of hoping that all Archbishops would more or less act in that particular manner. I mean to lose a parish, or lose people is a tragedy wherever it happens. I would certainly want to welcome people back into communion with the church, than rather cut them off, I think that's an absolutely last resort. [a point that you may have reached now]

Stephen Crittenden: If it comes to closing the parish down, it may be that the community decides to stick together with their priest. I think there's even been talk of approaching the archdiocese to lease the church back. What action then from you if that was the outcome?

John Bathersby: Well I'd say that if they are going to remain in an unorthodox situation, they break away and they're into a style of church that -

Stephen Crittenden: And does Father Kennedy continue with his faculties from you?

John Bathersby: No it would certainly be a cut-off situation.

Stephen Crittenden: And what about the church building?

John Bathersby: Well of course it belongs to the archdiocese. It's a parish that goes back 100 years. It is a church of the archdiocese of Brisbane.

Stephen Crittenden: Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane.Well now to Adele Rice, another long-serving parishioner. Adele you say the mood of Monday night's meeting was very positive. What do you mean by that? Positive in the sense of agreeing to stand your ground, or positive in the sense of being willing to compromise?

Adele Rice: I think probably looking for some kind of negotiation or reconciliation and I didn't actually hear the word 'compromise', [They sound like the Lefebrvists.] but I think many of us feel that we have a lot to lose and that we wouldn't like to lose that space. We wouldn't like someone or any authority to tell us that we weren't Catholic, [HELLO?! How can such poor misguided views be expressed. How did it get to this?] and that we are prepared to work on it, yes.

Stephen Crittenden: You say you wouldn't like to lose that space, it's a magnificent church, isn't it? [So it's a question of property, politics, corporate governance. Everything but faith and practice]

Adele Rice: It is. But it's what happens in it. It's a very joyful place, the liturgies are very relevant to everyday life. [Are you saying that a Mass using the most beautiful sacred art, vestments and music, in which the congregation experience the transcendent and are present at the sacrifice of God's Son made present again for them, is not relevant to everyday life? God in front of them, is not relevant?] In my particular instance I've had four of my grandchildren baptised there, two of my three adult children married there, my husband buried from there, a grand-daughter buried from there.

Stephen Crittenden: You've been in the parish 26 years?

Adele Rice: Twenty-six years, yes. And the circumstances around our going and leaving a very traditional and very comfortable parish in the suburb where we lived, where we had no issues with the parish priest, he was a great family friend, but it was the teenage daughter who'd gone off to high school who was starting to be resentful of going to mass every Sunday and the same thing, and bobbing up and down and so on, and in her school she was introduced to some other feminist theological ideas, and was involved in painting a women's shelter, and so off the family went to St Mary's, and from the minute we set foot there and heard the sorts of talk and discussion and the readings, the priests are so well-read, and then we get the benefit of someone who can synthesise what those readings are. So it's a place of great learning, and for our family, we've never gone anywhere else since. [Yep, that's about how confused this person is. She's sincere, certainly, like so many are, but mightily and thoroughly confused. There's a lot of work to be done, folks, a lot.]

Stephen Crittenden: We've heard about women preaching at South Brisbane, and I'm told you're one of the women who preaches.

Adele Rice: Well I work in areas that deal with providing educational services and settlement services to immigrant and refugee young people. And so particularly when it's Refugee Week or Refugee Sunday or there's some issue about refugees, Peter or Terry might ask me if I will do the homilies on that weekend. So many times over the years at that particular Sunday or week or month, I will give those homilies and always have great support and feedback and often people ringing wanting to volunteer, wanting to help. You know, it's a place of solidarity. I feel very warmly supported there. [Right, who cares if you don't have the authority to do this. You just do what you want]

Stephen Crittenden: What's your response to Archbishop Bathersby saying you're not in communion with the Catholic church as a parish?

Adele Rice: I have a great deal of difficulty with that. I feel very much in community with the Catholic church, and with all humility, I don't think anybody has the right to tell me that I'm not in communion with my God and with my church. [Does God? Does Christ? Does the Vicar of Christ of Earth? Do his lawful delegates? Face it Ms Rice, you're not in communion and you don't want to be. You're a protestant. Of what sort, we don't konw, but a protestant you are. Good luck to you. But don't insult the rest of us by attempting to call yourself a Catholic. That's offensive.]

Stephen Crittenden: And if the axe does fall, and Archbishop Bathersby closes the parish down, do you think the mood of the parish is to stick it out, stay together?

Adele Rice: I suppose that's a very hard hypothetical question. I wouldn't like to be practicing or attending in parks or halls or things like that. To me, that's a consecrated, designated space, ["designated"???! like a car parking spot. oh please] and I think in his heart, I mean I think he is probably a man with many good qualities as well, I honestly don't think he will close it down. I think he is putting it back on to us as a community, saying 'Will we rather close ourselves down? And I certainly don't think we will, I think there are too many people there who have too much to lose. [like embracing the fullness of Catholic faith and practice.]

Stephen Crittenden: But Adele, he may be forced to act.

Adele Rice: Yes, well I think we probably have to deal with that if it happens, but if that did happen and there was that Roman sort of push, then as a member of my family said, Well maybe our family will start saying 'ex-Catholic' on the next census. [they're in denial and have been for years, by the looks of it]

Stephen Crittenden: Adele Rice

FRANK SINGS 'MY WAY' [do we need to comment?]

Stephen Crittenden: The most un-Vatican-like of sentiments there. We couldn't resist that. [no, you can't resist insulting the Catholic Church, we know. We hear it most weeks, Crittenden.]

* The parish priest of St Mary's, Fr Peter Kennedy, declined the Religion Report's requests for an interview

1 comment:

Peter said...

Perhaps it should be Stephen Cretindun