Monday, February 23, 2009

Parish rallies for 'social justice' behind rebel priest

We have blogged before about Rev. Peter Kennedy in Australia. In addition to this article, there is a marvellous photo gallery of this solidarity Mass on the Brisbane Times Web site -- RG

By Adrian Crawford
ABC News (Australia)
Posted Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:30pm AEDT

"Social justice" and "solidarity" - those were two themes touched on with frequency and passion at the 9:00am mass at Saint Mary's Church in South Brisbane on Sunday.

A colourful crowd of over 1,000 turned out for the morning mass to support Father Peter Kennedy, who was sacked by the Catholic Church for allegedly flouting church rules but defied the order by participating in mass.

Some were in their Sunday best, others looking comfortable and casual in singlets, shorts and thongs in the muggy Brisbane weather.

But no matter what the wardrobe choice, all were welcome in Fr Kennedy's church.

Less than a kilometre from the bustling centre of Brisbane, St Mary's has been the focus of much controversy in February.

The church has long been acknowledged as a haven for the poor, Indigenous people, homosexuals, broken families and the downtrodden.

The Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, called for Fr Kennedy's sacking and warned followers they would not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

But some say they have been out in the cold for a long time anyway.

Allan Allaway is a St Mary's community member of over 20 years, peer leader of the Historical Abuse Network and the vice-president of the Alliance for Forgotten Australians.

He told ABC News Online that Fr Kennedy has done what the Church would not.

"Who was it, when Rome was shielding and protecting the paedophile priests in the Catholic Church?" he asked.

"They did not want to know us. They still do not want to know us.

"But Father Peter Kennedy, to his credit, stepped up to the plate and he has helped us. And that is why I will fight. And I do mean fight, to keep Fr Kennedy in this parish."

'Acting upon social justice'

Fr Kennedy has been accused of leading unorthodox masses, performing same-sex marriage ceremonies and not respecting the church hierarchy.

But he has the full support of his parish.

"If we all thought the same and we all acted the same, what a boring place this world would be," Mr Allaway said.

"Are Roman Catholic priests supposed to be so dogmatic that they become robots?

"Is the man not permitted to think outside the square? Is the man not supposed to live and breathe his religion and his convictions?

"Is he not supposed to believe in and act upon social justice? Because that's what the man does."

One woman who attended the service, who wished only to be named as Stephanie, addressed the allegations that Fr Kennedy had allowed women to say mass at St Mary's.

"That is far from the truth," she said.

"What happens is single women, married women, divorced people, religious, non-religious or ex-religious people may read the Gospel, or may break open the word, or share the homily, but they do not share the mass.

"It is presided over by an ordained priest within the Catholic Church, and all of the community of this parish stands beside the priest during the consecration."

The newly-appointed temporary pastor of St Mary's, Father Ken Howell, seemingly has big shoes to fill.

Safety fears

Fr Kennedy refused to turn the keys to the church over to Fr Howell, who said he heeded the advice of Queensland Police to stay away from the church for his own safety.

Fr Howell said on Saturday that a number of parishioners had also contacted him, concerned for their safety despite wanting to attend the mass.

Church authorities confirmed on the same day that there had been threats sent to Archbishop Bathersby's home.

This revelation troubled Margaret Ortiz from the St Mary's leadership group.

"I don't know that there were any actual threats, but I did hear there were some," she said.

"I think that's terrible because the whole thing needs to be dealt with ... you know, we are after all peaceful people.

"We really need to deal with this in a really peaceful and dignified way."

Archbishop Bathersby has called for mediation between Fr Kennedy and the Archdiocese, and says he is looking for a peaceful and dignified resolution of the current impasse.

He said yesterday said the Brisbane Catholic Archdioceses' priority was to ensure the proper transition of the parish to the new administrator.

"The Church is prepared to take all lawful and peaceful means which may be necessary to ensure the decree which I issued is carried out. The Church is fully entitled to have this decree obeyed and to have its ownership of the St Mary's Church respected," the Archbishop said in a statement.

"In this difficult situation, I believe a sensible next step would be to have an experienced, independent and eminent mediator meet with the Archdiocese and Fr Kennedy to attempt to achieve a peaceful and dignified outcome to the current impasse.

"I would strongly urge Fr Kennedy to participate in this process.

"I am very conscious of the many people who are praying for the peaceful resolution of this very difficult situation and I continue to ask for the prayers of the priests, deacons, religious and parishioners of the Archdiocese, as well as the prayers of other Christians and all who are involved in this matter.

1 comment:

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