Church Mouse Journal

More morsels from St Vincent's Redfern

Thursday, 30 June 2005


John Ford's rejoinder

25 June 2005
Father John Ford Leichhardt N.S.W. 2040 Australia Bishop Fisher
Thank you for your reply to my letter of 7 June. I regret that it was made public before you received it. I had thought that four days would have been enough time. I am sorry that I am not able to accede to your request that your reply not be made public. Firstly, because a number of persons have asked if you have replied and I feel under an obligation to the same and secondly, I do not think we have anything to hide. I do not intend to go into all the details of your reply because, while I had hoped that you might hear the truth with some degree of understanding and thereby try to be open minded about the situation, you obviously are not able to do this and I feel therefore that it would be a waste of my time and yours. I do notice your statement that "your responsibility in Redfern is one of pastoral care for the priests there" making no mention of the people. My concern is rather for the people and the priests. One other thing you mention is "you will continue to support the appointed pastors in your area" without mention of the people and though you say you have no region or area. Anyway, so be it. I am sorry that you also, by implication, are not willing to hear any non church-going Redfern Catholics who may wish to confer with you.
Regards John Ford

Fisher's response to John Ford's letter

Speaking the truth in love
Eph 4:15
13 June 2006
Dear Father Ford,
I refer to your letter of 7 June 2006. Though your letter was published far and wide through the email before I received it, I would ask you to keep my response to yourself. Thank-you for recounting your own extraordinary pastoral history and, more importantly, for the contribution it represents to the life of God's people for half a century now. You say in your letter that you were 'absolutely astounded' that I wrote to the Parish of St Vincent de Paul, Redfern, in the terms I did on 3 June 2006. You accuse me of one-sidedness in supporting the priests and not the people of the parish. I agree that I have spoken with very few people who attend Mass at Redfern. The reason for this is simple. More than a year ago it was decided that rather than have "too many cooks" trying to resolve matters in Redfern, they would be handled by the Chancery of the Archdiocese, not by me. So the then-Chancellor, Monsignor Brian Rayner, visited the parish on behalf of the Archbishop and listened to the grievances. I know this occurred not only from Monsignor Rayner's reports but also from a letter from Sr Marnie who praised the visit to me. I know that there was considerable further communication of complaints of one kind or another, against both Fr Gerry Prindiville (as there was against his predecessor Fr Peter Carroll and later against his assistant Fr Denis Sudla), to the Archbishop or the Chancery, or to and through the Council of Priests, the internet and other forums. It is simply not the case, then, that only the priests were heard. I referred any correspondence I received regarding Redfern to Monsignor Rayner to deal with, including the letter to which you refer from Sr Marnie; I will pass your own letter on to his successor. Though recent online reports suggest Sr Marnie still thinks that I am "the designated authority to pastor to the community at Redfern" (and by implication in your letter you think so too) I can only repeat: the Chief Pastor of the Archdiocese of Sydney is, of course, Cardinal Pell; the local Pastor of St Vincent de Paul Parish is Father Prindiville; as an auxiliary bishop I do what I can to help both, within the limits of the responsibility and directions given to me. We do not have 'regional bishops' here in Sydney in the sense that Sydney may once have had or some other Archdioceses may have today. My continuing responsibility in Redfern is one of pastoral care for the priests there (and Confirmation or Visitation when necessary, if delegated by the Cardinal). I well realize that supporting priests does not mean accepting and affirming everything they say and do. I must exercise judgment and communicate it. But I have every indication that the current clergy of Redfern have for two years been labouring under extraordinary pressure from those disgruntled by their appointment and/or their membership of a particular ecclesial movement and/or their pastoral and liturgical style. They have experienced escalating harassment and calumny. Priests sometimes complain that they are insufficiently supported in their work by their bishops: I will continue to do my best to support the appointed pastors in my area. My letter to the Parish was written after many reports of disruption of the Mass at St Vincent's over several years and more recent escalation. All I asked was that the Liturgy not be disrupted and that the responsibility of the parish clergy to determine liturgical style, furnishings, assistants etc., be respected, in accordance with the liturgical norms. I understand that at times Mass there has become so chaotic the church has had to be abandoned and the Mass transferred to the priests' house. If this is not the case-if in fact the rites of the Church and the responsibility of the clergy are being respected-then those to whom my letter was read will be unchallenged. But just as proper authority of Fr Kennedy over the liturgy was respected by others, so too I think that of his successors should be. I am always been willing to hear any church-going Redfern Catholics, including Aboriginal Catholics, who want to express concerns to me, though I do not think a public meeting would be very productive in the circumstances. If I have done anyone an injustice by my actions or inactions I am genuinely sorry. Pastoral life today is in many ways harder than it was when you began your long and generous ministry. Parish Priests need the support of the laity even as they seek to serve them; they also deserve the care of their bishops and any clergy and religious around them. Please pray with me that the clergy and all those they serve in Redfern may continue to grow in the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to be built up as the household of God.
Yours fraternally in Christ (Most Rev) Anthony Fisher OP AUXILIARY BISHOP OF SYDNEY
Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, DD BA LIB BTheol DPhil Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney ------ 'Buruni', 341 Old South Head Road, Watson's Bay NSW 2030, AUSTRALIA . Tel: (+61 2) 9337 2033 . Fax: (+61 2) 9337 2933 .

Sound familiar?

ReGAIN - Religious Groups Awareness International Network
Set up to inform and educate the public regarding the true nature of policies and practices of the LEGION OF CHRIST - a seemingly bona fide Catholic Religious Congregation - the REGNUM CHRISTI Movement, their SCHOOLS and all their WORKS. ReGAIN's mission is to outreach, unite and support those touched or adversely affected by this group. Their website ( is full of familiar stories. Thanks to Jack C. for the link.

Sunday, 26 June 2005


Kelmscott Neocat Finished?

Message just received from the Good Shepherd parish in Kelmscott Western Australia
From: Clive Maher Sent: Sunday, 26 June 2005 7:40 PM Subject: KELMSCOTT NEWS Greetings Hot Off The Press ....... Our beloved Parish Priest Fr Melvin has just announced that he has been transferred to Helsinki as of the middle of NEXT MONTH. Persistence Pays!! God Bless Clive and the Mosquitoes.

Ted Kennedy of Redfern and Burrawang

Irish and Aboriginal links

When Ted Kennedy, 74, former parish priest of St Vincent de Paul's, Redfern, famous for his solidarity with Aboriginal people and for his challenge to Cardinal George Pell's moral condemnation of homosexuals, died at Concord Hospital in Croydon, NSW, in the early hours of Tuesday 17 May, the news came to us in Fitzroy through two phone calls from Ireland before our Sydney friends had got started on their day. He would have liked that.

Those calls came from Ted Casey of Ring, County Waterford, and Seán O'Connor of Beamore, County Meath, two members of an extended family in Ireland to which my wife and children and I were admitted through introductions given by Ted Kennedy.

Ted Casey, originally from Cahermakala outside Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, is a cousin of Ted's on his mother's side. Through that connection Ted Kennedy's hideaway and base at Burrawang, NSW, got the name Lisdoonvarna.

Around 1980, Ted and Seán had come to Australia on a working holiday as young men who had just completed their training as health inspectors. They and Ted clicked: they enjoyed his jokes, they learned from him a bit about Aboriginal Australia, he learned from them about the new Ireland, and so on. Mind you, he had a bit to teach about Ireland too with his love of poet Patrick Kavanagh and his learning in church and Irish history.

At the Requiem Mass attended by 1500 people on the vacant block in the heart of Aboriginal Redfern on Tuesday 24 May, Ted's Irish connections came up again. The preacher, Father Pat Kinna, spoke of Ted's Houlihan convict ancestor, the Kennedys from Thurles who settled at Araluen near Braidwood, and the O'Brien Clare connection (of which Ted Casey is part).

More than that, MC Danny Gilbert honoured Ted by starting his introduction with a dramatic quotation from 1916 leader Patrick Pearse's speech at the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa, "Splendid and holy causes are served by splendid and holy men". I remember Ted playing for a group of us a vinyl recording of Micheál MacLiammóir reciting that address by Pearse.

In this way, Gilbert linked the Aboriginal struggle for survival and freedom, to which Ted gave so much, with the Irish struggle for those same goals. Indeed, Irish-born Bishop David Cremin, the celebrant of the Mass, endorsed that. Among other things, Cremin read a strong message from Pat Dodson of Broome, a national leader on reconciliation and Australia's first Aboriginal priest. Kinna said that Ted saw great similarities between the Aboriginal people and the Travellers in Ireland today.

The funeral day was more than a Requiem Mass: it was a five-hour celebration of a life fully lived and a rally to tell the world, including Cardinal Pell and Prime Minister John Howard, that Australians for reconciliation and justice have not been cowed into submission but are going ahead organising and campaigning.

At 8.30 am a few hundred gathered at the still rundown St Vincent's parish church for a smoking ceremony which was followed by a powerful twenty minutes of silent prayer. The congregation, as was usual in Ted's days there, ranged from some of the poorest people in town to professionals and professors.

Bulls were the undertakers and they did their work with simplicity and style. I had the pleasure of meeting their director of grief counselling who turned out to be Richard White, a neighbour from my boyhood days in Bentleigh, and an ex-Jesuit.

Ted's sister Marnie, a sister of the Sacred Heart nuns, was the chief mourner. Aboriginal people, this time with a helpful police escort, led a procession down through Redfern to the community centre.

The Requiem, a combination of Aboriginal and Catholic ceremonies, lasted three hours. The music included Fill My House written by Ted's dear friend Peter Kearney and a chilling rendition of Just a Closer Walk with Thee by Shireen Malamoo. Chris Geraghty, judge and former priest colleague of Ted, wrote and led long, strongly worded prayers of the faithful.

Pat Kinna recalled how much Ted loved the poets, especially John Shaw Neilson and Judith Wright. He quoted Neilson:

My wealth it was the glow that lives forever in the young, 'Twas on the brown water, in the green leaves it hung. The blue cranes fed their young all day &endash; how far in a tall tree! And the poor, poor country made no pauper of me.

Sol Bellear spoke of how his late son Bob (who became the first Aboriginal judge) and wife Kay Williams involved Ted in various campaigns for housing and welfare in Redfern. Everyone spoke about the influence of legendary activist Mum Shirl on Ted. With John Butcher and Fergus Breslan they offered food and shelter at the parish house.

Who could forget Ted's entirely relevant comments about the high number of young Aboriginal men whose funerals he celebrated.

Ted's niece Margie Kennedy Gould said he was a terrific uncle who played with and later dialogued with his nephews and nieces. She recalled also that he boasted of never cleaning his teeth. Others who spoke at the service included Rhonda Ansiewicz, John Hill, Tom Hammerton, Peter Manning and Aunty Ali Golding. Betty Little's tribute was in song. The lament was played on didgeridoo.

Meeting up with old friends was, as with most funerals, a highlight of the day. To mention but a few of those who came long distances, I caught up with John Harte, Terry Quinn and Tom Stephens who flew in from Perth, Dick Buchhorn, Dick Pascoe and Peter Dorfield down from Brisbane, Peter Willis in from Adelaide, Simone Barthelemy, Barbara Zimmerman and Joan Hamilton from Melbourne. People were mourning but also organising, as Ted would want.

In a half page report on page two of the Sydney Morning Herald the next day, Tony Stephens mentioned some of the public figures present: "Sirs Gerard Brennan and William Deane, former High Court judges and governor-general, tried to sit up the back but were ushered forward. Old sculptor Tom Bass sat near old politician Tom Uren. Gabi Hollows, Jack Mundey, Bob Gould, Bill Crews, Martin Sharpe, Senator Aden Ridgeway, rugby coach Dick Laffan and Keysar Trad, representing the Australian mufti, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, reflecting the ecumenical nature of the gathering".

In his last years, Ted suffered from the effects of a series of strokes and was well cared for by the Filipino sisters and their staff at the St Ezekiel nursing home. By all reports he was restless there and, in that sense, his passing was a release. Among his friends, Pat Kinna praised especially Pat Durnan, an MSC sister who had done housekeeping and other helping duties for Ted in recent years.

Several speakers have referred to Ted as a saint. The Sydney Morning Herald had a long stirring obituary by Edmund Campion under the heading 'A father to the poor and dispossessed'. The same paper reported the funeral as 'The saint who spilt his guts for others'. Given the way that others have been quick to call Pope John Paul II a saint, it is probably a good idea to put up someone like Ted because he offers a better alternative. The same line of thinking applies to countering Cardinal Pell's description of the late Bob Santamaria as "a saintly Catholic".

Don't dismiss as a saint

When reporters put it to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the American Catholic Worker movement, that she was a saint, she said, "You can't dismiss me that easily". And she was right. The label "saint" can be used to put that person into a separate category of high moral achievers and thereby let ourselves off from facing similar challenges. Engineer and environmental activist Geoff Lacey, who has known Ted for over 40 years, said, "To me Ted was not a saint but a good bloke who did his best."

Ted was, like all of us, a mixture of qualities. His mental ability, networking and public moral leadership were outstanding: his sense of humour and love of friends memorable. The same Ted could be irritable and thin-skinned. One former close associate who had come from the country for the funeral remarked that she never knew anyone who brought her so many blessings but gave her so many verbal backhanders.

Nonetheless, Ted's contribution to the transmitting and re-thinking of the wellsprings of Christian belief and culture to contemporary Australia has been outstanding and I hope to write further about this elsewhere.

It is worth mentioning some items in back issues of Táin. In nos 5 and 9 we published articles in praise of Who is Worthy?, his book which argued openly against Cardinal Pell's rejection of the Vatican II view of the rights of conscience. That year we also published Ted's speech on the Australian Irish Christian heritage which he delivered at the Melbourne launch of the book. At the end of 2001, Táin no 16 carried his sermon welcoming the Mufti of Australia to Mass at Redfern. Languishing in a box are pieces of his that were too long. OK Ted, it might not be too late to run them.

On my own behalf, I owe him thanks for the friendship and solidarity he showed Garry McLoughlin and me when, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we worked with Ted and others on building a radical Catholic network; for pushing us all to do more for Aboriginal rights; for introducing us to his Aboriginal friends such as Bob Bellear and Mum Shirl; and for introducing me to his family and friends in Ireland who have become for us a second family.

Ted, my friend, saint or not, your funeral was a triumph. So, you are a bit of a legend: slán abhaile, have a safe journey home.
Val Noone Source: Táin Edition 37

Neocatechists' hypocrisy

From: wendy Sent: Sunday, 26 June 2005 1:38 PM To: Subject: Neocatechists' hypocrisy
I have for the first time been reading through your web site and am horrified and saddened at the state of affairs in Redfern so soon after Fr. Ted Kennedy's death. Fr. Kennedy is (or was) the equivalent of Christ among the Pharisees of the time, whom He accused of hypocrisy and too much involvement with the law rather than the people, and urged his followers to love one another. Cardinal Pell and the hierarchy of the Church would do well to remember the simplicity of Christ's message and realise that the trappings of power corrupt. My God be with you always and my heartfelt best wishes for the fulfillment of Fr. Kennedy's work.
Wendy H.

Saturday, 25 June 2005


Community response to Fisher's letter

St Vincent's Community Redfern
10 June 2005
Most Revd. Anthony Fisher, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, 341 Old South Head Road, Watson's Bay. NSW 2030 Dear Bishop Fisher,
Thank you for your kind comments about our late pastor Ted Kennedy. As you rightly say he was a person held in great affection and loved by many people. Members of the Redfern congregation and the wider Catholic community will continue to feel his influence and direction. We believe that it was his special love for Aboriginal people that gave rigour and strength to his theology of the poor as true witness to the Christian faith. However we must take issue with your comments about interruption of the liturgy at St. Vincent's Church. They are not based on an accurate report of events that have occurred during the parish service of the Eucharist. We also cannot accept the viewpoint that the parish priests alone are responsible for the form of the liturgy. Finally we are extremely disturbed about the threat to call in the police to deal with any disruptions that you believe may occur at some future time. Firstly with respect to the charge of interruptions. On occasion members of the community have called out during the homily or when the priests have publicly denied the reception of the sacrament. This is not disruption and was never intended to be such. It was the strong feeling of members that the priests had behaved in unseemly manner or on occasions had made provocative and abusive or defamatory comments. These you must be aware have been the subject of complaints to church bodies. They have not always been followed up to our satisfaction and in some cases there has been no evidence of any action on the part of the diocese. Without reciting the list of complaints from community members it should be observed that behaviour from the pastors of the parish is accountable and the church has the obligation to ensure this. On a recent occasion Fr. Dennis invited a parishioner to step outside and sort out their dispute in "a man's way", accompanied with rolling up his sleeves. On another recent occasion the small table placed in front of the Altar and containing the Aboriginal Cross and other appropriate symbols was kicked at by Fr. Dennis during a Mass. The table was broken and the Cross fell to the ground. This was seen as a deliberate act of rage by those who witnessed it. It showed extraordinary insensitivity to Aboriginal people. Neither Fr. Denis nor any other person has given a public apology for this outrageous act. If anyone has objections or concerns about behaviour by members of the community then they have always had the opportunity to enter into discussion with either the members or the community as a whole. It should be noted that only rarely have either Fr. Gerry or Fr. Dennis ever initiated such a discussion. They have called out to members during the service or on other occasions have used physical restraint. It should be noted further that in the latter case community members have refrained from going to the police to make a charge of assault, which is what these restraints amounted to. On the occasions of community meetings little has been achieved. The failure of these meetings is a mutual one but the lay members cannot carry the whole blame. Behind these conflicts has been a history of non-communication. As noted during the time Fr. Gerry has been Parish Priest he has made few efforts to begin communication with the community as a whole or with individual members. The initiatives for any communication have usually come from lay community members. With respect to your statement that the parish priests are alone responsible for the form of the liturgy we are flabbergasted. The decrees of Vatican II and Papal statements since have emphasised that the church community is a living body in which ordained and laity collaborate. John Paul II promoted communal reality as an antidote to the problem of church bodies that are "mechanisms without a soul" (Novo millennio inuente ). Reality means there is collaboration which is not the case in our parish. The community contribution to liturgy is always complementary to the order of the Mass. There is no parallel lay celebration. It is an absurd claim and whoever made it should be asked to prove it. Moreover it impugns the devotion and spirituality of the community. The contributions to liturgy in music, commentary on readings and other aides are giving witness to the service of the Eucharist as the Church's commitment to the poor and dispossessed. The small table placed in front of the altar is one such witness. It holds the Aboriginal Cross and other appropriate symbols. This witness is after all central to the Christian faith in following Jesus. Your statement about calling in the police is threatening and inappropriate. The only criminal actions have unfortunately been from the priests and some young seminarians. As noted above community members have refrained from calling in the police, having believed it an inappropriate way of handling these events. Members have restricted themselves to pointing out to the priests or seminarians that there is a law on assault. Although at a recent meeting of some of the community, it was agreed that the civil authorities should be invited to intervene if an assault or any criminal behaviour re-occurred. Unless you believe that the community contains people who are liable to act criminally in the church this threat should be withdrawn. It would we believe be highly inappropriate to contact the police on a trespass charge. This would treat St. Vincent's Church as if it were a private property of the clergy and that accessibility to parishioners were their decision. This would make a mockery of the church as a community. In the interests of resolution and reconciliation we invite you to meet with the parish community at a time to be mutually arranged with the purpose of discussing the matters contained in your letter as well as our concerns. For the purpose of arranging such a meeting we ask that you contact one of the above named people on the Letterhead. We look forward to your reply and remain yours in the peace of Christ.
For and on behalf of St Vincent's Community Redfern. Eric Snowball Mary McMahon

Thursday, 23 June 2005


Rhetoric and reality - Kelmscott style

The rhetoric:
The Reality: Kiko and Screaming in Kelmscott
A 73 year old man alleges he was threatened with excommunication by his Neo Catechumenate Way priest as well as physically threatened by the same priest on two occasions. Mr Ernie Samuels, of the Good Shepherd Church in Kelmscott, West Australia, has written to Archbishop Barry Hickey alleging abusive behaviour by the assistant priest, Fr Richard Tomelty. Mr Samuels claims that a meeting the attended for the purpose of discussing the use of the parish hall was diverted into a series of questions about allegedly disgrunted parishioners. Good Shepherd Kelmcott has had two Neo Catechumenate clergy since 2001. "I felt threatened and vulnerable, being alone and having to confront two priests who were very visibly agitated and out of control," Mr Samuels wrote to Archbishop Hickey. "The arrogance, bullying and provocative manner is fast reaching a point where (our) tolerance is becoming more and more difficult." Another parishioner, Clive Maher, told Online Catholics that there was widespread concern that the Church property and hall were being used to recruit people to the Neo Catechumenate Way. The recruitment material supplied show an invitation to Catholic and non Catholic adults for catechesis. It does not refer to the Neo Catechumenate Way. In another letter to the Perth Vicar General, Fr O'Loughlin, yet another parishioner pleads for intervention by authorities to resolve divisions in what is now 'a parish within a parish'. Maurice Hirjee writes: "We were asked to participate in an Adult Catechesis... We thought this was more about building on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a strengthening of our faith. The sessions were introduced as if though the Catechists were in fact sent by the Bishop to the parish. We believed and attended. No questions were allowed and no note-taking permitted. We were betrayed when we eventually discovered that this was in fact a recruitment process for the Neocatechumenal Way..." Founded by a Spanish painter Kiko Arguello, the Neocatechumenate Way began in Italy in 1964, where it became very strong amongst conservative youth. Essentially anti-democratic, anti-intellectual and anti-communist, the Way sees itself as offering 'post baptismal catechesis'. The Way's growth has been phenomenal, and it operates in 1,500 Roman Catholic dioceses in over 180 countries. There are 46 "Redemptoris Mater" missionary diocesan seminaries which include one in Perth and one in Sydney. Young men self-select to go on a special retreat to Rome. After this they may be sent to a Redemptoris Mater seminary somewhere in the world, for a period of up to seven years. The ordained Neo Catechumenate priests are then sent on to yet other location in the world to minister in parishes. The Australian Catholic bishops sponsored 160 religious workers from overseas in the 12 months until last September. They came predominantly from Asia, Latin America and Africa. It is not known how many are of the Way. In a related development, a Catholic priest in Tasmania has written to the troubled Aboriginal parish at Redfern, which also has Neo Catechumenate Way priests. Fr John Girdauskas of Queenstown, Tasmania, has written of his experiences of the Neo Catechumenate Way from the point of view of a non 'Neo Cat' parish priest in Melbourne: "As a priest, I worked from the beginning of 1994 to the end of 1996 in a parish in western Melbourne, where the Neo-Catechumenate had been asked to leave my predecessor because of a whole range of painful issues... there was much pressure and persistence to 'get back' into the parish... There is so much that shows us, through local experiences (Australia) and overseas (UK and Wales), that sadly the Neo-catechumenate movement has caused more pain and division than unity or peace. They also seem answerable to no one, think of themselves as "the only way" and have no regard for the local parish community, let alone the local parish priest." However the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the US Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, believes that the Neocatechumenate Way is an answer to a crisis in parish life worldwide. In 2003 Cardinal Stafford was reported in the Boston Archdiocesan paper, The Pilot: "Many of the problems that we are experiencing in the priesthood, especially the sexual abuse, are due to a crisis, not just an acute crisis, but a long-term crisis in the parish," the cardinal said. Cardinal Pell, who is known to be close to Cardinal Stafford, believes that ecclesial renewal movements such as Focolare and the Way offer "a clear sense of direction and support" in parish life. Kelmcott's Ernie Samuels is not convinced. "I am now aware that I will never allow myself to be ambushed again by seeing these priests alone," he says. It is understood that Archbishop Hickey has not replied to any recent letters from parishioners at Kelmcott.
Online Catholics, Issue 57 Source:

Wednesday, 22 June 2005


Tablet article – lazy journalism

The following item, which appeared in the Tablet earlier this month, is nowhere near the normal standard of articles published in that venerable journal. It is riddled with errors and misinformation, which could readily have been avoided had an attempt been made to look at both sides of the story.

Police called to Aboriginal church demonstration.

Police have been called to a Sydney church that was at the centre of an innovative ministry to Aboriginal people only days after a bishop warned parishioners against disrupting the liturgy. Parish clergy who are members of the Neocatechumenal Way called the police after a disturbance at Mass on 5 June[1], only two days after the Sydney auxiliary bishop Anthony Fisher had written to parishioners of St Vincent de Paul in the inner-city suburb of Redfernasking them to support their clergy. Last month, parishioners mourned their former parish priest, Fr Ted Kennedy, who had helped establish a team ministry with a heavy social-justice emphasis for more than 30 years until ill-health forced his retirement in 2002 (The Tablet, 28 May). Bishop Fisher, in his letter, first acknowledged how deeply loved Fr Kennedy was by his community. “I know that you will want to carry forward his legacy by ensuring that there is a vibrant and holy Catholic community in Redfern for many years to come,” the bishop wrote. He then appealed for cooperation with the appointed clergy, led by the parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville, and said he was aware of disruptions to liturgy outside the rites of the Church[2] and without the permission of the clergy. “I know that there are strong views and emotions around some of these matters,” Bishop Fisher wrote. “The Liturgy is not, however, the place to express such differences of opinion by defying the appointed celebrant of the Mass or the liturgical rites of the Church. If there are further disruptions of the Mass I have directed Fr Gerry and Fr Denis [Sudla] to contact the police and seek their assistance.” The current conflict centres on a small table, topped by a red, black and gold cross (the colours of the Aboriginal flag) that was placed in the church by some supporters of Fr Kennedy[3] and then allegedly damaged.Fr Sudla is believed to have objected to the use of the small table, known as the Aboriginal altar, which customarily had been brought up to the main altar at the Prayers of the Faithful[4] as a memorial to honour the Aboriginal people who had suffered or died as a result of European settlement. He is alleged to have kicked the table during Mass on 5 June. A parishioner remonstrated with him after Mass, a heated exchange is believed to have followed and police were called. Fr Prindiville told The Tablet he was away from the parish when the incident occurred and that there had been no problem last Sunday. He described the situation with the protesters[5] as “extremely difficult, you can’t discuss anything with them[6]”. The protesters had very little to do with the Aboriginal community[7], he said, but were “disciples” of Fr Kennedy from his days as a university chaplain[8].
Mark Brolly, Melbourne The Tablet - World Church News - 18 June 2005 Source:

[1] The incident referred to actually happened after the 6pm Mass on Sunday 29 May, several days before Fisher wrote his letter.

[2]The St Vincent’s community is exercising its right under Church law to worship in the manner that is traditional to the parish. In particular: acknowledgement of country (recognition that we stand on Aboriginal land) and the offering of Prayers of the Faithful by individuals.

[3] Ted no longer needs our support – he has achieved his eternal reward. Quite the contrary – we now need his support, and pray for his intercession. [4] The table is normally positioned in front of the main altar before Mass begins. It was introduced to provide a place for symbols relevant to the liturgy when Prindiville refused to allow anything to be placed on the main altar. [5] Members of the community who refuse to obey Prindiville’s edicts have been called “protesters” and “protestants”. They have also been told in no uncertain terms and on numerous ocassions that they are not Catholics. [6] Prindiville has been approached many times, both formally and informally, to engage in dialogue. His interpretation of discussion can best be summarised as “shut up and do as I say – I am the parish priest”. [7] Prindiville and Sudla, of whom the local Aboriginal community has said “they treat us like lepers”, only seem to engage with Aboriginals long enough to brush them aside. They have no inkling of the St Vincent’s community involvement with the Aboriginal people because they refuse to talk to them. [8] A small number of St Vincent’s community members knew Ted when he was chaplain at Sydney University. Most, however, (including Prindiville’s so-called protesters) have not had the privilege of his friendship for that long a time.

Letter from the Premier of New South Wales

Marnie Kennedy has received literally hundreds of letters and phone calls from well-wishers from, one might say, the highest to the lowest in the land and beyond. There has, however, been no communication from the Archdiocese of Sydney save Auxiliary Bishop Fisher's expression of "sincere sympathies to you all" in the introductory paragraph of his appalling and uninformed letter to the Parishioners of St Vincent de Paul Church Redfern. Reproduced below is a letter from Bob Carr, NSW State Premier.

Message from Sophia

The following message comes from a young lady who has been part of our community all her life.
Hi All, I've been wanting to write for a couple of weeks since Ted's funeral and the increasing physical violence. It's really lovely to see a few old (sic) faces returning and hopefully there are more to come! At Ted's funeral, seeing so many familiar faces, I was reminded of the strong physical presence of our community that was so vibrant during Ted's years. With the Neocat population steadily increasing we must continue to stand our ground as a community. It would be a great loss to see our community diminish even further due to the current hardships. Love to all Sophia

Ted Kennedy, Redfern Parish priest who loved life and people

He came to Redfern by choice. With two other priests he elected to go where he could form a ministry following Jesus in companionship and solidarity with the poor and dispossessed. Here he made his first contact with aboriginal people. He was shocked and appalled by the violence done to their lives. Encountering their poverty was transforming. He spoke of finding in aboriginal people a nobility and gentleness that had been wrought by suffering.
Father Ted Kennedy died on 17 May after a long illness. Parish Priest at St Vincent's Church Redfern for thirty years from 1971 to 2002 he was a true toiler for the people of South Sydney. He was the beloved pastor of the church. Above all he is the loved figure for the aboriginal people. Father Ted was born in 1931 into a family with deep and wide roots into Ireland and the Catholic Church. On one side he is descended from an Irishman transported in the nineteenth century. On the other from Irish gold seekers who in the 1860s settled in the Araluen valley on the NSW South Coast. He was brought up in Marrickville, one of five children. The influence of his parents was strong. John Kennedy was a General Practitioner welcoming all into his surgery, waiving his fees for anyone unable to pay. Peg was devout but critical of clerical practice. Ted trained for the priesthood in the years after the Second World War. His sharp and inquiring intelligence was evident in the keen interest he gave to his studies at the training seminary. It was evident in his ministry from his grasp of theology and biblical scholarship. He was Chaplain at the University of Sydney from the late 1950s to 1965. He gave to the students a vision of the Church as actively concerned with the life of the world. He brought the influence of European theologians and the Young Catholic Worker movement with its deeply Christian outlook of looking for God in the ordinary lives of people. He gave leadership by inspiration and affection with a special gift for inspiring the young. His obvious popularity and informality with students was rebuked by the then Cardinal. He was in effect squeezed out of this position and banished to suburban churches. He came to Redfern by choice. With two other priests he elected to go where he could form a ministry following Jesus in companionship and solidarity with the poor and dispossessed. Here he made his first contact with aboriginal people. He was shocked and appalled by the violence done to their lives. Encountering their poverty was transforming. He spoke of finding in aboriginal people a nobility and gentleness that had been wrought by suffering. One of the tributes at his funeral spoke of his falling in love with the aboriginal people. It was a love lived every day. It became a way of living a life of hospitality and welcome. It gave depth to his understanding that in the lives of the poor one found Christ. It was the basis for his theology of the poor. Ted told a story of being woken at 3 AM in the morning by an aboriginal man. He was a squatter and he asked Ted to come to his squat and tell the others there about Christ. He was shocked by their living conditions. He thought how could he talk about Christ and then return to his own warm bed. It was a signal moment. He determined that it was not enough to talk about but he had to live as Christ. His anger at seeing daily misery, oppression and harassment of aboriginals led to action. In response to their poverty he opened up the Church hall and presbytery to aboriginal people for shelter. In response to police harassment he gave protection. This included guarantees to the Court. He never judged or asked for particular religious observance. Along with others he was instrumental in the establishment of aboriginal run services. These include aboriginal housing on The Block and the Aboriginal Medical Service. His collaboration with "Mum" Shirley Smith, an aboriginal woman of enormous ability, gave muscle and vigour to his ministry. She came to him on the basis of his reputation and became his inspiration and support. It led to a practical collaboration of giving service at all hours of the day and night. It was also much more, for Ted saw Mum Shirl as a natural theologian. She opened up new depths of the gospel and what it meant to live as Christ. Over his years at Redfern he extended his hospitality to anyone who felt the pain of exclusion. His openness to homosexuals was a rebuke to the intolerance of society and Church. Ted was not just a marginal figure living a special life. He was and remains central to the Church. His theology and humane outlook is seminal. It touches the lives of anyone who experiences intolerance or discrimination. His work is prophetic because it provides a direction for the church everywhere. His book Who is worthy? takes the Catholic Church head on by questioning where its real interests lie today. He was fearless in his confrontation with church figures who showed indifference or intolerance to the needs of people. His powerful expression of a theology of the poor was expressed every week in his sermons at St. Vincent’s Church. It is a theology from experience. It reflects his scholarship and draws on the long and deep traditions of the Church. He was a universal figure and a person of humility and gentleness. He could appeal to and attract people from every walk of life. His influence is shown by the thousand or so people who attended his funeral on 24 May at The Block. Ted is survived by the loving family of his sister Marnie and his nieces and nephews and their children. And by the family of the aboriginal people who adopted him as their father.
Eric Snowball South Sydney Herald, June 2005, front page, story one

Saturday, 18 June 2005


Support from Tasmania

I write to let you know that I support your endeavours during what has been a painful and challenging time for the Community at St Vincent's Redfern since the appointment of Neo-Catechumenate priests to that church. As a priest, I worked from the beginning of 1994 to the end of 1996, in a parish in western Melbourne, where the Neo-Catechumenate had been asked to leave my predecessor because of a whole range of painful issues that had divided the parish community, caused heartache to so many and resulted in those entrusted with the leadership of the parish being "snubbed" by the Neo-Catechumenate as if they were a higher authority. One would think that all had ended prior to my arrival in the parish in 1994 but far from it! Persistence and pressure from certain individuals of the Neo-Catechumenate for me to re-admit them to the parish community almost drove me to despair. All sorts of promises were made, such as "Father, you will never have any financial worries once we are back in the parish", "we will do anything that you ask" and once absurd comment (due to my refusing to re-admit them back into the parish, "Father, how will you look God in the face when your judgement day comes!" And so it was that this sort of garbage and guilt was pushed by various members of the Neo-Catechumenate who were determined to 'get back' into the parish. Fortunately, due to a wise old priest living in the community, and the encouragement of the other Parish Team members, we were able to resist their pressures. There is so much that shows us, through local experiences (Australia) and overseas (UK and Wales), that sadly the Neo-catechumenate movement has caused more pain and division than unity or peace. They also seem answerable to no one, think of themselves as "the only way" and have no regard for the local parish community let alone the local parish priest. Each one of you at Redfern, have the right to be listened to and to be allowed to have a say in the direction of your parish community, despite what these others (with power and money) might think. Don't give up in your struggle John G (Tasmania)

Wednesday, 15 June 2005


Fr Peter Maher's response to Fisher's letter

St Joseph’s Catholic Church Newtown 9.6.05
Dear Bishop Fisher
Having received no return call to my messages left with two of your secretaries on Tuesday I assume I will not get one now – thus this letter. I have worked in this archdiocese for 35 years since going to the seminary and 20 years before that as a parishioner, catechist, member of the Legion of Mary and active Catholic on the school campuses and places of work I have attended. I have been visiting Redfern parish for 18 years on a weekly basis to attend the gospel discussion group that Fr. Ted Kennedy began over 30 years ago. This small group of dedicated religious women and laypeople and a couple of diocesan priests has been very important to me spiritually and formatively. So I know they have been begging a bishop or representative to speak to them about the escalating hostility they feel from their priests. I actually advised them to write to you because Redfern is in your region and I felt confident from my dealings with you (although limited) that you would talk with them. How wrong I was. I know the terror that the present priests of Redfern have visited on them because they tell me. Some parishioners that found the going just too painful now regularly attend Newtown. Not only has there never been any response to the many letters begging for a meeting that might objectively mediate but the first letter they get accuses them of things they have not done, sets the police on them and calls on them to leave the parish they have worshipped in for 30 years. These are broken people who have weathered the storm against frightful and fearsome violence. This violence has for a long time been to their spirits but is now a physical threat. They have always responded to the violent behaviour of Fr. Sudla with extreme restraint. And I have every confidence they will continue to do so although your letter would give anyone less versed in the spirituality of non-violence an excuse for untoward behaviour. This is credit to Fr. Ted Kennedy’s teaching and done to honour his memory. I must say you are lucky Redfern parishioners are so gentle. But they are determined to follow Cardinal Pell’s promise at the retirement of Fr. Ted Kennedy – his ministry was to continue and his legacy was to be carried on. In that line they have continued the sharing the meal with poor even when the diocese withdrew funding when they had to pay for it themselves. The gospel discussion group has continued even when the priests, nuns and laypeople were locked out because according to the parish priest – “you can’t be trusted”. They have continued to honour the Indigenous people at least by a symbolic presence. Most Aborigines are no longer attending because they are unwilling to be insulted by priests who refuse to bury their dead or to give their children communion because they are black (or that’s how they see it since white children are not quizzed when they approach the altar); they are told to leave because they are not Catholic, or they are accused of being a nuisance. They no longer feel comfortable in the church that Fr. Ted Kennedy made their home just as Jesus had offered his succour firstly to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Aborigines now know that the priests of the parish and the new-comers so deeply offended by the presence of the poor and anything that might remind them of the Redfern legacy and context want them out of what they now call “their” church; while the religious and lay parishioners and the Aborigines who have been attending for 30 years are questioned over their Catholicity and offered the door or a fist fight with the priest or the seminarians on their arrival. Is there any wonder your letter came as deep shock. It might be helpful to do what we all need to do in pastorally sensitive situations – not judge till we have heard all sides; listen carefully; apologise if people are offended even when it is not intended and make some real inroads into the shocking exclusion felt by the long term parishioners to maintain that which Cardinal Pell promised – Fr. Ted’s ministry would be maintained. I have seen some amazing things in the diocese – both good and bad; both supportive and unsupportive; but they are mostly understandable and, even when biased, try to be reasonable. Your letter was neither unbiased nor reasonable. I write because I can’t stand by any longer while Christ’s people, especially the Aborigines, suffer humiliation, insult, lies and now physical assault. I am writing only to assist you to offer pastoral care to all the people of Redfern parish and especially those that have been there many years. I would appreciate a reply on this important matter that I might continue to support those who are hurting – Aborigines, long-term parishioners and others. I hope my confidence in your listening ear, as I promised a year ago, may not be found to be unwarranted after all.
Peace Fr Peter Maher

Thursday, 9 June 2005


Fr John Ford's response to Fisher's letter

7 July 2005
Bishop Fisher,
I appreciate the fact that you have only been an auxiliary bishop of the Sydney Archdiocese for just under two years and that we have not met. I have been a priest of the Archdiocese for over 47 years and have had appointments in a great variety of parishes and much pastoral experience; assistant priest in Eastwood, Annandale, Penrith, Liverpool - where I was also ministering as an army chaplain during the Vietnam War and managed the Catechetics for eighty state school classes each week - Castle Hill, Kogarah, St Mary’s Cathedral; I was Director of Students and Bursar at Saint Patrick’s Seminary at Manly, assistant at Malabar and Chaplain to the hospital at Little Bay, Parish Priest of Pyrmont and chaplain to the Seafarers having responsibility for the Stella Maris Seafarers Club in which we ministered to many, many seafarers of different races, colours and creeds, Parish Priest of Avalon where we were the first parish to initiate the RCIA programme in the Archdiocese, of Stanmore and of North Leichhardt. I was also a foundation member of the Council of Priests and a foundation member of the Charitable Works Fund committee. I retired from North Leichhardt and then helped Fr Ted Kennedy when he became ill about six years ago. I celebrated Mass at Redfern every weekend during that period of time, before the arrival of Fr Peter Carroll and then Fr Prindiville and lately, Fr Sudla. To my knowledge I have never had any problems nor complaints against me in ministering to people during that whole period of 47 years including my time spent with the community at Redfern, where, since the arrival of the above priests, I have attended Mass on many, many occasions. I mention these things only that you might at least understand a little about where I am coming from and to appreciate the fact that I do not have any agendas other than to proclaim what I believe to be true, just and fair. I was therefore absolutely astounded when I became aware of the letter you wrote and caused to be read by Fr Sudla before Mass last Sunday, especially since you have not spoken with any members of the community who attend Mass there - unless it has been to Neo-catechumens - many for years and years, highly regarded people who have been supportive of Father Kennedy for long periods of time. I know that his sister, Sr Marnie Kennedy, received no answer from you though she did invite you to come to speak with and listen to the people. On your part, it has been a very one-sided affair, because you have only listened to the priests and not your people. Many of the matters raised in your letter are neither true, which you may not have known, or else not factual and without foundation because the community was not consulted. This simply amazes me and is beyond my comprehension. Without specifically refuting the matters you speak about in your letter, I believe that if you had come to visit the people and listened to them you would have perhaps arrived at a different point of view. I am reminded of your coat of arms which has as your motto “Speaking the Truth in Love” because your letter was neither the Truth, perhaps inadvertently, nor in Love because your people had no chance to defend themselves from your accusations thereby being treated without Love. I personally support the people of the community in their endeavours to carry on the great traditions of the saintly Fr Kennedy which were to bring truth, justice and care for the marginalised to a church which prides itself on such virtues, as well as to bring about reconciliation with the original people of this land and perhaps, as a sign of the good will of our Church to give back some of their land for the consolidation of the Aboriginal Medical Centre here at Redfern. This tradition was spoken about with great feeling by numbers of highly respectable citizens at his funeral just a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea about your attitudes to the Neocatechumenate Way but the priests currently at Redfern profess such a Way and it is absolutely incompatible with the ideals which have been proclaimed there by the community for many years before and since the death of Fr Kennedy. I also would mention that when Cardinal Pell visited on the occasion of Fr Kennedy’s retirement, which the Cardinal accepted, he promised to appoint a suitable Priest to carry on his work. I do not think the Neocatechumenate priests can do this. It is interesting to note that Fr Prindiville stated that they had not come to establish a Neocatechumenate Parish at Redfern yet at the Sunday Mass last week there were fifty eight people who followed that Way together with the seminarians who attend from their seminary. In conclusion, I believe that you owe the community an apology for the letter you have written and caused to be read out. There is indeed a need to come and hear the people you should be ministering to and to say sorry. I would appreciate, at your convenience, an acknowledgement that you have received this letter.
Yours faithfully Father John Ford Leichhardt N.S.W. Australia

Redfern Reconciliation Bridge Walk

Redfern Reconciliation Bridge Walk Candle Light Vigil Tonight: THURSDAY 9TH JUNE 6.30-7pm Meet at 6.00pm in front of Redfern Waterloo Authority office, Regent St & Lawson Sq (old TNT building) Support Aboriginal housing on The Block This land was given to the Aboriginal people for housing by the Whitlam Labor government It’s time that the housing was built Until recently the Carr Labor government supported this vision The state government’s Redfern Waterloo Authority no longer supports Aboriginal housing on The Block Take the next step for reconciliation in Redfern Organised by Redfern Residents for Reconciliation Supported by Redfern Anglican Church Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries Koorie Lighthouse Ministries South Sydney Uniting Church REDWatch Darlington ALP Branch Redfern ALP Branch Enquiries • Lyn Turnbull 9699 3105 • Trevor Davies 0400008338

Wednesday, 8 June 2005


Ongoing Neocat abuse in Western Australia

The Church Mouse received the following letter from an abused Good Shepherd parishioner, with a request that it be published here. The Good Shepherd Parish in Kelmscott, Perth, Western Australia has also been damaged by the Neocats. You can read more about it here.
8 June 2005
Archbishop Barry Hickey Bishop’s House 25 Victoria Avenue PERTH Your Grace
I must report to you about the most offensive behaviour of Fathers Richard Tomelty and Melvin Llabanes. On 18 May, I was invited to visit Father Melvin so as to discuss the dates available for the use of the Parish Community Hall for the rest of this calendar year. It was not long after that I realised that I was set up in an ambush. Both the priests started to interrogate me, with Father Richard beginning by demanding that I disclose to him particulars about those parishioners who were concerned about what was happening in our parish. He wanted to know who the leader was, where were meetings held, what was discussed, what prayers were said and so on. When I refused to be drawn on this I was called a COWARD by Father Richard. I responded by indicating that it was not me who was a coward but in fact it was him who was, for not having the fortitude to speak with the people concerned. The statement and threat that really stood out was when Father Richard threatened me with ex-communication. To which I responded that he could try and do so. In a way it will be good if he follows through with this as I will go to as many media outlets as possible. In some ways, after reading the Sydney Morning Herald and hearing about the chaos and destruction of yet another parish conquered by the Neocat army the time may not be far when people from our parish have no other option but to resort to this means of exposing the situation that exists here. I must state, that I am aged 73 and suffer with very high blood pressure and was quite alarmed at the hostile attitude. I felt threatened and vulnerable, being alone and having to confront two ‘priests’ who were very visibly agitated and out of control. God forbid I suffer as a result of this then I know who the cause is and what to do about it. Let the record show that I have alerted you to this. The arrogance, bullying and provocative manner is fast reaching a point where tolerance by people such as me is becoming more and more difficult. It is interesting to note that it is now Father Richard who ‘calls the shots’ in the parish as almost every action that Father Melvin takes he seeks approval from Father Richard. Father Melvin too blew his top when I told him that he and Father Denis Sudla (who is having a nice time in Redfern) had snuck in to the parish to deceitfully unfold their Neocatechumen Way, which by the way, I find abhorrent. Father Melvin stood up and thumped the desk while he accused me and others of being the reason why the Salesians were pushed out of the parish. It is interesting and ironical that it is a particular family who are now ‘Leaders’ of his Neocatechumen Way here in Kelmscott who were the ones to start a petition for their removal. Upon expressing my disbelief at this accusation from Father Melvin, Father Richard stood up and said to Father Melvin ( as he lifted his hand ) “Enough”. This did the trick as Father Melvin restrained himself and immediately sat down. Further adding to my thought as to who is in charge here? Not finished yet, Father Richard went on to strongly tell me not to write to the Bishops as they have enough letters from you. They don’t want your letters? I had to remind him that it was Father Melvin who had suggested about a year ago that we take our concerns to the Bishop rather than to him. Also, I indicated that I would need to keep writing as they were not receptive to dialogue with parishioners they opted not to communicate with. I concluded by saying that if need be, I would write to the Bishops superiors too if necessary. One thing that I have quickly become aware of is never to be ambushed again by seeing these priests alone. I might add that this is the second time that Father Richard has accosted me in a menacing manner. The other occasion being on the 7th January 2005, when he waited for all the parishioners to leave and then held me up in the parking area of the Church. He called me a clown and was quite threatening. Your Grace what kind of priests have you sent us. Your Grace, as you can see the situation here is still festering and it would appear that we have simply been ignored. Please do something by sending us at least one Mainstream priest from the St Charles Seminary. The situation will never get any better until this happens. In fact there is every indication that things will get worse. Now, back to the beginning ... the use of the Community Hall. Once again we are being denied use of this in July and August. Co-incidentally, this is when the latest round of Neocat Recruitment takes place? Please may I call on you to act on our behalf to make available the use of the hall. All we are seeking is its use on any given Saturday in a month. I know I may have taken up some more of your time, but how else am I going to convey what I have had to endure?
Yours in Christ Ernie Samuels
[CM October 2012 - After a little over a year, members of the St Vincent's community have not found Fr Melvin to be their ideal priest, but he is making a consistent and concerted effort to bring harmony to a fractured parish.]

Redfern and keeping the Peace

Perhaps it was the sheer numbers who came for Fr Ted Kennedy's funeral. Perhaps a riot was brewing. Whatever it was, the Sydney Archdiocese has authorised the pp to call the police on his community.

A few days after last month's funeral of former Redfern parish priest Ted Kennedy, NSW Deputy Premier Dr Andrew Refshauge paid tribute to the great man in State Parliament. Referring to the "fast track to sainthood" that Pope Benedict XVI is using to expedite the cause for the canonisation of his predecessor John Paul II, Refshauge suggested emphatically: "Father Ted Kennedy should be on it."

Without realising, he then went on to state the reasons Kennedy is not on the fast track: "He was... a pebble in the comfortable boot of the establishment, an untidy prophet and an enemy of cruel blindness and petty pomp."

The context was Pope John Paul II's positioning on the said fast track, which occurred almost before he was dead and buried. A holy man no doubt, but from a different holiness mould to Ted Kennedy. The late Pope's incomparable charisma, not to mention his skills as a diplomat and an actor, meant he tended not to cause discomfort to the establishment. He came across as tidy, and the pompous and cruelly blind were only too willing to be associated with him. If Ted Kennedy and George Bush had ever met, it's hard to imagine them saying nice things to each other. Yet it was no problem for John Paul.

Mother Teresa is another holy person on the fast track. She had many of the qualities of John Paul, although in different measure. It could be said that she was able to confront the privileged in a more striking manner, but at the same time managed to maintain their esteem and patronage. Ted Kennedy shared her devotion to the poor. But prophetic as he was, much of what he said was not conducive to the fostering of friendship with those in high places. It did not impress those who might put him on the fast track to sainthood.

Cardinal George Pell observed: "He was a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins". (In other words, he did not please those not on the margins). Cardinal Pell went on to say that he "will be sadly missed by his friends and former parishioners" (but not the pillars of society at large).

Having set himself an impossible task, Ted left much unfinished business. He inspired many people to work for Reconciliation in the context of the Christian Gospel. But he was never going to be an easy act to follow. Indeed, some in his community appear to have learned little from their mentor: there are a few at St Vincent's who have reduced the issues to personality and preciosuness. Fr Ted would never have made that mistake. For him, the task of reconciliation was the point; it was the work. But because he did not, largely, see fit to lobby and build bridges with those in authority, the Archdiocese failed to provide clergy willing and able to carry on that work.

Moreover, he left the Archbishop with a stark choice - either to re-commit the Redfern parish to the poor, or to administer it in such a way that the poor will be pushed back to the margins. Father Ted was not a man of mediocrity, and he left a community that was run in such a way that there was no room for compromise.

Last Friday, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher was deputed to fax to the parish community what could well become a landmark communication. The definitiveness of the letter was an implicit acknowledgement that there was no possibility for compromise. He said that he had directed the priests of the parish to seek assistance from the Police to ensure that liturgical norms are respected. It was official, the poor were back on the margins.

Bishop Fisher did express the wish of the Archdiocese for Father Ted's legacy to be "carried foward". It seems he naively believes that could occur in a faith community that required police assistance to maintain order. It was noted several times recently that Father Ted had often had to resolve problems with unruly members of the community, but that he had never seen fit to call the Police. When the Redfern riot occurred in February last year, parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville was asked what he was going to do in response. Nothing, he said, it was a police matter.

At least Ted doesn't have to worry about encountering the highway patrol while on the fast track to sainthood.

Source: Editorial, Online Catholics Issue 55


Bishop calls Police to Redfern

Redfern Police Chief Ian Moore says that the ongoing tensions at the Aboriginal Catholic church at Refern sound 'like a bit of a domestic' and that the Church should 'sort itself out' instead of threatening to call the police on one another.
Commander Moore was responding to questions following a letter written by Sydney Auxilliary Bishop Dr Anthony Fisher, to the parishioners at St Vincents, Redfern, in which he said he had directed the parish priest, Fr Gerry Prindiville and his assistant, Fr Denis Sudla, to contact the police 'if there are any further disruptions to the Mass.' Bishop Fisher says his intervention was foraced by the harrassment of clergy by some parishioners. Commander Moore, who has been a police officer for 37 years, said he had never attended an incident at a church. He said police would judge each matter on a case by case basis and that police could only act where a crime had been perpetrated. It is understood that the incident which has sparked the current row involved Fr Sudla's objection to the use of a small table, known as the Aboriginal altar, which has for some time been brought up to the main altar at the Prayers of the Faithful. Parishioner Sr Marnie Kennedy rsj, sister to the late Fr Ted Kennedy, explained that an Aboriginal designed cross was placed on the table, and brought forward as a special memorial to honour all the Aboriginal people who had suffered or died as a result of European settlement. "As Pope Paul VI taught, every individual church is 'heir to cultural patrimony and a vision of the world'. Ours is to honour Aborginality appropriately, as part of the celebration of the paschal mystery", Sr Kennedy said. However Fr Sudla is alleged to have lost his temper and kicked the small table to pieces, during a Mass last weekend. A parishioner remonstrated with the priest following the Mass, during which time harsh words were exchanged and, it is alleged, threats of violence made. The police were called. Commander Moore said that the police were told that a person who was not a member of the St Vincents community had entered the church and in a breach of the peace, had refused to leave. At the time of going to press, parishioner Peter Manning, a lecturer at UTS and a former executive producer of the ABC's 4 Corners, was convening a meeting to consider a response. Bp Fisher last night told Online Catholics that his recent intervention was forced on him by the "escalation of pressure" upon the clergy at Redfern. "I believe there is harassment from a very small group disgruntled by the appointment of their priests - and/or their membership of a particular ecclesial movement - and/or their pastoral and liturgical style," Bishop Fisher said. "Most of the Mass-attenders have come to join the clergy peaceably in their house, when Mass has had to be abandoned due to the protesters," Bishop Fisher said. "I would have hoped the priests would receive the care and support not only of most of the laity but also of any clergy and religious around them. I dearly hope that the disruption of the Sacred Liturgy will cease and that the priests will be allowed to do their work as priests." Sr Marnie Kennedy, who is a spiritual director by profession, believes that the underlying problem at Redfern stems from a clash of worldviews between the community and the Neo Catechumate priests. "There are many Australians still suffering from the effects of Jansenism, which holds that human beings are innately and fundamentally sinful. This view emphasises and encourages a sense of guilt," she said. "This view fails to respect Aboriginal spirituality and culture. It de-emphasises human dignity while promoting the authority of the (non-Aboriginal) priest. It is the very worst expression of Catholicism for an Aboriginal community. It is as though colonization is happening all over again. "As one Aboriginal woman cried recently, 'we are treated like lepers by these priests. They do not seem to want to speak to us or come near us'," Sr Kennedy said. Bishop Fisher said yesterday that the Sydney Chancery is handling matters in dispute at Redfern. But he added: "If there are church-going Catholics, including Aboriginal Catholics, in the parish who want to express concerns to me they are always free to do so; I will do what I can within my responsibility, including, if they like, entering informal discussions if invited."
Source: Online Catholics

Tuesday, 7 June 2005


The disease of clericalism

----- Original Message ----- From: Anne Webb To: Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 3:37 AM Subject: The disease of clericalism The disease of clericalism is out of control in Redfern. Had Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher consulted with the community of St Vincent's Redfern (Priests call in police: SMH 6.6.'05,p.3) he may have learnt that not only are his ridiculous assertions unfounded in fact but that the police were called to the church on 29 May, 2005, by the perpetrator of the violence, assistant priest Denis Sudla, who smashed the Aboriginal cross and smashed into ten pieces the small table on which it rested. His encore was to direct and incite a physical assault on one of the community members who is still bruised as a result of this unprovoked attack for which there was no retaliation. Sudla's violent behaviour and his many previous acts of verbal violence are un-Christian, un-Australian and unacceptable. The poor and marginalised of Redfern, in particular the Aboriginal people, were welcomed and loved by Ted Kennedy and Mum Shirl who, for more than 30 years, walked their painful journey with them. Now the colonisers have appeared again, bearing both sword and cross. How many times and in how many ways are Aboriginal Australians to be dispossessed? They (together with their non-Aboriginal friends) are no longer welcome on their own land on their own terms by the Neocatechumenate priests and their imported followers who have attempted to impose their rigidly authoritarian, uncaring, cult-like rules and questionable theology on us. The long term members of the community are committed to walking in the footsteps of our priest and friend Ted Kennedy and to continuing the practices and traditions of the last 34 years. In his words: "Life is made up of warm flesh and blood human beings, not rules made in an age long gone, or ill-fitting principles that were never made-to-measure anyhow".

Monday, 6 June 2005


Our faith community

I am unable to sit up here in Federal and remain silent. For many, many years priests have abused parishioners. How long did it take for someone somewhere to recognise and admit that many priests have sexually abused parishioners. This is not the only form of violence being inflicted on parishioners by priests. How long will it take for someone somewhere to recognise this, name it and deal with it? Since the arrival of Peter Carroll at Redfern the faith community of Redfern have had to tolerate insults, abuse and physical violence from people who are totally unsuited for the priesthood. In the secular world there are very high levels of accountability for professional conduct particularly in the caring professions. In my complacency I wanted to believe that those who had been responsible for placing the priests at Redfern had done so in ignorance. Now that I have read the statement from Bishop Fisher, (whom I do not know) I realise that I was at best naiive. Those in positions of power within the Church are not above the law. The many cases of sexual abuse that have come before the courts are a testament to this. The day will come when the abusive conduct of the priests at Redfern (and undoubtedly elsewhere) will be recognised and someone is going to be held accountable. Meanwhile I am buoyed by the privilege of having known Ted Kennedy and learnt through his example the true meaning of priesthood and a faith fully lived. I will always take inspiration from the thousands of fellow travellers who have trod the wooden boards of Redfern Church over many many years. I am inspired by knowing that no one will ever be able to taint the spiritual legacy that Ted has left for us all. How painful that must be for the priesthood that seeks to destroy in order to maintain power and prestige at any cost. Perhaps only now am I beginning to understand their misplaced anger.

Spiritual gifts

Dear Church Mice,
Thank you very much for sharing all the photos of your Father Ted's funeral. It's amazing to see what a tiny, tiny church St. Vincent's really is. So big an impact on the Communion of Saints from such a small building! All of your priests and bishops in your nation should look at these pictures, especially the pictures taken at St. Vincent's itself. Men can lie with language but the Baptized and the non-Baptized came together in a community at St. Vincent's and it is very visible in the pictures. "There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord."
1 Corinthians 12:4-5
Kathy Hamaker San Francisco, CA USA

The one true church

The rhetoric:
The reverse side of this invitation to attend a series of "short presentations about the Catholic Church" by luminaries Pell, Porteous and Fisher carries the heading:
Do you have issues with the Catholic Church?
The reality:

Priests call in police

Catholic priests in Redfern have called in the police in an attempt to quell disruptions to their services, only days after the funeral of the suburb's much-loved priest, Father Ted Kennedy. Yesterday, parishioners were handed a letter from Bishop Anthony Fisher, the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney; warning them he had directed the parish priests to seek police help in the event of any further disruptions. Having to resort to police in­tervention was very disappoint­ing, Bishop Fisher said. "For a small inner city parish it's a very distressing step to have to take but I wouldn't imagine it's unprecedented, " he said. "It is rare, very sad and very disturbing for most of the parishioners." The policy was put into force after yesterday's morning ser­vice, when Father Gerry Prendiville spoke with police and passed on the bishop's letter. The conflict began in 2003 when Father 'Ted stepped down. The first priest who replaced him withdrew from the parish: the second, Father Prendiville, a member of the conservative grouping, Neocatechumenal Way, has sought to take the church in a new direction. The current conflict centres on a small wooden table, topped by a red, black and gold wooden cross. Bishop Fisher said he had been told the table had been used as an "additional altar" by dis­gruntled parishioners who he ac­knowledged remained pro­foundly upset over Father Kennedy's death last month. "They have been pretending to say Mass at the same time as the priest is saying Mass. It is a very divisive thing to do. "They have also been calling out loudly through the homily and prayers," he said. However, Peter Manning, a parishioner and friend of Father Kennedy; said the situation was most extraordinary. While his friend had opened the church up to the lives of the community it served, experienc­ing their suffering and poverty, the "current lot want to turn them into God-fearing Cath­olics", Mr Manning said. The table, which stands only 50 centimetres high, had been smashed inside the church a week ago, Mr Manning said, but was returned, bandaged, to a position beside the altar yester­day. The parishioners who re­turned the table did not wish to speak to the Herald yesterday. "It seems pathetic that such a symbolic item should be bringing the wrath of the Sydney Diocese . down on a small church," Mr Manning said.
­ Andrew Stevenson Sydney Morning Herald Mon Jun 6 2005 P3

See also Catholic News article: Police involved in subduing recalcitrant parishioners

Sunday, 5 June 2005


Some background notes to Fisher's extraordinary letter

The letter reproduced below was handed out by Denis Sudla, who officiated at today’s Mass at St. Vincent’s Redfern, on behalf of the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney’s Catholic Archdiocese, Anthony Fisher OP. You will see that it threatens NSW Police action if the Catholic liturgy at the church is “disrupted” by people “doing things”. It might be noted that:
  • Fr Ted Kennedy, who worked at the same church for 30 years, formed the current community and devoted his life to the poor, especially Aboriginal people, died only last week, and the community is still in grief about this;
  • Ted encouraged a Liturgy which committed the community to the poor (a simple altar on bare boards, Aboriginal involvement, symbols of poverty and Aboriginality, extended Prayers of the Faithful, and so on) and the current community wishes this to continue;
  • Sr Marnie Kennedy, a member of the community and Fr Ted’s sister, wrote to Bishop Fisher more than 18 months ago and received, after an extended time, a perfunctory letter of a couple of sentences with no mention of her appeal for help against the installation at Redfern of the Neo-Cathechumenate priests who represent the exact opposite form of Catholicism to that which her brother had encouraged;
  • Bishop Fisher has not visited the parish to understand its concerns or hear from the parishioners;
  • The Council of Vatican 2 encourages lay participation in the construction of appropriate liturgies for each community; and
  • Pope John Paul on his visit to Australia demanded that the Church hear the voice of the Aboriginal people and their concerns. Redfern is its Sydney centre.
They waste no time.

Auxiliary Bishop Fisher writes to the parishioners of St Vincent's

The following transcription is a little easier to read:
3 June 2005
To the Parishioners of St Vincent de Paul Church Redfern
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
First, I write to express my sincere sympathies to you all on the recent death of Fr Ted Kennedy who served your parish for many years and was, I know, deeply loved by many of you. I know that you will want to carry forward his legacy by ensuring that there is a vibrant and holy Catholic community in Redfern for many years to come. Secondly, I write to ask your co-operation with the appointed clergy of the parish during the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass. I understand that Masses at St. Vincent’s have sometimes been disrupted by people doing things without warrant in the liturgical rites and without permission of the clergy. I ask you please to ensure that this does not happen in the future, It is a matter for the Parish Priest, Pr Gerry, and his assistant, Fr Denis, to determine the style of the liturgies, placement of any liturgical furnishings, assistants at and near the altar and at communion time etc., in accordance with the liturgical norms. I know that there are strong views and emotions around some of these matters. The Liturgy is not, however, the place to express such differences of opinion by defying the appointed celebrant of the Mass or the liturgical rites of the Church. The Mass should be the public demonstration of that unity which Christ prayed for at the Last Supper. Members of the congregation are of course always free to express their opinions in the usual way to their clergy or to attend Masses in other parishes more to their taste. If there are further disruptions of the Mass I have directed Fr Gerry and Fr Denis to contact he Police and seek their assistance. I want to thank your parish clergy for their generous service of the people of Redfern and entrust them to your care even as they care for you. With prayerful best wishes,
Yours sincerely in Christ Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP. DD BA LlB BTheol DPhil Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney 'Buruni', 341 01d South Head Road, Watson's Bay NSW 2030. AUSTRALIA - Tel: (+61 2) 9337 2033 - Fax: (+61 2) 9337 2933 -

Saturday, 4 June 2005


Restoration of St. Vincent's Redfern Presbytery

The Church Mouse has it on very good authority that work will begin in the next few weeks on restoring the presbytery as a residence for the Neocats. The Archdiocese is in the process of signing contracts. There will be no provision for a community centre or space for the local community, neither black nor white. The cost will be in the $100,000s. You may recall that it was Fr. Ted Kennedy's plan and hope that this building be restored and given over in justice and restitution to the Aboriginal people. Ted had opened the building to the Aboriginal people and at that time up to 100 plus Aboriginals found shelter, friendship and safety there on any one night. It was their place. It was for this reason that the presbytery was left in the condition that it was. Ted refused to have it repaired until the Archdiocese guarranted to have it formally made an Aboriginal place and a place for the poor. Not, as has been claimed, that it was in need of repair because of Ted's indolence, neglect and incompetence. It was in that state as a stark statement and gospel challenge for Aboriginal restitution and reconciliation. There has been no consultation with the St. Vincent's or Aboriginal community. Not even the courtesy of informing us about the project.

Friday, 3 June 2005


NSW Parliament Tribute to Ted

Dr ANDREW REFSHAUGE (Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) [2.22 p.m.]: Father Ted Kennedy died last week. For more than three decades he was parish priest at St Vincent's Catholic Church in Redfern. Ted Kennedy's conscience was a goad to the mighty and a balm to the needy. It led him to where, before him, many would not go. It made him a landmark and a local hero. It drove him long miles to funerals in far-off homelands of what we might call his constituents. It made him beloved. It made him contentious. It put him at odds with the police. It stirred him to anger and mercy, sorrow and great forgiveness, and long nights of the soul. If in these first heady days of Pope Benedict XVI there is a fast track to sainthood, Father Ted Kennedy should be on it. It was said of Ted at his funeral that he was a holy man, a living treasure, a pebble in the comfortable boot of the establishment, an untidy prophet and an enemy of cruel blindness and petty pomp who ended his life with empty pockets and dirty hands, his life poured out for all. Those words of eloquence are never stirred in remarkable disciples like Pat Dodson, Marcia Langton, Sol Bellear, and Sir William Deane without cause. Such eloquence is never stirred by mediocrity, by a man of empty gestures and no substance. This was no cardboard cut-out saint. He loved poetry, food and wine, theatre, particularly Irish theatre and John Shaw Neilson, and the conversation that comes with these immense ingredients of civilisation. But his grim reality of his calling was never far away. He lived it in the streets, in the police cells and in the broken down houses. He was no mere armchair priest or theologian. What others might have called liberation theology was for him simple Christianity. He lived, you might say, the cliché of all the Spencer Tracy movies: the ministering angel with dirty fingernails, the good priest of the slums. Today we acknowledge Sorry Day, the national day of healing. On this day it is worth remembering that Ted Kennedy was one of those who lived out reconciliation before it was spelt with a capital "R". This humble priest was loved by knights of the realm, street alcoholics, and everyone in between. By them he will be remembered and sorely missed. In a place that seemed reserved for a particular despair Ted Kennedy was a friend of the oppressed, the deprived and the rejected. I share with his big adopted family the sorrow of his too early loss and commend his memory to the House. Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [2.25 p.m.]: The Coalition joins with the Government in reflecting upon the wonderful contribution made by Father Ted Kennedy to the Aboriginal communities of Redfern and throughout New South Wales. It is appropriate that we reflect on Father Kennedy's contribution on this the National Day of Healing. Father Kennedy worked, as others before him had, with great vigour and enthusiasm for the betterment of Aboriginal people. We witnessed the sad passing recently of Bob Bellear, and a few years ago we lost Mum Shirl. Many of the heroes of the Aboriginal people have passed away in recent years, and to the people of Redfern Father Ted was, if you like, the equivalent of Mother Teresa. Sadly, the disadvantage that he worked so hard to address continues today. One of the greatest reflections upon Father Ted's contribution would be if the Government of New South Wales now did more to address the Aboriginal disadvantage that unfortunately continues. I remind the Government, without being unduly pointed, that there is much more to do. As Father Kennedy well knew, issues such as Aboriginal literacy, Aboriginal people being incarcerated at 15 times the rate of non-Aboriginal people, Aboriginal women dying in childbirth at two to three times the rate of other women, and Aboriginal children leaving school at 11, 12, 13 or 14 without having attained their higher school certificates are still to be addressed. In memory of Father Ted Kennedy, Mum Shirl, and others who fought so hard for the betterment of the Aboriginal people the Government should start to deliver more for Aboriginal people rather than merely talk about doing so, and ensure that the lot of those people is improved dramatically. The Coalition reflects on Father Ted's life and hopes that his work will be continued by those who come after him. However, it should not be forgotten that this Government has done very little in the past 10 years to address some of these important issues. We look forward to the Opposition and the Government working together to achieve some real changes for Aboriginal people.
Source: Hansard\2005\May\050526 Death of Father Ted Kennedy Stmt LA.doc

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John Ford's rejoinder

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Kelmscott Neocat Finished?

Ted Kennedy of Redfern and Burrawang

Neocatechists' hypocrisy

Community response to Fisher's letter

Rhetoric and reality - Kelmscott style

Tablet article – lazy journalism

Letter from the Premier of New South Wales

Message from Sophia

Ted Kennedy, Redfern Parish priest who loved life and people

Support from Tasmania

Fr Peter Maher's response to Fisher's letter

Fr John Ford's response to Fisher's letter

Redfern Reconciliation Bridge Walk

Ongoing Neocat abuse in Western Australia

Redfern and keeping the Peace

Bishop calls Police to Redfern

The disease of clericalism

Our faith community

Spiritual gifts

The one true church

Priests call in police

Some background notes to Fisher's extraordinary letter

Auxiliary Bishop Fisher writes to the parishioners of St Vincent's

Restoration of St. Vincent's Redfern Presbytery

NSW Parliament Tribute to Ted

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