20 June 2004
on today's reading
In earlier times, one of the most common hidden heresies
was to reserve the name of Church to only part of it,
a sort of sacralised power - 'the body of pastors with
the Roman Pontiff'. Vatican II reacted against this
concept by changing the order of Chs. 2 and 3 of Lumen
Gentium, placing the chapter dedicated to the people
of God ahead of the chapter dedicated to the hierarchy.
Unfortunately Vatican II's outlook has not affected
the mentality of many Church people. One fears that
today many ministers believe themselves Church, not
for being Christians, but for being priests or bishops.
Yet St Augustine shows us that he knew he was Church
for being a christian, not for being a bishop. He says
'I am a christian with you and a bishop for you. What
I am for you terifies me, what I am with you consoles
13 June 2004
Paul Collins spoke today after Mass. How refreshing
it was to hear this man of intellect, integrity and
breadth of outlook speak optimistically about the Church,
and why he has remained a part of it, despite the "discoutesies"
he was subjected to by the Vatican inquisitors. You
can find a copy of Eddie Campion's review of Between
the Rock and a Hard Place from Online Catholics
22 May 2004
The Church Mouse received this email today:
Vincent's, Redfern Parishioners:
I have acquired
a copy of Mum Shirl an autobiography with the assistance
of Bobbi Sykes.
a family that has lived in San Francisco since 1870,
Mum Shirl is the only person I've ever heard of who
when visiting San Francisco went to visit San Quentin
St. Vincent's parish. If you keep your church, you
can keep a place of future pilgrimages of future conferences
on Mum Shirl's path of Justice.
Many thanks, Kathy.
25 April 2004
A milestone may have been reached today. For the first
time, Frs G and D and the Neocatechumenate members
of the congregation stayed for a community activity
after Mass, when Jeremy read some of his moving
Gallipoli / anti-war poems, with music from Helen.
25 April 2004
Tom, a Redfern original (in most senses of the word),
came from Mittagong for Mass today. He totally eclipsed
Fr D's enervated Neocat homily with an impassioned reflection
on the practical theology of embracing the outcast that
Ted Kennedy practiced and instilled in others. He was
thanked with a hearty round of applause.
After Mass he urged the congregation to follow the
example of Jesus and Ted and speak out and be critical
of those who would lead us down the wrong road.
PS The writing was back on the wall after Mass.
23 April 2004
writing on the wall
This is about two curiously intertwined examples of
the inability of Pell's Neocatechumenates to connect
with the community upon which they have been imposed.
The interior of St Vincent's church has for decades
been consciously maintained as a stark reminder of its
community's connectedness with the poor and the displaced
- bare floorboards, peeling paint, devoid of the customary
statues and adornments. Anything on the largely empty
walls is there for a reason, with its own story.
There used to be, carefully penned in large copperplate
script on the wall behind the altar, part of a poem
by Jim Considine that struck a resonant chord with
crucified on every city sidewalk
the aboriginal Christ should be free
in his own church
among his own people
When people turned up for Mass on the last Sunday of
February, it had been scrubbed off without notice, having
been deemed inappropriate by the Neocats. Over Easter
the words appeared written in chalk on the outside of
the church in Redfern Street.
It was removed again during the week, and reappeared
briefly tonight, accompanied by the message "FEED.....
FEED..... FOOD...." - prompted by the latest Neocat
attack on "Sharing the Meal" and inspired
by the coming Sunday's "feed my lambs" Gospel
(The writing on the wall continues to be removed and
replaced, C.M. 12 January 2005)
"Sharing the Meal" is a community initiative
where a group of hard-working folk open the church at
lunch time, every Tuesday and Friday, to anyone who
needs a feed or a listening ear. It has been actively
discouraged by the Neocat priests - for example:
- Access to the church has been made increasingly
difficult by regular lock changes.
- At Fr G's insistence, a freezer and other items
had to be removed on Palm Sunday from the sacristy,
which has always been used to store food and equipment
for the meals.
- When the old St Vincent's urn finally died, there
was no support from Fr G or the Archdiocese for a
replacement (apparently because of the community's
decision to deny the parish priest conventional financial
support). Now that a generous donor has provided a
new urn, an extra power outlet has been requested.
- They have stated on more than one occasion that
such community activities are a waste of time, something
that "any atheist" might do, and that all
the needy require is to "know that Jesus loves
- Today Fr G declared - "This shouldn't be happening
in the church; it should be in a hall."
18 April 2004
Mgr Brian Rayner visits Redfern
There was an impromptu meeting after the 10:00am Mass
today with Mgr Brian Rayner, Vicar General and Chancellor
of the Sydney Archdiocese, who dropped in for Mass with
some friends from South America, and approximately 70
As far as Church Mouse could tell, none of the larger
than usual group of Neocatechumenal Wayfarers who attended
Mass stayed for the meeting. Fr Gerry Prindiville was
present for part of the meeting. He left early declaring:
"I don't have to listen to this". The Neocats
customarily leave the church quickly after Mass, avoiding
any interaction with the St Vincent's community.
This was the first time that any representative from
the Sydney Archdiocese has faced the community to hear
about the difficulties that it has been experiencing
over the past 3 years.
A clear and passionate plea was made to be allowed
to maintain and develop the gift to the Church of the
ministry of Father Ted Kennedy and his vision of what
it is to be a Catholic in the world today, and that
Cardinal Pell hear the community's prayer to appoint
a priest who, in open dialogue and with trust, can truly
join in its journey of faith.
It was argued that if the Archdiocese could only recognise
what a rare gem it has in the deeply spiritual and committed
people of the St Vincent's community, it would not waste
time appointing inappropriate ministers to this flock.
Significantly Mgr B stated that he saw no serious irregularities
in the community's liturgy; that in fact he was moved
by some of its innovations. Fr G on the other hand has
on various occasions described the sign of peace as
disgusting, the prayers of the faithful as mere political
expressions, and the lack(?) of reverence for the Eucharist
as a disgrace.
He has also stated that the community is not Christian,
and that its members do not really belong to the parish
because their homes are outside the church's boundaries.
(How many of the Neocats, then, "belong to the
It was emphasised that there was no personal attack
against Fr G, who has been placed in the same impossible
position as the community. He is unable to contribute
in any way to Ted's vision, because not only do the
Neocatechumenates fail to understand it, they explicitly
The incompatibility is so stark that to conceive that
two such disparate theological models can co-exist in
the same space is an illusion. How can it last?
The community has written to Mgr B, thanking him for
his attention, acknowledging that the Neocats have a
place somewhere - elsewhere - and asking for respect
for the Ted Kennedy tradition of catholicism in the
modern world. (Read the letters here)
9 April 2004
Since joining the St Vincent's community over a year
ago, I have perceived that two models of church have
been endeavoring to operate on the same venue at the
same time. For me, this problem was focused on Holy
Thursday as I listened to Gerry's reflection on the
significance of the liturgy. He claimed that his dogmatic
formulations arose with the apostles, but, as claimed
by a higher source than me, notably Joseph Cardinal
"Liturgical forms and custom, dogmatic formulations
thought to have arisen with the apostles now appeared
as products of complicated processes of growth within
the womb of history."
Ratzinger wrote in 1966 that this insight was one of
the theological highlights of Vatican II.
I think that complicated process that resulted in the
priesthood as we now have it must be accepted as given.
How else can we explore such important issues as 'the
priesthood of the People of God' or, for example, 'what
should be the criteria for ordination?' Matters that
matter in our church!
8 April 2004
Thursday at St Vincent's
Mercifully, the Holy Thursday evening ceremony was peaceful
and respectful, although the atmosphere was charged
with tension after the events of the past week.
Fr Eric Skruzny, rector of the Neocatechumaenate Redemptoris
Mater seminary and Fr Dennis co-celebrated with Gerry.
The congregation included a larger than usual contingent
of Neocat seminarians. The community participated with
the usual high level of creative and reflective input.
In his homily, Gerry told us that the priesthood was
a service: it was not about power and authority. He
also floated the theologically and historically challenged
line that Jesus came to invent the priesthood so that
we could have the Eucharist - or perhaps it was the
other way around, it really wasn't all that clear.
After Mass the community held its traditional Passover
meal in the rear of the church, ignored by the Neocats
who immediately withdrew into the sacristy for a private
exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
7 April 2004
I was deeply shocked to read of the events at Redfern
Church this week. Since Ted’s retirement we have had
troubled personalities inflicted on us. These personalities
have been empowered to perform “priestly duties”. Regrettably
they have been totally inept in performing any function
that bears a resemblance to the gospel values. So inept
in fact have they been that the community has found
it necessary to provide its own liturgy and to minister
to each other.
It was Ted who understood the true interpretation of
the gospels and was instrumental in the emergence of
a faith community based on this “liberation theology”.
The conduct of these poor priestly souls would be considered
“criminal” had it been manifest in any institution other
than the church.
Their conduct has insulted the integrity and faith
of every member of St Vincent’s community. Further it
has been injurious to the health of many members of
the community. Despite all of this the community has
exercised inexplicable tolerance. I have never understood
the incredible patience of Aboriginal people. I am deeply
moved by the faith, commitment and courage of Pruney.
Her gesture is extremely symbolic. A hose is a very
powerful way of physically restraining others. It also
washes away stains. It is time for us to also hose them
I suggest that all of us pick up pen and paper and
write our own account of what has happened and continues
to happen at Redfern and our perception of the impact
that it has had upon the community and upon us personally.
These articles when edited and compiled for publication
should be a considerable tome.
Once published the truth is there for all to see. It
will shock “Pontius Pilate” and hopefully provide support
for other communities that are being disempowered and
abused in a similar way.
I believe that it is timely to publish. We have fought
hard to preserve the work of Ted and the history and
legacy of the Aboriginal people who have lived and died
at Redfern. By publishing we can immortalise this legacy.
I am not thinking of our previous tributes to Ted but
a much deeper analysis of, and reflection on, the suffering
that has been inflicted on the Redfern community and
on troubled “priestly” souls for the greater good of
power, prestige and ignorance.
4 April 2004
Sunday at St Vincent's
Fr Gerry's Neocat
The first thing to strike worshippers as they entered
St Vincent's for Mass yesterday was the tawdry "Persian"
carpet freshly installed under the altar and up the
podium. Designed and crafted by Tom Bass, the altar
was presented to Ted Kennedy by the artist decades ago
- one of many expressions of love and appreciation for
Ted by artists over the years. Gerry might have been
aware of this if only he engaged with the community
sometimes: someone would have been able to explain the
significance of the altar, the bare floorboards on which
it stands, and the inappropriateness of this attempt
to beautify the church.
The real Eucharist
As the Mass progressed, young Charitha spontaneously
moved about the congregation with a bag, from which
he took biscuits and pressed them into hands, regardless
of whether their owners were black or white, young or
old, Neocat or mere mortal. The poignancy of this child's
innocent gesture was in stark contrast to what has been
served up for months by the Neocatechumenate priests
at St Vincent's - a discriminating ritual that regularly
excludes Aboriginal members of the community, and anyone
else deemed unworthy. It was a spark of hope in a numbingly
awful Palm Sunday mass.
Following her exchange with Dennis on Saturday evening,
Pruney returned to tackle Gerry about the cleaning.
Clearly distressed, she confronted him just before the
final blessing, and announced that she was going to
hose out the church. Gerry's distrust of the community
- regularly changing padlocks and withholding keys -
has restricted her access to the point where she has
been unable to clean the place for several weeks.
As the priests left the altar, Pruney opened the side
door, dragged a hose in from the Aboriginal Medical
Service building site, and proceeded to hose down the
church floor as the congregation moved out. Several
people headed for the sacristy in an attempt to reconcile
the warring parties. Minor scuffles broke out between
Pruney and the Neocat priests, as others strove to maintain
order, and called for dialogue and rational discussion.
"Some issues can't be resolved!" stated Fr Dennis as
he stormed off. Further down the aisle he exchanged
unpleasantries with John, who was jostled and manhandled
by the young priest and the Neocat seminarian who had
assisted at Mass. When Len recognized him as the seminarian
who had assaulted Jack last September, he responded
"but I was forgiven".
Three members of the community subsequently followed
Gerry to his residence to try and explain Pruney's need
to be trusted. They left feeling that they may have
facilitated a little understanding.
Sharing of the meal
As the stunned congregation left the sodden church,
they had to be careful to avoid Michael and Alan removing
a freezer and other items from the sacristy, which has
always been used to store the makings for the regular
"Sharing of the Meal" on Tuesdays and Fridays. Gerry
had insisted that it go. The logistics of feeding the
crowd that usually turns up have been made increasingly
difficult by his restrictions on the use of and access
to the church. How long before he tries to put a complete
stop to it?
Eileen not well
The stress of this situation is getting to the entire
community. Eileen, who is almost 92, witnessed the Palm
Sunday debacle. Her heart played up for days afterwards.
17 March 2004
he always like that?