The Church Mouse website now features
a weblog - the Church
Mouse Journal - to expedite the posting of news,
and to allow readers to post comments.
Jesus Christ on a good day (and more)
Morris West, April 4, 2005.
The late Morris West wrote numerous novels about
the Catholic Church, including The Shoes of the Fisherman. This
is an edited version of an article West wrote exclusively for the
Herald in 1997, to be published on the death of the Pope. More...
monologue than conversation
Veronica Brady, April 4, 2005.
On issues that are important to women, John Paul
turned a deaf ear. More...
John Paul II, a reactionary in shepherd's clothing.
Barry Healy, Green Left Weekly, April 6, 2005.
Karol Jozef Wojtya, known as John Paul II since assuming the office
of pope in October 1978, will be remembered as one of the most significant,
though certainly not the most progressive, figures in the history
of the Roman Catholic Church. More...
the depths to the heights
Bob Bellear, Judge, 1944-2005
Obituaries, March 17, 2005
Australia is called a classless society. But Bob Bellear, who has
died at 60, did what few other Australians have done: he rose from
the very bottom rung to the very top. Not just from working-class
and rural origins but from Aboriginal deprivation to become Australia's
first indigenous judge. More...
spies to rate the vicars
March 16, 2005
How would St Vincent's rate?
British vicars rarely grumble about people joining their congregations,
but a number might be dreading a visit next month by a "mystery
worshipper" - the Church of England equivalent of the restaurant
In an unprecedented move, as many as 100 specially recruited researchers
will turn up incognito in pews across London on April 24 to judge
the quality of the Sunday service on offer.
The volunteers, using pen names such as "Church Mouse" and "Dunelm"
to protect their anonymity, will then post their verdicts on the
Christian website at www.Ship-of-Fools.com.
The exercise has been inspired by the market research techniques
of supermarket chains, which send mystery shoppers into their own
stores to gather consumer feedback.
Churches will be judged on the warmth of the welcome, the length
and content of the sermon, the music, and even the after-service
coffee and the softness of the pews.
Mystery worshippers will also be asked to describe the moment that
brings them closest to heaven and the moment closest to "the other
Ecclesiastical "Oscars" will be awarded in categories such as best
sermon, best use of music and best overall church.
Simon Jenkins, the editor of the website, said: "Our volunteers
go to a church they have never been to before and experience the
service as an outsider.
"For the church being visited, the only clue is the calling card
dropped discreetly into the collection plate, bearing the picture
of a masked man in Lone Ranger pose."
The project began seven years ago and the 1000th report will be
published next week on Palm Sunday. This is the first city-wide
The Telegraph, London
2/2004, a publication of the UTS Journalism program
Two articles by Jeremy Hartcher
Parishioners at St Vincentís
church in Redfern have been refused permission to hold an inter-faith
service. The article includes comments
attributed to Cardinal George Pell on the Redfern situation that
some might consider defamatory.
Sydney's Aboriginal Medical
Service has waited thirty three years for a new centre in Redfern.
It opened at the end of 2004 with the help of a major donation from
from: Paul Denny, Traralgon, Vic 11 Nov
I am appalled at the treatment of parishioners in Redfern by Neo
Catechumenate priests (see Issue #24 "Open letter by John Hill).
The litany of abuse is very serious: rough bodily handling, inflicting
pain, breach of trust, broken promises, ignoring pleas, lack of
respect. It sounds very much like rape! How could the Archdiocese
have failed to correct these abuses? How is collaboration between
parishioners and clergy possible while this rape continues?
from: Rob Brian, via email, 12 November
Like John Hill [Issue #25] I am appalled at our Archbishop's treatment
of the Aborigines at St Vincent's Parish in Redfern, Sydney. Instead
of giving my usual donation to the Charitable Works Fund, which
no longer supports the Sharing of the Meal project in Redfern, I
have sent my money direct to the people who battle on to feed the
hungry and help the needy. I urge my fellow Catholics to do the
Please see http://church-mouse.lanuera.com/
on how you can safely transfer money direct to this worthy project.
When the CWF starts to become accountable to us who provide the
money I may be prepared to reconsider my decision.
Letters, November 11, 2004
I have shared in the St Vincent's parish community since 1971 when
Father Ted Kennedy was appointed parish priest ("City's poor
ask for whom Pell tolls", Herald, November 10), and totally
reject being labelled a newcomer to the parish by the Sydney Catholic
The unfortunate incidents outlined in my open letter published by
Online Catholics actually happened, and in most cases occurred in
front of witnesses. These have been properly documented and can
be fully substantiated.
John Hill, Turramurra, November 10.
poor ask for whom Pell tolls
November 10, 2004
Multi-faith services and meals for the poor have
gone from Redfern's Catholic Church, writes Linda Morris.
Under the organ loft of St Vincent de Paul Church,
latecomers fork through the remains of chicken stew and the crumbs
of jam rolls while cheerful helpers chorus happy birthday for one
of their own.
But the picture of good works at the twice-weekly meal for the
poor belies simmering tensions between Catholic conservatives leading
the Redfern parish and a diverse congregation with a reputation
for social justice.
The new leaders of the church are accused of unchristian behaviour
- of insulting an elderly nun and alienating the Aboriginal community
with which the church has forged strong links.
In an open letter published in the e-magazine Online Catholics
(see below), parishioner John Hill is the latest
to warn of the "disintegration or even worse, the destruction
of a parish" that for more than 30 years "has been a beacon
of hope for social justice, the authentic Gospel teachings, the
spirit of the Second Vatican Council and the rights of indigenous
The former priest has accused unnamed members of the clergy of
unmannerly behaviour, of assaulting a parishioner for not quickly
placing a host in his mouth, of telling an elderly nun she should
look at herself in the mirror and of telling a parishioner she was
in need of pyschological help.
The Sydney Catholic Archdiocese stands by the parish priests whom
it says are "deeply committed to the mission", have been
unfairly accused and have the support of the Archbishop, Cardinal
George Pell. "They always endeavour to treat every member of
the community with respect and courtesy, and do so in circumstances
that are often quite difficult," a spokesperson told the Herald.
"The allegations made by a newcomer to the parish contain
many errors of fact, including the allegation that a man was placed
in a headlock when receiving communion, which is simply untrue."
Tensions surfaced after Father Ted Kennedy, the long-time parish
priest who helped make the church a focal point for Redfern's Aboriginal
community, stepped down to be replaced with followers of the highly
conservative Neocatechumenal Way.
The movement, founded in the early 1960s in the slums of Madrid,
aims to restore the ancient process of adult Christian initiation
and, while admired for its Christian commitment and missionary zeal,
it has been criticised for dividing parishes, and accused of secretiveness
The movement's strictures have collided with a church community
that has embraced diversity in worship and welfare as an expression
of Christian principles.
Paul Collins, a liberal Catholic commentator, says the neocats,
as they are commonly known, are one of a handful of religious ecclesiastical
movements to flourish under the John Paul II papacy and whose mission
is to empower the laity to spread the Gospel.
Patriarchal in structure, their focus is on evangelism and building
a closed community. The decision of the archdiocese to install the
movement in Redfern, a church which had adopted an open approach
to contemporary issues, was bound to be provocative.
"It was a disastrous action to do this because the Archdiocese
of Sydney and ultimately Cardinal Pell had to know this was going
to lead to terrible conflicts in the Redfern community, but also
for the neocats who are totally unprepared for the complexities
and sensitivities of the kind of mission that Kennedy was all about.
There is a sense that they too have been placed in an impossible
situation," says Collins.
The wrangling at St Vincent de Paul's has spilled over into debates
about the use of church property, including the right of parishioners
to hang a picture of the late Mum Shirl Smith, a co-founder of the
first Aboriginal medical service and mother figure to many Aboriginal
parishioners, behind the altar and the right of non-Catholic Aborigines
to be buried by the parish priests.
St Vincent de Paul's multi-faith services, started after the sinking
of the Siev-X, have been abandoned, parishioners say, and they fear
their unrenovated presbytery ,which they want as a youth centre
and residence for the parish priest, will be sold off.
The archdiocese denies any plans "at present" for parish
property to be sold or redeveloped. "The archdiocese has recently
sought professional advice as to the structural soundness of the
existing buildings and will, along with the parish priest, be considering
options for restoration consistent with the needs of the parish
and local community."
The Archdiocesan Charitable Works Fund withdrew funds for the twice-weekly
meal for the poor in June at, it said, the request of an "Aboriginal
leader, who had concerns about safety and hygiene and also thought
it was not helping the self-respect of the community".
The meal service survives on donations and the goodwill of a dozen
volunteers. Helper Mary Mahon said she had been told the church
was not an appropriate place to serve free meals. "We say there
is no more appropriate place for it to be in than here if you really
believe that Christ was here for the poor and the sick. There is
no safer place."
Disaffected parishioners have assembled a dossier of their troubles
on their website, Church Mouse, and are preparing a formal complaint,
comprising nine statutory declarations, to take to Pell and a panel
of senior clergy. Hill is not hopeful of reconciliation and says
letters and petitions to Pell "about the deteriorating condition
and the pain inflicted on the community at St Vincent's" have
not been given due consideration.
Parishioner Jack Callaghan, among those who claim to have had a
confrontation, is defiant. "The hope is we'll pack up and go
but we'll stay on."
I am writing as a parishioner of St. Vincent's Church,
Redfern, NSW. I write with a deep sense of sadness and a feeling
of depression. I am seeing the disintegration or even worse, the
destruction of a parish that for over 30 years has been a beacon
of hope for social justice, the authentic Gospel teachings, the
spirit of the Second Vatican Council and the rights of indigenous
The legacy of an ailing Fr Ted Kennedy has been decimated. The
assurance that the Archbishop of Sydney made to Fr Kennedy on his
retirement that his work would be respected and continued, has been
broken. It has been torn asunder.
When at a Sunday mass you see a Neo Catecumenate acolyte who has
subsequently been ordained, head-locking an elderly gentleman for
not putting the host into his mouth immediately or when you see
another senior gentleman pushed roughly aside by a young priest,
it means that the Eucharist has lost its significance.
When you see a Neo Catecumenate priest telling off an elderly nun,
once in charge of the formation of religious nuns and priests for
many years, that she should look at herself in the mirror, it demonstrates
not only the lack of respect for another but the sheer disregard
for basic Christian values.
From the pulpit this same priest admonished a female parishioner
telling her that she was in need of immediate psychological help.
He then turned to her husband and told him how he pitied him for
being married to her. She is in fact of sound mind, courteous and
respectful of the priests. She has been a backbone of what is left
of the parish.
The Sharing of the Meal for the poor operated by parishioners and
friends every Tuesday and Friday has had its funds cut off by the
archdiocese on the premise that this work was not necessary and
that it could be done as well by other organisations. The fact is
that this sharing of the meal caters to over a hundred people each
Tuesday and Friday. The parishioners themselves now fund this project.
The Redfern clergy have discouraged this work saying that Protestants
and Atheists can do it better. At the same time they have alienated
the Aboriginal community by breaking down the trust that has been
30 years in the making.
The litany of insults relentlessly perpetrated by this priest on
many parishioners continues unabated with the implicit condonation
by the Church authorities as nothing has been done to redress the
situation in Redfern. Letters and petitions to Cardinal Pell sent
by parishioners and concerned clergy about the deteriorating condition
and the pain inflicted on the community at St. Vincent's have not
been given due consideration to ease the concerns of the parishioners.
One hundred Catholic priests, meeting at the biennial
Conference of the National Council of Priests of Australia (at Toowoomba
QLD 6th - 10th September 2004) added their voice to the 43 prominent
Australians and the group of doctors calling for truth and integrity
in public life.
The priests built upon the concerns raised by the Australian Catholic
Bishops' Conference in August, when the ACBC advised Australians
to consider their voting intentions in the light of the building
of a 'culture of care'.
The National Council of Priests questioned why Australia tolerates
significant inequalities in health, unacceptable poverty and an
increasing prison population.
"If we are to continue to call Australia home, a place of
belonging, a place of welcome and a safe haven, we need to ask why
these injustices continue unabated," the priests said in a
While acknowledging the absence of Aboriginal Catholic Clergy as
a specifically Catholic problem, the NCP spoke out strongly about
the lack of inclusion of Aboriginal people in Australian society.
"We, the National Council of Priests, call on our leaders
to work for a just and equitable Australia where from our first
peoples in this land to our most recent arrivals and all in between
all will call Australia home." The priests affirmed their commitment
to multiculturalism and an inclusive approach in Australian life
Many priests from all over Australia expressed concern that
events in Redfern, Sydney, are damaging to the Church and have implications
for Aboriginal people and their relationship with the Church. Redfern
parish, which was led by the visionary Catholic priest Fr Ted Kennedy
for 30 years, is now in the hands of clergy of the Neo Catechumenate
The National Council of Priests also expressed criticism toward
policies and candidates who supported the doctrine of a pre-emptive
strike. They urged Australians to demand that any future decision
to go to war be fully debated in Parliament before action was taken.
The NCP called for every Australian elector to consider the following
questions before casting their votes:
- Will the candidate support increased overseas economic aid from
Australia to help rebuild Iraq and other countries in need?
- How might the candidate ensure that future decisions about war
are fully debated in Parliament?
- Will the candidate reject the spreading of the doctrine of a
pre-emptive strike, and commit to strengthening the system of
The statement was signed by 100 priests present at the National
Convention of the NCP and included:
Fr Peter Brady (Loganholme)
Fr Henry Byrne (Mossy Point)
Fr Dennis Carroll (Lismore)
Fr Michael Cooney (Goondiwindi)
Fr Tyson Doneley (Toowoomba)
Fr Peter Dorfield (Toowoomba)
Fr Paul Finucane (Hornsby)
Fr Francis Gilbert (Nth Rockhampton)
Fr Paul Hanna (Blackheath)
Fr Terry Hicklng (Crows Nest)
Fr Timothy Hogan (Toongabbie)
Fr Robert Hollow (Blackall)
Fr Gerald Iverson (Wentworthville)
Fr John MacGinley (Tara)
Fr Rod MacGinley (Pittsworth)
Fr John Maher (Roma)
Fr Frank Marriott (Wodonga)
Fr Peter Matheson (Montmorency)
Fr Martin Maunsell (Lane Cove)
Fr Paul McCabe (Moree)
Fr Peter McCarthy (Capalaba)
Fr Ian McGinnity (Quakers Hill)
Fr William Moore (Toongabbie)
Fr Don Murray (Allora)
Bishop Patrick Power (Canberra)
Fr Hal Ranger (Dalby)
Fr John Scarrott (Moorooka)
Fr Jeff Scully (Quilpie)
Fr John Swan (Kensington Gardens)
Fr Paul Tarpey (Boorowa)
Fr Bernie Thomas (Mulwala)
Fr Greg Trythall (Grovedale)
Fr Lino Valente (Inglewood)
Fr John Cunningham (Ivanhoe)
National Council of Priests
conservatism adds fuel to the fire of Catholic disharmony
August 3, 2004
Australian Catholics are at odds over how to practise
their faith in the modern world, writes Paul Collins.
Cardinal George Pell has trouble on his hands in inner
Sydney. Yesterday a leading conservative priest, Father Terence
Purcell, of St Benedict's parish Broadway, was protesting because
the Cardinal wants to turn his disused school building into a campus
for Notre Dame University, which Pell wants to import from Fremantle.
One wonders why Notre Dame has to come to Sydney when the Australian
Catholic University has campuses in North Sydney and Strathfield.
Pell has also been a leading light in the foundation of Campion
College, a liberal arts-theology faculty to be established soon
in Parramatta diocese.
Also there is the Catholic Institute of Sydney, which specialises
in theology. That will mean four Catholic universities in greater
Sydney, which is surely enough for anyone.
Yesterday Purcell claimed that his inner-city parish was "up
in arms" about the changes ushered in by Pell. But his is not
the only one. In Redfern there is a struggle going on for the soul
of St Vincent's parish. The community there was revolutionised when
Father Ted Kennedy arrived in the 1970s. He developed it into a
welcoming haven for Aborigines and other marginalised people. It
is now largely run by lay people, who provide and support a range
of needed social services.
The church building is the heart of the Redfern community, and
until now Aboriginal and white parishioners have had some influence
over how St Vincent's operates. Many Catholics come there because
they feel involved in a Sunday Mass that gives expression to their
commitment to the church. They have a sense of owning the parish.
All of this is changing, however. Kennedy is ill. Pell has handed
the parish over to a group called the Neo-Catechuminate, Neo-Cats
for short, two of whose priests recently arrived in the parish.
Their vision of ministry is very different from Kennedy's. They
see the church building as the place for Mass and worship, not for
welfare activities or discussion groups. Neo-Cats believe that most
Catholics are merely nominal, un-churched, in need of long formation
within a closed group. Articulate, non-Neo-Cat laity need to be
kept in their place.
The new arrivals have been accused of being culturally insensitive
to Aborigines. To put it mildly, there is tension at St Vincent's.
Yet Redfern is a microcosm of what is happening right across Australian
Catholicism and within theology. Two different visions of what it
means to be Catholic have emerged. The key questions are about how
the church should respond to contemporary society and deal with
Many Catholics think the church as a whole should adopt something
like the Kennedy-Redfern model, open to the secular world, talking
to it, finding areas where people of goodwill can co-operate to
Sure, Catholicism should critique what is wrong with society, but
never in a way that alienates. Genuine Catholicity is the antithesis
Pell has articulated a different view. He believes the church should
be more confrontational in tackling secular values and asserting
absolute truth. He says one of the functions of a bishop is to try
to ensure that the fullness of Catholic faith is taught, that it
has been a temptation for 20 years or more to try to improve the
situation of the church by going silent on some aspects or underplaying
In a recent lecture he was critical of Catholics who want to make
the church more "acceptable" to the spirit of the age,
especially those who use the enabling mechanism of the primacy of
conscience. By this he means that some Catholics use the doctrine
of freedom of conscience to espouse secular values and to pick and
choose what they believe.
Many feel his approach is problematic, and whether everything he
presents as Catholic doctrine is indeed that is debatable.
Some Catholics have spent years initiating dialogue with society
by presenting belief in reasonable terms, looking for agreements,
making faith part of mainstream discussion. But along comes Pell,
boots and all, saying that Catholics need a style a mite more confrontational
and certainly less conciliatory towards secular values.
The cross is a sign of contradiction.
Sure, but it is also a sign of the vulnerability of God, of redemption,
of Jesus' life poured out for others.
Pell now has multiple groups of Catholics off-side, from the traditionalist
Purcell to the theologically progressive Redfern community. Clergy
from across the Catholic spectrum are also dissatisfied with Pell's
But the Cardinal's trump card is that the theological divisions
are so deep that it is unlikely that Catholics will get together
and co-operate to resolve disputes more amicably.
Which is a pity because Catholics do need to find some common ground
to begin to talk to each other again, as well as to talk to the
wider Australian society. The boots-and-all approach never really
Paul Collins's most recent book is Between the Rock and a Hard
Place: Being Catholic Today (ABC Books).
Encounter: 25 July 2004
- Poor Church
The Religion Report: 28 July 2004
- St. Vincent's
pleas for intervention
A plea for intervention by Cardinal Pell in the increasingly fraught
situation in the Aboriginal parish of St Vincent's, Redfern, was
apparently withheld from him for two months.
Br Michael Gravener, a St John of God Brother and
a social worker at the Block, wrote
to the Cardinal in April. Br Gravener believes that Aboriginal
people are being denied basic justice by a model of ministry offered
by the Diocesan Neo-Catechumenate priests. "There is a failure to
acknowledge Aboriginal spirituality by our current parish priests,
and a lack of understanding that to Aboriginal people, St Vincent's
Catholic Church is itself is a sacred place. This is so because
of St Vincent's was where many of the Stolen Generation came from
the missions to find their families. Many of them also died here
- some literally in the Church buildings where they stayed when
they had no where else to go."
Br Gravener eventually received a response from the
Cardinal's private secretary, Dr Michel Casey. Dr Casey indicated
that the view of the Archdiocese was that constructive dialogue
must include the current reality of the incumbent priests at Redfern.
Dr Casey also indicated that Br Gravener's Superior, Br Peter Burke,
would be asked to counsel Br Gravener over the matter.
Br Gravener told Online Catholics that the tensions
at Redfern show the truth of Pope John Paul II's observations about
the Catholic Church in Australia. Back in 1986, in an address to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Alice Springs, the
Holy Father said:
You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the
Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that
Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to
her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received
by others. Br Gravener said, "there is a lot of criticism over
our attempt to continue the work of Fr Ted Kennedy. Some people
say that we should just get over that 'Ted Kennedy theology'.
But Ted's real legacy is to Gospel values: 'whatever you do to
the least of my brothers, that you do to me.' The way the Catholic
Church in Australia responds to Aboriginality will reveal the
depth of our commitment to those same values."
Just before going to press, Online Catholics was contacted
by Michael Casey. He reports that the Cardinal is well aware of
the letters from Br Gravener, which are regarded as "vexatious".
The Cardinal, he says, is involved in the efforts to bring peace
to Redfern, a situation that is "improving".
What these efforts are, and what improvements have
resulted, are not known.
fail to respect Aboriginal culture, spirituality
Australian Bishops have failed to show regard for
Aboriginal people by refusing a request to draft Guidelines for
Clergy who work with indigenous Australians, according to Sr Marnie
Marnie Kennedy is the sister of the now ailing Fr
Ted Kennedy, who was parish priest at St Vincent's Catholic Church
in Redfern, Sydney, for 30 years. Her statement comes as a response
to the decision by the recent Bishops' Conference to turn down a
request from that parish, which was directed to the Secretary of
the Bishops' Committee for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders,
Bishop Brian Heenan.
In a letter dated 14 March 2004, the Redfern community
asked Bishop Heenan if the Committee would consider introducing
Guidelines for Clergy who work with indigenous people. There have
been national Guidelines for Religious who work with Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people since 1999. The letter to Bishop
Heenan says, in part: "..it would seem opportune for the bishops
to advance similar Guidelines for Priests in Ministry with Indigenous
peoples, especially given the current new situation where many priests
are beginning to arrive from overseas countries to work in Australia."
It is understood that Bishop Heenan's committee did
put the request to the Bishops' Conference, but that at the plenary
session it was decided to turn down the proposal. Each diocese would
be left to deal with issues between indigenous people and priests
individually. Neither Bishop Heenan nor fellow Committee member,
Broome's Bishop Saunders, were available to speak with Online Catholics
following the Conference.
Speaking exclusively to Online Catholics, Sr Marnie
said: "I would like to pose this question to the Bishops, and indeed
the whole Catholic community. Why has there been no Aboriginal priest
ordained since Pat Dodson left ordained ministry some 20 years ago?
Every other major denomination has ministers of an indigenous background,
but not the Catholic Church."
Tensions at Redfern have been high, particularly since
the appointment of the second Neo-catechumenate priest, Fr Dennis
Sudla, to work along side parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville. "Any
priest sent to minister to Aboriginal people should be open to their
culture and spirituality, rather than imposing a western pattern
of Christianity," Sr Marnie said. "This calls for growing trust
through friendship, willingness to undertake Aboriginal studies,
guidance from the elders and a genuine desire to learn from them."
At stake is the whole question of inculturation, which
is to do with ensuring the Gospel may be explored within particular
cultural experiences. "Unless there is a commitment from every Diocese
in Australia to the Gospel imperative of inculturation, there will
be no Aboriginal Catholic Clergy.
"It is most unfortunate that the Bishops have failed
to take this opportunity to establish a proper framework in the
best interests of both Aboriginal people and Roman Catholic clergy."
Sr Marnie said.
Note from the Church Mouse:
The St Vincent's community made available copies of the following
documents to the Bishops' Committee for Indigenous Affairs prior
to their National Conference in Sydney in May, 2004.
D.(c.m.) "Redfern. A Prophetic Community?"
A Research Project Towards a Graduate Diploma in Theology
United Theological Institute: Nov., 1989
ANDERSON, Karen Open Letter
to the local NeoCatechumenate Communities
(at St.Nicholas of Tolentino, Bristol, England. Spring, 1992)
ARBUCKLE, Gerald A.(sm) "Is
the Neo-Catechumenate Way Compatible with Religious Life?"
Religious Life Review. Dublin: Jan-Feb., 1994
Reviewed and reprinted, 2004
Paul (Fr.) (sm) NeoCatechumenate Community
Archdiocese of Melbourne, Report of Activity in one parish
Peter (Fr.) "Cross Currents at Redfern"
The Swag. March, 2004
our Right to Wholeness." A Statement
[From the Conference of the Women from Indigenous Communities
in Asia and the Pacific; Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sep., 2003]
Guidelines for Appointment
of Religious to Ministry with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
People prepared by a Sub-committee of the Founding Forum in
consultation with ACLRI Aboriginal Issues Task Force, 1999
of parish woe
Vanessa Walker, 12 April 2004
THE Catholic congregation at St Vincent's church in Sydney's Redfern
has little to celebrate this Easter.
Members of the nation's largest Aboriginal congregation are embroiled
in a dispute over theology and the liturgy with their priest and
his conservative order, the Neocatechumenal Way.
Most parishioners, who for 30 years prospered under the care of
social justice advocate Father Ted Kennedy, are committed to the
liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council They believe Christ's
love is expressed through a direct relationship with the disadvantaged
people of Redfern.
Father Gerry Prindiville, appointed in 2002 after the congregation
had his predecessor dismissed for alienating them, believes in the
traditions of Catholicism and the uniformity of the liturgy.
Many parishioners believe he was appointed to bring St Vincent's
into line with the conservative Archdiocese of Sydney under Cardinal
In the lead-up to Easter, disaffected members of the congregation
launched a website, church-mouse.net, which covers their disputes
with the priest.
They accuse Father Prindiville of refusing communion to outspoken
parishioners and say he disregards practices such as community members
joining the priest in the Washing of the Feet.
Father Prindiville says such innovations are aberrations of the
liturgy and that much of what is published in emails and on the
website is "innuendo and lies".
Congregation member Brother Michael Gravener wrote to Cardinal Pell
this week asking him to intervene in "a serious abuse of clerical
"Your clerics have been nothing short of incompetent,"
he wrote. "People have been both physically and verbally attacked
by your clerics and have been judged and denied the Eucharist."
The archdiocese refused to comment.
Footnote by Church Mouse:
Gerry Prindiville removed himself from the community's email group
on April 12