Full text of Archbishop Bathersby's Letter
My prayers and best wishes remain with the parish and I will most certainly pray to Mary the mother of Jesus, after whom the Church and parish are named, that she will ask God’s Holy Spirit to bring wisdom and courage to South Brisbane at this critical moment of its existence.
Brisbane's Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby.
Addressed to Rev Fr Peter Kennedy at St Mary's Catholic Parish, South Brisbane
Thank you for your letter written on the 30th November suggesting that the parish of St Mary’s, South Brisbane is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. As you said the community of St Mary’s has sought proof of communion by means of discussion, debate, reflection, meetings, and workshops. Yet despite its best efforts St Mary’s has not yet adequately given proof of its communion with the Archdiocese of Brisbane and the Roman Catholic Church. Critical matters are overlooked in the report that makes it almost impossible for South Brisbane to be in communion. At no stage did I ever want the present drama to be played out in the media. That was a decision that you made, probably with the approval of the community. My first letter of the 22nd August received balanced and accurate publicity. My second of the 20th October received little publicity apart from the fact that I was seeking an answer by the 1st December. That answer arrived as a result of South Brisbane’s industry and application. However the significant problems indicated in my second letter received neither answer nor publicity. The problems that need to be addressed remain.
1. The disregard of the Church’s demand that baptisms use only the traditional Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. After my complaint in 2004 I had been led to believe that no invalid formulas would be used again. In a public speech to South Brisbane you yourself admitted that you had not told me the full truth and that the formulas being used were not accepted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Despite St Mary’s boast that it welcomes all, its misuse of the baptismal formula has significant ecumenical implications.
2. Having initially changed the celebration of Eucharist at St Mary’s the parish then once again encouraged the congregation to proclaim the words of consecration and reject the use of vestments. Both actions are contrary to the liturgical norms required by the church.
3. The distribution at South Brisbane of “Jesus the Avatar” a chapter from the book, “God is Big. Real Big” written by Fr Peter Dresser of Coonamble NSW was extraordinary. The chapter claimed that Jesus was not Son of God and Savior. When this news broke in the media Father Dresser immediately apologized for the article and disowned it. However no comment was made by South Brisbane. Even Lutwyche parish which was also using Dresser’s book immediately stopped its sale. That such an article could be distributed in South Brisbane and promoted by its leadership made me wonder how South Brisbane could possibly claim Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The action raised a well founded suspicion among many people that South Brisbane was not a Christian community much less a Roman Catholic one.
4. Possibly to indicate that South Brisbane was on side with the Pope, St Mary’s filtered words from his address to the French Bishops on 14 September and printed them on a banner in front of the Church. It stated: “Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person without exception should be able to feel at home and never rejected.” These words of the Pope were taken selectively out of context. Delivered to the French Bishops at Lourdes, the Pope’s statement largely promoted harmony between Catholics seeking the vernacular Mass and others seeking the Latin Mass. St Mary’s would hardly applaud the latter. In a paragraph adjacent to the words selected by South Brisbane the Pope stated: “It can never be said often enough that the priesthood is indispensable to the Church, for it is at the service of the laity. Priests are a gift from God for the Church. Where their specific missions are concerned, priests cannot delegate their functions to the faithful.” Those words are reinforced by the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states in no.1142 “The members of the Church do not all have the same function”. Certain members are called by God in and through the Church to a special service of the community. Those servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacraments of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ the Head, for the service of all members of the Church.” Again such words would hardly be accepted by South Brisbane. In the paragraph immediately following, the Pope writes, “The Church, which cannot oppose the will of Christ, firmly maintains the principle of the indissolubility of marriage while surrounding with the greatest affection those men and women who, for a variety of reasons, fail to respect it. Hence initiatives aimed at blessing irregular unions cannot be admitted.” Again, such statements ...
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