Rebel Catholic Church Faces Closure
August 25, 2008,23599,24236827-29277,00.html

MEMBERS of a renegade Catholic church will meet tonight to consider an ultimatum from Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby to toe the line or face closure.

In a three-page letter delivered to parish priest Father Peter Kennedy on Friday, Archbishop Bathersby called the 700-strong parish of St Mary's South Brisbane "an authority to itself".

"The question for me is not so much whether St Mary's should be closed down, but whether St Mary's will close itself down by practices that separate it from communion with the Roman Catholic Church," Archbishop Bathersby wrote.

Father Kennedy read the excerpt to about 300 stunned parishioners at a mass yesterday morning.

If St Mary's South Brisbane is forced to close it would be a first for the Catholic church in Australia.

The parish has received repeated warnings for a number of years after operating outside the accepted practices of the Catholic Church.

At St Mary's, unorthodox masses are conducted, women can preach and homosexual couples are blessed.

But Archbishop Bathersby has drawn the line at a small statue of a Buddhist monk praying, which was placed inside the church.

The statue, which had been provided for a Buddhist meditation group which meets each week in St Mary's, was later taken out and smashed by a parishioner.

Archbishop Bathersby said the "violence" used to destroy it was unjustified.

"Nevertheless, only extreme recklessness would place a Buddhist statue in a Christian Church.

"No matter where that takes place, there is every possibility it would arouse angry feelings, particularly with Christians from different religious cultures."

He acknowledged that St Mary's had opened its doors to all who wanted to worship there, as well as taking a strong role on social justice issues.

"But its own style of worship and sacramental practice can hardly be described as Roman Catholic.

"As such, it is out of communion with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane and Universal Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome."

Asked whether tonight's meeting at the church would resolve the issues to his satisfaction, Father Kennedy said: "I'm not particularly hopeful myself, but it's up to the community ... they will find the right solution."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.