|Mackillop Exposed Paedophile Priest
By Jacqueline Maley
September 25, 2010
MARY MacKILLOP was excommunicated from the Catholic Church partly as revenge for helping to expose the paedophilia of a South Australian priest, a new documentary about the life of the controversial sister claims.
The documentary for the ABC's Compass program claims sisters in MacKillop's Josephite order of nuns attracted the ire of a South Australian priest for telling authorities that a Father Keating, of Kapunda, was molesting children at the local church school.
The sisters reported the abuse to the vicar-general and disciplinary action was taken against Keating, humiliating him and angering a Father Charles Horan, who was close to the bishop of Adelaide, Bishop Shiel.
Horan is believed to have harboured a grudge against MacKillop and the whistleblowers in her order, and used his influence over the bishop to manipulate him into throwing the nun out of the church in 1871. Bishop Shiel reversed the excommunication on his deathbed.
Father Paul Gardiner, a Jesuit priest and the chief postulator for MacKillop's sainthood, told the documentary makers that Bishop Shiel was ''gaga'' when he excommunicated the woman soon to become Australia's first saint. ''She submitted to a farcical ceremony where the bishop was, I'm not sure you should use this word, gaga, but he had lost it and he was being manipulated by malicious priests,'' he said.
Keating was sent back to Ireland where he continued as a priest, the documentary says.
''Were they covering up sexual abuse? Well, I suppose you could put it that way,'' Father Gardiner said. ''Or priests being annoyed that somebody had uncovered it and being so angry that the destruction of the Josephites was decided upon.''
This is the first time the link between a paedophilia cover-up and MacKillop's excommunication has been exposed. It comes as the Catholic Church faces a global crisis following revelations of child abuse and cover-ups by the church hierarchy.
During a recent visit to Britain, Pope Benedict said he was ashamed of the ''unspeakable'' sexual abuse of children by priests, and deeply sorry for it.
Speaking to the documentary, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson called MacKillop's excommunication a ''disaster''. ''It was just such a bad reflection on the life of the church at that time,'' he said.
Last year Archbishop Wilson apologised to the Josephite order on behalf of the archdiocese of Adelaide.
MacKillop clashed repeatedly with church authorities, partly because she insisted her order be self-sufficient and run itself, rather than be under the control of diocesan priests as other Catholic orders were. In 1873 she travelled to Rome to see the Pope and have the Josephite constitution approved by the Vatican.
The documentary also touches on rumours that circulated in 1931 that she was an alcoholic.
Apparently she suffered from debilitating menstrual cramps, and the only pain relief available at the time was brandy.
The documentary airs on October 10 at 10.15am, a week before MacKillop's canonisation in Rome, which will be webcast and broadcast on ABC 24.
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