It seems more than a little ironic to me that on the official day of mourning for Victorian bushfire victims, in which churches are requested to toll their bells for two minutes, that the church of St Mary’s will be mourning another loss entirely–that of their beloved leader.
Getting involved in public discussion of religious debate is not something I set out to do every day but the sacking of Fr Peter Kennedy has me riled. Also, it’s been a while since my last post, due to a broken laptop and a sprained wrist, so I’m ready to say a few words.
For those out of the loop, Father Peter Kennedy, parish priest of St Mary’s church in South Brisbane, has been sacked by Archbiship Battersby for falling out of communion with the Catholic Church. The 1000+ regular attendees of Peter’s services are, understandably, outraged and saddened.
Personally, I am saddened. I was baptised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, was a teacher in Catholic schools and have attended mass at St Mary’s. While I now follow my own version of spirituality that has nothing to do with churches, I credit much of my development to the foundational teachings of the Catholic church. And, amazingly, the more I grow in spirituality the more I truly understand that it’s not very different at all. It’s all just different words and levels of meaning to describe the same stuff. On the rare occasion when I think I would like to go to church, the ONLY place I consider is St Mary’s.
Peter Kennedy has devoted his whole life to serving people, to working at grass roots levels and ministering the very way that Jesus taught to minister… without the pomp and ceremony and rigidness that alienates the very people that need it the most. Yes, Peter blesses gay couples. Yes, Peter says that babies are not born with ‘original sin’. Yes, he encourages women to minister. Yes, he walks in protests and actively stands up against government decisions that he thinks is wrong (e.g. detention centres). Yes, he may be out of step with Catholicism.
But isn’t that the point? How many churches in Brisbane can boast the number of participants that St Mary’s does? To say that change is wrong is to sign the death of the church. The church has and always will change. Vatican II in the sixties saw the most radical changes of all. And it was needed. Without change it would have died.
To stagnate is to die. The people have spoken and yet their leaders are willfully ignoring them. Silly, silly men.
I’ve no doubt Peter will go on, either within St Mary’s (if he and his people can win the fight) or somewhere else. Because he is desperately needed. In an age that is crying out for religious tolerance and inclusion, this is a shameful discrimination by the Catholic church, one that has dreadfully damaged its reputation.
Shame Battersby, shame.
To everyone else, I say go to church at St Mary’s and show your support! You’ll love it! 🙂