Sacked Catholic priest holds mass at Brisbane churchABC News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbsRLIG20jsAndrew Fraser | February 09, 2009
REBEL priest Peter Kennedy has been sacked by Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby - believed to be the first dismissal in Australia for contravening Catholic liturgy. Father Kennedy's dismissal from St Mary's of South Brisbane will become effective on February 21, meaning next weekend he will conduct his final mass after nearly 50 years as a priest. Dr Bathersby sacked Father Kennedy in a letter sent on Friday after the dispute over the use of lay people and politically correct language in services, which has divided the Brisbane diocese.
"I will terminate your appointment as administrator of St Mary's parish effective Saturday 21 February 2009 unless you were to resign beforehand," Dr Bathersby wrote.
Father Kennedy yesterday told an emotional mass of 800 people that he wanted to make one final appeal to Dr Bathersby to visit the church.
"We would like to ask him here and say please come and be here with us and experience the vitality, the energy, the love that exists in this community," he said. "This tactic of exclusion, of division, will not lead to healing."
He had previously said that if he were forced out he would set up another church, but yesterday he told his flock he did not want to be a "cult leader" and was "over running a breakaway church".
Although the nearby Trades and Labour Council has offered Father Kennedy space if he wishes to take services there, yesterday he was undecided about what his future would bring if Dr Bathersby did not change his mind. St Mary's contravenes Catholic doctrine by involving women in services and allowing sermons by lay people. In recent weeks, indigenous activists Dennis Walker and Sam Watson have given homilies as has cartoonist Sean Lahey of The Courier-Mail.
The church also gives mass to openly gay people and runs services to help the large number of homeless people in the area.
There have also been complaints about the form of baptisms used in christenings at the church; that St Mary's used the terms "creator, liberator, sustainer" instead of the "Father, Son and Holy Ghost".
Both terms are now used in baptisms at the church, but Dr Bathersby's letter said parents concerned about "validity" of their children's baptisms could have them performed again. Dr Bathersby would not respond to any requests for interview yesterday, his spokesman pointing to his letter to Father Kennedy as an indication of his views.
"I have repeatedly asked for changes but you and the community have not budged an inch," the letter says.
Ken Howell, dean of Brisbane's St Stephen's Cathedral, will run the parish until a new administrator can be appointed.
Father Kennedy received strong support from yesterday's overflowing congregation. Parishioner Marg Ortiz said the congregation might have to be forcibly removed after Father Kennedy left. "We're staying put - they would have to physically come and remove us."
St Mary's holds a mass on Saturday evenings, one on Sunday mornings and another on Sunday afternoons, but Dr Bathersby in his letter says that only two masses will be run - at 7am and 9am on Sundays.
Parishioner Roger Dewar said this was aimed at excluding gays and lesbians from the church, as they "come in numbers to the 5pm mass".
"This is a big change - it says they're not wanted in the church," he said. "But gay and lesbian people come here because they're loved."