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Catholic belief

By Jim Toohey - posted Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I refer to Gary MacLennan’s article in On Line Opinion “Faith of our fathers: the crisis deepens” on February 20, 2009.

Mr MacLennan seems to completely misunderstand the nature and cause of the current dispute between Fr Peter Kennedy and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brisbane. There are multiple examples of this throughout his article but I will cite just five:

The statue (of Buddha) was there because, unlike Dr Bathersby, Fr Kennedy took seriously the impulse towards ecumenicism endorsed at the Vatican 2 and made his church available to a Buddhist group.


Archbishop Bathersby has been and is an ardent supporter of ecumenism. Indeed, there are parishes throughout Brisbane who show a similar genuine commitment to ecumenism as espoused by the Second Vatican Council.

An actual reading of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism “Unitatis Redintegratio” reveals no reference or call to incorporate non-Christian religious symbols into the Catholic Church as a valid demonstration of ecumenism. Rather, the statement recognises that all Christian religions have at their core the belief in the divinity and centrality of Jesus Christ and the Gospels.

… the harsh authoritarian nature of the decisions Dr Bathersby has taken. Nor can it disguise the personal suffering that Dr Bathersby has callously inflicted on the faithful of St Mary’s.

No reasonable or fair analysis of Archbishop Bathersby’s letters to Fr Kennedy (only made public because of Fr Kennedy's decision to draw public attention to himself and the dispute via the media) could possibly lead to a conclusion that Archbishop Bathersby has made decisions in a "harsh" or "authoritarian" manner.

What does overwhelmingly resonate is the obvious grief and sorrow the Archbishop feels at Father Kennedy's seeming refusal to accept the unremarkable orthodoxies of a Church which feeds, clothes and provides him with a pulpit from which to preach.

Similarly, the "faithful" of St Mary's have made a decision to follow a faith not consistent with Catholic beliefs: how have Archbishop Bathersby’s actions "inflicted" anything upon them?


In Kennedy’s faith Jesus is the outsider, the revolutionary, who opposes Empire and suffers a horrible death because of that. But for Kennedy, Christ’s sacrifice calls on all of us to make a similar commitment in our search for the Kingdom of God on earth.

The first sentence of this paragraph, hits the nail precisely on the head - the faith Fr Kennedy follows is his own.

Most Christians would probably agree with the description of Jesus as an outsider and a revolutionary. However, there is very little in the Gospels which indicates an opposition to "empire" or of government generally with the exception of criticism of religious leaders (Pharisees) of the time.

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About the Author

Jim Toohey is a practicing Catholic and former Catholic seminarian.

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