Thursday, March 26, 2009

The row over who is in charge of a Brisbane Catholic Church appears to have been resolved.

  • Cosima Marriner
  • March 27, 2009

IN A bid to break the stalemate with sacked rebel priest Peter Kennedy, the Catholic hierarchy in Brisbane is negotiating directly with representatives of his parish.

Father Kennedy is refusing to hand over the keys to St Mary's Church to the new administrator, despite being sacked last month for unorthodox practices. He has also refused to engage in mediation with Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, conducted by former high court justice Ian Callinan.

To keep the stoush out of the courts, the Brisbane Archdiocese is now trying to negotiate a peace deal with the St Mary's community. Members of the church's parish council have agreed to mediation with the church's incoming administrator, Father Ken Howell.

The talks, held yesterday, were aimed at working out how to manage the transition to the new administration.

"There is a willingness on the part of some members of the parish council to participate in mediation," the chancellor of the Brisbane Archdiocese, Father Adrian Farrelly, said.

"I see it as a positive step in the ongoing life of the parish and hopefully good things come from it."

Archbishop Bathersby sacked Father Kennedy last month for being "out of communion" with the church. The controversial priest openly defies the Vatican by allowing women to preach, blessing gays, conducting unorthodox sacraments and denying the Virgin birth.

After Father Kennedy pulled out of mediation last week, Father Farrelly warned that the Archbishop had "no option other than to consult with the Archdiocesan legal advisors to facilitate the handover of St Mary's administration through the proper legal processes".


Controversial priest Father Peter Kennedy will be allowed to conduct Easter services at Saint Mary's at South Brisbane as part of a compromise deal to have him leave permanently.

In February, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby had asked Father Kennedy to quit as the administrator for using unorthodox practices, such as blessing same-sex unions and allowing women to preach.

In a seven-hour meeting on Thursday, the Saint Mary's community council negotiated with archdiocese representatives to let Father Kennedy stay until April 19.

Karen Walsh from the Saint Mary's council says it will help give the community closure.

"We're really glad that we'll be having Easter together," she said. "From the community council's point of view, we recognise that this is the end of the community as we know it."

Ms Walsh says Archbishop John Bathersby did not attend yesterday's meeting.

"The community council was really disappointed that the Archbishop did not participate, it was our expectation and desire for him to but we found out late in the afternoon that he would not be in attendance - it would only be his representatives," she said.

Church authorities had hired former High Court Justice Ian Callinan to attempt mediation with Father Kennedy, who refused to talk with church leaders since his sacking.

After his dismissal, the priest defied church authorities by saying mass at St Mary's parish which was attended by about 1,000 people.


Brisbane's rebel catholic priest will hand over the keys to his church - but not before leading mass over Easter.

Father Peter Kennedy has agreed to hold his final mass at St Mary's church on April 19 after a mediation breakthrough on Thursday.

Archbishop John Bathersby decreed on February 19 that Fr Kennedy be removed as the parish's priest.

Fr Kennedy was sacked for refusing to stop unorthodox practices such as blessing gay couples and selling books that questioned the divinity of Jesus.

Under the agreement brokered on Thursday, the new administrator of the parish Dean Ken Howell, or his nominee, will preside over mass at St Mary's from Monday April 20 and Fr Kennedy will hand over the keys to St Mary's by 8am (AEST) that day.

The document also states that from that time the Archbishop has directed that St Mary's Church be restored for use solely for Catholic worship and other purposes approved by the new administrator.

St Mary's Community Council will ensure Dean Howell is allowed immediate and full access to all parish books and records, the agreement says.

The council will resign at midnight on Sunday April 19.

The document also notes the Archbishop has not issued a directive not to accept baptismal certificates from St Mary's and has no intention to issue such an order.

St Mary's council co-convenor Marg Oritz has told the Courier Mail it was agreed at the mediation that in the interests of the community's needs, Fr Kennedy would continue saying Mass at St Mary's until after Easter.


Marissa Calligeros
March 27, 2009

The four-year-long feud between Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby and a maverick cleric appears to have been resolved yesterday following arduous negotiations between community council members and the Catholic church.

In a bid to break the stalemate with sacked rebel priest Peter Kennedy, the Catholic hierarchy negotiated a peace deal with parish representatives, who agreed to hand over the keys to the church on April 20.

The rebel priest had refused to engage in mediation with Archbishop Bathersby, conducted by former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, after the church said it would not consider reinstating him as administrator of the unique ministry.

The intense negotiations, which lasted for seven hours yesterday, have appeared to resolve the dispute centered on accusations that Father Kennedy contravened Catholic doctrine by allowing women to preach at Mass, blessed gay couples and used unorthodox wording in baptisms.

Community members, who reluctantly participated in the negotiations, said they were devastated by the outcome.

"This isn't a community in transition. This is the ending of one community and the start of another," St Mary's council co-convenor Karyn Walsh said.

"The community doesn't support the decisions. We simply knew that there was nothing we could do to stop legal action to reclaim the property."

Ms Walsh said it was agreed Fr Kennedy would continue saying Mass at St Mary's until after Easter in the interest of the community's needs.

"In this way, the community will have time to celebrate the Easter liturgies in the community as we have known it for many years.

"People will make their own decision about where they will attend mass after April 20."

The social justice organisation, Micah Projects, considered by many to be the hallmark of St Mary's Catholic community, will also move house following the dispute.

Ms Walsh confirmed the non-profit organisation would move from St Mary's House to new offices.

"We may or may not negotiate continued use in another way," Ms Walsh said. "We will have to lease a property in West End or South Brisbane.

"We don't want to work under the Catholic's all about perception and innuendo and no natural justice."