Why St Mary's conflict had to happen

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Peter KennedyL'affaire Peter Kennedy has made headlines in Europe. It has been depicted as a dispute over blessing gay couples and allowing women to preach. But at the heart of the story is the matter of church authority.

Some reports compare the saga with the 2005 case of Father Franz Sabo in Switzerland. From the pulpit and in the media the Röschenz parish priest condemned the Catholic Church for being out of touch on marriage and homosexuality. He described his superior, Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, as 'heartless'. The bishop then felt obliged to sack him. In defiance of the hierarchy but with overwhelming parish support, Sabo stayed put.

Resolution was finally achieved last September after extensive private negotiations. Sabo retained his position, but has agreed to a form of words acknowledging the Church's authority.

Peter Kennedy's removal by Archbishop John Bathersby is set to take effect on 20 April, when the church keys are to be handed in. Kennedy's congregation plans to meet 'in exile' nearby. Most reportage abroad, as in Australia, interprets the events as embarrassing for the Catholic hierarchy and a setback for the wider church. More has been lost than one congregation's use of its buildings.

Two questions arise from the experiences in Basel and South Brisbane. Why do radical Christian ministries to the disadvantaged so frequently arouse the ire of conservatives for their departures from orthodoxy? And why do leaders of these ministries so often find themselves in bitter contention with their superiors?

It was so when Jesus attacked the scribes and pharisees for their insistence on orthodoxy and adherence to rules over freedom and love. It seems to have been so ever since.

Florence Nightingale was as passionate about her faith as she was about health policy. She fought the church just as ferociously for women's rights and a more liberal theology as she fought the government over hospital conditions.

France's most famous priest, Abbé Pierre, is regarded as a saint for his tireless care for the poor. Continually at loggerheads with the church until his death in 2007, he openly opposed Vatican teaching on contraception, male-only priests and celibacy. He condemned Pope John Paul II for his lavish lifestyle and urged him to retire at 75. He once told his bishop of his duty to him of l'insolence mesurée — measured insolence.

In Australia the local churches engaging most visibly with social outcasts have been radical protestants like God's Squad motorcycle club in Melbourne or the Urban Neighbours of Hope communities in Brisbane and elsewhere. All these have adopted alternative approaches to worship, church practice and leadership, including fresh expressions of theological truth.

They appear to have found from experience that reaching out to addicts, sex workers, outlaw gangs and others outside straight society cannot succeed with traditional ecclesiastical models.

Many leaders of these programs, as with Peter Kennedy, Franz Sabo and Abbé Pierre, have encountered serious problems with church authority. Brisbane's House of Freedom in the 1970s and '80s was a classic example.

Founder of the House of Freedom and later the House of the Gentle Bunyip in Melbourne, Professor Athol Gill, was twice sacked by Baptist church authorities for departures from orthodoxy, first in Queensland in 1972 and then in Victoria in 1984. The latter decision was dramatically reversed after an enthralling heresy show trial.

Why this pattern of insolence towards hierarchies among workers with the disadvantaged? Is it because all powerful institutions — government, corporate and ecclesiastical — inevitably hurt poor people? Is it that those who identify with outcasts have seen that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (to paraphrase Lord Acton — writing, incidentally, to a bishop)? And hence all institutions are inherently to be resisted?

Will anything good emerge from the saga of St Mary's? It is positive that the matters at the heart of the dispute, such as questions of the divinity of Christ, and of what is essential to being a Catholic, are being explored. Vigorous debates are underway on this website and elsewhere, with many contrasting views claiming legitimacy. These discussions may lead to acceptance of a greater diversity of views.

What happens next with Peter Kennedy — le prêtre australien iconoclaste — will be watched with fascination across the world. Freed from hierarchical control, will his church flourish and become an even greater refuge for the marginalised? Or, denied formal church status, will it wither? Will the Australian Catholic community be richer or poorer for his departure? Will other parishes that have modified unhelpful traditions now come under pressure to conform?

Finally, is there still time for a Basel-style compromise? Yes, there is time. But is there the inclination?


Peter KennedyAlan Austin is an Australian religious affairs journalist currently based in Nîmes, France.

Topic tags: alan austin, peter kennedy, st mary's, Father Franz Sabo, Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, Florence Nightingale

 

 

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Very well written article, clear and insightful. The old Guard of the Catholic Church is dying in the modernised West, and conservatism is being confused with traditionalism at its heart. But on the fringes new life is growing, from the ring of ashes at the periphery. St Mary's is a fine example.
Tim Graham | 15 April 2009


What is Fr Kennedy's position on the divinity of Christ? His popularity and effective ministry cannot be disputed, but is his rebellion essentially against church authority or orthodox belief? These are two radically different positions.
Pirrial Clift | 15 April 2009


Alan Austin asks eleven questions in the final three paragraphs of his article.

Since I don't have a crystal ball approved by any religious or spiritual denomination I will not attempt to answer any of them specifically. However I will answer one in general terms.

Alan asks 'Will anything good emerge from the saga of St Mary's?'
My answer is 'Yes'. And why? For the same reason something amazingly and ineffably good emerged from the saga of the rejected and despised Nazarene.
Uncle Pat | 15 April 2009


Apparently Austin thinks that Kennedy and a few scattered radicals have some kind of monopoly on helping the poor and the suffering. Frankly this is an insult to countless people who through organization such as Caritas or St Vincent de Paul do so much in this area - and without denying fundamental tenets of Christianity such as the divinity of Christ.
John | 15 April 2009


Alan Austin you asked the question why this pattern of insolence towards hierarchies amongst workers with the disadvantaged? Perhaps because there is a Messiah complex amongst those workers. Perhaps it's because they feel that being at the forefront they know best. Perhaps like some arrogant and pride filled humans they believe they have the answer and those "hierarchies" in their so called lofty posts have no idea of the human sufferings which they encounter every day.

Maybe all of the above but at the root of all of this I believe is the pride of "Eden" and the disobedience of "Eden". It is the belief that they know it best and those hierarchy don't quite understand. It's pride pure and simple.

Anne Lastman (Victims of Abortion Aust) | 15 April 2009


It is very interesting that established Christian Churches find it difficult to accommodate radical thinking and action by their adherents perhaps its time to be more flexible in this respect.

As this article points out Jesus even had problems with the established church of his day when he interacted with the poor and marginalised in society. I wonder just how flexible love can be?
David Sykes | 15 April 2009


Austin asks: Why this pattern of insolence towards hierarchies among workers with the disadvantaged? What pattern? A handful of cases he chooses. The Church's history and present life are replete with people who work with the disadvantaged without any need to defy essential Church teachings or to modify its sacraments and liturgy. Many of them founded religious orders that continue to attract large numbers of people to work with the disadvantaged. It is a pity journalists like Austin don't look around the world to see what is really going on.
Hugh Ryan | 15 April 2009


I have watched Fr Peter in action on the ABC, and was not engaged by either his personality or his theology.

I have no doubt that good works are in abundance at St Marys, but find that my reading of the lives of Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and Catherine De Hueck Doherty showed that a radical option for the poor can be exercised within the authority of the Church.

I have been privileged to spend time with the God Squad in the 1970s and during the 1980s met many members of the House of Freedom, House of the Gentle Bunyip and other christian communities. The Australian Network of Christian Communities acted as both yeast and sounding board for many during that time. Fr Peter seems to have lost the path of dialogue and peer supervision that is necessary to maintain balance.
Graham Upshall | 15 April 2009


I am in my 70s and support Fr Kennedy wholeheartedly. He is following Christ's message and work and has interpreted the message in a way that speaks to many, especially the disadvantaged. Despite the rules many nuns and priests have provided wonderful services spiritual and basic care for those in needs, sometimes stretching the boundaries - I support them fully, thank you Fr Peter and all those supporting him.
maeraid | 15 April 2009


This kind of polarisation - hierachy bad, rebels good - does nothing to help the cause of unity. I once saw the priest at St Mary's (can't remember which one) consecrate a loaf of sliced rye bread. I didn't mind rye bread, though it doesn't fit 'the rules' but sliced? Maybe there was something symbolic in that.....
Joan Seymour | 15 April 2009


Father Kennedy is simply saying what most catholics think about the church that has lost touch with its people. When the Pope utters nonsense about banning the use of condoms because their usage leads to promiscuity, they enter territory where they have no right (or knowledge about) to be.

That the church lies and lies again and again to cover its lies is well-known, just a brief look at its history shows that. It's a business and a powerful one with billions in its coffers, money which could supply free condoms to African people. Their teaching on homosexuality is without foundation. They take their 'lead' from the bible which also says, 'Those who work on the sabath day must be killed.' It also promotes slavery as a good thing. And there are plenty of other anomalies.

Keep up the good work, Peter Kennedy.
marie gordon | 15 April 2009


Coincidentally, there is a recently published book of some relevance. The blurb for New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan's most recent book, The First Paul, reads as follows.

"In this revolutionary follow-up to The Last Week and The First Christmas, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan once again use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to expose the church’s conspiracy to silence Jesus’s most faithful disciple, the apostle Paul. They reveal to a general audience what scholars have known for decades—that some of Paul’s letters in the New Testament were not written by him, but were written by later writers who sought to blunt the radical edge of Paul’s teachings, such as his confrontation with the Roman Empire and his commitment to radical equality and the full participation of women.

Paul’s later letters have been used to endorse slavery, subordinate women, and condemn homosexual behavior, but these passages were actually imposed by the early church to dilute Paul’s true radical egalitarian message and transform him into something more “acceptable.” The First Paul restores the life-changing message of the radical and authentic Paul—a voice that the church hierarchy did not want its followers to hear."

Orthodoxy is its own reward.
David Arthur | 15 April 2009


Peter Kennedy is no Florence Nightingale let alone Abbe Pierre. I support the ordination of women and the Church moving beyond heteronormative theologies to include LGBT people and of that was what the issues were about at St Mary's then I would be in support of them. But there's a whole lot of other stuff going on behind the progressive martyrdom spin that's been put about. St Mary's sadly has degenerated into a cult focused on Peter Kennedy and his sidekick Terry Fitzpatrick. It is barely Catholic in practice, more Unitarian in a vague way and they feel free to appropriate from other religions without any sort of respect. St Mary's certainly does not represent any sort of future for progressive Catholicism. It only models what not to do.
Michael Carden | 15 April 2009


A very thoughtful article Alan. I also do not have the answers.
In response to John's comment re the St Vincent de Paul Society, I was a spiritual advisor to two rural Conferences last year.I witnessed the hurt and pain inflicted on the hard working volunteers as the Brisbane 'head Office' bureaucracy, imposed all sorts of restrictions on their local operations in the name of accountability and good governance .These gentle souls were devastated by the 'new order' . We lost almost all the leadership and office bearers as they just could not work under the new regime.Sadly this authoritarian approach is all so common in many church bodies. I think there was a similar issue in the New South Wales SVdeP which received a bit of press coverage early this year.

I do not presume to know the Lord's will, but if Jesus were to be in our society today as He was in Palestine, I can't help wondering what He would say or do. And by the way I do not think our Church Leaders can so presume either. I believe that the Spirit speaks through all the Church, not just the ordained.
Gavin
Gavin O'Brien | 15 April 2009


It will certainly be interesting to see whether Fr Kennedy's church will wither outside the structure of the Catholic Church. No one should wish this upon him or his faithful. If this is something Fr Kennedy had to do (an existential want), then how can anyone judge him? The Catholic community is poorer for his departure. But it is necessary given his views. If his community withers now, this will say something about the authenticity of their claims. Where is one really at home?
catholic with a small c | 15 April 2009


There is no reason whay a church cannot stand with the poor and remain traditional. May I suggest that Oscar Romero was a fairly traditional priest who sided with the poor. He remained very Catholic. My feelings about St Mary's are mixed. They took on too much secular activist rhetoric and delivered sermons on things like home births which really have nothing to do with being Christian. Some of their stuff just fell into mainstream activism with no spiritual core.
Dan | 15 April 2009


Interesting to read the spokesperson for an anti abortion rights group accuse Peter Kennedy and the St Mary's community of 'pride', 'arrogance' and having a 'Messiah complex'.

Interesting because of the irony. It would be hard to think of a more arrogant mindset than that which attempts to deny women the right to terminate unwanted, unplanned pregnancy.
Anna Mack | 15 April 2009


Unfortunately I can't help thinking that the St Mary's situation is a mess of Archbishop Bathersby's own making. A more astute approach would never have allowed Fr Kennedy to stay so long in one place. A better use of his talents and charisma would have seen him employed as a "hit and run" stirrer of complacent conservative communities, providing colour and movement, inspiration and aggravation for a short time in a wide range of parishes, then moving on to do the same elsewhere. Regular rubbing up against the common or garden Catholic, with a mission to tend to their spiritual wellbeing, may also have acted as a hedge against Fr Kennedy's own temptations. As it is, he appears to have been allowed to become stuck institutionalised in his own way.
Jeremy Tulliver | 15 April 2009


Doesn't the buck stop at Scripture?
Lynda Beck | 15 April 2009


St Mary's could hardly be described as "radical", liberal would be more accurate. Its strong point was/is its tolerance. When we had the Greg Shackleton Catholic Worker house in a third of the St Mary's presbytery in the mid-90s, there was an interesting interface, on the same plot of land, between radical Catholicism (Catholic Worker) liberal Catholicism (St Mary's largely commuter congregation) social democrat Catholicism (state funded Micah Inc.) and conservative Catholicism (St Vinnies hostel...complete with former Police Commisioner Terry Lewis ensconsed in the section acting as a transition point from prison).

This interface could have been explored and instructive...but folks from whatever tradition seemed keen to circle the wagons....and move only in their circles of certainty.

What's embarrassing is the Bishop not turning up to the recent mediation session. One would think the job description as shepherd to the flock would demand a presence rather than dispatching "hirelings".... lawyers and public relations professionals.

I was surprised to read that St Mary's congregation fold so quickly and move to nearby Trades Hall. A prolonged stand off could have provided valuable space for discussion on St Mary's praxis and nature of Catholicism in Australia. PR crisis now over, opportunity missed. Why the rush to resolve the conflict? Not all conflict is bad or violent. Conflict can be an opportunity form challenge and growth.
Ciaron-Catholic Worker | 16 April 2009


WE REALLY NEED ARTICLES SUCH AS THIS! HAVING BEEN THROUGH OVER 70 YEARS IN THE CHURCH AND EXPERIENCED THE AGONY OF CATHOLIC WOMEN WHO WERE HAVING VERY LARGE FAMILIES AGONIZING OVER TAKING "THE pILL" AND THE HIERARCHY NOT LISTENING WE WERE WITH GREAT HEARTACHE FORCED FOR THE FIRST TIME INTO THE SITUATION OF MAKING UP OUR OWN MINDS! SINCE THEN WE HAVE LOST A GENERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH
WHO HIGHLY EDUCATED SEE THE CHURCH BECOME MORE CONDEMNING THAN ITS FOUNDER - JESUS!

IF IT HADN'T BEEN FOR THE WOMEN IN THE CHURCH THE NUNS - THE MOTHERS - IT WOULDN'T HAVE SURVIVED! THE FUTURE? ONLY IF WE FOLLOW THE TRUE TEACHING OF JESUS AND NOT THAT OF A POWERFUL WELL FUNDED HIERARCY OF MEN LIVING
IN SEPARATION FROM "THE REAL WORLD" WILL THE CATHOLIC CHURCH THRIVE! GOD BLESS THOSE PRIESTS WHO REALLY HEAR THEIR CONGREGATION'S GRIEF.
helengibson | 16 April 2009


In response to Ciaron - Much is made of the Archbishop not being at this mediation. I'm guessing the Archbishop was to be at the original mediation but then everything went skewif when Fr PK pulled out. A new date had to be arranged with community only. Surely it must be harder for an archbishop to blank out his diary than a priest. At any rate what would he have learned by meeting with them? Andrew Fraser's Australian article in February had a telling quote by the Archbishop which I'm afraid I can't remember verbatim but essentially ran 'They (St Mary's Community) want me to come over there to tell me to go jump.' Much as it might gall them to hear it there was a man who offered a model example of decorum and acceptance of the umpires decision once given - and that man handed over the Lodge to Kevin Rudd.
Peter Sek | 16 April 2009


Alan, you may wish to check your facts about the God's Squad. Each member must be involved in a Christian church community outside God's Squad otherwise they cannot be considered as members. They are not affiliated with any one denomination and do not allow their members to call God's Squad their 'church'. The president of the Sydney Chapter is an active Roman Catholic. An insightful article, thanks.
Paul Ghanem | 17 April 2009


Is this a case of sin shifting or love shifting?
Tamara Wostencraft | 17 April 2009


Paul is right about today’s God’s Squad. The reference was to an earlier period in Melbourne when all members, or nearly all, belonged to the radical independent local church Truth and Liberation Concern which met in Bayswater.

John is quite right also to refer to the great work done by Caritas and St Vincent de Paul. There are many others. The focus of this piece was on local worshipping communities.
Alan Austin | 17 April 2009


Paul is right about today’s God’s Squad. The reference was to an earlier period in Melbourne when all members, or nearly all, belonged to the radical independent local church Truth and Liberation Concern which met in Bayswater.

John is quite right also to refer to the great work done by Caritas and St Vincent de Paul. There are many others. The focus of this piece was on local worshipping communities.
Alan Austin | 17 April 2009


Hopefully, the Australian Catholic Church may start moving to a more Christian(?) position if the australian people stop being so afraid of departing from the straight and narrow!

What Father Peter has been doing is alright for most of us. However, the extreme rightwings have the means and the power to move against those such as Peter, putting fear in the hearts of the people. This is a shame!
I really look forward to seeing more Abbe Pierres around Oz, who have the guts to confront the fascism which can destroy whatever is good in our Church.


Nathalie | 17 April 2009


I am worried as to what led to the St.Mary's debacle. As I understand it, this great community had been going on for years but some 'catholic' complained to Rome and the current confrontational process started. Who are these faceless people who are the 'Catholic Police', reporting to Rome anything that offends their closed attitude, and who are the fools in Rome who give them the power they seem to have.

Fortunately there are many groups that they do not seem to know about and hopefully, never will find out about these groups. God surely blesses and smiles upon the group in Brisbane who accept that God is not exclusive but inclusive.
Michael Holdcroft | 17 April 2009


Fr Kennedy, you continue to be the Christ Person. My practising Catholic family of 7 (and my extended Catholic families) continue to thank you and pray for St Mary's in Exile and for the future of Our Church. We care not for words such as conformist, orthodoxy, or radicalism. We all need to remember the actions of Jesus. We need to keep our faith simple and think like adults. Jesus was not a conformist. Jesus challenged the hierarchy of the day. Jesus was a human being who had the guts to stand up for what was right. He stood for Justice. Jesus was Wise, Compassionate and Inclusive.Institutionalisation does not have the right answers. Fr Kennedy I thank you for being the Christ Person.
Bernadette McPhee | 17 April 2009


As a self confessed "Arian Gnostic" I have the greatest sympathy for Fr.Peter K. and his community. Whilst I enjoy a well executed ritual, I cannot,in all conscience, open my mouth and recite the Nicene creed, and will not utter the words of unworthiness immediately preceeding communion. There is much that needs rectifying in the church if it is to go forward into the new century as anything other than a quaint anachronism populated by little old ladies and fanatical conservative "gentlemen".

Yeshua (or Jesus) did not want to establish the monolith that rules with the pitiless iron hand. Actually, I believe he wished us to look within and find our own "Christedness". There! now that has set the cat among the pigeons.
Andrew Hardwick | 18 April 2009


Anna Mack: "It would be hard to think of a more arrogant mindset than that which attempts to deny women the right to terminate unwanted, unplanned pregnancy."

Just came up with one: a mindset which refuses to canvass the possibility that the most vulnerable, voiceless members of the human race deserve to live.
Hugh | 21 April 2009


As in most disputations total right is unlikely to be on one side. Although as a Catholic I feel extremely sad that the Institutional Church has not been able to find a way of being as inclusive as Jesus. Remember how the authorities of the day criticised Him for 'eating with prostitutes & sinners' & talking to 'tax collectors'.
Jim Walsh | 21 April 2009


I am saddened to see the forced removal of Fr Peter Kennedy. What a wonderful flourishing community St Mary's was.

This is happening elsewhere around the country, too. St Vincent's Redfern comes immediately to mind. The community has had the heart and spirit of the place torn apart.

Fr Ted Kennedy (the prophet of Redfern) left a wonderful legacy which his parishioners (aboriginal and non-aboriginal) were continuing through his illness, then beyond his death. A succession of ill-equipped priestly replacements that came latter and lack of leadership by our church hierarchy has succeeded in ripping this community apart. St Vincent’s continue to struggle and battle on.

When will we get it? A spirit filled community is one that is flourishing and one that is serving the poor and marginalised.

I plead with our church hierarchy to listen to us. This is a Kairos moment; your people see a need for much needed change in our church. Please work with us in Love, peace and Justice.
Georgina | 21 April 2009


The church has held these beliefs on homosexuality for many years. It is not the basis of the church that it changes with society, the basis of the church is Jesus, and how God wants us to live in this world. What right does one many have to influence so many poor souls to his own, corrupted way of thinking, while still calling himself part of the catholic church? maintaining the beliefs and lifestyle God wanted of us is part of the trials he sets before us and the temptations the devil does, it is our responsibility to stand by the teachings of God, which Peter Kennedy obviously has not.
Unknown | 23 April 2009


My reply to unknown as one who WAS ignorantly homophobic, is to open your heart and mind, and do not hide behind biblical fundamentalism. Try to read your bible as a historical document, and in the context of the times the various books were written. Also understand that these people do not choose this way willingly and deliberately, it is the way they are wired in the brain/heart and they have no choice in the matter. I have, over the course of my life,(60 years) met many fine and admirable people, who have contributed to the culture and wellbeing of society who, without their presence, society would be the poorer. To exclude, marginalise and deny the happiness of a fulfilling relationship to such people is a far greater sin than the "sin" they indulge in.Father Peter has shown greater christian understanding than the coldness of the bulk of doctrinaire "christians" who pontificate loudly and vehemently on behalf of a rather unpleasant, paranoid and psychopathic "God".
Andrew Hardwick | 27 April 2009


So very sad to find that Fr Peter Kennedy finally had to go - was it not possible to have stayed on and made a stand? I really felt there might have been a change of heart - St Mary's community is poorer for his dismissal. The idea of Jesus resisting the scribes and pharisees comes to mind. Be of good heart Fr Peter.
Maary Maraz | 01 May 2009


Have you considered how history repeats itself if we do not learn from our mistakes. It is ironic that an apology for the excommunication of Mary McKillop was given just a few days before most of the St Mary's community felt forced to leave their church and walk down the road to pray at the TLC building. Mary McKillop withdrew her sisters from this very site of St Mary's when she had a disagreement with the Brisbane Archbishop of the time - rejecting the authority he claimed over the practices of her sisters.

Our refusal to accept the demands of our Archbishop was done after much prayer and discussion about what we should do. Eventually the vast majority of the community moved from our beloved church where we had all certainly grown in our faith. Eventually most of us decided that to remain authentic in our faith we had to make a stand.

Do we have to wait a hundred years for an apology
Patricia Ryan | 05 May 2009


I do not understand why disaffected Roman Catholics do not simply join a branch of the Old Catholic Church. The Irish Catholic Church, for instance, is thriving, even in the Washington DC area of the US.

All, or almost all, branches of the Old Catholic Church ordain women and gays, and bless gay marriages. They have always rejected papal infallibility (as did many Roman Catholics in Ireland and northern Europe) and the idea that the church is a medieval barbarian monarchy rather than a contemplating and worshipping republic made up of self-governing city-states (dioceses).
John McGrath | 06 May 2009


Why do we (the St Mary's Comminity) want to stay Catholic? Within the Catholic fold we have come to know and love God, it is our family and one does not abandon ones family. We fear for the future of a church which has become authoritarian and we feel that it needs a prophetic community like ours as much or more than we need it.
Patricia Ryan | 07 May 2009


"Jesus attacked the scribes and pharisees for their insistence on orthodoxy and adherence to rules over freedom and love." Not in the Gospels He didn't. Jesus strongly emphasised orthodoxy. The only rule He ever broke was to heal on the Sabbath; He explained He was entitled to break that rule because He is “Lord of the Sabbath” i.e. God. Kennedy seems to think the same about himself, but that’s the only similarity he has to Jesus.

Don’t fall for Kennedy’s delusions of grandeur. The Church will still be proclaiming the Divinity of Christ and all the rest of its orthodox doctrines long after Kennedy has been forgotten.

And how can anyone continue to describe as “Christian”, even “Catholic”, a man who has comprehensively rejected not only the Divinity of Christ, but even belief in God?
Ronk | 07 May 2009


Ronk, would you accept Jesus broke the religious rules when he touched a leper, entered the home of a pagan captain whose servant was sick, when he ate and drank with the ritually unclean, refused to fast at the required times, harvested and ate wheat on the Sabbath, refused to wash before meals, travelled around Galilee with women in his group, allowed a prostitute to touch him and when he told his followers not to call anyone Father?

Would you disagree with Spanish Biblical scholar Juan Mateos (Google Message of Jesus by Juan Mateos):
“Apart from faith in God, Jesus left nothing of the existing Jewish religious code standing except justice and good-heartedness to one's fellows. All other obligations: sacrifices in the temple, prayers at fixed hours, ritual washings, distinctions between permitted or forbidden foods and consequently, discrimination between religious and non-religious people, had no value for him … What God values is that we be good to others and the only thing that stains a person is evil intentions, and harming one's neighbour.”

Ronk, why do you say Kennedy rejects the divinity of Christ and belief in God? Interviews available online and webcast church services all clearly affirm his belief in God. His understanding of the divinity of Jesus is less clear but still seems within accepted Catholic belief.
Alan A | 07 May 2009


"call no-one Father"?. Your other “breaches” are allowed under Jewish Law, (a lot more flexible than you and the Scribes and Pharisees think).

Yes I disagree with Senor Mateos, his comments smack of anti-semitism.

“within accepted Catholic belief”? A sick joke?

Kennedy stated “If Jesus came back today, there's no way he would be a Catholic. ... He didn't start it.”

Abp Bathersby said Kennedy told him Jesus is not God. Do you call him a liar?

Kennedy’s website ridicules the belief that God is “embodied in the man from Nazareth”.

“when asked if he and Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby were talking to the same deity, Kennedy said: "No, not at all. In fact I wouldn't talk to God, really."” (The Australian, 28/2/09)

Kennedy may mouth some prayers mentioning God, but it’s obvious he doesn’t believe them.

Kennedy’s current “Scripture reflection” on Luke 7:22 not only ignores the obvious message that Jesus is God, but even implies Kennedy is equal to or greater than Jesus. His most recent “homily” effusively praises the notorious “artwork”, “P…. Christ”. I can’t find any other mention of God or Jesus by him on his website. It’s all about himself and his “community”.
Ronk | 08 May 2009


Thanks for your responses, Ronk. I've gone back over your references. Are we drawing different conclusions from the same comments, possibly?

Senor Mateos concluded Jesus rejected the monarchy, the temple and the priesthood after translating the entire Bible into Spanish for the Vatican. Could his views have some validity?

On the matter of talking to God, are you judging on the basis of a quip in a newspaper? You may recall 2003 reports quoting George W Bush: "I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." Did Bush really talk with God and receive specific instructions? Many orthodox Catholics don't believe so. Is there room in the church for a range of experiences of prayer, including that at St Mary's which does seem quite vibrant.

On the matter of Kennedy's Luke 7 reflection, isn't he comparing the ministry at St Mary's with that of Jesus and the disciples rather than himself with Jesus? But, even if not, is it a fair comparison? Faithful Catholics far and wide believe it is. Shouldn't we all model ourselves on Jesus and proudly proclaim that we do? Perhaps this is the heart of the matter.
Alan A | 09 May 2009


Ronk's assertions are of the school that will see Christianity wither and die. It is just this mythology wrapped around the figure of Yeshua that is going to turn most of the educated young people right off the institutionalised Church, making the Confirmation service into a valedictory service for the newly confirmed. Yeshua never claimed sole sonship of God, he only ever claimed to be the "Son of man".

I also will not swallow the strange sacrificial atonement belief. Think for a minute- does anyone really wish to worship a god who will only forgive IF "his Son" is gorily and messily murdered as a sacrificial atonement? Further to this, crucifiction was a Roman punishment for treason against the State, so any "theives" were more likely 'freedom fighters' or terrorists in modern parlance. Had the Temple authorities detected blasphemy, they were totally free to stone Yeshua to death. however the temple police were obligated, under Roman law, to act as a militia to arrest whomever the warrant was made out for.

To round off this letter, Father Peter is treating his community as the mature adults that they are and teaching biblical scholarship
Andrew hardwick | 10 May 2009


Andrew hardwick, the “school” that makes the assertions which I merely repeat, has grown and grown for 2000 years and is now bigger than ever. Go ahead and believe whatever you want about Jesus or whatever you want to call Him, and we’ll see whether your “school” withers and dies. But your comments about “my” beliefs (implying they are some sort of crazy personal idiosyncracy of mine) are dubious.

Alan, why do you ignore the rest of the evidence I produce and concentrate on one “quip” in a newspaper? In all his many media statements before and since, Kennedy has said nothing to contradict or correct the “quip”. You might also see Kennedy’s hour-long interview (hardly a “quip”) on The Conversation Hour on ABC Radio last year:

Richard Fidler: “Do you believe in Heaven?” - Kennedy: “No.”
Fidler: “Do you believe in Hell?” – Kennedy: “No.”
Fidler: “Do you believe in God?” – Kennedy – long, vague, rambling, evasive, politician-style answer to the effect that there is no personal God, and his belief is some kind of panentheism.
Ronk | 10 May 2009


Btw Alan, there is no historical evidence that Jesus touched a leper, entered the home of a pagan captain whose servant was sick (in fact Matthew 8:13 says that he didn’t), ate and drank with the ritually unclean, refused to fast at the required times, refused to wash before meals, travelled around Galilee with women in his group (it is recorded that women ministered to them, not that they travelled with them – if they had, surely that would have been His enemies’ chief charge against Him), or allowed a “prostitute” to touch him (the Gospel says she “had a bad name in the town” and had committed “many sins”. It doesn’t say what type/s of sins.)
Ronk | 10 May 2009


Ronk, you have admirable faith in the written words of the canonical Gospels and in the "wisdom" of the Church which, I would contend is too much a priori and not enough a posteriori. To quote Pascal- "Woe to him who, at least once in his life, has not put everything into question."

You say that the Church is growing. Maybe, in the third world, there is a resurgence, but in the "West" it is, at best, stagnating and, more likely, diminishing because it is founded on, theologically, very shaky ground. Young people are seeking a spiritual ground to their being but they are not looking at a Christianity that has been so blatantly based on pagan mythology. Saul/Paul was known, by the jerusalem followers as the "Father of lies" and Pauline christianity is what the church, Orthodox, Catholic (and it's offshoots) and all the Protestants and those offshoots, is based.
Andrew Hardwick | 11 May 2009


Andrew, thank you for your compliment on my faith. I do my best to faithfully follow the Second Vatican Council which unhesitatingly asserted the historicity of the four Gospels and that they faithfully record what Our Saviour really did and taught. I assure you that in the world as a whole the Church is strongly growing. It is relatively speaking dying in most of the West, but only because the West itself is dying. In 100 or perhaps only 50 years, Asia, Africa and Latin America will be the world’s dominant continents.

I am curious, since you so adamantly reject the very basis of Catholicism and of all mainstream Christianity, why you hang around a Catholic website? Not that I wish to deter you, hopefully you’ll pick up some extra bits of the truth here.
Ronk | 11 May 2009


But leaving aside that the Gospels are inspired Scripture and treating them purely as you would any other contemporary historical document, on what basis can you make the declaration that “Yeshua never claimed sole sonship of God”? Where is your historical evidence for this amazing assertion? What sort of “biblical scholarship” enables you to declare without any evidence that Jesus was NOT, as all four Gospels attest, executed for blasphemy, but for terrorism? You seem to be basing your argument on the idea invented by some 19th and 20th century militant Christophobic atheists, that “Any historical fact which is stated in any text accepted by Christians as divinely inspired, must be presumed to be the exact opposite of the truth, unless proven true solely from sources which have not been contaminated by any contact with Christians.”
Ronk | 12 May 2009


And what are your historical bases for your dogmatic assertions that Catholicism is “so blatantly based on pagan mythology” and that “Saul/Paul was known, by the jerusalem followers [of Christ, I guess you mean] as the "Father of lies"”?
Ronk | 12 May 2009


The debate regarding Arianism and/or Gnosticism versus Orthodoxy is (as it did nearly in the time of Athanasius) turning into a subject so highly emotionally charged that it cannot come to a reasonable conclusion; especially on an internet forum. As it is creating disagreement, frustration and anger, I feel it best that I withdraw.
Andrew Hardwick | 17 May 2009


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