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Via Media


Down Under..

posted by awelborn

Thanks to Clare in the comments for pointing out this story:

I think the situation is that a parish that was, in the words of one, "free-wheeling" and dominated by a sympathy with the cause of the Aboriginal peoples was put under the care of a priest from the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and tensions ensued. (Which turns on its head the views of many that the NC is all about being free-wheeling, itself). This past weekend, the Aboriginal contigent took its stand:

IT WAS a big day at St Vincent’s Redfern yesterday, but Father Gerry Prindiville sat grim-faced through the celebrations.

He had come to Mass to find a huge mural had appeared overnight on the east wall of his church. As far as the embattled priest was concerned, this was not a miracle but a crime. "They must have broken in to do it," he told the Herald.

"It concerns me that someone can break into my church."

The place was jubilant. St Vincent’s Catholic church is contested ground and the old crowd – the Aborigines and the social justice mob – were out in force congratulating themselves on this wonderful jape at the expense of Cardinal George Pell’s man sent three years ago to straighten out the parish.

"We were reclaiming the church for the Aboriginal people," explained Griffo, one of the culprits. "We had to sort of sneak in, not let the priests know what we were doing." He insists entry was not forced. "One of the sisters came and climbed through the window."

Planning had been going on for weeks. Once the scaffolding was wheeled into place by 1.30 on Saturday afternoon, the black and white team of painters took six hours to do the tree of hands and the animals – Griffo did the emu – and the lines from Pope John Paul II’s famous 1986 speech in Alice Springs: "For thousands of years you, the Aboriginal people, have lived in this land with a culture that endures to this day …"

There is more at this blog, including texts of some of Archbishop Pell’s correspondence regarding the parish

More information and links here.



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midwestmom

posted July 31, 2006 at 10:20 am


“The new man seems grimly aware that he lives in Father Kennedy’s shadow. He shrugs when asked how he plans to win his congregation over. Just wait it out? He nods. “The problem is that people won’t accept any sort of authority. They have been used to doing their own thing for so long.” ”
Close it down and release this priest to go where he is wanted.



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Maureen O'Brien

posted July 31, 2006 at 10:54 am


It’s a pretty disturbing story, the mural thing. Are these adults, playing these baby games? But all the same, I don’t see why the priest didn’t just pretend like he was perfectly happy about it. (Even if he changed the locks afterward.)
It’s like if you’re a teacher, and some kid brings you a snake or a slug. If you give him an angry or distressed reaction, every kid in class will be bringing in slithery, slimy critters. But if you say, “Wow! What a great snake!”, the kid will be at least defused, and possibly even won over.
Besides, it’s not like the priest is going to be there forever. The parish people are the ones who are going to have to live with emus and quotes on their walls (whether it looks lame or beautiful).



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Chris S

posted July 31, 2006 at 10:58 am


I’m sure they all feel like totally empowered!



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Dale Price

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:43 am


Being prophetic means never having to say you are sorry.



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Maureen O'Brien

posted July 31, 2006 at 12:56 pm


Apparently some of the foofaraw is due, actually, to a homily given during “National Sorry Week”. This is based on the liberal Australian idea that every Anglo in the country has to apologize to every Aboriginal Australian for every evil Anglo deed in history. Not being alive then, or having no ancestors in the country then, is no excuse.
According to that blog, the priest’s homily apparently was along the lines that it was less important to apologize and grovel to each other for long-dead persons’ sins than to ask God for His forgiveness for our own sins. Shocking.



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Maureen O'Brien

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:06 pm


However, there is apparently a complaint that one of those Neocatechumenal Way priests provided too free a translation of Jesus’ words in his Good Friday homily, etc.
So it may well be that two “innovative” movements are running up against each other. Freedom for me and not for thee, and all that….
Part of the problem seems to be that the parish has a lot — a huge lot — of entrenched local traditions and ceremonies. The priests apparently don’t think much of said traditions. Since the Neocatechumenal Way seems to be in favor of slimming ceremony down or making it more “informal” in feel (though binding folks very tightly to the movement traditions they do have), I suppose that’s why they don’t. So what would probably seem to a mainstream priest like a PITA en masse, but tolerable and sometimes even sweet, really gets under these guys’ skins.
For example, I don’t know why you’d put a bunch of autumn leaves, each representing one of the parish dead, on the Good Friday altar. It seems to take the focus off Good Friday. (Though I suppose that All Saints’ being in Australia’s spring might explain that.) But even if you didn’t want them on the altar, surely you could plan ahead and put them on a small decorative table set in front of the altar? Then they’d be out of the way, subordinate, but still in an honored place. You could even reason that they were under the altar, like the parish’s relics.
Stubbornness, pride, readiness to take offense, refusal to see the other’s point of view, and lack of compromise or unity. Clearly both sides are messing up big here. Obviously the parishioners, or any small cabal of them, shouldn’t play these games; but then again, the priests are adults and should know better than to fuel the fire.



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Susan Peterson

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:06 pm


I read down a bit. It doesn’t seem as if right is all on one side or the other here. For instance, the people had a custom of a certain kind of memorial to their deceased members on Good Friday. This memorial was apparently culturally appropriate to them; they brought a carefully selected autumn leaf to the altar for each name read. Now I admit that to me, this smacks of hoky contrived religious ed nonsense. But in this parish this had gone on for some time and meant a lot to the people. Yet the priest apparently chatted to others during the reading of these names, even laughed and made faces at the sound of the names, and afterwards unceremoniously swept away all the leaves. People left in tears. Some tried to put the leaves back. This priest’s behavior is unacceptable. Reading the names of the deceased is a liturgical practice with much precedent. My Byzantine rite parish reads the names of all the fathers of the parish, living and deceased on fathers day, the mothers on mothers day. I attended an Orthodox parish yesterday -a small one-where they read the names of the deceased members of the parish at ALL celebrations of the Diving Liturgy. So this does not seems to be an un Christian or un Catholic practice. If fallen leaves as a symbol of death are meaningful to these people, using that symbol is not unChristian or unCatholic. To laugh at the names, to sweep the leaves away, is just plain uncharitable. If the priest wants to move this ceremony away from Good Friday, he ought to proceed very carefully to establish it at another time first.
At the same time this priest brought a cultural practice from his own culture, that of acting out the crucifixion in a somewhat graphic way, including himself pretending to be the crucified one, and expressing Christ’s words in a colloquial way “Daddy Daddy. save me!” I am not sure this even means the same thing as “My God my God why have You abandoned me.” But again, in his cultural context, it might have been acceptable. But the idea that he could reject a practice from these people’s cultural context…and then introduce one from his own which also is not a standard part of the liturgy of the church, shows a truly astonishing lack of sensitivity, in fact, a lack of charity.
If the people supporting the aborigines are also “liberal” Catholics who want married priests and women priests, well that part of the agenda has to be opposed. But nothing could more play into their hands or do worse harm to the cause of orthodoxy than this kind of culturally insensitive and uncharitable behavior.
I suggest that everyone follow the link and scroll down and read past the part about the mural.
Susan Peterson



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Jimmy Mac

posted July 31, 2006 at 2:09 pm


“It concerns me that someone can break into my church.”
Yep … it’s HIS church! The rest of the parish can eat dirt and bark at the moon.



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mcmlxix

posted July 31, 2006 at 2:38 pm


Jimmy Mac, would your response have been less reactionary if the priest had instead said something like…it concerns me that someone could break into a place that I’m responsible for…



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Jimmy Mac

posted July 31, 2006 at 5:00 pm


The priest said what he meant. Mel Gibson said what he meant. All the shucking, jivin’, back pedaling, etc. in the world doesn’t change that we usually say what we mean.
What that priest forgets is that the parish was there before him and, unless he totally drives it into the ground, it will be there after he leaves. The PARISH is responsible for the church building as much as the temporary caretaker priest is. They have a very vested interest in what, when and how things happen. But many of these priests tend to forget that.
They are to be stewards, not lords of the manor. Their parishioners are not vassals, but stakeholders in THEIR parish.



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TM Lutas

posted July 31, 2006 at 6:14 pm


Jimmy Mac – If the parish wanted to put a mural up, the parish would have walked in the door, not the window. I have keys to my church as do a few other members of the laity in my parish. We would *never* countenance going behind Father Sergiu’s back and painting a mural without his prior knowledge and approval. That these painters did not have keys is a mark that they were part of, or the entirety of, a faction that had been not been trusted. The priest seems to have shown good judgment in key distribution.
The priest might have fallen short in other respects. Had I been solicited for advice, I would have suggested the following punishment. The laity who did it would be sentenced to actually read the rules on church decoration and demonstrate that they understood them. Refuse, and the mural is painted over whether it’s within the rules or not. If they go through the process so they understand why the rules are the way they are and they undertake any necessary changes to fit within the rules, the mural stays. Further changes going forward go through the proper procedure or they get reversed with no debate.



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Maureen

posted July 31, 2006 at 6:54 pm


Of course, it’s also possible that the priests aren’t intentionally hurting anybody’s feelings, and are behaving in a perfectly unobjectionable manner but being misunderstood through prejudice.
But there usually is something to be sad on all sides of these things, especially since unhappiness breeds unhappiness.



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Andrea Harris

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:07 pm


It’s like if you’re a teacher, and some kid brings you a snake or a slug. If you give him an angry or distressed reaction, every kid in class will be bringing in slithery, slimy critters.

Not this kid. I would have shrivelled up and practically died of embarassment if I had upset one of my teachers like that.
I don’t consider myself to have been a particularly goody-good kid, and my parents were authoritarian — in fact, by the standards of the time (late 60s, early 70s) they were fairly hands-off when it came to parenting. Then again it wasn’t the fashion to be your kid’s best buddy and partisan champion, the way it apparently is today. Which treatment has resulted in a generation of some of the most spoiled, annoying, self-centered little wretches I have ever seen. And I see that this spoilage has a long reach.



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Andrea Harris

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:08 pm


Sigh. That should be “my parents weren’t authoritarian.” It’s been a long week in one day.



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John Kiwi

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:46 pm


As someone from “Down Under”, it is well known that when dealing with indigenous people in both AUS and NZ, you have to use kid gloves and a stack of pastoral sensitivity. Even if this chap is right (I don’t know enough to say), change really ought to be gradual and explained clearly. The Autumn leaves thing is an example of the sort of thing you can really mess up-Aborigines are big on remembering the dead, and he should at least give them a little space to do that. And I agree-it would have played a lot better if he had said “What a lovely mural! Such a nice suprise!”. After all, they put the Pope’s words on the wall, not Che Guavara. Any disciplinary action should have been private, and any changes to conform with the rules should have probably been private as well. This demonstrates there is feeling in the parish (Justifiable?), and it is the pastor’s job to listen, understand and respond sensitively, firmly and with grace. Don’t think this guy has.



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Andrea Harris

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:25 pm


As someone from “Down Under”, it is well known that when dealing with indigenous people in both AUS and NZ, you have to use kid gloves and a stack of pastoral sensitivity.

I suppose treating them like adults is out of the question.



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Ephraem

posted August 1, 2006 at 12:56 am


The point is not aboriginality but a well orchestrated campaign to embarrass the Cardinal by people who are from OUTSIDE the parish. The reporter David Marr must have known about this beforehand – he is no friend of the Church, but a homosexual activist and pornography apologist. Read his book “The High Price of Heaven” if you doubt me.



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Ephraem

posted August 3, 2006 at 3:23 am


Situation At Redfern Painful
By + Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney
1 August 2006
The situation at Redfern continues to be painful. Those who want a situation of peace are unable or unwilling to control the extremists.
The parish clergy continue to have my full support. They have been subject to regular abuse, harassment and provocation, often during Mass itself, which I have never encountered anywhere else. This usually does not occur when the press is invited to be present.
When Father Ted Kennedy resigned as parish priest at St. Vincent’s Redfern he was replaced by Father Peter Carroll, M.S.C. Despite receiving Father Kennedy’s blessing prior to his appointment, Father Carroll was driven from the parish by a small group, most of whom were not locals and none of whom were indigenous. During Father Carroll’s time at the parish, and during the latter years of Father Kennedy’s administration, only four indigenous people came to Mass.
Following Father Carroll’s departure, the priests of the Neo-catechumenal Way were appointed to care for the parish. They are fully Catholic and orthodox and there is also in addition currently one missionary family living and working in the parish with them, soon to be joined by a second resident missionary family.
The role of the few aborigines who come to Mass is not one of the issues of contention, but the challenges presented by the human suffering in Redfern are enormous.
The most precious thing the parish has to offer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the regular service which must accompany this.
——————————————————————————–



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