Rome Must Go – St Mary’s Stays

The strength of religions, and of the Catholic Church in particular, has lain, and still lies, in the fact that they feel very strongly the need for the doctrinal unity of the whole mass of the faithful and strive to ensure that the higher intellectual stratum does not get separated from the lower.
The Roman church has always been the most vigorous in the struggle to prevent the “official” formation of two religions, one for the “intellectuals” and the other for the “simple souls” … That the Church has to face up to a problem of the “simple” means precisely that there has been a split in the community of the faithful.

This split cannot be healed by raising the simple to the level of the intellectuals (the Church does not even envisage such a task, which is both ideologically and economically beyond its present capacities), but only by imposing an iron discipline on the intellectuals so that they do not exceed certain limits of differentiation and so render the split catastrophic and irreparable. (Antonio Gramsci)

St Mary’s Sth Brisbane

Gramsci’s writing on the Church consists of little more than suggestive jottings from prison. While they are useful in that they remind us that the Catholic Church is not a monolith, their schema of the Church of the Simple Souls (ie the peasantry), the Church of the Intellectuals and the Core Church belongs to a time when there was a large European peasantry.

However Gramsci’s notion of the Church of the Intellectuals potentially at odds with the Core church of the Curia can help us understand important aspects of the dispute between the Church community of St Mary’s South Brisbane and the Arch Bishop of Brisbane John Battersby. In brief, the Bishop wrote to the parish priest Peter Kennedy threatening to close down the church if the priest and congregation did not return to a more orthodox version of the faith.

This is the second occasion on which the bishop had chastised Kennedy and his errant parishioners. A similar missive was sent four years ago. Battersby drew special attention in his latest letter to the fact that there was a statue of the Buddha displayed in the church. The statue was there because, unlike Battersby, Kennedy took seriously the impulse towards ecumenicism endorsed at the Vatican 2 and made his church available to a Buddhist group.

Fr Kennedy has now received a final letter from Bishop Battersby. This is a remarkably brutal document. Kennedy has given a life time to his parishioners and the Church. Yet Battersby sacks him, offers to “look after him” if he resigns and then threatens xcommunication if he does not go quietly. There is, it is true, some pious cant about the Mother of God and a selfpitying whine asking for prayers for the Bishop, ie this hurts me more than you.

But none of this can disguise the harsh authoritarian nature of the decisions Battersby has taken. Nor can it disguise the personal suffering that Battersby has callously inflicted on the faithful of St Mary’s. So what was and is going on here? Well the answer lies partly in the nature of the St Mary’s community and the faith they are practicing. This is an inner city church that at times fills to overflowing with up to 800 worshippers. The parish priest Peter Kennedy is a classic liberal intellectual who has championed a wide range of good causes – indigenous rights, gay rights, women’s rights etc, etc. The liturgy also has evolved to include an active role for women including women preaching. They also sing a range of ultra modern hymns and give out communion to all and sundry.

However it is most important to grasp that what has provoked the Church authorities to close down Fr Kennedy and his church is not Kennedy’s radicalism in itself. For sure they loathe his ideas. Nevertheless it is Kennedy’s success in attracting a congregation that has the Church worried. Quite simply they would prefer an empty church to a radical one.

The Roman Catholic Church is after all the organization which, while moving to expel Fr Kennedy, has opened its arms to Bishop Williamson of the St Pius the X Society. Williamson is an ultra rightist who denies the Holocaust and believes there is a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. So there is a space for Williamson within the Church that Pope Benedict is creating but there is none for Kennedy. This then is a return to the Church that blessed the Fascist Franco, sucked up to the Fascist Mussolini and did deals with the Nazi Hitler.

To grasp the significance of the attack on Kennedy we need to understand that he and his congregation belong to the church of the intellectuals. Kennedy is actively trying to fashion a faith which will transcend the antinomies of capitalist modernity. He wants to confront capitalist values with ethical norms that have been taken from the Sermon on the Mount – Blessed are the destitute… for they shall see God. 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 church of the intellectuals is of course the church that the clerical core fears the most. This is the church within which contains the seeds of an alternative to the church of the Curia. Ironically what Kennedy and his community are doing, whether they realize it or not, is struggling to ensure the survival of a church that is dying in front of our very eyes. Only through the ordination of women, the abolition of celibacy and the adaption of a sincere “option for the poor” can the Roman Catholic Church hope to survive. But the Church authorities will consider none of these things. A suggestive parallel here is the situation in Soviet Russia after Stalin’s death. Reform was critically needed, but there was no one to bring in the reforms. The reformers had all been murdered long ago.

The CPSU made something of an effort under Kruschev but then gave up the attempt to reform because that would have meant putting themselves out of business. They were the problem and could never be part of the solution. Similarly at Vatican 2 the Church of Rome made a half hearted effort at reform and then abandoned it totally under John Paul 2. The latter will prove to be the Brezhnev of the Catholic Church. History will show that, brilliant showman that John Paul was, he nevertheless in his – refusal to reform John prepared the way for the great disaster towards which the church is now inexorably sliding. So the drama taking place in South Brisbane speaks to the heart of the crisis within the church.

The core church – the clergy- has lost all moral authority. Even worse from their point of view their caste is not renewing itself. Internal church gossip has it that vocations are it seems largely confined to gays. There is a savage irony here. The most homophobic of organizations is almost totally dependent on gays for candidates for the priesthood. Given the crisis that confronts the clergy it is probably true to say that Battersby did not want this fight with Kennedy and his flock. But by all accounts he is a weak cowardly man who was pushed by the far right of the church. Possibly an Opus Dei cell is at work somewhere in this matter.

The head of the Australian Catholic Church, Cardinal Pell, is known to be sympathetic to Opus Dei. He overturned a ban on Opus Dei entering the Sydney diocese and during his recent visit here Benedict stayed with the Opus Dei community. This was a blunt message to the liberals within the Church where Pope Benedict stood. In any case that section of the church that he represents is determined to get rid of its liberal wing and to impose once more total discipline on the Church of the intellectuals. What we have then, in the St Mary’s crisis, is a ruthless offensive from the far right.

This is of course sheer craziness. Why would one want to shut down one of the few full churches in Brisbane? But those who the gods wish to destroy they first make mad, and the clerical heart of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia is approaching the psychotic. Trapped by an irreversible loss of prestige, they have reverted to type. Instead of embracing the church of the intellectuals as their best and last hope, they seem determined to destroy it. It is clear then that the Far Right using their connections in Sydney and Rome have launched an offensive.

The parishioners of St Mary’s did not pick this fight. They were content to remain quietly within the Roman Catholic Church. But they were a church community which has organized itself along democratic communitarian lines. For that alone they were anathema to the Right. For the same reasons it is imperative that the St Mary’s community be defended by all of us. Humanity at large is faced with the scissors effect of economic and environmental calamities.

Only an extension of democratic communitarianism to all institutions in our society will get us through. The philosopher Roy Bhaskar’s is fond of quoting the young Marx’s:

“the world has long dreamed of possessing something of which it has only to be conscious in order to possess it in reality…In order to secure remission of its sins, mankind has only to declare them for what they actually are.”

For Bhaskar the heteronymous world of domination and exploitation, that the likes of Benedict, Pell and Battersby will always defend, is a parasitical growth on the human ground state of love and creativity. One has only to recognize and to realize that fact to move on to a world beyond fear, hatred, exploitation and domination. It is their turn to a theology and practice of creativity and love that is the secret of the success of the St Mary’s community.

It is also the secret of why the Far Right seeks to destroy them. It is moreover the reason why we must be there to support them.

Gary MacLennan, Brian Laver, Sam Watson, Bernie Neville & the ISE
– Studio 8, Ahimsa House, (07) 3846 5077

31 thoughts on “Rome Must Go – St Mary’s Stays

  1. Then why are the enlightened intellectuals supporting St. Mary’s determination to be in communion with such a brutal monstrocity?

    The above critique is very eloquent in its condemnation of the church, but it is an opinion that has not been articulated by Peter Kennedy or the congregation of St. Mary’s who all, for one reason or another, have a deep emotional attachment to the beast, which is at the heart of their struggle. They don’t want to go.

    St. Mary’s are no revolutionary heros whose deeds provide them forgiveness for their desire for communion with Rome. They administer a state funded welfare program, as many churches do. This is not organising amongst the poor, on the contrary it is the imposition of the welfare paradigm onto the poor ensuring their perpetual poverty.

    There was a time when Aboriginal organisations catered for the needs of homeless and at-risk Aboriginal people in the South Brisbane area, through the Musgrave Park Aboriginal corporation which was made up of Aboriginal people connected to Musgrave Park, They used to have a drop in centre “Hope St.” that provided meals in a safe weather proof environment, ran a medical clinic and ran a whole range of programs run specifically for the needs of Murries. They were networked into all the Aboriginal hostels. They used to manage Aboriginal hostels in West End. Now, homeless Murries are fed stale sandwhiches in the Park, but not Musgrave Park because the toilets have been closed and Murries are being discouraged from loitering there… The St. Lukes nursing service runs a clinic at the public toilets in Boundary St.

    St. Marys and a number of local non-Aboriginal church groups mopped up after the smashing of the Musgrave Park Corporation. White social workers now control the programs rather than, as before, the Musgrave Park people themselves taking care of their own business.

    The long term Musgrave Park people, who today cannot congregate in Musgrave Park, were getting fat and healthy while Hope St. operated. Since its services have been taken over by local churches and Murri watch they have gotten skinny and ill. The welfare mode is a genocidal mode.

    St. Mary’s and Micah have played a central role in the ethnic cleansing of West End and should not be as uncritically affirmed as the enlightened intellectuals, mainstream media and St. Mary’s themselves have done.

    The ethnic cleansing of West End and the redevelopment of St. Mary’s land is the real politics of St. Mary’s. Perhaps His Grace is truly concerned about heresy but the timing of his move on St. Mary’s, a year before the opening of the Hale St. bridge, is about securing the property, not just the theology.

    This is the real agenda of St. Mary’s. Because of the Hale St. Link it is now amongst the most valuable real estate in Brisbane. The St. Vinnies hostel next door already has plans to move. The Murri Mura centre was bought out, The Kurilpa point homeless camp has been moved on.

    Yet this has not even been mentioned in all this hoo-haa about the brave St. Mary’s and their progressive liturgies.

    Another perspective on St. Mary’s’s-south-brisbane/

  2. Gary MacLennan says:

    I MADE my song a coat
    Covered with embroideries
    Out of old mythologies
    From heel to throat;
    But the fools caught it,
    Wore it in the world’s eyes
    As though they’d wrought it.
    Song, let them take it,
    For there’s more enterprise
    In walking naked.
    While I, from that reed-throated whisperer
    Who comes at need, although not now as once
    A clear articulation in the air,
    But inwardly, surmise companions
    Beyond the fling of the dull ass’s hoof
    — Ben Jonson’s phrase — and find when June is come
    At Kyle-na-no under that ancient roof
    A sterner conscience and a friendlier home,
    I can forgive even that wrong of wrongs,
    Those undreamt accidents that have made me
    — Seeing that Fame has perished this long while.
    Being but a part of ancient ceremony –
    Notorious, till all my priceless things
    Are but a post the passing dogs defile.

    William Butler Yeats

  3. Sorry,

    I thought this was a discussion of the politics of St. Mary’s not a creative writing workshop. The article makes more sense now that I know its purpose.

    YOU say, as I have often given tongue
    In praise of what another’s said or sung,
    ’Twere politic to do the like by these;
    But have you known a dog to praise his fleas?

    William Butler Yeats

  4. Nice poem.
    Just dropped into the Yeats exhibition in Dublin….that boy could write!
    Staying tuned as events at home unfold or unravel….keeping y’all in prayer.

  5. I can understand why the St. Mary’s struggle is significant to Roman Catholics. it is essentially an internal argument within the Roman church, not at all the first of its kind. All those who have been faced with such a situation in the past have had two choices, as St. Mary’s does. Succumb to the authority of Rome or leave the church in protest, the origins of the protestant tradition. Either that or individualised responses of rejecting organised spirituality and become an ex-catholic.

    The only chains that bind the congregation of St. Mary’s are in their minds, the only power that Bathersby, Pell and Ratzinger have is that which has been voluntarily given to them by St. Mary’s. Despite their protesting they still insist over and over and over again that being Catholic is central to their identity and that they consider themselves to be in communion with Rome. This is not the chains of oppression, a bit kinky perhaps, but not oppressive.

    The Irish church of course resisted Rome, preserving much of the pre-christian mythology and spirituality that Yeats so deeply taps into.

    But the Irish Catholics in Australia know nothing of the ancient of this country, they are as ignorant of its mythology and spirituality as the protestants are. All the rebellious catholics in Australia have to offer is the religion of Rome and the hope that the Holy See will at some stage in the future devolve the power it has clung to for the past 1700 years. The demand amongst progressive catholics at present , for which St. Mary’s has been globally recognised as showing a need for, is for a Vatican lll to happen.

    I cannot understand why people outside of the church have become so enthusiastic about intervening into this struggle. The radical rhetoric of the above article and other left commentaries on St. Mary’s has nothing to do with the issues that are being fought out by St. Mary’s and the global movement for reform of the catholic church.

    It seems that the same old flavour of the month kneejerk reaction to media sensationalism continues to drive the agenda and thoughts of radicals and intellectuals as they parasitically jump on the bandwagons of others (e.g. Aborigines, refugees and now with Socialist Alliance, bushfire victims)..

    Only last year the Socialist alliance joined forces with the Raliens amongst others in the “No to Pope” protests, while St. Mary’s was a staging post for international pilgrims attending Ratzinger’s youth rally in Sydney.

    Today, Socialist alliance has joined forces with the Raliens amongst others to defend St. Mary’s right to stay in communion with Ratzinger.

    Is this the intellectual depth of politics that is required?

    But, questions of catholocism aside,

    I cannot understand why radicals and intellectuals have totally bought into this bullshit that St. Mary’s does such good work with the poor and oppressed, a narrative repeated in tonights 7.30 report as a key element of the church.

    On Saturdays and Sundays a travelling show comes into South Brisbane. Like ants, the St. Mary’s congregation come from all over south east Queensland to have a special experience with each other and then they return to their communities. Hardly any of them are locals who are likeley to run into the poor and oppressed at the shop or have them knocking on their door asking for a cup of sugar.

    These outsiders administer the biggest welfare agency in Brisbane, not just South Brisbane, that deals with homelessness. Micah is a government funded organisation that operates within government policies and programs regarding homelessness. It is government outsourcing.

    While the social workers are administering their programs, the St. Mary’s community remains insulated from the poor and oppressed including those of the South Brisbane community just as church goers in every other congregation in Brisbane do. St. Vinnies, run by amongst the most conservative catholics, operates on a direct engagement between congregation members in each parish and the welfare clients. The congregation actually gets to meet the people they are helping which is more than what occurs with the St. Mary’s mode.

    St. Mary’s is just another West End illusion that people from outside West End come to experience, just like the coffees shops are for people from all over Brisbane come to be part of the West End experience.

    The coffee shoppers are insulated from the local poor too, police patrols regularly move on Aboriginal loiterers so that they do not disturb the quiet enjoyment of the West End experience.

    The collaboration of St. Mary’s with the State government to destroy the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation and mainstream Aboriginal services in the area should be enough for any radical intellectual to at least question the welfare machine instead of praise it.

    Radical changes are inherent in the treaty that St. Mary’s has signed, that dry camps and the cultural heritage education program will provide an alternative mode of personal, economic and social empowerment for the poor and oppressed, based on basic principles of individual and community self determination.

    Until the radical intellectuals can assist in designing and building alternatives to band aid programs such as Micah, especially in the unfolding economic situation, then their radical prose is just the praising of fleas.

    It is on the level of the treaty, the dry camps and the cultural heritage education program that provides a real platform (complete with Keatsian memories of the ancient) that can be a unity between the St. Mary’s congregation. the radical intellectuals including the athiests, Brisbane Aboriginal communities and the growing numbers of homeless, disposessed and marginalised who don’t need a radical political analysis to understand that there is something radically wrong and needs to change.

    Micah could even be central to such process if the new St. Mary’s (whoever and wherever it settles) embraces the treaty beyond symbolism.

    But until then, Micah is just another church welfare agency and religion is still the opiate of the people.

  6. G’day Everybody

    Just a note from Terry and I about this weekend to avoid any confusion. The liturgies are as normal:

    6:30pm Saturday night, 9:00am Sunday morning and 5:00pm Sunday evening.

    We particularly want you to turn up in large numbers at 9:00am on Sunday morning. Bring all your friends and neighbours.

    A concert is being held on Saturday night at 8:00pm (I will be singing and there’s a chance Terry will also) – a great night will be had by all. There is also a concert at 3pm on Sunday afternoon followed by the liturgy at 5pm.

    Stand strong. “Yes we can”. Let’s not feed the wolf of anger and vengefulness but the wolf of passion, compassion and kindness.


    Peter and Terry

    PS: Please forward this email on to as many of your friends as possible.

  7. Sorry for my malapropism. Keats and Keatsian should of course have been Yeats and Yeatsian.

    Here is something I wrote about the West End Welfare industry before GoMA was built and the Musgrave Park toilets were closed, so things have moved on since then.

    “A bit of parochial history – The history of public toilets, community notice boards and welfare agencies in West End”

    It focuses on West End Community House, the other white welfare agency that collaborated with the state government to close down the Musgrave Park Aboriginal corporation, and consequently got some of its funding, just like Micah.

    It is no hyperbole or conspiracy theory to say Micah and Community House collaborated in the plan because they contributed to the report that was the basis of the smashing of the Musgrave Park Aboriginal Corporation..

  8. In today’s news is a story that exemplifies the great damage that is being done by sensationalist anti-catholic hierarchy rants applied to the St. Mary’s struggle.

    “Catholic Church continues support of sex-abuse priest”,23739,25083343-952,00.html

    Outrageous! the masses cry in unison.

    What is it that this terrible priest has done? Is this important, or is it iust a good hook to hang some moral outrage on?

    I do not know of the situation, but we have two hints from the story of the nature of the sexual abuse.

    1/ The victim is a fellow priest, not a child. The story is framed in terms of child abuse as the victim is described as “his younger victim”.

    2/ The nature of the assault is described as “the approaches” and the victim complained of “inappropriate behaviour”,

    The Courier Mail has violated the victim by publicising the case against their will, a fact that for some reason they even find newsworthy.

    The Courier Mail contextualises this sexual abuse with a convicted paedophile and “Another priest still serves in Queensland despite being fined by a court almost 13 years ago for a sexual offence in a public toilet.” replicating the homophobic sensationalism that crucified George Michael.

    Could it be that a homophobic priest was approached by a gay priest and the shit hit the fan?

    The great sex abuse cover-up that embarrased Pell during Ratzingers visit was a case where the victim was a consenting adult who found himself in a compromising position with a priest, another consenting adult. He was wracked with guilt afterwards and complained against the priest.

    This sort of homophobia is driving much of the resentment to the Catholic hierarchy, and in this case Bathersby himself.

    The simplisitc, bombastic anti-hierarchy politics is just fuel for the witch hunts and burnings that gay catholics, including priests, must endure.

    Again, St, Mary’s must be seriously questioned in their response to sex crime in the church. The church has always tried to keep the issues out of the hands of the police and courts and handle them in-house by way of hush money and counselling. The primary agency for this aversion of legal responsibility in Queensland is the Esther Centre – set up and run by Micah.

    They may be in conflict in the church hierarchy but they still do its dirty work.

  9. John,

    You say:

    “I cannot understand why people outside of the church have become so enthusiastic about intervening into this struggle.”

    Over the years I have not been to St Mary’s much, perhaps five times in the past 10 or fifteen years.

    I recite the following instances of visits as a way of conveying how someone (outside the church) could easily end up at St Mary’s based purely on community activity and have nothing to do with any religious activity. For this reason alone I support St Mary’s congregation current fight with the church hierarchy.

    * I attended a moving historical and photographic account of the struggle of the Timorese people organised by Ciaron O’Reilly and others.

    * I played in the Capablanca Memorial Chess tournament that was organised by the Australia – Cuba Friendship Society.

    * I have attended a planning committee of Justice for Palestine and one day I went there to hand out leaflets about Israel’s assault on Gaza where I met Peter Kennedy and Dennis Walker who was there with others on Treaty business.

    * On another occasion I was introduced to one of the priests, Terry, by Sam Watson when i went there to hand out leaflets about the Federal government’s NT intervention on Aboriginal land. [That priest later spoke at a Justice for Palestine rally]. On that day I witnessed the raising of the Land Rights flag on the front wall of the church.

    * I have also paid a visit to St Vinnies next door on at least one occasion because i know a volunteer who used to work there.

    My point is, on each occasion I went to St Mary’s it was part of normal community life in the district. I am not an outsider even though i live elsewhere. I had lived in the South Brisbane/West End area in the 1970s and 1980s and have retained a connection with many of the activities there in community halls and buildings. Also St Mary’s is near union buildings (ETU & TLC) where I have attended meetings down through the years (since 1985).

    Even though I have not attended any masses or religious activities at St Mary’s the fact that it is an open community means that community business has taken me there. Unless you are a complete bystander I cannot see how you could live in the district and not end up at St Mary’s at some point. The priests there have practiced what they preach, just read the sign out the front ( )

    Given that, why wouldn’t people wish to defend it against a bishop who wants to close it down and drive away the community?

    Ian Curr
    22 February 2009

  10. Hello Ian,

    The sign out the front of St. Mary’s is a Ratzinger quote, which indicates the extent to which they really challenge the hierarchy. The quote was the justification for re-embracing that holocaust denier and his mates.

    They define themselves within the matrix of the beast itself, and they both preach and practice from that basis.

    Like all the churches, their notion of social justice is that which a social worker does. They do not advocate or even consider structural reform in their church or in the community. In both cases they just pray that nicer, wiser people will fill the various positions in the hierarchies. The policy frameworks that determine what they do in their welfare programs are state government policies or, in the case of the Esther Centre, Church hierarchy policies.

    It is true that St. Mary’s is well connected in to the trendy west end social worker and intellectual network. It is a nice place to have a trendy West End experience if you are into that sort of thing.

    This is the dynamic that I am challenging. The shallow dumb social network that is incapable of even analysing society let alone make any real contribution to changing it.

    The writers of the above article and yourself and Ciaron demonised Michael Noonan because he produced an innovative and liberating perspective on disability and now you are all singing the praises of an organisation that conspires to smash Aboriginal power and cover up church sex crimes.

    What planet are you on?

    Your notion of solidarity and activism is just a bourgeois social experience with no connection to historical reality.

  11. p.s.

    Until St. Mary’s and the West End intellectual set (most of whom do not live in West End) can spend as much energy preventing Murries from being kicked out of Musgrave Park as they do preventing catholics getting kicked out of their church then they are just more white bricks in the white wall.

  12. John,

    Whenever anyone you know from your activist past is getting attacked by power….myself, Bryan Law, Gary MacLennan, now Peter Kennedy for example, you come straight out and start blogging for the powerful.

    That’s what you do.

    What motivates you is anybody’s guess.
    Petty resentment and envy wouldn’t be a bad hunch.

  13. Ciaron,

    I do not criticise these people because they are under attack, I criticise them, and you, because of the bullshit that is peddled masquerading as radical political action and thought. If you want to take that personally so be it, but the world is bigger than your clique of heroes.

    For the record, I did not attack Gary, I defended Michael Noonan and Darren and James against the ignorant attacks by Gary and his mates in the Murdoch press. Alan Jones, Nicholas Tonto-Fillipini, the Australian Catholic Disability Council and many others including yourself.

    My resentment is much more than petty towards those that utter radical rhetoric while supporting or directly engaging in the process of oppression.

    Those that mislead activists and concerned people into theatrical stunts of opinion instead of real community organisation are as guilty as the secret police in derailing social movements. I have no sympathy or empathy for you.

  14. John,

    There is a pattern to the timing of your attacks. You service the staus quo. More disturbing is the previous occasions when people are before the courts (Bryan, Gary, myself) and the prosecution is googling in hope for responses to your provocations.

    It would be adviseable to wait until the corpse is dead before starting your autopsies.

  15. I attended a rally at St Mary’s today at 9am along with about 1,000 other people for the reasons i outlined above at

    The Bishop’s appointee, Howell had already withdrawn.

    I joined with people I have known, some as long as 40 years to defend a community under attack.

    How it will turn out in the end i do not know.

    Some have told me that Peter Kennedy would go quietly but they were not there today. Instead it was the Bishop’s man who had withdrawn refusing to face the community he had been appointed to lead.

    Personally, from what i have seen neither the bishop nor the church has anything to fear from this community or this priest. The attacks by the church are misplaced. They say that they have acted on complaint.

    I heard a complaint myself today while i stood outside St Mary’s at about 11am.

    The service had finished and I was standing out the front discussing what had gone on with three or four others.

    There was a man standing not three paces away near the church gate with a camera apparently looking out for someone or something.

    One of the people near me asked the cameraman what he was waiting for.

    The man replied that he was waiting to ‘photograph paedophiles, one in particular’.

    I could not believe what i had just heard and stood there stunned.

    The man who had asked the question replied with words like: “I know what you are on about, this is the most unlikely place you would find paedophiles, this is a warm and loving community. You are sick. You need help.”

    Yet the cameraman persisted in his claims.

    Another man standing nearby then said: “I do not want to be standing near someone like you (meaning the cameraman)”.

    The group of us then moved up the hill to be joined by the family of the man who had asked what the cameraman was doing.

    What is it in human nature that attracts such bizarre behaviour as that of the cameraman?

    Who was this self appointed paedophile hunter?

    What motivated him to turn up to such a community gathering?

    What if it was he who had complained to the bishop?

    Why would a bishop act on the complaint of the few (perhaps only one) among the many, the thousand people who joined hands together in support of a priest who stood up for his community?

    Who would give credence to such complaints?

    I know the answer to that question – the Murdoch press and those bystanders who are taken in by it. Also those so alienated from the community that they are uncritical of such sensationalism. And finally, others so full of hatred and mistrust, people like the cameraman described above, that they attack a simple act of coming together as a community.

  16. Hello John and Ciaron,

    Well may the Archbishop be looking for a mediator with St Mary’s but some things are irreconcilable.

    So too the debates (which i have participated in) on Workers BushTelegraph between the both of you and myself.

    A rough count of such debates has led John T to make 287 comments on WBT since July 2007 when the ‘philistines at the gates’ articles first surfaced. During that time Ciaron has made 197 comments not all part of this debate with John but often John has chosen to challenge virtually every assertion made by Ciaron. And this from one who was one of the 13 gathered together in his name (during the free speech campaign in the early 1980s in Brisbane City Mall).

    I can’t see that this debate is helpful so I am going to require that you submit your comment to me before publication.

    You are welcome to submit factually based articles to WBT in the normal way but no one-on-one slanging matches will be permitted. All articles are judged on their merit and, at this stage, as the editor I take responsibility for their publication.

    John, when you make statements that are factually contentious, please provide some objective evidence to support such statements. For example I am curious about your statement:

    “The ethnic cleansing of West End and the redevelopment of St. Mary’s land is the real politics of St. Mary’s.”

    The 2006 ABS census suggests an increase in the population of people who identify themselves as aboriginal in the inner city. Aboriginal population is increasing, the ABS says that there are half a million aboriginal people in Australia, Lionel Fogarty said in a speech on Invasion Day that the number is twice that. As for West End, there are numerous aboriginal hostels and aboriginal community organizations. Still, as a resident of West End in the 1970s and 1980s, I do not subscribe to the implied ‘good old days’ in your statement:

    “The long term Musgrave Park people, who today cannot congregate in Musgrave Park, were getting fat and healthy while Hope St. operated. Since its services have been taken over by local churches and Murri watch they have gotten skinny and ill. The welfare mode is a genocidal mode.”

    As you know the residents, clubs, and churches that look onto Musgrave Park have always made complaints to Brisbane City Council and police about Aboriginal people in the park. That was true in the 1970s and it is still true today. The failure to provide proper facilities and a cultural centre in the park has contributed to aboriginal deaths and harrassment in that place.

    I do not think that attacking Murri Watch and St Mary’s does anything to address that situation. Perhaps the member for Kurilpa would be a better target.

    in solidarity
    Ian Curr

  17. Colleen W says:

    Hi Brian

    I googled onto your article as I was following the St Mary’s saga.

    I had enjoyed my visits to St Mary’s when I attended there quite some years ago.
    Twice that many years ago, John Battersby was chaplain at my school. I found him to be a reasonable, straightforward sort of person and I would have thought not hooked on dogma in a Pell or Ratzinger way.

    I am sure if you would’ve met him in the street without his roman collar you would have agreed he was a good bloke.

    No doubt, now he is locked into enforcing the rules of the organization which he represents just the same as a football referee must enforce the rules of his game, even when he would rather be nice and let things go.

    Continuing the metaphor, if players don’t like the rules of the game, they have the option of going down the road and making up their own code.

    It seems to me that “intellectual catholics” satisfy themselves with writing books and having debates. I don’t see St Mary’s people in that mould. It appears that they have a deep psychological need to remain attached to “Mother Church” even though she causes them pain………..then again maybe they really are on a mission to change the church.

    I try to change my mother but it always backfires.

    Regards Colleen

  18. Even if St. Mary’s is now protestant in praxis and belief (and that’s where most protestants come from…post Catholicism) wouldn’t it make more sense for the Bishop to recognise…….

    -that there is no longer the demographic to sustain a Catholic congregation in the locale of St. Marys,

    -that St. Mary’s as it now stands is a commuter congregation primarily for liturgy,

    -acknowledge they do good stuff even if it might not in his opinion be no longer Catholic

    -and give them the continued use of the church building until the phenomenon runs its course,

    It seems very self defeating how the Bishop has approached the problem he perceives there…..destroying the village to save it (if he wins it will be an empty building on Sundays).

    Whether St. Mary’s is deeprooted enough to relocate and continue remains to be seen.


  19. Faith stays regardless says:

    Your headline is built on a false premise that this situation is an argument between Rome and Saint Mary’s. This is not the case.It is a dispute between the Archbishop and a priest who has refused to heed any of the Archbishop’s requests.Hopefully mediation will take some of the hysteria which has built up around this situation.We are have entered into the Lenten period. Hopefully prayer and pennance will help all parties.

    1. Hello ‘Faith Stays Regardless’,
      You may wish to have a look at the ABC’s religion Report and the opinion column of Christopher Pearson in THE AUSTRALIAN where Bathersby was reported as saying Rome told him to act.


      “Bathersby confided to Radio National’s Religion Report last year, it was no less than three powerful congregations in Rome that told him to act.” at,25197,25115856-5013596,00.html

      By the way, authors choose the headlines on this website and it is the authors that bear the responsibility for what they write.

      I take responsibility for which articles I choose to publish.

      If you wish to write an article that addresses this issue you raise by all means submit it to Workers BushTelegraph. It would be a good idea to have a look at the “Aims” of WBT above first. (see tab at top of page).

      Ian Curr
      Workers BushTelegraph

  20. Brisbane Archbishop accused of racial discrimination says:

    The “Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal, Custodian of the land Minjerribah, Peace Prosperity and Healing, Sacred Treaty Circles” has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission against Archbishop John Bathersby, the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane and their lawyers, alleging discrimination against Aboriginal people.

    The Oodgeroo Treaty Circles have complained that the Archbishop has discriminated against Aboriginal people by refusing to acknowledge the validity of a treaty between Father Peter Kennedy on behalf of the St. Mary’s South Brisbane parish and Bejam Denis Walker on behalf of the Noonuccal and other Aboriginal people.

    The law firm Thynne and Macartney, acting on behalf of the Archbishop and the Corporation of the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, have written to Bejam Denis Walker and described the St. Mary’s treaty as having no legal effect or validity and stated that the Archbishop will not enter into any discussions or negotiations as to the implications of the treaty.

    A spokesperson for the Oodgeroo Treaty Circles, John Tracey, said…….

    The St. Mary’s Treaty was signed during a well-attended mass with the congregation of St. Mary’s and members of the local Aboriginal community witnessing it. The treaty was celebrated in coroboree in accordance with Aboriginal customary law and written on paper in accordance with non-Aboriginal law. It is real.”

    “The Archbishop has appointed Ian Callinan to mediate between himself and St. Mary’s. When Ian Callinan was a high court judge he had to be forced off the Hindmarsh Island case because of his bias against Aboriginal claims of rights and interests. The Archbishop’s choice of mediator is an example of the contempt of Aboriginal law, culture and rights that he appears to hold. His blanket refusal to discuss the treaty is another.”

    “The Oodgeroo Treaty Circles are asking the Archbishop and the Brisbane Archdiocese to confirm and support the St. Mary’s treaty which involves innovative Aboriginal welfare and social justice programs such as dry camps, a cultural heritage education program and the facilitation of Aboriginal men’s, women’s and elders business. The treaty process provides non-Aboriginal Australians a direct relationship with Aboriginal culture and programs. This path of healing is being obstructed by the Archbishop’s refusal to even acknowledge Aboriginal rights and interests, let alone work pro-actively with them.”

    More info

  21. Bernard Toutounji says:

    If the authors of this article do not know the basics of the Catholic Church’s structure then I question how competant they are to write such an article.

    a) Cardinal Pell is not the “head of the Australian Catholic Church”. He is the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney. The Catholic Church does not operate like that, each bishop is the head of his own diocese and appointed to that position by the Pope.

    b) There is no such thing as the “Australia Catholic Church”, it is the Roman Catholic Church, in Australia.

    That is not to make any sort of point, but just to alert people to the fact that the authors are deficient in basic ecclesial knowledge.

  22. Many years ago when I was in primary school, about 50years ago, I was taught that I belonged to the Catholic Church. Only Protestants referred to this church as the “Roman” Catholic Church. When in the intervening years did the ‘Catholic Church’ in Australia come to be referred to the ‘Roman’ Catholic Church. Seems the Catholic Church in Australia has been inculcated by these same Protestants. Deficiency in ecclesial knowledge appears to be catching.

    1. Paul Barker says:

      “Roman “,”Catholic”. What’s in a name Margie. Ignorant Protestants- dear, dear .My prayers are with you .

  23. I would say join another Church if you ain’t happy with the Pope but Fr Kennedy and the people at St Mary’s are hardly even believers in Christ’s divinity, which is kind of a prerequisite to being a Christian let alone a Catholic.

    1. Paul Barker says:

      Dear George.
      I am a long attending member of St. Mary’s. The congregration there is more christian in my view then any other church I have attended.Have you been there?
      I pray for you.

  24. St. Mary’s has kissed and made up with the church they love so much.,23739,25212319-3102,00.html

    Those who thought there was a spark of rebellion against the authoritarian church here can now see the truth of the matter. St. Mary’s is just a conservative welfare orientated congregation like all the others. It deserves the vocal support of Socialist Alliance, ISE and the Raliens no more than St. Vincent de Paul does.

    The ten million dollar welfare bureaucracy that implements state government policy (clean up the homeless from West End) is safe. The hierarchy and the congregation are in consensus on the importance of preserving Micah. (The church would have to get another agency to cover up is clerical sex crimes if Micah collapsed).

    The control over Aboriginal programs in South Brisbane has passed from the Musgrave Park corporation to the St. Mary’s congregation and now to the church hierarchy by way of Dean Howell.

    Radicals should have challenged the welfare paradigm, especially in regard to the 2005 intervention into the South Brisbane Aboriginal community and the eviction of Aboriginal people from Musgrave Park. (Some isolated voices did but were sidelined by the momentum of the bourgeois West End illusion).

    Instead the radicals publicly proclaimed a solidarity with the white middle class welfare bureaucracy controlled by people outside the local community implementing state policy that was the primary agent of the intervention.

    But they protest about the Northern territory intervention, as if the real Aborigines are in the N.T.

    The radical left in Brisbane is a sick joke.

  25. Ok I must have missed something here.
    Why did St. Marys fold when they were in such a strong strategic position?
    A longer stand off with debate about the church in Australia, St Mary’s praxis etc. would have been a healthy thang for everyting. Now we got an empty church on Sundays and a community out of view.
    What’s happening down there?

  26. John Tracey says:

    As I see it, St. Mary’s folded because the militant statements of peter Kennedy were not supported by the congregation.

    Decisions have been made by a small leadership group which itself issued various contradictory statements about what was happening.

    So-called community meetings to discuss the issues were just media conferences where the leadership group announced to the media and congregation alike what was going to happen.

    Many inside the church began to feel that they were cut out of the process. Some outside the church, in particular Gay Catholic theologian Michael Carden criticised St. Mary’s on a range of issues important to the radical Catholic movement.

    Some Catholic radicals outside the St. Mary’s felt that their spirituality inside the church had been belittled by St. Mary’s stand.

    The Archbishop hired a P.R. firm at the same time they hired Ian Callinan. Whereas St. Mary’s was previously a taboo subject in the Catholic Leader it became front page news with weekly stories of the moral integrity of the Archbishop and the waywardness of St. Mary’s.

    Bathersby attracted huge crowds all over Brisbane at the masses he presided at.

    Church opinion swung against St. Mary’s. Even the liberal forum Catholica which previously had a supportive editorial line began calling on St. Mary’s to compromise with the hierarchy.

    While the isolated leadership group had publically alligned itself with Socialist Alliance, the Raliens and the Institute for Social ecology, many in the congregation were still a conservative flock who love their church and do not want to confront the hierarchy. The confrontation strategy had alienated them from both liberal and conservative Catholics in the church.

    Update on my last post, Micah is moving from St. Mary’s so presumably Dean Howell will not be in control. The State government is presently overhauling and centralising its welfare agenda and St. Mary’s, as the primary homeless organisation in Brisbane and its CEO is the head of QCOSS, will no doubt be further incorporated into the state framework.

    The moving of Micah is the removal of the last obstacle to the real estate scam that is the real reason behind the attacks on St. Mary’s. GoMA has been built, Hale St. Bridge is within a year of completion, most of the surrounding properties have already been redeveloped. Murries have been kicked out of Musgrave Park, the Murri Mura building was sold, the Kurilpa point homeless camp has been smashed. The last domino to fall in the urban renewal of South Brisbane is the St. Mary’s and St. Vinnies block of land that has kept the poor in the area, and therefore property values low. Developers bought up all the cheap land and once St. Vinnies moves, as it is planning to, the property prices will explode as it becomes the prime inner city real estate location. The church is going to make millions out of the property re-development and has been a strategic asset of the property developers long term plans for South Brisbane.

    But most people at St. Mary’s are not from South Brisbane, so it wont affect them. See

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