Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Australian story: the Fr Kennedy saga continues

Last night we got another dose of the Fr Kennedy saga with the usual soft soap of the ABC's Australian Story. All the usual suspects appeared - gratuitous sniping from Paul Collins, weeping parishioners, and so forth. But, as the Cooees predicted, I would have thought any reasonable person watching it would have come away with more than a few questions in their mind.

I hadn't quite been aware of the scandal associated with the other priest associated with this parish, Fr Terry Fitzpatrick (beyond that he seemed to be absent from his own diocese without leave), who one gathers fathered a child. Far from repenting it seems (it was implied that his own bishop wanted to liacise him, so he had simply decamped...) , he has some weird shared custody arrangement with a week on week off basis.

And the archdiocese's spokesman, Fr Adrian Farrelly, did a good job of very gently pointing out some of the jarring notes in Fr Kennedy's approach. He alluded to Fr Kennedy's erroneous views on the divinity (or even existence) of Jesus for example. And he stressed the diocese's (extremely) minimalist requirements - use the prescribed words for the sacraments, wear vestments; hardly a big ask (indeed, might have been nice to ask for him to teach the catholic faith as well, but this is Brisbane after all).

But I have to say the thing that came through for me was that this situation had been allowed to continue for so long. The idea articulated by someone on the show that these are priests, and should be just left alone and trusted to do what they are supposed to is exactly the same thinking that has led to the clerical abuse scandals, allows hundreds of Irish and German priests to live in sin with women, and allows cafeteria catholicism to flourish.

Vocational grace only goes so far: it needs to be supported by a bishop who takes a close interest in the welfare and doings of his priests; by proper accountability; by regular professional development; by encouragement of asceticism; and much more.

Just how many more Fr Kennedy's - and worse - are there out there (**that's a rhetorical question folks, I know there are lots. The correct approach is to tell you bishop or if that doesn't work, complain to the Holy See!) ? Hiding our heads in the sand and hoping it will go away without another media stoush - whether now or later - is dangerous thinking.

9 comments:

Seeker said...

Oh, so saddling the mother with the full burden of the child's care and upbringing would show that Fitzpatrick had repented of fathering him, would it?

Terra said...

He can't have it both ways in my view - looking after the child full-time would have been an option if he had been laicized. And frankly, alternating weeks of care in two single parent families can't possible be good for a child! There are also other options - such as adoption.

Tony said...

For crying out load Terra, give the man a break.

How do you know what's best for the child?

It seems to me that he (the son) looked pretty well adjusted from the little I saw. He could have quite easily declined to appear on the show if there were ongoing problems, but he chose to appear and came across well.

He had two parents who loved him plus the support of Fr Kennedy.

I don't think there was any suggestion that Fitzpatrick hadn't 'repented', as you put it. In fact, taking responsibility is surely an ongoing sign of his repentance.

Terra said...

Tony,

It is a fairly basic proposition, supported by sound psychological evidence that children are entitled to grow up in a house with two parents, with a stable day to day pattern. Of course this isn't always possible. But shuffling between two houses, whatever the merits or otherwise of those involved, is rarely going to be a way of promoting stability. It is true that many in our society today no longer accept this. But there are ways of taking responsiblity without appearing to make a virtue of sin.

As for how well or otherwise the son has turned out, there were assertions made on the program, but we have far too little information to know. And frankly, given the weird and wonderful collection of secular ideas Fr Kennedy and his cohorts subscribe too (including that homosexuality is perfectly ok), I wouldn't trust their judgment on this or any other matter.

Louise said...

The idea articulated by someone on the show that these are priests, and should be just left alone and trusted to do what they are supposed to is exactly the same thinking that has led to the clerical abuse scandals, allows hundreds of Irish and German priests to live in sin with women, and allows cafeteria catholicism to flourish.In what other job are people permitted to just do whatever they like without reasonable supervision from their legitimate superiors?

Louise said...

Oh, so saddling the mother with the full burden of the child's care and upbringing would show that Fitzpatrick had repented of fathering him, would it?Hang on a minute, shouldn't a priest in such a circumstance simply be laicised? And then he could get a job like all (or most of) the other fathers in the country.

And this week about business - it happens in many broken families these days, but it can hardly be good for the kids.

I didn't see the show, Terra, but from your description it's not actually obvious whether or not Fr Fitzpatrick has repented the breaking of his vows.

The correct approach is to tell you bishop or if that doesn't work, complain to the Holy See!Except that first one should speak to the priest himself first. It takes courage, but it is the right thing to do. I don't think we should be denouncing people behind their backs.

Terra said...

On complaining about priests - Louise I agree with you in principle, but with the rider that you need to judge the situation. If the priest might not be aware that something is a problem, or is open to discussion, justice demands speaking to him first. It can put you in a very difficult position though, and might be counterproductive.

If a priest says (or does) something that is manifestly erroneous and he knows full well that what he is saying or doing is contrary to the faith, you might be justified in skipping that step and having his superior doing the talking to him.

Let me quote two examples from a commenter who named names which I'm not proposing to put on the blog - a priest who says that 'the resurrection is a myth', and another that 'Fr Dresser's book about Jesus not being God is brilliant and should be compulsory reading for all Catholic high school students'. If you can't avoid the parishes concerned, I'd be thinking about going straight to the bishop (assuming he mightn't have the same view!). Because really, after seven years in seminary, they do know better.

Peter said...

Firstly, I didn't see the 'show'.

But I have misgivings about some sort of post facto normalisation of an out of wedlock situation with an ordained minister who is supposed to be providing moral leadership to his flock.

It does add up to a grab bag of mixed messages. Added to the fact that he is/was 'ministering' without any jurisdiction from either the diocese he was domiciled in or the one he was incardinated in.

And what about his formation? Well predictable - he was from the phase of Banyo when I understand (from other candidates) that the seminarians were actually encouraged to have girlfriends. And the Archbishop? From the whole pathetic invalid baptismal formula saga Arbp Bathersby must have known all this. It just shows how pathetically wet he has been for a LOOOONG time.

Terra said...

Just a postscript on complaining about liturgical abuses and erroneous teaching by priests. I came across the following on EWTN:

"Redemptionis Sacramentum reminds Catholics that they have the right to appeal to the Holy See in any ecclesiastical matter. Good order and charity suggests that complaints in so far as possible be first directed to the local Bishop or to the Religious Superior as appropriate, before being referred to the Holy See. This is consistent with how Our Lord asks us to give fraternal correction (cf. Mt. 18:15-17).

Certainly, when such appeals have been shown to be fruitless, direct appeal to the Holy See is justified.

[184] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.[290] It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

[290] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution, Pastor bonus 52, CIC 1417 § 1

_________________________

Pastor Bonus Art. 52 — The Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] examines offences against the faith and more serious ones both in behaviour or in the celebration of the sacraments which have been reported to it and, if need be, proceeds to the declaration or imposition of canonical sanctions in accordance with the norms of common or proper law.

Code of Canon Law 1417, 1. In virtue of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, anyone of the faithful is free to bring to or introduce before the Holy See a case either contentious or penal in any grade of judgment and at any stage of litigation."