|Ordination of Fr Damon Sypher FSSP|
May 2011, Sydney
Well trod territory...
Where most of Australia suffers mainly from the yoke of mediocrity, and what fellow blogger Joshua has aptly dubbed 'liturgical minimalism', Queensland I'm afraid, save for some few small oases, suffers from a much more serious malaise.
I'm not going to go into much detail on this one: over the last couple of years, courtesy of the South Brisbane debacle (think twenty years of invalid baptisms) and the dismissal of Bishop Morris over misuse of General Absolutions and teaching on holy orders in particular, most people are only too well aware of the dire nature of the problems of the Church in this State.
And for those interested in the history and nature of the problems in more detail, Vexilla Regis blog has had a lengthy series on this subject over the last several months.
This is an important State though, and as a commenter pointed out, has one of the more successful Latin Mass communities in the country under the guidance of the excellent Fr Gregory Jordan SJ (yes, there are still good Jesuits around!).
All power to the laity asserting their rights!
This is also a chance for us all to laud the efforts of those in that State who have laboured hard and long to assert their canonical right to be assisted by the spiritual riches of the Church, and continue to be reviled for it.
It is surely the greatest of hypocrisies on the part of the liberals that they claim to want to promote the role of the laity - but attack without mercy when the laity who speak up are seen as conservatives or traditionalists!
Indeed, the length of time it took for action to be taken in the face of the most serious abuses of the sacraments remains an indictment on the Church, and attests to the fact that in most places around Australia, genuine transparency and accountability still merit lip service only.
Queensland is Australia's third most populous state (after New South Wales and Victoria), and at 1.7 million square kilometres is more than seven times the size of the United Kingdom.
The Metropolitan See, Brisbane, takes in an urban conglomeration of over 2.6 million people. Brisbane Archdiocese encompasses some 66,000 sq kms, 621,000 catholics, and 252 (156 diocesan in 2006) priests.
Most of the other four dioceses though - Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton and Toowoomba - are large geographically, but relatively sparsely populated.
Two of the dioceses - Brisbane and Toowoomba - are currently vacant, with Apostolic Administrators in charge, and the bishop of a third, Bishop Heenan of Rockhampton, turns 75 in August and is rumoured to have had his resignation already accepted.
Priestly vocations in Queensland were virtually nonexistent but a few years ago - but with the erection of a new seminary under close Vatican supervision, and with a former Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith official as rector, things seem to be slowly turning around.
Brisbane episcopal leadership
The Metropolitan See of Brisbane, as noted above, is currently vacant, with the excellent Bishop Jarrett of Lismore as Apostolic Administrator.
Bishop Jarrett has gained considerable experience in turning around a diocese (the neighbouring NSW diocese of Lismore) over the last few years, and one can only pray that we will make similar inroads with Brisbane. Indeed, he would make an excellent Metropolitan, but given his age (74.04), while possible, that seems reasonably unlikely to occur.
Bishop John Oudeman OFM Cap, aged 69.
Traditional Mass in Brisbane
Brisbane has a very vigorous Traditional Latin Mass Community, thriving despite (or perhaps in part spurred on by!) persecution, including (and surely illicit) restrictions on weekday and other masses, hopefully now or shortly to be a thing of the past!
And it has produced more than one vocation, most recently in the form of Fr Damon Sypher FSSP, ordained last year by Cardinal Pell (presumably because Archbishop Bathersby, unlike Archbishops Wilson, Coleridge and others who, to their considerable credit, have made the considerable commitment of time and effort required, declined the opportunity?).
The Brisbane Latin Mass community doesn't have a big web presence or any bloggers that I know of, so please do, someone, let us know numbers and more about what is happening up there!
The big challenge though, presumably, is that Fr Jordan is now over 80, and presumably will wish to retire at some point...
That Liturgical Commission
Given the change of guard going on in Brisbane, it is probably not particularly helpful to look at things like the diocesan website (though it is mostly actually quite good these days, including some strong statements opposing both civil unions and same sex marriage!), but I can't forgo mentioning one of the (several) still festering sores of the diocese, namely its "Liturgical Commission".
The Commission website gets a lot of traffic, I suspect, by virtue of the quite useful ordos it puts up.
But its editorial content and the policies it promotes are altogether another thing.
Take the December 'editiorial' on Liturgy by Tom Elich. It contains an attack on the new Missal and much more. Here is a sample to give you the flavour of liturgical dissent's Australian HQ:
"The way we celebrate the liturgy needs to be accessible and to invite full, conscious and active participation...Does the liturgy undertake its function of evangelisation when its ministers are robed in lace, swathed in seven metres of scarlet silk and attended by page boys? [I'm assuming this is a primarily a reference to Cardinal Burke's Sydney Mass. And it certainly did something to evangelize, given the high attendance at the actual Mass, and the 1400 odd hits on my post on it!] Are we concerned about the new evangelisation when we keep refining small rules for the Church about celebrating an old use in Latin? [I'm assuming he is talking here about Summorum Pontificum and subsequent clarifications. Which wouldn't have been necessary if bishops such as the former Archbishop Bathersby of Brisbane had been more generous in granting access to the Latin Mass to those who wish it...]. Are we looking outwards to others when we eliminate from the liturgy those few religious names which everyone in the society recognises (Good Friday, for example, or Mary MacKillop)? Do we speak clearly to an alienated world when our new translation of the Roman Missal gives absolute priority to the structures and vocabulary of a dead language? Latin is our internal language which struggles to make meaning even for the initiated. An inward-looking liturgy will never realise its potential for an outward-directed evangelisation."
Maybe the Commission should just be closed down altogether?
I mentioned Holy Spirit Seminary earlier. It rector is Monsignor Anthony Randazzo, whom Vexilla Regis puts forward as a potential episcopal appointment, and its Spiritual Director is medieval historian Father Paul A. Chandler O. Carm (well medieval history always wins brownie points from me at least!).
And its staff even includes someone charged with aiding the Latin skills of the seminarians!
On the other hand, perhaps to counterbalance this (?) the staff does seem to include an awful lot of women charged with things like pastoral and human development' formation, along with a religious sister for liturgical formation. Perhaps someone can reassure me that this is not actually what it looks like...
There were two priests ordained last year, one for the diocese and one for Nigeria.
There is a huge clean up job to be done in Brisbane, and it will take some time.
Please pray for the appointment of a strong Archbishop, and for all those committed to the restoration of orthodoxy in this archdiocese, and especially for Bishop Jarrett as he takes on this difficult role.