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.