Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Diocese by diocese review - Queensland: The end of the black hole in sight?

Ordination of Fr Damon Sypher FSSP
May 2011, Sydney
 Continuing my series on the state of the Church in Australia, I want to take a quick look at Queensland.  Today, a bit of an overview and a look at Brisbane.  Then in the next post I'll look briefly at the other four dioceses in this State.

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.

One of its Auxiliaries, Bishop Finnigan, is currently apostolic administrator of Toowoomba; the other is 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?

The Seminary

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.

Looking forward...

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.


Maureen said...

I shall never forget the shock of attending a Christmas Mass the first year we arrived in Brisbane: priest and altar-server officiating, and the altar-server was dressed as Santa Claus.......
I thank God every day for Father Jordan and the Latin Mass.
I always knew the pendulum would swing, but never dreamed it would do so in my own lifetime. I was a young teenager at the time of Vatican 2, and remember how things used to be, and what we lost as a result.

GOR said...

I have had a ‘soft spot’ (as we used to say in Ireland) for Queensland for as long as I can remember. In fact from an early age I knew more about Queensland than I did about Dublin – though I had never been to either place. Names like Cairns, Brisbane, Townsville, Gordonvale, Babinda, Mareeba and Thursday Island were more familiar to me than Tallaght, Ballyfermot or Donnybrook.

Why would a young boy in rural Ireland in the 1940s and 50s know about someplace on the other side of the world before he had even been fifty miles from his hometown? In the early 1920s my mother’s younger sister had left for Australia and never returned (her first time back would not be until the 1960s). She had gone to become a nun and spent her life teaching school in North Queensland. She died at age 92, having spent 75 years there. RIP.

My cousin also emigrated to Australia and he too lived in Queensland, until his death some years ago. RIP. I read accounts of both their funerals. The accounts differed starkly and pointed up some of the issues I have read about the Church in Queensland in recent years. It is good to hear that while - as elsewhere - much has been lost, yet not all is lost and the work of my aunt, among many others, has not been in vain.

gmck9431 said...

You know Kate I think you'd get more posts if it was easier to respond to you. I know I'm old, but tis' difficult.
Wife and I are back in Qld. again after 28 years over the border. It's a shock! I was warned, but that does'nt prepare you for the Schism and Heresy you strike. (Have been back 5 years now.) I detect some chance of reform and some days I'm hopeful; other days? Not so much. I honestly never expected to see, in my lifetime, the changes being proposed by the Pope. That's a plus! At this stage I'm still stuck with the feeling that the present Clergy etc. will have to die out before change can make traction here in Qld.
Maybe this sums it up better. Daughter home from England after going to Mass on a sunday. In the car on the way home- "Dad, that Mass was disgusting!" She was referring to the 5(yes 5) Hymn sandwich and a very "inferior"
Organist. The best I could reply was "yes, but if I don't go to that I can't go to week day Mass." Oh, and I think we are one of the better Parishes in the Brisbane Diocese.
I sometimes think the state of affairs here in Qld. could best be likened to the heresy of Luther, but that may be unfair to Luther!

Kate said...

Hmm, how can I make it easier to respond to me??!

gmck9431 said...

Apologies! I Meant more comments.
I found this comment easier than some of my past efforts which just seemed to get lost in the ether. Not your fault, but I suspect it was something to do with Google.

JohnD said...

Great blog, Kate!

A friend of mine here in Melbourne takes his holidays each year in the Brisbane Archdiocese, but too far away from Fr Jordan’s area to be able to get to his Mass. He is so disgusted with the Masses available in the area he visits that he just does not go.

My own approach would be that attendance, (albeit with the occasional cloud of powdered teeth coming out one’s nostrils), at least fulfils one’s Sunday obligation, but he can’t even bring himself to do that. One wonders whether the priests who perpetrate such shocking Masses ever even consider the number of Catholics they have turned away from the practice of the Faith. Do they have no conscience whatever?

Stephen said...

To give you my view of the Brisbane Archdiocese after 12 years since I moved to Brisbane.

It was actually very hard to settle here "spiritually" after being in the Archdiocese of Sydney, to the point that I almost lost my faith. However, I became actively involved in a parish for some years until I was virtually kicked out because of my orthodox beliefs. Not that I said anything, or tried to change anything, but because of what I thought.

I have now drifted into Fr Jordan's Latin Mass community, as well as being involved in a number of communities within the Archdiocese.

My observations of the Brisbane Archdiocese is that it is a community that is very split to the extent that it is impossible to take a middle road. My personal views are neither to the extreme left or to the extreme right, but I do have views that would be considered unnacceptable to either camp. You are seen as a liberal or conservative - end of story.

Evidence of this was seen in in Archbishop Bathersby's sermon at Pentecost some years ago where he said that the Brisbane Archdiocese was nowhere as bad as the Arian/Donatist/Catholic split of the 4th century AD, whihc in itself acknowledges the split between factions in the Archdiocese.

At theme moment the "elites" are the liberal faction as you can see from the Elich/Harrington press of the last few years which is still going on. With respect to the new translation entires in "Liturgy Lines" and from what I have been told on "information sessions" in the parishes have been all about how the new translation is a big mistake. This is all because Elich was locked out of the Vox Clara process, after the earlier attempt at a translation (in which he was involved with ICEL) was found theologically wanting. There is from some influential quarters hatred of the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The blog "Vexilla Regis" alludes to a recent incedent which I was informed about, where a certain Liturgist of major influence within the church openly abused Catholic Leader staff for publishing an postive article about the ordination of Fr Damon Sypher. This is the kind of church we live in - one close to civil war.

Nevertheless a number of groups esposing orthodox catholicism are thriving "under the radar" and bearing fruitful witness.