By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
An Australian priest accused of gross liturgical abuses, presiding over invalid baptisms and allowing a Buddhist statue to be erected in the parish church, is refusing to leave the premises even after the Archbishop of Brisbane issued a decree removing him from the parish.
Father Peter Kennedy, 71, has been serving as Administrator of St. Mary’s parish in South Brisbane for the last 28 years and is a known rebel whose ministry at the parish has been a cause of scandal for more than a decade.
The Vatican finally ordered the Archbishop of Brisbane, John A. Bathersby, to oust the renegade priest and install a new Administrator.
Even though Fr. Kennedy’s termination was made official on Feb. 21, he has refused to leave and the new administrator, Fr. Ken Howell, has been advised by police not to try to enter the parish due to threats from parishioners to burn down the Archbishop’s house.
Speaking at a recent press conference, Fr Kennedy thanked the community at St. Mary’s for their support and maintained that he believed he and his church had done nothing that warranted the Catholic Church’s actions, The Brisbane Times reported.
“I’m not a cult leader and not about starting up a break away church,” he said. “The Archbishop needs to heed the voice of the people. This action of exclusion and division will not bring healing.”
Fr. Kennedy has long been a source of scandal in the Australian Catholic community. He rejects the Virgin Birth, sells books doubting the divinity of Christ and once distributed a chapter from a book entitled, “Jesus the Avatar.” His Masses, which some doubt are valid, are said to be filled with psychobabble and new age cliches.There is no Sign of the Cross, epistles, Creed, Offertory or liturgical vestments.
An anonymous commentary published in the Feb. 25 edition of The Australian by an observer who has attended Mass at the parish described the many liturgical abuses they witnessed. “A woman read the Gospel as the congregation sat down, another preached and the congregation said the words of consecration.”
The author complained that Archbishop Bathersby had done too little to stop the travesty taking place at St. Mary’s. “Until recently, he allowed St Mary’s to run unchecked, despite more than a decade of controversies over invalid baptisms, the gay and lesbian choir and assistant priest Father Terry Fitzpatrick’s son.”
Meanwhile, Fr. Kennedy has threatened to leave and take his congregation with him. “I’ve been here 28 years and I know this community is solidly behind me, and so we could go elsewhere,” he said.
Archbishop Bathersby says parishioners cannot be stopped from breaking away but has warned them they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
A retired judge has been engaged to mediate, but thus far, St Mary’s has refused to hand over the church keys to Father Howell. Some are suggesting that the Archbishop change the locks, then call police and press charges if rebelious parishioners make good on their threats to break in.
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