Church faces axe for progressive stand

November 15, 2008

St Mary's church in South Brisbane has been threatened with excommunication if it maintains progressive practices that have the overwhelming support of the parish and community.

Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby has given the church until December 1 to fall into line.

The church hierarchy opposes St Mary's giving communion to gays, the leading involvement of women in the church, the use of non-sexist language and its inclusive structures.

St Mary's Father Peter Kennedy criticised the approach of the Vatican, pointing out that St Mary's inclusive practices had evolved with engagement from the community. St Mary's regularly draws 700 people to its services.

Father Terry Fitzpatrick talked about the struggle to defend the church at a Queensland Fabian Society discussion on October 16.

Fitzpatrick explained that it is at St Mary's that the Gay Pride choir meets, that the homeless and the hungry are welcomed, and that social justice issues are at the top of the agenda ahead of dogma. He raised concerns about the "MacDonaldisation" of the church — where all practices and procedures are uniformly directed from above.

Father Terry emphasised that St Mary's would continue with its current practices, which are supported by its large congregation.

Peter Arndt, from the Catholic Peace and Justice Commission, also addressed the meeting. He spoke of the grassroots work to educate Catholics on principles of social justice and equity. The discussion pledged full support for the defence of St Mary's.

St Mary's community member Tony Robertson told Green Left Weekly that the church "is grateful for the enormous level of community support".

A mass community consultation will occur at St Mary's church on November 30, from 10.30am. At 4pm St Mary's will sign what is believed to be the first-ever treaty between a church and the Aboriginal community. The treaty will promote cultural exchange and make the church available as an Indigenous organising space.

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