Liberated from a failing institution

On April 19, a huge mob of St Mary's people made a pilgrimage out of a church and into the Trades and Labor Council (TLC) building, home of the Queensland Council of Unions.

They walked out of the church to the TLC, 200 metres down the road in silent vigil with candles and lanterns, banners and balloons - not unlike the Jews of the Old Testament escaping from the slavery of the Egyptians to the liberation of the Promised Land (minus the balloons).

We too feel liberated from the shackles of a failing institution caught up in dogmas and creeds that belong to another age. We felt it was time to take a stand from the constant bullying we have experienced for many years.

We have been bullied for standing up for the rights of women and giving them a voice. For challenging and changing the sexist language and images of God in the liturgies and celebrations we have as a community. For ensuring women are given equal roles in the decision-making processes of the community.

We have been bullied to make us stop blessing the unions of gay and lesbian couples, baptising their children and allowing them to celebrate and use the church like any other group.

We have been kicked out of our church for giving people with a sexual orientation that departs from the mainstream a voice and a place within the church.

We have been ostracised for taking a stand with those who have suffered abuse at the hands of state and church-run institutions. For setting up the Esther centre in Lotus Place, a place of advocacy and support for people who have experienced abuse in human service or faith communities.

We have been marginalised for signing a treaty with the Indigenous people of the land we are on, for recognising their prior ownership and sovereignty. We believe as many Australians do that this recognition lies at the heart of addressing the injustices carried out against the Aboriginal people of this land.

For these and many other reasons we have been liberated from the constant bullying and shackles of a failing institution unable to change.

As a people we feel optimistic about our future. We have had enormous support nationally and internationally. We have tapped into a nerve, a frustration, a boiling-over anger at an institution that continues to deny the rights of so many.

This huge Roman Catholic corporation continues to win the sympathy and ear of governments afraid to challenge its bullying, standover tactics.

The days of its unchallenged reign are numbered. The tide is turning and new ways of expressing and celebrating spirituality are being forged. We are delighted to be a part of this new movement. As one wise sage said:

"When the winds of change blow/Some build walls/Others build windmills."

It is time for many new windmills.

[Father Terry Fitzpatrick is a member of the St Mary's congregation in Brisbane.]

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