Congregation rejects priest’s disruption of Aboriginal ministry

One of Australia’s largest and most historic indigenous church congregations wants its parish priest of eight months dismissed because he allegedly alienates Aborigines.

The dispute began when Fr Peter Carroll MSC demanded the removal of Aborigines gathered on the footpath outside St Vincent’s Catholic Church in Redfern, Sydney, before Sunday mass.

Under his predecessor, the legendary Fr Ted Kennedy, it was a tradition to disburse collection money to those waiting outside the church.

The congregation is also objecting to Fr Carroll’s eviction of an Aboriginal man who, with Fr Kennedy’s blessing, had been squatting in the unused presbytery for more than a decade. It is believed Fr Carroll evicted the man because of health and safety concerns.

The priest has also tried to evict Linda Kemp from the weekly church cleaning job she has held for nine years. She alleges he offered her $1500 to quit and asked her to sign a confidentiality agreement.

"He has a fear of Aboriginal people. He doesn’t give us the time of day. He doesn’t talk to us after mass. He’s straight out the door," Ms Kemp said.

The congregation would contact Archbishop George Pell and the Provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart this week to demand Fr Carroll’s removal.

It said that if Father Carroll was not removed immediately, it would consider breaking away from the Sydney Archdiocese.

Worshippers argue that Fr Carroll is violating canon law, which says "clerics are always to do their utmost to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice".

The Australian

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Redfern
Pope’s message of support for Sydney aboriginal medical centre (7/1/02)
Thou shalt not covet: a frail fighter puts his plea to the Pope (SMH 3/12/01)
Australia: Confessions of a dying priest. Our savage moment of truth
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Archdiocese of Sydney | St Vincent de Paul Church

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