The withdrawing of $200 a week from St Vincent’s Church, Redfern by the Charitable Works Fund will diminish the ‘honourable contribution’ of the Catholic Church in Redfern, according to Professor Stephen Leeder, professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at Sydney University.
The Charitable Works Fund targeted specific funds for withdrawal from St Vincent’s. The $200 paid for a twice weekly supper for some 300 indigenous people in the area, some of whom are itinerant, and are therefore unable to access other services. The service was begun by the now ailing Fr Ted Kennedy and the community at St Vincent’s Catholic Church some years ago.
Professor Leeder told Online Catholics that it was apparent that the moneys had been withdrawn as a consequence of a change in theological position, from that of Fr Kennedy’s to that of the current parish priest, Fr Gerry Prindiville, who is a member of the ultra conservative Neo-Catechumate Way.
"It seems to me necessary, for all of us as Christians, to determine what actions should occur arising from Gospel values, such as those described in the parable of the Good Samaritan," Professor Leeder said.
"For me, I am happy to have just spent 18 months at a New York City Church (St Paul’s and St Andrew’s Uniting Methodist) which operated the largest outreach service in the city.
"My New York church fed the poor, extended mercy to those in need and spent its resources accordingly. It met the basic needs of a severely underprivileged community of homeless and poor people. For myself, this service did not diminish, but rather enriched both the spiritual life and the sense of community connection of my church."
Professor Leeder said that the theological position of the Catholic Church was a matter for it to judge. But he also said that the long history of service at St Vincent’s "was among the more honourable responses of our society to the complex needs of our often destitute Indigenous people."
The Charitable Works Fund is chaired by Mgr Kerry Bayada who told Online Catholics that the decision to cut the St Vincent’s contribution was due to the fact that there are other services accessible to indigenous people in Redfern. But Kate Gavan of the St Vincent’s community responded that many indigenous people are itinerant, which prevents access to many services. She continued: "In any event, the St Vincent’s suppers are not just about supplying food, but about giving and receiving friendship and care."
Professor Leeder, who is also Director of the Australian Health Policy Institute, said that those in authority and in positions of responsibility should act with care. "The priest who walked by the injured man got short shrift in the Samaritan story – but the despised foreigner who became involved with him and sought to meet his needs received the endorsement of Jesus."
© Copyright ONLINE CATHOLICS Ltd (ABN 63 107 718 703) Issue 10, 28 July 2004