Redfern parish at war with its priests

In this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald Religious Affairs Writer Linda Morris writes:

The head of Sydney’s Catholics has lashed out at an inner-city parish for treating church like an unruly political branch meeting.

Archbishop George Pell has accused the parishioners of St Vincent’s Catholic Church in Redfern of "sad and shameful attitudes" and mounting a "program of intimidation, harassment and disturbance" on holy occasions.

But parishioners say Cardinal Pell has appointed conservative priests insistent on "imposing an alien and hostile form of religion and liturgical worship" and has ignored their pleas to intervene.

Parishioners have taken their complaints against the priests of the Spanish-based Neocatechumenal Way to the Vatican.

They say the priests have called Aborigines heathens, subjected churchgoers, particularly women, to bullying and verbal abuse, and withheld Holy Communion.

"Ours is a parish that is hurting and Cardinal Pell’s failure to hear and respect our concerns is a measure of his lack of pastoral care," said one parishioner, Elisabeth Burke.

Cardinal Pell confirmed that Father Gerry Prindiville, who had struggled to gain the support of parishioners, has taken leave and been replaced by Father Clesio do Nascimento Mendes. Both are missionaries of the Neocatechumenal Way, installed by Cardinal Pell four years ago.

But its conservativism and authoritarian strictures have clashed with the style of those keen to uphold the legacy of the late Father Ted Kennedy, who was renowned for his spirit of inclusiveness among marginalised Aborigines.

In a statement to the Herald, Cardinal Pell said parish priests and lay missionary families at Redfern were making progress. .

"But as a priest and bishop for 40 years I have never encountered anywhere the level of rudeness and disruption often foisted on worshippers at Mass. Interjectors seem to regard Mass as something like an unruly branch meeting of a political party.

"Reverence for the sacred appears extinct among the agitators … These are sad and shameful attitudes."

But only last week congregants said they were rebuffed in their offer to reopen communications with the new parish priest.

The Vatican has been told that the parish is in the depths of despair and spiritual anguish. "Whereas once the parish had a constant stream of Aborigines in the church, today our indigenous brothers and sisters complain that these priests treat them like lepers and call them heathens."

Linda Morris SMH 1 June 2007

Flock abandoned

Letters – SMH 2 June 2007

Despite a commitment he made (in front of witnesses) to a sick and frail priest before the priest’s retirement in 2002, George Pell has repeatedly appointed clergy to St Vincent’s church who have demonstrated no capacity for, or interest in, continuing Father Ted Kennedy’s legacy in Redfern ("Redfern parish at war with its priests", June 1). The archbishop has not been sighted at St Vincent’s since he made that promise, and all of our efforts to engage him on the unhappy situation have failed. Instead, he chooses to make uninformed comments and vilify the community.

Perhaps "Stairway to heaven" (June 1) has the answer. Could it be that the archbishop is too busy (with really important things such as the crumbling facade of his cathedral) to talk to us?

Len De Lorenzo

The high priest and his men are still attacking those defending the poor and marginalised. Not much has changed from Judea AD30 to Redfern 2007.

John Truman

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply