Redfern parishioners want to reconcile with parish priest

Catholic News, 25 August 2006

A group of St Vincent’s Redfern parishioners has called for reconciliation with the parish priest, Fr Gerry Prindiville, after the NSW Ecclesiastical Regional Tribunal upheld a defamation complaint by parishioner Clare Maguire against a former assistant priest.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Clare Maguire claimed her right to a good reputation had been violated by Fr Dennis Sudla, a Neo-Catechumenal priest.

The decision of the Ecclesiastical Regional Tribunal, a key church judicial body, was this week posted on the parish’s community blog, The Church Mouse, and confirmed by the offended parishioner.

Ms Maguire declined to elaborate on the priest’s behaviour but said the matter came to a head over an exchange in the presence of witnesses during Mass, while she was stepping forward to put flowers on the altar to commemorate Hiroshima Day.

“I’m very satisfied. But were this a civil case, there would have been a very large financial compensation for the content of his words,” she told the Herald.

Ms Maguire said the judgement had yet to be executed but in part required a financial sum to be paid towards the costs of Sharing of the Meal, which is the parish’s twice-weekly provision of meals and hospitality for people in Redfern.

But despite the potentially explosive finding, Church Mouse yesterday published an open letter from Ms Maguire and three other parishioners calling for reconciliation with the parish priest.

The letter is in response to Fr Prindiville’s own letter read to the parish last Sunday in which he also appealed for reconciliation in the parish.

The four parishioners said that “it was good to see your letter acknowledge that OUR Parish ‘has particular characteristics, with its indigenous population and the significant heritage of [former parish priest, the late] Fr Ted Kennedy’s work'”.

“We would like to acknowledge your request for cooperation and harmony, and your expression of an earnest desire to fulfil your role in the parish as you see fit,” the parishioners wrote.

However, the parishioners remained critical saying that “we are painfully aware that non-Aboriginal people are treated differently” and expressing concern over “the ongoing disregard for, or unawareness of, Aboriginal culture and spirituality”.

The letter also criticised Fr Prindiville for “walking out” of Mass last Sunday over the words of an offertory song he considered to be “political.”

The letter concluded that “we believe that the Gospel of Jesus requires that both priest and community approach each other in a spirit of honesty and forgiveness for the process of reconciliation to begin.”

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