Archbishop of Brisbane John A. Bathersby has urged a disobedient priest not to take members of his parish into schism, saying the separation of Christians is “contrary to all that Christ prayed for.”
Father Peter Kennedy, 71, is the administrator of St. Mary’s Church in South Brisbane. He has allegedly rejected the divinity of Jesus and has denied the virginity of Mary.
“Can you possibly think any individual can believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary,” the priest said, according to the Courier Mail. He claimed that the article of faith may have been credible in “the medieval times” but is not believable for modern people.
The priest also argued that Archbishop Bathersby has a “very fundamentalist theology.”
According to the Courier Mail, Father Kennedy said he didn’t have faith in the Pope but wanted to remain an active Catholic priest.
“You've got to be relevant to people's lives - Jesus broke the rules all the time for the sake of the people,” he claimed.
In a Friday letter, Archbishop Bathersby responded to Fr. Kennedy’s Jan. 12 letter asking to meet for further discussion.
“I see no reason to do so. I have repeatedly asked for changes but you and the community have not budged an inch,” the archbishop wrote. “Moreover South Brisbane’s instant disclosure of my letters and comments in the media gives me no reason to enter into discussion.”
The archbishop said there is doubt about the validity of many baptisms performed at the parish and announced that he would name a special day at St. Stephen’s Cathedral to perform and certify baptisms for parents or adult converts who are concerned about the validity of St. Mary’s Church baptisms.
Archbishop Bathersby’s letter notified Fr. Kennedy that he will be removed as parish administrator by Saturday, Feb. 21.
“I would like to add, without trying to exert pressure, that if you wish to retire from active service as a priest, the Archdiocese will assist you as it does with other Archdiocesan priests who retire,” he wrote.
Announcing that Dean Ken Howell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral will be replacing Fr. Kennedy, the archbishop said regular Masses will be celebrated at the parish and the sacraments will be available.
“Church goers attached to St Mary’s are most welcome to continue, as well as those who wish to return to the parish or those who wish to become new parishioners,” the bishop added.
Expressing hope that St. Mary’s emphasis on social justice will continue, he also said he hoped “sound Marian devotion” will be promoted at the parish “as was normal in the past.”
“I will do whatever I can to facilitate and encourage this devotion,” the archbishop continued.
Noting that Father Kennedy has claimed he may lead others into a breakaway sect, Archbishop Bathersby said he cannot stop the move.
“However those who follow you should realize that they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane,” he advised.
Archbishop Bathersby said the decisions gave him no satisfaction whatsoever.
“The separation of Christians is contrary to all that Christ prayed for. Nor does such division promote the Kingdom of God. You have had ample time to make a considered decision. Please God the division that exists at the present time will be healed in the future, probably not in my time.
“I ask the priests, deacons, religious and people of the Archdiocese of Brisbane to pray for me and for all who belong to the Archdiocese, especially the community of St Mary’s in its present situation.
“In this matter I pray also that Mary the mother of Jesus will be our inspiration and guide as we seek her prayerful support for the healing of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and St Mary’s Parish,” Archbishop Bathersby’s letter closed.
Father Kennedy said he is prepared to be arrested at the church and claimed a few dozen parishioners may try to be arrested as well.