Baptism controversy points to larger question of communion, says Australian archbishop

Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane has publicly questioned whether a parish could be in communion with the Church if its ordained ministers do not use words from Scripture and do not follow the appropriate rites during the sacraments.

The archbishop's comments follow a controversy that recently broke in the press last week, where priests at St. Mary Parish’s in South Brisbane for the last 10 years were using the words "creator, liberator and sustainer" to baptize, instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Archbishop Bathersby said such baptisms were invalid and would need to be redone.

"Larger questions lie not far beneath the surface of the controversy, and it is the question of communion, namely whether a parish of the Roman Catholic Church can be in communion with the Archdiocesan Church and the Universal Church if it changes the structure of the sacraments and locates its authority within the community," Archbishop Bathersby wrote in a comment in the Nov. 30 issue of the Courier Mail. "The baptism formula is merely one aspect, but an important one, of all these other questions."

The archbishop said yesterday that it was up to the pastor and his parishioners to decide if they wanted to be in communion with the archdiocese and the universal Church.

"They either want to be in communion or not," the archbishop reportedly said. "If they decide they don't want to follow the authority of the Church, then they have made the choice not to be a part of the universal Church."

However, he confirmed that the pastor, Fr. Peter Kennedy, had given him a commitment two months ago that St. Mary's would return to using traditional words in the sacraments.

Archbishop Bathersby also questioned whether a priest, who does not follow the appropriate sacramental rites, would be able to continue in his ministry.

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