Brisbane: heretic Fr. Dresser and parish told to clean up by 1 Dec

More on St. Mary’s in Brisbane, Australia.   More on the background here.


Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby has written to the administrator of St Mary’s in South Brisbane threatening to start "a formal process" to address the situation if changes are not made by December 1.

The Australian reports the parish looks set to be excommunicated after the local priest, Fr Peter Kennedy, said yesterday he would not change his ways despite being warned to do so by Church authorities.[That approach generally doesn’t produce good results.]

The archbishop wrote to the parish in September drawing attention to practices that placed St Mary’s "not in communion with the Catholic Church", and giving them until the end of the year to respond.

But in a second letter last week, Archbishop Bathersby said several undertakings had not been honoured and that "games are still being played, as they were in the past."

"I am prepared to wait until December 1, but no longer. After that I will begin a formal process to address the situation," he said.

But Fr Kennedy indicated yesterday that the local people would not be changing their practices.

He said St Mary’s had been "white-anted" [? I am guessing this is colloquial.] by people who were not regular members of the church.

"There are vigilantes who’ve come into our church and written to Rome, and Rome has put pressure on John Bathersby. Bullies never have enough of bullying, and the Vatican is a bully," he said. [Uh huh.  I think I will make popcorn and watch that that plays out.  But notice that this has nothing, really, to do with the real problem: what this priest and parish are doing is WRONG.]

"Many communities are not sticking precisely to the rules of liturgy. Our problem is that we are a public community. [A "public community"?  Sorry… but this is incomprehensible.] The archbishop has known what we’ve been doing for all these years. [That is a problem, admittedly.  But… that again doesn’t change the situation.  It must stop!] But his model of governance is hierarchical, and that’s his problem, the Church’s governance is hierarchical."

Fr Kennedy, 71, said he was making a stand on behalf of what he called "recovering Catholics".

"They walked away from the Church because they can no longer abide this institution which is so oppressive of women, of gay and lesbian people. [I think the canonical process will not take long.]

"We are one Church community that is prepared to say enough is enough."

According to the ABC, Archbishop Bathersby’s demands include an end to commitment ceremonies at St Mary’s for gay and lesbian couples and the use of non-conventional terms during baptisms.

He insists the priests wear the traditional alb and stole during the Mass and they use a Catholic Church approved eucharistic prayer, not one developed by the community.

He also wants lay people to stop giving the homily.

Power backs St Mary’s

Speaking to the Canberra Times, Canberra auxiliary, Bishop Pat Power said that St Mary’s South Brisbane was a haven to people who had been excluded from their own parishes, Catholic and otherwise. He said canon law required homilies at Mass must be preached by a deacon or priest.

I have difficulty with that ruling, but that is how it is.” [Another winner.] He did not accept all goodness and knowledge resided in priests. Parishes such as St Mary’s pushed the Church ahead.

”I think the day will come when that sort of thing will happen.”

Bishop Power described Archbishop Bathersby as Australia’s most open and accommodating archbishop, who was committed to dialogue.

”I would have sympathy for a parish which is reaching out to gay people,” Bishop Power said. ”So often they feel no one wants to know them. But a bishop has difficulty with those things. I recognise their desire to be part of the Church.

”I have a lot of sympathy and admiration for a parish like this. I know it is hard to find the middle ground.” [The "middle ground"?  For example, just do half of the baptisms invalidly?] The Queensland bishops were generally open and accommodating and generally progressive in terms of the second Vatican Council.

Dresser aims to "marry" theology and science

Meanwhile, Bathurst diocese priest Fr Peter Dresser who has created a worldwide storm of controversy over his claims Jesus was not God and Mary was not a virgin in his book has said he was simply trying to start a "conversation", Livenews says.  [Well… he did that!]

Fr Dresser, whose book God is Big. Real Big [O God… you are soooo big!] is being sold at Brisbane churches for $20 a copy, says he has not been disciplined since the book’s contents went public in the media.

Dresser said in an interview that his book tries to "marry" theology and science.


I’ll excommunicate you: archbishop (The Australian, 3/11/08)

Brisbane church faces axe over liberal practices (ABC News, 2/11/08)

‘Jesus was not God’ priest speaks to (Livenews, 30/10/08)

Bishop backs gay move by parish (Canberra Times, 3/11/08


St Mary’s, South Brisbane

Peter Dresser 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Geoff says:

    Excellent update, Father Z!

  2. “White ants” are “termites,” but I guess it’s a colloquialism for undermined?

  3. I just can’t understand these people. If they so totally disagree with everything in the Church, then why would they want be a part of it? Wouldn’t they feel happier making their own “faith community”?

    (I don’t think I’m encouraging them to leave the Church since by their beliefs they already have).

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    I was going to guess that “white-ante” might refer to someone who’s being a ‘vigilante’ by not accepting Father Kennedy’s local authority and instead calls in ‘the guy in Rome who wears the white suit’.

    But, a little googling later, we have…

    “Whiteant (verb) : to criticise something to deter somebody from buying it. A car dealer might whiteant another dealer’s cars or a real estate salesman might whiteant another agent’s property”


    “Whiteant : to criticising competitors products ”

  5. W. Schrift says:

    This “faith community” couldn’t say the Nicene Creed and mean it. I wonder if that means anything to them, and how they stand in relation to the rest of the Church (present and past). On another note, I can’t believe that a bishop would ever, in any way, endorse the idea of lay sermons, which are basically a heretical re-organization of ordained priesthood to “lay ministry”. The hierarchy attacking the hierarchy? Domine salva nos.

  6. Mitch#2 says:

    I just find the whole situation shocking…I mean, how could they get away with so much for so long? How did it progress to this point?

  7. Scott W. says:

    He said St Mary’s had been “white-anted” [? I am guessing this is colloquial.] by people who were not regular members of the church.

    Here’s an opportunity to throw the progressive’s platitudes back in their face–Think Globally, Act Locally. The scandal at this church is so blatant it is heard ’round the world. Frankly, anyone and everyone of good faith who can pile on ought to. I will pray for conversion and pray for the bishop to have the strength to rectify this with justice and firmness.

  8. Calleva says:

    This guy’s book is going for $20 a copy. Are books normally this expensive in Oz? I note the age of Fr Kennedy is 71. Yup, he’s an old fashioned hippy.

  9. Scott W. says:

    Couldn’t resist pointing out another one: “There are vigilantes who’ve come into our church and written to Rome, and Rome has put pressure on John Bathersby.”

    Respectfully Father, one man’s vigilante is another man’s freedom fighter. ;)

  10. This is very sad. Prayers for this parish and for courage on the part of the bishop.

    It is sad when the priest himself becomes the “white ant” undermining the faith and praxis of his congregation.

    God bless,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  11. tertullian says:

    Ultimately Peter Dresser wants to keep the church and his little “parish” to himself. He couldn’t care less about being in communion with Rome. It’s much easier to walk away with the existing building than construct one himself. Strip him of his standing in the Church, but hands-off the building.

  12. chironomo says:

    Like Roman Sacristan, I have to wonder what exactly is it about the Catholic Church that these people want so that they feel they have to cling to the title “Catholic”…is it legitimacy? Why not just be the St. Mary’s Christian Community, buy your own building and teach what you feel like teaching. Christian sects have been doing it for nearly 2000 years. It is OBVIOUS that they don’t care about the actual teachings of the Catholic Church, so it must be the name that they are attached to.

    I don’t see how it would be possible for them to “clean up their act”… they could follow the rules to the letter, but it is clear what their beliefs are. This place needs to be CLOSED and a new church opened with a REAL priest for real catholics.

  13. TJM says:

    Sounds like Bishop Power might need to be re-assigned to a convent or monastery. These people were likely not excluded from their parishes. They are
    left-wing loons who were seeking other left-wing loons to commiserate with. Tom

  14. PNP, OP says:

    Make no mistake, folks…this is about Fr. Kennedy and Fr. Kennedy’s ego. I’ve yet to meet a public heretic or even a liturgical progressive who wasn’t a raving ego-maniac. My novice master, when discussing a “Fr. Hollywood” like Kennedy, used to burst out in a chorus of “It’s All About Me!” Yup, I’d say so. Fr. Philip, OP

  15. David Andrew says:

    “White-anting” is an Australian expression meaning “to subvert or undermine from within.”

  16. Irenaeus says:

    I used to be somewhat unsympathetic to the move to exclude the homosexually inclined from consideration for ordination (as it’s being reported is now supposed to be policy), but it seems to me even celibate gays need to be excluded from the ranks of the hierarchy, because they can’t think with the Church.

  17. PNP, OP says:

    Irenaeus, sorry to disagree with you. I personally know quite a few SSA priests who are immaculately faithful to their vows, a little more orthodox than the Pope, and extremely well-adjusted to their duties as priests. These are not the infamous “Daughters of Trent” types, but just hard-working, faithful men who struggle like we all do to grow in holiness. The key is not the elimination of SSA candidates from the seminary, but a strong formation program that emphasizes character over psychology and sacrificial virtue over personal preferences. The problem in the 70’s and 80’s was a perfect storm of SSA men entering seminary with permissive formation programs that encouraged “wounded healer” spirituality and “I need mine” sense of ministry. That combination was deadly. Testing can weed out the emotionally unstable and the spiritual immature, but give me a faithful, prayerful, orthodox gay priest over a wing-nut, narcissist straight priest any day of the week. In seminary, it was often the SSA priests who were the most faithful to prayer and right-thinking preaching. There were exceptions, of course, but these had the same problems as the moonbat straight priests. The really fruitcake preaching came from the heterosexual guys who saw themselves as affiliated victims of racism, sexism, classism, ad nau. IOW, since they weren’t in a persecuted sub-group, they identified with one and took on the cause. Fr. Philip, OP

  18. depeccadoradvitam says:

    Thank God, the Apostolic Signatura is headed by one of the best canon Lawyers of our day, His Excellency, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke who is fresh off of colsure with a similar heretical Chiurch in Saitn Louis and the shenanigans of attempted but impossible female ordinations.

    No one will be whiteanting this good and faithful son for anything that is competing against the one holy and apostolic Church. If it smells like sulfur and error, it is.

    Pray for the souls caught up in this madness. Mother Church is coming.

  19. Flambeaux says:

    My experience as a layman is very similar to Fr. Philip’s. It is not SSA, per se, that is the problem but formation towards chastity and continence — for which all of us would benefit.

  20. Jeff Pinyan says:

    From one of the other articles:

    Yesterday, Bishop Power said canon law required homilies at mass must be preached by a deacon or priest. “I have difficulty with that ruling, but that is how it is.” He did not accept all goodness and knowledge resided in priests. Parishes such as St Mary’s pushed the Church ahead.

    That line about “all goodness and knowledge resid[ing] in priests” is a red herring and a non sequitur. Bishop Power should play fair.

  21. Chris M says:

    I’m having a happy fantasy of what would happen if Abp Burke were suddenly assigned asthe Diocesan there…

  22. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Listen, if you dare, to Fr. Dresser’s “explanation” of the Virgin Birth (among other things). I’ll be working on a transcript.

  23. Brian says:

    In order to validly say Mass, a priest has to have the intention of doing what the Church does.

    Given that Father Peter Dresser does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God or that the resurrection or virgin birth are literal, it is likely that he does not believe what the Church believes about the consecration. Would his Masses be valid?

  24. StMike says:

    Reading Fr. Dresser’s book on how very, incredibly, unbelievably BIG God is got me thinking, when he writes:
    “Praxis > Orthopraxis > Orthodoxy”

    He’s got it somewhat right, actually. He means it that cultural practice of the faith determines what we ought to believe. What he has twisted and lost is lex orandi, lex credendi. He is perfectly correct, in fact, that the prayer of Christ and the prayer of His Church both come first. Those ARE the sources for our faith – Scripture is and always was primarily a LITURGICAL text, never only a “scientific” or theological text. He’s just got the sources backward – it’s Christ and His Church’s praxis that grounds our truth, not MY (sinful and ignorant) praxis.

    Save the liturgy, save his soul.

  25. Elizabeth T. says:

    Hmmm… that “middle ground” of which the Bishop speaks sounds like the center lane on the road to Hell.

  26. terra says:

    Fr Z’s headline implies something is being done about Fr Dresser – but the story doesn’t give any such indication. Maybe the result of AB Bathersby’s action will be that the Brisbane situation will eventually addressed in some way – but when will something be done about what about Fr Dresser’s book, and his unfortunate parish in Bathhurst diocese? Not to mention Bishop Power of Canberra-Goulbourn diocese, who has previously expressed his support for women’s ordination.

  27. terra says:

    Postscript – Bishop Power has issued a ‘clarifying statement’ saying he didn’t mean to undermine AB Bathersby. It doesn’t, however, back away from his support for St Mary’s. I
    ve spruiked the text at my blog

  28. Hi Fr. Z.

    I don’t understand, why doesn’t the bishop just simply remove the priest from the parish altogether. It seems that the first priority here needs to be the care of the flock, so they should just get rid of the priest and install new priest to lead the church, and then deal with any sanctions against the heretic priest. I understand that it is likely that his followers in the parish will go wherever he goes, and leave the Church if it means following him, but that is their own problem. But I don’t understand why he is still even allowed to be a pastor anywhere. Is not the bishop being far too tolerant at this point in continuing to give him more time to change? Should he not be forced to change immediately, today, or be removed from the parish completely?

  29. Irenaeus says:

    Fr. P, thanks for your thoughtful response. I will continue to consider the issue (not that it matters, as I’ll never have a say in the matter). But is it not true — unless what I’ve linked to is wrong — that SSA folks are simply now to be excluded? Or did I misunderstand?

  30. Jane says:

    Regarding: the term: white-anted: White ants eat away at a house until it collapses. The parish has been eaten away bit by bit with all kinds of disorders and it has collapsed spiritually.

    We are so used to hearing this expression in Australia, that I am surprised to know that it is unique to us.

  31. Jane says:

    I am pleased to hear that the Archbishop of Brisbane will finally do something, instead of just talking.

  32. Jane says:

    The vigilantes did not do the white-anting, the clergy of the parish did!

  33. Victoria says:

    Neither the St Mary’s debacle nor the Fr Dresser situation happened overnight. Their bishops were busy looking the other way while the foxes savaged the sheep the bishops were supposed to protect.

  34. Mike says:

    I wonder when Fr. Pfleger in Chicago will start giving his “Community” ideas to separate from the Universal Church.

  35. Jane says:

    A bit more on the term white-ant: the houses that are white-anted, (eaten away bit by bit until they collapse) are made of wood.

    I have just seen the term white-ant on a BBC website, so maybe Australians are not the only people who use the term.

    The English language is great. It changes from country to country until it is almost unrecognizable. I learnt plenty of US English from television. It is much harder for Americans to learn Aussie English, because we don’t export as much television as the USA.

    I have a dark family secret. I am a distant blood relative of Bishop Patrick Power!

  36. PNP, OP says:

    Irenaeus, as I understand the document and the follow-up explanations by the cmte members, the simple answer to your question is: yes. Though the prohibition is easily published, it is not easily enforced. Meaning what? Meaning that those most likely to be excluded–open advocates of a “gay subculture,” those who are truthful about their sinful pasts (like Augustine), the unrepentant–will be excluded. In most other cases the lines are not so clear. This is why I think an all-out prohibition is unwise. Seminary formation takes years…plenty of time for a man’s foibles to come to the surface. We mustn’t underestimate the power of grace to transform the hardest heart! Fr. Philip, OP

  37. An Actual Queenslander says:

    Yeah. Jubilation. Dancing in the streets. St. Mary’s will finally be returned to the Church.

    Oh, wait, this is Archbishop Bathersby. Does this mean he’s finally grown some balls? My apologies to those who may find that offensive but it expresses the feeling of the Queensland Catholic community.

    When the place is shut down, then I’ll start cheering – although even a move such as this is to be welcomed. Then maybe they can move onto the myriad of other problems – such as a seminary that teaches extreme feminist theology as normal et al.

    Cheers. Good blog Father.

  38. Alice says:

    People need to understand that the weather has a lot to do with these people.
    It gets very hot and humid in Brisbane, and peoples brains become fried.
    Believe me, Brisbane has a larger share of crazies than anywhere else.
    Whenever the Church reports something wrong, it is always in Queensland!

  39. Jane says:

    Alice I’ll agree that Queensland is hot and humid. I had a few holidays there, but Fr Dresser is here in NSW and my distant relative Bishop Patrick Power is in Canberra.

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