Australia Adrift

News: Commentary
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  April 4, 2019   

Bishops listen to parishioners and boot good priest

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Catholic bishops in Australia are focused on listening to dissident voices in the Church as they prepare for their plenary council in 2020. One indication of the advice they're getting is seen with the Church in Tasmania, Australia which is listening to a parishioner's anti-Catholic criticisms of a young traditional priest and is removing him from his parish.

Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Tasmania is removing Fr. Nicholas Rynne from his pastorship of Tasmania's Meander Valley parish after the publicization of a letter complaining about the priest from parishioner Maureen Bennett. Bennett made clear she was against the traditional ways of the young priest who was ordained in 2013.

"We pray that a process of healing and restoration of unity may be achieved in the parish and among all affected," said Abp. Porteous, adding there were no allegations of misconduct.

Porteous said he was acting on the advice of Bp. Peter Elliott, an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Melbourne, who investigated the complaints against Rynne and advised that Rynne is now on leave of absence.

"In the light of [Bishop Elliott's] recommendations and following discussion with diocesan consultors and the council of priests, Father Nicholas Rynne has ceased his role," Porteous said.

Bennett's letter, however, is more of a rant against the Catholic Church than anything to do specifically with Rynne. Her letter makes the following statements:

If people … do not agree with your brand of religion you should expect it and stop putting forward a sob story about how badly done you are. You accused us of being apostates when it is you who is setting up a sect within our religion and trying to indoctrinate everyone that yours is the only true religion.

In the days of the Tridentine rite pre Vatican II there was little love for your fellow man in any of the religion that was rammed down our necks. … You know why you are spat on for wearing clerical dress and I am with those who do so as I think it is ridiculous to wear a cassock and even a collar in this day and age.

For us it is the same as ISIS or the Taliban coming into town with their troops and telling us, 'This is the way it will be done from now on.' To me your religion is akin to both these extreme movements because you do not allow for any dissent from your opinion. Your attitude to women on the altar, depriving us of positions we have humbly held in the past and the jerky way you now turn to the people and the way you pray the consecration are all annoying.

The bigger issue is that Church leaders in Australia are in listening mode as a run-up to Plenary Council 2020. The opinions of dissidents and pro-gay activists are even being solicited by bishops as they seek to redirect the Church by means of next year's council.

Watch the panel discuss the listening Church Down Under in The Download—Australia Adrift.

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