Thursday, May 19, 2011

ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE THE BATHERSBY YEARS I

ARCHBISHOP JOHN ALEXIUS BATHERSBY





ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE    BATHERSBY YEARS I
In illo tempore, Cardinal Clancy was Archbishop of Sydney and Francis Little was Archbishop of Melbourne, and Leonard Faulkner was Archbishop of Adelaide, and it came to pass that Francis Rush retired as Archbishop of Brisbane and a decree went forth from the Brisbane Council of Priests that their assembled Reverences believed that the Successor to Archbishop Rush should be a Priest or Bishop from within the Province-
Now, even a little child could see that there was no logic in this approach, and given the particular state of the Archdiocese, that the opposite was indicated. However the Apostolic Nuncio of the day and the Congregation for Bishops as then constituted (which had put Archbishops Clancy, Little and Faulkner in place), labored mightily and brought forth John Alexius Bathersby (until then Bishop of Cairns and previously Spiritual Director of Banyo Seminary in its worst days) as the new Archbishop of Brisbane,
The Brisbane Archdiocesan Clergy were glad, very glad for they knew “Batts” (his established nickname from early days, derived from his surname– in Australia it has connotations of an unsound mind) well from his stint in the problem Seminary .It was to be “business as usual fellas.”
Archbishop Bathersby is a smallish man. Originally a Priest of Toowoomba Diocese, he has long proclaimed his preference to be Parish Priest of a small town in the West of Toowoomba Diocese. It is said that he felt himself always an outsider in Brisbane Archdiocese. This fact, combined with his conviction several times expressed in my hearing in homilies, that “power is evil”*- note not the abuse of power or the failure to use it when duty obliges- but power itself, ensured trouble would brew. This was the more so, when those Clerics and Religious who were his responsibility to teach, to sanctify and to govern knew his attitudes and style of acting and working.

The robust weeds that had grown up in Archbishop Rush’s “Garden” remained in place and knew they were safe under the new Archbishop; flowers were to find in due course that when the weeds complained about them, they came under pressure. The careful and effective Chairmanship of Archdiocesan Committees, exercised with such skill by Archbishop Rush, came to be replaced by a “you go ahead – I’m just here” type of Chairmanship which resulted in the ascendancy of meeting “manipulators” and the loss of direction. It soon became obvious to all that effectively no-one was in control of the vessel.

That the robust weeds were well known to the new Archbishop is patently obvious for he had known about them when he was at the Seminary as Spiritual Director, as did everyone in the Archdiocese. They went on unchecked. The Archbishop received the usual flow of mail asking for his intervention to correct these wrongs as well as the usual letters any Archbishop will get accusing him personally of grave doctrinal errors, some from people obviously deranged. And of course his routine visitation of Parishes and discussions with Priests gave him ample sources of information. And, when all else failed, the local Media particularly the Press, were ever ready to pounce on anything that would embarrass the Catholic Church.
One way or another, His Grace could never validly claim ignorance as the cause of inaction. Yet, in due course, that is what he did.
In matters Liturgical Archbishop Bathersby is personally conservative. In matters doctrinal, he has a few hobbyhorses, which repeatedly take him off the track of orthodoxy. Strangely, these are not exotic or complex issues, but matters so simple and illogical that a self-educated High School student could correct him. Yet he persists. For all his personal conservative approach to Liturgy, he repeatedly allows Liturgical abuse in his Cathedral and in Parishes to go unchecked

And of course, given his attitude to Power, he totally refrains from exercising his small residual power or influence as Metropolitan Archbishop over his Suffragans.

INSIGHT
An enthusiastic Ecumenist, Archbishop Bathersby  happily agreed to renew the Anglican/Catholic Covenant and took the opportunity to boost the troubled Bishop William Morris whose Diocese covers part of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane, by including him in the Ceremony of signing the agreement. Where else would one do this with an acknowledged heretic by definition , but on the Sacred Altar?

ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP ASPINALL(L), ARCHBISHOP BATHERSBY and SINCE DEPOSED BISHOP MORRIS
USING THE ALTAR IN ST.STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL AS A DESK FOR SIGNING A RENEWED ECUMENICAL COVENANT - NO ONE MENTION AN ORDINARIATE!
*It is not clear where this view left the All-Powerful Deity

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