ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE THE BATHERSBY YEARS II


ARCHBISHOP BATHERSBY CONCELEBRATING HOLY MASS WITH CARDINAL GEORGE PELL


,SAINT AUGUSTINE:

“So I tell you, I am saving my soul.

 I shall be in a position, not of great danger but of certain ruin, if I have kept quiet. 

 But when I have spoken and carried out my office, it will be for you now to take notice of your danger.  What, after all, do I want?  What do I desire?  What am I longing for?  Why am I speaking? Why am I sitting here?  What do I live for, if not with this intention that we should all live together with Christ?  That is my desire, that’s my honor, that’s my most treasured possession, that’s my joy, that’s my pride and glory.  But if you don’t listen to me and yet I have not kept quiet, then I will save my soul.  But I don’t want to be saved without you.”

(Thanks to the great Father John Zuhlsdorf of “WDTPRS Blog for drawing attention to the quote.) 


1991 – 1995

When Archbishop Bathersby was installed as Archbishop of Brisbane on 3rd December, 1991 it was a grace-filled day and a joyful one; a day when the Archdiocese came together to celebrate hoped for renewal in Christ. The euphoric mood lasted for some time. Then the new normality settled in and people working in the Church began to ask themselves firstly, where are we headed? And later they posed the same question to each other. As one might expect the rogues had the answers, while those respecting the legitimate Episcopal authority waited for direction. They did everything that they could to facilitate its coming.
All in vain.
The process could only be watched with pain, as, to quote “I Claudius”, all the poisons hatched out. “Every effort to subtly and respectfully draw forth some action was greeted with phrases like “I don’t understand what you are getting at”.
 No doubt, he was being pushed and prompted by many more aggressive forces, many of them more to his own way of thinking. An early victory went to the feminist-inspired Nuns who were salted throughout the Archdiocesan Administration, being paid stipends according to the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes’” Recommended Ministerial Stipends for Religious” These ladies were mostly living free of Community Life in independent accommodation , supported by Rent Assistance from the Federal Government and often drawing the Aged Pension. This was happening despite the obligation of their wealthy Congregations and Orders to support them.
 They spear-headed the move for the adoption of so-called Inclusive Language which would go to any length to avoid using the masculine personal pronoun in relation to God. The new Archbishop gladly went with the flow,as did all his Suffragans, and to this day his preaching is riddled with so many “God” references that some sentences go close to promoting an outburst of laughter. Of course the Order of Mass and the Lectionary did not conform to the feral feminist views. But, no problem, they were amended in use to meet the “new “creed.  These years were the high point of influence for these Nuns in Brisbane but most have drifted off into retirement or gone to their rewards, or, in one notable case gone to New Zealand.

Meanwhile the larger cauldron bubbled, and in various places, unrestrained and uncorrected, the usual suspects – those robust weeds in the garden  - flourished and went on to become degenerate and corrupt seed.


FATHER TOM ELICH
A notable case burst into public gaze when Father Tom Elich head of the Liturgical Commission (an Archdiocesan entity which eschewed the limiting word Brisbane in its name) and Head of the National Liturgical Commission by appointment of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference which, in the past had as its President Archbishop Rush,openly attacked a major decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
 In 1992 the Congregation, headed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger – bête noir of the liberals building their New Church – decided formally that the notorious “New Revised Standard Version" (NRSV) of the Bible was forbidden to be used for Liturgical or Catechetical purposes .The Congregation highlighted the serious errors contained in the NRSV and their implications undermining correct Catholic teaching and thought. The NRSV had started off as a fairly laudable translation, but it is well documented, that in the final stage of its redaction, a committee of inclusive language zealots went through it to make it conform to their own “creed” with no regard for the effect of their arbitrary changes on the meaning of the text or its overall integrity. 

With no hesitation, Father Elich leapt into print in the “CATHOLIC LEADER” the Archdiocesan News Weekly to condemn the decision stating that he was “dismayed” by it. And noting how it was at odds with the operation of ICEL of which he was then a part, making repeated flights overseas to co-operate in its works. It was a brazen performance by the bouffant hair-styled super confident Father Elich who with chin held high, bestrode the Archdiocese as the great liturgist. He was the Il Supremo of Church design in the Archdiocese, determined to “de-throne” the Tabernacle and shuffle it (and the Lord it contained) off to side Chapels in our small churches. He would also “de-throne” the Altar when he could, espousing the two tables theory of the table of the Eucharist and the table of the Word. Two Tables Tom was determined to put the Blessed Sacrament " in its place” as he wished to see it. The Altar would be shunted to the right and the Table of the word hold a similar place on the left.

This outburst by Father Elich represented the Apogee of his performances. ICEL itself was also about to crash and burn. But Father Elich’s comeuppance came from outside the Archdiocese. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, with a new President, replaced him as Head of the National Liturgical Commission. Archbishop Bathersby continued to allow him to head up the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission and even allowed him to act as consultant to Bishop Morris of Toowoomba in the proposed renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. However, in that case, and despite the wishes of Bishop Morris, the Laity of Toowoomba, knowing a great deal about Father Elich’s  deeds in Brisbane were prepared for him. After initial “consultation” public meetings, Father Elich was forced to withdraw.
Yet Archbishop Bathersby still continued to sustain Father Elich and in fact continued to give his Imprimatur – quite unnecessarily to Father’s often outrageous monthly “Liturgy News “a vehicle in which he continued his hostile  commentary on documents of the Holy See, not least “Liturgiam Authenticam” which seems to have  had him near foaming at the mouth.

The Elich case was emblematic of what was coming. Error would grow unchecked like a cancer until it became so outrageous that external forces moved the Archbishop to do what he would not do of his own accord, despite his ample power and capacity. What might have required discreet minor surgery if acted on in a timely fashion,, became  major amputations attracting wide attention.


VIGNETTE - INHERITANCE
The problems inherited by Archbishop Bathersby were often thorny, and repeatedly involved “what were “local heroes”. Consider the case of Father Bill O’Shea – a nice enough fellow, modest and unassuming in manner and long considered locally as a likely future Bishop. He had been in the past Rector of Banyo Seminary as it began its long downward slide into oblivion from 124 students in its heyday to 24 in the 1980s close to the number of staff. Father O’Shea had for many years maintained a “Question Box” page in the “Catholic Leader” modeled along the lines of the late great Dr. Rumble M.S.C.’s page in Sydney’s “Catholic Weekly “which was internationally famous for its orthodoxy and effectiveness. Father O’Shea’s page was something else again, and a constant irritant to orthodox Catholics on subjects as diverse as liturgy, sacred scripture ( his announced specialist field) and morals. It was the last of these subjects which was to earn him attention in Rome in 1987 . Bishop James Cuskelly M.S.C. (and longtime friend of Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee infamy) wrote a carefully worded statement published in the Catholic Leader stating that it was issued with the approval of Archbishop Rush.
It was a curious document. If one took it at face value , the Holy See had expressed no interest in the matter, rather, because Bishop Cuskelly was going to be in Rome for a General Chapter of his order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (M.S.C.) , Archbishop Rush had suggested he try to see Cardinal Ratzinger the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to discuss Father O’Shea’s writings then a cause of uproar in the secular press. And Bishop Cuskelly had found that co-incidentally Bishop Wallace of Rockhampton would be near Rome at the time on ecumenical (ARCIC) business and could join him in calling on the Cardinal. Bishop Wallace – the Godfather of the liberal Queensland Bishops – was at the time the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Committee  for Doctrine and Morals. Archbishop Rush wrote to His Eminence and the meeting was agreed
If you accept the document as Gospel, Father’s writings were only discussed in general terms except for a brief discussion about some ambiguity on the subject of the resurrection of the body, which it said the Cardinal believed might have mislead  “the simple readers”.

The real basis for the furore.in the local press and for Laythe many complaints to the Holy See was that among other things, Father O’Shea  had  suggested that pre-marital sexual relations were morally acceptable. The statement deceptively avoids any reference to the subject. Further, the whole suggested basis for the visit is not credible, it is obvious, rather that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had expressed grave concern about Father O’Shea’s writings and had possibly proposed some grave disciplinary measures.

 That the whole affair was more serious than portrayed in the statement, is let slip in the reference : “he was genuinely distressed that there had been talk of Archbishop Rush’s resignation.” The statement ends ambiguously “Finally, the hope was expressed that this report on the interview made to Archbishop Rush and published in the Catholic Leader would be the last word published on “the O’Shea case”."

Father O’Shea continued his Page for some time and Archbishop Bathersby made him the Head of the new Permanent Diaconate Training Program which has since been suspended.

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