ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE - THE BATHERSBY YEARS 2001 CYCLONIC DEPRESSION


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     ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE – THE BATHERSBY YEARS – 2001 – CYCLONIC DEPRESSION

The poisons were hatching out.
But for the first part of the year, the consequences were not widely known.

In very late July, 2001 I wrote a piece for the Brisbane Courier Mail. It appeared in the Friday 27th July issue entitled “A RESOLUTE MAN OF HIS TIME “. It was an account of the life and personality of the late Archbishop Francis Rush and covered much the same territory as our post here entitled “Prelude to Problems” on 18th May, 2011.It was very well received except by a few of the clergy who did not like the reference to Brisbane having become a “spirit of the Council” Diocese. One other Priest wrote a letter to the Editor partly misconstruing the article and, in passing, defending Archbishop Rembert Weakland: “The implicit judgment passed on Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee that he was unorthodox was uncalled for and sad”.
 In 2002 the world would know just how unorthodox Weakland had been for years.


In early September, 2001 an elderly retired lawyer sent to a senior Canon Lawyer in the Archdiocese a 4 Page carefully worded letter with a copy to the Archbishop John Bathersby. The letter, in detailed lawyerly style, set out an account of extraordinary goings on at a place called “WOMENSPACE” which promoted pagan cultic rituals and which was supported by three Religious Institutes. The operation proudly boasted that it was able to continue because of “ the continued generosity of the Presentation Sisters” providing the property, and the salary of the Co-ordinator being covered by the” generosity of the Mercy Sisters” and photocopying provided by the Franciscan Sisters of Mount Alvernia College. This lawyer confirmed that after a very careful examination of the literature distributed by “WOMENSPACE”, though some of its activities could be recognized as expressions of a Catholic spirituality, others were “irredeemably pagan”.

He went on to refer to the feminist, and pagan use in modern times of the word “ ritual” which heretofore in Christian usage had been confined to the administration of the Sacraments and the Sacred Liturgy. He noted with some careful analysis, that in the preparations for the Archdiocesan Synod, there were parallels between the feminist/pagan abuse of the word and its use in Synod preparation documentation and especially in the embrace of the themes of “the four elements” of pagan and witchcraft usage (recently adopted by radical feminists) namely fire, air, earth and water. These could be traced back to Aristotle.

He further noted that this long since discredited notion of the essence of the world appeared in the “Synod “ritual prayer card” and he noted that it was also a concept adopted by the Catholic" ladies of the “Women’s Moontime Circle “who on 2nd September, 2001 were planning to “connect their menstrual cycle with the “energies of the Moon” and in their dance together “…will embrace the Crone and Dark Mother that resides within…”them.”
The letter went on to express grave concern as to the use the Media might make of all this, and more, to attack the Church.

He went on to refer to the clay pots which for Synod promotion had been sent to each Parish for” ritual use’. He noted that these had Witchcraft/Wiccan significance relating to the “four elements” and that in the Synod literature the translation of 2 Corinthians: 4 had been altered to refer to “pots” which none of the approved translations used, and, was a meaning the Latin “vasis fictilibus” will not bear.

One month later a letter dated 1st October came from the Archbishop’s Office signed by the “Executive Officer” referring to the letter and saying that a Father Ken Howell had been delegated to examine the issues and respond with a “comprehensive reply”, and thanked him for his letter.

In follow up letters to the “Executive Officer”, to aid Father Howell in his examination of the issues, our retired lawyer added some personal concerns and considered problems of ambiguity. He gave an account of examining a magazine “WITCHCRAFT” available through normal newsagents and commented …”common to all such practitioners is reverence for the four “elements” characteristic of that “key symbol of Synod 2000”the earthenware Pot.”

The Pot was supposed to be complemented by four different coloured cloths “flowing” from it, representing the” four elements placed near the Altar. He comments in part: that this “could condition others innocently to accept the concept of the “four elements” as being compatible with “the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4: 4). He further comments …”my mind is much troubled over the incompatibility of a Catholic Religious Institute engaged in the education of girls being the purchaser of the Kedron real property for the express purpose of it being used exclusively, and free of charge, by WOMENSPACE INC. in the activities as reported in WOMENSPACE NEWS (plus dissemination of social information for lesbians.) He raises several other scholarly points as well. He concludes with a concise paragraph on the dangers of ambiguities being allowed to flourish.

I have no evidence of the “comprehensive reply "eventuating. This might not be surprising given the tumult about to break
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On Friday, November 9th, 2001, the Brisbane COURIER MAIL put 10 Questions to Archbishop John Bathersby as Archbishop of Brisbane:

1.     1.  How aware are you of WOMENSPACE and its activities, some of which are said to based in the Wicca movement.?

2.       2.When were the activities brought to your attention?

3.       3. The Presentation Sisters paid $ 224,000 for the WOMENSPACE property at Homebush Road, Kedron, and the Sisters of Mercy agreed to pay wages for co-ordinator Patricia Rose. What’s you reaction.?

4.       4.    Do you feel it proper for All Hallows, Mt. St. Michael’s and Mt. Alvernia, for example, to copy the WOMENSPACE newspaper or hold WOMENSPACE functions? How do you think parents of students would react to that?

5.        5.     How appropriate is it for books on witchcraft, multiple-partner oral sex rituals, tarot cards and astrology to be promoted and sold at Banyo Seminary as they were on October 20 at a feminist theology conference?

6.        6.       Sister Elain Wainwright was a prominent speaker at this conference. Was that appropriate? In your view is she a suitable person to lecture future priests at Banyo?

7.        7.         Mrs. Pat Mullins was on your women’s taskforce. She was one of the speakers at Banyo. Will you give her further things to do in the Archdiocese?

8.        8.            How satisfied are you with the Social Action Office of the Congregation of Major Superiors basing their spirituality on Sophia, the feminine image of God? This is on their website.

9.        9.            What action do you propose to take on the above matters?

10. 10.               The 1998 Statement of Conclusions from the Vatican urged Bishops to encourage nuns to perform the traditional work of the Church. What are you doing to ensure this?

Archbishop Bathersby was shrewd enough to avoid direct answers to each question. The questions were couched in a rather cheeky fashion, but the real point was that the Paper obviously knew a lot more about the Archdiocese’s robust weeds, and was beginning to connect the dots. It would be impossible to avoid action and impossible to avoid further scandal.

His Grace replied:
“Some correspondence from one writer over recent weeks has been received by the Archbishop’s Office. The material submitted by that person was referred to appropriate people within the Archdiocese for follow up and advice, including a representative of the religious institutes.
When that advice is provided to the Archbishop, he may wish to make a statement and act on the matter at that time. The Archbishop is unable to make any specific comment on the issues raised by the Courier Mail’s. reporter.”

The Storm Broke the following day, Saturday 10th November, 2001
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In a central inner page ÏNSIDE MAIL opposite the Editorials appeared the story headed in large print “STRANGE HABITS”- it was backed by artwork depicting a Nun’s hands fingering Rosary Beads on which the Crucifix had been replaced by a Satanic Pentastar. Immediately below this on the broadsheet page appeared the Courier Mail’s Questions and the Archbishop’s Response.
Sisters "Did you forget something, or SOMEONE?

The story revealed that the whole of the Executive of WOMENSPACE were Nuns, and that one of them, a Sister Anne McLay, a Sister of Mercy, was the “Chairwoman” who hosts Celtic traditions and rituals at the centre, which aimed to provide “guidance “for women. The article goes on “She does this through holding croning rituals, which celebrate “” the wise woman “period in women’s lives and involve using a bag for secret “knowings”. McLay also reads cards featuring the Celtic Alphabet, shamanic journeying, and immrama – a process of “visiting the blessed islands….where you can meet your favourite saints or spirit guides or power animals “performed to the beat of a drum”. Other representatives spoke of holding seasonal rituals. Sister Marlette Black of the Presentation Sisters defended the building purchase and WOMENSPACE.”She does not believe practices at the centre contradict Catholic beliefs.”
In a box on the right hand side of the page the Paper opened up the issue of the feminist / witchcraft goings on at the “Showcasing Feminist Theology” Day at Banyo Seminary led by Sister Elaine Wainwright(at the time a longtime Lecturer at the Seminary). The features of the day varied from the blasphemous to the heretical to the disgusting and a wide range of radical feminist and witchcraft publications were on sale. Sister Elaine Wainwright complained in the article about a violation of a situation of confidence- which appeared as a ready confirmation of aspects of the story.

But, enough, we have already shown what was going on, that the Archdiocese was not acting promptly and that the Media was becoming pre-occupied with the scandal, as continuing Television and Magazine stories showed.

In the midst of this furore the Courier Mail approached me to write an article on the traditional history of Nuns and the regard in which they have been held by Catholics in Australia. The article appeared in the Wednesday 14th November issue of the Paper and they had given it the Heading “Living off Moral Capital”.

 It recounted the origins of the Orders involved in the Scandals, the stories of their Foundresses, the dedication of the Nuns to Jesus Christ, which had won the hearts of the Australian people. It reviewed the sliding away of the Nuns from all that won them respect, their post-Conciliar abandonment of their habits and adoption of “Country Road” street clothes, abandonment of teaching and nursing and involvement in often radical “social work” with little reference to Christ, to concentration on stipends, working Government social security payments, rent assistance, wearing jewellery etc.And the abandonment of Community life. It wound up asking how these nuns could use the funds generated from generations of the generous contribution of the Catholic faithful to so betray the Catholic Faith. It wound up: “What moral right do they have? “A man cannot serve two masters”- not even a new age nun can do it.
Archbishop Bathersby has announced an investigation by a Nun, his Vicar for Religious. An investigation by the Vatican Congregation for Religious might be more appropriate.”

Years later, in the course of an official act of spite against me, I was to learn indirectly how greatly umbrage had been taken at that suggestion.

On November18th the Archdiocesan Weekly The Catholic Leader ran a Page 3 story on the affair headed “PROBE ORDERED INTO WITCHCRAFT CLAIMS” His Grace was quoted saying that he had appointed the Nun Sister Patricia Scully, a Sister of Charity, to perform the investigation He would be in Rome and London on Catholic /Anglican meetings, and would review her findings on his return. “I re-iterate my belief in the splendid work religious sisters have done for the Archdiocese in the past and the present.
 Their faith and generosity are beyond question. “(Emphasis added.)

It is a pity that His Grace did not consult The Catholic Leader which went on to say:
“Last Tuesday , the centre’s co-ordinator Patricia Rose told The Catholic Leader that the COURIER MAIL  report had “not told lies” about the Centre, but had been selective in what it did say.
The Catholic Leader could not get comments from the Religious Orders involved in time for publication.

In an Editorial on Monday 19th November, 2001 headed “ARCHDIOCESE FACES A TEST OF FAITH”, the  COURIER MAIL again returned to the story, but with a new angle, saying that it reflected divisions in the church around the world. It expressed “sympathy” for Archbishop Bathersby trying to reconcile “Modernists” with “Hardliners “! The whole Editorial seemed quite a phoney effort to appear “above the fray”, when in fact the Paper was relishing every development and playing it all for all it was worth.

On Saturday 24th November, the Paper ran another INSIDE MAIL story written by an anthropologist who went out of his way to make a point of his Jewish faith .The article suggests that Archbishop Bathersby has a “generosity of approach “in seeking to bring people to Christ leading some say to a theological relativism…… He goes on: “Nevertheless the Archbishop may have a point. An insistence on rigid orthodoxy is often inseparable from an arrogant self-righteousness in which religion is used as a bludgeon against rivals and personal enemies” (May we guess Mr.Brunton is not an Orthodox Jew ?– No need to guess, his photo makes it clear.)

He then goes on, “there is something distasteful about people going to a particular church in order to obtain ammunition against priests and bishops who are not toeing the purist line………etc”( It is the old “spies” line , later morphed into “Temple police” and “Taliban” by deposed Bishop Morris. Half way through this curious ramble, Mr. Brunton returns to the question of WOMENSPACE and, by the end, suggests that on balance, if, as it seems the Nuns have parted ways with the core beliefs of the Church, they ought to get out – otherwise they are imposters.

To be continued
Sister Elain Wainwright 

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