Wednesday, May 25, 2011




The Australian Bishops ‘Ad Limina visit to the Holy See in 1998 appeared to represent a watershed in Church affairs in Australia. On farewelling the Holy Father as they left for home, each of the Bishops received from His Holiness a personal letter. Archbishop Bathersby pocketed his and “didn’t think to open it until he was on the way home. On his return he told the congregation in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral that he was taken aback by the opinion of the Church in Australia expressed by the Holy Father, but did say that “sometimes others see us more clearly than we see ourselves”.
Perhaps most of us receiving an exceptional letter from the Holy Father would have opened it at the first available opportunity.
As for being taken aback,  this was a surprising reaction, since in the course of the Ad Limina the text of the Statement of Conclusions had been agreed between the Holy See and the Australian Bishops and it did not mince words , and in 63 Sections it closely analysed  life in the church in Australia, speaking at one point of a crisis of Faith, the paucity of vocations, the unhappy state of the Religious Orders, the decline in numbers attending Holy Mass, the incidence of liturgical abuses, insisted on the termination of abuses of the Sacrament of Penance (Third Rite) and very much more. It is hard to see that His Grace could have been in any way surprised by the Holy Father’s concern.

We can judge how the Archdiocese intended to respond to the Holy Father’s concerns by considering the Address given by the then Auxiliary Bishop Michael Putney (now Bishop of Townsville) Our readers will recall that it was Bishop Putney who said in a Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist that the Eucharist is a “symbol” which is the OPPOSITE of the Teaching of the Church. Speaking in May 2000, Bishop Putney called for dialogue to resolve differences in the Church, saying that both “ecclesial extremes had need to say “Mea Culpa”.
This was a bit rich to say the least. How and on what basis were those who defend Church Teaching and Liturgical Norms to say “Mea Culpa”? Nevertheless speaking for those who had driven the new ideas, Bishop Putney said “I am proud of what we have achieved, but I agree we cannot afford to be uncritical about it”..! There was a little more in that vein, including a call for everyone to say “Sorry” (!!!) before moving on to Ecumenical dialogue. 
Now, considering the massive substance of The Statement of Conclusions, this seems little more than a diversionary tactic. As if the specific of the Statement could be set aside and the offenders and the defenders of the Faith could be told to stop being naughty boys. Meanwhile the Revolution could continue to roll down hill!
But, in the same issue of the Catholic Leader that carried Bishop Putney’s words, the abuses of the Sacrament of Penance (still continuing in Bishop Morris’ Toowoomba) were the subject of a Letter to the Australian Bishops written by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and it echoed the Holy Father’s call for an ‘authentic” re-discovery” of the Sacrament of Penance. Under 10 very clear headings it set out all that was necessary to achieve that end. It addressed the subject of General Absolution – the Third Rite- in the clearest possible terms, so that only the perverse could do other than follow the Norms. This letter was to have its conclusive effect everywhere except Toowoomba as subsequently came to light.
The eyes of the Holy See’s Dicasteries and of the Holy Father were closely on Australia. This first squall of the gathering storm in Brisbane was to be the prelude to an unedifying and destructive cyclone of revelations of extraordinary proportions.

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