PRELUDE TO PROBLEMS - BRISBANE AND ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS RUSH
|ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS RUSH|
He had a voice of remarkable timbre, clarity and authority. In fact it can be said that in a very subtle way, he exuded a sense of quiet, genial but nevertheless resolute authority.
Some 12 months before his retirement Archbishop Rush appointed me to the position of Canonical Financial Administrator of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. His Grace had in mind the development of an Archbishop’s Council which would advise him on the governance of the Archdiocese. The project was forming well when he retired, but it was not taken up by his successor. Progress would have been quicker had it not been for the tendency for many of the myriad centres of power in the Archdiocese to drag their feet when they perceived their independence to act was under threat. They rejoiced in operating under the Archbishop’s auspices, but sought to evade his effective supervision.
My very strongest impressions of Archbishop Rush, are of his unfailing courtesy and thoughtful kindness to me and to others, his direct and frank honesty with me in appraisal of his Auxiliaries, Clergy and Lay Directors – never unkind but clinically accurate. His memory for people and events across the vast State of Queensland was truly formidable.
I was greatly impressed by his vigorous and brisk pace whenever he mounted the steps to the Sanctuary or moved between Cathedra, Altar and Ambo. Every step announced Authority. He did not tolerate liturgical abuse, and, after allowing himself to be influenced to permit a “Youth Mass” to mark the re-opening of the Cathedral after renovation, he was horrified by the theatricality of what happened and firmly announced : “Never Again!”
Archbishop Rush did not hesitate to publicly protect the Church’s teachings in the public sphere. I recall him at the Blessing and Opening of major extensions to Stuartholme College, at a time when the Government was floating trial balloons about allowing practising homosexuals to teach in schools, before hundreds of parents, bring down his Episcopal Ring on the lectern with a resounding amplified crack and assuring all present that if such measures as would require /force the employment of homosexual teachers were introduced, he would close every Catholic School in the Archdiocese! Thunderous applause greeted his announcement. The balloons never got past the trial stage and were deflated!
I came to know his constant and faithful charity in visiting those sick in hospital and I regularly telephoning Priests ill at home including one or two very difficult and thorny characters.
Before his appointment to Brisbane, he had been Bishop of Rockhampton. There he had been the very model of the traditional Catholic Bishop – very regularly visiting every Class of every School and every Ward of every Hospital. He was firm and orthodox in every way and led his Priests and people with vigour (and, some say, drove his grey car with even greater vigour!) He was strongly active in his support for lay movements particularly in the defence of Human Life and opposition to Abortion.
Rockhampton was to suffer greatly following his departure under Bishop Bernard Wallace who became the “Godfather” of the liberals in Queensland and even worse under Bishop “call me Brian” Heenan who will depart in August 2012.
It seems clear that the pattern of pastoral leadership he adopted in Brisbane, addressing the demands of size and geography as well as a fractious Clergy whose marked individualism had flourished during the long twilight years of Archbishop Duhig’s Episcopate and the transitional years of the enigmatic Archbishop Patrick Mary O’Donnell, evolved significantly.
Early encounters with some senior Clergy seem not to have gone well – some rogues had come to believe in their absolute right to do as they would. Archbishop Rush adopted a new approach designed to solve problems at one remove, reserving his authority for the final resolution of the toughest decisions, in other words, “keeping his powder dry”. Over time, this seems to have been wrongly-interpreted by some as a “laissez faire” approach.
I was disturbed to discover in the role of Financial Administrator, how often and from what mouths I heard the phrase “the Archbishop’s mind in these cases , would be….”One does not have to read too much History to uncover what disastrous abuses of power can result from such habits. This is doubly so when I knew how few of the users of the phrase had any direct access to His Grace, and how rapidly the Bureaucracy was growing. Even excluding the monster Catholic Education Bureaucracy (a problem in Brisbane as it is in every Diocese) the Central Administration had grown from 2 or three people at the end of Archbishop O’Donnell’s Episcopate to something like 250 at Archbishop Rush’s retirement.
|ARCHBISHOP RUSH A COUNCIL FATHER|
SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
Archbishop Rush like every one of the Council Fathers could not have resisted being marked by this epochal event. It gave him the stimulating opportunity to hear and get to know leading Prelates from around the globe. Its deliberations and the documents it produced were a school of spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral learning. It was not a dogmatic Council, solemnly defining dogma, but rather concerned with pastoral concerns. It was undoubtedly a work of the Holy Spirit. And yet.. …
And yet… the Father of Lies perceived a chance and for him, the need, to frustrate the work. He chose for his instruments a group of North European prelates, heirs of the Modernists fought so forcefully by Pope Saint Pius X in the previous century. These perverse men were highly media savvy and daily held Media Conferences giving to a hungry media a blow by blow version of what the Council had done each day and “backgrounders” to frame their version of events and colour the views of their listeners.
It was a triumph of disinformation. The Council was truly hijacked. The media gave the world this twisted view of the Council and, hungry for information. Around the world Catholics and others read daily” what the Council, did, said, and thought” – NOT as the teenagers to-day would say. By the time each formal Council document was released, few read it – those who did were surprised that it was not in keeping with all they had read! But still, from the Media they knew the “spirit of the Council”. It was a brilliant coup! The Father of Lies laughing. Later, poor Pope Paul VI publicly decried that it was as if through some crack or other, the smoke of Satan had entered the Sanctuary.
Later, these deceivers and elements in the United States and Australia and elsewhere sympathetic to them, found this false “spirit of the Council” was the perfect vehicle for creating their New Church. Without giving it a label, they actively promoted the Hermeneutic of Rupture – all that was pre-Conciliar was wrong/passé’ all that followed the Council was good and glorious and MUST be adopted. If you didn’t agree – get out of the way or be put out of the way. They soon became daringly adept and even salted their homilies and addresses with carefully chosen brief passages from Conciliar documents to give their efforts a gloss of respectability, and they would wring their hands and complain that if only people would read the Council documents”….knowing full well that the majority would never do so.
Nowhere was the discrepancy between the false “spirit of the Council” and the actual Council documents more marked than in the Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Scripture and Church Architecture.
|DEPOSED ARCHBISHOP REMBERT WEAKLAND O.S.B.|
One of the leading lights among the radical “progressives” as they generously called themselves was Archbishop Rembert Weakland O.S.B.of Milwaukee. Archbishop Rush’s Auxiliary Bishop James Cuskelly seems to have met Weakland when the latter was Abbot of San Anselmo in Rome and Archbishop Cuskelly was for 14 years worldwide Superior of the M.S.C.’s also in Rome Bishop Cuskelly became Archbishop Rush’s Auxiliary in 1982 , he maintained a very low profile in the Archdiocese.
Both Bishop Cuskelly and Archbishop Rush regarded “Rembert” as a friend and called in on him on their way either to or from Rome when they had business there. The contact was reasonably regular. It was from Milwaukee and “Rembert” that Bishop Cuskelly brought back the documentation which became the notorious “Shaping and Staffing of Parishes “exercise. Bishop Cuskelly had oversight of the so-called “Centre for Life and Mission” and on his return with the Milwaukee documents, he walked into a meeting studying the issue and announced “You can forget about that. Here is the answer – they’ve already done the work in Milwaukee it just needs to be localized.”And so it happened following one of those Rand Corporation “consultation” processes so loved by Brisbane ecclesiocrats with “Facilitators” and reams of Butchers’ paper, they regularly consult people into thinking they have agreed to whatever the pre- determined outcome is. After recovering their equilibrium a little late in the piece, many came to refer to the exercise as the “Raping and Shafting of Parishes”
Weakland came unstuck in a series of dramatic events. He determined to proceed in a most arrogant fashion with the radical alteration of his Cathedral – demolishing the mighty Baldacchino and High Altar moving a new Altar toward the centre of the “worship space” now dominated by the pipes of a new organ and dangled over the new altar a corona of metal junk, hideous and distracting. Worse was to come. It was revealed that Weakland had had a long term homosexual affair with a young man who was blackmailing him and that he, Weakland, had used over U.S. $400,000 of Archdiocesan money in an effort to buy the fellow’s silence. Weakland was removed from office.
Weakland had, over many years been at odds with the Holy See over numerous matters. Father Ron McKeirnan, who was Deputy Director Religious Education in Brisbane Catholic Education, was also Bishop Cuskelly’s Assistant in the Pastoral Planning activities. He once recounted to a large group of Lay Directors that Bishop Cuskelly had told him that “Rembert” did not worry much about the strictures of the Holy See “He just went over, to listen to what they had to say, told them what they wanted to hear and then went home and did what he liked” That was very evidently the case.
|Father Ronald McKeirnan|
Father McKeirnan was later convicted of Pedophile offences and jailed for a time. After he was released an agency of the Archdiocese employed him as a consultant on a contractual basis to the dismay of many and the fiendish delight of the media, who got another run out of the original crime scandal.
Some might see in the continuing Weakland/ Cuskelly/Rush contacts a tainting by association. But Archbishop Rush, unlike Weakland, was never at odds with the Holy See. He was always the very model of Catholic orthodoxy in his teaching, administration, liturgical practice and, in my experience, private utterances.
That a false “spirit of the Council” Archdiocese developed during his Episcopate is undeniable. Whether this was his intention or the result of a “hands off approach”, one may speculate.
In a florid phrase that Archbishop Rush would have found distasteful, it was said that “under Archbishop Rush, the Archdiocese was a garden in which he allowed many flowers to grow” The objective observer could not fail to note the presence of very many robust weeds obscuring the flowers in the garden. Some of these weeds have more recently departed the garden under a variety of circumstances and in varied company, others have been rooted out by external influences and others still remain and flourish.
Whatever the reality, in the time of Archbishop Rush there was a clear impression abroad that he was firmly in control. His ascendancy over all aspects of Archdiocesan life was undoubted. His subtle but firm leadership of major committees has been superbly described by one of his inner circle of lay advisers. Times change. The Episcopacy of Archbishop Rush is fondly recalled by many Clergy and Laity for a variety of reasons I believe it was Saint Ignatius of Antioch who said, when appointed as Bishop, that he feared this heavy burden would put at risk the salvation of his soul. For Catholics, the duty of Bishops to Teach, to Sanctify and to Govern all within their diocese includes the burden of correcting those in error or, carrying their guilt one’s self as Saint Augustine so clearly points out.
Archbishop Rush manfully shouldered those burdens, and, if in any aspect he could be judged to have failed, one would trust that his great charity toward the sick and the suffering and his constant respect for the dignity of each person should weigh heavily in the balance. He was missed from the very moment of his retirement.
Archbishop Francis Rush died in 2001.
|ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS RUSH 5/3/1973 to 3/12/1991|