It has become mandatory in recent years for every major Newspaper to publish a weekend Magazine in colour, and the Brisbane COURIER MAIL is no exception with its Q WEEKEND . Last Saturday the Magazine appeared with its Cover Portrait and 6 Page lead article being devoted to Archbishop John A. Bathersby who is due to submit his resignation, upon reaching 75 years of age on 26th July, this year.Just a tad over 4 weeks away.
OBJECT OF RIDICULE
The formal portrait used on the cover is is remarkable for its glum character. It is hard to imagine anyone sitting for a portrait , allowing themselves to be photographed with such an expression on their face. One can only assume that it has been extracted from a rapid burst of sequential shots and caught His Grace's face in transition between expressions.If so, it was a mischievous choice on the part of the Editor to use it , since it only provokes ridicule.
However, if the Magazine felt the need to do a demolition job on their subject, they must have been startled to realise that all they needed to do was to quote him directly.The title under the Cover Portrait is "Lord go with me" However in the heading of the Article proper, the title "Closer to Heaven "is used, along with the super heading :"He's been a Priest for 50 years but it was only over the last ten that John Bathersby fully embraced his faith. Now, he says, it's time to come down from the mountain."" The Article is written By Frances Whiting and the preceding words are part of her reportage, as presented.
The article opens with His Grace's custom of climbing steep, craggy Mt. Tibrogargan in the Glasshouse Mountains each week. Much is made of his shorts and Polo Shirt, the absence of vestments etc, (!) and he is described as "just a bloke in a bucket hat talking to his God" His family history is briskly traced from the Stanthorpe area, to which he hopes to retire.It goes on to his Seminary years and the stress of his older seminarian brother leaving the Seminary.
No great heights are reached in the article ( if one disregards Mt .Tibrogargan) . His Grace muses on the Episcopacy : "Its an enormous role, and an authoritarian one",he says. "You can't pretend it isn't, and there are occasions as a Bishop and certainly as an Archbishop, when you have to say, "here's the line , and you can't go over the line..." The article moves from this observation to the consideration of the apostate Father Peter Kennedy and the series of scandals surrounding St. Mary's Parish South Brisbane.Kennedy had been two years behind John Bathersby in the Seminary and says of him : "He is a very good man,with a very kind heart, and I understand why he did what he felt he had to do."
In a section dealing with pedophilia - which of course His Grace condemns, it comes out in passing, that the convicted Pedophile Father Ron McKeirnan had, upon completing his Prison term, been allowed by His Grace limited faculties to celebrate Holy Mass for a small Marist Community only. When this came to notice via the Media, The Holy See insisted that those faculties be withdrawn.
MUSING ON HIS BELIEFS
His Grace muses on changing times. For the second time recently, he laughingly recalls as a young Priest being invited to Baptise an Anglican man dying in Hospital, at the request of the man's wife and with his final consent. "The Archbishop can't help it - he begins to laugh, wiping his eyes at the sheer lunacy of it, and his own misplaced sense of duty." More revelations of the inner John Bathersby came tumbling out: ""A deep understanding of my faith didn't really come to me until I was somewhere between 65 and 70 , and what it really comes down to is a simple belief - that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He came to us in love. That's it, "he smiles.
He announces to the intrepid Reporter up on Tibrogargan that he does not wish to be buried in St.Stephen's Cathedral, but back in the Stanthorpe area. ( Archbishop Rush, now firmly buried in the Cathedral Crypt had expressed a similar desire NOT to be buried there.) The burial wishes of deceased Archbishops seem to carry little weight in the great scheme of things.
The Archdiocesan PR apparatus has of late been cranking up quite an effort to polish the image of Archbishop John Bathersby. This one interview has set their campaign back quite a way.
It is interesting to learn from his own mouth, that Archbishop Bathersby only came to a"deep understanding "of his faith between 5 and 10 years ago. This is a man who has been a Priest for 50 years this year, and a Bishop for 25 years.And who now laughs at his younger priestly self for wanting to Baptise a convert on his death bed..We might wonder what he now believes.This is a man I served from 19 to 16 years ago as a senior Canonical Executive - what was his" understanding of his faith" then?
We find also that as we have seen in other cases,in previous posts, he only dealt properly with the McKeirnan problem when compelled to do so by the Holy See.
Archbishop Bathersby is a complex and perhaps confusing, or confused, personality. But we shall withhold an attempt at a conclusive summing up until we have thoroughly concluded our review of The Bathersby Years.