BISHOP DAVID LOUIS WALKER OF BROKEN BAY A FATHER TO HIS PRIESTS? FIT FOR MISSION?

WAR WITH HIS PRIESTS AND AGAINST CANON LAW

Here is the heartfelt text of a Senior Priest of the Broken Bay Diocese. It deserves to be presented in full. The Bishop's effective response was to publish a document ON CHRISTMAS EVE  2011 -  a measure of the cynical hope to have the minimum scrutiny.


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOP OF BROKEN BAY
FROM A PRIEST OF THE DIOCESE
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may sometimes be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. (C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock)
Bishop,
On Thursday, 11th November 2010, at a Meeting of the Bishop, Priests and Principals of the Diocese, you gave a presentation entitled, Eight Issues Facing the Church in Broken Bay.
The third of those eight issues was ‘how to bring our priests to a mature living of the faith so that they will be able to bring the faithful to that mature living.’ You continued, ‘[This] maturity cannot be presumed.’
This gives rise to three questions:
Is this a universal problem, common to all the priests of the Catholic Church, or at least evident among those engaged in parish work for most of their lives?
Or is it peculiar to priests in Australia, either trained here or brought in as missionaries from overseas, to work for the most part in Australian parishes?
Or is it, for some reason, confined to the Diocese of Broken Bay? And if so, why?
Your fourth issue was, ‘how to bring mature members of the faithful to leadership roles where they can have a significant influence on the growth of their fellow believers.’ You went on, ‘There are more mature believers among the faithful than among the clergy. We need to enable and empower them.’
From this emerge the questions:
Does this excess of mature lay faithful over mature priests merely reflect the greater number of laity than of clergy (in which case the point is trivial) or is it relative, i.e. a matter of proportion?
If the latter, is this true of the whole Church?
Or of the Australian Church?
Or is it, once more, peculiar to the Diocese of Broken Bay? And if so, why?
Of course, if problems 3 and 4 are peculiar to this diocese, then your reading of them provides the premises for a conclusion that you have already reached: the decision to reduce the role of priests in the pastoral care of the people of this diocese, and their substitution by elite laity of your choosing, who qualify, in your judgment, as “mature believers.”
While one can only rejoice at the abundance of “mature believers” in this diocese, one may ask why so many priests of immature faith have ended up here. Why is it that a priest who is good enough to serve as a parish priest in another Australian diocese or overseas is not good enough to serve in the Diocese of Broken Bay? And how has the Diocese become a refugium peccatorum for the incompetent and the immature?
With this is associated the further question: how is it that you have failed to bring even one candidate to ordination to the priesthood during your term of office? Is it because the formation process is tied to your reductionist model of the ministerial priesthood?
Every year, at the Chrism Mass, you take the opportunity to criticise the priests; you never encourage or affirm them.  When the Bishops of Australia sent out a message of affirmation to the Priests of Australia, you ungraciously qualified it with a note that was as peevish as it was self-righteous. Those present at the recent meeting were not, therefore, surprised that, once again, your remarks about the priests were negative, offensive and demoralising. Your presentation was part of a strategy: to undermine (in accordance with your long established tactic of “divide and rule”) the relationship between priests and people and to achieve your aim of making priests as such redundant in the Diocese.
Now you have the desired outcome, relying on a selective reading of the Code, especially canon 517§2.  It will be critiqued, at least by the undersigned, on the basis of canon 515§1 and canon 519, which make it clear that a parish priest is more than a mere extension or delegate of the bishop: he is the “proper pastor” of his parish, acting in persona Christi Capitis (Catechism of the Catholic Church 875, 1348, 1548). That is something you cannot change.
I have written this letter because I understand that (you are saying that) you have received no objections to your plan to laicise the pastoral care of the parishes. I want you, the priests, deacons and people of the Diocese to know that I, for one, protest:
against your constant vilification of the Priests of the Diocese, whether incardinated or missionary;
against an unnecessary abridgment of their role;
against the specious reasons given for that abridgment;
against the lack of appropriate consultation of those affected by that abridgment.
I am sending copies of this letter to as many priests of the Diocese as I can reach. As there were Principals and Curia officials present during your presentation, I invite the priests to pass this on to them.
Fr John Hill
20th November 2010


VR : We will present the CHRISTMAS EVE "response" in the following post.

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