VIGNETTE - INHERITANCE
|ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS RUSH|
The problems inherited by Archbishop Bathersby were often thorny, and repeatedly involved “what were “local heroes”. Consider the case of Father Bill O’Shea – a nice enough fellow, modest and unassuming in manner and long considered locally as a likely future Bishop. He had been in the past Rector of Banyo Seminary as it began its long downward slide into oblivion from 124 students in its heyday to 24 in the 1980s close to the number of staff.
Father O’Shea had for many years maintained a “Question Box” page in the “Catholic Leader” modeled along the lines of the late great Dr. Rumble M.S.C.’s page in Sydney’s “Catholic Weekly “which was internationally famous for its orthodoxy and effectiveness. Father O’Shea’s page was something else again, and a constant irritant to orthodox Catholics on subjects as diverse as liturgy, sacred scripture ( his announced specialist field) and morals. It was the last of these subjects which was to earn him attention in Rome in 1987 . Bishop James Cuskelly M.S.C. (and longtime friend of Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee infamy) wrote a carefully worded statement published in the Catholic Leader stating that it was issued with the approval of Archbishop Rush.
It was a curious document. If one took it at face value , the Holy See had expressed no interest in the matter, rather, because Bishop Cuskelly was going to be in Rome for a General Chapter of his order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (M.S.C.) , Archbishop Rush had suggested he try to see Cardinal Ratzinger the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to discuss Father O’Shea’s writings then a cause of uproar in the secular press. And Bishop Cuskelly had found that co-incidentally Bishop Wallace of Rockhampton would be near Rome at the time on ecumenical (ARCIC) business and could join him in calling on the Cardinal. Bishop Wallace – the Godfather of the liberal Queensland Bishops – was at the time the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Committee for Doctrine and Morals. Archbishop Rush wrote to His Eminence and the meeting was agreed.
If you accept the document as Gospel, Father’s writings were only discussed in general terms except for a brief discussion about some ambiguity on the subject of the resurrection of the body, which it said the Cardinal believed might have mislead “the simple readers”.
The real basis for the furore.in the local press and for the many Lay complaints to the Holy See, was that among other things, Father O’Shea had suggested that pre-marital sexual relations were morally acceptable. The statement deceptively avoids any reference to the subject.
Further, the whole suggested basis for the visit is not credible, it is obvious, rather that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had expressed grave concern about Father O’Shea’s writings and had possibly proposed some grave disciplinary measures.
That the whole affair was more serious than portrayed in the statement, is let slip in the reference : “he was genuinely distressed that there had been talk of Archbishop Rush’s resignation.” The statement ends ambiguously “Finally, the hope was expressed that this report on the interview made to Archbishop Rush and published in the Catholic Leader would be the last word published on “the O’Shea case”."
Father O’Shea continued his Page for some time and Archbishop Bathersby made him the Head of the new Permanent Diaconate Training Program which has since been suspended.