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LIBERATED WITH JOY FROM A FAILING INSTITUTION


(Photo is actually of the Spiritus Christi community of Rochester, New York, another inclusive Catholic community beyond the control of the institutional church. Thanks to Contemplative Catholic for photo and links.)

(I found this very moving statement from the website of “St. Mary’s: Community in Exile in Brisbane, South Australia. Here in very eloquent language is the future of the Church. “When the winds of change blow/some build walls/some build windmills. It is time for many new windmills.”)

Terry Fitzpatrick4 July 2009 (Published in The Green Left Weekly July 4 2009)

On April 19, a huge mob of St Mary’s people made a pilgrimage out of a church and into the Trades and Labor Council (TLC) building, home of the Queensland Council of Unions.

They walked out of the church to the TLC, 200 metres down the road in silent vigil with candles and lanterns, banners and balloons – not unlike the Jews of the Old Testament escaping from the slavery of the Egyptians to the liberation of the Promised Land (minus the balloons).

We too feel liberated from the shackles of a failing institution caught up in dogmas and creeds that belong to another age. We felt it was time to take a stand from the constant bullying we have experienced for many years.

We have been bullied for standing up for the rights of women and giving them a voice. For challenging and changing the sexist language and images of God in the liturgies and celebrations we have as a community. For ensuring women are given equal roles in the decision-making processes of the community.

We have been bullied to make us stop blessing the unions of gay and lesbian couples, baptising their children and allowing them to celebrate and use the church like any other group.

We have been kicked out of our church for giving people with a sexual orientation that departs from the mainstream a voice and a place within the church.

We have been ostracised for taking a stand with those who have suffered abuse at the hands of state and church-run institutions. For setting up the Esther centre in Lotus Place, a place of advocacy and support for people who have experienced abuse in human service or faith communities.

We have been marginalised for signing a treaty with the Indigenous people of the land we are on, for recognising their prior ownership and sovereignty. We believe as many Australians do that this recognition lies at the heart of addressing the injustices carried out against the Aboriginal people of this land.

For these and many other reasons we have been liberated from the constant bullying and shackles of a failing institution unable to change.

As a people we feel optimistic about our future. We have had enormous support nationally and internationally. We have tapped into a nerve, a frustration, a boiling-over anger at an institution that continues to deny the rights of so many.

This huge Roman Catholic corporation continues to win the sympathy and ear of governments afraid to challenge its bullying, standover tactics.

The days of its unchallenged reign are numbered. The tide is turning and new ways of expressing and celebrating spirituality are being forged. We are delighted to be a part of this new movement. As one wise sage said:

“When the winds of change blow/Some build walls/Others build windmills.”

It is time for many new windmills.

[Father Terry Fitzpatrick is a member of the St Mary’s congregation in Brisbane.]

Cross posted at Gay Mystic

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks, Jayden.

    Its good to remember that sometimes exclusion can indeed be liberating, freed from claustrophobic restrictions.

  2. Jayden:

    I am intrigued by this article, but I am a bit confused. Is St. Mary’s a Catholic parish that has broken away from the mainstream church and the archdiocese because it has become a “renegade” group that can no longer tolerate insitutional injustice? Is Father Terry a Catholic priest who has decided to take a stand (like Father Geoff) and defy his “bosses”? I really think the possibility of creating welcoming and inclusive Catholic communities outside of the institutional church is one that is worth exploring, so I would be interested in learning more about St. Mary’s as a possible model. (Of course, if I looked at the parish website, I would probably have my questions answered.)

    • Ross, as I understand it (and I’m working from memory here: it’s too late at night in the UK to start checking all the detail, St Mary’s is and always has been a fully recognised Catholic parish, with a very popular priest and an energetic, active and enthusiastic congregation. The local conservative bishop was uncomfortable with Fr Kelly’s progressive style and strong lay involvement, so he first tried to muzzle him, then replaced him. The congregation then moved lock, stock and barrel into alternative premises, taking Fr Kelly with them. This is much the same process that played out earlier in St Stephen’s, Minneapolis / St Paul. My colleague Michael Bayley, who has recently started writing for the Open Tabernacle, is a leading member of that congregation, and has written about it at hsi home blog, “The Wild Reed.”
      I agree with you that the possibilities of welcoming communities outside the institutional church have potential: but any “potential” still has to be realized, and ther are also threats. Just the first, is that of never ending fission in ever decreasing factions, which Rick alluded to in a previous comment. What I would like to see, if it were possible, is such communities straddling some kind of no man;s land – inside, but withholding allegiance and control. Alas, I fear that kind of fence-sitting just wouldn’t be possible.

  3. Ross I’m in Bucharest at the moment with boys’ basketball team. Will reply further when I get back to Prague. But I concur with Terence’s comments above. St. Mary’s symbolic walk was meant to signify their economic freedom from dependence upon the physical plant of the church -thereby giving them theollogical freedom as well. This will become an increasingly common trend -with all of the pitfalls and dangers and challenges. Fr. Terry, to my knowledge, has yet to be censored/defrocked …for his actions, but those consequences can’t be far behind.

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