Is Father Peter Kennedy a Catholic? Good question.
He claims to be, and that counts for something. He was ordained as a Catholic priest of the Brisbane, Australia archdiocese; that's an important bit of evidence. Yet during his term as pastor of St. Mary's parish in South Brisbane, he didn't administer Catholic sacraments (he used an invalid formula for baptism); he didn't preach Catholic doctrine (he ridiculed Church teaching on the Resurrection); and he didn't follow Catholic liturgical norms (he invited women to the altar to "concelebrate" with him). Last August, Archbishop John Bathersby finally decided that he'd had enough, complaining that the flaky community at St. Mary's had in effect "established its own brand of religion." If the parish did not return to some semblance of normalcy, the archbishop warned, it would imperil its continued communion with the Catholic Church.
A breach of communion: got that? Australian reporters suspected, quite reasonably, that Archbishop Bathersby was hinting at the possibility of excommunication.
That was in August 2008. The months passed, and religious anomalies at St. Mary's continued, until finally in April 2009 the archbishop removed Father Kennedy from his office as pastor. Whereupon the wayward priest, far from repenting, established his own independent church to compete with the parish still operating under the aegis of the Brisbane archdiocese. Kennedy says his new operation a Catholic church. The archbishop says it isn't. If he's running a church, and it's not the Catholic Church, you might say he's engaged in a schismatic enterprise. The ordinary canonical penalty for schism is excommunication. That word again.
Now at last comes the news that the Brisbane archdiocese is considering disciplinary measures against Father Kennedy. Already removed from his parish, he may now be suspended from ministry. But reporters aren't terribly excited about a suspension. They're more interested in the E-word. The chancellor of the archdiocese, Father Adrian Farrelly, wishes they would calm down. "We certainly don't leap to excommunication as a first response," he says.
No, certainly not a first response. But the first response came 5 years ago, when Archbishop Bathersby ordered Father Kennedy to stop using the invalid baptismal formula. How about a second response? Or a third?
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