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Catholic World News News Feature

Australian dissenters face off with loyal Catholics November 26, 2007

On the evening of November 22, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia a well-organized public meeting of dissenters to the Catholic faith, was disrupted by a group of mainly young persons, who protested their loyalty to the Holy Father and the magisterium.

Held under the auspices of a newly named organization called Catholics for Ministry, the group-- in conjunction with a previously long established organization subversive of Church teaching known as Catalyst for Renewal-- has these last few weeks been organizing a nationwide petition to the upcoming meeting of the Australian bishops' conference, scheduled later in the month, asking for the ordination of married men to the priesthood, the employment of ex-priests in Church ministry, and discussion on the ordination of women. The petition has received 16,000 signatures according to organizers.

At one point, the organizers threatened to extricate from the auditorium a vocal group seated in the front who held up copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, rosary beads, and placards with signs like “Women Priests. Don’t you understand the word no” and “We profess loyalty to the Holy Father,” as the speakers gave their presentations. There were several hundred persons assembled in the Camberwell Civic Centre (the location of the conference), mainly middle aged and elderly persons.

One young member of the vocal group who was being shouted down was threatened with assault by one of the security guards, who said, “I will hit you if you keep on doing this.” That threat created a situation of near pandemonium and a threat from the platform to end the meeting, but eventually tempers cooled.

At least where Australia is concerned, there is little doubt the tensions that followed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council are alive and well and evidence of the existence of parallel church structures that profess to be Catholic. Veronica Sidhu, a well known Catholic laywoman in Melbourne, an organizer of the counter-protest, said, “Catholic people are just sick and tired of the dissent to church teaching that appears to be tolerated in official circles.”

The keynote speaker at the address was Paul Collins, a religious broadcaster and former Catholic priest who left his ministry in 2001 in the middle of an investigation by the Vatican of his book Papal Power which argued that the papacy as practiced in the contemporary Church is an anachronism and should embrace democratic structures.

When someone referred to the fact that the then-Cardinal Ratzinger who was conducting the investigation was now the pope, Collins referred to his record of defense of the former head of the CDF-- a very hollow claim in light of the investigated book and his previous work, Mixed Blessings.

Anne O’Brien, an educator, former nun, and once an adviser to the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne, argued that the Church must adapt to present day viewpoints and perceptions and that notions emphasizing salvation and redemption were outmoded. Looking at the young people in the front she commented that she had taught many youngsters like this over the years.

Marilyn Hatton, (now the wife of Paul Collins) co-convener of a group called the Ordination of Catholic Women, said that in light of the drastic shortage of priests, it was the time the Church appreciated the scriptural evidence that there were no barriers to women’s ordination, despite the definitive judgment of Pope John Paul in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church is not authorized to ordain women.

Critics of the young people in the audience accused them of being discourteous, calling out, and not letting the speakers be heard, but they said it was the Catholic position that was silenced at this meeting.

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