Brisbane: the Sorcerer's Apprentice

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 23, 2004

Post-ecclesial Catholicism has come to Brisbane, with predictable results:

The Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, yesterday declared that children baptised at a South Brisbane church using non-traditional words would have to be re-baptised. Hundreds of children have been baptised at St Mary's Church in the past decade using the words "creator, liberator and sustainer" instead of "father, son and holy spirit".

I note with interest that last season's high-fashion heresy, "Creator, Redeemer & Sanctifier," has given way to a lower-case "liberator and sustainer." Minimal. More down-to-earth.

But St Mary's Church member Margaret Ridley will not be seeking a re-baptism for her three children. "I have every confidence that my children have been baptised in an adequate and proper way," Ms Ridley said yesterday. "They are baptised Christians; they are not baptised Catholics."

Ms. Ridley's confidence is misplaced. Her children have never been baptized -- unless, perhaps, Grandma did it on the sly while batheing them in the sink. In any case, nothing happened at church.

[Bathersby] said Father Peter Kennedy, of St Mary's, should ask parents if they wanted their children re-baptised. But Fr Kennedy yesterday said he was "gobsmacked" by the Archbishop's statement and did not accept the baptisms were invalid. "I think the Archbishop is up the creek, so to speak," Fr Kennedy said.

"It's obvious that he is wrong, but he is the Archbishop."

It takes dozens of summer theology workshops to reach this stage of confusion, petulance, and error. Clearly Kennedy has not been idle.

Fr Kennedy said the words used by him and Fr Terry Fitzpatrick at St Mary's were not scripturally based but based on the doctrine of the trinity. "When we use the words 'God the creator, liberator and sustainer', it's just another way of expressing the trinitarian formula. It's fundamentalism to argue that the actual words are all-important."

Complete rubbish. Kennedy's notion was formally declared anathema by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and is in flat contradiction to the Church's doctrine on the "unity of the operations of the persons ad extra," already articulated by the Second Council of Constantinople (553). But who needs Denzinger when you've got Marty Haugen?

"That's the trouble with the Church; under the present Pope you're not allowed to have different opinions," Fr Kennedy said.

So, the present Pope codified the Trinitarian baptismal formula? Kennedy's grasp of Church History is of a piece with his sacramental theology.

Ms Ridley said she and her husband ... had been invited to contribute to the words of the baptism services for their children Caitlin, 10, Felicity, 9, and Manning, 7.

"The services celebrated the maternal aspects of child-rearing as opposed to the traditional patriarchal approach of the Catholic Church," Ms Ridley said. "It was delightful to have the female side of divinity recognised and celebrated."

Wasn't it though.

Caroline Gamin, of Alderley, will also not be seeking a re-baptism for her daughter, Maddie, 7, who was baptised at St Mary's in 1997. "I don't remember them using those words – the creator, liberator and sustainer – but I think they're gorgeous," Ms Gamin said.

Fr. Kennedy claims that the Archbishop "had supported the liturgical experimentation in his parish over the years." Bathersby, like the sorcerer's apprentice, seems to have unleased doctrinal tempests beyond his control by permitting the Mass to be used as a plaything. The damage won't end here.

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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 26, 2004 5:48 AM ET USA

    Withdraw Kennedy's faculties to function; baptize all the children. The man is a menace. What an ego! But then, that's nothing new in clerical circles nowadays.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Nov. 25, 2004 6:31 PM ET USA

    Fr. Kennedy seems rather bored and unconcerned by the whole matter. Obviously, there's no fear here from the "obvious that he is wrong" Archbishop. It's obvious this priest believes he is unaccountable.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2004 1:40 AM ET USA

    And we wonder why our young people stray away from our beloved Church. Obviusly because they know nothing about it. One can't give what one does not have, and most priests today, know virtually nothing about the Mass, Sacraments and Theology. Get good books, folks and teach your young 'uns at home, even as you pray for seminarians and their rectors and lectors. Of the latter, get the women out! We don't need "mama's boys" in cassocks. Real men make the best priests.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Nov. 24, 2004 9:38 PM ET USA

    Thanks, Diogenes. I just used this blog last night in my RCIA class, as I gave some catechesis (from the Catechism and Scripture) on the Church's Teaching on the Most Holy Trinity. This example of yours gave the class a timely example of individuals in the Church who are in heresy and who practice disobedience. Paradoxically, in the face of such heresy, your blog gave the class the ability to articulate evermore clearly the authentic Teaching of Christ and His Church.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2004 1:07 PM ET USA

    I would want to check the baptistery at this church to see if they've using water or Foster's. Seriously, I don't see the big deal here. The post-Vatican II Church has changed the form and matter of other Sacraments and there's been no great outcry from the episcopate or the laity. Can't we all just get along here? Pro multis!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2004 11:41 AM ET USA

    The two priests in Australia need to look up the definition of "heresy" and "Schism". The seminary training of priests these days is sadly lacking in Church history apparently. Thank the Holy Trinity for the Archbishop finally getting it right.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2004 9:23 PM ET USA

    This is the inevitable result of the laissez faire attitude in the Church starting with the aggiornamento of John XXIII and enabled by the 'openness to ideas' of Vatican II. We went from perceived rigidity to actual mush in the Sacraments and Doctrine. It's a small step from changing the words of the Mass Proper to changing the matter and form of the sacraments and invalidating them. Some priests (and bishops) apparently missed the lecture on this. Words matter.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2004 7:11 PM ET USA

    When we accept anyone for other Sacraments and have to verify their Baptism in another Christian denomination, there are only 2 requirements: water and the words I Baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No words, no water then we simple as that. Everyone of those children must be baptized in order to receive the rest of the Sacraments.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2004 6:05 PM ET USA

    Sounds like another teaching opportunity sloughed off by a bishop.