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Bishop considering options on Rome support for "bullying" priest

Bishop Jeremiah Coffey of the Victorian Diocese of Sale is said to be "considering his options" after the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy overruled his suspension of a priest of whom school employees had accused of harassment and bullying.

Today's Online Catholics reports that the case of Fr John Speekman has caused unrest in the Diocese for some time, from both his supporters and his detractors. The publication says that employees of the Schools made charges of harassment and bullying against Fr Speekman following meetings between the School, parents and the priest. There is no suggestion of abuse.

Bishop Coffey decided to remove Fr Speekman from his pastoral duties, and installed Fr Tom Cleary last September. Fr Speekman refused to step down.

Fr Speekman indicated to Online Catholics that he has a conscientious objection to celebrating school masses for Catholic school students who "are no longer connected to the Church through the Sunday Eucharist".

The Confraternity of St Michael, a group active in the Diocese, sent a petition with 300 signatures protesting against Fr Speekman's removal to the Congregation for Clergy. The Congregation recently over-ruled Bishop Coffey's decision.

Online Catholics says Bishop Coffey is thought to have appealed to a Roman 'higher court', the Signatura, over the Congregation's ruling. Sources say that once a further decision is made, the Bishop will comment publicly on the matter.

It quotes unnamed sources that suggest the Bishop's appeal will address concerns that the original petition supplied by the Confraternity of St Michael in support of Fr Speekman contained many names of people not resident in Morwell parish, many differerent signatures apparently in the same handwriting, and signatures of people known to be not fluent in English.

Rome overrules Aussie Bishop (Online Catholics 25/8/04)

Confraternity of St Michael | Letter-writing campaign for Fr Speekman
Into the Deep newsletter
Church people protest for priest in Sale (ABC Gippsland 1/5/03)
Fr John Speekman: Forgotten teachings
Fr John Speekman: Evangelize Families First
Catholic Diocese of Sale
Sacred Heart Primary School, Morwell
Morwell Catholic Parish
Congregation for the Clergy

25 Aug 2004