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Australia's head nun agrees to disagree with Cardinal Pell

The Congregational Leader of Australia's largest religious order has said that she respects the "strong feelings" of Cardinal George Pell that led him to ban a lay Catholics meeting from church property, but that she believes he is wrong.

Speaking on ABC Radio's Religion Report, Sr Katrina Brill of the Sisters of St Joseph said the Cardinal reacted so strongly to the planned presence of the Australian Reforming Catholics conference at the Josephites' Mary MacKillop Place at North Sydney, because "he really feels strongly about the fact that he felt certain teachings would be attacked".

Sr Brill suggested that the unprecedented nature of the Cardinal's intervention indicates the seriousness of the perceived threat to Catholic teaching.

When asked by interviewer Stephen Crittenden if there was a precedent, she replied: "Well not in my knowledge. In living memory, no. It would have to be something very serious, so obviously the Cardinal feels very serious about this, that certain speakers at the conference would be, in his mind, attacking and denying the teachings of the church."

While respecting the Cardinal's decision, Sr Brill expressed her support for the philosophy of the Conference, and disappointment with the decision of the Cardinal.

"I actually don't agree that - well, let me put it this way: I believe that Catholics must have debate and forums and discussions around contentious issues in order for them to even grow in their faith."

The ABC program also interviewed Canberra auxiliary Bishop Pat Power, who indicated that he withdrew his agreement to celebrate Mass for the Conference because he wanted to avoid being party to the "politicisation" of the Eucharist.

Cardinal Pell declined to speak to the program, but issued the following statement: "Cardinal Pell said that he had received no official notice about a proposed meeting of Australian Reforming Catholics. However such a meeting does not have his approval and should not meet on Catholic church property. The Liberal party does not hold its conferences at a Labor party branch office."

Sr Katrina Brill on Australian Reforming Catholics (ABC Radio Religion Report 15/9/04)

Pell bans church liberals from venue (The Australian 16/9/04)
Catholic Bishop Pat Power on Australian Reforming Catholics (ABC Radio Religion Report 15/9/04)
Pell bans Lay group from Catholic land (Online Catholics 15/9/04)
Australian Reforming Catholics
International Movement We Are Church
Archdiocese of Sydney

16 Sep 2004