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Brisbane Archbishop comments on baptism words controversy

Archbishop John Bathersby has said that using the "correct" formulas is necessary for priests and congregations to remain in communion with a local diocese and with the universal Catholic Church.

Writing an opinion article in yesterday's Courier-Mail newspaper, Archbishop Bathersby said: "If they decide they don't want to follow the authority of the Church, then they have made the choice not to be a part of the universal Church."

"They either want to be in communion or not," he said.

The Archbishop's comments follow a controversy over the use by St Mary's Catholic Church South Brisbane of the words "Creator, Liberator and Sustainer" instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in baptisms.

Archbishop Bathersby said last week such baptisms, carried out by Fr Peter Kennedy and his assistant Fr Terry Fitzpatrick, over the past decade, were invalid and would need to be redone.

The archbishop confirmed yesterday that Fr Kennedy had given him a commitment two months ago that St Mary's would return to using traditional words in the sacraments, in response to a letter from him.

"Larger questions lie not far beneath the surface of the controversy, and it is the question of communion, namely whether a parish of the Roman Catholic Church can be in communion with the Archdiocesan Church and the Universal Church, if it changes the structure of the sacraments and locates its authority within the community," Archbishop Bathersby wrote. "The baptism formula is merely one aspect, but an important one, of all these other questions."

He said yesterday: "It can reach a stage where my authority doesn't mean anything at all."

Asked what were the consequences for a parish no longer considered part of the Archdiocese, he replied: "They would probably have to work that out for themselves. In certain circumstances, a priest might not be able to practise as a priest.

Archbishop makes stand (The Courier Mail 1/12/04)

Archbishop John Bathersby: Mystery of true words important (Courier-Mail 30/11/04)
Brisbane church on notice over unconventional baptisms (ABC News 30/11/04)
Perspectives: Blessed shame (Courier-Mail 29/11/04)

31 Dec 2004