Archbishop Bathersby blasts return to "golden past"

Reacting forcefully to criticism that Queensland has the lowest rate of attracting seminarians, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby says he has no desire to return to a "golden past" noted for seminarian numbers but also for "sinfulness."

Archbishop Bathersby was responding to criticisms by Melbourne author Michael Gilchrist in his new book Lost! that "lukewarm" Catholicism is leading to a dramatic decline in priest numbers with Queensland being the worst Australian state in attracting students for its seminary.

Only seven students for the whole of Queensland are currently studying at Brisbane's Holy Spirit Seminary, including one man in his 60s, according to Gilchrist's book, which was launched this week by Catholic TV personality Mike Willesee.

This compares with 44 students in Sydney, 41 in Melbourne and 20 in Perth, where nine new priests were ordained last year and 81 since 1991, claims Gilchrist, who edits the magazine AD2000.

"Michael Gilchrist's comments on the situation of priests in Australia particularly Queensland is only part of the picture," Archbishop Bathersby wrote in a letter to the editor of the Brisbane Courier-Mail.

In a spirited defence of the Brisbane Archdiocese, Archbishop Bathersby says that "proportionately", Queensland seminarians "would be among the best in Australia".

"It is one thing to judge local Churches by the number of young men seeking priesthood, it is another thing to examine the vitality, vision, and involvement of the people of God at a local level," he said.

"Once people grasp the excitement of the Jesus, Communion, and Mission emphasis of the Archdiocese, vocations to priesthood and religious life will flow again."

The Archbishop says this is "already beginning to happen."

Archbishop Bathersby also warned against a nostalgic view of the past that overlooks its faults.

"I have no desire for candidates to priesthood who wish to take the Church back to a past certainly noted for its numbers, but sadly uncovered in more recent times its sinfulness, whose burden the Church will carry with difficulty into the future," he said.

"If Michael Gilchrist wants to return to a so-called golden past with all its many weaknesses so be it. I don't," Bathersby concluded.

Archbishop John Bathersby, Letter to the Editor (The Courier-Mail, 26/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop John Bathersby
Archdiocese of Brisbane
Holy Spirit Seminary Queensland
AD2000 | Lost! Book launch (AD2000)

Queensland Catholics "lost!", claims author (CathNews, 26/10/06)
Pope blesses cornerstone of new Sydney Seminary (CathNews 14/10/05)

27 Oct 2006