ACU lecturer faces battle over "unorthodox opinions"
Australian Catholic University theology lecturer Fr Daniel Donovan is fighting a complaint by a former student that he taught that the concept of original sin was not in the bible as well as other allegedly "unorthodox" views.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that two years ago Fr Donovan walked into a lecture theatre of 32 students to conduct a summer school course in theology as he had done for 14 years without a previous complaint.
By the end of the month class notes taken from that week had been anonymously circulated overseas and in Australia, in effect labelling Fr Donovan a priest holding "unorthodox opinions".
A Catholic Canadian emailed the material to the Catholic journal AD2000, which later published it.
Among his so-called sins, the lecturer at an Australian Catholic University, Sydney's Strathfield campus, was alleged to have argued that the concept of original sin was not in the Bible, that sex was not a sin and that God was mother.
But Fr Donovan said his attempts to rebut the allegations his lawyer dismisses as hearsay and his canon lawyer as gossip had been frustrated by the church.
Having permitted the matter to drag on without any closure, the church hierarchy had denied him natural justice, he said.
Fr Donovan told the Herald that the allegations represented one student's understanding of discussions within the lectures. Sex, for example, had never been sinful within marriage.
He said the Sydney archdiocese had failed to contact him directly, even when he sought a meeting with Cardinal George Pell, and had not provided the name of the informant.
His canon lawyer had advised him the archdiocese was obliged to institute an investigation into the allegations or dismiss them in writing as baseless. The allegations should have been referred by the archbishop's office directly to the university's vice-chancellor, who has jurisdiction to investigate, not its professor of theology.
"Allegations are exactly that, allegations and not an article," Fr Donovan said. "Also, the allegations are not lecture notes but notes taken by a student in lectures. The lack of appropriate action by the archdiocese allowed AD2000 to go to print.
"Surely such allegations should have been treated as gossip and steps taken to protect my character rather than shrouding the whole issue in anonymity."
Priest fights sins of class notes (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Original Sin (Wikipedia)
Original Sin (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Website of Australian Catholic University
National Council of Priests
Fr Daniel Donovan (ACU Website)
Brisbane archbishop condemns 'spying' in church (CathNews, 6/12/04)
16 Apr 2007