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Archbishop George Pell made John Lilburne an Instituted Reader on 27 February 2000. Seeking to fulfill the function of a Lector, of reading at Mass, John wrote to Very Reverend Gerard Dowling (Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia) on 4 July 2000, making himself available. But he was not allowed to read, with Very Reverend Dowling writing to him on 25 October: "I am really not yet able to discuss your inclusion as a reader. Two reasons create this situation. First, we have no vacancies. Second, we already have a waiting list."

On 14 November 2000 John brought the case to the "Tribunal of the Catholic Church, Victoria & Tasmania" at 402 Albert Street, East Melbourne. He alleged his rights (as described in the Code of Canon Law) had been breached by Very Reverend Dowling, including those under:

Canon 230.3, since lay persons who were not Instituted Lectors were supplying for their office, when an Instituted Lector was available.

Canon 846.1, that the liturgical books were not being followed, including the General Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, n 51, which states: "The reader's ministry, which is conferred through a liturgical rite, must be held in respect. When there are instituted readers available, they are to carry out their office at least on Sundays and major feasts, especially at the principal Mass of the day."

Evidence for the case, Lilburne-Dowling 301 00 165, was gathered by the Judicial Vicar, the Very Reverend Ian Waters, beginning on 6 February 2001. This included an interrogation of Very Reverend Michael McKenna, the Rector of Corpus Christi College (180 Drummond St, Carlton) where John Lilburne had been a seminarian. Bishop Denis Hart was also interrogated.

It was unanimously judged, by five clerics on 14 March 2001, that Very Reverend Dowling had not breached the rights of John Lilburne.

An appeal was made to the Appeal Tribunal of the Catholic Church for Australia and New Zealand. But this appeal was unsuccessful, in a judgement of 19 September 2001.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, revised 30 April 2001. Last updated 2 May 2002.