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Reinstatement Order 2 June 2004

Lector Tribunal Case

   

Sacking of David Russell

There have been media reports on the sacking of the choirmaster at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

The reasons for the dismissal by the Dean, Monsignor Tony Doherty are unclear. There has been considerable support for David Russell.

In 1993 I was based in Sydney with the navy and went to Mass at the cathedral. I remember David Russell and was very impressed with the choir, buying their CD Lauda Jerusalem Dominum.

I find it interesting to compare my situation with that of David Russell.

I was institued as lector on 27 February 2000. I regularly attend Sunday Mass at the Melbourne cathedral, but am not permitted to read there. This is dispite numerous letters and a Tribunal case.

The Church's liturgical law does not have an "institued choirmaster" position similar to an "instituted lector". There is no official ceremony to designate someone for this role, the way there is with a lector.

The fact that David Russell was an employee gives him a stronger case in civil law. He can pursue unfair dismissal. The church needs show a process was taken for his removal. In my case I was not an employee, just given the ministry by a ceremony. There was no suggestion of a process justifying the decision not to use me in that role. It was just that the Dean did not rearrange the rosters, saying at the Tribunal:

"I have no personal objection whatsoever to John Lilburne being a reader of the Word of God at the Cathedral. My decision was and still is that the roster and personnel and waiting list are all to be reviewed." (10 February 2001)

David Russell has a reputation and prominence through his role. The press reports it, the adult memebers of the choir boycott the Sunday Mass and there are gatherings of support.

In my case of an instituted lector saying he should be able to read there is not this level of support.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Archbishop Pell as saying:

"A recommendation was made by the independent procedure which was accepted by the dean. I had a look at the recommendation. I could see no reason not to accept that recommendation." ...

"If a court of appeal or some civic procedure reverses that decision I certainly won't be unhappy,"

A stange thing to say, which highlights the power of publicity and community support.

By J.R. Lilburne, 10 February 2003. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

cathnews.com "Sacked Sydney Choirmaster claims Archbishop was hijacked"

Press Release of David Russell

Sydney Morning Herald report of 10 February, by Kelly Burke