John Lilburne's journal about disagreements among priests at the parish of Baulkham Hills in the Parramatta diocese.

 

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1058 L Mon 11 Feb 2002

There is an unusal article on page 3 of The Australian today. It has the headline "Father Kevin's sin: going to jail for fun" and is by Sophie Tedmanson:

A Catholic priest who won a national radio competition where he spent three weeks in Pentridge prison has been suspended from his parish after complaints within the local church community. ...

To briefly outline my understanding of the situation from the article:

The assistant priest, Father Kevin Lee, is "on six months leave and has been banned from performing any of his usual duties including weddings, church services or contacting prisoners."

The parish priest Father Brian Larkey "resigned in protest over the incident".

Bishop Manning "could not be contacted for comment". "According to Father Kevin he would never have entered the competition without the blessing of the local Bishop Kevin Manning, who he said approved of his involvement and even tuned in occasionally."

A report in Hills News on Father Kevin winning the competition in Hills News seems ironical:

... Father Lee said he entered the competition to portray the Catholic church in a positive way.

"I entered the competition to allow people to look into my life and to show priests are human beings and also to raise public awareness of homelessness and the need for services in the local area," he said.

He said the experience was the toughest three weeks of his life and one which he won't forget in a hurry. ...

I do not know the reason for the six months leave. I do not dispute Bishop Manning's right to post assistant priests wherever he wants to in his diocese. But I have a lot of sympathy for Father Kevin Lee saying: "I felt like I was being punished for doing it rather than being rewarded for a good thing."

1252 L Mon 11 Feb 2002

I have been thinking more about what the complaints may have been. In Father Kevin's diary on 2001-11-25 he writes:

Today marked an important transformation in Debbie's life as she was baptised into the Christian faith life and on the Net!

I do not think he should have performed this baptism. According to Canon 530:

The functions especially entrusted to the parish priest are as follows:

1. the administration of baptism ...

According to Canon 850:

The celebration of baptism should be properly prepared. Accordingly:

1. an adult who intends to receive baptism is to be admitted to the catechumenate and, as far as possible, brought through the various stages to sacramental initiation, in accordance with the rite of initiation as adapted by the Bishops' Conference and with the particular norms issued by it; ...

If there were "danger of death" then an "emergency baptism" would be justified. But I do not think it was in this situation.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne 11 February 2002.

Links to other sites:

The Australian article "Father Kevin's sin: going to jail for fun"

Description of Father Kevin Lee in the Escape From Pentridge competition

Father Kevin Lee's prison diary