A discussion between Father Gerard Dowling and John Lilburne on 14 July 2002 about instituted lectors reading at St Patrick's cathedral.


About John Lilburne


Journal of 21 July, commending Father Dowling on standing for the Gloria

Tribunal Case


0931 K Mon 15 Jul 2002

I spoke with Father Gerard Dowling yesterday in front of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, after the 1100 Mass that he was the celebrant for. Archbishop Hart had left for World Youth Day.

I have continued to pursue being allowed to read as an instituted lector, which I first wrote to Father Dowling about on 4 July 2000.

My most recent letter to him was on 23 April 2002, pointing out to him some of the instructions in the 2002 Roman Missal, such as:

101 In the absence of an instituted reader, other lay people may be designated to proclaim the readings from the Sacred Scriptures. ...

After several phone calls we discussed the issue at his presbytery on 13 June 2002. I made the point that faithfully following the liturgical books meant that an instituted lector (i.e. reader) should be allowed to read. He said he would discuss this with others, I think the Vicar General (Monsignor Chris Prowse) and Master of Ceremonies (Father David Cartwright).

Before yesterday's Mass I read an article by Father Dowling in the Kairos magazine, with the headline "We need witnesses". It included:

... I'm taking a look at myself and I hope that you might do the same, and see what witness we are giving to the world. Let us not forget that, as we in the Church face the challenge of showing its relevance to the 21st century, we will be judged less by what we say and more by what we do. ... (Kairos, 7 July 2002, page 4).


So after Mass I queued up and spoke to him. I did not record the conversation, but it went something like this. I asked him about how things were going about me reading. He said that the readers at 1100 on Sunday are not decided by him (the Dean of the Cathedral) but by Archbishop Hart or the Master of Ceremonies.

Me: So I should bring a tribunal case against them?

Father Dowling: Well you could, or discuss it with them.

Me: What about during the week? Who decides the readers then?

Father Dowling said something like the priest who says the Mass.

Me: Which Mass do you say? At which time do you decide the reader?

Father Dowling: It varies from week to week.

I said he seemed to be blurring the responsibility about who decided the readers.

The discussion became more heated and its difficult to present it fairly. He was shocked that I had brought the tribunal case against him, that I was attacking him. I should be giving Gospel values more importance. I was taking a legalistic approach. In his 40 years as a priest he had not come across someone like me. What was supposed to happen with people who had been reading there for years? I was not listening to him.

I was replying to these. He concluded things by shaking my hand, saying "I don't wish you any ill will" and talking to someone else.

Its the first time that I have spoken to him publicly about this in a way that is likely to embarrass him. I see it as part of the process of "appealing to the conscience of the adversary" which Pope John Paul II wrote about in Centesimus Annus, n. 23. My aim to have the liturgical books faithfully followed.

During the Mass I stood for the Kyrie and Gloria, he sat for them. When he stood after communion I also stood. But instead of having the Prayer After Communion he made the announcements first.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 15 July 2002. Last updated 21 July 2002.

Other sites:

Article by Father Dowling in Kairos: "We need witnesses"