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Archbishop Hart says "Please sit" on 28 April 2002

 

 

   

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2156 Sun 29 Jul 2001

I had two extraordinary discussions with Archbishop Hart today.

I went to his 1100 Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. During the Mass I stood at the times I normally stand, which I believe are following the liturgical laws (although many other people in the Cathedral do not stand at these times). They are: for the Kyrie and Gloria; after the Gospel until the bishop kisses the book and the reader sits; for the incensing after the gifts are incensed (since it is a bishop's Stational Mass) when the bishop hands the thurible to someone; and during (and after) the Lamb of God.

After the Mass I was standing on the steps in front of the cathedral and the Archbishop came up to me. I did not make notes until about an hour afterwards, so I am not saying this is exactly what was said. But here is how the conversation went, as I remember it.

Archbishop Hart came to me, held out his hand saying "Hello, John". I shook his hand saying "Hello, Your Grace".

Archbishop Hart: If your going to stand at odd times, can you do it somewhere else. At the outer end of the seats, rather than in the middle end of the seats, so that you're not obstructing people's view. Is that OK?

Me: Well, whatever you say ... But I'm not happy with it. The point of what I'm doing is to proclaim the truth. You are asking me to do it in a way that will be less effective. If you don't want me standing you could give directions to the congregation to sit.

Archbishop Hart: I don't want to change what I am doing. You can continue doing what you are doing. But I don't want you in the centre. That's a fair compromise isn't it? People have been making complaints and I'm acting on them. The Church has given us wide discretion in these matters and we are using them.

He then left me to talk with other people. I then bought and exercise book to write down the conversation and thought about writing him a letter during the afternoon in the city.

Archbishop Hart was giving a talking at the Kepha Group that meets at St John's Mitcham, which I regularly attend. I arrived just as he started the talk and sat on the floor. It was mainly about vocations: his, the priesthood, others. Some points I found particularly encouraging: people may say we are an "oddball", getting out of the comfort zone, sincere quiet example, conversation - listening, asking, telling. At the end it was time for questions: "Just ask, it doesn't matter how it comes out." I stood up at the back, waited a few seconds, no hands went up, so I put mine up. "Yes, John" he said.

I began: "Before people can be ordained as priests they need to be instituted as lectors."

Archbishop Hart cut me off: "I'm not going to discuss that, John."

I was surprised. I hadn't even asked anything. I said: "You say "it doesn't matter how it comes out" and I'm silenced already."

Archbishop Hart: "I'm not going to discuss it." I stepped back, someone else asked a question and Archbishop Hart answered several of them.

I did not have a tape recorder going, so I am not certain of every word, but I took notes on this only a few minutes later.

There were about 30 young adults there and the parish priest.

Afterwards a few people spoke to me about it. It showed an extraordinary sensitivity to the issue of instituted lectors. The question I had no chance to ask was simply: "As Archbishop have you thought about instituting people as lectors who are not seminarians?"

I am still thinking through the implications of all this. After months of nothing seeming to happen its a lot at once.

I had a great night out last night, at a footy club auction, catching up with people from school.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 29 July 2001. Last updated 28 April 2002.