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Peter Kennedy: The Man who Threatened Rome

One day hill Publishers, 2010
RRP $29.95

Reviewed be Karyl Davison, Pilgrim Learning Community and Rural Ministry Coordinator for the Central Queensland and Mary Burnett Presbyteries.

IMAGINE IF you can, a church that is regularly full, acts with compassion to people in need, and brings into reality something of Paul’s vision for the church – where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female.

It would seem that St Mary’s in Brisbane’s West End looked a bit like that – it put into practice the Church’s commitment to welcome all people, and reach out to the marginalised.

In February 2009 after a much publicised conflict between St Mary’s and the wider Roman Catholic Church one of St Mary’s priests Father Peter Kennedy was stood down for contravening aspects of Catholic doctrine namely allowing priest and people to speak the words of consecration at Mass, allowing women to preach, not using vestments, using inclusive language for baptisms, “soft-pedalling” the divinity of Jesus in the liturgy, and making social justice the key issue in his preaching. At the time of Kennedy’s sacking, attendances at weekend liturgies at St Mary’s numbered around 800.

The most informative and moving contributions to this book are from those involved.

Two interviews with Fr Kennedy serve as bookends and give us a glimpse of his contemplative and compassionate personality.

Although we don’t hear from the other main character in this story, Archbishop Bathersby, we do hear from a range of people intimately involved in St Mary’s including Fr Kennedy’s colleague,

There are also contributions from beyond the congregation such as Sr Veronica Brady, singer/songwriter Shane Howard, Tom Uren and internationally renowned theologian Hans Kung.

The case against Fr Kennedy is put by Catholic academic Prof Neil Ormerod.