Letter To Archbishop Bathersby
By Don Gaffney
The letter which follows was sent by Don Gaffney to Archbishop John Bathersby about two months before he finished as archbishop of Brisbane. Particular views expressed are naturally those of the writer.
“Charity without truth becomes mere sentimentality.”
- Pope Benedict XVI
“If you have not warned the wicked man, then I will hold you responsible for his death.” - Ezekiel 33: 7-9
“In view of Archbishop Bathersby’s impending retirement, he ought to be given credit for an outstanding statistic. 2% of the children in our Catholic school system retain their faith. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Don Gaffney, classified ad, Courier-Mail, 2-8-11.
To John Bathersby
Archbishop of Brisbane
Copies to Papal Nuncio
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The remaining Q’ld bishops
The general public
You personally will find no surprises in what follows. It might seem right and just that others should also be aware of certain facts. As I wrote in one of my many unanswered letters to you, it is not the function of the sheep to hire or fire the shepherd. Nor is it required of the sheep to follow a shepherd along a false path. Quite the contrary. You have consistently throughout your twenty year term in Brisbane refused to answer the substance of my letters, or of those written by many other Catholics. Should you care to contest the facts herein, either in civil or Church courts, I would be most willing, indeed eager, to substantiate these charges in the appropriate places.
Let’s start with what the Church teaches must be our first priority i.e. the salvation of souls. This is why Christ (fully and truly God) became man, to make it possible for us to join him in eternity. He teaches us that the faith is like a PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, for which everything else ought to be sacrificed.
You and your fellow Queensland bishops have been failing spectacularly for years in this task. Further, you refuse flatly even to discuss whether there is a problem. Here again is the figure of which you are fully aware. Of all the children who undergo the process of our CATHOLIC school system, 2% continue to practice their faith. Neither Hitler nor Stalin could achieve such a figure. With friends like you, who needs enemies? If we parents don’t keep trying to combat such an ongoing tragedy, aren’t we complicit in it?
From the confusion in the Church after Vatican II, a number of factors contribute to this outcome. Nevertheless one outweighs and compounds all the others. It is the fact that if you do not have the faith, it is impossible to pass it on to your flock.
To demonstrate a basic problem in this archdiocese, here is a history in which you and I are closely concerned. From 1975 onwards, it became obvious that parents who already had legitimate but unavailing concerns about the religious education of their children, were meeting a further obstacle in the Catholic Education Office, namely Fr. Ronald McKiernan. Incidentally, his and Archbishop Rush’s action in dismissing a teacher for upholding Catholic doctrine and in defiance of natural justice, cost the archdiocese a certain sum in damages.
The Catholic dictum that when dogma goes first, morality soon follows, would seem to apply here. As I continued to gather evidence of unsatisfactory teachings not dealt with or even emanating from the CEO, I started to come across accusations of child molestation by this official Church spokesman who was busy using his position to advance uncatholic ideas and riding over parental rights.
You will remember that I wrote to you early in 1995, requesting a conversation on this matter. Your determination not to grant this was unyielding. I kept writing. You told me there was a protocol to deal with these matters. I replied that the protocol was labelled a TRIAL protocol, and was unsatisfactory for several reasons. In fact, later on the Australian bishops actually apologized for that shoddy document. You replied that you couldn’t act alone or meet with me because of some obligation to a body of bishops. This was sheer nonsense. A bishop has great power and considerable scope in his own diocese.
Time went by and I wrote to you in July, 1997, that someone else with a more practical grasp of reality had gathered evidence and approached the police. (Today I wouldn’t go near you. I’d be down at the police station in a flash.) Prosecution was pending. I wrote to you that it was a pity that communication within the archdiocese was almost completely absent, but anyway there was no point in writing further to you. Almost hilariously, you replied immediately and furiously, “Communication with the archdiocese is not completely absent..” At last, a nearly straightforward reply to at least something I had written.
Some time later I got a phone call from my parish priest who had been privy to all my correspondence. “Don, you’ll be interested to know that the Archbishop is going to make a pastoral visit to the parish on Thursday, 20th of November.” On the Wednesday we were having a cup of tea in the presbytery when I said, “I will be able to talk to His Grace tomorrow?” “That’s what he’s here for.” “When is the best time?” “Straight after Mass. We’ve set aside half an hour specially for that.”
Perhaps you will recall that there were only six (6) people at the door of the church. I deliberately got on the end of the line. Those in front took less than five minutes of your time. Then you smiled and put out your hand. I said, “We’ve only met by correspondence, Your Grace. I’m Don Gaffney.” Your reaction was immediate. “I really don’t have time to talk to you now. We’re on an extremely tight schedule.” Comment here would be superfluous.
My next words were, “I’m surprised to hear you say that, Your Grace, but I have a letter for you.” I put the letter in your hand. So much for your pastoral communication. There was an interesting envoi. Shortly after, you will recall, there was a unique gathering in Rome. For the first time in the Church’s 2,000 year history, the bishops of a country received a rebuke in response to representations from the laity. The interesting thing to me was that the Statement of Conclusions you so reluctantly signed1 was almost an exact rendering of the letter I had put in your hand. You could have obtained a similar list from at least hundreds of Catholics.
Even at this point in time it still seems impossible to many good people that a Catholic bishop can be astray in the Faith. Herewith a few examples: The early disobedience of the Dutch bishops, leading to the utter disintegration of the Church in Holland; a similar process in Canada; the American Archbishop Weakland, invited and feted in Australia by senior clerics, who now having retired has written a book, “Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church”, where he details his homosexual activities as a seminarian and as a priest. There are many more.
Examples can be found in Australia, but I don’t think there is another state where all the bishops are united in heresy. I have written several times to each and every Qld bishop asking whether they accept the doctrine contained in Humanae Vitae and could assure me that they required their priests to proclaim this same teaching. Your united silence was deafening.
We also have the very current, and so far rare, sacking of one Qld bishop, but that was for a different heresy. Bishop Morris of Toowoomba ... advanced a number of heretical propositions e.g. ordaining women, besides fostering other disobediences in his diocese. For over ten years – let me repeat that – the bishop was given every chance to retract and remedy his opinions. He remained obstinate.
This very week there is an article in the Catholic Leader. (Remember your banning mention of EWTN from its pages?) The article reports the presentation of a book to Bishop Morris containing messages of “anger at the way Bishop Morris was forced into early retirement”. How dense is it possible to get without deliberately denying the truth? Let us be 100% clear on this. 1. Bishop Morris was s-a-c-k-e-d. 2. The reason for his sacking was his obstinate promotion of heresy.
That paragraph leads me, Your Grace, to your startlingly obtuse comment reported in the Courier Mail. “I’m sorry he (Morris) was removed. I don’t know why. I wish someone would explain it to me.” Let me try. I have found this explanation not beyond the comprehension of a class of 7 year olds, and equally understood by soldiers yarning in a pub:
The Church claims that its message is not from itself but from Christ.
The Church has no authority to change Christ’s teachings.
Whoever persists in denying the authority of even one of these teachings is defying Christ, and therefore cannot be a Catholic, let alone a Catholic bishop. QED
The pre-eminent Catholic philosopher/theologian, St Thomas Aquinas, teaches, “The Church is like an arch. If you remove just one of its stones (Dogmas), the arch falls down.” I must ask you whether it would be proper to refer to a heretic archbishop as a broken arch or a fallen arch?
I am aware both through my own experiences and from numerous other sources of applications to you as our shepherd, and the evasions or silences with which you greet them. Just a few quick examples: A person reports a breach of Catholic teaching to you and asks for clarification. After repeated requests and no response, he writes notifying you that he has written to a Congregation about it. Your reply would be very funny in an Abbott and Costello movie, but in the real world it was dishonest and grossly irresponsible. “Dear ……….., Since you have applied to the Congregation for information, I have no need to answer your question.”
A parishioner reports to you that a group of priests had come to his church arguing the moral acceptability of homosexual activity. There is no reply from you – surprise, surprise – but the parishioner receives a letter from a legal firm threatening legal action.
A parishioner writes to you on a problem. Your reply, “Dear ……., My idea of Christianity and yours are quite different. I’ll pray for you.” Isn’t it the heart of your mission to explain the Faith to us? What do you really think about those Apostles who followed Christ’s instructions to go out and explain the Gospel to the whole world? Were they perhaps a trifle over-officious in taking Christ too seriously?
Our country is not alone in experiencing upheavals of every kind, social, political, legal, financial. The moral glue which keeps a society stable is going. Your personal contribution is pathetically insufficient. The present highly organised campaign for homosexual ‘marriage’, arguments for euthanasia, the ever increasing flood of pornography; these need withstanding. Even in the case of that most vicious of crimes, abortion, you are a follower, not a leader who informs and inspires. I submit that the main reason your voice is inaudible or absent is that like other Qld bishops, you cannot pass on a faith that you do not possess.
I pray for you and your salvation. That doesn’t mean I ignore the damage you are doing. I pray also for my children, my grandchildren, my family and my friends. They deserve a fair go too.
After 38 years of experience of what is really happening, I don’t think I’m too precipitate in going public. I did warn you last year that this was going to happen. Did your silence give consent? Please God it will be efficacious for you as well as for those in your charge.
To refresh your memory, I charge you and the other Qld bishops with failing to teach the doctrine contained in Humanae Vitae. Again a repetition: If my facts are in error, please notify me and I will apologise as publicly and profoundly as possible.
Praying for your return to the faith,
(Signed) Don Gaffney
 Strictly speaking, Archbishop Bathersby was listed as a “participant” rather than a “signatory” in the Statement of Conclusions. He was nonetheless equally bound by the document.