Why I Won't Join the Church of Matt

Here's the thing. I remember when I was a kid a new development was being built and the houses were modern. To a 12 year old, they were really cool. I remember asking my mother if we could move there. That request was filed away with my birthday wish for a monkey. (BJ and The Bear was a popular show at the time.) Needless to say, I didn't get the monkey and we didn't move.

But you know what, when I visit my parent's house I sometimes pass those modern houses. And quite frankly they all look a little silly. OK. A lot silly. They look...irrelevant.

And yet we constantly hear people who never go to Church yelling that the needs to "bend" to modernity. And newspapers like the Courier Mail declare that it needs to happen in their defense of a priest who's bending so bad he needs an emergency chiropractor.
THE New Testament's Matthew 7:1 preaches tolerance in warning us "judge not, that ye be not judged".

Yet today we see little evidence of the Catholic Church's forgiving acceptance as it condemns Father Peter Kennedy's modernist approach to his St Mary's parish in South Brisbane. Roman Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby appears to be taking an especially hard line against the popular local priest for bucking church traditions. Father Kennedy has, among other things, encouraged women to sermonise and blessed same-sex couples, activities wholly proscribed by conventional Catholicism.

Despite the 900 or so parishioners attracted weekly to the South Brisbane church – when most suburban places of worship struggle to find a tiny fraction of that number – the powers-that-be are so shaken by Father Kennedy's unorthodoxy they have threatened to expel him from St Mary's. Father Kennedy, imbued with something of an evangelist spirit, has vowed to continue preaching his way, even if it means accepting a Trades and Labor Council offer to take up unofficial residence down the road.

As nonsensical as this seems, this is but the latest episode in a long war of attrition between conservatives and modernists, a conflict stretching back at least to the 1960s and the Vatican's Second Ecumenical Council, or Vatican Two, under Pope John XXIII. After decades of watching Catholic conservatism become increasingly out-of-step with wider public opinion on a range of social and moral issues, modernists today fear their church will fall into irrelevancy, especially among the young. But those same progressives, holding their breath in excited anticipation when Benedict XVI succeeded the arch-conservative John Paul II, could utter only a collective groan when the new Pope passed judgments against homosexuality and contraception.

The Catholic Church might bristle at accusations of irrelevancy, and ponder why only 13 per cent of self-identifying Roman Catholics now attend Sunday services, down from 50 per cent 60 years ago. But those who seek the real reason behind the crisis of the faithful need look no further than what is preached, and how. Tradition can be a fine thing. Rites and practices handed down through the centuries can build up a body and cement its very greatness. And certain practices and beliefs cannot – and should not – be disposed of for appearances' sake. But no organisation, religious or secular, can afford to place blind tradition above the need to serve its mission faithfully, especially if that mission is to remain relevant to, and inclusive of, the masses to whom the organisation is spiritually responsible. Put bluntly, on some issues the church has become, in part, a slave to its own rigidity.

The Catholic Church today is therefore at a crossroads. While this issue may initially concern just one small Brisbane parish, the church's decision over Father Kennedy's fate may reverberate widely and for years to come.
Well right there is the mistake. The newspaper mistakenly suggests that the Church's mission is to "remain relevant to and inclusive of the masses." That sounds like a good definition for a politician or even a newspaper but not to a Church. The Church isn't here to tell us what we want to hear. The only Church I want to join is one that sometimes tells me things I don't want to hear. Otherwise I would just start the Church of Matt. It would be a fine church. We'd be well fed. There'd be lots of laughing. We would do what Matt thought was good or fun at the time. There just wouldn't be any truth in it. And without truth, unbending and eternal, a church is useless. And I wouldn't want anything to do with it.


  1. "arch-conservative John Paul II" I love that.

    Also, what is it with the media and progressives thinking that Pope John XXIII (just noticed they didn't use 'Pope' for JPII, mistake? I wonder.) was a modernist. Why do some thing he wanted to completely revamp the church and break from tradition?

  2. This is the one that gets me:

    After decades of watching Catholic conservatism become increasingly out-of-step with wider public opinion on a range of social and moral issues, modernists today fear their church will fall into irrelevancy, especially among the young.

    Why are they assuming this world is one we want to be in step with? Genocides, abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, increased violence - yeah, I want a church that is in step with that.


  3. Well said, Patrick!

    The newspaper writer should rethink her Journalism 101 class for employing a closed, incestuous loop of archaic cliches' ("conflict stretching back," "powers-that-be," "bristle," "the masses") and anti-Catholic stereotypes.

    -- Mack

  4. Unfortunately, your Church of Matt would be caught in a patent battle with mine, and I would win because I would have gotten the template for my ecclesiology directly from the Holy Spirit, so take that.

  5. what gets me is their interpretation of 'judge not, that ye be not judged' and snidely comment on the Church's 'lack of forgiving acceptance'.
    The Church would not be doing her job if she just bent and 'accepted' any old idea... The Church preaches the Truth, and that truth is one. How can she fulfil her mission by accepting thousands of opposing and ridiculous ideas? Well, I could go on but I won't. Really, the entire article was rather ignorant... and quite infuriating.

  6. "Father Kennedy has, among other things, encouraged women to sermonise and blessed same-sex couples, activities wholly proscribed by conventional Catholicism."

    CONVENTIONAL Catholicism?! This is just a lie.

  7. To me, the "Church of Matt" is totally pointless. My time would be better spent going to brunch or sleeping in on a Sunday if the "church" I went to just reaffirmed my beliefs and condoned my sins as part of a "hip, relevant" theology.

    At that point, you might as well get rid of the Eucharist and God altogether and put your picture on the altar, because such relativistic teachings make man, and his sinfulness, god...rather than God.

  8. This is the parish that was taken to task by the CDF by purporting to baptise babies "in the name of the creator the redeemer and the sanctifier" - and had been administereing invalid non-baptisms for 25 years, with Abp Bathersby sitting on his hands.

    Fr Kennedy's assitant priest is unlawfully AWOL from a neighbouring diocese, and the parish has been selling a book called "God is big, real big!", which denies the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, and any number of other dogmas of the faith.

    They then stuck a bhudda statue in front of the tabernacle. An ex-bhuddist blew the whistle on that, claiming, quite rightly, that it was idolotrous and forced people to either ignore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, or to genuflect before a false religious figure.

    They've made up their own Eucharistic Prayers and Credo.

    The obvious point is that these people are not Catholic. I have no idea who wrote the article, but I suspect that it was one of the parishioners or their fellow travellers.

    These people should have been suppressed years ago; it's a pity the Bishop is an ultra-liberal weeny.

  9. Well,
    as Amy say, if you're gonna get rid of the Eucharist... and you two Matts really want to stay "relevant and inclusive to the masses" then I suggest you could mix it up at communion with free some micro-brew beers, liqueurs, wines from around the world.

    Letters from St Paul often talk about unity within the Church, so you two could start your own U.S. Synod of Churches of Matt. I think that'd also attract over 900 parishioners (more than Fr. Kennedy!). And you'd also get free advertising from the Courier Mail newspaper.

    Joe K

  10. Prescribe: to advise the use of;
    Proscribe: to condemn, or in the case of a person: outlaw.

    Sounds paid for, and anti-catholic: doesn't Australia have laws against this? South Africa has aplenty?

  11. As I often tell my Pastor: "Keep challenging me from the pulpit, Father...keep rattling my cage because I need it more often than not."

  12. I always cringe when I hear people talk about the mission of the Church... especially nowadays that it's becoming hip for parishes to have mission statements on their websites and/or bulletins. The mission of the Church (and of any individual parish) is to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. I've yet to come across a parish mission statement that says that.

  13. I was just reading The Everlasting Man, and I find that just as I'm getting to parts, they seem really applicable to a specific thing in the world beyond my book nook. I came across this paragraph and I just had to share it here, because it's eminently relevant:

    There will be no end to the weary debates about liberalising theology, until people face the fact that the only liberal part of it is the really dogmatic part. If dogma is incredible, it is because it is incredibly liberal. If it is irrational, it can only be in giving us more assurance of freedom than is justified by reason. The obvious example is that essential form of freedom which we call free-will. It is absurd to say that a man shows his liberality in denying his liberty. But it is tenable that he has to affirm a transcendental doctrine in order to affirm his liberty. There is a sense in which we might reasonably say that if a man has a primary power of choice, he has in that fact a supernatural power of creation, as if he could raise the dead or give birth to the unbegotten. Possible in that case a man must be a miracle; and certainly in that case he must be a miracle in order to be a man; and most certainly in order to be a free man. But it is absurd to forbid him to be a free man and do it in the name of a more free religion.

    Once again, GKC says it best. :D


  14. OK, so if I join the church of Matt because it sounds fun, sooner or later I'd have to call for reformation and form a splinter schismatic group called the church of Ruthanne.

    Yeah, I really want to be in step with THIS world, riiiighhhhht!

  15. PS- Did the paper fail to notice all the young people in Australia last summer cheering and praying with Pope Benedict XVI (that ultra conservative guy that no one likes)?


Post a Comment