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Sunday, September 26, 2010

From excommunication to canonization

So there's this interesting segment of Blessed Mary MacKillop's history: she and others of her order were apparently excommunicated wrongfully, and if ABC News has it right, it was for exposing a sexually abusive priest. Of course, the ABC news linked to muddles this up a bit: the title says she was excommunicated, then Father Gardiner (who advocated for Blessed Mary MacKillop's cause) says it wasn't an actual excommunication in fact or law, then the article says it was an excommunication in fact, that had to be lifted by the bishop who declared it. I wonder what Father Gardiner meant by his statement though.

The cynics will have a field day with this one, of course, but I have to point out something odd about this. Surely the Church new about this matter, yet went ahead with beatifying her and deciding now to canonize her as a saint (17th Oct). I think there are positive lessons to be drawn here. First, bishops can get it wrong; even the Apostles did, but that didn't stop Jesus from giving them authority. Two, to the faithful (such as Blessed Mary MacKillop), even wrong bishops must be obeyed. Remember Jesus saying that the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses, and should thus be obeyed. I always thought this meant to keep the order and God himself will sort things out (as He might have concerning St. Mary MacKillop, five months into her excommunication). Three, to the faithful again, even if the Church has her share of wrong and sinful leaders, she is not to be abandoned -- there is all the more reason to come to her aid. Never in St. Paul's exhortations did he advocate schism. In fact, he condemned it.

And the most wonderful part of this story: she was excommunicated wrongfully, and now she is to be canonized Australia's first saint. Some would assert, with no small glee, that she was a rebel, but do they really want to say that? A rebel seeks to overthrow and to divide: is that who Mary MacKillop was? Is that why she's being canonized in October?

[Updated 7 Oct 2010: Oops. That's what I get for trusting ABC Online.]

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