Saturday, September 25, 2010

Excommunicating the Messenger

Sister Mary Helen McKillop

I've been reading about Australia's forthcoming saint, Mary McKillop. In 1871, at age 29 and after only four years as a nun, Mary McKillop was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Founder and Mother Superior of the order the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Adelaide, McKillop learned that a Father Keating of Kapunda parish, just north of Adelaide, was sexually abusing children. McKillop told their local priest in Adelaide, Father Woods, who then informed the Vicar General, who had Keating sent packing, back to Ireland*. A colleague of  Keating's, Father Paul Horan, swore revenge on Woods and McKillop and, as Acting Vicar a year later, managed to hoodwink the local bishop, Bishop Sheil, into excommunicating McKillop and tried to destroy her order. On his deathbed, Sheil changed his mind and absolved McKillop, restoring her standing in the Church. McKillop's order received papal approval in 1873.

McKillop is greatly revered in Australia, with numerous colleges named after her, an electoral district in South Australia in her name, a $1 AUD coin honoring her as well as a rose, among many other commemorations.

It's so interesting to see how the Church has improved their handling of abusive priests since the 1870's, isn't it?


Mary McKillop rose flowering in winter
(dorofofoto at Wikimedia Commons)

*Of course I'm sure he never, ever worked with children again. *cough*

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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