Australian 'new church': Sr Roberta Hakendorf leads the charge

Australian 'new church': Sr Roberta Hakendorf leads the charge

AD2000 Report

SR ROBERTA HAKENDORF IBVM, an outspoken and much-travelled Loreto nun, is seeking to set up in Australia a cluster of like-minded radical "grassroots reform" organisations similar to the We Are the Church coalition which has grown up around the US-based Call to Action group (see October AD2000, pp 3-4).

It is not surprising that Sr Hakendorf is leading the charge to set up a 'new church' in Australia when one recalls her reported statement to an Adelaide conference of the Movement for the Ordination of Women ten years ago (The Age, 1 September 1986):

"As far as I see it, there is no place for the ordained priesthood. It is destructive of the Christian community ... In the Catholic Church all power is in priestly hands, but the fall of the Bastille will be nothing compared to the fall of [the priesthood] when the day comes."

Sr Hakendorf, who travels regularly to international meetings of radical reform groups around the globe, has produced a briefing for the benefit of like-minded Australian 'new churchers' via the Internet - also published in the November 1996 edition of National Outlook. She invites interested people to contact her at her Adelaide Loreto Convent (at Marryatville) with a view to setting up a "grassroots reform" network in Australia on similar lines to those in the US and Europe.

Reporting on the 1995 Call to Action (CTA) conference in Chicago which she attended, Sr Hakendorf notes that of the several thousand present 30% were religious sisters and that conference segments included theologian Bernard Cooke's "Brainstorming the Future of the Church Reform Movement", Bishop Tom Gumbleton's "Homophobia and the Ministry to Gay and Lesbian Catholics" and Sr Sandra Schneiders' "How the Feminist Interpretation of Scripture is Helping Renew the Church."

This year's CTA conference (held on November 15-17) includes a "Confirmation of CTA Nebraska for their faith, courage, vision and growth in time of trial" - this being a reference to the interdict of Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, against CTA members in his diocese, involving automatic excommunication for continuing membership of CTA.

Last January Sr Hakendorf attended a "Network for Human Rights in the Church" meeting in London with delegates from twelve countries present. Her report details a host of international 'new church' groups such as the Netherlands Eight May Movement, launched in opposition to the Pope during his 1985 Dutch visit.

The agenda envisaged for Australia - along the lines detailed in the October 1996 AD2000 article - is nothing less than a recipe for schism, leading one to suggest that an early contact from the relevant Church authority should indicate to Sr Hakendorf and any of her disciples that open and public rebellion against the Pope is schism and incompatible with membership of the Catholic Church.