In the wake of Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation of Bishop Charles Drennan as Bishop of Palmerston North, “support” was a key concern of people gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on October 7.
After a time of prayer, a microphone was made available for people to put questions to Palmerston North diocese general manager Tony Murphy and vicar general Msgr Brian Walsh.
Many topics arose during the question and discussion time — grief, optional celibacy for priests, the good work done by Bishop Drennan, complaints
procedures, laity being involved in elections of bishops and more.
But the question of support came up many times — support for the young woman complainant, support for Bishop Drennan, support for families and young people dealing with the news and support for Catholic teachers and principals when schools resume after the holidays.
Mr Murphy reiterated Cardinal John Dew’s statement about the support being given to the complainant.
“Whilst I know some would like to, tonight is not a time to discuss further
details of the complaint,” Mr Murphy said at the outset of the discussion.
“The reasons the details of the complaint are not being shared is because the young woman has asked for her privacy to be respected,” he reiterated.
Later in the discussion, Mr Murphy noted that “the inappropriate behavior by Bishop Drennan did not warrant any police attention”.
But earlier he had stressed that, “in the eyes of the Church, Bishop Charles’
behavior was completely unacceptable, and we fully support the young woman coming forward and her request for privacy”.
Moving forward, he said “A lot of you are probably wondering, what will happen to Bishop Charles now. The answer to that is — I simply do not know. Bishop Charles’ future is a decision for Pope Francis. What I do know — he is no longer the bishop of the diocese of Palmerston North”.
When one questioner asked about the support being given to Bishop Drennan, Msgr Walsh said, “At the moment I am aware of a very close friend and close supporter of Bishop Charles being with him and he has indicated his appreciation of that support. Going forward, he will still be part of the clergy. I am the chairman of the Clergy Trust Fund; we have a canonical or Church obligation to support him. He is still a bishop and still a priest. From that point of view, he will be receiving what any priest would receive by way of care from the Clergy Trust Fund. The Clergy Trust Fund benefits from the generosity of you, the People of God, and we are grateful for that. . . . So we will be trying to offer all the support we can, as we would to any others [clergy] who require it.”
A young mother, Theresa Makiwa, said that young people and children are
already talking about this issue on social media and with friends.
“All the conversations that are happening in the media and around us are of an adult nature and it is very difficult, as a mother, to know how to support your children to be able to get through this.”
Mr Murphy spoke about a diocesan appointment and a plan for support for
families in parishes going forward.
Another questioner asked about support for schools going forward.
Teresa Edwards, manager of the Catholic Education Office in Palmerston
North diocese, said her office was very much aware of this, especially for secondary schools. Support will be needed so schools can talk with young people in these circumstances.
“We are engaging with a guidance counsellor at the moment to start preparing some material for our teachers and for our principals,” she said.
Another questioner asked what support people could offer clergy at this
Another prominent theme at the gathering was a profound sense of sadness.
People came forward to express this, especially in the light of how Bishop
Drennan’s ministry had helped them.
One man spoke of how a homily by Bishop Drennan helped him return to
the Church after many years away. A woman spoke of how he had helped her with an immigration matter. Another woman spoke of his pastoral care for the Tararua district.
Dion Martin spoke of “a great huge sadness in our hearts”.
“I hear that Bishop Charles’ crest had to be removed today. It is like going
through a wardrobe after someone has died,” he said.
Dr Mary Eastham, Bishop Drennan’s representative on the New Zealand
Bishops’ Committee for Interfaith Relations, said that “the wonderful work the Catholic community is doing can’t be reduced to this incident. We are doing such wonderful work – we have to just simply keep doing it”.
She asked people to continue to “embody the values that we represent”.
At the start of the discussion, Mr Murphy expressed regret over the way many people found out about the resignation, through secular media.
“We would have liked to have informed all our Catholic people before
news of this hit the media, but unfortunately we could not control when the
announcement was released by Rome, nor could we control the New Zealand media breaking the story on [the] Friday.”
Sue Seconi writes: Sixty people from the Catholic Parish of Whanganui — Te Parihi Katorika ki Whanganui gathered around the altar in St Mary’s church at 5.30 pm on Monday, October 7, for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“We pray for our diocese gathered in solidarity and for those affected by the
sudden resignation of Bishop Drennan,” said parish priest Fr Marcus Francis at the start.
There was silence and a unique stillness, as if people were resting in God’s
Despite the sound of a cell phone, it didn’t disturb or break the attentiveness of the prayer. Until a couple of decades were recited on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, one could have heard a pin drop.
At the conclusion, the Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Spirit of the Diocese of Palmerston North was prayed.
People gather for prayer at cathedral
A gathering at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on the evening of Monday, October 7, was titled “Prayer for the diocese of Palmerston North and its people – through the Holy Spirit”.
The prayer component of the gathering, organised by several diocesan staff, was conducted in a sombre and quiet way. The opening hymn was “God of our Island Home”. It stated that God’s love is like the sea, surrounding us completely.
There was silent prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. A passage from Scripture about the coming of the Holy Spirit was read.
Four prayers of the faithful were read and responded to. They were:
“We pray for the diocese of Palmerston North — pour upon the diocese many graces and blessings in this time of need and guide its leadership in the challenges that lie ahead.”
“We pray for the people of the diocese. Help us all, as the people of this diocese, to strive together to enable the Good News to be preached and lived in ways that bring joy and hope to everyone.”
“We pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May your Holy Spirit of . . . love bring healing and help for those affected in any way by our bishop’s resignation.”
“We pray for all present here tonight. Help us to appreciate the gifts of life and faith which you have given us and guide us to use them truly in the service of each other.”
Other hymns were sung — “Come back to me with all your heart” and the “Trinity Song” (Father, in my life I see . . . .).
Msgr Brian Walsh asked God to “guide and strengthen us in the days ahead”.
After the Blessed Sacrament was returned to the tabernacle, Msgr Walsh was tidying linen from the altar, watched by everyone present.
He said: “I have never had such an audience while folding a cloth.” This produced a ripple of laughter and lightened the mood somewhat. The discussion section (see above) followed.
At the conclusion of this, there was a “Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Spirit”. This had been composed in 1993, alongside a renewed pastoral plan for the diocese.
Similar gatherings happened in other churches in the diocese.