Sunday, February 07, 2010

Father Richard Abourjaily, Cardinal Pell, and a little forgiveness for gays and women ...

(Above: the Sydney Morning Herald's original splash).

What is perhaps the most appealing thing about the Catholic church is its infinite capacity for forgiveness and compassion.

Sure you might fiddle with an altar boy behind the altar, but show suitable signs of contrition, and all can be forgiven (especially if it can be shown there was no duty of care, the altar boy was willing and enjoyed the attention, and there's no need for compensation or a pay out for someone clearly inclined to be licentious).

Why the recent history of the Catholic church in Ireland is a splendid example of the art of the cover up, and blaming the victim, and exonerating the person in a position of power, and if you can hold your nose to keep away the stench, it's all here in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

Now sceptics and cynics might think that if you indulged in a little fraud - the kind that could land you in jail if you did it to a rosy-cheeked grandmother - deserves a little punishment, as opposed to quiet reflection, followed by a second chance.

Showing they know nothing of the warm bosom of the church and Cardinal Pell.

Which leads us to the strange story of Father Richard Abourjaily, and Priest who faked cancer resurfaces:

A Catholic priest who lied about having cancer to raise money from his Sydney flock has been quietly moved to work in the church in Perth.

Yes, where better than Perth, a strange outpost of the colony, one of the most isolated metropolitan areas on earth, with the nearest city with a population over a million being the eastern staters living in Adelaide, and closer to Dili, Singapore and Jakarta than it is to Sydney or Melbourne.

Where once the English used to send their black sheep to Australia, so now the Catholic church can send its black sheep to Perth.

Father Richard Abourjaily was branded "delusional" by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and suspended from his duties at All Hallows parish church at Five Dock when his lies were uncovered.

Well say no more. Perth is an ideal place for the delusional.

The priest told parishioners he had prostate cancer and used money they gave him to take a trip to Lourdes in France to seek a "miracle cure".

Oops, sounds like a commonplace case of fraud, and depending on the amount surely worth a little jail time. And/or some psychiatric help. No silly, you forgot about repentance:

The lying priest's spiritual adviser believes he has "repented" and is ready to continue his work in the church.

Father John Flader, director of the Catholic Adult Education Centre, said he was "very confident" the priest would not lie about anything serious again. "All he did was to lie and that's not a good thing. He was very, very repentant of that and, being as repentant as he was, he is not going to reoffend again," Father Flader said.

All he did was lie! And take some money! By golly, now I have a decent defence when next I perpetrate a little fraud on someone, because after all, it was only telling porkies to get a little cash in paw. And all I have to do is lie.

And you see, it's not as if Abourjaily didn't have form:

Father Abourjaily was sent home early from the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter Seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska, for telling similar lies about his health.

As usual, there are anonymous recalcitrant dissidents at work:

... Father Flader was confident Father Abourjaily would not lie a third time. "We can never be sure and we are all human but I think in any serious matter he knows the serious consequences and he will not lie about anything serious again," Father Flader said.

The move infuriated a fellow priest who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "What other victims will he now seduce?

"Why does the church just cover up scandal and just move priests about? Have we learnt nothing from the sex abuse scandals?

"Why wasn't he dismissed from the clerical state and sacked from the priesthood altogether?"

Well actually if the money he took had been refunded to the parishioners - don't hold your breath too long to hear about that bit of news - I'd not be too fussed about a little forgiveness and indulgence.

Perhaps the church put on a nice tea and cake afternoon, and handed out missals? You know, some expression of contrition to the conned parishioners. With Cardinal Pell turning up to do a little foot washing and cleansing, in best papal style. And meanwhile the church, which now has a staffing crisis, can retain a foot soldier, despite a few, now forgiven, flaws.

That said, it's quite sad and poignant when you read about Father Abourjaily in the Catholic Weekly on the eve of his ordination back in May 2007, under the header New priests take role of 'PR men' for God and the Church:

For Richard Abourjaily, truth was a key determinant in his view of his calling and an expression of his faith – his biggest commitment to his parishioners.

“True joy consists in knowing, understanding, that Christ is relevant in our lives … to show as a priest the truth and beauty of our faith – truth in a world where relativism has sway, not just to youngsters, but to people of all ages.”

Richard Abourjaily says (when asked about the first homily he might deliver at Mass):

“Fundamentally again, the beauty and truth of our faith, to show we have been loved by Christ at a great price, but I need more time to think about it.”

Clearly he didn't spend enough time thinking about it, or spent a little too long. Too much harping on truth, and too little truth to go round.

You can read a little more about the saga as it developed in The priest, his fake cancer and an almighty apology.

What's even more alarming, thanks to the intertubes, is that we now know where Abourjaily was on the day 9/11. Here's something new & original: A blogger comments on 9/11.

When it's all said and done and dusted, what arises from this storm (in a teacup to the world, in a rather large life in a glass bowl to Abourjaily) is the notion of forgiveness and compassion.

Isn't it grand that Cardinal Pell can show it, even after labelling someone delusional, even if it means banishment, exile, in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans, to a far away, exotic locale, though without quite the grand reasons for the likes of Cicero being sent away ...

Well good luck to Abourjaily, and may he find some kind of peace, contentment and truth in Perth within the bosom of the forgiving church.

Now the question turns as to how Pell will show, in equal measure, a similar compassion, understanding and concern for gays in their quest for marriage, and for women in their search for equality of status within (and without) the church, and for victims of sexual abuse performed by agents of the church.

Don't hold your breath.

(Below: sic transit gloria mundi).


  1. 'Too much harping on truth, and too little truth to go round.'

    What a wonderful sentence: it describes exactly what's wrong with Pell and his fellow nasty right wing ideological warriors, the pope's 'reform of the reform' and everything else that's leading the church headlong into the 1950s!

  2. 1950s.... Oh no. That's not right. Pell and his mate Joe, are leading us headlong into the 1650s......

  3. Fr. Flader is his SD?? Well then of course stealing and lying is ok if your involved with Opus Dei! All they do is steal and lie!

  4. Actually Cardinal Pell did not know that Fr Abourjaily had taken himself to Perth, and Perth did not know Fr Abourjaily's history, so it is not a case of Cardinal Pell moving anyone anywhere; it is my unerstanding that Fr A was suspended. He must know someone in Perth.

  5. What I am greatly concerned about is the fact that the AB of Perth seems to welcome rejects from the East. Cardinal Pell throws them out and the AB welcomes them into the fold to wreck havoc in our parishes. (I have in mind another one of Cardinal Pell's rejects who continues to cause trouble wherever he goes. The AB seems to have a soft spot for him though so when no one else will have him, we are stuck with him.) Fr Abourjaily has lied before in exactly the same context - why was he ever allowed to become a priest here in Australia. It looks like the Americans had their doubts and wouldn't allow him to become a priest but we seem to be so desperate we accept anyone. As for the AB's comment that he didn't have any duties here, that seems to be in the light of Brian O"Loughlin's comment an outright lie. Somehting is seriously wrong with the Church here in Perth.

  6. See these Christians how they love one another!

    Where did the quote from John Flader come from. Was it leaked, for example, from a confidential document? I can't imagine JF speaking out of turn about someone with whom he had a fiduciary relationship. So what rat violated Richard's privacy?

  7. Until he accepts that he does need help we can only support him by praying for him, if he chooses not to acknowledge that he has a problem then we can do no more.

  8. Why did Cardinal Pell ordain him when he obviously had a problem. Did he not inquire or investigate why he was dismissed from the Seminary in the U.S.?


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