In February 2009 the St Mary’s church in Brisbane is at the centre of one of the biggest rifts in the history of the Australian Catholic Church. 72 year old Father Peter Kennedy is sacked by the Catholic Church for unorthodox practices. The fight that ensues will result in the exodus of an entire Catholic community as they follow their priest into the unknown.
In the eyes of Rome, Peter Kennedy is a heretic, out of step with the Vatican on the most fundamental tenets of Catholicism. Kennedy’s transgressions include questioning the Virgin Birth, the infallibility of the Pope and even that Jesus was the literal Son of God. In practice, Peter Kennedy rejects wearing vestments, allows all members of the church, including women, to recite the Eucharist, and changes the wording of the Baptism. In the view of the Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, Peter Kennedy has put himself “out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church”.
Peter Kennedy, however, passionately believes that the church is undemocratic and in desperate need of reform. Under his leadership St Mary’s has become known for its social activism. When Kennedy is finally sacked by the Catholic Church for unorthodox practices, the decree issued by the Archbishop not only removes him from the Church, but also effectively exiles over 1,000 members of his community who have followed him for almost thirty years.
The Trouble with St Mary’s follows the journey of a rebel priest and his parish as they stand against the Catholic Church and attempt to find a new way of being spiritual. Will they survive their struggle with the authority of a powerful establishment and can they remain a united community with a common spirituality? The Trouble with St Mary’s provides unprecedented access into this community and its leader as they attempt to find a new way of being spiritual outside of the Catholic Church.