Sale Bishop appeals to Vatican "supreme court"

Following the rejection of his second appeal to the Holy See Congregation for the Clergy against the reinstatement of a controversial priest, Sale Bishop Jeremiah Coffey has launched a new appeal to the Vatican's highest court, the Signatura.

A spokesman for Sale Bishop Jeremiah Coffey said yesterday that the bishop had appealed to the Signatura against the reinstatement of Fr John Speekman, who was removed as parish priest of Morwell parish for alleged "ineffective ministry", The Age reports.

Fr John Speekman will not be reinstated as parish priest during the period of the appeal which is the last available appeal barring a personal appeal - said to be unlikely - to Pope Benedict.

Bishop Coffey originally removed Fr Speekman in July 2003 after relations broke down between the priest and the two parish schools. Some staff reportedly complained Fr Speekman bullied and harassed them, and he refused communion at school to children who had not attended Mass the previous Sunday.

At the conclusion of Bishop Coffey's second appeal, the Congregation for the Clergy ordered him to reinstate Fr Speekman "without further delay".

Fr Speekman, now administrator in the Sydney parish of Camperdown, yesterday told the Age he was waiting to hear from Bishop Coffey.

"I'm canonically still the parish priest at Morwell," he said. "I want to go back to my parish."

"I was removed, I appealed, I won the case, I waited 15 months for a second case and won that," he said. "The bishop has been instructed to reinstate me. So I sit here at my desk and go about my business and wait for the bishop's next move."

His replacement at Morwell, Fr Tom Cleary, told the Age that the once divided parish had largely been healed over time.

"(Fr Speekman) wants to win his case, it's a matter of principle," he said. "Technically, he's still the parish priest and I'm the administrator."

Fr Cleary suggested the next appeal would take at least another year, by which time Bishop Coffey would have turned 75 and retired.

Vatican orders bishop to reinstate removed priest (The Age, 12/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sale diocese

Congregation for Clergy decree on Sale priest published (9/1/07)
Vatican backs reinstatement of Gippsland priest (CathNews, 1/12/06)
Bishop considering options on Rome support for "bullying" priest (CathNews, 25/8/04)

12 Jan 2007

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