Bishop's letter to parishioners over priest prompts concern

Bishop Wright

The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright, has prompted responses from parishioners after he sent them a letter urging them to forgive a 'repentant' priest, reports The Newcastle Herald.

Bishop Wright reinstated Father Des Harrigan to Taree in September last year despite noting the likelihood of 'concern and distress' among some parishioners about the priest’s conduct.

In a letter of 'reinstatement and support for Fr Des Harrigan' read out at all Taree church services in September, the bishop asked parishioners to 'look at these matters not with the mind of those who demand nothing less than perfection from anyone professing to be Christian, but according to the mind of Christ who teaches us there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 just people.'

In a statement last week, the diocese noted Fr Harrigan 'chose to refrain from entering schools and giving homilies' after his evidence to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry in July about owning adult male pornography. The diocese confirmed he had also been the subject of complaints about his 'temperament and style.' Fr Harrigan has not been the subject of any child sexual abuse allegations.

The September letter was not circulated. A copy was provided to the Newcastle Herald last week after an article in which some parishioners expressed dismay about the priest returning to full duties in early March.

'What messages are we to take from that?' said one parishioner, whose children attend a Taree Catholic school. The first message is that I should go out and sin to my heart’s content and repent at the last minute to make heaven happy.

'The second is that the bishop is telling me a single "repentant" priest is worth 99 of us sitting in church. I don’t accept either of those messages, and I am angry that a bishop expects me to.'

FULL STORY Bishop Wright's call to forgive angers parishoners (The Newcastle Herald)

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