Priest denies making claims about Mary MacKillop's excommunication
Clare Rawlinson and James Madden The Australian October 07, 2010
The reports said the soon-to-be saint was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for exposing acts of child sex abuse by a South Australian clergyman.
Paul Gardiner, chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, said the claims, published on ABC Online and in Fairfax newspapers last month, were false, and he feared the misleading coverage was an attempt to take a swipe at the church and distract the public in the lead-up to MacKillop's canonisation on October 17.
ABC Online and Fairfax both reported that MacKillop's ousting from the church in 1871 was prompted by her exposure of a Kapunda priest's abuse of local children. The claims were based on remarks made by Father Gardiner in a documentary made for ABC TV's Compass program.
But both Father Gardiner and the program's executive producer deny ever making such an inference. "Early in 1870, the scandal occurred and the Sisters of Saint Joseph reported it to Father Tenison Woods, but Mary was in Queensland and no one was worried about her," Father Gardiner told The Australian.
Father Gardiner, considered the nation's foremost authority on the history of MacKillop, said his words had been twisted to suit the "ill will" of media outlets.