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Father Bob keeps the faith, despite fresh cla -

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Father Bob keeps the faith, despite fresh claims

Emily Bourke reported this story on Monday, September 14, 2009 12:26:00

ELEANOR HALL: It is his 75th birthday today but, far from celebrating, the controversial South
Melbourne priest Bob Maguire is now fighting for his job.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne is insisting that Father Maguire hand in his resignation,
alleging that he has mismanaged the finances of his parish. But Father Maguire is continuing to
resist the pressure to step down. And Catholic commentator Paul Collins says the claims are
specious and unchristian.

In Melbourne, Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: It's his birthday but Father Bob Maguire is feeling a bit rattled.

BOB MAGUIRE: Well, I am feeling a bit under the hammer. The same as Jack was on Saturday night at
the footie when he got a free kick and he kicked a goal for Collingwood and we are in the finals.
That is how I feel so I have just got to try and stay calm.

EMILY BOURKE: That might be easier said than done for the priest of Sts Peter and Paul Church in
South Melbourne. In keeping with canon law, the archbishop of Melbourne has written to Father
Maguire asking that he offer his resignation on his 75th birthday.

BOB MAGUIRE: I can't tell you that because courtesy says don't let anybody know until the
archbishop gets his letter and I don't have to do it until Thursday, thank God. So I will let him
know what my opinion is but I mean he is in the, he is the man with the power.

EMILY BOURKE: The man with the power is Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart. While he has declined
to enter the public debate over whether Father Maguire should stay or go, he took the unusual step
of issuing a press release over the weekend. In it were detailed allegations that Father Maguire
has mismanaged his parish's finances.

EXTRACT FROM STATEMENT (voiceover): Over recent years the capacity of the parish to meet its
day-to-day expenses has been dependent on the sale of its long-held property assets originally
purchased through the generosity of parishioners over many years. Between March 1980 and July 2004
the parish has sold seven properties for more than $3 million to assist it to cover its operating
expenses.

EMILY BOURKE: The archbishop says "it's clearly not a sustainable financial position going
forward".

Father Maguire has dismissed the imputation.

BOB MAGUIRE: Money and property and all that, oh dear, dear. You see that's a bit low because in
fact the man himself, being the supreme commander, he has to sign off on all these things.

If in fact you need cash to run the show both for the Catholics and for the neighbourhood,
especially the poor and keep kids at secondary school, well then you should get rid of idle assets
- idle assets and we've been 150 years, of course we have got idle assets and that is what we did
and to give the impression that it is underhanded is not nice. I am sorry for that. He must have
been desperate.

EMILY BOURKE: Catholic commentator and church historian Dr Paul Collins says Father Maguire
wouldn't have been able to sell-off church property - even if he wanted to.

PAUL COLLINS: No parish priest in Australia, under Australian law, can alienate or sell church
property without the permission of the diocese or the archdiocese. Any sale of property would
require the signature of the Archbishop so it does seem to me a little on the specious side to be
arguing that.

EMILY BOURKE: And he says the strategy is questionable.

PAUL COLLINS: My personal feeling is that this is not the way to conduct affairs within the
Christian community and specifically, it is not the way for an archbishop or a bishop to treat a
priest, especially a priest who has done such sterling service over a long period of time as Father
Maguire.

So personally, I don't see it as a particularly Christian way of acting and it certainly seems to
me at any rate on the face of it, not to be an appropriate way for an archbishop to deal with one
of his priests.

EMILY BOURKE: Father Maguire, could stay on but only if the archbishop has a change of heart and
that's what the Father Maguire is praying for.

BOB MAGUIRE: I'm happy with the Roman Catholic Church. I just hope and pray that there is a bit of
mercy as well as justice involved in it, you know. Bit pathetic the argument today because it is
the day itself.

I woke up thinking to myself, well listen, you mightn't be here tonight sport and the dog is
feeling a bit vulnerable too. Where are we going to go, you see. They have got their alternatives.
Come into the priest retirement village. I don't want to retire. I am a 1934 model. We don't
retire. We keep going until the wheels fall off.

ELEANOR HALL: Birthday boy Father Bob Maguire there ending Emily Bourke's report.