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Roman Catholic Church divided on the suspension of local priest

The Roman Catholic Church in Grenada has been left badly divided and wounded following the decision Sunday by the Bishop of St George, Trinidad-born Clyde Harvey to “indefinitely suspend” one of his priests from duties over a fall-out on the war in Gaza between Israeli and Hamas.

Fr. Gerard Paul has hit out publicly in recent days on the silence of Bishop Harvey and the Catholic Church on the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The Bishop has denied the claim and accused Fr. Paul of not being in attendance at several Catholic forums in which the situation in Gaza was addressed by the hierarchy of the church.

A prominent female Catholic in the St David community who is known to be anti-Harvey questioned his authority to take such a decision against Fr. Paul and indicated that a petition would soon be circulated for Harvey to immediately quit as head of the local church.

“He does not have the power to do such. He needs to go. Petition from tomorrow,” she said.

Another regular Catholic church-goer called for a boycott of the church as he took issue with Harvey’s action against Fr. Gerard Paul, the Catholic priest on the northern side of the island responsible for Holy Family Church at River Sallee and St. Anne at Rose Hill.

“We as Catholics in Grenada should boycott the Catholic Church in showing our disgust with Bishop Harvey’s statement and decision,” he said in reaction to the communique from the head of the church to suspend Fr. Paul.

“It’s persons like the Bishop that destroyed the lives of many (of) our young men which were taken advantage of in years gone by because NO (ONE) would speak out on all the nastiness that took place,” he told THE NEW TODAY.

One regular Catholic in the south of the island said that although Bishop Harvey has failed to inspire the church since taking over as the local head, he believes that he had the authority to discipline Fr. Paul in keeping with the Canon laws of the church.

“The Bishop has the authority to make decisions after consultations with his superiors and his dioceses. The church isn’t a political party. The Catholic Church like the other churches each has its own rules and in your Pastoral training and Ordination the Priest or Pastor takes an oath to adhere.”

“Father Paul knew the consequences of his action. For sure there will not be a split in the Catholic Church. The ones who choose to leave will do so. The serious Catholics and followers will accept the discipline of the Bishop.”

“If Father Paul submits to himself and accepts that his behaviour was gross disrespect and is prepared to repent he can be reinstated. To call the Bishop “a fella name Clyde Harvey” in a Muslim event doesn’t speak well for a priest in high office.”

“You will never hear a Muslim address the Imam in this manner in public. I have gone to Muslim Mosques and respect for their sacred space is impeccable. Father Paul taking to the altar (and) accusing the church is out of order.  Does he go to all churches? Did he use his sacred space to pray to God for peace?”

There was also support for Bishop Harvey from another churchgoer in the south of the island.

He said:  “The Church has rules, and one, in particular, governs the behaviour of clergy (priests). While I believe there must be an avenue for self-expression, as a priest, you cannot do so while creating confusion or conflicts in the minds of your people (Congregation).”

“In my opinion, I believe the Bishop acted well within his authority and rights enshrined in the code of Canon laws and teachings of the church.

Another Catholic did not give support to how the announcement on the suspension of Fr. Paul reached many of the followers of the church.

She took issue with the fact that the communique was read out at only some Catholic Churches and not all of them during the regular Sunday Mass.

“I heard the Bishop gave a selected Suspension Letter to be read out in certain churches. Today (Sunday) is Divine Mercy Sunday – where is the forgiveness and Mercy in all of that?”

“Let me say Jesus never chose where he had to go and preach against injustice and I am not saying that two wrongs do not make a right, all I am saying is where is the Mercy in all of this on our Holy day.”

“If the Bishop knows what is good for him I think he should have handled that better than that.”

A major religious figure in another religion took the side of Fr. Paul and referred to him as “a breath of fresh air” in the Catholic community.

He said:  “Father Paul is a breath of fresh air now filtering through our resilient State of Grenada. In these times, the Bishop should be spending a lot of his time to do damage control on the widespread practice of pedophilia within his church, locally and worldwide. He does represent the stains of slavery for the part played by the European church of earlier times.”

The Clyde Harvey/Gerard Paul clash is just the latest in a culmination of battles between the two religious figures in the Catholic Church.

Paul is known to have told Harvey at meetings of the clergy that he would not make the mandatory financial contribution from his parish to the Cathedral central fund due to a lack of accountability on the use of the money.