THE St Vincent de Paul Society in Queensland is asking one of its conference presidents to step down despite accusations of religious discrimination.
The society’s Gold Coast Country Diocesan Council has called on Linda Walsh to quit as president of the St Stephen’s Conference in the Logan area, after learning that she is not a Catholic.
State president Michael McKeown said the society’s rule stipulated presidents, vice-presidents and spiritual advisers must be Catholic.
Ms Walsh, a Presbyterian who has been an active volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society for five years, is refusing to step down, claiming religious discrimination.
She has told Mr McKeown she is not resigning, but has gone ‘on strike’. She has threatened to pursue a case with the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland.
Mr McKeown said Ms Walsh was installed as conference president at a Mass last November.
It was only on the day of the Mass that members of the state council learned she was not a Catholic.
A senior office holder in the society advised her to resign and gave her until June to do so.
Mr McKeown said he had hoped to resolve the matter internally but Ms Walsh had taken her complaint to the media.
He said the society had rules and a constitution just like organisations such as Lions and Rotary, and in those organisations, if members did not abide by the rules and constitution they were asked to leave.
The option suggested was for her to step down as president but remain as a member of the society, and another was to resign from the society and join another welfare organisation.
Mr McKeown said Ms Walsh should have been aware that her installation as president was contrary to the society’s rule.
A statement from the St Vincent de Paul Society’s national council said the Catholic nature of the society is supported in its mission statement and it is not surprising that people in authority in the society are of the Catholic faith.
The Catholic Leader tried to contact Ms Walsh for comment but she did not reply before we went to print.
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