‘Reform or Close’: Lone protester targets St Patrick’s over Christmas

ON A MISSION: Frank Lightfoot wants reform in the Catholic Church after the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Gympie Times

“THE findings of the Royal Commission into child abuse has made a Gympie man launch his own crusade in the hope of reforming one of the region’s biggest parishes.

Over the past week, Frank Lightfoot has been protesting with homemade signs calling for the reform of the Catholic Church following the release of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

And he has not been subtle about his passion.

He has already set up camp outside St Patrick’s Church in the lead-up to Christmas, and said that on the first day someone called the police in the hope they would move him on.

A former Catholic himself, the 71-year-old said he had a personal connection to the child abuse controversy.

“I encourage renewal because a lot of my family members are impacted by this,” Mr Lightfoot said.

Asked if setting up outside the church before and on Christmas might be poking the bear, Mr Lightfoot said there was no better time.

“It makes sense to go to St Pat’s on the one day when they have a good turnout,” he said.

And not everyone was happy about it, either.

“There’s a few people that had a go at me,” he said.

“One bloke offered to kick my sign down.”

“Another bloke was also very angry that the sign only deals with the Catholic church. He said ‘what about all the others?’ I said give me a chance, I’ve only just started.”

St Patrick’s parishioner Ken Garner said he spoke to Mr Lightfoot about his sign on December 23, and asked if he might move it down the road as it could offend some members.

“People would probably object to it,” Mr Garner said.

While noting he could not speak on behalf of the church, Mr Garner said the church had made a statement on how it would move forward after the Royal Commission’s findings.

He said it was also Mr Lightfoot’s right to protest, as he was doing nothing illegal and encouraged people who disagreed to simply not engage with him.

“Anyone can protest; that’s his right,” he said.

While he did not know any details himself, Mr Garner could understand people being passionate about institutional abuse if they had been impacted by it personally.

“I don’t know how long he intends to do it,” he said.

Mr Lightfoot said he had no intention of stopping any time soon, especially given the repsonse he had already received while in Mary St, with more than a dozen people in the past two days telling him of their own experiences.

“That’s a terrible number in such a short time,” he said.”

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