A documentary broadcast on ABC TV last night claims that Mary MacKillop was excommunicated by a bishop who was manipulated into it by a malicious priest.
The documentary reported that Mother MacKillop's order attracted the ire of a South Australian priest for telling the authorities that a Father Keating, of Kapunda, north of Adelaide, was molesting children at the local church school, said an AAP report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The sisters told the vicar-general and disciplinary action was taken against Fr Keating, humiliating him and angering Father Charles Horan, who was close to Bishop Shiel.
Fr Horan is believed to have harboured a grudge against Mother MacKillop and the whistleblowers in her order, and used his influence over the bishop to manipulate him into throwing the 29-year-old nun out of the church.
"Father Horan was so angry that he swore vengeance ... by getting at the Josephites and destroying them," historian and Jesuit priest Father Paul Gardiner said on the documentary.
According to a report on the Catholic News Service, Sister Anne Derwin, the congregational leader of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, confirmed to WA's The Record newspaper that Irish clergy in Adelaide were "determined to bring (Blessed MacKillop) down" by questioning her drinking habits, obedience, the way she governed her order and accusing her of not paying her debts.
She was cleared of all charges in her lifetime.
Bishop Shiel reversed the excommunication order Feb. 22, 1872 - about five months after he made the order, and a week before his death - "realising he had been badly advised by clergy", according to a document that the sisters released to The Record, said the report.
MacKillop punished by malicious priests (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP)
Order: Nuns' report of sex abuse led to pressure on Blessed MacKillop (Catholic News Service)