During this first week of Team Ministry there were many other illicit liturgical practices and odd comments, as well as unusual behaviour, and the Bishop started receiving correspondence from concerned parishioners within a few weeks of the Team’s arrival. A Parishioners letter of early February was typical of such correspondence in both its careful attention to detail and dire concern:
I wish to express my concern for the people of the Benalla parish, but most of all for my family.
Since the arrival of Fr. D and Fr. B ….we have had a great show of pride, a lack of reverence, a lack of respect and a definite lack of spiritual guidance.
I have attached examples and detail to show that there is a destructive element in the clergy at Benalla.
25.1.89. Wednesday, 7.30 a.m. Mass and Novena
During Mass, Fr. Bob turned his back on an altar boy as he was coming up for the ablution of the sacred chalice. Ablution was not carried out.
Following the Novena we met Fr. B and informed him that we usually have confession during the Rosary prior to Mass. At this Fr. B made the statement: “We have no need for confession. We have no sinners here.” On hearing that I would defend my faith, Fr. Bob approached me with a raised arm and clenched fist and said: “I hope it don’t have to come to this,” indicating a physical fight.
28.1.89. Saturday 10 a.m. Mass
After the commencement of Mass Fr. D gave me the impression of a proud, irreverent show-off. Just after the Gospel Fr. D walked from the sanctuary, sloppily leaned against a pew and started to explain that there would be some changes, starting with the reduction of the daily Masses. This session turned into a small debate until someone prompted Fr. D to return to the Sacrifice of the Mass for which we came.
Sister helped with the distribution of the Precious Blood but after was left to wash the sacred chalice and drink the remains.
29.1.89. Sunday, 8.30 a.m. Mass
At the commencement of Holy Communion Fr. D ‘shoved’ the sacred chalice with the Precious Blood into the hands of the first Communicant. This thirteen year old girl was upset and trembling at this sacred task forced onto her.
As is God’s want, however, just as the parishioners were beginning to assess the implications of these remarkable sights and sounds, tragedy struck.