4.5.89: Ascension Thursday, no Mass for school children. Parents must send a note for their children to attend Mass, on this Holy Day of obligation. This is St. Joseph’s Catholic school.
The crucifix is now sometimes in the hall during Sunday Mass, but it is laid on the floor under the table that is used as an altar, sometimes with no candles; a household style decanter and dish are used for the offertory.
A Parishioner also recorded the following observations:
- Twice during Lent (weekdays) priests forgot that Mass was to be celebrated.
- At Mass during May the priest said people should not pray at Sunday Mass as this is not the time for private prayer. People in Benalla are too devotional at Sunday Eucharist.
- The priests describe the Bible as a “series of stories” to please the Jews.
- Contrary to the emphasis by Vatican 11 papers on the unique presence of Our Lord in the consecrated bread and wine, on 18 April Fr. stated that “Christ is equally present in our coming together, singing, reading of the word and the Consecration.”
- Meaningful and devotional hymns have been replaced, at Mass, by modern songs with no depth either in their lyrics or music.
- Trainees for positions as “special” (lay) ministers have been instructed that small particles of the consecrated host or small drops of the consecrated wine are NOT the body and blood of Christ!
- At a school Mass, children were offered a “second helping of consecrated hosts and wine to use it up.”
The three priests regularly absent themselves, all at the same time, from the parish. On such occasions no priest is available for urgent needs.
The priests are rude and insulting to anyone who doesn’t go along with whatever they say. They have told parishioner’s “If you don’t like what is going on here in Benalla you can go elsewhere.”
The Bishops Benalla mailbag quickly swelled to cater for a constant stream of letters from distressed parishioners offering him similar details of the Team’s latest antics. This should hardly have surprised him given the Vatican’s official warning that the consequences of liturgical abuses “are — and cannot fail to be — the impairing of the unity of faith and worship in the Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal, and bewilderment among the People of God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions.” 2
I felt compelled to write to His Lordship myself after experiencing Fr. at a Saturday evening Mass in the parish hall during a visit to Benalla in March 1989. This is worth recounting briefly because the Holy Sacrifice was offered in the hall for fully twelve months and the impact of this enforced but radical change on the parish psyche was disastrous.
Despite the best efforts of a number of female parishioners the Team had refused to allow the altar to be placed on the stage, preferring instead to position it halfway down the hall near the side wall with seating arranged semi-circle fashion around it. Decorative suggestions were rejected and the resulting purposeful absence of Catholic adornments provided a stark and desolate liturgical setting. Nothing could have been further from the uplifting environment to which parishioners were accustomed.
I informed the Bishop about the scandalously small makeshift ‘altar’ which was the size of a small card table. I listed some major abuses, such as omitting the Creed in favour of a quasi pop song etc. etc., but focused my letter on the disinterested, ultra-casual air of the priest throughout Mass. It appalled and worried me to the extent that I did not feel comfortable with the idea of receiving the Blessed Sacrament…………..