Within a few weeks of the letter, and true to his stated intention at Dookie, Bishop Daly visited Benalla. It was actually the second time within three months that he had ventured out of his Bendigo bunker and into the war-zone.
His first reconnoiter during May had produced an unexpected confrontation with the enemy, otherwise known as “ignorant fanatics” or “faithful Catholics”, depending on which Sandhurst cleric you happened to be addressing at the time. On that occasion, a few parishioners had arranged to see the Bishop to discuss their concerns and at the conclusion of this meeting they noticed about fifty people gathered on the front lawn of the presbytery. One recalled the encounter:
The Bishop said “What do all these people want.” I said, “I think they want to see you.” He replied “I don’t think I can,” and went inside. Father B came out and attacked the people in a disgraceful manner. Anyway, the Bishop finally re-appeared and he and the people had a stand-up fight. He kept dismissing their arguments and simply could not come to grips with the situation. He continually referred to the slate roof as if that was the extent of the problem! He also said that all plans concerning proposed changes would be put on display.
Shortly afterwards, the Parishioner wrote to the Bishop:
My apologies for taking so long to thank you for giving us your time for a discussion when you visited Benalla a fortnight ago.
I hope that the discussion helped to demonstrate the depth of our concern over the various matters raised and that your subsequent brief meeting with a group of other parishioners served to demonstrate the degree of confusion and upset in the parish at the radical ideas being put forward for changes to our church building as well as for changes in our liturgy.
… On the subject of changes to our church building, you have assured us there is nothing to fear since there are no plans prepared; yet on last night’s edition of the A.B,C. television programme, ‘7.30 Report’, Father B clearly described the alteration intended by him and his colleagues, obviously the preparation of plans on paper being considered by him to be a mere formality. I find it quite alarming that this threat to our beautiful church is becoming such a reality.
In that same programme (7.30 Report), there were scenes of part of a Mass which depicted some of the irregularities mentioned in previous correspondence, thus underlining the fact that our concerns on these matters are not unfounded.
You have previously stated your resolve to strongly defend the Priests; with respect, My Lord, I submit to you that the people and our traditional Faith need your defense.
With televised displays of liturgical abuse by Sandhurst clergy failing to raise a whimper from the authorities in Bendigo, it was hardly surprising to find that the Bishop had also lost control of the church rebuilding project. The Team were clearly pursuing a remodeling agenda about which the Bishop had not one clue. Each time he assured parishioners of something related to the rebuilding, something else transpired. He was being given the runaround and made to look foolish. And if the Bishop was in the dark about proposed changes to St. Joseph’s church, what chance the parishioners? It was a case of the blind leading the blind — the difference being that the episcopal blindness was self-induced.