The second war-cry assumes variations on the “you’re just a small minority” theme and had also been in regular use since the outbreak of hostilities in February. The Team invariably referred to the dissenting parishioners as a tiny, unrepresentative group even though it was generally accepted that only the apathetic `silent majority’ enabled them to make such sweeping assertions. As Monsignor O’Reilly pointed out, a secret ballot might well have ‘voted them out of town.
This particular war-cry creates an eerie feeling of deja vu whenever one encounters a newchurch patriot back-pedalling from an irrefutable Catholic challenge. Still, from a newchurch perspective, why bother with hard evidence when you can blow away the messenger with gratuitous rhetoric.
Yet there is more to this than just bloody-mindedness. The root assumption, that truth is somehow reliant upon a ‘show of hands’, is arcane and smacks of a regression to pagan fatalism and black magic.
Politicians, journalists and voodoo witch-doctors deal in truth by numbers. Catholics look to the Vicar of Christ.
The Green Letter
Catholic to the core of their being, the faithful of the counter-revolution well understood that this was not a numbers game. Two-thousand years earlier their Saviour, Truth Incarnate, stood before the Sanhedrin as a minority of one, was condemned, tortured and left to suffocate over three agonising hours. In the face of such affliction, to be vilified for holding firm to the faith of John Paul II and the Saints was both a trifle and an honour.
Nonetheless, faced with this continual and infuriating tactic of being shot down as unrepresentative, the conveners of the June Public Meeting decided that it was time for a rough ‘head count’ both to ascertain their supporter base and to report on action taken as a result of the Public Meeting. In addition, the report of the Interim Committee also needed public airing. They secured the parish address list and, using distinctive green paper, mailed out the following survey to 650 parishioners. It became known as the Green Letter:
REPORT TO THE PARISHIONERS
OF ST. JOSEPH’S CHURCH, BENALLA
From the Conveners of Public Meeting held on Sunday, 25/6/89. In accordance with the resolutions made at the Meeting, the following action has been taken.
Report of the Meeting, detailing the resolutions made, has been forwarded to:
- His Lordship Bishop Daly,
- The Pro-Nuncio,
- Diocesan Council of Priests,
- Interim Committee,
- Parish Team (requesting that a full parish meeting be held)
Recent developments. As you will be aware, a report from the interim committee was read to some parishioners following the 11a.m. Mass on Sunday 6 August. This could hardly be described as a Parish Meeting, urgently requested in our letter to the Parish Team.
No explanation was given for the 4 month delay in covering the church, nor were any satisfactory reasons given for the substitution of a tin roof for slate. In essence, the report said “Here is what we’ve done and what we are going to do take it or leave it”
Most disturbing was the lack of any information about the “refurbishing of the interior of the church” except that it would cost the parishioners $35,000 !!! Obviously, drastic changes are intended and it must be assumed (from recent items in the Church Bulletin) that this could include: removal of the Tabernacle, Confessionals, Stations of the Cross and Statues. Repositioning of the Altar.
Published reports infer that only a “small minority” of parishioners disagree with such changes. Obviously, this is not so there is widespread discontent and confusion and this must be addressed quickly to ensure a unified Parish.
Our view is that urgent steps should be taken to ensure that the views of our parishioners be heard. To gauge the extent of support (or otherwise) for this view, we ask you to please complete the section below and return it in the envelope provided before Friday, 25th August.
It was something of a gamble but the conveners of the Public Meeting knew the parish temper and were confident of a positive response.
They were not disappointed. 220 replies were received, representing more than one-third of the total. In any statisticians book this was an extraordinary response.
The questions asked were very straightforward and the answers overwhelmingly supportive.
Part I: Do you agree that the interior of our church should be restored to its liturgically correct pre-fire condition?
YES 161 NO 73
Part II Would you like the opportunity to express your opinion, whatever it may be?
YES 157 NO 71
Would you support the holding of a meeting of parishioners?
YES 158 NO 71
Do you think the Parish Team and the Advisory Committee should, as a courtesy to parishioners, attend such a meeting?
YES 160 NO 72
With each of the questions answered in the affirmative by a two-thirds majority, two things were patently clear. Firstly, the Team was hopelessly out of touch with the mood of its own constituency. Secondly, another public meeting was in the offing.