In light of the Dookie Affair, several months of widely publicised church-gutting and the sharp decline in Mass attendance, the time seemed ripe for a second crack at motivating orthodox priests throughout the diocese to stand together against the newchurch onslaught — to defend the Faith and provide spiritual guidance to the steadily increasing number of Drifters and Deserters. This had remained a major priority of the counterrevolution and it was hoped that the early failure to organize such a coalition, on either a formal or informal basis, might now be redressed. Optimism was buoyed by the fact that the recent damage inflicted on St. Joseph’s had raised the universal notoriety of the Team an extra notch and was known to have deeply shocked many of their peers. The following letter, issued on 6 December 1989 under the signature of a well respected parishioner, was an S.O.S. to thirty priests thought to be sympathetic to the orthodox cause:
We write to you regarding a matter of great concern not only to this parish of Benalla but to all our Diocese of Sandhurst.
You are no doubt aware of the problems which exist at St. Joseph’s Benalla, which problems commenced with the Bishop’s appointment of a “team ministry” of three priests to succeed Monsignor O’Reilly upon his retirement in January this year.
Apart from numerous letters from many, many parishioners to Bishop Daly and many personal approaches to him, a submission (to which I was a contributor) was sent to the Diocesan Council of Priests on two occasions (11th April 1989 & 3rd July 1989). We enclose a copy herewith in case you were not aware of it.
The significance of all this, we believe, is that we in Benalla are now experiencing the”disintegration of what was hitherto a very fine parish and a really solid stanchion of Catholicity. The desecration of the Church building by alterations to the interior, e.g. removal of the altars dedicated to the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, removal of the Tabernacle, destruction of the Sanctuary as such, etc, has shocked the parishioners and caused much dismay. These alterations also result in the desecration of Dean Davy’s tomb (beneath the Sacred Heart altar).
More significant is the distortion of the true teachings of the Church, in the modernistic type of liturgical practices indulged in by the priests in this “team”. There is no doubt that these irregularities are a serious threat to our true Faith and, fired by an apparent burning desire by its proponents and supporters, the “new church” concept is set to spread rapidly through any part of the Diocese which is not fully on guard against it.
A lesson may be learned from Benalla’s sad experience, namely that, upon retirement of a dedicated Parish Priest, modernist type priests similar to our “team” are poised ready to take over and instigate their radical program of changes in any available parish.
A very large band of lay people in Benalla (e.g. over 500 people signed a petition to have the church retained as it was) have been and still are battling this whole problem, but our efforts fall on deaf ears when we approach the Bishop who appears unable to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Thus, we feel almost helpless and bewildered as to what else we may be able to do.
It is in this vein that we appeal to you, Father for your prayers, guidance and support. As intimated above, we believe it is a whole-Diocese problem that can only be remedied by a concerted effort.
The plea from the lay people of Benalla, then, is: can you help us and the Diocese and, indeed, the future direction of our Church by using your voice and influence with Bishop Daly. I can assure you that the large majority of concerned Catholics of Benalla would join with you in any positive steps you could see your way clear to undertake or to suggest for us.
May we look forward to a favorable response from you in this urgent and distressing matter.
We assure you, Father, that we are sending this letter on behalf of some hundreds of Benalla parishioners — whose signatures we could obtain if needed.
With our prayers and best wishes.