The following is a letter to the bishop by a diocesan priest a few days after the “opening”.
My Lord Bishop,
The people of Benalla were grateful to you for reciting the Hail Mary on Saturday, in honour of Our Lady. I join with them. At the same time, they would like to know why no image of Mary is in the body of the Church for veneration (Cf. paragraphs 270 & 278 of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal).
Benalla parishioners continue to wonder why you are so strong on paragraph 276 in their parish, and are not so demanding elsewhere in the diocese. Besides, it is not such a suitable chapel for Reservation of the Eucharist. Would it not be more prayerful and advantageous for the congregation, if all could see the Tabernacle from their seats? Most are not likely to be going right up there to where the Tabernacle now is, to talk to Jesus. They can come only on Sundays.
The Sanctuary appearance from where the people sit. is so bare and vacant and protestant-like. All the beautiful religious items to promote faith — which we see elsewhere, are gone from Benalla and destroyed.
We could not possibly see the altar from where we sat. We could barely see the minister’s heads — quite impossible to take our rightful part in the celebration visually or mentally.
A severe blow was struck at the Bishop’s credibility by his allowing the Team Ministry to concelebrate with him, without wearing chasubles (Par 297, 299). Having read your direction given to the Council of Priests, 21st February 1990, on vestments, what are you really teaching? I can’t be sure. It was so hotch-potch — some violet, some white, some in stoles, some in chasubles. Such a special occasion should have evoked some commonsense.
Did the moderator’s opening story about a condemned jeweller stir you with admiration? We didn’t think much of it — as well as it being unliturgical.
The moderator’s description of the Sacrifice of the Mass: “!..when we come to eat and drink … in the presence of one another … to soak up the word of God.” Catholics are not sponges. This language which insults the the people’s faith on Sundays together with the stupid and moronic wording of the Invitation to the Priests [i.e. the cricket match], the kind of which we are not accustomed to receiving … are you bursting with pride, my Lord?
Can we wonder there is widespread aversion to the Team Ministry in Benalla, from upright and serious-minded parishioners. (see Canon 1741 of the Code of Canon Law).
Some may be quick to brand me an interfering troublemaker. I am only endeavoring to defend the dignity of the Priest of Christ and uphold the highest quality of the Catholic Priesthood. I remain Yours in Christ.
Bishop Daly’s homily brought to a close Benalla’s initiation into the brutal reality of Reformation II, officially consummating his pivotal role in the ruinous experiment he had implemented, overseen and lauded for twelve long months. In this sense, it was the Bishop, not the Team, who personified the most repugnant of all parallels with the Protestant Reformation. Anne Roche Muggeridge explains:
It is a curious testimony to the uniqueness of the religious impulse that corruption in priests does not seriously weaken it. Catholics have always endured bad priests as long as these priests maintain the truth of the mysteries to which they grant access. Nor does persecution, of itself, extinguish the faith. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Catholicism… perished in England because at the beginning of the Reformation, the bishops wavered, temporized, compromised and conciliated. The laity resisted desperately, as it always does, and was betrayed by its shepherds, as it always is … The bishops as they too often do, led their army from behind; they found it less exciting. Only one, St. John Fisher, resisted to the death.3
If the gloating spirit of Thomas Cromwell enveloped the new St. Joseph’s barn on that balmy autumn eve, the fearful admonition of John Fisher, bishop and martyr, seemed to echo through the “space” within:
“The fort is betrayed, even of them that should have defended it.” 4