Several recent incidents can definitely not be classified as trivial, no matter how they are viewed.
On Tuesday, 11 March 2008, an elderly nun, who has worked tirelessly with the marginalised for many years, was physically attacked in the church before the 9am Mass.
Before the assault the attacker addressed the assistant parish priest, sitting in one of the front pews, finishing off with “Forgive me father, for what I am about to do”.
Immediately after the assault a young lad clapped his hands gleefully, crying out words to the effect that “she deserves this for she hates our priests”.
The assault was reported to the police by staff from the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) next to the church.
In response to this incident, a parishioner offered the following Prayer of the Faithful at the Easter Saturday vigil Mass:
Forgive the violent, driven by angers they often cannot comprehend.
Forgive those who engineer divisions in communities,
those who turn the weak and disabled against their friends,
those who poison the minds of the vulnerable, filling them with hatred, loathing and anger that turns into violence.
Pray for S;
for those that struck and reviled her in this Church;
for those that stood by and ignored what they had set in motion.
The elderly nun was attacked again after Easter by the same person. This time the assault happened in the space between the AMS and the church. It was recorded by the AMS’s security video cameras and reported to the police.
A few Sundays ago, the same battered and bruised nun was told by an occasional blow-in from Neocat HQ in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt that she should “go back to her convent”.
Earlier this week another parisioner sent the following email (with minor edits to provide additional context and to remove some details about the attacker). Item 1 is directly related to the assaults. Items 2 and 3 refer to some of the day-to-day low level violence inflicted on the community.
Fair dinkum lads, we have a few problems.
1. I am very disturbed about the issues surrounding S’s assaults. This is very serious and could result in further tragedy if not dealt with appropriately. If it was ever seen that you and the Neocats were in any way involved in these assaults, or encouraged or approved the attacks in any way, serious consequences will result. I suggest you give a report to the Police at Redfern about the initial attack that you witnessed in the Church, and also a report of the attacker being present at Mass after the second assault. (You should do this for your own protection.) The court has made an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against the attacker to protect all concerned.
I am aware that the attacker has been present at your mass (at the presbytery) in Buckingham St. My hope is that you have counselled that person well and that you are providing pastoral support. However, if it has been seen that you have in any way offered encouragement or support for the attacker’s behaviour then the law of the land will take its course. My hope is that this has not been the case, but I feel it is important to alert you to this serious issue in the hope of supporting and protecting S and her attacker. It has already been alleged that one of you commented to a concerned person that the attacker was a very intelligent person.
2. Please refrain from threatening to close the mass down because of difficulties with an individual. In all my life as a Catholic I have had the mass shut down 5 times and been denied Eucharist. This has all happened since the arrival of Fr Gerry Prindiville and the Neocats.
C’s attempts to dress the altar should not be used as a reason to threaten people with the denial of mass. The post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist says that signs, etc must express a sense of beauty, dignity and sacredness. I know we all have different tastes and therefore this can be open for interpretation, however, I can’t see anything that C was trying to do as being opposed to this idea. Since it was the end of Reconciliation week I would have thought the candle and Australian flora were appropriate symbols.
3. Please don’t tell people as they make their Prayers of the Faithful that they are not prayers. Prayers come in many ways and often express a person’s concern, hurt or emotion of the day. Sure we can look at issues concerning the prayers, but not during the mass. This is more about long term dialogue and engaging in communication with your parishioners. Your attempt to set up a liturgy committee failed because your own dictates once again split the community apart. I for one wished to go on to that committee but my request was never acknowledged or accepted.
What I find most disturbing is the approach you use to handle these moments of conflict and difference. It is done so publicly, almost every week before mass, and creates an unnecessary tension. These issues need to be solved by open and transparent methods in engaging people in dialogue, REAL DIALOGUE, that is people talking to each other, not being talked at.
Ever since your arrival you have never once attempted to call a meeting or hold a discussion to work things out more agreeably. You have never asked the community to be engaged in anything whatsoever. We have no method of being able to communicate with you at all effectively, and many feel very intimidated by your assertion of power. I think it is really important to communicate effectively with us all and stop this constant friction before mass. You keep reminding us of the sacredness of the mass; that very sacredness is destroyed even before we start. Your fellow Neocats don’t participate, they don’t even join in singing the hymns, so it is obvious that there will always be a great division unless you reach out to serve all of us.
You wrote in the bulletin to consult you before mass – however this is not appropriate as it has been our experience that you say NO most of the time, (Clesio, you have told all of us that no announcements are to be made before the final blessing; now you tell us to see you – so you can say NO!!! I don’t think so!!!!) You assert your priestly powers, people feel threatened by your presence, (we have had a lot of history of being verbally abused by Neocat priests, denied communion openly, yelled at to consume the host, etc, etc.) and no dialogue is ever allowed to be truly entered into, therefore no communication is effective with you. You and I know that, and this must be changed. I believe this is a methodology you use to avoid dialogue with any of the laity unless they are followers of the Neocatecumenate Way. Anyone outside the Way doesn’t count and probably will go to hell in your eyes. That’s how I feel anyway!!
4. Could you please put in your notices the names of Cathy Smith, who recently died, and in the sick list S.
Thanks and in hope